"Oh, come on, old girl. Is all this really necessary?"
"Yes. I told you, Harry. I've been away for so long, I'm rusty. I need someone to practice on before I interview the minister."
"Yes, but why me?"
"Because you're my friend and I knew you'd want to help me."
"…well…yes, of course…but…a tape recorder, Sarah, really?"
"Yes, Harry. Really. So I can play it back and assess my technique. Shall we get on with it?"
"Oh well, if you must."
"All right then. These are just some random questions I threw together for practice, but I want you to treat it as a real interview, okay? Now, your name is Harry Sullivan and you're a doctor serving with the Royal Navy, is that correct?"
"You already know that, Sarah."
"Yes, that's correct. Currently seconded to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce."
"And how long have you been with UNIT?"
"Hard to say, really, what with…well, you know. My record would put it at about a year, I suppose."
"Okay. I won't ask where your personal chronology puts it or we'd be here all day trying to work it out. How tall are you?"
"Six foot two."
"And what colour are your eyes?"
"Well, you can see that for yourself, surely."
"Shh, I'm warming up. Just answer the question."
"They're blue, Sarah."
"Do you have any allergies?"
"Not that I'm aware of, no."
"Okay. Now what was the last song you listened to?"
"What? Oh. Something on the radio this morning, I suppose. I wasn't really listening. They were playing something frightful so I turned it off."
"Not much of a music buff, are you? Do you have a favourite colour?"
"I don't know. Blue."
"No surprises there — you may not have noticed, but just about your entire wardrobe's in shades of blue, you might want to think about mixing it up a little, next time you go shopping. What was the first car you owned?"
"Er…a Ford Popular, in fact. My father passed it on to me."
"So you didn't have to save up to buy it yourself? Lucky for some! What was your first job?"
"I did the odd paper round as a boy, school holidays. Does that count?"
"It does. Who was your first girlfriend?"
"Now that would be telling."
"Of course it would, that's the point. Was it at university? Oh, stop laughing. School, then. I thought you went to an all-boys boarding school."
"Well, I did, but we weren't exactly monks, you know."
"Teenage boys can always find a way, is that it? Holidays again, I suppose."
"Well, yes. And there was a girls' school a mile down the road."
"You dog! I shouldn't have thought they'd let you mix."
"Well, we weren't supposed to, of course. That was half the fun of it."
"Oh, I'm seeing a different side of you now, Harry Sullivan!"
"I was a boy, Sarah. I ran with the pack."
"Certainly sounds like it. Let's see. Have you ever been in love?"
"Er…no. No, I don't think so."
"You don't seem sure. Is there a particular someone you aren't so sure of?"
"Is that a yes? Oh, all right, all right. I'll drop it — for now. You know I'll have it out of you sooner or later. What was the last book you read?"
"The Journal of Medical Ethics, I forget which issue."
"…that wasn't a medical text."
"Er…The Thirty-Nine Steps. John Buchan."
"You and your spy shockers, Harry — I'd have thought you'd get enough of that at work. Do you have any pets?"
"Not since I was a boy — well, what with medical school, and now my career, I'm hardly in a position for it."
"So what sort of pet did you have as a child, then?"
"We had a dog — Rusty. Bit of a mongrel, really. Lived to a bally good old age, mind."
"I always wanted a dog, but Aunt Lavinia wouldn't have one. And now…well, like you said — hardly in a position for it. Oh, where was I? Um…do you prefer summer or winter?"
"Summer, I'd say. Fine sailing in summer."
"So you like to sail?"
"When I get the chance — not so often, these days."
"What about other sports? Do you play?"
"I used to. Cricket eleven at school, spot of rugger — and I rowed quite a bit at university."
"Win any trophies?"
"One or two."
"Only one or two, or are you being modest? Don't answer that. Tell me, what do you have in your pockets just now?"
"Er…my wallet, keys, handkerchief…oh, and a button. I wonder what that came off. Nothing terribly interesting, I'm afraid. Not like the Doctor, eh."
"No one has pockets like the Doctor! What's your favourite place, would you say?"
"Hard to say. The Lake District, perhaps — I remember taking holidays there as a boy. My father hired a boat, taught me to sail."
"Swallows and Amazons, eat your heart out. I visited the Lakes with my aunt, just the once. It was beautiful — but we stayed on dry land! So tell me about your family — what was your mother's name?"
"Ruth. My father's Edward, and I've a stepmother. Dinah."
"Do you get on with your stepmother?"
"Well enough, I suppose. We've not had a lot to do with one another, really."
"No. No, I've a stepbrother, but no siblings."
"What do you think about marriage?"
"…I think it's something I should very much like to have some day, but it's not exactly on the horizon just yet."
"Do you believe in love at first sight?"
"Well, my father always said he fell for my mother the moment he saw her, and they always seemed happy enough, so yes, I suppose I do."
"That's sweet. Do you believe in luck?"
"What about fate?"
"Now look here, Sarah. What sort of interview is this?"
"A very stupid practice one, Harry, I told you that up front. All right. Do you believe in aliens, then? Oh, don't laugh, it's a trick question."
"Well, I'd be mad if I didn't, after the things we've seen, old girl."
"How many times, Harry? I'm not an 'old girl'. I'm not an old anything. Okay, what about God — heaven and hell, and all that?"
"My mother believed. I'm not so sure I do."
"If I read your horoscope for the day, would you take it seriously?"
"Not in the slightest."
"Would you rather write a letter or talk to someone in person?"
"I was always rather a dreadful correspondent, I'm afraid, so I suppose I'd best talk."
"Would you rather be hot or cold?"
"Er, cold, I should think — well, you can always add a few layers, can't you."
"You wouldn't want to strip off on a hot day, then?"
"Sorry, couldn't resist. Do you prefer blondes or brunettes?"
"What sort of question is that?"
"Quite a tame one, I thought. You're such a prude, Harry. Whatever happened to that boy who ran after girls from the school down the road?"
"He grew up and gained a few proprieties, Sarah."
"If you say so, Harry, if you say so. Night or day?"
"Er, day. Always been more of a morning person, really."
"Would you want to be buried or cremated?"
"I say, that's a bit morbid, isn't it? Er, cremated, I suppose — get it over and done with."
"Do you prefer singing or dancing?"
"Neither, if I can possibly help it."
"Would you rather live in the country or the city?"
"Country, I think."
"And set up that quiet little practice you've always fancied? Wouldn't you get bored, after everything you've seen and done?"
"After everything I've seen and done, I should be glad for the peace and quiet!"
"When was the last time you hugged someone?"
"Forgotten already, old thing? It was just now, when you arrived."
"Yes, before that, you idiot."
"Word of advice, Sarah. When you interview the minister, try not to call him an idiot."
"Yes, thank you, Harry. Have you ever cried in public?"
"…well, I cried at my mother's funeral, if that's what you mean."
"Sorry, that was a bit on the nose. Have you ever changed a nappy?"
"Rather an odd question, isn't it? Yes, I have."
"Really? Whose baby?"
"Do you have many cousins?"
"Not many, no. One on my father's side, two on my mother's."
"That's more than I've got. What was the last wedding you went to?"
"Er…probably my cousin's, again. It was a while ago now. Missed the most recent — it was while we were…well, you know."
"On tour with the Doctor, you mean. It's funny, isn't it, how much can change even when it doesn't seem you've been away all that long."
"The world thought it was rather longer than I did, that's for certain."
"Time isn't quite the same in the TARDIS. You can travel a million years in the blink of an eye, or go away for a week only to find six months have passed. Perhaps that's it why can be so hard to pick up — your life is still there, but you don't quite remember what to do with it, and the rest of the world's moved on without you…"
"I've lost my place…here we are. Have you ever broken a bone?"
"More than one. Let's see. I broke my nose playing rugby. Ankle — that was rugby again. Dished my wrist coming off a bike…"
"You're a walking disaster area, Harry! Have you ever broken the law?"
"Certainly not! Well, not here, anyway. With the Doctor…well, you should know the answer to that!"
"Only in a good cause on alien worlds, then, is it? Where was I? Oh yes. Do you have any tattoos?"
"You do! I don't believe it. Where is it?"
"Oh, come on, Harry. I thought we were friends. What is it, one of those 'prove you're a real sailor' jobs?"
"Perhaps we could move on to the next question, Sarah."
"Spoil sport! I'll find out some other way, you know I will. Oh, all right. Who makes you laugh the most?"
"Old school friend."
"…and he's called Austin Minor? Really?"
"Well, it's Paul Austin, really, but he had an older brother, so — Austin Minor."
"Public schoolboys! I'm sorry I asked. Did you have a nickname at school? Oh, don't look like that. You can tell me."
"Sully. They called me Sully."
"I was expecting something worse."
"Sarah, is there a point to all these questions?"
"I told you, I'm practicing. I know the questions are a bit random and silly, I got them out of a magazine to save time, but it's just a warm-up to get me back into the swing of things. Okay. What do you consider your greatest achievement?"
"My medical degree."
"What do you think about women's lib?"
"Now that really is a trick question. One wrong word and you'll brain me. Pass."
"Chicken. Oh, all right. What quality do you most admire in a person?"
"Er…hard to say. Integrity, perhaps."
"What do you hate more than anything?"
"My stepmother's sprouts."
"I'm serious, Harry."
"So am I!"
"What's your most treasured possession?"
"My grandfather's pocket watch."
"And your greatest extravagance?"
"My car. Worth every penny."
"Not driving the Ford Popular any more, then?"
"I should say not!"
"Do you have any plans for tomorrow?"
"I do, as a matter of fact. I plan to go to work, or the Brig'll have me up on a charge…"
"Sarah Jane? Sarah Jane? There you are."
"Rani — Luke. Sorry, I didn't hear you come in."
"You were miles away. Are you all right? What are you doing?"
"Oh, nothing much — transferring some old tapes onto disc while they still play. Don't want to lose them."
"Yes, tapes. It's what we used to use for recording things, back in the dark ages."
"So what's on them — anything interesting?"
"No, nothing earth shattering — nothing that would be of interest to anyone but me, I don't suppose."
"…Mum? Mum, what's wrong? Are you crying?"
"No, Luke, I'm fine…it's just…well, yes. Yes, I suppose I am. Oh, don't look so worried, I'm all right, really. It's just a stupid pretend interview I did a very long time ago with a dear old friend who thought I was completely mad but helped me out anyway. I'm all right, Luke, really. It's just…hearing his voice again, after so long. I'd forgotten how much I missed him, that's all."
"…look, you haven't got any more questions on that bit of paper, have you, Sarah? We've been at this for ages."
"Oh, all right. I suppose that'll do — if I'm not ready now, I'll never be. Thanks for letting me practice on you."
"My pleasure, Sarah. Er…can we turn this dratted thing off now, then? Where's the switch?"
"Let me do it, idiot. Here."
© J. Browning, March 2015