Doctor Who
Short Trips: Monsters

Editor: Ian Farrington
Big Finish
RRP 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 110 6
Available 30 September 2004

The Doctor and his companions have come up against monsters constantly: they defeat them and help the victims... most of the time. But monsters come in a variety of forms. They're not all slobbering, rampaging beasts: many attack their prey with means more cunning than violence...

As with the subject of Earth history in Short Trips: Past Tense, the overarching theme of this anthology contains some rather loose definitions of the word "monster". For instance, the beast in question in Simon Guerrier's Categorical Imperative is a would-be dictator, whereas it's a book (a monster hit, presumably) in Best Seller, by Ian Mond and Danny Oz. But I am completely at a loss to identify who or what the monsters are in Marc Platt's Last Rites or Samantha Baker's These Things Take Time.

The collection does not get off to a good start with Best Seller which - ironically, given that it concerns a best-selling book - isn't very readable at all.

By contrast, the subject of media manipulation is handled much better in Anthony Keetch's Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, which is one of the highlights of this volume. Keetch's witty story about an addictive television show contains many amusing allusions of the Doctor Who series. It involves monsters that resemble actors in suits, a feeble attempt to hide by pressing oneself against a wall, and the show's arch nemesis is called the National Viewers and Listeners Association! The tale is only slightly marred by some out-of-character musings on the part of Nyssa.

I could take or leave From Eternity, by Jim Mortimore, which doesn't really seem like a Doctor Who story at all, and Last Rites. Categorical Imperative is a good story, but we have had far too many reunions of most or all of the Doctors just lately, and the novelty value has well and truly worn off.

However, in general this is a very strong anthology. The Touch of the Nurazh, by Stephen Hatcher, is an entertaining Third Doctor and Jo story, while These Things Take Time makes good use of the Seventh Doctor's new companion Hex, and makes up for the fact that we won't be hearing from him in any new audio adventures for several months to come. Jacqueline Rayner's Screamager, like Andy Russell's The Republican's Story in the previous collection, Repercussions, deals with the grisly subject of the Black Death, while also prefacing Victoria's decision to leave the Doctor in Fury from the Deep. Steve Lyons, who was so good at showing us the aliens' point of view in his Second Doctor novel The Final Sanction, pulls it off again in The Colour of Monsters.

The pinnacle of this collection is Trapped! by Joseph Lidster. This idiosyncratic but dramatic tale weaves together narrative threads concerning three very different groups of characters, including a jaded office worker trapped in a lift, a woman menaced by an attacker, and Peri as she struggles to come to terms with the violent tendencies of the recently regenerated Sixth Doctor.

Readers expecting to find a story by Nev Fountain may be disappointed, since his How I Stopped Trying to Kill the Doctor and Learned to Love Myself has been dropped for whatever reason. Samantha Baker's publicised contribution, Evil Since the Dawn of Time, also known as Feeding Time, has been retitled as These Things Take Time.

Monsters is well worth capturing. As Paul Whitehouse's Nosferatu-type character in The Fast Show might have said: "You mark my words. Monsters! Monsters! Monsters!"

Richard McGinlay

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