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Short Trips and Side Steps: A Collection of Short Stories

Book review by Jon Preddle

The previous two BBC short story volumes rigidly adhered to the parameters of the TV series or the novels. But as the title suggests, this third volume of 24 tales goes beyond the norm and takes a huge step right outside the usual lines.

The wider Doctor Who canon encompasses all common media, from TV to novels, film, comic strips, radio, and the stage. It is rare for the BBC to acknowledge the existence of these other forms of Doctor Who, so it is delightful that this third volume features no less than four stories based around characters and situations that originate from outside the usual canon. Because of this I was very much looking forward to reading this book, and I wasn't disappointed.

Apart from the Eighth and Fifth Doctors, who get only one story apiece, the other TV Doctors are represented by at least two stories. And interspersed between these are tales featuring the red-headed future incarnation from the Battlefield novelisation, the multi-faced Doctor of the 1988 stage play The Ultimate Adventure and Dr Who as portrayed by Peter Cushing in a story that almost picks up directly from the end of the first Dalek movie.

Highlights of the book include Gary Russell's cleverly executed TV Comics / Countdown pastiche (featuring the Third Dr Who), Miche Doherty's three-page joke with a splendid punch-line ("Bugger" indeed!), Steve Lyons' sequel to The Ultimate Adventure — complete with songs and dance numbers — and the lovely four-part Fourth Doctor and Romana II sequence.

The only tale I found hard to follow was the three-part Nothing at the End of the Lane. I might have missed something vital in the narrative that actually explained what was going on. If it was there it went completely over my head. But one poor story out of 24 isn't bad.

It appears that this may be the last BBC Books short story collection. That would be a great pity if it were so. At times I feel the regular authors of the Doctor Who novels take themselves — and the series — far too seriously. While it is unlikely we will get Cushing's Dr Who et al, in a full-length novel, at least with the short story format, these ‘forgotten’ canons of Doctor Who won't be completely ignored. With 22 new novels every year it is a pleasant change of pace to have something really silly from time to time. I would like at least another book along these lines. Please.

This item appeared in TSV 61 (December 2000).