Doctor Who
Short Trips: The Solar System

Editor: Gary Russell
Big Finish
RRP 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 148 3
Available 28 October 2005

Across time and space one man stands against the seemingly endless tide of evil and injustice, whether fighting on a galactic scale or dealing with a personal tragedy, the Doctor is always in the thick of it...

Doctor Who: Short Trips: The Solar System is a new collection of short stories based on the ever popular, and now newly revived, show. Published by Big Finish and edited by Gary Russell, here is another great collection of tales. The linking theme in this anthology is that all the stories are set on planets in our own solar system. This means that rather have the stories in chronological order for the Doctor, the stories are arranged starting with Mercury and making our way to the furthest planet so far discovered, Sedna. For purists and anally retentive fans Mondas is not included, though I'm not really sure why as a Cyberman story is always well received. There's no story for Peter Cushing's Doctor either, poor man even got to be resurrected for Revenge of the Sith but never seems to get a nod from the Doctor Who fraternity.

Mercury, by Eddie Robson, showcases the Doctor's second incarnation accompanied by Jamie and Zoe. A remote outpost is menaced by an alien with an unknown agenda. This is a nice little story with an unexpected twist in its tail.

Venus, by Stuart Manning, has the eighth, and latest for the anthology, Doctor. In this tale he's accompanied by Charlotte Pollard. Materialising on an apparently alien landscape, things are not what they seem. When The Doctor and Charlotte find out the truth it leads to a conflict between the two, a conflict which highlights the Doctors compassionate nature.

Earth, by John Mortimore, is an adventure with the ever popular fourth Doctor. In this case he has a companion whose name is not revealed until the end of the story, so I'm not going to do it here either. This is an Earth of the far flung future, where apocalyptic desolation seems to be the order of the day and has been since H.G. Well's time machine first popped forward.

Mars, by Trevor Baxendale, has Vicki, Steven and the first Doctor involved in a fairly straightforward rescue mission, though to be honest this is really a Steven story, with the Doctor doing little until the last minute. Mars and no Ice Warriors? Whatever next?

Jupiter, by Andy Russell, features a Big Finish companion in the form of Evelyn Smythe, a character who didn't appear in the original television show, but whose inclusion, is an understandable tribute to the importance of Big Finish in keeping Doctor Who alive through its BBC wilderness years. With the Sixth Doctor, it's a story of ghosts and co-operate shenanigans in the turbulent clouds of the solar systems most beautiful gas giant. It also includes homage to the first Alien film in the characters of Leonello and Hendryk, two engineers who live in the bowls of the ship worrying about their pay and feeling unappreciated by the flight crew.

In Saturn, the Doctors considerable age, normally a great source of wisdom, turns out to be a decidedly thorny subject, in what appears to be an ideal society - shades of Logan's Run me thinks. Alison Lawson's critique, of the way that the elderly are viewed, may not be an original idea but she executes it well. Nyssa appears as the companion and true to the character's use in the television show; her importance to the plot appears to be almost inconsequential. Happily this state of affairs is not what it seems.

Uranus, (no laughing at the back) by Craig Hinton, sports the seventh Doctor with Mel and was my favourite story in the collection. Mel and the Doctor arrive to witness a famous impact into the heart of the gas giant, but others have ideas of their own. Soon things start to go horribly wrong and the Doctor has to intervene. Uranus could have been just another rescue mission, but Hinton envisions something more magical than that. Here is the Doctor as the master manipulator standing at the centre of the action and often being the cause as well.

Neptune, by Richard Dinnick, throws the third Doctor and the ever popular Sarah Jane Smith, a kind of spunky Lois Lane figure for you younger readers. On a floating city the spider-like Siccati are under attack from the planet Sedna. Can the Doctor repair the defences in time to save this race of artist?

Pluto, by Dale Smith, is a story of terraforming on the outer edges of the system. The second Doctor, Ben and Polly arrive on Charon only to find an unknown corpse and a mystery hidden in the ice.

Last in the anthology is Sedna by Andy Frankham. The third Doctor and Jeremy Fitzoliver arrive to discover the originators of the attacks on the Siccati settlement on Neptune. The Doctor quickly discovers that the attackers are themselves Siccati.

So there you have it another worthy themed anthology, ready to grace anyone's Doctor Who collection. The quality of the stories rarely drops below good, with a few transcending the restrictions of their characters to become good science fiction. Hard-core fans may have a few problems with the exclusion of a number of elements which appeared in the original show, but I presume that their exclusion means that they and their planets are floundering in that obscurity that is copyright law.

Charles Packer

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