Big Finish Review: Sixth Doctor Short Trips

He’s back! I confess: I was a little worried when 2017’s Short Trips lineup from Big Finish contained no stories for old Sixie. His place in the lineup seemed to have been taken by an assortment of (very good, for the most part) New Who based stories, and pleased as I am that BF are producing New Who content I was a concerned that some of their Classic content might fall by the wayside.

But for January and February of 2018 they put out two Sixth Doctor stories in a row, one for each of his TV companions (and there’s another one coming in August for BF’s own companion Constance Clarke). I listened to them more or less back to back, and had a great time…


The Authentic Experience by Dan Starkey

Peri is a soldier in an unknown war, teased by his fellow soldiers for his sensitive nature and love of plants. He doesn’t remember how he came to be in the army, or even where his home is.

The Doctor and Peri Brown land in a drab, grey city in the future, drawn in by a temporal disturbance. They quickly track down the source… a travel agency.

I called the reveal in The Authentic Experience very early on, but fortunately the story doesn’t hinge too much on surprise. Once the initial mystery is solved it blossoms into something fun and globe-trotting and delightfully creative.

This is author Dan Starkey’s second Big Finish writing credit, and first solo story. (You may know him as Strax.) A really delightful Short Trips debut. The strengths of the Doctor and Peri’s relationship are showcased in spite of the story being light on characterisation.

The central idea of The Authentic Experience may not be the most original but it’s well-executed and, by the end of the story, made into something truly mind-bending.


Mel-Evolent by Simon A Forward

One morning in the TARDIS, Mel finds the Doctor brooding in the TARDIS theatre. (She didn’t know the TARDIS had a theatre.) Exploring she sees, reflected in a mirror, her own face, but somehow twisted and sinister.

Something has invaded the TARDIS. Something has stolen Mel’s face. Something very old and very malevolent.

Mel-Evolent goes to some strange places. Like the best Sixth Doctor and Mel stories it’s superficially comic – the image of an evil version of Mel, one of the sweetest, most upbeat, most harmless companions the Doctor has ever had, borders on the absurd – but beneath the comedy and the trappings of fantasy there’s a sense of real fear.

The imagery is gorgeous, an eerie and surreal blend of science fiction and fairy tale. The reveal about the origins of the ‘Witch Queen’ is simultaneously some classic Doctor Who stuff whilst also being genuinely surprising and unsettling. The ending may take you by surprise.

The 2018 Short Trips lineup promises some really exciting and novel stories, including I Am The Master, written and performed by Big Finish’s original Master Geoffrey Beevers, and Erasure, an exceptionally niche story featuring the Fourth Doctor, Adric, and CIA Co-Ordinator Narvin of Big Finish’s Gallifrey.

But the quality of the range as a whole is best judged through more classic, more run of the mill stories like The Authentic Experience and Mel-Evolent. And both of these were a delight to listen to. Season eight off to a very strong start.



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My Week in Writing (11/03/18)

A short update this week, as I’ve had a very stressful few days. My mother has cancer and will be starting chemotherapy in the next couple of weeks. It’s an aggressive and unpredictable form of cancer and we don’t know what’s going to happen, long term.

However, I’m very aware (because she has repeatedly told me so) that my mum wants me and my sisters to get on with our lives. And at present, I’m feeling very motivated to focus as much as possible on my writing and in particular on trying to get my novel published. For me, writing is living my best life. To that end, I want to keeping blogging if I can but at some point I may put this blog on hiatus. We’ll see.

My other news for the week, such as it is: on Thursday I went to Shoreline of Infinity’s special International Women’s Day Event Horizon. Unfortunately I was only able to stay for the first half but still had a great time.

I picked up a copy of issue 11 of the magazine… but then realised when I got home that I never actually read issue 10. Whoops. I hate reading out of order so I’m holding off reading the new issue for now.

I also went to Inky Fingers at Lighthouse Books, where as always I heard some really good stuff.

I finished reading Scourge by Gail Z. Martin, which I’ll be reviewing for Shoreline of Infinity. I had a good time reading it but I’m still sorting out my thoughts for the review so no comment as yet.

And I spent much of yesterday reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and read a book in one sitting and this was an excellent one, though possibly heavier than I should be reading at present. Deeply engaging and very disturbing ride.

I also acquired a new number of new books this week: The Lathe of Heaven and Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, and Ghostwritten and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, bought with an Amazon voucher I got for my birthday; Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, a slightly belated birthday gift from my sister; a short story collection called A Short Primer in Vice by John Harrison, picked up at a book swap at work; and two miniature Penguin Modern Classics, The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson and The Break Through by Daphne du Maurier.

I’m hoarding a lot of unread books at present.

Next I’m going to be reading Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which I’m looking forward to.


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My Week in Writing (04/03/18)

tumblr_p52bvkIlN61qkzjnzo1_500I turned 27 this week! I don’t like it. Had a pretty strange birthday – my mum was in hospital and while she went home on Friday she’s still very ill.

That aside: for my birthday I got Doctor Who: A Time Lord for Change: in an Exciting Adventure with the Drabbles which I’m very excited to read. I also got a lot of chocolate and an Amazon voucher with which I ordered myself more books.

I also went to the Royal Academy and had a look at some modern art. They had some really great stuff but the only thing that really stuck with me was a kitchen sponge with crab claws glued to it which personally I consider a great bit of comedy.

I’ve also been off work almost all week – we all got sent home at lunchtime on Wednesday, Thursday there were no buses, Friday I made it in for an hour and then was sent home. All in all I got almost a whole week off, most of it paid time off. And today I finally managed to lay my hands on a new fan heater – though probably just in time for the weather to warm up.

And for the big news this week: I’ve been longlisted for the Bumblebee Flash Fiction contest! (Again!) Very exciting – last year I made the shortlist, maybe this year I’ll make the top three.

The Green and the Gathering Tide is now at 210,000 words and rising. I’ve just started a new arc so I’m experiencing a sudden burst of speed. I’ve also started a new short story based on a couple of snippets I wrote for Inktober 2017, which I have working-titled ‘Breakable’.

I also reviewed Cadavre Exquis on Goodreads. I’m currently the only reviewer which I assume means my word on the matter is definitive.

Next week, I’m planning to go to both Inky Fingers and Shoreline of Infinity’s Event Horizon which this month is their International Women’s Day special. Very excited for that – and very sad to have missed out on being in their special edition of the magazine (couldn’t get the book I was to review in time). I’m also hoping to finally make it to Black Panther, which I still haven’t seen…

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μtxt 3

micro3_coverμtxt 3 (Microtext 3) is a new anthology from Medusa’s Laugh Press, and it’s very exciting because I’m in it! (You can find my story, The Pit on page 47.) It’s the third in a series of miniature anthologies of flash fiction and poetry. The upper word limit was 750 word; some pieces are as short as a few lines. Mine managed, predictably, to be one of the longest.

I am absolutely enchanted by this book, and not just because I’m in it. I love Miniature Books and μtxt 3 is an especially tiny one, with a beautiful finding to boot. I sat down to read it and finished it almost in one sitting, and I have to say I’m delighted to be in such good company.

This is a fascinating (and beautifully bound) collection, with pieces ranging from the tiny found poems to miniature epics. There’s an enormous variety of style and genre, and with the pieces being so short you can’t possibly get bored.

My only real complaint is that it’s a bit fiddly to read – the pages are inclined to stick together – and being as tiny as it is, it’s very easy to lose. I put it down and lost track of it half a dozen times over the afternoon I spent reading it!

There’s far too many pieces in this book to review all of them, but I’d like to share a couple of quick highlights:

Father Daley’s Dilemmas by Lee Reilly: one of the longer pieces in the collection, a story about a 1930s priest taking confession. It packs an enormous amount of story into a tiny space, which in my opinion is exactly what flash fiction is all about.

Little Torvald by Jennifer Giacalone: another of the slightly longer pieces, a short and sweet story about a man and a penguin. A delightful and surreal little read (especially if you like penguins).

Everybody Poops Katherine Montalto: my curiosity was piqued as soon as I saw this one on the contents page. I was not disappointed. It’s a million times stranger than I expected – and it certainly made me think. I won’t spoil it!

Inside of Myself by Hillary Colton: without a doubt the most gripping piece of flash fiction I’ve read it. This is a story that will have you on the edge of your seat in under a thousand words. I think it’ll stay with me for a while.

That’s only a tiny sampling – there’s a lot of gems in μtxt 3. You can get it from the Medusa’s Laugh Press website, as part of a limited run of 200. If you enjoy flash fiction, I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s a beautiful and fascinating book, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

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My Week In Writing (26/02/18)

I’ve had an extremely stressful and difficult week, which I don’t feel up to blogging about (or not just yet).  So a quick update this week and hopefully back to regularly scheduled blogging as soon as possible.

This week I finished reading Alias Grace and reviewed it on Goodreads. I’ve started reading Scourge by Gail Z Martin, which I’ll be reviewing for Shoreline of Infinity.

I went to see The Shape of the Water, which I enjoyed very much. A strange and beautiful film – thoroughly recommended.

And I finished my literary agent longlist, which is currently 36 agents strong – I’m going to have to make a start on cutting it down to 10 or so.

Next week, I’m hoping to go and see Black Panter (since I missed out this week) and I’ll be going to the Edinburgh Literary Salon. I’m also really hoping for some good news, so please cross your fingers for me.

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Books To Read: February 2018

Seems it’s been almost a year since I posted an update on my to read shelf! So: here’s the unread books I have right now.

Actually a fairly modest selection, for the time of year – I didn’t get that many books for Christmas, though I did buy five more afterwards with my Christmas book token. So, here’s what I’ve got sitting around unread right now:

The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson: I’ve read the Odyssey before (several times) but when I heard about this new translation I had to have it asap! I was also very surprised and a little upset to learn that this is officially the first published translation of the Odyssey by a woman. Should be a good read, anyway.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle: this one’s been on my to-read list since I was in school, when a friend recommended it to me in very warm terms. I’ve since heard glowing things about the animated film… but never did get to watching it. It’s better to read the book first, anyway!

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: another one recommended warmly by a friend. I was originally down to review it for Shoreline of Infinity but unfortuantely they couldn’t get a review copy in time. Very much looking forward to this one.

Cadavre Exquis from Medusa’s Laugh Press: an anthology of fiction and poetry that well… well to be honest it looks like a fairly normal anthology it’s just that it consists of loose leafs ‘bound’ with a ‘burial shroud’. Quite hard to take apart and put back together again. Hopefully will be interesting.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: another one that’s been on my list for a very long time. (Let’s make 2018 the year of cleaning out the to-read list!)

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson: I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about this one going in but picked it up on impulse in Waterstones. I’ve been curious about Shirley Jackson since reading some analysis of The Haunting of Hill House but ultimately too much of a scaredy cat to read it so I figured I’d go for something else!

A Story Waiting to Pierce You by Peter Kingsley: a (slightly late) Christmas gift. I’ve heard some odd things about it, reading reviews, but am keeping an open mind for now.

The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden: I’ve had this one on the stack for a while – because I’ve already read it, and love it very much. I picked up this new, very fancy edition last year and haven’t got around to re-reading it yet.

I’m reading Alias Grace at present, and after that I’ll be reading Scourge by Gail Z Martin for Shoreline of Infinity… so it may be a while before I get to the above books. But I’ll get around to them.

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My Week in Writing (18/02/18)

houseI’ve had a pretty busy week! I finished my edit on The Summer Masque and outside of a readthrough of the opening chapters to put a sample together, I have declared it ‘adequate’ and begun writing a query letter. In theory it should not be hard, having written an novel, to write a letter about said novel. In practice… oh dear.

I received (belatedly) my contributor copies of Microtext 3, a very nice (and very tiny) anthology from Medusa’s Laugh Press. I read it more or less in one sitting yesterday and thoroughly recommend it – not just because my writing’s in it! It’s a bit fiddly to read but there’s some really good stuff in there.

I also got, as an apology for the late dispatch of my copies of Microtext, a free book called Cadavre Exquis, which is certainly the most unique book I’ve owned to date. I haven’t read it yet but it came wrapped in a ‘burial shroud’. Very puzzling to receive with no explanation.

I went to see the Wikipedia Slam at the Scottish Poetry Library: slam poets presenting excerpts from Wikipedia articles in the style of their poetry. Very strange, somewhat educational, won by someone who read the article on the subject of rooms.

Today I made peanut butter cookies and went out for lunch at the National Gallery, which is always a good time.

The Green and the Gathering Tide is now over 200k and still climbing. I’m coming up on a good bit so looking forward to working on that later today!

And I submitted a story (at the last minute) to Pulp Literature’s Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest. Last year I made the shortlist – we’ll see how it goes this time around…

Next week, I’m off to see The Shape of the Water and hopefully also Black Panther so quite excited for that. I’m also getting two fillings which is less exciting. Ah well.

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