We live forever, barring accidents. Just like everyone else in the universe.
The Doctor travels back to the Ancient Days, an era where life flourishes and death is barely known...
Then come the Kotturuh – creatures who spread through the cosmos dispensing mortality. They judge each and every species and decree its allotted time to live. For the first time, living things know the fear of ending. And they will go to any lengths to escape this grim new spectre, death.
The Doctor is an old hand at cheating death. Now, at last, he can stop it at source. He is coming for the Kotturuh, ready to change everything so that Life wins from the start.
On the planet Destran, Estinee watches her homeworld's skies turn dark as the planet convulses. The Kotturuh have come. Granting her species a lifespan of forty summers, Estinee watches her parents wither away right in front of her before the Kotturuh arrive for her.
With memories of Mars and Adelaide Brooke still fresh in his mind, the Tenth Doctor has fled to the planet Andalia in the Dark Times, the era before death. Exploring the Tombs of the Ended, the Doctor is made aware of an upcoming demonstration. Eager to delay the inevitable, and see a Dark Times spacecraft, the Doctor learns that the demonstration is for a lifeshroud to protect from the Kotturuh.
Brought onto the stage, Estinee speaks about her experience with the Kotturuh, crediting the lifeshroud for her survival. When the Doctor questions how the lifeshroud works, the AI spokesperson attacks Estinee only for the Destran to heal. Enthralled, the Andalians eagerly begin helping themselves to the lifeshrouds as the Doctor examines Estinee, the AI insisting that the sonic screwdriver be put away. As they argue, the AI's head is blown off. Turning, the Doctor sees its impossible source: an Ood.
Without missing a beat, the Ood continues to fire at Estinee before the Doctor stops him. As he tries to get Estinee to safety, the ship she was on flies off back to the Polythrope. With the Ood still after them, the two clamber into an air car only for a tracker to be thrown in, sending them crashing into the Tomb of the Ended. As the Doctor picks himself up, the Andalians begin to wither away as a Kotturuh materialises to greet the Doctor.
Claiming that Andalia will one day be of strategic value in a war, the Kotturuh say that their kind considers it a mercy to kill the Andalians now, granting them a lifespan of a single lunar orbit. Curiously regarding that the Doctor already has a fixed lifespan, the Kotturuh teleport themselves and Estinee away. The Ood then returns, introducing himself as Brian. He had been hired to test the lifeshroud's capabilities but has found it to be a scam, the correct crystals needed to charge it sold separately. Another tracker then introduces Brian's employer, High Ambassador Verv-Hoondai Chalskal. Explaining that the lifeshrouds were first built by Professor Hana Fallomax, Chalskal wants them to protect his people from the Kotturuh. Conceding that Estinee does seem protected, the Doctor and Brian set off after her, fearing what the Kotturuh will do with such a device.
Mere hours ago, the life of Barbara Wright was as normal as could be. Yet now she finds herself locked in the Cave of Skulls, ready to fake her own death to escape the Tribe of Gum. When the First Doctor mentions that he's cheated death before, Barbara remembers the tale of Godfather Death by the Brothers Grimm. To take her mind off what they're about to do, the Doctor asks to hear it.
In the TARDIS, Brain claims to have met the Doctor before, a meeting that he cannot recall, as the ship sails after Estinee to the planet Mordeela. Finding the whole planet shifted one picosecond into the future, the Doctor scoffs at the paltry defences and presses forth. On Mordeela, Estinee recalls her prior two times on the planet before a representative of the Turska Gordansis comes before the Kotturuh asking that the people of Tuthmoser have longer lives to fight back against the invaders from Palkh. Unmoved, the Kotturuh list the exact moment when the man will die, leaving him to repeat it over and over.
The defences having proved slightly harder than anticipated, the TARDIS nonetheless lands, a mile away from Estinee. Braving the unnatural tunnels, the Doctor and Brian head off after Estinee. When the former observers the strange symbols on the walls however, he begins having a fit, forcing Brian to physically attack him to restore his senses. Concluding that the symbols are both the schematic for death and a defence, the two hear voices chanting the moments they will die. When the disciples turn on them, the two flee into the tunnels but are quickly surrounded.
Before the Doctor can do anything, a drilling tank arrives. Clambering aboard, the Doctor takes control with his screwdriver, hoping to use it to get back to the TARDIS. When Brian mentions Estinee, the girl reveals herself as the tank's operator, before being teleported away. Running back to the TARDIS, Brian and the Doctor prepare to follow before a Kotturuh appears to the Doctor, grabbing him by the neck and insisting that he will know death before it vanishes and the TARDIS takes off. The Doctor utters a phrase that Brian recognises as Andalia's coordinates in a few weeks' time. Confused, the Doctor points out that Andalia is dead. Regretfully, Brian points out that the Doctor isn't.
Having followed the long-range transmat beam, the Doctor and Brian reach the Polythrope, meeting with Estinee and Fallomax. After braving Mordeela, the Doctor and Brian have learnt that the lifeshrouds are a sham. Fallomax learns where the Kotturuh will go and sells her products to the natives who will never live long enough to use them. As the Doctor berates Fallomax, Brian goes one step further and shoots Estinee. Before the Doctor's stunned eyes, the Destran heals herself. She, not the lifeshroud, is how death is cheated.
Revealing that his blast on Andalia had crippled the lifeshroud entirely, Brian gambled that Estinee's survival meant she had natural regenerative properties, something he felt was further confirmed by the Kotturuh's unnatural interest in one girl. When Ambassador Chalskal then arrives, Brian and the Doctor reveal that the lifeshroud doesn't work. The Doctor however is quite confident that he can make it work.
In the deserts outside Moslin Town, the Eighth Doctor speaks with Brian, their situation reminding him of Godfather Death. At Brian's confusion, the Doctor tells the story. A man could not afford to care for his thirteenth child and gave them to Death to look after. The child grew up to become a great doctor before eventually defying Death to cure the daughter of a king. Furious, Death brought the child to a cavern where everyone's life was represented as a candle. Pointing to a short one, Death marked it as the child's who suddenly dies.
Finishing his tale, the Doctor and Brian debate its moral; Is death a natural part of life that must be accepted or can it be fought against and cheated?
Needing more information, the Doctor asks Fallomax about the crystals. She believes that Mordeela is a conduit to the Kotturuh realm, the crystals storing the "Death Energy" needed for the mutagenic wave that destroys worlds. Fallomax comes from one such world, Eloii, the lifeshroud being an invention of her father that she seeks to perfect. Needing more crystals to fuel more lifeshrouds, Fallomax reveals that her mining drones found Estinee on Mordeela thanks to the Kotturuh's dismissal of the inorganic. Chalskal enters and has his guards escort everyone to the laboratory aboard his flagship to begin work.
Days later, Estinee asks the Doctor what will be done. The discussion leads to the Doctor wishing to understand Mordeela better, comparing the planet to an organic supercomputer that they must corrupt or destroy. When the Doctor suddenly leaves, Estinee creeps behind him, overhearing Brian tell the Doctor that this is a mercenary fleet, one not backed by the Skalithai. Chalskal wants the lifehshrouds for a coup. As they leave, Estinee notices Kotturuh watching her before they vanish once again. A group brainstorm on why the Kotturuh, if everything transpires according to their "design", would spy on one girl, leads the Doctor to conclude that the Kotturuh are ultimately as mortal and fallible as anyone else. And if that's the case, then maybe the best way to beat them is to turn their own power back on them.
Confident that a mixture of Estinee's genes and the lifeshroud can lead to a successful reverse-engineering of the death wave, the group sets to work. The next day, Chalskal is presented with a lifeshroud that can theoretically deflect the Kotturuh's attack, the only issue being that they don't know how long the crystals hold a charge for. At Brian's insistence, command of the fleet is given to the Doctor before he, Fallomax and Estinee take their leave to collect Andalian DNA samples before and after the death wave.
After shifting through the ruins of Andalia, the Doctor reveals his breakthrough to Fallomax and Estinee. As he left Mordeela, one of the Kotturuh made physical contact with him, giving him just enough of their genetic material for him to make a culture. And he now believes he can have the Kotturuh's attack target them. Both Fallomax and Estinee however have their reservations about killing a sentient life form. The Doctor is insistent. He is a Time Lord, he has seen the future and notes that it can all be stopped and changed here. As he and Fallomax stalk off into the TARDIS, a Kotturuh appears to Estinee and makes for the console.
From the TARDIS laboratory, the Doctor calls Brian and tells him to the move the fleet to Mordeela. Brian then reveals that Chalskal's lifeshroud gave out after six hours. He is still alive and will face trial but the Skalithai now back them. As the call ends, the TARDIS finishes synthesising two vials. Listening to his better nature, the Doctor has intended to give the Kotturuh one last chance. One vial will kill them instantly, but the other will grant them a lifespan. Fallomax is unimpressed. The Doctor is still willing to risk all their lives for the crusade, opining that he is no different than she is. The ship suddenly lurches, sending the two back to the console room. Finding that they have jumped five days into the future, when the Doctor is due to die, the two exit and split up to search for Estinee. Fallomax quickly finds her ward, enthralled by the Kotturuh and brandishing a weapon at her. Hearing her scream, the Doctor comes running, finding Estinee regarding the TARDIS before the Kotturuh arrive, demanding that she kill the Doctor.
Struggling against the Kotturuh's control, Estinee manages to turn the weapon on herself, vaporizing herself completely. Thrown back by the explosion, the Doctor finds he has lost the life vial. Disgusted by the Kotturuh, the Doctor reaches for the Sentence of Death. With but a moment's hesitation, he shatters it against the ground, letting Fallomax's lifeshroud carry its effects. Unconcerned, the Kotturuh consider heading to the nearby Gallifrey and readjusting the Gallifreyans' allotted time. Equally unconcerned, the Doctor notices his foes beginning to wither. He was once told that choosing who lives and who dies would make him a monster but meeting the Kotturuh have convinced him that worse monsters exist. As they decay, the Doctor declares himself the Time Lord Victorious once again. The Kotturuh, now living for only fifteen minutes, had their chance to stop but now he will stop them. High above, finally free of corporeal existence, Estinee watches everything, wishing the Doctor luck.
On Chalskal's flagship, the Doctor has donned his Prydonian Chapter robes, originally meant for such circumstances, as the craft approaches Mordeela, now populated by many Kotturuh vessels. Suspecting that the Kotturuh want to use Mordeela to stave off their necrotic plague, the Doctor says that they must seal off and quarantine the planet. Before the final attack can be undertaken however, a Dalek flying saucer drops off out of warp before them, the Eighth Doctor and the Dalek Time Squad demanding an audience. Another ship then appears, a Great Vampire coffin ship commanded by the Ninth Doctor. Dismissing his past selves as another Kotturuh illusion, the Tenth Doctor orders Brian to fire on Mordeela.
- Tenth Doctor
- High Ambassador Verv-Hoondai Chalskal
- Professor Hana Fallomax
- Eighth Doctor
- Ninth Doctor
- Rose Tyler
- First Doctor
- Barbara Wright
- Ian Chesterton
- Susan Foreman
- Estinee's Mother
- Estinee's Father
- Male Andalian
- Female Andalian
- The Jagaroth, the Racnoss, the Exxilons and the Eternals are all part of a grouping of species known to the Doctor as "the Old Ones", being the most powerful species of the Dark Times. The Doctor remembers having read about their "rise".
- The Tenth Doctor recalls learning about the Dark Times at the Academy, though he has mostly forgotten what his professors taught him.
- The planet Mordeela contains a gateway to the Kotturuh realm.
to be added
- The Doctor recalls visiting Mars, Adelaide Brooke's death, seeing Ood Sigma on Davies Street and the ringing of the Cloister Bell afterwards. (TV: The Waters of Mars)
- The Dark Times followed on from the sudden appearance of innumerable forms of life. (PROSE: The Guide to the Dark Times)
- The Doctor remembers meeting "remnants" of a "fair few" of the Old Ones. (TV: Death to the Daleks, City of Death, Enlightenment, The Runaway Bride)
- The Tenth Doctor refers to himself as "a bloke who walks in eternity". He had described himself in similar terms during his fourth incarnation. (TV: Pyramids of Mars)
- When he meets Brian, the Tenth Doctor recalls the Ood Brain, and that Ood were being born into slavery. (TV: Planet of the Ood)
- Barbara Wright discusses an old fairy tale with the First Doctor whilst they are planning their escape from the Cave of Skulls. (TV: An Unearthly Child)
- Brian mentions that he reached the Dark Times with the TARDIS' help. (PROSE: What the TARDIS thought of "Time Lord Victorious")
- The Doctor wonders if the Kotturuh use chronolocks. (TV: Face the Raven)
- The Doctor mentions Ascinta and Perganon as fallen civilisations he could save. (TV: School Reunion)
- The Doctor wonders if, by stopping the Kotturuh, he may prevent Gallifrey's fall, (TV: The End of the World) the evolution of the Daleks, (TV: Genesis of the Daleks) and the people of Mondas becoming the Cybermen. (AUDIO: Spare Parts)
- The Doctor recalls a time he rejected the name of "the Doctor" to become someone who would do "something [he] didn't want to do." (TV: The Night of the Doctor)
- Before the attack on Mordeela, the Doctor wonders, "Do I have the right?", as he previously pondered whilst on Skaro to prevent the creation of the Daleks. (TV: Genesis of the Daleks)
- The Doctor remembers Mr Copper's remarks to him about how having the choice of who lives and who dies would make you a monster. (TV: Voyage of the Damned)
- The Doctor notes that, by donning his Time Lord robes, he has "dressed for the occasion", the same remark the Master made when he also donned Time Lord robes to steal the Eighth Doctor's Life force. (TV: Doctor Who)
- The Doctor explains to Brian that Time Lord robes were originally meant to be worn in ceremonial occasions. (PROSE: A Brief History of Time Lords)