A city saved from the ravages of war and the Third Reich because
of its beauty, Prague is home to Rabbi Loews Golem,
Rudolph IIs obsession with finding the elixir of youth,
and scientific genius in the form of Kepler and Tycho Brahe.
There are believed to be magnetic energies whose lines intersect
at several spots, and astronomy, astrology, numerology and
magnetic forces have all played a role in building the city.
But how will they influence its future? How will Prague adapt
in the centuries to come? Will it have a glamorous rebirth
or wallow in a dystopic nightmare, and what will be the role
of the old superstitions in the new world? For the Doctor
and his companions, the answers to these questions are only
the start of further mysteries...
As though to prove that the Doctor doesnt just materialise
in London (and more occasionally of late, Cardiff) when he
visits the planet Earth, all of the short stories in this
collection are set in the beautiful and historic city of Prague.
The tales are presented in no particular order that I can
detect, in terms of either Pragues history or the TARDISs
travels. For example, in Sunday Afternoon, AD 848,988,
by Paul Crilley, the first of two Seventh Doctor / Ace stories,
it is stated that this is not their first trip to the city,
whereas the subsequent tale Fable Fusion, by Gary
A. Braunbeck and Lucy A. Snyder, indicates that Ace has never
been to Prague before.
Perhaps this random arrangement is an attempt to obscure the
fact that the majority of the tales take place in Earths
future, which is a little curious, given the historic flavour
of the city. For instance, both Sean Williams Midnight
in the Café of the Black Madonna and Robert Hoods
Gold and Black Ooze deal with alien abductions
of the entire city in future centuries. Room for Improvement,
by James A. Moore, has the First Doctor and Ian tackling a
new kind of plague in the year 2908. War in a Time of
Peace, by Steve Lockley and Paul Lewis, has the Eighth
Doctor and Charley facing the consequences of a futuristic
defensive shield erected around the city.
Nevertheless, though some of the 21 entries in this collection
could arguably have taken place elsewhere, most of them make
good use of the citys renowned architecture and rich
cultural heritage. Franz Kafka, author of the famous novella
The Metamorphosis, is the obvious inspiration for two
very different stories, Stephen Dedmans Nanomorphosis
and Stel Pavlous Omegamorphosis. The legend
of the Golem of Prague, an animated being fashioned from inanimate
matter, comes into play in Keith R.A. DeCandidos Life
from Lifelessness and Kevin Killianys Men
of the Earth.
Several authors known for their Star Trek work have
contributed to this anthology, including DeCandido, who has
penned numerous Trek books, and Killiany, who is the
author of two Starfleet Corps of Engineers novellas.
Mike W. Barr, the writer who launched DC Comics first
celebrated series of Star Trek comic books, provides
another First Doctor story, The Long Step Backward,
while Paul Kupperberg, who also wrote for the DC and SCE
series, supplies the Sixth Doctor tale Strange Attractor.
The Star Trek associations dont end with the
authors names, however. Killianys story bears
comparison with the plot of the Original Series episode
The Devil in the Dark and the Next
Generation episode Home Soil. Risa,
the hedonistic vacation planet visited in Enterprise,
Next Gen and Deep
Space Nine, is mentioned by Ace in Fable
Perhaps because many of the writers are not British, the characterisations
of the TARDIS crew sometimes seem a little off-base, most
noticeably in Fable Fusion. Here, the Seventh
Doctor speaks more like Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker, but with
a few of Sylvester McCoys Season 24-style mangled metaphors
thrown in. However, he is travelling with Ace, by which point
in the television series the Doctor had lost that verbal habit.
Ace herself seems far too in touch with her own feelings.
The Doctor is also said to wear suspenders, which seems extremely
kinky to a British reader - I presume the writers mean what
Brits call braces!
A few stories are so off-beat as to be almost incomprehensible.
Strange Attractor deals with a personified force
of anarchy. Cue lots of bizarre spatial anomalies. The
Time Eater, a Second Doctor / Jamie story by Lee Battersby,
features a dying temporal creature. Cue lots of bizarre time
anomalies. Tim Waggoners Across Silent Seas
isnt so bad, but it has the misfortune of being similarly
themed (an imprisoned time-sensitive animal) and featuring
the same TARDIS crew (Second Doctor and Jamie).
Many contributions are merely very strange or silly, though
not in a bad way. Brian Keenes The Dogs of War
is a kind of Planet
of the Apes but with dogs, with Prague having
been overrun by intelligent canines. Appropriately enough,
K-9 saves the day. Suspension and Disbelief, by
Mary Robinette Kowal, has the Fifth Doctor helping a man to
escape execution with the aid of an animated life-size marionette.
Supermarionation indeed! The Dragons of Prague,
by Todd (son of Anne) McCaffrey, sees the Fourth Doctor being
set a culinary challenge by a dragon disguised as a chef.
As you do.
However, my favourite stories are Sunday Afternoon,
AD 848,988, an amusingly complex time-paradox narrative,
and James Swallows Lady of the Snows, a
poignant tale of love involving an artist and an amnesiac
Charley. I also particularly enjoyed the Golem-themed Life
from Lifelessness (a flashback within a flashback) and
Men of the Earth, as well as the Third Doctor
/ Jo Grant ghost story Spoilsport,
by Paul Finch.
With 21 tales contained within this chunky 300-page volume,
theres certainly plenty to see, and it does make me
want to take a short (or indeed long) trip to Prague, which
was surely part of the editors intention. If this sounds
like your cup of tea, then make your destination the bookshop.
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