Doctor Who
Short Trips: The History of Christmas

Editor: Simon Guerrier
Big Finish
RRP 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 149 1
Available 05 December 2005

The Doctor and his companions have spanned both time and space. Now, in the new short story anthology from Big Finish,
Doctor Who Short Trips: The History of Christmas, fans can witness the Doctor's shenanigans over twenty-four different Christmases...

As I've said before, Big Finish has done a grand job in keeping Doctor Who alive during its long hiatus. Let's hope that new fans embrace this body of work as a way of discovering a little about the previous Doctors. Thankfully, the book has both a picture of each of the eight featured Doctors as well as a mini biography for our newer recruits to the world of Who appreciation. Though Peter Cushing's Doctor is still noticeable by his absence - poor man exorcised from the Doctor Who canon. Edited by Simon Guerrier, the anthology has contributions from some of the best Who storytellers. That's not to say that all the stories are equally as good.

In short stories it is often the exploration of a single idea, skilfully done, with a surprise ending, that makes for the most satisfactory experience. Rather than plough through every single story, suffice it to say all are set around the Christmas period, regardless of the historical time and place. A lot involve various Christmas themes: present giving, strange stars in the sky, that sort of thing.

One of the things that nobody should do is write a historical story without getting the facts right. Rome by Marcus Flavin (though I suspect that this is a pseudonym) was spoiled by just such historical inaccuracy. Flavin describes Octavian, later known as Augustus Caesar, as "...one of Caesar's junior cronies..." As anyone who had been alive at the time, or who has read any history on the subject, would know... he was actually a relative. Caesar was his mother's uncle and later adopted Octavian into his own family. Don't believe me, read Suetonius. Plus, while I'm in a nit-picking mood, no Roman would have drunk his wine straight without the addition of water.

For the most part the stories are all well written, but special mention must be made for The Thousand Years of Christmas by Simon Bucher-Jones. This is not just a good Who story, but a also a great piece of science fiction writing. And, at only five pages long, still stands out from the crowd as the perfect piece of short story writing. Presence by Peter Anghelides also deserves a mention as another good read.

Kate Orman, Marc Platt and Simon Guerrier also provide yarns worthy of your time. Most of the authors have also written full length Who novels, so if you like their short story style you might want to check out some of their earlier work. Don't know if they are all in print, it's been some years since I read my first Orman book.

I guess, in the end, it will come down to who your favourite Doctor is. In this anthology, there is something for everybody. The text is small, so you're getting a lot of story for your money. Given the time of year it might just make the perfect stocking filler.

Charles Packer

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