Touchdown in Tombstone
To hear Holliday tell it, life aboard the TARDIS couldn’t have been all candied yams and sassafras even at the best of times; what with one thing after another, such as alien life forms cluttering up the cuspidors, and so on. But when Dr. Smith had a toothache, it became downright intolerable....
“Oh, the pain, the pain,” he groaned. “I’ve simply got to find a dentist before we move on to another millennium.”
Juan and Beverly looked at each other in alarm. Hard to find a decent one in emergency (much less a millennium!) and then there’d probably be a waiting list.
“Haven’t you got any painkillers in the lab?” asked Juan. “Something to tide you over until we get---wherever we’re going?”
“My dear boy, amongst my supplies I’ve got everything we could possibly need to counteract the effects of all death-rays from beta to zeta; devices for the instantaneous resetting of broken bones; and specifics to counteract cellular mutation.....but for some reason I forget to pack my aspirin! No, the tooth will simply have to be extracted....”
“Shall I have a go?” said Beverly, hopefully. “I once did a first-aid course at school----not very well, though...” she admitted.
“Certainly not!” snapped Smith. “In any case, I’m sure the curriculum didn’t include the more sophisticated techniques of dental surgery. I fear there’s nothing for it but to land at once.”
“But where?” said Juan.
“It doesn’t matter!” Dr. Smith agonized. “Wherever there’s some form of vertebrate life, there will be teeth---and there are teeth, there will be----oh---ouch! And he reeled over to the control panel.
The dials wavered uncertainly. They’d been through all this before.
“But look here,” objected Juan, ’supposing there’s only in-vertebrate life when we get there. It’d be just like you land us on Chippe 7M or somewhere, where everything’s gaseous or liquid---you know, like those great, nebulous jellyfish things we met on---where was it?----with poisonous doohickeys...”
“Don’t!” shuddered Beverly.
“Quite right, Beverly. Don’t you presume to lecture me on intergalactic biology, my boy! I know perfectly well what I’m doing.....!”
“Make a pleasant change...!” muttered Juan, fortunately inaudibly.
In any case, Dr. Smith was already clutching at an apparently haphazard selection of levers with the air of a xylophonist gone mad, who finds he’s brought along the wine list instead of his sheet music.
“Don’t you think,” said Beverly, without much hope, “it’d be better to wait until.....?”
But whatever eventuality she anticipated, it was already too late. For the TARDIS had materialized!
They looked out upon an unprepossessing landscape. To begin with, it was raining, and quite heavily at that. And even if it had not been, the outskirts of Tombstone, Arizona in 1881, were not such as to qualify for an architect’s award. Too little thought, the adjudicators would probably have felt, had been given to ecological considerations. Mind you, the town did blend in with its surroundings---but since these were of mud, that hardly counted for an advantage.
And yet Dr. Smith was as jubilant as if he’d just discovered El Dorado, the shining city of legend; and furthermore, caught it living up to expectations in a big way.
“There you are, friends!” he crowed. “What did I tell you? Civilization at last!”
“Civilization?” Juan and Beverly sought unhopefully for some small evidence of Mankind’s widely advertised rise from barbarism, and found it leaving a lot to be desired.
With a typical unerring accuracy, the TARDIS appeared to have zeroed in somewhere to the rear of a disused livery stable---and one which hadn’t been left entirely as a horse would wish to find it.
True, the place had atmosphere, all right; but they rather wished it hadn’t. They could have breathed better in---well, in the ammonia swamps of Slov K, for example---and that was saying something!
Through the leaning door of the premises could be a distant, straggling vista of sagging shacks and sloping adobes, which even the shrewdest properly speculator could only have described as offering ample scope for instant demolition. But if he ever had, then unfortunately he had found no takers. Because there it still stood, idling into corruption, like, as Juan put it, a souvenir copy of the Slough of Lastuna.
“Oh, come on, Juan,” said Beverly, “at least we’re back home...”
He looked at her in shock.
“So this is where you come from, is it? Explains a lot!”
“Oh, really!” she expostulated. “Just for once, can’t you try to look on the sunny side?”
“Very well, you point to it---then I’ll look at it. It’ll be my pleasure!”
“At all events,” interrupted Dr. Smith, hastily, “the inhabitants ae obviously at an advanced stage of development....”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Look,” he said in triumph, “there’s a wheel! At least they’ve discovered that!”
It’d have been hard for them not to. Quite a number of these triumphs of ingenuity lay about the place----most of them with spokes missing, but nonetheless indubitably wheels! And broken-down buggies, there were; and discarded horseshoes, wrapped up in their own rust. The fact is, as you will have gathered it by this time, they had landed slam-bang in the middle of the O.K. Corral----and there was even a signboard, hanging sideways from one bent rail, to prove it.
“Whooopeee!” said Beverly. “We’re in a Western flick!”
United for once, her two friends glanced at her....