A world devastated by time itself. A city with a mind of its
own. A country torn apart by revolution. A television programme
with a rather ingenious theme tune. A man in a boat with a
biscuit tin... The Doctor doesn't just affect the lives of
those around him: his actions resonate through history, shaping
the universe, changing it, rewriting it in his own hand. But
making it better? It's a good job he never sticks around for
long afterwards. And yet, for all that the universe may be
infinite, for all that he keeps moving on, the Doctor can't
outrun the consequences forever...
with the previous Short Trips anthology, The
Centenarian, the stories in this collection
develop ideas from a previously published tale, in this instance
editor Simon Guerrier's An Overture Too Early from
The Muses. Isaac, a former companion of the Doctor;
temporal anomalies; and the mysterious grey-suited beings
known as Black Rose and White Tulip crop up repeatedly throughout
this volume. Guerrier's story is reprinted at the beginning
of the book for the sake of clarity.
collection is rather more reminiscent of the Decalogs
that Virgin used to publish than the BBC's Short Trips
anthologies from which this series has inherited its name.
There are fewer stories than usual for a Short Trips
book (ten, in fact, if you don't count An Overture Too
Early, which the back cover blurb doesn't) but they tend
to be meatier affairs of longer duration than we have grown
used to of late.
The Virgin Publishing era is further evoked by the involvement
of several key writers from the Seventh Doctor's television
and literary era - Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel and Marc
Platt - though only Platt actually writes for the Sylvester
McCoy Doctor here, in The Hunting of the Slook. Aaronovitch
and Cartmel both write about Colin Baker's Doctor, in the
light-hearted Gone Fishing and Certificate of Destruction
respectively. The Sixth Doctor appears in four stories in
total, on each occasion accompanied by a new companion called
William. The other two tales are the high-concept Walkin'
City Blues by Joff Brown and Matthew Sweet's The Earwig
Archipelago, which mixes comical and sombre themes to
news for Sixth Doctor fans, then - but not so good for followers
of the Fourth. None of the stories collected here feature
Tom Baker's version of the Time Lord, though his presence
is briefly felt at the end of the Third Doctor tale An
Overture Too Early.
also a distinct lack of companions familiar from the television
series, apart from Sarah and the staff of UNIT (in An Overture
Too Early); Ian, Barbara and Susan (in Philip Purser-Hallard's
The Ruins of Time); and Jamie and Zoe (in The Avant
Guardian by Eddie Robson).
The standard of the stories is generally very high, though
I did find the foreign viewpoints depicted in Jonathan Clements's
Second Contact a little confusing. Both The Hunting
of the Slook and Simon Guerrier's DS al Fine work
better as parts of the whole than as individual narratives
in their own right, as they tie together and resolve plot
strands from previous stories. The phrase "DS al fine", by
the way, is, like "time signature", a bit of musical terminology.
favourite entries include the Sixth Doctor/William tales Gone
Fishing and Certificate of Destruction. Both have
their fair share of humorous moments, though Gone Fishing
also includes a rather awesome sci-fi concept, as one might
expect from the pen of Ben Aaronovitch. Certificate
is sillier and ends the collection on a comfortingly comical
note. Best of all is The Ruins of Time, in which Philip
Purser-Hallard brilliantly captures the essence of the original
TARDIS team. His story also features a cliffhanging end-of-scene
moment on practically every other page, which makes it a real
sign off by concluding that Time Signature is well
worth making time for.
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