A Ghost Story of Christmas.
Some time ago I believe I had the pleasure of telling you the story of an adventure which happened to a friend of mine – a space pilot by the name of Steven Taylor – in which he was being pursued by those intergalactic devils, the Daleks.
Steven along with his friend, a time traveller called the Doctor and a recent arrival – Sara Kingdom, a Space Security Agent – had embarked on a curious interlude amid their attempts to thwart the Daleks’ masterplan.
A trip to a police station in the 20th century was followed by an eccentric interlude on a silent film set in America. But it was the earlier stop off on earth that sparked a singular incident, it being Christmas day.
A little later Steven, Sara and the Doctor found themselves once again enjoying the safety of their time travel ship, the TARDIS. Now this Doctor has a reputation for being rather a curmudgeonly fellow. While that is not always the case, what followed could certainly be deemed ‘out of character’.
The old man fetched a silver tray, which he furnished with a bottle of champagne and glasses for the travellers to toast the festive season. You may have recourse to consider this an unusual occurrence. But what happened next many observers have deemed astounding. The Doctor turns away from his two friends to address some sort of an assembly, saying “Incidentally… a happy Christmas to all of you at home!”
No explanation has uncovered the identities of those ‘at home’ to whom the Doctor speaks… until now. It was in conversation with Steven a number of weeks ago that the Christmas story came up, and he was able to recount some of what happened afterwards.
You may recall that after the Doctors first word, “Incidentally”, a raucous cheer can be heard. Fortuitously there is in existence a cassette recording which captures
that odd outburst. Steven and I agreed that the “hurrah” is a combination of voices that exceed that of the three in the console room.
What I didn’t know, as it happens after the recording stops, is that the time travellers went on to discuss the Doctor’s unusual remarks. Sara Kingdom, who had a heightened sense of disquiet, challenged the old man on the matter.
The explanation the Doctor offered was that he’d been caught up in the ‘Spirit of Christmas’. Now Sara, who could not unjustifiably be described as a disturbed individual, had no particular appreciation of such festivities. This led Sara to believe that the Doctor was referring to some sort of force or energy, ‘The Spirit of Christmas’.
A discussion followed, in which the Doctor surmised that there was such an entity. The Doctor’s argument was based on the regular occurrences of phrases such as Christmas and festive spirits, and derivations thereof. He expanded his thinking by considering how often Christmas ghosts, phantasms and spectres appear in folklore and literature. Despite Steven and Sara’s rational dismissal of such a notion, the Doctor’s words had a chilling effect.
They looked around their time ship with new eyes. Shadows, before unnoticed, seemed to take on unholy shapes. Steven remarked he felt an icy presence, which notion the Doctor dismissed stating that if there is a Christmas Spirit, it is likely to be benign.
Even as this momentarily reassured the travellers, the time ship made a jolt and a series of warning lights flashed, accompanied by chimes of a deathly-sounding bell. The Doctor scampered over to his ship’s controls and, while deftly flicking switches, warned his companions to take hold of the console. Something was trying to break out of the TARDIS.
“I thought you said it was benign!” Steven reportedly shouted. The Doctor began to interrogate his companions as to the precise circumstances of the earlier incident. Steven centred on the phrase ‘at home’, enquiring of the Doctor’s planetary origins – a subject he refused to dwell upon.
The Doctor surmised that, as he was a puppet for this ‘Spirit’, the home referred to was not his but rather this entity’s – and they were on earth. Sara pointed out the direction the Doctor was facing when he addressed the unseen ‘all of you’.
As we know, the interior of a TARDIS can be infinitely variable within certain parameters (if that’s not a paradox). But there are features that remain constant. There is always a door, for example, to allow travellers to enter and exit. One other permanent fixture is the communications wall. Sometimes called ‘the fourth wall’ (a theatrical joke), this is the area that allows and facilitates communication with the external dimension.
The Doctor believed the information about the direction he was facing was crucial. There was a force on the TARDIS and it had near-fatally compromised the integrity of the ship by breaking through the fourth wall. It was such a serious breach that it could have resulted in an implosion that would ultimately wipe out the entire universe.
Thankfully, through his masterful manipulation of the controls – aided by an energy blast from the Doctor’s mysterious blue signet ring – the time traveller was able to seal the opening and repair the damage.
The traveller’s celebrations were curtailed when the TARDIS’s instruments warned that the ship was being followed and the Doctor and his friends quickly forgot about the Spirit and its near calamitous exit from the time machine.
But our conversation ended with a warning. As he was sealing the interior, the Doctor was concerned that it was a ‘botch job’ and there will always be a weakness. Steven’s face lost all its colour when I enquired what would happen should others tamper with the fourth wall in future…
But let’s not dwell on such matters. The future is what it will be. And, incidentally – it being that time of year – the Spirit of the season compels me to wish one final thing: A happy Christmas to all of you at home.