Time Trips The Collection Review
Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives an overview of each of the stories in the Time Trips collection.
Perhaps I’m in the minority here but there’s something thoroughly satisfying about a good anthology collection. Having a series of short stories all of different ilk leads to an enhanced reading experience for me particularly individual Doctor Who tales. Clinging onto the coattails of the 12 Doctors, 12 Stories series, which came to a tardy end in October, the Time Trips appears to have been made with the hope of replicating that success. Admittedly it didn’t hit the mark every time (neither did 12 Doctors, 12 Stories in all fairness) but it was generally worthwhile stepping aboard these Time Trips and revisiting them several months on.
Way back in 2012 Time Trips got underway with A.L. Kennedy’s The Death Pit, a strange experimental piece, which deposited the Fourth Doctor in the grounds of an Arbroath golf club where regulars were mysteriously being sucked into the fairway. Kennedy’s use of internal dialogue as well as the rather unconventional set-up (no TARDIS or fixed companion) paid dividends, frankly and a re-read has caused me to look at The Death Pit in an entirely different light. A much more positive light.
The segue into 2013 saw the release of Jenny T. Colgan’s Into the Nowhere, a rip-roaring and occasionally dark caper featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Clara footslogging across a puzzling uncharted planet. Superbly written with strong character work, an unexpected enemy and plenty of priceless real-life references (“It’s like travelling the universe with Alan Sugar”), Into the Nowhere still holds up very well on re-read.
Nick Harkaway holds the title for the longest story as well as the Author Who Is Most Like the Doctor They’re Writing About (having seen Harkaway live since my first read of his story, I can safely say he is as bubbly and witty as the Tenth Doctor) with Keeping Up with the Joneses. His oddball story takes place in a little Welsh village that has somehow ended up attached to the TARDIS and with the help of a woman who looks identical to Lady Christina de Souza (Planet of the Dead’s one-time companion, a professional cat burglar and metal stingray fighter) the Doctor tries to get the bottom of the mystery. It’s a manic, riotous story with a unique sense of humour and some excellent action scenes, and despite the third act bout of rushed exposition it works.
Salt of the Earth by Australian fantasy novelist Trudi Canavan is one of the more straightforward, no-frills stories and that is, by no means, a bad thing. Nicely paced, eloquently written and boasting bang-on characterisation of the Third Doctor and Jo, Salt of the Earth could have slotted perfectly into season eight with a few of Wales and England’s finest quarries doubling up for the outback where Canavan’s story is set.
If there was one story I truly underestimated in my initial review, it would be Jake Arnott’s A Handful of Stardust. While the frustrating flaws in its denouement might still be noticeable, the rest of the story is a dream. Having been dragged back to the sixteenth century by the TARDIS, the Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown emerge into the library of distinguished alchemist and master of the dark arts, Doctor John Dee. There’s a sweet subplot with Peri and Dee’s assistant plus a recognisable, well portrayed villain and marvellous olde-worlde prose; A Handful of Stardust is a story that might stumble at the last hurdle but if you can overlook that, you’ll have a great time.
After Arnott’s old-timey romp Cecelia Ahern delivered the weakest of the bunch. The Bog Warrior featured a Tenth Doctor who looked and sounded entirely different to his screen counterpart alongside no long-standing companion. Ahern took a heaped spoonful of inspiration from Cinderella, blended it with a limited knowledge of Doctor Who and the result was – and still is on a re-read – a sticky mess. The Bog Warrior is far from pacey, suffers from leaden writing and comes complete with a variety of uninteresting supporting characters. Rather bog-standard, then.
From the worst to the best: after a brief hiatus the Time Trips series returned with Joanne Harris’ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller. It’s set during Planet of the Spiders when the Third Doctor, at death’s door, departs the titular arachnid world to materialise his TARDIS in an Oxfordshire village, which, initially, appears to be idyllic. But when the Doctor digs a little deeper he discovers that all is evidently not well. Aided by the village’s plucky monarch, the Doctor attempts to get to the bottom of the mysterious town before it’s too late. Of all the Time Trips stories, this is the one tale I have revisited time and time ago. Harris’ beautiful flowery prose, the rock-solid characterisation, the inclusion of Goethe and Yates quotes, and a powerful emotional core result in Harris excelling on many levels. Beautiful stuff.
Stella Duffy finished off the conventional e-books with The Anti-Hero, a brisk, undemanding historical romp that saw the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land in ancient Alexandria to be faced with an enemy from the heavens. The Anti-Hero may not be able to hold a candle to The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller (Harris set the bar tremendously high for Duffy) but it’s a well-written, engaging short story with wonderfully realised characters. It might be frantically wrapped up but it’s still a slice of enjoyable Second Doctor action.
The last story included in the Time Trips collection (but not as a standalone e-book) is A Long Way Down by Jenny T. Colgan, her second contribution to the series. It’s a concise little tale (around the thousand work mark) featuring the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, written across the dust jacket of the book and it boasts some gorgeous, glossy illustrations to boot. A Long Way Down reads more like a minisode than an actual episode but it’s got a fascinating hook (both narratively and aesthetically) that’ll have your mind boggling like mad. If you want a hint, think along the lines of Clara and the TARDIS. Oh, and be sure to keep your eye out for Colgan’s best real-life reference yet
The Time Trips series was an experiment; these types of collections always are, and even if it packed one or two weak stories, it’s an interesting read overall. With a motley collection of talent on display, a mix of humour, heart and heady action, and some near perfect characterisation, the Time Trips was a lot of fun – a trip well worth signing up for.
- Read my original review of The Death Pit and my interview with A.L. Kennedy.
- Read my original review of Into the Nowhere and my interview with Jenny T. Colgan.
- Read my original review of Keeping Up with the Joneses and my interview with Nick Harkaway.
- Read my original review of Salt of the Earth.
- Read my original review of A Handful of Stardust and my interview with Jake Arnott.
- Read my original review of The Bog Warrior and my interview with Cecelia Ahern.
- Read my original review of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller and my interview with Joanne Harris.
- Read my original review of The Anti-Hero and my interview with Stella Duffy.