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BOOK
Doctor Who
Short Trips: Repercussions

Editor: Gary Russell
Big Finish
RRP 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 048 7
Available 18 August 2004


Just weeks into her travels with the Doctor, Charley Pollard finds herself on board a strange airship bound for... who knows where? Her fellow passengers include a rag and bone man, a seismologist, a farmer, a diplomat, an assassin and a dead man. One thing they all have in common is an encounter with a strange alien who should perhaps have left them alone...

This is the first Short Trips collection to feature a framing narrative, though Big Finish's Bernice Summerfield anthology Life During Wartime also used such a device. However, the narrative in this instance is rather looser than the one employed by Paul Cornell in Life During Wartime, as Charley talks to each of the airship's passengers in turn to discuss how they all crossed paths with the Doctor. Many of the linking sequences simply amount to one passenger ending his or her discussion with Charley before the next one comes forward to speak.

Whilst linking the individual stories, the framing narrative also limits them to an extent. Because each of the storytellers must inevitably end up becoming a passenger on board the airship (which, by the way, is not the R-101 from Charley's debut audio drama Storm Warning), many of the stories do not feel quite complete in their own right. The respective conclusions to Iain McLauglin and Claire Bartlett's The Time Lord's Story, Trevor Baxendale's The Ghost's Story, Peter Anghelides' The Seismologist's Story, J. Shaun Lyon's The Inquisitor's Story (which, incidentally, doesn't feature Darkel from The Trial of a Time Lord and the Gallifrey miniseries), Eddie Robson's The Juror's Story, Todd Green's The Farmer's Story and Andy Russell's The Republican's Story would seem unsatisfying or just plain confusing if read out of context.

Having said that, three of the above are among my favourite stories from this collection. The Time Lord's Story is a substantial yarn featuring the Eighth Doctor/Romana/K-9 team last heard in Big Finish's Shada. The Juror's Story is a sci-fi spin on Twelve Angry Men, in which the Doctor's role in the jury at a murder trial becomes ever more complex and manipulative. As well as being a gripping tale of political unrest and deadly disease (specifically the Black Death), The Republican's Story also provides an ingenious context for the Fourth Doctor's throwaway line in Pyramids of Mars: "We don't want to be blamed for starting a fire. There was enough of that in 1666!"

As a lover of continuity, I similarly appreciated Colin Brake's The Rag and Bone Man's Story. Whilst suggesting reasons why the TARDIS required a lengthy stopover in 1963 and why the Doctor didn't deal with the Hand of Omega upon his return to 20th-century London in The War Machines, Brake also manages to tell a most enjoyable and witty tale. As with The Time Lord's Story, Andrew Frankham's The Dead Man's Story deals with a rare TARDIS team: in this instance, the Third Doctor and Jeremy Fitzoliver, as heard in the radio dramas The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space.

My favourite of all is Andrew Collins' The Assassin's Story, a blackly comical yet appalling tale revolving around a history-altering attempt on the life of Margaret Thatcher. Appropriately enough, given its mid-1980s setting, this story features my best-loved Doctor, the Fifth.

Rather less successful are the over-complicated Seismologist's Story and the frankly perplexing Bushranger's Story, by Sarah Groenewegen. Meanwhile The Diplomat's Story, by Kathryn Sullivan, is good, although the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn depart less than half way through, which seems odd.

Like most anthologies, Repercussions has its high points and its low points. Ironically, though, given its title, the end result seems somewhat inconsequential.

Richard McGinlay

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