Doctor Who
Short Trips:

Editor: Joseph Lidster
Big Finish
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 267 8
Available 30 June 2007

A mysterious ghost haunts a hotel in India. The terrifying alien C’rizz attacks commuters in King’s Cross Station. Beneath a London council estate, a creature waits to be born. And on a distant world, an old man trades stories with a strange time traveller. Throughout his adventures in time and space, the Doctor meets many people, and each one is affected in some way: the waiter who keeps a special table for the Time Lord’s granddaughter, Susan; the American student who befriends lost Lucie Miller; the teenage girl who discovers that she may be something more than human. What is it like when that peculiar blue box appears in your world? What is it like to be given just the briefest snapshot of the Doctor’s life? What is it like when everything changes...?

With these anthologies, I usually find that there’s at least one story that makes me think: “This wouldn’t have been out of place in the previous collection,” and then wonder: “Perhaps it was a leftover from that book, or at least inspired by its themes.” This volume is no exception, containing another Golem-based tale, um, “Golem”, by Lizzie Hopley, and another Kafkaesque giant bug, in Colin Harvey’s “The Eyes Have It”. Meanwhile, Steven Savile’s “The Sorrows of Vienna” does for that place what Short Trips: Destination Prague did for its city of choice.

The particular “gimmick” of this volume might not appeal to all Who fans, especially if you like the Doctor and his companions to be the primary focus of your reading. Each of these stories is told from the viewpoint of a guest character, a witness to one of the TARDIS travellers’ adventures. This makes for some interesting storytelling.

Two of the tales, “All of Beyond” by Helen Raynor and “Osskah” by Gary Owen, are expressed in the peculiar dialect of an unfamiliar culture. Two others, Scott Handcock’s “Attachments” and Stel Pavlou’s “You Had Me at Verify Username and Password”, are conveyed as email messages. Sometimes the full implications of the travellers’ actions and/or dialogue are lost on the observer, as is the case with James Swallow’s “Piecemeal” and Gary Russell’s “The Report”. Often, the impact upon the life of the observer is negative, sometimes even fatal, as is the case with Andy Frankham’s “The Misadventure of Mark Thorne” and Benjamin Adams’s “Puppeteer” (a story that owes more than a little to Star Trek’s Wolf in the Fold). The final tale, “Fanboys” by Paul Magrs, doesn’t feature the TARDIS crew at all, but rather deals with the sci-fi inspired reactions of a young Who fan to a traumatic but ultimately down-to-earth incident that occurs during Christmas 1981.

This is a good volume for fans of the Fourth Doctor, who appears in no fewer than six stories: the aforementioned “Attachments”, “My Hero” by Stuart Manning, “Plight of the Monkrah” by John Davies, “In Case of Emergencies” by Ian Farrington, “Puppeteer”, and “The Glarn Strategy” by Brian Dooley. In several of these narratives, the Doctor is accompanied by Oliver Day, a companion created specially for this collection. A similar device was used in Short Trips: Time Signature, which featured the character of William/Isaac.

However, my favourite stories are “Indian Summer” by James Goss, “Osskah”, and “She Knew” by Nigel Fairs. “Indian Summer” is a characterful ghost story. “Osskah” depicts a fascinating bird culture and also intrigued me with its apparent references to the Time War. It eventually transpires that the “storm in heaven” of which the Eighth Doctor speaks is another catastrophe altogether, but ultimately an intensely tragic one. “She Knew” ingeniously compares recent events in the lives of two fellow drinkers in a Llanfairfach pub: a gay man, who has recently split up with his long-term boyfriend, and the Third Doctor, who has just bid a sad farewell to Jo Grant in The Green Death.

Eddie Robson’s “Remain in Light” isn’t bad either, marking a welcome first appearance in prose for the BBC 7 companion Lucie Miller. “The Misadventure of Mark Thorne” and “The Glarn Strategy” are both amusing in their own ways, owing to the presence of a rude would-be celebrity chef and a flippant Fourth Doctor respectively. “The Sorrows of Vienna”, featuring a post-Charley and C’rizz Eighth Doctor, contains ominous forebodings for the companions’ respective fates in forthcoming audio dramas.

Some stories I found to be flawed. For instance, “All of Beyond” features a Second Doctor who speaks more like the Ninth or Tenth Doctor (this is written by Helen Raynor, a script editor on the new television series) and uncharacteristically utters the word “damn”. Lizzie Hopley’s “Golem” will probably make more sense if you are familiar with the writer’s one-woman show, Pramface. “There’s Something About Mary”, by Simon Guerrier, and “My Hero” also seem to lack full explanations for certain story elements. Similarly, the ending to editor Joseph Lidster’s signature piece, “Salva Mea”, doesn’t seem entirely logical (without giving too much away, how does the Doctor know which date to visit King’s Cross Station?).

However, please don’t let the fact that I’ve ended on a negative note allow you to make a snap judgement about this book. With 21 different stories and as many different viewpoints to choose from, Short Trips: Snapshots is well worth a shot.

Richard McGinlay

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