The Doctor materializes inside a vast castle, seconds after someone pulls a lever and their body disintegrates into dust. Stepping out, the Doctor remembers watching Clara die. There is sand on the floor, and as the Doctor studies it he warns his captors that he will never stop if they had any part in killing Clara. He steps out and looks out the window, and sees nothing but a grey landscape and grey clouds. Judging by the teleportation equipment, the Doctor concludes that he is no more than a light-year from where he was and in the same time zone. He warns his unseen captors that he doesn't always listen and Clara told him not to take revenge.
There's a dirty shovel leaning against the wall, and the Doctor examines it briefly. Monitors on the walls come on, showing the Doctor from outside a window. He goes to the window and sees a veiled figure across the way in a window, looking at him. The view on the monitor switches to the Veil's point of view as it approaches the Doctor, and the Doctor panics and runs away. He comes to a locked door and turns to face the Veil, and realizes that it looks familiar. The Doctor goes to the door and tries to speak with it telepathically, asking it to open. After a moment, it opens... revealing a blank wall.
The Veil reaches for the Doctor, who realizes that he's scared. He braces himself... and the Veil freezes in place. The outside walls shift and twist, and the blank wall slides aside. The Doctor goes through and finds himself in a bedroom, and the Doctor notices a cracked and faded portrait of Clara on the wall. As he examines it, the Veil enters the chamber and the Doctor turns to face it. Flies fill the air, and the Doctor admits that he's always had nightmares of the corpse of an old woman. They covered her in veils and flies filled the air, and he's been terrified of the image ever since. The Doctor realizes that the Veil is that image made real, and that he's in some kind of torture chamber. He says that since he's afraid of dying he has the advantage, throws a stool out the window, and jumps through.
The Doctor appears in the TARDIS and explains that he concentrated on things slowing down, and then entered a storeroom in his mind. Clara is standing nearby, her back to the Doctor, looking at a chalkboard. The Doctor continues his explanation, saying that his storeroom is the TARDIS and he imagined himself back there, explaining to Clara how he escaped. Working against time, the Doctor calculates from how the stool fell how fast he is falling. He assumes diving position just as he hits the water below.
Everything goes dark, and then the TARDIS lights come up. "What is this place?" is written on the chalkboard, and there's no sign of Clara. Another question appears: "What did you say to make the creature stop? Finally, a third question appears: "How are you going to win?" In the real world, the Doctor opens his eyes and finds himself drifting in a large pit. He looks down and sees that the bottom is covered in millions of skulls. Swimming up, the Doctor emerges from the water. He reenters the castle and finds a room with a fireplace. Copies of his clothes are already laid out in front of it, drying. The Doctor removes his wet clothing and takes the dry clothing, and then places the wet clothing exactly where he found the dry clothing.
Continuing on, the Doctor finds a chamber with an octagonal indent in the floor and chalk arrows pointing at each side. The monitor shows the Veil following him, and the Doctor realizes that the question is not why it's following him but what it is. He concludes that the monitors show the Veil tracking him because it's trying to scare him, and the castle is a puzzle box designed to scare him to death.
Something bangs on a nearby door. When the Doctor opens it, he finds a vine-covered garden filled with fog. The door closes behind him, and the Doctor finds overturned dirt in the center of the garden. There's another spade nearby and the Doctor wonders what Clara would do. He imagines Clara telling him the same as him, and starts digging. There's a buzzing from the monitors, and the Doctor confirms that they're showing flies. When he opens the door back, the Veil reaches for him and the Doctor slams the door shut on its hands. He manages to close it and then jam it shut with the spade, and the Veil walks away. The monitor shows it safely away, and the Doctor gets the spade and goes back to digging.
The Doctor continues digging, and finally comes to a stone slab with the words, "I am in 12" carved into it. The Veil reaches through the sides of the pit and grabs for the Doctor...
… and the Doctor returns to his mental storeroom. He tries to work out how he's going to escape, and Clara writes down "Tell no lies" on the chalkboard. The Doctor realizes that the Veil froze when he said that he was scared of dying, and realizes that the castle is designed to force him to confess by telling truths that he's never said before. Pacing, the Doctor says that there are truths he can ever tell.
Back in the real world, the Doctor yells that he was lying earlier. The Veil hesitates, and the Doctor realizes that it wants more. He says that he left Gallifrey because he was scared, not bored. After a moment, the Veil draws back and the Doctor climbs out of the hole. The walls of the castle change above him, and the Doctor goes back inside. He finds his way to a balcony, and discovers that the castle is now floating in a vast ocean. Skulls float briefly to the surface and then fall back to the bottom.
In the bedchamber, the Doctor sits and contemplates the portrait of Clara. The Doctor waits until the Veil comes in, and then runs to the other end of the castle, buying himself 82 minutes before it finds him again. He searches for Room 12, figuring the castle wants him to, and discovers that each room reverts to its original condition when he returns. The Doctor realizes that the castle is inside of a closed energy loop, constantly recycling, He wonders if he's in Hell, and how long he has to be there. The Veil continues following him, and the Doctor wonders what it's counting down to.
The Doctor reenters the teleportation chamber and finds a skull on the floor, wired into the machinery. "Bird" is written in the sand on the floor. A door opens, revealing a staircase up. The Doctor ascends and steps out onto a turret, and wonders what he's missing. Going below, the Doctor sees a staircase leading down and follows it to a door marked 12. Inside is a small room with a slit in the back wall, but no one responds when the Doctor calls. He returns to the turret and looks up at the night sky, and realizes that someone is playing a game that he can't stop playing. The Doctor knows how to move the wall in Room 12, as long as he doesn't run out of confessions, and wonders who has changed the stars. The Veil comes up behind him as the Doctor figures that he's somehow traveled 7,000 years into the future even though he didn't sense traveling through time.
The Veil reaches for the Doctor, and he turns and says that before the Time War, the Time Lords knew that the Hybrid was coming: half Dalek, half Time Lord. The creature stares as the Doctor explains that no one knew if the Hybrid would bring peace or destruction. The Doctor confesses that he knows the Hybrid is real, and he knows what it is and where it is. The Veil retreats and the walls change, and the Doctor runs to Room 12. The rear wall has slid aside to reveal a metal passage, and the Doctor walks down it. The passage ends with a wall of frozen crystal with the word "Home" on it. The Doctor scans it with his sonic sunglasses and confirms that the crystal is 400 times harder than diamond. Concentrating, the Doctor remembers the word "bird" that he saw earlier.
Back in his storeroom, the Doctor insists that he can't keep doing it. Clara writes down again: "How are you going to win?" and the Doctor wonders why he can't lose just once. Clara writes down "No!" and the Doctor says that he can remember everyone... and she'll still be gone no matter what he does. As the Doctor sits down in despair, Clair tells him that he's not the first person to lose someone, and tells him to get over it and break free. She touches his face, smiles, and tells him to get up and win.
In the real world, the Doctor looks up and sees the Veil approaching. He says that he has no confession but he will tell it the truth. As he pounds on the crystal, yelling in pain, the Doctor says that secret of the Hybrid must be kept. He's going to escape and find whoever put him there in the first place, and stop them. The Veil continues advancing and grabs the Doctor's head, and he collapses, burning. It disappears and the monitors all go blank.
In the storeroom, the lights come up on the Doctor. He watches himself on the monitor as his body dies, taking days as it tries to regenerate. The Doctor watches as his physical body climbs to the top of the tower, and realizes that the skulls in the water are his past selves who tried--and failed--to escape. As he collapses as his physical body dies, the Doctor realizes that the stars weren't in the wrong place: he has been imprisoned for 7,000 years.
In the real world, the Doctor staggers to the teleportation platform. The room has reset like all the others, leaving a copy of the Doctor in the hard drive just as he was when he first arrived. The Doctor applies the wires to his head, supplying the necessary energy, and he writes the word "bird" in the sand before disintegrating. The Doctor materializes in the teleportation pod and promises to find whoever killed Clara.
The same events repeat over... and over... and over... for thousands of years. Each time the Doctor breaks a little further through the wall, like a bird chipping at a diamond, until two billion years pass. The wall finally breaks and the Veil collapses into a pile of clockwork pieces. The Doctor steps through and finds himself on Gallifrey. The confession dial falls to the ground behind him, the castle appearing in it briefly before the portal seals open. A boy appears and the Doctor tells him to go to the city and tell someone important that he's back and he knows what they did. The boy runs to the far-off city, and the Doctor says that the Hybrid destined to conquest Gallifrey is him.
Written by Gadfly on Nov 29, 2015