31 December 2018

Review: Doctor Who: Time Trips by Jenny T. Colgan et al.

Hardcover, 382 pages
Published 2015 (contents: 2013-15)

Acquired October 2016
Read February 2017
Doctor Who: Time Trips
by A. L. Kennedy, Jenny T. Colgan, Nick Harkaway, Trudi Canavan, Jake Arnott, Cecelia Ahern, Joanne Harris, and Stella Duffy

On the heels of 2013's 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, BBC Books deployed another monthly e-book series, the fruits of which are collected here in print format. Time Trips was less structured than 11 Stories, with just eight stories for a random assortment of Doctors: one for Two, two for Three, one for Four, one for Six, two for Ten, and one for Eleven. Like with 11 Doctors, the writers are popular successful writers outside of Doctor Who and that definitely works to the book's benefit: these are unique voices, not the same old folks who turn up in every Big Finish and every Short Trip. And, amazingly, six of the eight are women! Despite Doctor Who's huge female fanbase, few women seem to write for the tie-ins, but BBC Books shows it can be done.

Like any anthology, it contains both strengths and weaknesses. I really liked the opener, A. L. Kennedy's "The Death Pit," filled with droll witticisms and good characterization of a solo fourth Doctor and just-off-normal happenings. I appreciated Jenny Colgan's "Into the Nowhere" for being set after "The Name of the Doctor" and thus actually doing something character-wise with Clara's knowledge of the Doctor's timestream, but the actual story left me kind of cold. Two standouts featured the third Doctor written by women, which surprised me: Trudi Canavan's "Salt of the Earth" was a surprisingly atmospheric tale set in future Australia, while Joanne Harris's "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller" focuses on him trying to make it back to UNIT HQ as he comes close to regeneration, being somewhat moving on its last page. They're both different sides to Jon Pertwee's incarnation than we usually get and all the better for it.

Weaker tales include the two tenth Doctor stories, Nick Harkaway's "Keeping up with the Joneses," a dull series of surreal events, and Cecelia Ahern's "The Bog Warrior," where I could just never bring myself to care about the characters.

The book as a whole is enlivened by the fact that each story has a title illustration by Ben Morris, and the inclusion of a bonus story, "A Long Way Down" written by Jenny Colgan and illustrated by Ben Morris, that starts on the back cover, moves to the back flap, and then mostly takes place on the reverse side of the dust jacket! A cute tale of the twelfth Doctor falling out of the TARDIS, amplified by Morris's illustrations and the way you have to keep rotating the dust jacket, giving you the same vertiginous feeling as the Doctor and Clara!

It's a shame that 11 Doctors, 11 Stories and Time Trips seem to be it for e-book novellas from BBC Books, as I've found all of them to be worth the time and effort of bringing new voices into Doctor Who prose fiction.

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