The water was still; the twilight was chill; the sky was a tatter of gray.
Swift came the Big Cold, and opal and gold the lights of the witches arose;
The frost-tyrant clinched, and the valley was cinched by the stark and cadaverous snows.
The trees were like lace where the star-beams could chase, each leaf was a jewel agleam.
The soft white hush lapped the Northland and wrapped us round in a crystalline dream;
So still I could hear quite loud in my ear the swish of the pinions of time…
- The Ballad of Pious Pete, Robert W. Service
Up on the threshold between forest and tundra where the spindly, stunted things that pass for trees give way to endless, bleak ice and hills and nothing. Up there, where the sun has an all or nothing attitude towards its job. Up there, where time isn't quite right and people go mad. In the spring and summer it’s a deceptively colourful place; all fast blooming, fast dying artic flowers and tough little creatures dancing around trying to fit a year's worth of eating and mating and child-rearing into a few short months.
Then comes the winter. The Big Cold. The sun swans off on vacation and everything fades to monotone. Big, starry bright sky. Big, empty white wasteland.
See here; a narrow creek frozen down to its gold-bearing bed. The snow only dusts its dark surface. In the black-white light you can see the individual shadows of the pebbles on its beach. Very stark. Very clear. There's a cabin set a little ways back on the south bank. A ramshackle, one-room miner's hut. Still, it's better appointed than the cabin across the stream; the one up top the hill looking down at the lower cabin; judging it.
In the far distance you can make out mountains. They shimmer in and out of sight as the sky lights up.
It's a silent, brooding scene, disturbed as a shuddery breath peels away the air beside the cabin on the beach. Blueness comes into existence and then crackles away. Snapping and fizzing. Burning its way into reality thorough sheer stubbornness. The lights in the sky flash and wane. The TARDIS howls and breaks through, finally coming to rest on the beach, steam gently wafting off its casing.
The door creaks open momentarily and the occupants spill out: Rose in a parka, Jack in his great coat, the Doctor in leather and wool. They bicker good naturedly about the bumpy landing.
"Oi, show some respect," says the Doctor, "The solar flares were throwing my instruments off."
"So you say," says Rose.
"So I do say," says the Doctor. "Besides, might've been smoother if Jack hadn't been too distracted to hand me my spanner."
"And so the blame falls, once again unjustly, onto my poor weary shoulders," says Jack, miming the shouldering of a heavy load. Rose giggles.
"S'where it usually belongs," says the Doctor.
"And no blame for the distractor?" Jack asks mischievously, looking across at Rose.
"Don't know why I let you apes on board," the Doctor says.
"Yes you do," says Rose, grabbing his hand and leaning close against the Doctor's shoulder. His leather creaks in the cold. He grunts, but doesn't push her away as she leans there, cheek to sleeve. The scratchy texture of her mitts against his bare fingers. A short ways separate stands Jack, observing them with a gaze the Doctor almost comprehends.
"Look up," Rose says. Above them, the sky is filled with colour.
"Sun's going mad up there," says the Doctor, "Radiation hurtling across the void, crazed electrons battering against your ionospere. Getting caught up in the magnetic fields. S'strongest at the poles."
"Aurora Borealis," says Jack. "I did a trade with an old Inuit man once. He said it was the souls of the dead and the children of the sky playing ball."
"What did you trade him, Harkness?" asks the Doctor.
The Doctor snorts his disbelief, but doesn't press the subject.
"Who do you think is winning the game?" Rose asks, her eyes still fixed on the sky.
"Oh, that's easy," says Jack, "We are."
They all hush, watching as the Northern Lights paint a trail of legends across the heavens.
…So bright I could see, as plain as could be, the wings of God's angels ashine.