LE SATURN DEBT 3/3
by Paul Gadzikowski
DOCTOR WHO series characters and concepts copyright BBC tv
"I can't believe it," said Nyssa. "I can't believe that the universe is
so purposeless that something like this can happen."
All the work she had done on Terminus in the past forty years was about
to be wiped out - along with much of the history of the planet. Here,
millions of years in the past, Terminus was about to be destroyed. So close
to a cure - and now it would never have happened. But if this disaster could
be averted, even still, then at least her staff in her own time zone could
finish the work.
"Maybe we have to make our own purpose," said Emma.
"I have a plan," said the Doctor suddenly. "It's crazy, but it just
"What is it, Doctor?" Nyssa asked, ready to leap at any chance.
"Well ..." The Doctor seemed reluctant to speak. "Of course the TARDIS
repairs would take too long to get us onto the spaceship before it crashed,
but ... I could try to jury-rig the dematerializer circuitry as a transmat."
Nyssa felt hope suffuse her very being. "Then let's try it!"
"Well, it's not going to be that easy," said the Doctor steadily. It had
taken several hours for his understated manner to convince Nyssa that the new
Doctor's predeliction for black clothing didn't mean that he must really be
the Master. "Those circuits aren't designed for precision work, like real
transmats are; only for the inorganic faces that chameleon circuits produce
to interface between the real world and a TARDIS' transcendental dimension.
It'll be terribly risky for whoever goes."
"Well," said Nyssa, "that only means that, in order to put the least
strain on circuits that aren't built for organic chemistry, we need to send
the smallest person among us."
"Nyssa!" objected the Doctor. It was the first time she'd heard him
raise his voice since the TARDIS arrived.
"I would have insisted anyway, Doctor," said Nyssa. "Terminus is my
"She's right, Doctor," said Emma.
"Very well," said the Doctor, his dispassion back in place. He turned
down the space station corridor toward the storage hall where the TARDIS had
landed. "Follow me."
The spaceship had been dubbed Le Saturn by Francois in his last moments
of life, because of the ringed planet pictured on its tailfin. No doubt the
ship's pilot had an entirely different name for the ship, and/or the planet
pictured on it. That was assuming he had concepts for naming things in his
language and chose to do so - even with the TARDIS's translation circuits,
all attempts at communication contact had failed for lack of common
The Doctor and Nyssa worked feverishly on the dematerializer circuits
for twenty minutes. Emma handed them instruments as requested. Finally the
Doctor said, "If anything will do it, that will."
Nyssa wiped an oilsmudge from her chin. "I'm ready."
"Stand over there," said the Doctor, pointing to the scanner screen,
which showed the alien spaceship on its final approach to Terminus.
"Good luck," said Emma as Nyssa moved across the console room floor.
"Transference in five seconds," said the Doctor. "Four ... three ... two
... one ... transference."
The next thing Nyssa knew she was somewhere else. It must have been the
cockpit of the other spaceship, for there was the pilot in the crash couch.
The transference had succeeded.
"You must alter your course," said Nyssa.
"!##~` %%% (:-p," said the pilot.
After a few moments' unsuccessful attempts at sign language Nyssa
desperately looked around for something to draw with and on. Suddenly she
realized that the cockpit looked stangely familiar ...
"Oh dear," said the Doctor, frowning at a TARDIS readout.
"Something wrong?" Emma asked.
"I misread the chronometer when we landed," said the Doctor - this was
their first return to the timeship since then. "We're not millions of years
into the past, but billions."
"What does that mean?"
"It means," said the Doctor, pointing at the spaceship on the scanner
screen, "that this is the most important spaceship crash in the universe."
"How?" Emma asked.
"I told you about my last trip to Terminus, when I left Nyssa here."
The Doctor nodded at the spaceship. "Saturn is an appropriate name. That
ship is the father of all the gods - of the whole of our universe."
"What," said Emma, "- we're in another universe?"
The Doctor nodded. "The one before ours."
Nyssa couldn't find a scrap of paper or a chunk of chalk in the cockpit,
but she did begin to recognize the graphics on the controls. Specifically,
she recognized the graphic on the control over which the pilot's hand was
hovering. It was, she knew, the graphic for fuelpod jettison. She could tell
from the stylized hydrogen diagram. It was the same as the one she'd seen for
years back on Terminus. She looked at the far wall; it was missing the smear
of which she had always wondered whether it weren't someone who hadn't been
strapped down properly when the timewarp kicked in.
In her last moments, it all became clear to Nyssa. There was a purpose
to these events after all.
She realized that "Le Saturn Debt" is an anagram for "Tables Turned".
Safe in the indestructible TARDIS, the Doctor and Emma watched the ship
plunge toward the planet's surface. The interior door opened and they were
joined at the scanner screen by a slender figure with a mop of black hair in
a bowl haircut, and an hourglass-shaped figure in tight skimpy clothes.
"Trapped in a doomed spaceship in a noble but futile attempt to avert a
planet's fiery atomic destruction, which attempt if successful would've
unraveled the Web of Time anyway," said Peri. "How's that for
On the scanner screen, a portion of the ship - a pod with an identical
partner on the opposite side of the ship - flew away with a flash of
explosive jettison bolts. For a moment it looked like the jettison had
altered the ship's course enough that the planet would be safe after all. But
then a great orange fire flowered, consuming the jettisoned pod. The glow lit
up the faces of the four watchers, growing brighter and brighter as it kicked
the ship into timewarp and began engulfing the planet, until the safety
filters on the scanner shut the picture off entirely.
"Perfect," said Adric.