Sunday, 8 January 2017

Time Shadows Reviews

Here's a couple of reviews of Time Shadows, the Doctor Who short story anthology, that I contributed a story too. Neither mentions my story explicitly, but it's for a good cause so here they are anyway...

Cosmic Masque
Reviewer: Jolyon Drake
December 31st, 2016

Fans of a certain age will have a shelf holding a Decalog or a Short Trips anthology, left over from the time that the short story was the perfect format for the established writers and the newcomers to share a platform for expanding the narrative of Who. Somewhere along the way, fans began producing unauthorised anthologies to raise money for a good cause, and in Time Shadows we are offered twenty short stories and one longer tale that raise money for the Enable Community Foundation.

Credit to the editorial work of Matt Grady with Samuel Gibb, that the stories feature the full range of Doctors and whilst the tone of the collection offers something for everyone, the standard is high throughout. There is a nice mixture of Earth-based adventures and alien world-building. There are villains and monsters and ghosts and time travellers. There is a wealth of well-drawn original characters, but most importantly, each Doctor and companion has a recognisable voice that makes the anthology trot along without any misfires in characterisation. What you like and dislike will marry up with how you feel about the show, because every era is represented by an author who clearly cares about and knows how to capture the feeling of the TARDIS team they have taken on.

We are given a chance to enjoy another outing for the Doctors under-represented in the written word. In Someone Took The Words Away Roger McCoy brings the ninth Doctor and Rose to a place where not a word can be wasted. The War Doctor appears in Visitor from Space! by J.R. Loflin, being grumpy and compassionate in equal measure. Meanwhile, Inertia by Pete Kempshall and The People In The Wood by Steve Hatcher are a reminder of the season seven cast and just how glorious the stories of that period can be.

Some of the contributions contain more kisses to the past, filling in gaps or offering ‘what if’ scenarios that only fans could devise. If expanding the mythology of the series is your thing, look no further than Indigo by David McLain, where the Doctor and Ian find that aliens trying to mess with the past are tampering with something surprisingly personal, or The Godfather by John Davies, where the Doctor and Jamie, fresh from The Two Doctors, show what they are capable of when they have expert control of the TARDIS. If you want to know how Mike Yates got from Invasion Of The Dinosaurs to Planet Of The Spiders, The Neither by Ian Howden will help you to fill the gap and make even more sense of our old Captain’s interest in the mystical.

My era of Who is perfectly captured in Straight On Till Morning by Chris Heffernan, with a story you could believe JNT would have commissioned on the spot – the Doctor and Mel visit a theme park where all is not right. Their investigation leads them into a world of animatronic characters from the Wizard of Oz to Peter Pan. I was taken straight back to 1987 and loved the experience.

It is good to see that a book raising money for prosthetics doesn’t shy away from using the Cybermen, and one of the stand-out stories of the collection is Confirmation Bias by Andrew Blair, where the reader is given a devastating insight into what the Doctor doesn’t know about his opponent.

Linking the collection together is A Torch In The Darkness five episodes that weave through the anthology from Dale Smith, David N. Smith & Violet Addison and Christopher Colley. Each part raises the stakes and pulls the collection together as it goes, referencing events from along the journey. In the centre, the Medusa chapter gives an appearance of the Weeping Angels crying out to be realised on television; it is worth the cover price alone. The story builds to a brave, bonkers and unlikely conclusion that reminds you how much fun the worlds of Doctor Who can be.

This anthology has left me wanting more extracts of Romana’s diary and persuaded me that the ever-growing number of stories that take place in the middle of The Daleks’ Master Plan should not be stopped. As long as the editors carry this much respect for every era of the show, nobody is shortchanged by the results, and knowing that the sale proceeds are contributing to a good cause is a welcome bonus. 
Time Shadows is available from

Trap One
Reviewer: Mark
September 12th, 2016

This collection of stories opens with the Twelfth Doctor at the end of the universe. It’s become one of this incarnation’s regular hangouts, somewhere he has visited in both series so far, in Listen and Hell Bent. On this visit an encounter with the powerful Alpha TARDIS is the catalyst for the other tales here, which are told as new memories created for the Doctor. It’s an effective framing device, as the ongoing story of the hunt for the stolen Alpha intersperses a series of adventures which span all of the character’s previous lives. These chapters, A Torch In The Darkness I -V (written by Dale Smith, David N. Smith and Violet Addison, and Christopher Colley) bind the individual stories together.

Someone has inserted the new events have been inserted into the Doctor’s timeline, much as he did to Kazran in A Christmas Carol. Some of the stories attempt to smooth out inconsistencies from the television stories, in the way that a lot of expanded universe material will, from the Missing Adventures to Big Finish. In Simon Blake’s thoughtful Time’s Shadow, we learn why Susan claimed to have named TARDISes, when every story from The War Games onwards makes this seem increasingly unlikely. But we also find the origin of the felt-tipped ‘Fast Return’ above the switch on the console from Inside The Spaceship, so there’s the suggestion that these stories did always happen in the timeline we know.

In a similar vein is After The Ball Was Over by Christopher Colley. A highlight of the collection, it seeks to explain the change from season seventeen’s carefree, witty raconteur of a Fourth Doctor to the sombre, serious season eighteen version. Most fans know that this was the result in a change of producer from Graham Williams to John Nathan-Turner, but I think this is the first in-universe explanation for this I’ve seen. Colley very effectively evokes both eras. It feels relevant by echoing the idea of the Doctor ‘going too far’ from the Hybrid arc in the recent series ten; the idea that the Doctor is just too powerful to do whatever he wants without thinking about the consequences for the rest of the universe.

Confirmation Bias by Andrew Blair is another excellent entry which explores the consequences of the Doctor’s actions. It’s a story which uses the written form to delve into the horror of the Cybermen, and cyber-conversion, in a way the TV series has not. A Doctor-lite tale, which uses the frequently infantilised persona of the Eleventh Doctor to juxtapose what a dark universe he inhabits.

The First Doctor is well-represented in this book. Kingdom Of The Blind by David Mason gives the short-lived TARDIS team of the Doctor, Steven and Sarah Kingdom a run out; while David McLain’s Indigo is fun, but it doesn’t feel quite right for the Doctor of this period to be investigating anomalies the Ship’s sensors have picked up. But it is the First Doctor’s appearance in A Torch In Yhe Darkness II: A Legendary Hero by David N. Smith and Violet Addison, that gives the reader a first clue as to the significance of this incarnation in the overall arc. The differences between his earliest and most recent incarnation provide another story beat which again chimes with a key point from series ten, in The Girl Who Died.

This is a great collection of short stories, with a really epic story running through the individual entries. This in particular feels very much of the Moffat-era: clever story-telling and resolution, the use of avatars and an end-of-the-universe setting. In a year where the BBC are not even publishing much Doctor Who fiction to make up for the lack of a broadcast series, this is an entertaining option for a very good cause.

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