Short Trips: Zodiac

Short Trips: Zodiac is the first anthology released by Big Finish Productions. The theme is the signs of the Zodiac. Each story is associated with a particular sign of the zodiac, as mentioned in the title. There is also a brief introductory story, which is themed around astrology and the zodiac in general.

Introduction

Introduction
Author(s): Jim Sangster
Doctor(s): None
Companion(s): None
Season(s): None
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Continuity: Kasterborus is revealed to be a human astrologist. Most of his calculations were destroyed in a horrific fire that devastated Cyrrhenis Minima's capitol (The Ribos Operation). His most famous work is Our Destiny is in the Stars. Species that have been influenced by Kasterborus' teachings include the Delphons (Spearhead from Space), Phreni, and Sirians.

Carval is the fourth planet out from the sun in the system that also contains Estellios. The planet M'ii'e takes so long to orbit its sun that whole generations of its inhabitants are born completely under any one star sign.

Location: Not applicable.

Future History: Humanities' Great Breakout took place in the third and early fourth millennia, accompanied by resurgence in ancient faiths.

The Bottom Line: Functional, if rather indulgent, linking story. It's entertainingly written, but unfortunately only serves to emphasis how tenuously some of the stories are linked to the theme of the anthology.

ARIES: The True and Indisputable Facts in the Case of the Ram’s Skull

ARIES: The True and Indisputable Facts in the Case of the Ram’s Skull
Author(s): Mark Michalowski
Doctor(s): First Doctor
Companion(s): Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright
Season(s): Season 2
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Roots: The works of Edgar Allen Poe.

Continuity: The nature of the evil force that attempts to manifest itself via the Ram's skull and Abigail's gift is not revealed, but it needs psychic energy to do so. It refers to its manifestation as reincarnation. The Doctor specifically travels to the house to stop the force from gaining a foothold, but doesn't seem to know what it was. [As he claims to have been invited by a friend, it is possible that he was given some information by a future incarnation.]

Also present at the house is Edgar Allen Poe, whom the Doctor, Ian and Barbara meet, and who narrates the story.

Location: Baltimore, Earth October 2nd 1849.

The Bottom Line: 'We came here to prevent...something. Something evil, from gaining a foothold on this world.' Good start, memorably creepy, and with an excellent evocation of Poe's writing style.

TAURUS: Growing Higher

TAURUS: Growing Higher
Author(s): Paul Leonard
Doctor(s): Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): Fitz Kreiner
Season(s): Unknown
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Continuity: The Doctor and Fitz pose as Doctor John Smith of the UN Peace Corps and Sergeant Kreiner. The Doctor wears blue eye shadow, which was popular for men ten years before this time (Warriors of the Deep).

Humanity has colonized the Moon, and it is implied that at least one generation has been born and grown up there. Inhabitants of the Moon live longer than those of Earth, due to the reduced gravity. No human being has been killed in war for eighty-seven years.

Location: The Moon, [c2094 - discrete blue eye shadow was fashionable for men ten years earlier, which is probably a reference to Warriors of the Deep, which is set c2084].

Future History: Kuppam was an artificial world built in Earth's orbit by the Yamoyata Company. It was a steel and glass spheroid with a stationary casing of lunar rock. The hollow interior was inhabited, and boasted woodlands, rivers, hills, bridges and towns. One of the light-alloy bearings used to support the junctions between the static outer shell and the rotating interior snapped, causing the shell to be breached and to collapse. Fifty thousand, five hundred and ninety-five people died as a result.

There is a Copernicus College on the Moon. The UN is still in existence. There is an orbital tiger reserve called Khadri.

The Bottom Line: 'He wanted you to let him die' Well-written study of guilt, although the eye-shadow rather spoils things.

GEMINI: Twin Piques

GEMINI: Twin Piques
Author(s): Tony Keetch
Doctor(s): Second Doctor
Companion(s): Jamie McCrimmon
Season(s): Season 5
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Roots: There is a reference to James VII. The Doctor quotes Oscar Wilde.

Continuity: The Second Doctor and Jamie are travelling without Victoria or Zoe, probably placing this story in Season Six B with The Two Doctors. Jamie states that the unnamed world is the only one on which he's never been locked up or shot at. He enjoys wine. It is implied that the Doctor has an endless supply of recorders.

The TARDIS console room contains a Chippendale chair. There is a room in the TARDIS, which is so long that it has its own horizon. The walls and floor are covered with what looks like dimpled mattress, and a river, containing small life forms, runs down the middle of the room.

Doppelganger worlds are a very rare phenomenon; two planets, absolutely identical, with the same geology, flora and fauna and even individuals. The Doctor estimates that the probability of encountering doppelganger worlds is "a trillion billion to one". Moglan Beasts are native to at least one of the two worlds.

Location: Two doppelganger worlds, date unknown.

The Bottom Line: 'One of you is enough, I couldn't cope with two of you.' Contrived and silly, although perhaps no more than most doppelganger stories.

CANCER: Still Lives

CANCER: Still Lives
Author(s): Ian Potter
Doctor(s): Third Doctor
Companion(s): Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Liz Shaw
Season(s): Season 7
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Roots: The story opens with a quotation from Voltaire's Candide. Coca Cola is mentioned.

Continuity: The UNIT HQ building houses the European Axis Military Corps in many of the parallel universes between the parallel universes of Inferno and the Doctor's own. When the Doctor moved between universes in Inferno, UNIT member Helen was caught up in the effect and left sliding slowly and irreversibly between universes, a journey that will take her ten years of subjective time. Republican soldier Mark was similarly affected and sent in the opposite direction at the same rate. In the Inferno universe, Swifty G. Singh's propaganda pulp novels are available on the black market; considered to be anti-Republican, anyone caught reading them can be sent to the camps.

The Doctor takes coffee with a "filthy number" of sugars in it. The Doctor insists on spelling megawatts as "meggawatts" (an Inferno in-joke).

Liz Shaw keeps a journal. She read Plato at Cambridge, but no other philosophy. She is sceptical about the Doctor's story of a parallel universe (Inferno). The Doctor quotes Hamlet at her when she challenges him about it.

Location: Maida Vale, London, England, June 22nd to July 27th.

The Bottom Line: 'We've been doing this for five years, there can only be another five years to go!' Interesting study of guilt and the consequences of the Doctor's actions for those around him.

LEO: Constant Companion

LEO: Constant Companion
Author(s): Simon A Forward
Doctor(s): Second Doctor
Companion(s): Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot
Season(s): Season 6
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Roots: Einstein is mentioned. The story possibly draws inspiration from twisted Canadian cartoon The Cat Came Back.

Continuity: The TARDIS contains a medical bay and a galley. Jamie keeps a set of bagpipes in his room.

"Marmaduke" generates telepathic amplification in anyone with natural telepathic tendencies. The Sorceress describes him as her Id-Cat and claims that she created him to keep her company. The Sorceress is telepathic and isolated herself from her people to get away from their thoughts and to stop herself from eavesdropping on them. It isn't explained exactly who or what she is.

The Equatorial Bridge is one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. Each of its support towers houses thousands of people. The planet it is located on is not named. The Doctor tries to leave Marmaduke there, as well as on a hyperspace cruiser bound for the Carmalan Domains, on the planet Moga, and on Karn with the Sisterhood (The Brain of Morbius). The Carmalan people are described as a generous, hospitable race.

Location: The TARDIS, the Equatorial Bridge on an unnamed planet, a hyperspace cruiser bound for the Carmalan Domains, Moga, Karn, and the domain of the Sorceress, all dates unknown.

The Bottom Line: 'Against that cat, curiosity would always come a poor second!' Irritating and facile; the cat quickly becomes as annoying to the reader as it does to the Doctor and his companions. Forward is capable of much better.

VIRGO: Virgin Lands

VIRGO: Virgin Lands
Author(s): Sarah Groenewegen
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Ace, Bernice Summerfield
Season(s): Unknown
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Roots: There is a reference to the Beatles' song "Eleanor Rigby".

Continuity: Bored with eternity, Death came to Australia when it was new and stayed for two hundred years. She has become so bored that she herself yearns for death, the Doctor telling her that he won't let her die. She has met the Doctor before (Love and War).

Location: Sydney, Australia [late twentieth century].

The Bottom Line: 'Bernice, what do you think of death?' The style of the New Adventures is well captured, and it's great to see the Doctor/Benny/"Neo-Ace" team again.

LIBRA: The Switching

LIBRA: The Switching
Author(s): Simon Guerrier
Doctor(s): Third Doctor
Companion(s): Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Mike Yates, Jo Grant
Season(s): Season 9
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Roots: Face/Off and other body-swap stories.

Continuity: The Master manages to temporarily switch bodies with the Doctor, although it is not explained how. Whilst in prison, the Master has been reading A History of the Plantagenets. After returning to his own body, he borrows a book on the Magna Carta (The King's Demons). He uses various lotions and hair ointments. He can't use the Doctor's TARDIS to escape from Earth whilst he's in the Doctor's body, because the controls are isomorphic; the Time Lords have programmed the TARDIS not to work for the Doctor during his exile. The Master drinks tea without milk or sugar, unlike the Doctor. Whilst in the Doctor's body, he suggests to the Brigadier that the Master be moved to a different facility, with a view (probably intended as a reference to The Sea Devils, but more appropriate to The Face of the Enemy) [this story is probably set just after Freedom (Short Trips) in which the Master demonstrates the ability to transfer his mind into another body, and during which he is imprisoned at Stangmoor Prison (The Mind of Evil)].

The Doctor has been working on a strange sample of metal found by UNIT. He writes notes on the TARDIS console in felt tip, including "this button closes the doors!" [probably a joke about the fact that in The Edge of Destruction the Fast Return Switch is labeled as such in felt tip pen].

Components of the TARDIS include the transuranic spectrum gauge, the relative chronometer, and spatial dampeners.

Location: UNIT HQ and the Master's prison, England, [summer 1971].

The Bottom Line: 'The Doctor wasn't unpleasant when he came and spoke to me. The almost obligatory Master story works extremely well here, Guerrier poking fun at the Master's charm and the Doctor's garrulousness to great effect.

SCORPIO: Jealous, Possessive

SCORPIO: Jealous, Possessive
Author(s): Paul Magrs
Doctor(s): None
Companion(s): K-9 Mark I, K-9 Mark II
Season(s): Season 18
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Roots: Tolstoy is mentioned.

Goofs: If Leela is pregnant, then this is set around the time of [NA}Lungbarrow{/NA], but if Romana is still in E-Space, it's before [NA}Blood Harvest[/NA]. And if the Doctor is about to regenerate following a fall, then it's around the time of Logopolis.

Continuity: The two K9s correspond with each other between E-Space and Gallifrey. The Time Lords place a statue of K9 in the Panopticon in honour of his role in defeating the Sontaran invasion (The Invasion of Time). K9 Mark I can no longer remember Professor Marius [he's been ordered to delete his memory of him].

Leela is pregnant (Lungbarrow). The Matrix contains no record of the Key to Time.

Location: Gallifrey and E-Space.

The Bottom Line: 'Dear Prototype.' As might be expected from Magrs, witty and well-written, but ultimately extremely silly; the premise is amusing, but it's difficult to imagine either K9 writing bitchy letters.

SAGITTARIUS: Five Card Draw

SAGITTARIUS: Five Card Draw
Author(s): Todd Green
Doctor(s): First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor
Companion(s): Peri Brown
Season(s): Season 21
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Continuity: The Fifth Doctor is travelling with Peri, who remains in the TARDIS library throughout. The First Doctor is travelling with Ben and Polly, who are visiting friends. He can sense that he will soon regenerate (The Tenth Planet). The Third Doctor mentions Sarah, so for him this story takes place between The Time Warrior and Planet of the Spiders. The Sixth Doctor is also travelling with Peri, who briefly meets the Fifth Doctor again and gets rather confused; this makes the Fifth Doctor realize that he will regenerate sooner that he was expecting.

The First Doctor obtained the bejeweled bow and arrows from the third emperor of the Cresap dynasty of Gallutia as thanks for persuading their enemies to lay down their arms at the battle of Andromeda; his second incarnation vaguely recalls this, but his later incarnations have no memory of it. Trapped in the castle, the First Doctor telepathically summoned his future selves; the Fourth refused to come [a joke about Tom Baker's refusal to appear in The Five Doctors], the First Doctor considers his Seventh incarnation too manipulative, and the Eighth Doctor seemed confused (see The Ancestor Cell and The Burning).

The power of the golden bow and arrows is not explained, but once it is given away its former owner forgets ever having owned it (which is why the Doctors don't remember their first incarnation owning it) [it is possible that it also affects the Doctor's memory so that subsequent incarnations don't recall the meeting that takes place here].

Location: An unnamed planet, date unknown.

The Bottom Line: 'I could feel the presence of my own mind - of my future selves - across time and space.' The first of many ill-advised multi-Doctor stories to blight the Short Trips volumes, Five Card Draw is utterly dreadful, a limp excuse for a reunion with only the barest hint of a plot.

CAPRICORN: I Was A Monster!!!

CAPRICORN: I Was A Monster!!!
Author(s): Joseph Lidster
Doctor(s): Fourth Doctor
Companion(s): Romana II
Season(s): Season 18
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Roots: The story opens with a quotation from Alexander Pope's An Essay On Man. There are references to Student Bodies, USA High, Sabrina, Roy Keane, Big Brother, Sean Connery, Guinness, Google, NYPD Blue, MTV, EastEnders, Bridget Jones' Diary, Thomas Hardy, Ant and Dec, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, Pop Idol, Popstars, Hear'Say, Fight Club, Edward Norton, Tony Blackburn, John Lennon, David Beckham, and Kylie Minogue.

Continuity: The Capricorn Killer is a vampire. He was turned into a vampire by a female vampire. The media dubs him the Capricorn Killer because security camera footage of him shows that he has a goatee, which makes journalists connect him with goats and the Devil. The Doctor and Romana kill him with a stake through the heart. Following his death, his diaries were published and a film was based upon them in 2003, entitled I Was a Monster! and starring Leonardo Di Caprio. A novel of the same name is based on the film.

The Doctor and Romana appear to have set out to find the Capricorn Killer, and know that he is a vampire.

Location: London, Earth, c2002.

The Bottom Line: 'This is the only help we can give you.' Lidster's first, but not last, vampire story for a Short Trips anthology bears all of his trademarks; snappy dialogue, pop references, and lots of wit.

AQUARIUS: The Invertebrates of Doom

AQUARIUS: The Invertebrates of Doom
Author(s): Andrew Collins
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Melanie Bush
Season(s): Season 24
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Continuity: The Cnidarians are aggressive and intelligent alien jellyfish of varying sizes. Their spaceships are filled with water. If Commander Hydra Sowerbii is to be believed, they have an empire. Their invasion of Earth is rather ill thought out; they live in fresh water, not salt water, and they launch their initial attack over dry land.

A jellyfish on a beach at Bournemouth once stung Mel.

The Bottom Line: 'You're freshwater jellyfish, aren't you?' Amusingly written, and capturing the feel of Season Twenty-Four perfectly; whether or not this is a good thing depends purely on personal taste.

PISCES: The Stabber

PISCES: The Stabber
Author(s): Alison Lawson
Doctor(s): Sixth Doctor
Companion(s): Peri Brown
Season(s): Season 23
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Roots: Signs (alien invaders vulnerable to water).

Location: A salmon farm in England, [c2002].

The Bottom Line: 'It does the fish no harm.' Daft, annoying and pointless, The Stabber is a weak end to an otherwise promising anthology.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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