The Sotheby's Folio Update.

Commerce    Back in June I wrote about seeing a Shakespeare First Folio in London ahead of its sale in New York.  As The Guardian reports, the book's been sold:
"An original copy of William Shakespeare’s first collected book of plays has been sold for more than £2m at Sotheby’s auction house in New York."
Hopefully whoever bought it will enjoy having it and perhaps loan it out once in a while.  A lot of the copies in private hands are sat in vaults in Tokyo.

This also means that the Folio was the most valuable item in the room that day.

Illumination (Short Trips: Christmas Around the World)

Prose  Izzy!  Of all the eras dipped into by other media, the Doctor Who comics is the rarest.  Other than the Izzy's Story audio, Miss Sinclair only appears in two Short Trips, Syntax from Life Sciences (which I'm still yet to catch up on) and Illumination from Christmas Around The World.  David Bailey writes both and here at least he captures the comics companion's voice perfectly from the enthusiasm to the 90s references.  He also takes time to knit this into comics continuity with a mention for Faye/Feyde/Fey (or however its spelt).  

As befits a Christmas story, this has lots and lots of snow as the Doctor takes Izzy to Lapland only to find himself kidnapped by Norse warriors and bumping into Adam of Bremen, the medieval historian (so this is a celebrity historical of sorts).  They observe the locals being even more bloodthirsty than usual in scenes which certainly wouldn't have been in the comic and set out to discover what's effecting their behaviour and attempting to convince Adam not to spread misinformation about the Vikings in a bid to promote Christianity.

In the opening few paragraphs, there's a conversation I'm not sure I've seen elsewhere in which Izzy badgers the Doctor to explain his attire which he admits is fancy dress.  Across media up until this point its generally assumed that the Doctor's wearing the same clothes he nabbed from a locker in San Francisco which means unless he stopped off every now and then to get them dry cleaned, they must be getting a bit ratty now.  Also the Eighth Doctor doesn't wear socks.  I don't think I've ever noticed that before.

Placement:  After TV Action.  It's one of the few clean breaks in the comics.

Transmission Ends (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Prose As the title suggests this is the final story in the Transmissions anthology and like the Decalogs of old ties all of the stories together, in this instance by utilises fragments of them as metaphors in a telepathic conversation between the Doctor and the alien threat.  

Despite only having read the Eighth Doctor related stories in Transmissions, the author senses this might be the case and gives enough information through the Time Lord's recognition to navigate the sense of what's being communicated by this entity which has become ensnared in the terraforming satellites of a colony world.  

These flashbacks make this a sort of cross between TNG's Darmok and also TNG's Shades of Grey, what a Doctor Who clip show might look like in prose form.  But they're cleverly refocused in the first person from the Doctor's POV which gives the whole story a more substantial, novelistic feeling.

The relationship between Eighth and the young boy who's helping him, Alex, is incredibly poignant, the poor boy having been the original target for the alien's attempts at communication.  It's another story about how the Doctor sometimes isn't able to save everyone, even the most courageous.  

Placement:  Huh.  The since the alien's using the Doctor's own memories for the communication it has to be set after all of the other stories.  So I'm arbitrarily going to put it before Situation Vacant, as though it's one of the reasons he's decided he needs to find someone new to travel with.

Lonely (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Prose  Written in 2008 when Twitter was still a friendly place and Facebook had only recently opened themselves up to anyone rather than students, Lonely is structured around an old fashioned IRC chatroom, with the story developing amongst the various members of a forum designed for lonely people (bit close, as they say, to home there love).  It nicely captures the element of random strangers getting to know one another from across the world, along with the bozo who turns up having completely misunderstood the point of that particular chatroom and does something pr0ny.  <jsmith8> inevitably shows up to sort out the problem which develops, although despite its vintage, he comes across more like the socially less aware 12th Doctor with a touch of the Seventh Doctor's genocidal nature, unless that's just how his online persona manifests itself.  Few of us are same in real life as we are online.

Placement: Absolutely no hints but given the Doctor's slightly brusque manner it's probably between The Girl Who Never Was and Blood of the Daleks.

War in a Time of Peace (Short Trips: Destination Prague)

Prose The twist at the end of this is similar to the reveal at the close of the Eighth Doctor's other story from this anthology, Lady of the Snows.  The Doctor decides to show Charley the titular city one Christmas Eve in the future when Earth is thriving thanks to the countries on various continents having joined together to create super states and eradicating war.  Except they discover a Prague shielded by a huge protective dome and a populace fearful for their lives due to the war which is ranging outside.  The rest of the story is about the Doctor biding his time until he's in a position to prove them wrong.  

There's much fun to be had.  Most of the story takes place in a prison cell with Charley becoming increasingly frustrated with the Doctor's apparent apathy but knowing deep down that he probably has a plan but he's not telling her.  The main supporting character Ilsa, a local police officer, is also particularly well drawn as she decides to help the TARDIS team against her better judgement.  There are some real gems hidden in these collectors items and its surprising that Big Finish haven't found some way of re-releasing them in another form, perhaps as audio books.

Placement: Between Embrace the Darkness and Time of the Daleks.  They seem very comfortable with one another.

The Long Midwinter (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)

Prose  The problem with reading festive stories out of season is you can be a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to the more obvious details.  The Doctor, Samson and Gemma visit a Pandora like planet in which a group of humans in the far future have been genetically modified to exist in a cold atmosphere by becoming branches of a tree essentially, but not until the end of the story did I realise why there even was a great tree in this particular short story.  His companions come across as being slightly less mature than in their other adventures, Samson in particular giving us some mild islamophobia.  But there's some nice poetry in here and it's one of those kinds of stories in which the Doctor can't really do much but inspire those he's trying to help to take the next step.  But that may be enough.

Placement:  Between Mary and Charley.

Not in My Back Yard (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)

Prose  Fucking hell this is good.  Eddie Robson delivers a love letter to the NAs, EDAs and DWM comics just as attention was shifting elsewhere in 2005.  The Eighth Doctor and a new bespoke travelling companion he's just bust out of prison pitch up in the Seventh Doctor's favourite village of Cheldon Bonniface at Christmas in a future time so that he can hide her in what was once a friendly UK immigration service for aliens.  Sadly there's now a government in place which is taking much the same approach as the one we have in 2022 with tabloids creating a similar level of fear.  As the detention centre awaits closure the Doctor decides to take everyone into the village for a final Christmas bash and there are hijinks.  Many, many hijinks.

He can correct me on this, but I think this was Robson's first full Eighth Doctor story and he just nails it.  The tone is humorous and a bit daft but with a thematically serious core.  There are moments of physical and verbal comedy which leap off the page and look ahead to the broader edges of the TV revival.  This might be seventeen years ago but it feels totally fresh right down the huge event which happened about 5/6ths of the way through and then another 8/10ths after that.  Eddie's mainly written audio adventures since and he began writing was just a bit too late for the novels and it's a real shame we didn't see an EDA from him.

Placement:  For spoilery reasons there are some continuity references and a conversation right at the end which put it after The Gallifrey Chronicles but before Endgame.  

The Heroine, The Hero and the Megalomaniac (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)

Prose Utterly superb.  Like a espresso shot of the EDAs, this is a multi-Doctor story with bite as Seventh or as he's described here, "dark and manipulative" remonstrates with Eighth about saving Charley and the implications it has for the universe.  As in the BBC books, they absolutely hate one another, philosophical polar opposites on how they should be using their gifts.  After being made aware of her presence "Dark and manipulative" clearly sees Charley has a threat that needs to be dealt with and where it not for us already knowing how her stories plays out, it feels as though she might be in mortal danger from this earlier incarnation until Eighth is able to talk him around.  Somewhat.

Told from three parallel points of view on the story as per the title, for Charley, for the Doctor and the Baron, the proto-Sabbath who's in charge of the colony with a suspicious technology but wants to rule the universe, it's not quite a Rashomon affair since were just getting more information on the same series of events, rather than anything contradictory.  But writer Ian Mond is  nevertheless able to utilise the structure to provide a couple of good twists in our expectations ultimately in a way which shows that no matter which daft old face the Doctor has and whatever his methods, they're still the same being inside with the roughly similar goals.

Placement:  Another story which references Seasons of Fear but no later, so I'll put it in the gap between that and Embrace the Darkness.  One of the strengths of the story is it feels of a piece with the rest of that season with Charley's status an important point.  

Before Midnight (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)

Prose This is the second half or first half or first quarter and last quarter of After Midnight and having read both it makes about as much sense as Dimensions in Time.  I understand the concept now, that these are the stories at either end of an anthology which takes place across 24 hours, albeit in different parts of space and time.  But in an effort to also join all of those stories together and suggest that a submerged consciousness is experiencing all of those tales in a time loop, it's the expression of that time loop and how it's created which isn't quite enunciated properly, especially the bit about the Doctor and his friends inhabiting the bodies of their former selves.  Still, it's at least pretty entertaining and its good to have some fun C'rizz action which doesn't involving him moping about something or other.

Placement: After After Midnight.

After Midnight (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)

Prose   As you will have gathered, I'm reading this Short Trips in isolation so I know that with After Midnight as the opening story in this anthology and Before Midnight as the closer, that some of the mysteries will be explained later.  As it stands this is a pretty fun round around in which the Doctor, Charley and yes C'rizz go to extraordinary lengths to thwart an intergalactic jewel thief.  The reveal of how they become part of the story I won't spoil, but it's in a way which wouldn't work quite the same in another medium as the prose style subtly shifts and its refreshing to have a story which doesn't read like a novelisation.

Placement:  C'rizz seems very confused by Earth customs so I'll put it just after Terror Firma.

Reversal of Fortune (Short Trips: Steel Skies)

Prose Placement:   There's nothing in this story to suggest the Doctor's appearance are concurrent from his point of view, but assuming they are it feels later in his travels, so between Shada and the Marys.

Perhaps Reversal of Fortune is just a bit too short to fully explore the premise.  Graeme Burk's prose captures the tragedy of a life led in the past, something most of us could do with internalising.  Which makes it difficult to read in places.  It's told in a reverse order from the protagonists perspective and although it seems to be the Doctor's dropping by in the opposite chronological direction it seems more jumbled up than that.  Like Greenaway in the same collection, another story about the Doctor visiting someone at various stages in their life.  They're also often so short that you can't really talk about them as individual pieces in any meaningful way without repeating yourself or try to do anything interesting.  I'm catching up on a number of these Short Trips, which is why the blog's overrun with them at the moment so as not to leave gaps in the Eighth Doctor checklist.

Faithful Friends: Part 3 (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)

Prose   This is the final entry in a trilogy of stories about the Brigadier at Christmas across his life.  Alistair awakens on the 25th December to find Eighth and Charley putting together a large lunch for a number of invited guests, a who's who of the old soldier's life.  When Osgood's introduced, it took me a moment to remember this was written in 2007 and it didn't mean her.  Side note:  Although Steven Moffat intended Petronella to be the daughter of Tom Osgood, presumably the man mentioned here, Dave Rudden took it upon himself to give her a whole different father and family in The Wintertime Paradox who may or may not have been involved at UNIT.  Perhaps Tom's her uncle instead.

Placement:  Has to be after Minuet in Hell but before The Shadows of Avalon (when the Brig was rejuvenated) which is narratively impossible but chronologically fine.  The less said about CyberBrig, the better.  Let's say they popped in after Seasons of Fear wanting a break.

Greenaway (Short Trips: Steel Skies)

Prose  One of the genre of stories in which the Doctor confronts the consequences of ordinary people becoming involved in his extraordinary adventures.  Over time various incarnations, including Eighth, visit a dying man, trying but failing to help him after he aided them in fighting a dangerous threat.  Perhaps the most interesting element of the story is the inclusion of a future Doctor, based according to the writer Peter Anghelides, on one of his university friends, with ginger hair, a big afghan coat smelling of patchouli oil.  The TARDIS Datacore has a whole entry for this incarnation offering various appearances and implying he's the source of the running joke after regenerations about still not being ginger.

Placement:  Eighth's behaviour suggests that for him this is early when he's still trying to sort out some of his past mistakes.

For the Man Who Has Everything (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)

Prose  Another brilliant entry from The Ghosts of Christmas anthology.  Spin-off veteran Dan Abnett offers up a two hander in which the Doctor chases a cosmic wish-giving bauble to the office of the Home Secretary and finds himself comforting the politician's private secretary spending another festive season alone.  As she outlines her years long platonic relationship with her boss, the Doctor reflects on how this reminds him of how he treats his companions and friends.  A lovely, well written story in which the Eighth Doctor's personality shines through.

Placement: Early, in the period after his regeneration when it feels like he trying to make amends and discover who he is.

Doctor Who and the Adaptation of Death (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Prose  Delightful.  Graeme Burk wrote one of my favourite tales in the original BBC anthologies, Turnabout Is Fair Play from Short Trips and Side Steps and he brings the same kind of Adamsian humour to this story of a screenwriter put on trial by a race of aliens for their portrayal in his movie adaptation of an alien invasion.  They're annoyed with the dumbing down of one of their heroes and the Doctor's omission from events.  

Cross cutting between parts of the script (to represent the film) and prose for the actual events (as drawn from the Doctor's own mind), Burke is discussing our predilection for nit-picking drama which allows excitement to make way for facts.  Burk knows his stuff (having authored several non-fiction books about Who)  There's an immensely funny joke about film studies based on a deeeep cut.

But there are many funny jokes.  Across its dozen or so pages, there more wit and excitement than a lot of Doctor Who and it's a real shame Burk hasn't had the opportunity to write something longer, assuming he has the interest. 

Placement:  Burk mentions the Doctor and Charley have been travelling together for years so I'm minded to place this between Embrace The Darkness and Time of the Daleks - any later than that and it's after the Divergent Universe and the tone doesn't feel right for then.

They Fell (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)

Prose   Absolutely lovely.  A Christmas chiller about a little girl who's family is acting strangely this has everything you'd want from an Eighth Doctor story, from entertaining clattering about in TARDIS console room, funny banter between him and Charley, the genuine sense that he's enjoying himself and that kind of indefinable magic and brief following that reliable writer like Scott Handcock brings time and again.  

This is from 2007, which would have been early in his Who career, but it's all there and redolent of a number of episodes in the Moffat era a few years later, Zoe sometimes coming across as a proto-Amelia and all the talk of Angels.  When he's caught correctly, the Eighth Doctor on the page comes across as Tenth without the "Weeellll...." and that's what you get here.

Placement: In the gap between seasons.  The Doctor and Charley are comfortable with one another and there isn't any angst.  They're described as laughing and giggling with one another.

Nettles (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Prose  Sigh, they can't all be great and my suspicion is a few of these stories don't work well outside of their anthology position where they become swept up with the other tales creating an overall mood.  After reading this Short Trip it took a look at the TARDIS Data Core page to work out what Nettles was about.  It seemed to be a relitigating of the virus scene from Genesis of the Daleks, "Davros if you had created a virus in your laboratory something contagious and infectious that killed on contact a virus that would destroy all other forms of life would you allow its use?" that sort of thing.  But the wiki actually explains that its about Eighth creating a silent revolution by convincing a geneticist to engage in eugenics so that eventually the people will be physically strong enough to overthrow the government.  To be honest, I hate that idea even more.  Only reflection it is in there, but honesty I don't think it's clear enough.  Either way it feels more like something the Seventh Doctor would do.  Eighth is more prone to direct action, life's champion and all that.

Placement: Early.  Between The Eight Doctors and The Dying Days when he's still cooking, trying to discover what kind of man he is.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode you will have missed.

 

TV Find above this week's TechMoan video which is all about the 2-XL, a toy in the shape of a robot which utilised 8-track tapes to offer quizzes and games. Even though it was released in the late 70s, I was probably too young to be contact with them, let alone own one, but it's a fascinating look at how ingenious engineers were in the pre-digital era in utilising analogue technology to create the illusion of futuristic toys. Now of course you can call up such quizzes through a so-called smart speaker. Try saying "Alexa, play Pointless..."

Later in the video, channel creator Matt mentions that the idea was recycled in the early nineties for compact cassette by Tiger Electronics.  As per the Wikipedia page, these weren't too dissimilar to the 8-track versions, in that they utilised the four channels across the tape to create the various options, in the original's case questions and answers, in the remake, options in a "choose your own adventure type story" which used licenses from the likes of MARVEL, DC, Saban Entertainment and Paramount Television.

And thanks to this emulation page (also via Techmoan) you can play them all, old and new.  After trying a few it's clear that even in the licensed tapes, for the most part the voices were supplied by the same few actors.  Chaos in Jurassic Park has those performers offering some pretty good impressions of Bob Peck, Laura Dern and Sam Neil in a rewrite of the film's story.  But working through a few more it becomes apparent that in some cases, like the Power Rangers, original cast members do make an appearance.

The one I actually bothered to play all the way through is Star Trek: The Next Generation's Blinded By The Light assuming that, like the old Peter Pan story singles, it would feature at best sound alikes.  So imagine my surprise when up pops your actual LeVar Burton in a solo adventure for Geordi Le Forge which is "official" enough to have its own Memory Alpha page.  It's the early 90s and here's a real cast member recording spin-off material.  I've tweeted him for more details, because of course I have and I'll update if he replies.

The adventure itself is fine, as Geordi investigates Romulan skullduggery on Fenrac III.  Even though none of the original music has been licensed, it very much has the atmosphere of the series, as the engineer meets an old school friend who he completely failed to get off with and also ties in to The Mind's Eye episode and depending on your choices sees him trying to shoot said friend thanks to him being reprogrammed again.  Whoever wrote this was clearly enough of a fan to be steep in the mythology and everything is authentic enough.

The adventure takes about half an hour and isn't too tedious, although the requirements of the technology mean that the script is unnecessarily wordy so that the various story choices can be synched together on the various audio channels.  It's also interrupted now and then by the voice of the robot, played by the creator Michael Freeman and his weird pronounciations, with space related questions and if you manage to get these correct, you're given a field promotion to acting ensign.  I did not reach this distinction.

Anyway, you can play the adventure yourself here and like Charlie Brooker's Bandersnatch, perhaps its most recent equivalent, there are enough story branches that it bares repeat playing, more than perhaps a simple quiz would in the 8-track version of this technology.  I managed to fail the mission although I'm not sure how.   Perhaps I pressed the wrong button.  You could always just listen through each of the four channels in turn I suppose but what would be the fun in that?