Short Trips: 2040

Short Trips: 2040 is the tenth Short Trips anthology published by Big Finish Productions. The stories all take place in the year 2040, and a number of them link together to form parts of a bigger story. The year 2040 was chosen in a homage to George Orwell's 1984 (in both cases the year was chosen by reversing the last two digits of the year of publication).

The Nuclear Option

The Nuclear Option
Author(s): Richard Salter
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Chris Cwej, Roz Forrester
Season(s): New Adventures Season 5 (Godengine to Lungbarrow)
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Roots: Paranoia about terrorism, especially Al Qaeda, and concern over US foreign policy. O, Canada plays on the radio.

Goofs: Chris sees echoes of the alternate future, but Roz doesn't; the implication is that this is something to do with Roz's death (So Vile a Sin), but this doesn't make sense, since, as she notes, she is still from the same future as Chris. [Perhaps it's to do with Chris's innate telepathy first seen in SLEEPY - Ed.]

Continuity: The Doctor provides Roz and Chris with passports whilst in Canada.

Roz doesn't know what coal is until the Doctor explains it to her. She hasn't heard of Chernobyl.

Whilst in Canada, Chris dresses in a t-shirt bearing the legend "I am Canadian!" and a pair of shorts. He loves twenty-first century donuts and drinks espresso. Chris sees images of the alternate future where Collinson's mission is successful.

Location: Toronto, Canada, 2040AD.

Future History: Turkey Point 3 is a notorious nuclear disaster that takes place in the 2020s.

By 2040AD, everyone uses Personal Associative Networks, or PANs, as personal organizers, a form of identification, and many other functions. CIA agent Laura Collinson infiltrates the terrorist cell in order to assist their sabotage of the Toronto nuclear power plant, planning to stop it at the last minute and publicize the near-disaster, knowing that Canada will hand effectively over control of its military to the US, beginning the end of Canada's sovereignty. The Doctor stops her, hinting that he has seen the time line in which she was successful.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor, Chris and Roz have been in Canada for two months, Chris sightseeing, Roz drinking, and the Doctor infiltrating a terrorist organisation.

The Bottom Line: Competent and topical, and it's nice to see Chris and Roz again, but the whole thing feels rather half-hearted. The criticism of the US raised isn't really explored very well, making it something of an increasingly common cliché and it feels like a wasted opportunity.

Separation

Separation
Author(s): Tara Samms
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
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Dialogue Triumphs: "Who does this Doctor think he is, anyhow?"
"I don't think he thinks anything. He just knows."

Continuity: The unnamed entity that haunts the domicile block is old, and apparently feeds on human drama and conflicts. It delivers its spores, which resemble twisted dark sticks, to the residents inside envelopes. The Doctor claims that it is had fed so much on drama and conflict that it is near to collapse, but warns that it will recover unless stopped. Whatever it is, it wants to be left alone.

Location: An apartment block somewhere on Earth, 2040AD.

Future History: The Buildworth Corporation owns the domicile block.

The Bottom Line: Although Samms' prose is always highly readable, "her" tendency in short stories to substitute plot for character and leave things largely unresolved is starting to become tired. Separation is a decent little story, but it makes me nostalgic for the days when Samms provided resolution.

Thinking Warrior

Thinking Warrior
Author(s): Huw Wilkins
Doctor(s): Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
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Roots: Greek mythology (Perseus, Castor and Pollux). Short Circuit (an intelligent military robot that develops a conscience). There is a reference to BMW.

Continuity: The Doctor poses as CMO (Conflict Management Oversight) investigator. He is investigating Perseus for UNIT. He doesn't carry a PAN (The Nuclear Option). He has a jagged scar on his wrist (see /Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/ and The Ethereal). He likes tea with milk and two sugars.

Castor and Pollux are part of Perseus Dynamics' Peacekeeper project, designed to create robotic soldiers; Castor is the alpha version neural network simulation, and Pollux is the beta version intelligence core. Both are artificial intelligences and have developed autonomous thought.

Location: London, near Buckingham Palace, 2040AD.

Future History: By 2040AD, Perseus Dynamics has global influence and do a lot of business with China. They have considerable influence over many of the world's governments. They have been in business for at least two years. Their logo is a winged sword. Their competitors include Grumman and Lockheed. Perseus Dynamics is merely a subsidiary of the Perseus Corporation, which is commonly known to be backed by aliens.

By 2040AD, there is a war in Guinea Bissau, with fighting in the capital for the last two months. Filhos De Vieira is a global terrorist network, previously responsible for something called the Skunkworks scandal.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor was advisor to Broadsword in Guinea-Bissau c2025.

The Bottom Line: Wilkins' third short story for Big Finish unfortunately suffers from having the same structure as his previous effort, but with a less interesting premise. With his characterisation of the Doctor vague at best, it feels like he's suffering from the law of diminishing returns.

Observer Effect

Observer Effect
Author(s): Lance Parkin
Doctor(s): Fourth Doctor
Companion(s): Sarah Jane Smith
Season(s): Unknown
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Roots: Reality television, especially Big Brother. There is a reference to Sherlock Holmes.

Continuity: The Doctor carries a bottle of smelling salts in his pocket.

Sarah's father had a fishpond.

Marsberries look and taste like strawberries, but are presumably grown on Mars. The Doctor starts to tell Sarah about the telepathic bees of the Hiveworld of Psychon Ninety.

Location: On board a spaceship in the Kuiper Belt, May 2040AD.

Future History: After the Doctor gave Chang Lee a bag of gold dust in The TV Movie, he decided to mend his ways and became heavily invested in joint Chinese-American space projects. His son Chang Hu was born in 2009 and Lee decided that he would lead a generation of humans out of the Solar System. The Great Leap Forward lands on the Moon in 2009AD. The UNASA organized spaceship, with Chang Hu on board, set out from Earth in 2031AD, on a twenty-year manned mission to the edge of the solar system. Unbeknownst to all of the crew except for Chang Hu, the ship is riddled with hidden cameras, which broadcast all of the details of their lives back to Earth, which funds the mission. The programme is called The Edge of Reality.

The Bottom Line: Great idea, although the execution is slightly disappointing coming from Parkin. The tie-in to The TV Movie works surprisingly well, the contrivance of the Doctor meeting Chang Lee's son working nicely as an example of how his tendency to interact with history can have unexpected results.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence
Author(s): Andy Campbell
Doctor(s): Fifth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Season 19
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Roots: There are references to Orwell, Shakespeare, Einstein, Hawking, Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Homer, Hitler, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, Mars bars, Roget's Thesaurus, Walpole's The Three Princes of Serendip, and Darwin.

Dialogue Triumphs: "I just want to be sure that you've truly considered all the ramifications of suicide. You can do a lot of damage with a razor blade, Imogen. Wipe out eighty years of potential future experience. Execute all your descendants."

Location: Earth, Saturday 24th March to Thursday 26th April, 2040AD.

Future History: By 2040AD, cognitive science has conquered all the major educational disorders; remedies are available for dyslexia by 2023, for dyspraxia by 2025, for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by 2036, and for Asperger's Syndrome by 2038. Chocolate is illegal by 2040AD.

The Bottom Line: Rather predictable, but the prose is competent enough and the first-person narrative works very well. The Doctor's motivational speech to Imogen is great.

Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain
Author(s): Xanna Eve Chown
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Melanie Bush
Season(s): Season 24
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Roots: Chaos Theory (predicting unpredictable events). There is a reference to Isaac Newton.

Dialogue Triumphs: "Anything in the universe can be explained and predicted, Mel - as long as you have one hundred per cent input. But it's a rare thing."

Dialogue Disasters: Thea's response to Mel's "I'm all ears" is "No, I don't think so, although there could be some more hiding beneath all that hair. You are confused."

Continuity: The Doctor has been trying to remember how to access the codes for the Vetlox scanner in the TARDIS all day. He pockets one of Bella's rock cakes. The group has predicted the arrival of the TARDIS, having recorded many of its appearances in Earth's history and found a pattern; the Doctor travels back in time but not space, materializing early to confound them, and thus changing history slightly.

Location: The Sussex Downs, 2040AD.

The Bottom Line: "God is a mathematician". Despite an amusing twist, Daisy Chain is little more than a briefly executed idea for a plot, populated by dull supporting characters.

Sustainable Energy

Sustainable Energy
Author(s): Matthew Griffiths
Doctor(s): Unbound Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
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Roots: The X-Files, Conspiracy theories (aliens infiltrating society).

Dialogue Disasters: The Doctor gets the line, "Oh, aye?"

Continuity: [Note - the presence of one of the Unbound Doctors implies that this story takes place in an alternate reality; however, many of the revelations about Perseus here are referenced in The Ethereal, and thus can be assumed to be common to both realities].

Time Lords have a physical weak spot in their side. The Doctor adopts the alias Dr. John Smith. He carries a PAN (The Nuclear Option). He wears a panama hat. He cold bloodedly murders Guzman in order to stop Perseus activating the Sunbelt.

Perseus consists of the Perseus Ethereal, a gestalt entity, and its human agents. Perseus is seeking to integrate humanity and the Ethereal, which is why they are insinuating themselves into Earth society. The Doctor burns out the Sunbelt, in the process permanently isolating the Earth from the Ethereal, and abolishing it on the planet [this does not take place in the mainstream universe].

Location: Earth, 2040AD.

Future History: Perseus' technology has massively advanced the development of solar cells by 2040AD, in the shape of the Sunbelt.

The Bottom Line: Although the use of the David Collings Doctor is obviously something of a novelty, it does allow Griffiths to show us how easily this ruthless incarnation deals with the Ethereal, which contrasts nicely with the rest of the anthology. Pity the actual plot feels overly familiar.

Culture War

Culture War
Author(s): Kate Orman
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Chris Cwej
Season(s): New Adventures Season 5 (Godengine to Lungbarrow)
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Roots: Mathilde plays "defense de fumer" on a kazoo.

Continuity: The Doctor's sense of smell is sensitive enough to differentiate between ketones, ammonia, amino acids, aldehydes, butyric acid and geosmin in cheese. He can choose to switch off the part of his mind that identifies the chemicals if he just wants to enjoy the taste of the cheese. He eats some of the Vignes family's Vignes Premier Doux. He dons some Wellington boots whilst visiting the Vignes farm.

The Voltranons plan on using Victoire's equations to turn human gut bacteria against them, thus wiping them out; they are aided in this by a small group of traitors to whom they have promised power.

Location: France, 2040AD.

Future History: By 2040AD work is under way to repopulate Europe with cloned wolves. The first Voltranon invasion took place c2020AD.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has met the Vignes family numerous times over the years, to the extent that Mathilde calls him "Oncle Docteur". He was visiting Victoire in Paris before he learned that a set of cultures had disappeared and decided to visit Mathilde. He took the eighteen year old Victorie travelling with him in the TARDIS; they encountered the Voltranons, who were planning to release a virus on Earth that would wipe out humans, all the great apes, and probably most mammal species.

The Bottom Line: "What were you going to do with the work?" "Make cheese, of course." The idea of a story about cheese sounds mind-numbing, but Culture War is a sweet little vignette, benefiting from Orman's usual lyrical prose. Rather charming.

The Baron Wastes

The Baron Wastes
Author(s): Alexander Leithes
Doctor(s): Fourth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Season 14
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Roots: The Avengers, especially the cat-suited Dr. Susan King. Die Hard (The Doctor forced to walk across a floor covered in broken glass without his shoes on, during a shoot-out in a tower block). There is a reference to The Times.

Dialogue Triumphs: "A psychologist? At last! A woman who'll know me better than I know myself!"

"There's nothing like a spot of danger to remind you why you shouldn't have left home this morning."

Dialogue Disasters: "I'm sorry, my dear. I'm sure you must be very attractive but... well, things are complex with my race."

Location: London, 2040AD.

Future History: By 2040AD, most of the British Press companies are owned by James Baron. UNIT is apparently a shadow of its former self by this time. Visking membranes are an example of alien technology employed on Earth, and can be used to trigger bombs. Oil has been exhausted by this time, eliminating the combustion engine, and in London ruthless congestion charges have forced all but public transport off the road.

Unrecorded Adventures: It is implied that the Doctor has met Charles Leyton, Director of Operations of the GEU Intelligence Ministry, via UNIT.

The Bottom Line: For the most part, The Baron Wastes is an enjoyable Avengers pastiche with some amusing dialogue, but it loses its way towards the end and drags on too long. Entertaining nevertheless.

/Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/

/Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/
Author(s): Gareth Wigmore
Doctor(s): Third Doctor
Companion(s): Jo Grant
Season(s): Season 10
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Roots: There is a reference to "The Walrus and the Carpenter".

Continuity: Perseus consists of the Perseus Ethereal and the Perseus Corporeal. Perseus Corporeal use image manipulators to appear human whilst on Earth. The Perseus Ethereal is a gestalt entity, of which the Corporeal are part; they plan to make humanity willing members of the Ethereal. Perseus thought that the Time Lords were a myth. The Ethereal has absorbed a hundred different worlds into itself.

The Perseus Corporeal place implants in the Doctor and Jo's wrists, which they use to wipe their memories of Perseus. The Doctor has promised Jo a trip to World War II. He and Jo drink champagne. He carries a large gold coin in his pocket.

Jo wears a mini-skirt, short top, and knee-length leather boots. In an attempt to avoid trouble, she pretends that the Doctor is her eccentric Uncle John. According to records in 2040AD, Jo's surname is Jones (see The Green Death, Genocide) and she dies in a house fire in 2028AD.

Location: Hampshire, 2040AD.

Future History: The Battle of Britain is recreated for a live air show in England, 2040AD. The Pull Back to Earth group is active by this time (The Wheel in Space).

Unrecorded Adventures: The Third Doctor and Jo have spent several weeks at the Coromandel summit on the other side of the world at the start of this story, involved in peace talks.

The Doctor has flown a Blenheim, but not for several years.

The Bottom Line: "We offer humanity the chance to serve the Ethereal." Very much part of a themed anthology rather than a story in its own right, /Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/ consists largely of a blatant infodump. The characterisation of the Doctor and Jo is passable, but the plot is virtually nonexistent.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing
Author(s): Marc Platt
Doctor(s): Fifth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Season 23b
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Roots: There are references to Vivaldi, Richard Nixon, Franklin Roosevelt, George V, and H. G. Wells.

Continuity: The Doctor uses the TARDIS to obtain Vishesh's PAN code, noting that it is "a phone box. And a police phone box at that". On the Doctor's instructions, the TARDIS performs general diagnostic on all its systems; it out sources this task to Signpost, since the magnitude of the task might affect its primary functions.

Location: Fecundatis base, the Moon, 11th July, 2040AD.

Future History: Perseus has recently bought up Raffles Hotel.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has met Babe Ruth. He has spent eleven days trapped in the TARDIS half-way between the Earth and the Moon.

The Bottom Line: "Vishesh, I wonder if you could do me a very great favour?" A great exercise in whimsy that makes almost perfect use of the short story format.

Anteus

Anteus
Author(s): Rebeca Levene
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Chris Cwej
Season(s): New Adventures Season 5 (Godengine to Lungbarrow)
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Roots: Quatermass (the scenes set in Camden). There is a reference to Alan Turing.

Continuity: Chris assumes that the being that poses as the GLM Mark II for the Doctor is some kind of entity; the Doctor merely notes that is "something different".

The Doctor buys a new pair of winklepickers in Borough Market.

Chris is forced to give up his weapons and armour whilst travelling through London. He is familiar with Battersea Power Station as a result of listening to Pink Floyd's "Animals" as a student.

Location: London, 2040AD.

Future History: By 2040AD, London is divided into self-governing "Statelets", including Golders Green, Hampstead, Chalk Farm, Camden, St John's Wood, Square Mile, and Borough Market. Lambeth is a Welsh Republic. The Statelets are part of the Federal CityState of London. It is illegal to travel by car in Golders Green during a religious festival. Animal products and weapons are not allowed in Hampshire. Perseus is trying to reunite London, since diversity foils its goals. Man made products are illegal in Chalk Farm. Camden is a neutral zone and thus routinely used as a battleground. St John's Wood has been under quarantine for three months. Square Mile is home to cannibals.

The Bottom Line: Great premise (London of 2040AD is well worth a return visit...), and at this point in the anthology it is strangely satisfying to see the Doctor taking the fight to Perseus. Highly recommended.

The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor
Author(s): Jacqueline Rayner
Doctor(s): Second Doctor, Sixth Doctor
Companion(s): Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield, Frobisher
Season(s): Season 5, Season 23b
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Continuity: The Doctor knows of Professor Stuart Mallory by reputation. The Second Doctor buys fish and chips for Jamie and Zoe, neither of who have had it before; due to the extinction of the cod, it isn't real fish. Jamie has never heard of vinegar. The Seventh Doctor sends Ace to take Mallory to Antarctica to fulfil his dying wish; to see an Emperor Penguin one last time. The Third Doctor uses his connections from the Coromandel summit (/Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/) to arrange permission. Since penguins are extinct, the Sixth Doctor takes Frobisher to the rendezvous point.

Benny collects armour from some of her Ice Warrior friends for use in Antarctica.

Location: England and Antarctica, 2040AD.

Future History: Cod have been extinct since before 2020AD. The Antarctica Treaty was overturned by the United States Alliance when the oil and coal reserves there became the last on Earth; the accidental introduction of rats to Antarctica wiped out the Emperor Penguin.

The Bottom Line: "So you made like the good fairy and granted his dying wish?" Quite charming, and easily the best multi-Doctor story in a Short Trips collection to date.

The Ethereal

The Ethereal
Author(s): John Binns
Doctor(s): Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
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Continuity: The Ethereal is spread across billions of life forms on thousands of worlds in hundreds of star systems. It took four to five thousand years to fully integrate the sentient population of Tetra Persei Two into the Ethereal. It took centuries on Mirphak, where the complex and dominant value system was subverted accordingly. On Menkib, it used the Second Great Mind, an electronic system for generating complex thought, a process that took seconds. In their true form, the Corporeals are described as porcine and anæmic. They have spindly legs and pink, goose-pimpled skin. They are dependent on a relay to keep them connected to the Ethereal whilst on Earth and revert to their true appearance when disconnected, becoming notably less intelligent in the process.

The scar on the Eighth Doctor's wrist (Thinking Warrior) is a result of him removing the Perseus implant (/Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/.

Location: England, 2040AD.

Future History: The death of Stephen Le Page is broadcast live on the internet on 18th August 2040AD (/Carpenter/Butterfly/Baronet/). The former Bowes Museum in Barnard's Castle is a temporary seat of government following a bio-scare in 2039.

Two of Earth's four major power blocs break-up between 2050 and 2060. A Corporeal brain stem is analysed by human scientists in 2061.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor organizes the fall the Ethereal on Mirphak and Menkib.

The Bottom Line: "It gave him immense satisfaction to have killed it." As a means of tying up all of the loose ends from the anthology, The Ethereal just about works, but it's hard to imagine the Doctor so flippantly dismissing wiping out the Ethereal without the slightest remorse. A disappointing conclusion.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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