Tick-Tock World (audio story)

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Tick-Tock World was the second and final story in the audio anthology The First Doctor Adventures: Volume Three, produced by Big Finish Productions. It was written by Guy Adams and featured David Bradley as the First Doctor, Claudia Grant as Susan Foreman, Jamie Glover as Ian Chesterton and Jemma Powell as Barbara Wright.

This story is notable for featuring Carole Ann Ford, the original actor for Susan, as a guest star.

Publisher's summary[[edit]]

When disaster befalls the TARDIS, its occupants find themselves in a bizarre location, somewhere between space and time.

Desperate survivors hide among ruins, greedy scavenging creatures hunt new prey, and ghosts scream out warnings across time.

All the while, a mysterious woman watches the TARDIS crew, knowing, as sure as tock follows tick, that a terrible fate awaits them...


The Graveyard World (1)[[edit]]

No sooner has the TARDIS flown away from Carthage does the console begins sparking, the ship's power being overridden by something nearby. As more hardware explodes, the Doctor scrambles to course correct, shoving aside his companions' attempt to render aid, but can ultimately do nothing as the TARDIS is drawn to a nearby planet and makes a crash landing.

Coming to, Ian, Barbara and Susan inexplicably find themselves in a ruined wasteland, unable to recall how they exited the TARDIS or what happened to the Doctor. Hearing the sound of the ship's engines however, they run after it, catching a fleeting image of a ghostly TARDIS. Susan explains to her teachers that that was a temporal shift, a version of the TARDIS slightly in the past or the future. Examining their surroundings, the three briefly wonder if the ash might be radioactive fallout before Barbara and Susan point out the oddity of the buildings. A mixture of architectural styles that were all stacked next to each other without any consideration for their neighbours. Before moving off, the three hear an odd ticking sound.

As they continue to walk, the three hear a shout aimed at them before they encounter another temporal shift. Susan elaborates, saying that time travel is different from space travel in that only the past destination is fixed. If a time traveller isn't careful, they can jump time tracks into one of the unfulfilled potentials, leaving them unable to properly synchronise with their destination, at least not right away. And the temporal shifts are the worst possible scenario.

Passing by another building, the three see a group of shadows in panic. Though Susan is confident that the temporal echoes can't see or hear them, Ian points out one that is clearly motioning to them. Perturbed by Susan's claims, the echo vanishes, leaving Ian to comment on how familiar she seemed.

Hearing the TARDIS noise again leads them to the prone form of the Doctor, mourning the loss of his beloved ship, with his last act being to allow them all to escape. Needing time to mourn, the Doctor steps away from the group. Sitting in the ruins, Ian and Barbara come to terms with a scenario they knew was always possible, but never wanted to accept: They are never going home.

Searching for her grandfather, Susan comes across the temporal echo from before, finally conceding that she can see and hear Susan. As Susan vents her worries about the Doctor's mental state to the echo, her grandfather pops up. After freeing himself from Susan's crushing hug, the Doctor examines the echo while Susan hears the ticking sound again. As the two Time Lords take their leave, the echo imparts one word onto Susan: "Xesto".

As the Doctor returns to Ian and Barbara, Susan runs up and imparts the echo's warning before the second echo then appears, revealed as none other than Ian. The future Ian warns the four that they must leave this place. Or else this will be the day that they die.

The Time Ship (2)[[edit]]

As Ian struggles to cope with what they've just seen, Susan confirms that that really was a future Ian. As the Doctor and Barbara ponder the message, Ian irritably points out how useless the warning was. They have no idea if they've to do something or avoid doing it and have no choice but to continue as normal. As the four debate if they're stuck here forever, they notice two figures watching them from afar. Ian and Barbara run after them while the Doctor and Susan try to circle around.

As Horl and Katta run, they find themselves barred on all sides and introduce themselves. Brought to a campfire, Horl and Katta reveal their belief that this planet is the afterlife, specifically Ki-Agrea, their people's version of purgatory. After a discussion on religion, the Doctor points out the stars above them, the formations reminding him of Cleaver's Square, a galaxy "some considerable way" from Mutter's Spiral, but definitely a place that can be reached without dying. After hearing that Horl and Katta arrived in the same manner as them, the Doctor suspects that the planet only affects space-time vessels.

As morning suddenly arrives, Horl and Katta takes the TARDIS crew to see Nocta, the oldest survivor on the world. Arriving at a recreated Temple of Gluttony, the Doctor wonders if the antagonistic environment is a result of the anger of the cephalopod that the ship was built around. As they enter, the echo appears to Susan again, trying to bar her. Once in the ship, the group, without Katta, separates to find Nocta, Susan going with Horl.

As they walk, Susan is assaulted by the telepathic agony that the building is in. Horl tells her of the one advantage of this place, a magic box. Elsewhere, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara find the item in question, a Zero Cabinet, a small pocket out of reality, before they hear the sound again. Finding the source to be a weevil-like creature twice their size, they flee.

After pushing open a door, Susan and Horl meet the disagreeable Nocta who believes the others are trying to steal her Zero Cabinet, running down to the lower levels.

As Ian and Barbara try to open a blocked door, the Doctor tells Ian and Barbara to run back the way they came, noting the creature's interest in his time energy. Aware that he can't outrun it, he tells his friends to make for the Zero Cabinet before he is swallowed whole.

Death in Time (3)[[edit]]

As Susan tries to reason with Nocta, who has been using the Zero Cabinet to survive the Purges, Ian and Barbara appear, the creature, which Susan identifies as a Xesto, hot on their heels. Nocta seals herself inside the cabinet forcing everyone else to flee. No sooner have Ian and Barbara broken the news of her grandfather's demise to Susan, does the beast devours Katta.

In some "temporal hinterland", the Doctor awakens, surrounded by other versions of himself. The other Doctors believe that, being a figure of great importance, their death is being prevented but can otherwise agree on nothing. A new voice makes herself known, an old woman who laughs that those who talk to themselves are quite mad. Recognising the Woman as the echo following Susan, the Doctor dismisses her explanations as "pseudo-scientific nonsense".

Resigning herself to a difficult conversation, the Woman explains that the Doctor that he hasn't avoided death. He is dead. He was devoured by a Xesto but the nature of the planet has created several equally probable occurrences of that event. And once each echo's time is up, they will vanish and then, the Doctor will fade into nothingness.

On the planet, Ian and Barbara drop a building on the Xesto before returning to the campfire, being offered Xesto meat, Susan explaining the species. As Horl remembers the Xesto crawling around Nocta's ship, she runs back to warn her, Ian and Barbara following. Explaining that the Xesto "mark" a place that they've fed, they observe dozens of Xesto swarming the ship. Though as Horl explains, that's a small number. When the Purge comes, millions of Xesto cover the planet's surface, stripping it back to the rock.

In the hinterland, the Woman shows the Doctor how to observe what's happening on the planet, explaining that one loses their grip on time the more they stay on the planet. She herself has been here for centuries and is now begging for death. Still wanting to save his friends, the Doctor asks the Woman to show him how to talk to them.

Walking to the campsite, the Doctor worries for what will become of Susan without him to watch over her. The Woman, in an insulted tone, is quite confident that the young Time Lady will be fine without him before they arrive. Unable to speak to her, the Doctor asks the woman to tell Susan to seek out the remains of the TARDIS. Narrating her actions, the Woman tells the Doctor to focus intently on Susan, on her breathing, her clothes, and even the freckles on her skin "as if they were my own."

Appearing to the sulking Susan again, the Woman tells her that there's still a chance to save the Doctor but the Xesto are coming and she must find the TARDIS. When she returns to the hinterland however, the Doctor is on his back, dying faster than either thought.

In the Temple of Gluttony, the Zero Cabinet opens to reveal a smug Nocta, brandishing a gun to keep them away from the Cabinet. Silently fuming at her, Ian threatens that he will one day deal with Nocta. As they walk away, Nocta despairs that her gun is broken.

Back at the campsite, Barbara tries to comfort Susan but the Time Lady insists that she cannot relate. Unable to return home and with the Doctor gone, Susan is now truly alone in the universe.

Leading her companions through the ruins, Susan searches for whatever is left of the TARDIS, Horl wonders why the echo is speaking to Susan before an echo of her and Katta appears. Though Horl wishes to touch her lover, Ian has to hold her back. Two versions of one person touching creates a dangerous energy burst, and that cannot be allowed to happen in this unstable environment. As the echo disappears, Barbara points out the horizon.

The Xesto are ready to swarm.

Feast of the Xesto (4)[[edit]]

Though Horl panics, the TARDIS travellers double down on finding the remains of their ship. As they walk, Ian and Barbara debate the morals of claiming Nocta's Zero Cabinet, Barbara pointing out the woman has been following them for a while now. Suspecting that Nocta suspects that they have a way off the planet, the question becomes either trusting Susan's ghost or abandoning their morals for the Zero Cabinet.

Watching from afar, Nocta comments on Ian and Barbara's stupidity, planning to steal the ship they must have, before she comes face to face with a Xesto. Taking this in stride, Nocta manages a few last curses before she is devoured.

With a joyful shout, Susan calls her teachers to what she's found: the TARDIS control console, observed by the Doctor and the Woman. Unable to fly anywhere, Susan instead opts to try and link the console to one of the ghost TARDISes, hoping that one can be used to fly away. After witnessing a fleeting echo of the Doctor before the crash, Susan decides she will be different and asks her companions to help her.

In the hinterland, the Woman smugly boasts to the Doctor about Susan's resilience. Though somewhat insulted by the insinuation that his death is a positive in Susan's growth, the Doctor concedes that he does smother her a bit before demanding to be shown how to speak to her.

After ensuring that everyone knows what to do, Susan, thanks to some encouraging by Ian and Barbara, enacts her plan when a ghost ship appears. Though the console's safety protocols immediately kick in, the ghost ship becomes steadily more corporeal. The damaged hardware however cannot take the strain with the Woman and the Doctor appearing to tell Susan to stop.

The Woman and the Doctor discuss how to help their friends, with the Woman offering another idea.

Now trapped on the Tick-Tock World forever, the group heads back to the Temple of Gluttony. Seeing a familiar ghostly image, Ian steps aside to deliver his useless warning about death to their earlier selves before the four continue on. As the discussion turns to the inevitable end of all things, a Xesto suddenly jumps at them and devours Ian, Susan and Horl having to drag Barbara away.

With only a ridge between them and the Zero Cabinet, Barbara has no energy left to continue, content to let a Xesto devour her as she watches a ghostly Ian.

In the hinterland, the Doctor and the Woman debate the latter's suggestion. When the Woman suggests that the Doctor simply trust her, he snaps at her. She's given him no reason to trust her, offering nothing but vague pseudo-scientific nonsense and critiquing how he looks after Susan. What right, he asks, does she have to give such advice? Hurt, the Woman asks the Doctor to properly look at her.

Horrified and ashamed, the Doctor realises that the Woman is Susan, trapped on the planet for so long that she's become unstuck in time. And if her plan works, the future Susan will never have existed. Sadly, she claims that's for the best. Remembering her words, the Doctor trusts her and declares that they will try.

Finally arriving at the Zero Cabinet, Horl claims she will not enter with Susan, having no desire to continue without Katta, heading off to find a ghost of her lost love. Finding the cabinet empty, Susan makes ready to claim it before the Woman returns, begging her not to do what she did and consign herself to an empty life on this hellish planet. Realising that the Woman is a future version of her, Susan is encouraged to throw herself to a Xesto. Better a quick death than a painful life.

The Doctor then appears and reveals his own plan. The planet's unique temporal properties affords them an opportunity. If the two Susans touch, the energy released could send them back in time to stop the crash. With the last of his echoes gone, the Doctor fades away, begging his granddaughters to touch. Deciding that the alternative can't be any worse, the two Susans touch and time unwinds...

As the TARDIS flies away from Carthage, its power draining and its hardware sparking, the Doctor scrambles to retake control. While initially brushing aside his companions' offer to help, their stubbornness convinces him to let them help. Though they get partial control back, it isn't enough. Susan suggests rerouting power from the TARDIS force field, a suggestion that the Doctor contemptuously dismisses before the future Susan appears to him, encouraging him to trust his granddaughter.

Conceding that he always trusts Susan, the Doctor reroutes the power, the shaking stopping and the engines throwing them clear off-course. Delirious with joy, the crew debate where they've ended up but there's only one way to find out. With a hearty laugh, the Doctor opens the doors to their next adventure.




  • Ian considers Hieronymus Bosch to have been a "bit mad". The Doctor and Susan consider him a "lovely fellow, if a bit of a grump."
  • Susan believes that she will live forever.


  • "Relative" in "TARDIS" refers to the time traveller's relative past and future.

Time Lords[[edit]]

  • Susan claims Time Lords "feed" off time but do so consciously.



Alternate cover.

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External links[[edit]]