Doctor Who: Short Trips – Volume 01 [Big Finish]

Thanks to the wild world of inexpensive deals on a website called Humble Bundle, I’ve added all sorts of odd offerings from Big Finish Productions to my collection. These guys have been making original Doctor Who audio material since 1999. Most notably that’s been full-cast audio dramas featuring actors and characters from the TV series, but it has also expanded into all sorts of ancillary material.

One of these lines is Short Trips, which is a collection of short stories set in the Doctor Who universe. One of my purchases included four of these collections.

Doctor Who - Short Trips Volume 01

In Short Trips 1, there are eight stories, each featuring one of the original eight Doctors, and each read by an actor associated with that Doctor’s era. Added to those simple bare bones are some music, audio effects and sound design which all come together with the stories to make quite an enjoyable little package.

Going through story by story, we start with Rise and Fall, by George Mann, and read by William Russell (Ian on TV). This story mostly features the First Doctor and Ian witnessing the entire existence of civilization from pre-history to apocalyptic destruction, all played out in front of them in a matter of minutes. It’s a nifty concept that I’ve seen elsewhere—an episode of Star Trek Voyager, and a short Green Lantern comic by Alan Moore. It makes for some cool sci-fi but it doesn’t really do much to connect us with the characters or concepts of Doctor Who itself. So in the end it feels like a story that could have worked almost anywhere.

The next story is called A Stain of Red in the Sand, and it’s by David A. McEwan. It’s read by David Troughton, who has appeared on Doctor Who a few times over the years but is really known as the son of Patrick Troughton, the actor who played the Second Doctor. XXX XXX is ostensibly a Second Doctor story but the truth is he is barely in it. Indeed, it hard to pin down what’s going on in the story. Basically it seems to be about a mysterious apartment block that’s located in another dimension and is under the thumb of mysterious creepy-crawly aliens. The Doctor is engaged in some sort of extended confrontation to set it free, and he is assisted by a local artist who is sculpting the Doctor’s companion Zoe to life. Anything of note in the story happens “off screen” and it all ends on an upbeat note but with no real explanations, and so was pretty unsatisfactory to me.

A True Gentleman is the next story, and was the first one that I really enjoyed. It’s by Jamie Hailstone and is read by Katy Manning (TV’s Jo Grant). The story is about a young Scottish boy who meets the Third Doctor after he gets a puncture in his bicycle. The boy ends up being in the middle of an important diplomatic situation that the Doctor is dealing with. It’s an amusing story that showcases the Doctor’s childlikeness, as he takes far more delight in the child’s situation than he does the alien diplomat. It’s also well performed by Katy Manning, though she seems to have had some vocal processing to assist with creating the different voices.

The Fourth Doctor is represented by Death-Dealer by Damian Sawyer. Louise Jameson narrates the story featuring her character, Leela, going with the Doctor to an interplanetary market, admiring a knife, and being murdered as a result! Of course, there more going on than meets the eye. The plot in this one is almost non-existent, though there are some decent character moments for both the Leela and the Doctor. It’s a bit slow, but still enjoyable listening.

That’s followed by The Deep, by Ally Kennen. This one is read by Peter Davison, who plays the Fifth Doctor, in a story where his companion Nyssa attempts to repair the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, which leads to things going wrong in a very unusual manner. (Spoilers) Basically, the TARDIS starts to change shape again, but not just the exterior–instead, the whole ship changes, inside and out, and because it’s landed in the ocean, it turns into a living, breathing whale! The Doctor has to figure out a way to get it back before the change becomes permanent. It’s a fun and zany sort of story which is well read by Davison.

Colin Baker reads his own story, The Wings of a Butterfly, featuring the Sixth Doctor being enticed by a friend on Gallifrey to go and find out why a particular thriving alien civilization suddenly disappeared. Discovering that it was all the result of a ridiculous accident, he is then persuaded to go back and subtly prevent the incident. However, the butterfly effect comes into play and every action has unforeseen consequences, resulting in greater confusion. It’s a enjoyable story which is perhaps just a bit over-the-top in terms of its presentation—a little too cute when it comes to its jokes and bit too much in its verbiage. Not bad, but not my favorite.

The Seventh Doctor and Ace team up to deal with mysterious criminal activities which have an extra-terrestrial element in Police and Shreeves by Adam Smith. Sophie Aldred (the TV actress behind Ace) reads the story. It’s told primarily from the point of view of the main guest character, a shape shifting, electricity-absorbing alien who lives secretly on earth and communicates to members of her species via electrical signals in a carpet. It’s a fun little caper story with a few twists in the plot.

The last story features the Eighth Doctor, and is read by India Fisher, who plays companion Charley Pollard in other Big Finish audios. It’s called Running Out of Time by Dorothy Koomson, and features the Doctor revealing to a confused man why he can’t remember where he came from, and regularly feels the need to run away from mysterious pursuers. There’s some pretty cool story ideas in this one, but they are underdeveloped. It all feels like it might have made a pretty good novel, but there’s just too much crammed in for a short story, and the ending is not completely satisfying.

On the whole, I liked listening to this collection, with A True Gentleman and maybe The Deep being my favorites.  All the performances and production design all good, and even though I didn’t love every story, the overall package was enjoyable, and I’m glad I have a few others to follow it up.

 

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