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Exclusive Doctor Who Fiction: Worth Every Minute

The girl crept upstairs to the landing to avoid the dreadful singing. What was this ‘Old Lang Chine’, she wondered. Was it similar to Black Gang Chine? Visiting that amusement park on the Isle of Wight was the best day of her life. She wrote to Father Christmas and asked if he could magic her there on Christmas Day. But he ignored that request and gave her some walnuts and a satsuma instead. And a watch, which was strange. Her dad asked where she’d stolen it from. But she wouldn’t let him take it. The watch was how she knew the grownups were wrong. The grandfather clock downstairs was fast.

She looked at the seconds tick past and started to count down from 10. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

“Hello young lady,” said the man in the crazy colourful clothes who had just appeared. Then he waved some kind of magic torch at her. Which beeped. “Not yet,” the man muttered under his breath. “What year is it?”

“It’s 1962… No, 1963. Just started,” she replied. “I’m Sia. And I’m six.”

“So am I!” was the unhelpful reply. The man was looking around. He had yellow and black striped trousers, like that clown she saw on the Isle of Wight.

“Are you from Black Gang Chine?” she asked.

“Should I be?”

“I thought Father Christmas must have sent you to take me there. I like it there.”

“Oh, everyone loves Black Gang Chine. But would you really like to be whisked away?”


“I am not sure your parents would…” The man looked at his magic torch which changed

colour to pink and started buzzing. “I don’t have much time. Can you meet me back here in…” He looked back at the torch, his eyes widened. “In ten year’s time!”

“I’ll… try,” she said. The man flickered and was gone. Sia looked at her watch; it was just one minute past twelve. Sixty of the maddest seconds of her life. She heard footsteps on the stairs and her dad calling her down. She should probably be in bed. How many sleeps is ten years?


Three thousand nine hundred, and seventy one. That’s according to Sia’s ten-year diary. Which was, in fact, two five-year diaries glued together. The clown man better turn up.

He did.

“Sia? Is that you?” He looked exactly the same.

“Yes,” she replied, thinking she may as well go with it. However mad. “I’m just a little older.”

“I was going to say younger!” The man banged his magic torch which was now glowing orange. “This must be happening out-of-sync. But it’s still here!”

“What’s here?” she replied.

“The thing I’m detecting. It’s always here. How are you anyway?”

“I’m okay. Quite a lot has happened.” The man looked up from his torch.

“I like your dress!” Sia was wearing a patchwork frock made from offcuts and scraps: tartan, stripes, and colourful fabrics all stitched immaculately together.

“My father calls it ‘totally tasteless’. I told him to get with it. It is 1973!” She didn’t know why she was telling him this. But she’d waited so long and had forgotten all she’d planned to say over the last decade. “That’s what I’m going to call my fashion house: Totally Tasteless. When I get my degree. Just need to pass my A-Levels.”

“No! I’ve lost the readings! Again!” He threw up his arms and grabbed his temples in frustration. “See you back here in… Ten years time. Sorry.”

“Again! Can’t you just—”

“I’ll explain later. Don’t worry about your A-Levels! They don’t make you who you are!”

Sia checked her watch as she heard the sound of her boyfriend’s footsteps coming up the stairs. Another sixty seconds gone.


For Sia, 1983 was worse than that book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Much worse. But here she was again. Just in case. In case she weren’t mad. She wanted to wear her patchwork dress. But she couldn’t face it. Probably wouldn’t fit now anyway. He appeared.

“Ah, I assume you are Sia? A little older. A lot older!”

“Yes. Just don’t ask me about my A-Levels.”

“Why would I do that?” The clown man checked the reading on that infernal torch. Which, on closer inspection, was more like a remote control with a light at the end. Glowing green.

“That’s what we talked about last time…”

“Did we?”

“You’ll be disappointed. Like dad.”

“No, I won’t.” He was only half listening, checking some readings on a what looked like a digital watch display.

“I didn’t take them in the end. Life got in the way. I’m twenty six now.”

“Ah, that explains everything.” He beamed a smile at Sia. “No wonder these readings don’t make sense. Twenty years, not ten.”

Sia felt the knot in her stomach. The ache that never goes away. Her son will be ten years old this year. All those little life events she will never experience.

“There’s something missing!” The man started tapping at the device.

“My son,” she replied instinctively.

“Was he here? Did he disappear?” The man flickered. Time was running out.

“No. I gave him away. Dad insisted.” She started sobbing.

“I can’t leave you like this…” He looked at the device, alarmed. “I’ll see you again… in ten years, okay? You need to believe in yourself. There’s something special about you. Trust me.”

Sia nodded, but, when she opened her eyes, he was gone. In sixty seconds. Again.

She went downstairs, alone this time.


Sia was surprised the patchwork dress still fitted her. Just. Those painful evenings at Weight Watchers had paid off. Sia couldn’t wait to tell him the news. But she wasn’t entirely sure


This time, the colourful man was hovering about two feet above the floor. Until he gave the device a good whack and dropped suddenly, ending up tumbling onto his back.

“I did it!” Sia smiled at the man.

“Did what?”

“Got my life back on track. Thanks to you.”

The man rose back onto his feet. “Me? Are you sure?”

“I think you’re the first person who ever believed in me. You. A magical man who only appears once every ten years for 60 seconds.”

“Interesting,” he said. “Maybe it is about you. These readings still don’t make sense.” The device was glowing orange. “What year is this?”


“You said you got your life ‘back on track’. Did you mean a time track?”

“No. What? I went to university as a mature student. Trained in fashion design and I’m about to open my first shop: Totally Tasteless.”

He looked at her quizzically. “Of course you did. Anything else?”

“Well, I am getting married.”

“Not to a Krontep warrior king?”

“No,” she replied, thinking that might be obvious.

“Good. That’s how I lost my last friend. But I’ve got another one coming who seems very nice. I hope I’ll meet her soon. But you never know. Days like crazy pavings.” The man realised he was not paying attention to the business in hand, literally. And sixty seconds was nearly up. Again. “No, it’s not you. It’s not a person. It’s an objec…”

The man flickered away. Without even saying he would be back. But he will. And so would she. Her fiancée may want her to move in with him. But she will never leave this house. It’s hers now and she needs to always come back here. Next time they meet, maybe she’ll have a family of her own?


The Doctor arrived. But there was no one there. He called out Sia’s name but there was no reply. The lights were off. No one seemed to be home, but the house was still occupied.

The Doctor spotted Sia’s patchwork dress hung on the bannister. There was a note pinned to it.

The Doctor checked the readings on his temporal transportal. They were blank. Using the white beam as a torch, he read the note:

Dear person who appears every ten years for 60 seconds,

Sorry I can’t be with you this time. I haven’t gone anywhere. I just couldn’t face it. Last time I told you I was about to get married. And I did. We were happy at first. But he insisted we moved to South Africa so he could be with his parents and start a family. I never wanted to leave this place, for obvious reasons. I’m still here. But he’s gone.   Sorry, I couldn’t face you this time. I can’t explain any more; you only have 60 seconds.

Sia, 1 January (nearly), 2003

The Doctor dropped the device in shock. But before he could pick it up, he disappeared again. Sia opened the door opposite where she was peering through the crack. She walked onto the landing and picked up the device. It flickered to life again. She noticed a reading on the screen: 3,971.


The device had been counting down daily until it reached one on 31 December 2012. Sia didn’t really want to see the man again. Too many memories. But it was his property and it may help him escape his strange 60-second existence.

At the stroke of midnight, as always, he flickered into being. It was 2013 and the countdown stopped. She handed him the device. Sia pointed at her watch, tapped it, and said, “On time. As always. Sorry about last time.”

The man looked at her watch. It was glowing and emitting wisps of shimmering smoke.

“Where did you get that?” His eyes were wide and he pointed the device directly at her watch. It flashed like a rainbow.

“I got it from… Father Christmas!”

“No, you didn’t. It’s a Chameleon Arch. Someone must have hidden it here. Unusual design, a wristwatch. Have you ever opened it?”

“No. The battery seems to go on forever. I’ve never needed to.”

“Good. Now give it here!” She passed the man her watch. He pressed a few buttons on his device and pointed a red beam at it. The watch disappeared. And, in a flash, so did he.


Sia didn’t really expect the man to appear again. But she came anyway. It was like a tradition. She was 66 now, retired, and – frankly – not really that busy. Not busy enough not to come, if that makes sense. And it was only the top of the stairs. She can head straight to bed when he doesn’t show.

“Hello Sia!”

“Hello.” It was good to see him.

“I didn’t know whether you’d come.” He smiled.

“I got a new watch. A smart one. There was an alert already set in it when I bought it. Telling me to come here without fail at midnight. It’s 2023 now.”

“Yes, I must remember to do that,” he said. Making no sense, as usual. “I like your dress.”

“I like to keep my hand in. Even if I am retired and a little… broader. I used most of the old patches.”

“Very fetching! Totally tasteless, of course, but I love it!”

“You haven’t got that electronic thing with you.”

“No, I came by another means. My usual transport. Would you like to see it?”

“Of course. Do you have my watch? I know it’s not worth anything. But it has sentimental value. Got it when I was six.”

“I still am.” He laughed. “But I am afraid I had to return it to… where I come from. If the person trapped in that device had escaped. Well, there wouldn’t be a landing for us to meet on. Or this house. This street. This planet!” The man put his arms on her shoulders and looked directly in her eyes. “You realise that, by taking care of that watch, you saved the lives of everyone on Earth.”

Sia laughed. Of course she didn’t realise.

“Don’t upset me. I’m no one special. Haven’t made much of my life. Always lived here.”

“You are exceptional! You must have an instinct buried within you. If you hadn’t stayed here, the being trapped in that watch would have escaped and wreaked unknown havoc across the universe!”

There was something insistent about the man that made her believe him.

“I don’t even know who you are!”

“I am known as the Doctor. And I will explain everything on the way…” He beckoned her to go into the spare bedroom.

“The way where?”

“You are free now. Time for an adventure or two! Behind that door is a space and time machine. Now, you tell me where you want to go!”

His eyes lit up and his smile was so wide that she couldn’t say no. If she can be crazy for all those years. She can be crazy just one more time.

Sia thought for a moment then said, “Can we just go somewhere fun?”

“Fun? That sounds familiar. Of course! All right, I’ll take you to Black… Gang Chine!”

“You remembered! But I don’t need a space machine to get there. We could go by ferry!”

“Ah, but we’re going to the opening in 1843! Then we’re going to find your son.” The Doctor started to head off into the spare room.

Sia clocked her watch. “Hey, but it’s been longer than 60 seconds!”

The Doctor poked his head around the door. “As my dear friend Louis once remarked, we have all the time in the world. Come along!”

And with that, Sia headed towards the first of their many adventures… She sometimes used to think she wasted her life waiting for the Doctor. But it turns out it was worth every minute.

Peter Shaw

Exclusive Doctor Who Fiction: Worth Every Minute

by Peter Shaw time to read: 9 min
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