Short Trips: Monsters

Short Trips: Monsters is the ninth Short Trips collection released by Big Finish Productions. The stories in this collection are all about the monsters that the Doctor encounters on his travels. Although the choice of cover art suggests that the various incarnations of the Doctor are monsters, this idea is not found in the stories themselves.

Best Seller

Best Seller
Author(s): Ian Mond and Danny Oz
Doctor(s): Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): Charley Pollard
Season(s): Eighth Doctor audios Season 1
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Roots: The publicity surrounding the release of a new Harry Potter novel. There are references to Gary Oldman, Madonna, Proust, James Joyce, and Google.

Dialogue Triumphs: "All the agents appear to have inquisitive assistants, thus negating the need for a narrator to explain what is happening to the audience."

Continuity: The Darvias Saga is a fantasy epic published as Biblio-Tablets. Darvias: Beginnings is the latest instalment. Biblio-Tablets use memory paper to display written ext; once activated, they programme themselves to be readable only by the retinal pattern of the user, and are unreadable to anyone else. The board members originate from the upper dimensions; they arrive in non-corporeal form and assemble matter from discarded cells to make bodies for themselves; one resembles a hairy haggis, one an inside-out rabbit with mandibles. They use an emotional hook that will engage the population of the world to cause riots, which they transmit footage of back to their own dimension to provide entertainment for their public. On Earth, they use the limited edition and addictive The Darvias Saga; on Zassaph in Dimension 16 they use a ceremonial headdress; and on Kelpa they used a wooden toy. They scatter N-Dimension nano-cameras throughout this dimension so that their audience can follow the adventures of the Doctor.

The Doctor drinks Roobios tea and eats a plate of cookies.

Charley eats a risotto for the first time. She dresses in flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt and takes a fluorescent green mobile phone from the TARDIS. Caught up in the riots, Charley shoots and wounds Bruce and Henry.

Location: Melbourne, Australia; and New York, USA; [the near future].

Future History: Uprising is a right-wing organisation devoted to preventing the societal upheaval caused by The Darvias Saga.

The Bottom Line: 'It's not often we experience the thrill of being outwitted'. An entertaining, if lightweight, satire that is short enough not to outstay its welcome and is rather entertaining.

From Eternity

From Eternity
Author(s): Jim Mortimore
Doctor(s): Unknown Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Roots: Quantum theory. There are quotations from Frankenstein and Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of the Universe.

Continuity: The unnamed entity experiences time in reverse; believing that the other intelligences that it encounters (which it refers to as Mind) are devolving due to some unspecified infection, it destroys them in an attempt to prevent the infection spreading further. It is the last Mind ever to exist in this universe. It is aware of the Time Lords.

The Iarcho are a space faring species that built a spaceship capable of travelling between galaxies. They lived in a Dyson Sphere built around a small blue-white star. At an earlier point in time, they built a galaxy-sized geodesic construct orbiting a massive black hole. The entity destroyed them at different points in their history in an attempt to warn them of the danger of the "infection", including at the time of their early existence on their home planet.

The Bottom Line: Magnificent. As usual, Mortimore writes on an epic scale, the sheer breadth of his imagination expanding to more than fill the short story format.

Last Rites

Last Rites
Author(s): Marc Platt
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Ace
Season(s): Unknown
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Roots: Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (the Rat King). There are references to Einstein and Faust.

Goofs: Rat-tails are too short to make a Rattenkaiser possible.

Dialogue Triumphs: "We are Travellers of many moons. We never stay long anywhere. Other worlds do not welcome us. Many are too dry, their summers too hot or too quick. Their people angry and arid. We give them greeting. They give us dust."

Continuity: Aliens on Epajaenda Resource Sphere include a creature resembling a blue tumbleweed. The Travellers are native to Epajaenda Resource Sphere and resemble giant frogs. They use live fish called ooflu as seasoning in their ooflu-water.

According to the Doctor, rats aren't exclusive to Earth; they exist on most inhabited planets. A Rat King, or Rattenkoenig, is an evolutionary trick they employ when conditions are favourable, allowing them to take another step up the evolutionary ladder. The Rat Kings can combine to form a Rat Emperor, or Rattenkaiser, consisting of several thousands rats.

The Doctor carries a gun-shaped scanner capable of detecting tachyon flares. The TARDIS library contains a book called How to Complain, which the Doctor suggests that Tegan left.

Ace has been on holiday to Weston-super-Mare.

Location: Epajaenda Resource Sphere.

Future History: Abraham Derris-Cuthertson is a mining prospector from Earth, whom the Doctor hypothesizes was "one of the Sixty-Two-ers in the old Earth land rush". The peoples of Epajaenda signed a contract with his Derris-Cuthbertson Mining Company to allow him to mine Epajaenda Resource Sphere for three hundred years, whilst they traveled through space in the spaceships he provided in return. When the planet's resources were exhausted, they were to be allowed to return home. Prior to the planet's supposed use as a dump for radioactive and toxic waste, the inhabitants are evacuated to Sehebra Central, which also acts as a junction for space travel. Derris-Cuthbertson Mining's engineers use a temporal duct to channel the filtered oceans of Dirrijali in Om Ceti onto Epajaenda Resource Sphere, thus honouring the contract; the inhabitants of Dirrijali have a similar contract, meaning that their world will be replenished by the next planet up the chain.

Android security forces are employed by the DC Mining Corporation on Epajaenda Resource Sphere.

The Bottom Line: Excellent. Platt's knack for ideas makes Last Rites a highly entertaining and imaginative read, even if the Doctor and Ace actually do very little.

The Touch of the Nurzah

The Touch of the Nurazh
Author(s): Stephen Hatcher
Doctor(s): Third Doctor
Companion(s): Jo Grant
Season(s): Season 9
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Roots: There are references to cricketers Boycott, Edrich, Luckhurst, d'Oliveira, and Greig. There is a reference to Shakespeare.

Goofs: This story is set at some point between The Sea Devils and The Green Death, which would place it between Autumn 1971 and February 1972, but a date of late June is given. [That depends on your UNIT dating, I've got the possible gap between November 1972 and April 1974 - Ed]

Continuity: Nurazh are "extremely nasty" mind parasites from the Horsehead Nebula. They colonize living beings, living off their mental energy before consuming them. Before a Nurazh can inhabit its host, it careful heals any imperfections it finds in it. The Master discovers the Nurazh on an unnamed world with a ruined civilization; he offers it Earth as a food supply, in return for a willing army of humans prepared to do his bidding. It tried to take his mind when they first met, but in its weakened state he was too strong for it. He poses as Professor Geoffrey Thynne, director of Kenstone Hall. He uses his Tissue Compression Eliminator here.

When injured whilst possessed by the Nurazh, the Doctor starts to regenerate; the presence of two Time Lord minds in the same body causes the Nurazh to overload and die.

Jo's uncle is named Jack Canning (Terror of the Autons). She is the daughter of his sister and is his only niece.

Location: An unnamed world, date unknown; Bulgaria, Greece, and Kenstone Hall and Banbury in Warwickshire, England, late June [1971].

The Bottom Line: Reasonably well written, but it's just a shorter retread of The Mind of Evil. The Master comes across as particularly stupid here, despite the number of times he's been betrayed by alien allies by this point.

Flashpoint

Flashpoint
Author(s): Matt Grady
Doctor(s): Fifth Doctor
Companion(s): Liz Shaw
Season(s): Unknown
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Continuity: The unnamed alien creature probably arrived on Earth inside a meteorite millions of years ago and became trapped in lava, which was eventually used to make the bust of Nero. The creature can manipulate heat and becomes dormant in cold environments.

The Fifth Doctor adopts the alias Dr Smythe.

Liz is still working as a scientific advisor for UNIT, probably in a semi-regular capacity. She has more than one PhD. Her contact at UNIT is named Colonel Chaudhry [c.f. Big Finish's UNIT audios].

Location: Rome, Italy, April 1999.

The Bottom Line: Good idea, slightly dull execution. Liz's failure to recognise the Doctor is strangely irritating, since it leaves the reader waiting for the penny to drop.

These Things Take Time

These Things Take Time
Author(s): Samantha Baker
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Ace, Hex
Season(s): Unknown
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Continuity: The Doctor gives Hex a tracker to allow him to locate the TARDIS again if he gets lost. The tracker is a time-sensitive device, and causes Hex to experience various possible time lines when it is misused. The TARDIS has temporal decrystallisers.

The Irisians of the planet Gamma III once realised that they had been patrolling their galactic borders for centuries, despite never having come into contact with an alien race. Less than a solar day after they stopped, a raiding party of Daleks exterminated their entire race.

Location: Armstrong's Colony, in a timeline that ceases to exist, the far future.

Future History: Humans colonize Armstrong's Colony at a point when Earth is no longer habitable [possibly due to the solar flares described in The Ark in Space].

Unrecorded Adventures: The Seventh Doctor has visited Armstrong's Colony before and befriended Baron Denton de Kay Leigh.

The Bottom Line: Quite good - the still very new Hex is perfectly characterised, his air of constant befuddlement contrasting nicely with the know-it-all Doctor and the increasingly confident Ace.

Categorical Imperative

Categorical Imperative
Author(s): Simon Guerrier
Doctor(s): First Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): Susan Foreman, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, Tegan Jovanka, Peri Brown, Ace, Charley Pollard
Season(s): Unknown
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Roots: There are references to the bombing of Hiroshima, and Immanuel Kant.

Dialogue Triumphs: The Fourth Doctor describes the Third as "An incorrigible show-off."

Continuity: The Fourth Doctor carries a Geiger counter. The various Doctors all materialize their TARDIS in the same place; the eight TARDISes dematerialise as in The Five Doctors.

Sarah dons an innocuous blouse and skirt. She once rented a flat with blocked drains and had to move out because of the smell.

Location: Earth in an alternate time line, date unknown; Earth, date unknown.

Future History: In the original time line, the baby grows up to be a monster who causes millions of deaths and leaves cities in ruins.

The Bottom Line: The seemingly obligatory Short Trips multi-Doctor story is actually handled quite well here, although the moral dilemma is a massive cliché. The Eighth Doctor's eventual solution however is rather ingenious.

Trapped!

Trapped!
Author(s): Joseph Lidster
Doctor(s): Sixth Doctor
Companion(s): Peri Brown
Season(s): Unknown
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Roots: There are references to Marks and Spencer's, Silk Cut, Animal Hospital, Frank Sinatra, The Bill, McDonalds, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Sainsbury's.

Continuity: Saric is a vampire. Peri is nineteen years old.

Location: England, c2004.

The Bottom Line: Another Joseph Lidster vampire story, but as usual the engaging prose and characterisation makes it feel as fresh as a daisy. The Doctor's guilt over the deaths he's inadvertently caused is very well handled.

Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life

Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life
Author(s): Anthony Keetch
Doctor(s): Fifth Doctor
Companion(s): Nyssa
Season(s): Season 19
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Roots: The science fiction series that everybody becomes obsessed by is, of course, a pastiche of Doctor Who, complete with unconvincing (but real) monsters. The National Viewers and Listeners Association is a parody of Mary Whitehouse's real life organisation. There are references to Cadbury's Crème Eggs, Skodas, Volkswagen Golfs, Blue Peter, The Day of the Triffids, Enid Blyton, Grecian 2000, McDonalds, Hope & Keen, Red Bull, Dante's Inferno, and Charlton Heston.

Dialogue Triumphs: Mrs. Cooper's response to Nyssa's, "I thought you were against violence, Mrs. Cooper?" is "Only on TV, dear. I don't mind it in real life."

"But surely you've taken off programmes before that people have liked?"

Dialogue Disasters: "I will pray to God to strike him down with a lightning bolt."

Continuity: The Xyz are famous throughout the universe for dominating wherever they spread, although their means of doing so is largely unknown due to their notoriously poor military capabilities; in fact, they use addictive and ubiquitous serial dramas to subjugate a population. Surrender, Earthlings!

Television never caught on in Traken society.

The TARDIS has a TV lounge, which Adric and Tegan frequently used. Adric became a fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus, which he used to quote regularly. Tegan once described the English to Nyssa as "Surly buggers".

Location: London, England, the near future.

Future History: Following the runaway success of Surrender, Earthlings! Channel 4 goes out of business, Channel 5 becomes exclusively a pornography channel, and ITV1 tried to set up a rival series called Invasion of Earth.

In the fictional Doctor Who universe, Mary Whitehouse is still alive at this time and is incarcerated in Holloway.

The Bottom Line: Despite the witty premise, the satirical Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life is ten pages too long, too similar thematically to Best Seller, and suffers from some sledgehammer wit. Despite this, it manages to be reasonably entertaining, with some great one-liners.

Screamager

Screamager
Author(s): Jacqueline Rayner
Doctor(s): Second Doctor
Companion(s): Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield
Season(s): Season 5
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Roots: Irish Banshee legends.

Continuity: The Banshees want Victoria to join them, because her screams always herald death.

Victoria is a Protestant. During her travels to various times and places, she has picked up antibodies to the Black Death.

Location: Scotland, during the fourteenth century.

The Bottom Line: Excellent. As in Wolfsbane, Rayner includes mythical creatures to great effect, and the characterisation of the frequently terrified Victoria is spot-on.

The Colour of Monsters

The Colour of Monsters
Author(s): Steve Lyons
Doctor(s): Unknown Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Continuity: The alien's species is not specified, although on its home planet the lakes are acid, the ground mostly barren, and the few jungles rich with lethal flora. They make their homes in the rock and dwell in darkness. They know the Doctor of old, and he has defeated them on numerous occasions.

It is not made clear which Doctor this is, though it might be the sixth.

Location: Earth, date unknown.

The Bottom Line: Lyons turns his fondness for morality plays to ask the question, what makes a monster? It works rather well and makes for a fitting end to the anthology.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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