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Short Trips: A Universe of Terrors
edited by John Binns

Cover Blurb
Short Trip: A Universe of Terrors

‘There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things...’

Join the Doctor on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe, from an alien world tyrannised by a god-like machine, to the British retreat from Afghanistan in 1842. Discover the secrets of the TARDIS’s original owner, and of three faceless creatures stranded in 21st-century Hollywood.

And finally, if you can, face the terrors that lurk in your own heart, and in your dreams...

Fourteen brand new adventures for reading after dark!

This collection features fourteen exclusive short stories from veterans of the Doctor Who universe ­ including Marc Platt, Lance Parkin, Robert Shearman, Jonathan Morris and Trevor Baxendale -- and from several authors new to it, including acclaimed fantasy novelist Juliet E. McKenna.

A Universe of Terrors is compiled and edited by John Binns who in the early Nineties edited the regular Doctor Who fiction collection Silver Carrier, in which many of today’s Doctor Who novelists and television script-writers sharpened their teeth.

‘We all have a universe of our own terrors to face’
Doctor Who: Ghost Light, by Marc Platt

  • This is the third volume of short stories published by Big Finish in the Short Trips series.
  • Released: June 2003
    ISBN: 1 84435 008 8

The Exiles by Lance Parkin 1st Doctor, Susan

Susan and her grandfather have left their homeworld, and hope that their flight went unnoticed in the confusion. Susan knows her grandfather to be a pioneer amongst their people, but he admits that he’s never actually piloted one of their time machines before; that job was always left to technicians. However, he feels sure that he will be capable of working out its principles. Susan’s grandfather sets the machine in motion, and settles down to rest in the console room while waiting to see what will happen next. Unable to sleep, Susan explores the rest of the ship, and in the wardrobe room, she finds a full-length mirror -- and sees a pale-skinned young man reflected in it. The man steps out of the mirror, baring his fangs at Susan, but then vanishes after telling her that she is not the one. Susan rushes back to the console room, where her grandfather theorises that, since they are now travelling through Time, Susan encountered a brief echo of another era, an event from either the future or the past. It is just the first of many wonders and terrors of the outside Universe which Susan’s grandfather anticipates encountering in the years to come.

Time-Placement: this takes place immediately after the Doctor and Susan’s flight from Gallifrey.

Mire and Clay by Gareth Wigmore 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara

The TARDIS materialises in Afghanistan in the year 1842 during the rebel uprising against the British who have invaded their country. After a gruelling march through the wilderness, at the mercy of Afghan soldiers, Ian ends up a captive of Gul Zaheer, a brutal Gilzai chieftain. After holding him prisoner for over a month, Zaheer forces Ian and another British prisoner, Symonds, to play tug-of-war over a pit stocked with ravenous fish. Symonds has reached his breaking point and nearly pulls Ian into the pit, but at the last moment he regains his senses and refuses to play Zaheer’s sadistic game. Zaheer’s men thus throw him into the pit. Before they can do the same to Ian, the Doctor arrives with his Afghan allies to rescue Ian, and while Zaheer is caught off guard, Ian knocks him into the pit after Symonds. Ian then passes out, and wakes to find himself safely aboard the TARDIS, recovering from his physical injuries. But it will take longer for him to recover from the knowledge that, when pushed too far, he is capable of cold-blooded murder.

Time-Placement: There are no references to other adventures in this story. Ian says he’s lost track of the number of people he’s killed, directly or indirectly, so we’ve chosen to place it somewhere after The Last Days.

Ash by Trevor Baxendale 1st Doctor, Susan

One gloomy night aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Steven of a strange incident that occurred while he and Susan were living in London. One night, they became hopelessly lost on deserted streets in the fog, and met a young girl named Joan Calder, who took them home to meet her mother and grandfather. Oddly, Mrs Calder spoke of the Blitz as though it were still going on, and the wireless set in the corner was two decades out of date; and yet when she offered tea to her visitors, she supplied them with more milk and sugar than could have been possible in a time of rationing. In the sitting room mirror, the Doctor caught a reflection of silent old Mr Calder, his face twisted into a monstrous parody of itself, and when he confronted the old man, the entire sitting room burst into flames. Instinctively, the Doctor ordered Susan to smash the mirror, and when she did so, Mr Calder crumbled to ash. The Doctor and Susan fled from the house, which, as the Doctor had suspected, had been destroyed during the Blitz. The Doctor never found out exactly what he’d encountered in that house, but suspects that, during World War One, old Mr Calder had found something atavistic and terrible in his own reflection. In any case, he feels hopeful that he and Susan saved young Joan and her mother from a fate worse than death.

Time-Placement: the framing story with Steven takes place soon after The Daleks’ Master Plan, while the Doctor and Steven are still shaken by Katarina and Sara’s deaths. The flashback story could take place either before or after Time and Relative; we’ve chosen afterwards, as the weather is chilly but not Cold, which suggests it’s closer to the autumn weather of “An Unearthly Child” than the Cold winter or the breaking spring of Time and Relative.

Face-Painter by Tara Samms 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Victoria

In Los Angeles, a former junkie whose daughter was taken from her by child services has been given what she thinks is a chance to redeem herself. Someone needs her to take care of three prisoners named the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria; they tried to escape once before, and as punishment, their faces have been removed. The woman’s new “kids” are forced to remain in the lower apartment all week, except on Tuesday, when the woman takes her to the Face-Painter, a tattoo artist who paints new patterns on their featureless heads. Several weeks go by, but one night the woman gets drunk and makes a pass at Jamie, who overpowers her and tries to escape. The Doctor chooses not to, pointing out that their faces were stolen the last time they tried to escape; who knows what will be taken if they do so again? Their only hope is to stay where they are and try to find out what’s happened to them. The next day, the tear-stricken woman goes to the Face-Painter alone to get a sunflower tattoo for herself, but the Face-Painter knows that she’s broken the rules. He himself has no eyes behind his sunglasses, and the woman realises too late that for breaking the rules, she will now have part of herself taken away.

Time-Placement: there are no references to other adventures in this story, so the placement in this case is entirely arbitrary.

Losing Track of Time by Juliet E McKenna 3rd Doctor, Jo

The Doctor and Jo visit Oxford in the early 21st century, but encounter a man who nearly died of dehydration while trying to find his way out of the stacks in the Bodleian library. When they investigate, they discover that the books are being stolen by Tynakars, a race which can manipulate the dimensions of time and space. By stealing books from the library and moving them into their own dimension, the Tynakars are removing the knowledge within those books from the timeline of the human race. The Doctor confronts the Tynakars, threatening to report them to the Time Lords, and they pursue him into the stacks, giving Jo the opportunity to grab the dimensionally transcendental box containing the stolen books. Unfortunately, there are more Tynakars here than the Doctor had anticipated, and they twist space around Jo as she flees, trying to keep her confused and unable to escape. Nevertheless, she manages to keep away from them long enough for the Doctor to circle back around to the dimensional penetration device and rewire it. He then rescues Jo from the Tynakars, and they flee from the stacks with the box as the dimension device overloads and explodes. Thousands of books begin pouring out of the box, and the Doctor and Jo decide to take their leave before they are asked to explain themselves.

Time-Placement: the Doctor seems to have chosen to make this journey rather than having been sent by the Time Lords, but he still refers to Jo as being new at time-travel.

The Discourse of Flies by Jeremy Daw 3rd Doctor, Sarah

Aimarrh, a beggar boy from the streets of Hezrah, has been Chosen by the Eternal Machine for the Passing Parade; he will be taken to the Machine and will ascend to the stars. A devout follower of the Machinist faith, Aimarrh feels honoured to be Chosen -- but as the ceremony begins, the Doctor and Sarah intervene, accompanied by rebels who do not worship the Eternal Machine. Before the entire congregation, the Doctor opens the sacred chamber and reveals the truth; the “Machine” is in fact a grotesque alien monster which has cast a mental thrall over its followers to disguise its true nature. The Chosen do not ascend to a higher plane; they are stripped of their illusions and slowly tortured to death, and the monster feeds on their agony and despair, growing stronger as it does. When it has gained enough strength, it will leave this planet behind, abandoning its followers. The fury of the congregation stuns the monster long enough for someone to fling an oil lamp at it, setting it ablaze. As the monster dies, the congregation storms out of the temple, and the Doctor and Sarah follow them to help overthrow the corrupt rulers of this false religion. But Aimarrh remains sitting in the ashes of the temple, listening to the buzzing of the flies and unable to comprehend that everything he believed in was a lie.

Time-Placement: there are no explicit references to other adventures, but Sarah does think that “travelling to an alien world... invariably involved discomfort,” suggesting she’s been to a number of alien worlds already.

The Fear by Alex Leithes 4th Doctor, K9

The Doctor suddenly vanishes from the TARDIS and finds himself falling endlessly through space. He eventually tires of the experience, and finds himself trapped in a cave with no exit, attacked by a monster which begins to eat him, piece by piece. Rather than despair or panic, he begins to look for a solution. He then finds himself in an old age home, unable to take care of himself and being patronised by the nursing staff; again, he does not despair, but looks forward to the new experiences this will bring. He is immediately transported into a padded cell, where he whiles away the time singing and composing new musical melodies. Finally his “torturer” reveals itself to be an entity who blames the Doctor for meddling in others’ lives without care for the consequences; as punishment, the entity wishes to make the Doctor feel despair and terror. As it prepares to strip the Doctor’s sanity from him, however, the Doctor realises that all of these illusions are taking place within the entity’s mind -- and he manages to convince the entity that he too may be an illusion which it has generated. Unable to prove that the Doctor is a separate being and not a part of itself, the entity realises that it may be condemning itself to a lifetime of insanity if it punishes the Doctor as it intends to. The entity is unable to decide what to do, and the Doctor is thus able to slip free of its mental thrall and return to his own body in the TARDIS.

Time-Placement: unless there’s another companion hidden away elsewhere aboard the TARDIS, this must take place while the Doctor and K9 are travelling alone together.

Mauritz by Jonathan Morris 4th Doctor, Adric

The Doctor and Adric materialise in a citadel occupied by a monk named Mauritz -- several times over. As Mauritz gives his new guests a tour of the citadel, they discover that it has been mapped out over five dimensions; thus, simply by walking in any direction, Mauritz can travel into the past, future, or alternate possibilities. Uncountable iterations of Mauritz interact within the citadel, each passing on knowledge to each other in an infinite loop of knowledge. Within this citadel, Mauritz can live out any possibility of his life to see what will happen. Adric’s fascination turns to horror when he realises that this world is entirely self-enclosed -- which means that everything, including the bricks of the citadel, the books and their bindings, and the food which Mauritz eats, is recycled from millions of his own dead bodies. Realising that Mauritz wants them to remain and keep him company, the Doctor and Adric flee back to the TARDIS -- only to see it vanish before their eyes. Since every possibility plays out within the citadel, and it was possible that the Doctor and Adric might have chosen to leave earlier, they have done so, taking the TARDIS with them. The Doctor and Adric who chose to remain will be trapped in the citadel, along with all of their future possible selves, for the rest of their lives.

Time-Placement: since it’s implied that the early scenes of The Keeper of Traken take place immediately after the TARDIS’s escape from E-Space, we choose to set this afterwards, between The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis.

The Comet's Tail by John Binns 5th Doctor

The Doctor is woken by a ringing at the doorbell, and finds the birdlike and reptilian inhabitants of the town looking for help. Though he is unable to hear what they are saying to him, he gathers that they need to be protected from a burning comet heading directly towards the town centre. The Doctor promises to find the help they need in his bookstore, but when he returns to his house to look for its keys, he finds himself lost between floors. He eventually finds a coffee bar on the fourth storey, where he meets a student named Mathilda who seems to know him by reputation. The Doctor, unsure whether he’s really here or not, concentrates upon his coffee and then finds himself in the town square of an Earth colony he once saved from alien invaders. The Imps, or Implementation Units, biological golem soldiers which helped to drive off the invaders, have apparently gone rogue and are running amok in the town. A dog-faced boy reminds the Doctor of the approaching comet and directs him towards his bookshop, but he still hasn’t found his keys and the Imps are inside the store. Two colonists then force the Doctor into protective armour which he finds he is unable to control, and he begins to feel warmer, as though the armour’s power source is overheating. The armour marches him into the coffee bar, where its weight causes the floor to collapse. As the comet draws closer and the armour overheats, Mathilda embraces the Doctor and they burn together.

Time-Placement: this story has the bizarre logic of a dream, and as the Doctor refers to his “new regeneration,” we choose to believe that this is indeed a nightmare he suffers during one of his bouts of unconsciousness in Castrovalva -- possibly while the TARDIS is heating up during Episode 1 or 2, which would explain why the last images in the dream are of burning.

Long Term by Andrew Campbell 5th Doctor

The TARDIS materialises in an infinitely large school, occupied by a dozen young boys who are all incredibly knowledgeable about physics and quantum theory. Oddly, there do not appear to be any masters, and the boys cannot recall ever receiving any lessons. Also, something has recently begun stalking and killing the boys in the most gruesome manner possible. One of the boys, Parkins, admits that he has deduced the nature of the school from first principles; the boys are members of an advanced race which has the ability to detect criminal tendencies in the newborn, and which deals with them by freezing them in childhood and confining them to this school. The Doctor hunts down the creature which has been killing the boys, and discovers that it’s a corporeal manifestation of a brutal terrorist attack which one of the children would have committed had he been allowed to grow up and do so -- an event so terrible that it has taken on physical form and now seeks revenge for not having been allowed to exist. The Doctor gathers the boys together and has them concentrate on their inner darkness, generating a being with the outward form of an innocent schoolboy. On the inside, however, it is the amalgamation of all the schoolboys’ darkest impulses -- and when the killer attacks it, the two monsters merge into one and tear each other apart. The Doctor leaves the school, but is troubled by what he has done. If the boys have rid themselves of their darkness, their confinement is now unnecessary and unjust; and in any case, the Doctor fears that it may not be entirely possible to erase the evil they did not commit, in which case the monster that was stalking them may one day return.

Time-Placement: it’s said Nyssa remained in the TARDIS, still mourning Adric’s death; we choose to place this shortly after the fresh loss of Tegan’s departure.

Soul Mate by David Bailey 5th Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan

The TARDIS materialises in the ruins of an Earth colony, and find a single survivor of an alien attack. While Tegan remains with the inconsolable Anna, the Doctor and Nyssa return to the TARDIS to locate the nearest inhabited Earth colony so they can take Anna somewhere safe. However, Anna has been driven mad with fear and loneliness, and she overpowers Tegan and ties her to a chair so Tegan will be unable to abandon her. Tegan tries to reason with Anna, but fails, as Anna appears certain that the Doctor and Nyssa will give up and leave Tegan behind. Tegan eventually lashes out at Anna, insisting that the Doctor will search the colony, find her and take her away, leaving Anna alone forever. Anna hysterically smashes the room’s window in a fit of rage and fear, and then curls up in the corner in a foetal position, giving Tegan the chance she needs to grab a shard of glass and cut herself free. She flees and finds the Doctor and Nyssa looking for her, but when the Doctor tries to confront Anna he finds the room empty and covered with dust. He and Nyssa then reveal to Tegan that their research indicates the attack on this colony occurred centuries ago. Perhaps Anna was an echo of an event so terrible it left a ghostly or dreamlike impression on space and time, and perhaps she reached out to Tegan because they were both human.

Time-Placement: Tegan seems sceptical of the suggestion that a dream could manifest itself physically, so we suggest placing this before Snakedance (perhaps the Mara was influencing her to overlook its previous manifestation in Kinda).

Whiskey and Water by Marc Platt 6th Doctor

The TARDIS takes the Doctor to California during the Gold Rush, where he encounters a soaking wet miner named John Pengelly who appears to have encountered something that has driven him mad. The Doctor loses Pengelly in the forest, and takes his deed back to Ajax Camp, where the notorious Lola Montez and her pianist are preparing to entertain the prospectors with the titillating “spider dance”. Job Clemens, the saloon owner, retrieves Pengelly’s deed from the Doctor and offers him a drink of watered-down whisky, claiming that Pengelly reneged on his contract and that the deed can therefore be reclaimed. The drink makes the Doctor feel odd, and as he retunes the saloon piano for Lola’s performance, he fails to notice strange goings-on around him. He then passes out, and awakens the next day to find that the saloon has been torn apart around him. A frightened Chinese miner claims that dead men walked into the saloon and took the others away, leaving the Doctor behind only because he was playing the piano. Clemens is holed up in the camp’s assay office, terrified that the dead men have come for the gold he’s “reclaimed” from them.

The river then breaks its banks and rushes through the camp, bringing the dead men with it, and the Doctor notices that the water in the drinks at the saloon is moving in its glasses as if trying to escape. At the Doctor’s request, Lola keeps the possessed miners entranced with her spider dance while the Doctor drowns himself in the river, taking into his body the gold dust suspended in the river water. It is in fact part of a gestalt entity from the rings of Saturn, which was knocked out of orbit by a meteor strike and eventually crashed to Earth. The miners have been separating the discrete parts of its body, and it seeks to reform itself. The Doctor and the creature both understand that there is no malice on the other’s part, and the creature thus frees the possessed miners and swamps the assay office. Clemens refuses to give up “his” gold, but the creature drowns him when he tries to shoot the Doctor. The water then retreats, carrying the stolen gold with it, and the Doctor realises that it’s going to the frozen wastes of the Arctic, the closest thing on Earth to its natural habitat.

Time-Placement: arbitrarily placed in a period during which the Sixth Doctor is travelling alone.

The Death of Me by Robert Shearman 6th Doctor

The Doctor arrives at a bed and breakfast surrounded by impenetrable fog, and meets a married couple -- Chloe and Arthur -- who seem extremely surprised to have a visitor. Arthur spends the day looking through a book of quotations for famous last words, while Chloe stares into space and does not speak to the Doctor or her husband. That night, at midnight, hundreds of identical versions of Chloe knock on the door, and when Chloe emerges she is torn apart; the same thing happens to her husband, and then to the Doctor when he rushes out in horror to intervene. However, the next morning they all wake to find themselves intact again. Arthur explains to the Doctor that, every day, a part of one’s physical form dies as old cells give way to new; perhaps as revenge, he and Chloe are killed by their own past selves, one for every day they’ve been alive, acting as scapegoats so the rest of the human race won’t have to pay the same price. The Doctor refuses to believe that this is necessary, but finds that whenever he walks into the fog he ends up back at the B&B. He is unable to find his way out, but over a month after his arrival, Chloe and Arthur admit that can escape if they simply refuse to answer when their past selves knock at the door. They have always chosen not to, as they believe that their sacrifice gives their loveless marriage meaning. The Doctor convinces them to risk choosing life over death, and that night they remain inside the house. In the morning, they find that the fog has cleared and the B&B is now on an ordinary suburban street. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, leaving Arthur and Chloe to the rest of their lives -- but Chloe has no idea what to do with limitless choice, and prays for the fog to return.

Time-Placement: also arbitrarily placed in a period during which the Sixth Doctor is travelling alone.

This is My Life by William Keith 7th Doctor

The Seventh Doctor’s TV adventures are retold in limerick form.

Time-Placement: n/a.

Gazing Void by Huw Wilkins 8th Doctor

The Doctor returns to a planet where he lost a companion fighting the brutal dictator Jeremiah Maru-Stahl, who was himself once the hero of a people’s revolution. As society puts itself together after Maru-Stahl’s brutal purges and the planet prepares for its first-ever democratic elections, the Doctor’s old friend Elias Greenwood asks him to help cure a psychotic and suicidal patient -- Maru-Stahl, whom the provisional government want sane enough to stand public trial. As the Doctor tries speaking with the alternately morose and manic Maru-Stahl, he learns that Maru-Stahl drifted into leadership by forming a union. When the ruling class turned on his peaceful union, he had little choice but to strike back, and although he tried to find peaceful solutions, the people he was leading often took out their anger on their defeated rulers and the rulers resorted to brutal tactics to put down the revolution. Eventually, faced with enemies he could not defeat by peaceful means, Maru-Stahl turned himself into a monster to fight them. Millions of innocent people died in his purges, and he knows it. The Doctor sadly tells Greenwood that he can do nothing with Maru-Stahl. He is just a man, not a monster, he will live with the guilt of all the deaths he caused for the rest of his life... and in some ways, he is not all that different from the Doctor.

Time-Placement: the Doctor is currently alone; it’s implied that his current companion was killed during the war, but we don’t learn his or her name. There is no reference to any other adventures, but the Doctor’s attitude seems more sombre than in Vampire Science. We therefore choose to place this during solo travels after The Gallifrey Chronicles.

Source: Cameron Dixon

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