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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Short Trips:


Editor: Richard Salter
Big Finish
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 271 5
Available 31 July 2008

If you lost the ability to communicate, what would your life be like? Messages, and the media we use to convey them, surround us every minute of every day. Some are meant for us alone, while others are intended to reach the widest possible audience. Some transmissions are intercepted by unintended recipients and never reach their destination. Others get corrupted along the way. The Doctor knows how important it is to be understood. Whether he is striving to cure a disease that turns words into gibberish, responding to an SOS from the end of time, or unravelling secret messages encoded into the genetic sequences that make up life itself, this is one Time Lord who always knows how to make himself heard...

The theme of this collection of short stories is communication, in terms of both mass-media broadcasting and personal messages intended for specific individuals. The subject is a good fit for Doctor Who, whose narratives have often revolved around distress signals, telepathy and communications breakdowns. Methods of transmission in this book cover the whole gamut from low-tech word of mouth in Mags L Halliday’s historical thriller “Gudok” and tribal history in James Milton’s mystical “Blue Road Dance” to advanced genetic engineering in Lou Anders’s “Generation Gap” and “Nettles” by Kelly Hale, and molecular dissemination in James Moran’s light-hearted “Breadcrumbs”.

Doctor Who in prose has often mimicked the style of various media, and, naturally, this anthology is no exception. Graeme Burk’s “Doctor Who and the Adaptation of Death” contains humorously inaccurate excerpts from a Hollywoodised screenplay based upon the events of an alien invasion. “Policy to Invade” by Ian Mond is conveyed entirely in the form of a written audit report, with attached minutes from various meetings and quotations from the personnel involved. Richard Wright’s gripping “Lonely” takes the form of a group discussion in an internet chat room, while “Larkspur” by Mark Stevens contains snippets of radio transmissions.

Another recurring theme of this anthology is that of loneliness, most obviously in the aforementioned “Lonely”, in which isolated characters broadcast desperate cries for companionship. Conversely, the unsettling “iNtRUsioNs” by Dave Hoskin sees a friendless postal worker in a dead letter office latching on to the misdirected correspondence of a complete stranger. The Doctor encounters another lonely man tied up with his career in Andy Lane’s “Only Connect” and another absorbed in his hobby of vintage vinyl record collecting in Dan Abnett’s “Tweaker”. Both of these stories truly take us into the minds of the protagonists concerned. “Methuselah” by George Mann deals with a tenth-century Byzantine poet outcast by society because of the telepathic messages he has been receiving.

I don’t much care for the confusing “Nettles”, but otherwise the stories in this book are worthy of your attention. My favourites include the aforementioned “Adaptation of Death” and Steve Lyons’s “See No Evil”, an amusing and biting satire on censorship. At the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of tone are the creepy “Lonely”, “Link” by Pete Kempshall and “iNtRUsioNs”. It’s difficult to choose an absolute favourite: I’d say it’s a toss-up between “See No Evil” and “iNtRUsioNs”.

The message is: Transmissions is worth picking up.


Richard McGinlay

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