on 9 May 2000
I had hoped that the opening story of this book "The Longest Story In The World" was setting the standard of the passages to follow. Unfortunately there were only a few of the collection that I enjoyed and what followed almost had me sending the book back to the publisher demanding a real Doctor Who book or face action under the Trade Descriptions Act.
The second story is the clichéd and contrived "A Town Called Eternity." "The Not-So-Sinister-Sponge" seems the work of an infant with a planet made of butterscotch mountains, liquorice trees and rivers of jam which brought back the nightmare embarrassment of the Kandyman. Again I double checked the title of the series. "Countdown To TV Action" is assumedly intending to be in the style of a child's comic strip but it lacks the wit to carry it off as a true spoof and really just comes across as rather silly. By this time I considered digging out my old Doctor Who annuals for a more thought provoking read. But I ploughed on and found that many of the stories that followed were very mediocre. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the excellent 8th Doctor series, but there is a definite lack of originality in many of the offerings in this 3rd trips outing. You don't care about the characters and 'alternative reality' themes have substituted imagination.
There are exceptions, notably many of the short gems such as "The Android Maker of Calderon IV" and "Do You Love Anyone Enough?" which put some of the lengthier offerings to shame. "Nothing At The End Of The Lane" is the sort of intelligent 'alternative' style that works. "The Queen of Eros" was a simple yet effective tale of love making the world a better place and effectively captured the essence of the 8th Doctor series. "Gone Too Soon", "Monsters", "Playing With Toys" and, surprisingly, "Planet Of The Bunnoids" were to my mind the type of original shorts that the Trips series should be all about. With "Revenants" I'm not sure I like the idea of authors writing about the Doctor's future incarnations, this one I'm sure making a comeback from More Short Trips. I don't really like this Doctor's insubstantial character and hope he also turns out to be from an alternative reality. But the tale was decent enough the twist at the end explains why this story required a future Doctor.
There is more to criticise than to praise in this collection. I enjoyed the first two Short Trips books but this time it seems the Editors have instructed the authors to outweird each other resulting in a lack of respect for a much cared for series. Don't get me wrong - I like originality when presented in the style of the previous two Trips collections but this book has failed to distinguish between interesting themes and downright daftness.
Please, BBC Books, for the next instalment let's avoid the side steps and make the short trip back home.