Doctor Who
Short Trips: Farewells

Editor: Jacqueline Rayner
Big Finish
RRP: £14.99
ISBN 1 84435 151 3
Available 04 May 2006

Sometimes it's easy to say goodbye - to a friend, to a way of life, to a lover. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. And sometimes they just won't take the hint. Say hello to 14 stories of goodbyes, as the First Doctor contemplates his flight from Gallifrey; a young man goes to murderous lengths to prevent Jo Grant from leaving him; the Fourth Doctor considers his mortality after a funeral; the Fifth Doctor tries to get rid of an unwanted companion - and more...

With these themed anthologies, there's usually at least one story that seems to not quite belong. In this book there are three tales that are only tenuously connected with farewells. If it wasn't for the back-cover synopsis, I might have struggled to see the relevance of Gareth Wigmore's opening First Doctor story The Mother Road (nevertheless, this is an engaging character piece - a bonding experience for the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara). The goodbye angle is similarly tenuous in Darren Sellars' Utopia and Paul Magrs' The Wickerwork Man. Utopia is also guilty of being more of an incident that a proper story (though there is a genuinely unsettling moment for the Seventh Doctor), while The Wickerwork Man, unusually for Magrs, is not a particularly successful characterisation of the Eighth Doctor.

Still, these stories are more satisfying than Jake Elliot's Wake. I remain unclear as to exactly what the Fifth Doctor's role is in the events described here. However, even this tale offers some enjoyment, especially if you're a fan of the 1980s children's sci-fi game show The Adventure Game.

Rather more effective are...

Father Figure, by Steve Lyons, in which a post-Web of Fear Victoria Waterfield confronts the memory of her dead father, and realises it is time for her to move on - in more ways than one.

Andy Campbell's Separation Day, a spin on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This story also acts as a kind of precursor to the new series episode School Reunion, in that Sarah Jane Smith discovers that the Third Doctor sorely misses his former companion, Jo Grant, and she is just the "new girl".

Into the Silent Land, by Steven A Roman, a beautifully written tale (though far from flattering in its descriptions of Season 18's Tom Baker) in which a melancholy Fourth Doctor begins to feel his age and realises that his next regeneration might not be far away.

Stewart Sheargold's The Velvet Dark features the Master, but keeps the reader guessing as to which incarnation of the villain we are actually dealing with. The Master once again goes to extraordinary lengths to artificially prolong his life, including a life-force draining lash-up that is similar to (and might go some way to explaining) his use of the TARDIS' Eye of Harmony in the TV movie. Like Into the Silent Land and Wake, the starting point for this story is a funeral.

Life After Queth, by Matt Kimpton, is an endearingly silly tale of sentient (but stupid) armadillo creatures on a potential path to destruction. What really makes this story is the participation of a new "companion", the Gravis, who is being transported to the planet Kolkokron by the Fifth Doctor and Tegan. The oversized woodlouse (who, it is claimed, didn't realise that the people of Frontios were intelligent beings) is keen to lead the life of a space explorer - when he's not slipping over in the mud and having to be picked up by his fellow travellers, that is. Meanwhile, Tegan (who is soon to leave the Doctor in Resurrection of the Daleks) contemplates her own effectiveness as a member of the TARDIS crew.

Joseph Lidster's Curtain Call well and truly gets into the head of a supposed psychiatric patient. The woman's ordeal is compared and contrasted with the Sixth Doctor's own struggles against monsters within (his post-regenerative madness in The Twin Dilemma and the Valeyard in The Trial of a Time Lord).

The Three Paths, by Ian Potter, forms a companion piece to The Mother Road, as the First Doctor approaches the end of his life but realises that he needn't fear the change. Continuity-wise, this story successfully walks a line between such diverse accounts of the Doctor's and Gallifrey's past as Planet of the Spiders, Lungbarrow and Death Comes to Time.

However, for me the highlight of the collection is The Bad Guy, by Stephen Fewell, a brilliantly observed analysis of some of the clichés of the Jon Pertwee era. There's an alien, Ptela (an anagram of Latep from Planet of the Daleks), who falls in love with Jo Grant. He says he wants her to stay to help "rebuild our world". "Your people must find their own answers," the Doctor replies, "but I can think of no better person to lead them." Later, the Time Lord urges him to: "Fight it, Ptela... The Thrematons are controlling your mind." This is no light-hearted comedy, though. The alien's obsessive love for Jo causes him to become "the bad guy" when he decides to get rid of his rival, the Doctor. For Ptela, however, "the bad guy" is the aloof Third Doctor.

Unusually for these anthologies, the stories - with the exception of the final one, The Three Paths - are arranged in chronological (Doctor) order. The good news for Peter Davison fans is that no fewer than four of the stories feature the Fifth Doctor.

It's also quite unusual for so many of them to be so precisely placed in terms of series continuity. For instance, Father Figure is clearly set before the TARDIS' departure from 1960s London following The Web of Fear. Wake deals with Adric's funeral, and so takes place between Earthshock and the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan returning the freighter crew and troopers to the 26th century at the beginning of Time-Flight - thus opening up a convenient side trip for stories such as Lackaday Express (from the anthology Doctor Who: Decalog). Judging by Tegan's outfit, The Velvet Dark must occur immediately prior to Frontios, while Life After Queth obviously takes place just during Part 4 of that same serial. Black and White, by John Binns, is set three days after Planet of Fire, while Curtain Call mentions a recent trip to the planet Caliban, so must take place shortly before Spiral Scratch. The Three Paths states that since leaving Cornwall, the TARDIS has landed in a succession of icy locations, thus opening a nice little gap between The Smugglers and The Tenth Planet for First Doctor, Ben and Polly stories such as Ten Little Aliens.

Into the Silent Land is a little more problematic. This story has the Fourth Doctor donning his burgundy outfit for the first time (for a funeral) and ends with him deciding to take Romana to Brighton. It therefore fits between the unbroadcast version of Shada and The Leisure Hive (in Big Finish's version of Shada, K-9 states that the Doctor heads for Brighton following his encounter with the Time Scoop in Cambridge). This conflicts slightly with Doctor Who Magazine's Fourth Doctor comic strips, which show him switching outfits more gradually and in Romana's absence, and with the novel The Well-Mannered War, which takes place after the unbroadcast Shada and ends with the travellers removing themselves from normal space for a period of time. I theorise that, after the funeral, the Doctor temporarily ditches his burgundy outfit and the trip to Brighton is postponed. It's possible that the TARDIS misses its programmed destination, which is why the Doctor takes his time-travel proficiency test at the beginning of Festival of Death.

As you might have gathered from the length of this review, I found Farewells to be a particularly stimulating collection of stories. A good buy.

Richard McGinlay

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