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Decalog 3: Consequences

Edited by Andy Lane and Justin Richards

Reviewed by Paul Scoones

[Cover]

The new editors of Virgin's annual collection of Doctor Who short fiction are to be commended for steering away from the usual stable of novelists. Gareth Roberts and Craig Hinton are the only two established Doctor Who authors represented here, and not one of the remaining eight have appeared in either of Decalog 3's pair of predecessors. The collection is therefore almost entirely fresh territory, though the quality is variable.

Moving On is a tediously introspective piece of writing that in writing about Sarah Jane's readjustment to life after the Doctor treads the same path of many fan fiction authors, and Peter Angelides doesn't do any better than the others I've read in this vein.

Guy Clapperton's Tarnished Image experiments with the format by presenting a First Doctor and Dodo story through a series of news reports published after their adventure. Although initially interesting, the story became boring long before it ended simply because the plot itself was largely inconsequential.

Having seen Jackie Marshall's name bandied about for some years by the likes of Paul Cornell, I was expecting great things from my first exposure to the work of this veteran of Doctor Who fan fiction, but alas, her Fifth Doctor and Nyssa tale, Past Reckoning, has only the bare bones of a plot and is instantly forgettable.

Gareth Roberts' Chelonians make a welcome return appearance in Fegovy, which like most of Roberts' stories has a routine plot serving as a backdrop for the wonderful personalities of his characters. If this story is anything to go by, Gareth Roberts must be persuaded to write a Sixth Doctor and Mel novel, as his treatment of these two regulars in this story is spot-on.

I also enjoyed Craig Hinton's Zietgeist, perhaps proving that there is after all something to be said for populating a short story collection with established Doctor Who novelists! Hinton raises some thought-provoking ideas about the nature of parallel universes - including one in which the Doctor never left Gallifrey - but the cramped a hurried nature of the tale left me with the feeling that he'd have been more comfortable writing this as a novel.

Standing head and shoulders above all other entries in the collection is Steven Moffat's story Continuity Errors, in which the Seventh Doctor is viewed from the perspective of a character on whose life he has a profound effect through his manipulation of time. Moffat deserves commendation for his faultless characterisation of both the Doctor and Bernice, but the story's true brilliance lies in that the plot is entirely secondary to the observations that the writer is sharing with the reader about the nature of the McCoy Doctor's darker side.

The 'consequences' theme of this collection is not particularly well- handled. The idea is that something from one story has an effect on the next and so on, though given the necessity of the authors writing their stories more or less simultaneously, this idea was perhaps a little overly ambitious. It is puzzling to me that the editors even bothered with a theme - most television seasons of Doctor Who got by without one so why shouldn't Decalog reflect the same diversity?

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).