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Short Trips: Solar System
edited by Gary Russell

Cover Blurb
Short Trips: Solar System

A star like many others in the western spire of the Milky Way galaxy...

Around it, orbit its planets -- each one has its own environment; its own history; its own circumstances...

The third planet of the ten is the most densely populated. And, over time, its inhabitants have reached out to the other worlds.

There, they find surprises, wonders, danger...

Welcome to the solar system...

  • This is the fourteenth volume of short stories published by Big Finish in the Short Trips series.
  • Released: September 2005
    ISBN: 1 84435 148 3

Mercury by Eddie Robson 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Zoe

The TARDIS materialises atop the Sunwatcher, a research base that circles the planet Mercury on a set of tracks, monitoring solar conditions. Some time ago, one of the scientists found a humanoid statue on the surface, and brought it inside the dome -- but the “statue” came to life, and the scientists who have come into contact with it have fallen into strange comas and started babbling about hostile giants. The Doctor and Jamie distract the creature while Zoe and Wayne Songo’o circle around the outside of the dome, planning to override its thermostat controls and lower the temperature inside; perhaps this will cause the creature to fall dormant once again. However, as the Sunwatcher continues along its tracks, Zoe spots a crowd of similar creatures in the distance. The creature, a Mercurial, then speaks through one of its victims, Chelo Chascarillo, and reveals that it’s just been trying to communicate with the humans and request their help. The Mercurials were investigating the trench and tracks laid for the Sunwatcher when they were unexpectedly confronted by monstrous, six-armed giants; in the ensuing panic, this particular Mercurial ran over the planet’s terminator line and was frozen into immobility on the night side. Hoping to ensure peaceful contact between the Mercurials and humanity, the Doctor and the recovering scientists agree to help the Mercurials to frighten off their enemies -- a task which proves easier than expected when they discover that the “giants” were just the remote solar pylons that provide the Sunwatcher with power.

Time-Placement: arbitrary.

Venus by Stuart Manning 8th Doctor, Charley

The Doctor materialises in hover mode above Venus in order to show Charley the dangerous beauty of the planet. Their next trip takes them to a nearby spaceship, where a group of strangely unresponsive people are walking through a forest to a gigantic clearing set up like a grand hall. The only person willing to speak to the new arrivals seems upset when the Doctor and Charley introduce themselves by their proper names. The host of the gathering, an artist named Aristede, then greets his guests and activates a gigantic viewscreen, revealing that they too are above the planet Venus. Bombs begin to detonate within Venus’ atmosphere, a vast artistic statement scrawled across the planet’s surface by Aristede; however, this is only part of the display, and the Doctor and Charley are shocked to learn that Aristede next intends to pilot his ship -- which is itself an engineered living being -- directly into Venus’ atmosphere, crashing and killing everyone on board. The Doctor protests until he discovers that all of Aristede’s guests are dying from an incurable disease, and that rather than waste away, they have chosen to go out in glory, witnessing a sight that no other human being will ever get the chance to see. Charley is still distressed to learn that the guests are going to their deaths, but the Doctor accepts their decision and leaves them to it.

Time-Placement: there is no mention of Ramsay the vortisaur; otherwise, arbitrary.

Earth by Jim Mortimore 4th Doctor

While the Doctor is visiting the 1939 World’s Fair, he spots a young hoodlum named Jacob stealing a woman’s purse, and chases him back to the TARDIS -- which Jacob hides inside. The TARDIS then takes both the Doctor and Jacob fifty million years into the future, to an Earth where the remains of New York City are buried beneath the ground and the Earth is populated by giant metal ants. One of the black Ant machines picks up Jacob and carries him to a valley populated by grazing cattle, which the Ants milk for sustenance and lubrication -- and which Jacob is horrified to realise are the descendants of the human race. The Doctor and Jacob then witness a battle between red and black Ants, and the Doctor repairs a damaged black Ant and uses pheromonal control to guide it back to its nest. There, he and Jacob discover that the large machine is populated and controlled by a swarm of regular-sized ants. While the ants carry the Doctor to their queen, Jacob coats himself with resin from the nest’s walls, thus becoming virtually invisible to the ants; he takes the opportunity to explore the nest, and finds relics from his own era embedded in the walls, including a broken metal tube. Meanwhile, the Doctor communicates with the black ant queen and discovers that the Earth has become sterile -- and that the only two surviving ant nests are about to go to war over the Meadow, the last fertile spot on the planet. The Doctor convinces Jacob to ride along with him when the black Ants set off to attack the red nest, hoping that he can negotiate an end to the war if he is allowed to speak to the red queen. He and Jacob slip behind enemy lines into the red nest, where the Doctor reveals that the tube Jacob saw in the black nest was a time capsule constructed of a particularly durable alloy; he also switches off a regular-sized red ant with his sonic screwdriver, revealing that it too is a machine. As the red ant reboots itself from the nest’s central processor, the Doctor reveals that these ants are robots that were created by Jacob’s great-grandchild in the 21st century. The Doctor speaks to the red queen, trying to convince it that it’s possible to use preserved seeds from the time capsule to create a new Meadow -- but the queen reveals that they’ve tried that, and the seeds died out long ago. All seems lost, and Jacob steals the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and threatens to send out an electromagnetic pulse that will deactivate all the ants and give the grazers one last shot to reclaim the Earth. However, he can’t bring himself to do it -- and the Doctor then realises that, while Jacob was fleeing through the exhibits of the World’s Fair, he got some wheat seeds stuck in the mud on his shoe. The Doctor presents them to the red queen, who agrees to negotiate a peace treaty with the black nest. Together, the two ant nests use the wheat seeds to restore the extinct plant, allowing the grazers to spread out across the Earth’s surface and restoring life to the planet.

Time-Placement: the Doctor is travelling alone; otherwise, arbitrary.

Continuity: the Doctor claims to have learned the secret of pheromonal control from a friendly Menoptra, the species introduced in The Web Planet; he was also seen to use it in Dancing the Code.

Mars by Trevor Baxendale 1st Doctor, Vicki, Steven

The Doctor and his companions are visiting Phobos Station, a Martian lunar base, when the base receives a distress call from a Jarnian ship with engine trouble. Steven rashly commandeers a shuttle and rescues Hazan, the arrogant son of the Jarnian Ambassador; however, when Hazan’s ship explodes, the rescue shuttle is forced down on Mars. The base’s technicians locate the remains of the shuttle, and determine that Steven and Hazan were able to evacuate before it exploded; however, a strong storm is moving in, and Commander Tugwell is reluctant to risk sending in a rescue team. The Doctor begins to succumb to despair, but refuses to give up hope as long as he believes that Steven has not done so either. He thus insists that Tugwell give him a ship so that he can mount his own rescue mission, and both Vicki and Ambassador Grys support him, pointing out that Tugwell has no authority to stop them, since they’re not under his command. Tugwell gives in, but insists upon piloting the rescue shuttle himself. Meanwhile, trapped on the surface of Mars with only one hour’s oxygen, Hazan accepts his fate and lashes out at Steven’s attempts to save him; however, Steven refuses to give up, even when the storm hits. Despite himself, Hazan helps to seal Steven’s spacesuit when a flying rock cracks his visor. The rescue team arrives and picks them up with seconds to spare before their oxygen runs out, and as they return to Phobos Station, Hazan swallows his pride and thanks Steven for keeping him alive.

Time-Placement: arbitrary; probably late in Vicki’s travels, as she thinks to herself that she’s not a child anymore.

Continuity: according to the chronology of Transit, GodEngine, Beige Planet Mars and Fear Itself, Mars was terraformed by humans following the war with the Ice Warriors in the 21st century; however, the terraforming was damaged by Dalek weapons during their 22nd-century invasion. It’s unclear in what era this story is set, but according to Vicki, it’s early in mankind’s exploration of space; the Jarnians have settled on one of Saturn’s satellites. This story would fit most easily just after Fear Itself, while Mars’ atmosphere is still damaged, but after the era of fear and paranoia.

Jupiter by Andy Russell 6th Doctor, Evelyn

A surge of psychic power forces the TARDIS to materialise aboard a Lorannan-Ycole Corporation gas dredger in Jupiter’s atmosphere in the year 2553. All dredger captains must be telepathic in order to communicate with home base through Jupiter’s atmosphere, but this dredger’s captain, Norma Kelligan, is beginning to hear the voice of her dead husband Thom, who apparently got drunk on duty and piloted his ship directly into the Great Red Spot. The other members of her crew also begin to see visions of Thom, and the ship’s engineer, Hendryk Koopmaan, walks straight out of the airlock while hallucinating of riches. The Corporation’s Director of Operations, Hepton, contacts Norma and directs her towards a rich new source of methane -- but the Doctor realises that the co-ordinates will take them through a zone so turbulent that the dredger will be ripped apart. He convinces the crew to drag one of the atmospheric buoys on board, and discovers that it has been deliberately deactivated. Norma goes berserk for no apparent reason and smashes the ship’s navigation systems, but the Doctor helps the rest of the crew to evacuate; however, flight engineer Ajay Thakrar remains behind and attacks the Doctor to prevent him from repairing the ship. Ajay is being telepathically controlled by Hepton, who reveals that the Great Red Spot is animated by an alien intelligence; its influence is beginning to spread out across Jupiter, and as that poses a threat to the Corporation, Hepton is trying to destroy the intelligence. He sent in Thom to make contact with the alien, but Thom was overwhelmed by its power; now, Hepton has manipulated Norma into a position where the destruction of her dredger will kill the alien. However, the entity contacts Norma, taking on the form of Thom, whose spirit merged with that of the entity when his ship was destroyed. Norma steps out of her ship’s airlock, giving her life so that her spirit will merge with that of the entity and Thom; together, the gestalt strikes back telepathically at Hepton, killing him. Ajay is thus released from Hepton’s control, and the Doctor repairs the ship, telling Ajay to ensure that peaceful contact is made with the entity, whom he decides to name Jove.

Time-Placement: explicitly set immediately after the Doctor and Evelyn leave the Clutch in The Sandman.

Saturn by Alison Lawson 5th Doctor, Nyssa

The Doctor and Nyssa visit 47th-century Saturn, said to be the home of a utopian society; however, the Doctor is confronted by two policemen who politely accuse him of denying his retirement age. When he protests, they tranquillise him and ship him off to Titan, where all citizens over 100 years old are put to work maintaining the service drones that keep Saturn’s society ticking over smoothly. Meanwhile, Nyssa attends a party for a couple named Hel and Keet, whose genes have been selected to create a new child; however, she’s appalled to learn that they will not raise their son, who will be conceived in a laboratory and raised on Titan until he comes of age and is permitted to join society. When Hel finds Nyssa brooding outside the party, Nyssa confesses that she misses her family, and tells Hel of the happy memories of her past. Meanwhile, on Titan, the Doctor makes contact with a “denier” named Lors, who helps him to stow away aboard the shuttle returning to Saturn; however, Lors’ wife Raich is left behind in the confusion of their escape, and Lors decides to return, deciding that life with Raich is more important than life on Saturn. The Doctor contacts Nyssa, and they return to the TARDIS and depart, deciding that this flawed utopia is not for them. However, Nyssa is unaware that her stories have touched something in Hel, who is beginning to wonder what her perfect life is worth if she’ll never even known her own son.

Time-Placement: arbitrary, in release order.

Uranus by Craig Hinton 7th Doctor, Mel

The Doctor takes Mel to the year 4010 to witness a cosmic collision: the asteroid Maleficent is due to hit Uranus, causing a spectacular display as the methane in the planet’s surface ignites and interacts with the rare ores buried within the asteroid. The rich and elite of the Federation have come to watch the spectacle from Cressida, a moon transformed into a space station and used to fine-tune the signals of the Hub, the trans-light energy beam used to power the Federation’s communications network. The Doctor informs Mel that, millions of years after these events, a being of great wisdom and intelligence will be born from Uranus, possibly as a result of this collision -- if everything goes according to plan. But there are others on Cressida with their own agendas. Prentis Duke, the voice of Federation news, plans to wake up the people of the Federation to the evils of society; Mercy, the most famous film star in the Federation, seems to be attending as a publicity stunt; and Branko Chen, grandson of the notorious Mavic Chen, intends to seize power and become supreme ruler of the Federation. Somebody sabotages Cressida’s impulse drive, causing it to collide with Maleficent and knock the asteroid off-course; if it collides with the Hub, it will knock out communications throughout the Federation, paving the way for Branko’s followers to stage a coup. “Mercy” attempts to stop the Doctor from interfering; her real name is Merculite, and she arrived here via Time Ring to prevent Maleficent from colliding with Uranus. However, the Doctor reveals that the real Mercy died nearly a year ago, and that he’s prepared for his rival by flooding the moon with exotic particles, which disrupt Merculite’s hold on this time and sweep her away before she can stop the Doctor. As the Doctor guides Maleficent back on course, Mel helps Prentis to broadcast a message to the entire Federation exposing Chen’s corrupt plans. Prentis then reveals that he went for broke because he’s dying of a fatal disease, and volunteers to remain on Cressida and ensure that Maleficent collides with Uranus. The Doctor evacuates the VIPs from Cressida before the asteroids collide, driving Maleficent into Uranus and destroying Cressida. Prentis is apparently killed in the explosion, but the Doctor later uses the TARDIS, first to go back in Time and nudge Maleficent out of the Kuiper Belt towards Uranus, and then to go forward in Time and greet the new life form as it emerges from Uranus. As he’d hoped, the new being has some of the memories and personality of Prentis Duke.

Time-Placement: Mel has been travelling with the Doctor long enough to feel as though she’s becoming jaded; however, the Doctor’s persona is not as dark as it later gets.

Continuity: the Doctor tells Mel that turning a planet into a spaceship isn’t as original as she’d think, presumably referring to The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He also recalls once using the TARDIS as a cricket bat; this is presumably a reference to The Horns of Nimon, although in that story he actually used it as a cricket ball. Mention is made of Pakhars (introduced in Legacy) and Chelonians (The Highest Science), and Chen is seen to be working with Technix (The Daleks’ Masterplan).

Neptune by Richard Dinnick 3rd Doctor, Sarah

The Doctor and Sarah visit an alien colony on the planet Cerulean, inhabited by the Siccati, a race of artists who venerate beauty above all other considerations. However, according to a Siccati named Pug<Ilism, the colony is under attack from the planet Vermillion. The Doctor and Sarah witness the results of an attack when Pug’s new sculpture, an artistic device designed to deflect asteroid strikes, fails to destroy a missile on its way towards the colony. The missile damages the colony’s force field, and although the Doctor and Sarah get to shelter with a number of other Siccati, all those caught out in the open are killed when the exterior atmosphere leaks in through the breach. The Doctor repairs the damaged stabilisers that keep this colony afloat on a sea of methane ice, and improves Pug’s sculpture so that the next missile is destroyed before it can cause any further damage. The Doctor then discovers that “Cerulean” is in fact the planet Neptune, some time in Sarah’s past; the attacks are coming from Sedna, a tenth planet as yet undiscovered in Sarah’s time. The leader of the Cerulean colony, Tene>Brism, then reports that their enemies, the Arrangers, are sending two alien representatives to conduct peace talks, and requests that the Doctor represent Cerulean at the talks. Before he can do so, however, the TARDIS detects another TARDIS preparing to Time Ram his, and the Doctor has no choice but to take Sarah and depart, apparently abandoning the Siccati to their fate. As they go, however, he informs Sarah that the “other” TARDIS appeared to be an echo of his own -- and back on Cerulean, a future version of the Doctor’s TARDIS materialises, and Jeremy Fitzoliver emerges...

Time-Placement: the Doctor is still trying to get Sarah to Florana, as he promised after Invasion of the Dinosaurs. This is not the first time he has failed to do so.

Continuity: the story continues in Sedna.

Pluto by Dale Smith 2nd Doctor, Ben, Polly

Even after seeing him defeat the Daleks on Vulcan, Ben isn’t convinced that the newly-regenerated Doctor is still the same man he first met in London. The TARDIS materialises on Charon, Pluto’s satellite, in an artificial environment protected by a force field, and almost immediately, the crew stumble across a dead body. They are confronted by the cyborg Professor Magellan and his human associates, Spinks and Ray; though Spinks is suspicious of the new arrivals, Magellan determines that they are not responsible for murdering Scrivens, who it seems killed himself. The Doctor learns that the humans have been suffering from nightmares recently, and that their colleague, Ask, disappeared some time ago. Ray finds a fissure leading into the depths of Charon, to a chamber where Ask’s body is suspended in cryogenic stasis along with a number of alien bodies. Despite the Doctor’s objections, Magellan kills the sleeping aliens and “rescues” Ask; however, that night, something kills Spinks and Ask wakes in a state of panic, claiming that a terrible mistake has been made. Against Magellan’s orders, the Doctor returns to the cryogenics chamber and enters one of the caskets -- and when the others follow him, Magellan is attacked and nearly killed by a living shadow. A wall of water appears from nowhere and washes the shadow away, giving the Doctor just enough time to explain that this chamber is a prison cell for the shadow, which had been telepathically contained by the aliens’ minds. When one of the warders died, the others sent out a telepathic distress call, summoning Ask to take the dead alien’s place; by killing the other warders, Magellan has inadvertently released their prisoner, a mindless force of destruction. The Doctor orders the others to join him in the caskets, and together they forge a new telepathic gestalt, through which they are able to remove the shadow’s aggressive tendencies. The bulk of the shadow will remain dormant on Charon, spreading relatively harmless bad dreams, while the Doctor, his companions, and the human survivors keep its aggressiveness contained within themselves. Ben is granted a glimpse of the Doctor’s personality through the gestalt, and finally accepts that this man is the Doctor he knew.

Time-Placement: at the beginning of the story, Ben still does not trust that the man calling himself the Doctor is in fact the Doctor.

Sedna by Andrew Frankham 3rd Doctor, Jeremy

The Doctor and Jeremy Fitzoliver materialise on a Siccati city on the planet Sedna, and the Doctor realises that the Siccati he once encountered on Neptune are under attack by their own kind. He and Jeremy seek an audience with the Arrangers, but the Arrangers will only speak to those who present them with artistic masterpieces. The Doctor paints a beautiful Victorian summer scene, but is shocked when the Arrangers reject his work and approve Jeremy’s ham-fisted attempt to sculpt a vase. As the irritated Doctor continues trying to create a masterpiece, Jeremy is given a tour of the city; however, he is separated from his guide Aquati>Ntism, gets lost, and inadvertently discovers that the Siccati are preparing to drop a planet-cracking bomb into the centre of Sedna. In desperation, Jeremy demands that the Doctor be allowed to accompany him to his meeting with the Arrangers, three of the eldest Siccati. The Arrangers explain that their species is creating a Great Tapestry that involves turning whole worlds into works of art; the Siccati on Neptune were supposed to be preparing that planet for transformation once the work on Sedna was done, but they have decided to settle permanently on Neptune, thus turning their backs on the Great Tapestry and angering the Arrangers. Jeremy suggests settling their differences through an artistic competition, and when the Arrangers choose him to judge their work, the Doctor prompts him into selecting the same artwork chosen by the Cerulean adjudicator. The Arrangers are unsure whether they can bring themselves to abandon their great work, but Jeremy then asks what made them choose his pathetic vase. The chief Arranger, Trompel>Oeilism, admits that while a long life of seeing nothing but perfect art has jaded him to its beauty, the enthusiasm that went into Jeremy’s imperfect work touched something in him. The Doctor points out that this means there is beauty to be found in imperfection, and the Arrangers accept this argument, leave their fellow Siccati in peace, and agree to alter the design of their Great Tapestry to celebrate the imperfection of the Universe.

Time-Placement: the Doctor and Jeremy appear to be travelling without Sarah. Obviously set after Neptune, but otherwise arbitrary.

Source: Cameron Dixon

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