The Astronomer's Apprentice was the seventh short story in the Short Trips anthology Short Trips: The Muses. It was written by Simon A. Forward. It featured the Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield.
The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are on Traken for a holiday. They arrive the day before the Feast of Melkur. They meet alien astronomer Neverglade and his companion, the Trakenite Viola. Viola strikes up a friendship with Jamie, while the Doctor accompanies Neverglade to his observatory, where he is making a scale model of the universe.
The next evening, they attend the festival, at which several people, including the Doctor and Jamie, perform for the Melkur. Viola reads a poem. Later, Jamie and Viola are enjoying each other's company while Victoria searches for the Doctor. She finds him at the observatory with Neverglade.
The Doctor and Neverglade are working with Neverglade's books and equipment, which uses telepathy. They are mapping the stars. Victoria watches for a while. Neverglade becomes frustrated with the work, thinking he will not be able to finish it in his lifetime. The Doctor convinces him to keep at it. Later, Neverglade retires to bed, and the Doctor continues working. Victoria, though nervous about the Doctor using Neverglade's equipment, heads to bed.
The next day, Jamie and Viola are riding the Trakenite equivalent of horses. Jamie sees a tower in the distance, and they head for it.
Meanwhile, Victoria wanders in the Grove, looking for flowers. She is surprised by the appearance of a tall, dark handsome man. She is unnerved by the fact that he knows who she is. She hurriedly leaves.
Consul Symia arrives at the observatory to discuss with the Doctor and Neverglade some strange things that are happening on Traken. People are behaving unusually, and she wonders if the presence of aliens on Traken is affecting the biomatrix of the planet. Neverglade sarcastically says that his companion Viola is the disturbance, and describes how her presence in the observatory disrupts the balance of his model universe. The Doctor becomes alarmed at hearing this.
At the tower, Viola tells him of the Traken legend of Araken. She thinks that the setting needs a knight, so she conjures up a rainbow knight that she knows cannot hurt Jamie. Jamie is surprised to see she can conjure up illusions, but Viola is surprised when her illusion destroys part of the nearby cliff face with its sword.
Victoria is in her rooms when the handsome man returns. He brings her a flower and tells her he is the Keeper. He wants her to stay with him on Traken. Frightened, Victoria runs out to the balcony.
Jamie and Viola destroy the knight, and Viola realises something is wrong with the biomatrix. They head back to find the Doctor.
Victoria finds the Doctor and tells him about the Keeper. Symia and the nearby Trakenites are interested in what she has to say, but the Doctor fears that the Keeper is being affected by whatever is disturbing the biomatrix. Suddenly, they see that the Melkur has come to life and is heading for them.
Meanwhile, Jamie and Viola are being chased by creatures from Viola's poem. The Doctor hurries everyone inside their villas, while the Melkur climbs the balcony of one of the buildings. Jamie and Viola arrive, chased by the Jabberwock. Jamie turns to fight it, and the Doctor throws a fireplace poker to him and tells him to imagine it's a blade.
Later, when the Doctor and his friends are congratulating themselves for their victory, Symia approaches and asks them to leave Traken. The Doctor tells Neverglade that his miniature universe was responsible for disturbing the biomatrix. Victoria apologises to the Keeper for her behavior.
The TARDIS crew makes their farewells to Viola. She admits to conjuring up Neverglade as a companion who can take her travelling in time and space.
Some time later, Victoria attends a play with Mr and Mrs Harris. She misses the Doctor and Jamie, and the Harrises hope the play will cheer her up. Unknown to Victoria, the Keeper has given her a piece of his mind, a part of Traken, that becomes Viola. At this, the moment of her creation, Viola is ready for her future adventures.
- The stories in Short Trips: The Muses are inspired by the Muses of Greek mythology. This story is based on Urania, the Muse of Astronomy.
- Viola reads Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" at the festival.
- The phrase, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," is used by Viola as a reference to the TARDIS. This phrase was used again in TV: The Big Bang.
- The First Doctor had always wanted to visit Traken. (AUDIO: The Toy) During his fourth incarnation, the Doctor would again visit Traken in 1981 in the company of Adric and met his future companion Nyssa for the first time. On that occasion, he encountered what he initially believed was another Melkur. However, it was, in actuality, the Master. (TV: The Keeper of Traken) Following his regeneration into his fifth incarnation, he and Nyssa returned to Traken in circa 1000 BC. (AUDIO: Primeval)
- The Doctor says: "There's far too many impossible things happening and I haven't even had breakfast yet," a reference to a later statement by him in TV: The Five Doctors: "Like Alice, I try to believe in three impossible things before breakfast."
- Victoria attends a play with Frank and Maggie Harris. (TV: Fury from the Deep)