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More Short Trips

Edited By Stephen Cole

Book review by Brad Schmidt

Having followed the BBC Doctor Who novels since their inception, it's a steadily apparent impression that commerce is placed ahead of creativity. The Short Trips books are the physical conviction of such a belief, presenting as many half-hearted, pointless interludes as bearable into a tome so thick as to justify increasing the usual cost of the novels.

More Short Trips, the creatively titled sequel to Short Trips, is slightly more bearable than its progenitor. Perhaps it's because, unlike the first edition, it does not pretend to have well-plotted stories. And while this isn't a trait solely held by the BBC - Virgin's Decalog series had many dire moments - still I find myself looking forward to Doctor Who short-story anthologies.

Several authors seem to try and raise the standards repeatedly. Steve Lyons' The Eternity Contract contributes to the horror-style genre of short stories featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, and is enjoyable in a Ghost Light-style manner. It ends incredibly abruptly - but even so, is still more understandable than most ‘short trips’. Gary Russell's 64 Carlysle Street is another memorable tale, reconciling a scientifically-spurious comment in The Edge of Destruction and employing a companionship that is just beginning to receive more attention: the First Doctor, Steven and Dodo. Paul Magrs' tale Femme Fatale is wonderfully written, like all his work, but sadly fails miserably in entertaining the reader.

Gareth Roberts returns to Doctor Who, and unsurprisingly writes for the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9. However, his tale Return of the Spiders is only funny because it is such utter tripe. If this is how his work has evolved, then I no longer wish to see another full-length novel for this character trio.

The only redeeming feature Paul Leonard's Special Weapons contains is in displaying how effective a serious tale featuring the Seventh Doctor and Mel would be. Paul Farnsworth's uPVC tries to be far too clever for its own good; Mike Tucker and Robert Perry's The Sow in Rut offers utterly no explanation; and Andrew Miller's Dead Time is a cheat, having appeared already in the audio release Earth and Beyond. It flourishes better here, but is still too complex a tale for its length.

The highlight of More Short Trips is for originality in its use of the Doctor: Peter Anghelides' Good Companions, which still manages unfortunately to annoy this reader. Good Companions is another example of a recent author taking a cherished companion in their future and showing them broken and emotionally decrepit. The use of this memorable companion in particular is too infuriating and will hopefully discourage further abuse by authors.

Short Trips sported a forced theme. More Short Trips was free of such a constraint but still developed one naturally: that of incoherency. Not only was more time and thought needed on most stories in this collection; it could have been more beneficial to drop the majority and replace them with more creative works. An audiotape featuring 64 Carlysle Street, The Eternity Contract and Good Companions could only reconcile this disaster; as it stands, nothing in this vein is scheduled...

Except for a third volume. And thankfully, I'm not excited this time. [1/5]

This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).