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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Short Trips - Volume 1


Authors: various
Read by: various
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £12.99 (CD), £10.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 547 1
Available 30 November 2010

Get ready for eight fantastic new adventures in space and time with the Doctor and his companions, featuring stories from many of Doctor Who’s most popular authors from the worlds of television, print, comics and audio, as well as new talent and fresh voices - and read by your favourite Big Finish actors...

This is in fact the third time we’ve had a “first volume” of Short Trips. The first was the BBC Books paperback, now out of print, that originally coined the phrase with reference to a collection of Doctor Who short stories. The second marked the beginning of a series of Big Finish hardbacks, also now defunct. This double CD is the first in a series of Short Trips on audio, featuring all-new stories, each one read by a Doctor Who cast member.

As I’ve mentioned before, the short story is not one of my favourite literary forms. This is true even when the narratives are presented in talking book form, as here. All too often, Doctor Who short stories seem to me to be more like anecdotes than proper plots, as is the case with Damian Sawyer’s “Death-Dealer”, a Fourth Doctor story read by Louise Jameson. Either that, or they are so experimental (a quality that is arguably one of the strengths of the form in general) that they don’t really fit into the Who canon, or I simply don’t “get” them, as is the case with David A McEwen’s perplexing “A Stain of Red in the Sand”, a Second Doctor tale performed by David Troughton.

Jamie Hailstone’s Third Doctor story “A True Gentleman” is also anecdotal, but it has the benefit of being light-hearted. The tale is told from the charming perspective of a young Scottish boy. Katy Manning gives an endearing reading - though her casting seems a bit arbitrary, as Jo Grant does not appear. Another arguably irrelevant narrator is India Fisher, who reads Dorothy Koomson’s “Running Out of Time”, which features the Eighth Doctor but not Charley Pollard.

Humour comes even more to the fore in “The Wings of a Butterfly”, a Sixth Doctor story written and read by Colin Baker, and in Adam Smith’s “Police and Shreeves”, a Seventh Doctor tale performed by Sophie Aldred. In both cases, a deft lightness of touch by the respective readers, punctuated by comically timed effects from sound designer Martin Montague, make for enjoyable listening.

It’s unfortunate that “Running Out of Time” immediately follows “Police and Shreeves”, as both begin in a similar setting and with a similar theme: a character with a false identity working in a diner. However, the grim tone of “Running Out of Time” could scarcely be more different. This story also features some particularly exciting music by Nicholas Briggs.

Talking of similarities, there’s more than a little of Star Trek’s Wink of an Eye and Blink of an Eye in George Mann’s “Rise and Fall”, a First Doctor story read by William Russell. It has a decent enough plot, but any surprises have come and gone long before the end of the narrative, even if you’re not familiar with the aforementioned Trek episodes.

My favourite story in the collection is Ally Kennen’s “The Deep”, a Fifth Doctor tale read by Peter Davison. For me, this encapsulates all the virtues that I’ve mentioned so far in relation to the other stories: humour, a skilful reading, and stimulating music. More than any of the other entries, with the possible exception of “Police and Shreeves”, “The Deep” reflects the era of its setting. The Doctor and Nyssa are well characterised, and as with many Who serials of the early ’80s, there is a fascination with the inner workings of the TARDIS, in this case the chameleon circuit, while Briggs’s incidental music captures the styles of Paddy Kingsland and Malcolm Clarke. The runners-up are “The Wings of a Butterfly” and “Police and Shreeves”, possibly for reasons of my own nostalgia - yes, I was a child of the ’80s!

There is no particular overarching theme to this anthology. The stories are presented in chronological order by Doctor, with the first four incarnations on Disc One and Doctors five to eight on Disc Two. I found the second disc to be the more enjoyable. It also runs slightly shorter than the first - short and sweet.


Richard McGinlay

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