|The Best of Days|
|Main setting:||Rome, 17 December 47 BC|
|Printed in:||Short Trips: Christmas Around the World|
|Short Trips short stories|
|Lost and Founded||Conscription|
The Best of Days was the fifteenth short story in the Short Trips anthology Short Trips: Christmas Around the World. It was written by David Cromarty. It featured the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Unlike the other stories in that anthology, which celebrate Christmas, this story celebrates Saturnalia, and predates the birth of Christ.
The Doctor takes Ace to Rome during Saturnalia. They arrive in time to stop a slave named Marcus from killing a rich man named Gaius, who had tried to stop Marcus' cruel behaviour toward his master, Aullus. After Gaius leaves, Marcus invites the Doctor and Ace to Aullus' home for a meal. The Doctor and Ace meet a little girl named Rhea, who gives Ace a pebble.
The Doctor explains Saturnalia to Ace. The Romans celebrate the god Saturn by allowing slaves to be equal to their masters for one day. It is the custom to give statues of Saturn to one's friends. Another part of the story is that Saturn, on learning that one of his children would supplant him. He devoured his children, but his wife Rhea fed him a stone for the last child and then poisoned him.
At Aullus' home, the Doctor and Ace join Marcus for a meal. The Doctor can sense psychic energy. Aullus' many small statues begin to grow and animate. Marcus orders some of them to kill Aullus. When Marcus speaks with Saturn's voice, the Doctor informs him that he will have to stop him. The Doctor and Ace hurry out before Marcus can stop them; the Doctor tells Ace to head for the TARDIS.
On the way to the TARDIS, Ace sees statues growing and killing people. She heads for Saturn's temple, only to see the huge statue of Saturn come to life. It speaks, inciting the slaves to riot. When Ace tries to stop one slave, Saturn orders the slaves to kill her. She sees the little girl nearby, an, remembering the story, she throws the pebble at Saturn. She misses his mouth, and he gloats that that trick will not work this time.
The Doctor arrives with a bottle of poison that he throws at Saturn. He is devastated that Ace missed throwing the stone into Saturn's mouth, but Rhea explains that the trick doesn't have to work exactly as before. Saturn (and the statues) are restored to their original forms, and Rhea disappears.
The Doctor sadly explains to Ace that Marcus will be executed for killing his master, even though he was under Saturn's control.
- Ace intends to get some Nitro-9 from the TARDIS.
- The Doctor tells Ace about the feast of Sol Invictus.
- The Doctor promises Ace a "different" Christmas, with no puddings, trees or carols.
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