Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Doctor Who: Time Trips [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] with stories by Stella Duffy, Trudi Canavan, Joanne Harris, A L Kennedy, Jake Arnott, Cecelia Ahern, Nick Harkaway, and Jenny T Colgan, with illos by Ben Morris.
Time Trips is an anthology of Doctor Who stories by accomplished authors All eight stories are novella length, previously published as separate ebooks. Each has a two-page title spread with an illustration by Ben Morris. Although a couple of the Doctors appear in two stories, and not all the Doctors are covered, the assortment does span six different versions of the hero from his sixty years of television adventures.
A.L. Kennedy’s “The Death Pit” is a delightful tale of the Fourth Doctor. It is 90% characterization, with an old-fashioned freak-of-interplanetary-nature monster. It takes place at a golf resort in the 1970s, and it has more than a whiff of Douglas Adams about it.
Jenny Colgan’s “Into the Nowhere” is entirely too much bickering between Clara and the Eleventh Doctor, with insular fannish features: demands that readers understand Clara’s ontological peculiarity, along with unexplained references to the Shadow Proclamation. The use of trappings from Christian myth reminded me unpleasantly of the episode “The Satan Pit” (first televised in 2006) where they likewise served to paper over weak plotting.
Nick Harkaway’s story “Keeping Up with the Joneses” has the Tenth Doctor managing a crisis inside the TARDIS, touched off by leftover ordnance from the Time War. The resulting instability creates an entire Welsh town within the hyper-architecture of the machine. This locale is called “Jonestown,” for reasons that make sense within the story, but the name still evokes the great 1978 massacre/suicide of the Peoples’ Temple in Guyana, which I find it hard to believe was Harkaway’s intention.
Trudi Caravan sends the Third Doctor and Jo to Australia for one of the shorter adventures in the book, “Salt of the Earth.” It might be the best tonal match for an actual representative television episode among all of them. It is set in the later 21st century and benefits from a closer view of that future than was available in the 1970s Pertwee era. Jo’s experiences with advanced technology are thus piquant for today’s readers who have already seen much of it developed.
“A Handful of Stardust” by Jake Arnott features the Sixth Doctor and Peri, allowing them to encounter both John Dee and the Master in Elizabethan England. It is cleverly written, and Arnott does seem to keep the protagonists irritating in the same ways they were in the 1980s show. The presentation of Dee isn’t very sympathetic, and in some ways he is eclipsed in the story by his junior contemporary Thomas Digges.
Cecelia Ahern’s “The Bog Warrior” is pretty bad. If it hadn’t been for the Ben Morris title illustration, I wouldn’t have been able to know that the protagonist was the Tenth Doctor. He is largely a bystander in a Cinderella-inflected exoplanetary drama involving zombie soldiers and a counterrevolution.
“The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller” by Joanne Harris has a little bit of Alice in Wonderland, a lot of Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life,” and a dose of McGoohan’s The Prisoner in a story supplementing the Third Doctor’s regeneration in “Planet of the Spiders.”
The last story is the earliest in the Doctor’s biography as well as Earth’s history. Stella Duffy sends Patrick Troughton’s Doctor with Jamie and Zoe to classical Alexandria in “The Anti-Hero.” Short chapters helped this one feel like an old television serial.
I borrowed this collection from my public library, and I foresee no itch to reread it, nor do I expect I will ever bother to own a copy. Still, most of the stories were clever and enjoyable, and I can easily recommend the book to Doctor Who fans.