Donna was not happy. The weather was tipping it down, her clothes were rapidly becoming soaked through, and the thunder combined with the pounding rain was drowning out all other sounds, so at first she thought she must have misheard.
“You what? Didn’t quite catch that.”
“I said,” the Doctor yelled to be heard over another rumble of thunder, “isn’t this fantastic?” He stretched his arms out to either side, tilting his head back and opening his mouth for a moment to catch raindrops before grinning at her again. “Rain like this needs to really be felt to be appreciated.”
“Are you out of your mind? We’re in the middle of a thunderstorm and you wanna stop and feel the rain? I’m getting bleedin’ drenched here! God knows what this is doin’ to my hair, and you want to feel the rain? I’ve felt more than enough of it already, thank you very much. I just want to get back to the TARDIS and dry off. What’s so great about a load of water fallin’ from the sky anyway? Happens all the time in London, it’s why some bright spark invented umbrellas, so we don’t ‘ave to feel it! If I’d known it was going to do this, I’d ‘ave brought mine out with me!”
“Donna Noble,” the Doctor tutted, shaking his head and making drops of water fly everywhere. “Where’s your sense of adventure? Here we are on an alien world, two hundred light years from earth, and you want to hide from the weather under an umbrella? This planet only gets rain once in a blue moon. Literally. The moon turns blue every ten years or so, and when it does the people know that the rains are coming and they celebrate. The rain that’s falling now will replenish their underground reservoirs and keep them going for the next ten years. Without it they wouldn’t survive; to a place like this, rain is life. Look!”
He swept his arms out, gesturing around him, and Donna peered through the curtain of water at the rugged hillside where they stood overlooking a wide valley. All around her, dry, withered shrubs and stunted trees were developing a haze of green as buds swelled and burst, tiny leaves unfurling. Further away, down in the valley, people were emerging from their underground homes. She could just about hear them shouting and laughing over the almost continuous rumbling of distant thunder.
“Just like parts of earth’s deserts, for a few weeks there’ll be grass and flowers and rivers, but none of it lasts very long. The people will sow their crops as fast as possible to take advantage of the short growing season. When the rains stop, the crops will ripen, and then they’ll be harvested and stored. They grow as much of their food as they can in hydroponics chambers deep underground, but not all crops can be grown that way; some need more space, or conditions that can’t be replicated underground. It’s a hard life for the people who colonised this world, but they’ve adapted to it. Fifty years ago, they were offered the chance to relocate to a more hospitable world, but they chose to stay. This is their home.”
As he’d been speaking, the Doctor had led the way down to the valley floor, where people were scurrying about, most of them barefoot and wearing only flimsy coveralls. It made Donna feel overdressed. One thing immediately struck her about the locals.
“Yep!” The Doctor bounced on his heels. “Earth starts colonising other planets in the year 3475, this one was in the third wave when they were down to using worlds that were just barely habitable by human standards. The colony here was established in 3889, ninety-five years ago. It was a struggle at first, but they’re doing well now. They even trade minerals they mine in exchange for things they can’t manufacture for themselves.” He grinned at Donna. “This is humanity at their finest; resilient and indomitable, never giving up, finding ways to thrive in seemingly impossible conditions. Be proud of them, Donna, and be proud of yourself, because it’s people like you, the stubborn, adventurous, curious ones, the ones who say ‘Why not?’ instead of ‘I can’t’, who make it possible for the human race to spread across the galaxy. What’s a little bit of rain to them? Come on, let’s see if we can lend a hand!””
They spent the rest of the day out in the never-ending rain, working alongside people who could perhaps be Donna’s distant descendents, and getting wetter than she would have believed possible, but the rain was warm, and being wet and even muddy didn’t seem to matter so much. Afterwards, and even when she returned to earth with all her memories removed, Donna never quite looked at rain the same way again.