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Doctor Who: Short Trips Volume 4 by Richard Dinnick, Foster Marks, Vin Marsden Hendrick, John Grindrod, Jason Arnopp, Cindy Garland, Charles Williams and Avril Naude

1/12/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Short Trips Volume 4 in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Short Trips Volume 4 in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minute story. Price: CD: GBP12.99 (UK), Download: GBP10.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-550-1). cast: William Russell, David Troughton, Katy Manning, Louise Jameson, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sophie Aldred and India Fisher.

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Once again Big Finish offer us a selection of short stories, each one features one of the Eight Doctors. BF cannot take us further than that as all the subsequent retired Doctors are in the BBC waiting room waiting for the chance to be released to enjoy the sumptuous lunches of the Big Finish Green Room.

1. A Star Is Born by Richard Dinnick

A spaceship on the edge of the galaxy and a race of aliens who are slowly dying off is where the First Doctor finds himself with his companions, Barbara and Ian, and his granddaughter, Susan. The aliens are on a search for a suitable planet to settle on before it’s too late. Perhaps the Doctor and his companions can offer a ray of hope or perhaps not.

This has the virtue of being read by William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton the science teacher whisked off with his colleague Barbara into all of space of time. He lends a fine gravitas to a very descriptive story and also evokes William Hartnell’s First Doctor. There are some excellent effects which enhance the dramatic context.

This starts as an elegiac piece but of course there is always something more. The background and the aliens are described in loving detail and this creates a strong picture in your mind as you listen. The words have been chosen carefully and feel well defined. While the story brings to mind the First Doctor, it also addresses more twenty-first century concerns. It will certainly leave you with a little tear in your eye.

2. Penny Wise Pound Foolish by Foster Marks

This is read by David Troughton and, of course, it is about the Second Doctor as played by his late father, Patrick.

‘Penny Wise Pound Foolish’ sees the Second Doctor falls into a very deep hole which Jamie manfully resists saying ‘look at the size of that’ (but you know he’s thinking it). An apparently innocuous security guard is determined the Doctor, Zoë and Jamie will die down that hole but they are surprisingly hard to kill.

3. Lost In The Wakefield Triangle by Vin Marsden Hendrick

The Doctor and Jo go in search of the perfect rhubarb crumble but there is something odd in the forcing shed and they bite off more than they can chew. There is something nasty down among the rhubarb and someone needs a Doctor.

I feel we are all playing a game of the Great British Bake-Off these days as past Doctors are revealed to be handy in the kitchen. I don’t remember ever seeing Jon Pertwee in a pinny.

Old Rogue. He can’t even make a decent cup of tea but he once laid waste to galaxies. Two sugars please. Just how did the marauder end up running a café in London? The Doctor knows the whole sorry tale.

If you have ever considered the aftermath of taking down a dictator then listen to this witty take on the cafe owner known as Sid. This is told by Louise Jameson and executes perfect manoeuvres between voicing Sid, the Fourth Doctor and Leela. There is even a part for the destructive K9 which provides a heart-lifting laugh at the end of the salutary tale.

5. The Lions Of Trafalgar by Jason Arnopp

I tawt I tawt a puddy cat, about 150 years too soon in the time line of Trafalgar Square. At the foot of Nelson’s Column, the lions are stirring and it’s quite a climb to the top for the Doctor. Leaving the lion taming to his companions, he seeks out the architects and is a guest an unexpected feast.

A small historical fact of which most of us are unaware is that the masons who built the column dined at its zenith as a celebration of completing it. This time-travel tale cheekily uses all the elements of that meal, the later addition of the lions to its base and the three travellers of the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa to weave a wondrous outcome to the story about this remarkable column.

6. To Cut A Blade Of Grass by Cindy Garland

With all of time and space it seems odd that the Doctor makes time for a friend dying in hospital. But they have a history and besides there’s a daughter to worry about, too.

As she contemplates the future, the Sixth Doctor reflects on the past as he considers the nature of friendship and the power of pasties.

7. The Shadow Trader by Charles Williams

Ace doesn’t really know why the Doctor has brought her to a faded shipyard that is about to roll out one more spaceship. Alone, she encounters someone who wants to steal her shadow but she’s no Peter Pan and won’t lose it without a fight. Salim is a shadow trader and he will sell it to the ship builders. That is simply how it is.

This is a big idea and to place it into this story is a lovely imaginative leap.

8. Quantum Heresy by Avril Naude

A prisoner of the archive wants to escape and the Doctor is there to help. But escape from who or what and why does the Doctor look so unwell?

As the worker begins his shift yet again he realises that he is reliving the same time period over and again. Only the Doctor can explain he is time sensitive otherwise he would not have noticed.

Narrated by India Fisher, we find that the prisoner thinking he has only just met the Doctor is confused when he treats him like an old friend. As time jumps about, the prisoner both remembers and forgets the Doctor until a pattern starts to emerge.

It becomes more powerful as it proceeds both through repetition and introducing new elements to reach its conclusion.

The stories all vary again. We can tell that this has been carefully thought out like balancing an album of songs so that they do not conflict with each other.

Jason Arnopp's ‘Lions Of Trafalgar’ has lots of running about. Vin Marsden Hendrick introduces a creepy and humorous element into his story pretty much based around rhubarb. Cindy Garland’s story feels more wistful and elegiac and reminds us that the Doctor outlives everyone even if he can pop back in time to see them. The final story by Avril Naude is a real time travel story, reminding us what we enjoy so much about the Doctor.

All of the stories have an interesting central idea that is developed within the confines of a short story which is a very clever thing to do.

Overall, this is another well-balanced collection that is worth listening to. It would be nice to get some of the later Doctors in to do their own stories to ring the changes from the companions always telling their side.
Sue Davies

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