If I Should Die Before I Wake (Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares)

Audio  Marvellous, just marvellous, as good as an Eighth and Charley has ever been.  John Dorney's script (from a story by Jac Rayner) runs with Big Finish current tagline "for the love of stories" as the cue for a meditation on myths, narrative structure and the connection between dreams and imagination.  The Doctor's reading a series of Greek myths to Charley which she's apparently experiencing in the first person and frustrates him by giving her "character" easy ways to survive.  But there are other random elements in the console room and it slowly becomes apparent that the Dream Crabs from TV's Last Christmas have their claws into one or both of them.

As I said about The End of the Beginning recently, it's incredible that after all these years as soon as Paul and India are interacting with one another again, twenty odd years disappear from both their voices and we're right back in that first exciting week when most of the first series was recorded and the chemistry between them returns.  In the extras, both are clearly delighted to be working together again, albeit in lockdown in bedrooms and cupboards unable to even see each other.  There's an electricity which you just don't get when one or the other isn't present (although to be fair that was the case for large sections of the 8th+Lucie stories and I didn't notice.

Although he's not mentioned, I wonder how much of this was influenced by Lionel Fanthorpe.  Although I knew him best for Fortean TV back in the 90s, my science fiction writing tutor spoke warmly of his many hundreds of novels in which he'd often write an abrupt ending because he'd reached his word count, "one leap and he was free".  That's often how Doctor Who stories end, plenty of build up then a quick squeeze of the sonic screwdriver or whatever.  Fanthorpe also incorporated ancient mythology including Greece into his stories as he crafted a novel based on a cover which had already been selected, kind of like the "shopping lists" which Who writers often have to work from.

It's also a companion piece to Rob Shearman's Scherzo, which was also a two hander and which also featured a fair amount of body horror.  Like that story the Doctor and Charley are trying to escape a place were the laws of time and reality no longer exist but whereas there they had to overcome a fractured friendship, here its their closeness which is almost their undoing.  Although the Doctor becomes increasingly frustrated with Charley's attempts at preserving her own life, for various reasons, its so that she can save him.  In Scherzo, they were forced into working together as their bodies literally began to merge.

Placement: After Solitaire.

Bounty (Earth and Beyond)

Bounty has many firsts.  Beyond the TV Movie and The Eight Doctors, here's his first trip in the TARDIS with Sam Jones, a side step to the Seychelles and an encounter with some alien bounty hunters.  It's also his first original audio adventure nestling alongside two recordings of previously published Short Trips.  It's also the first original story read by Paul McGann, the first time we would have heard him say new dialogue in character (he'd previous read an abridged audiobook of the TV Movie).  This was published so long ago, it was a cassette release.  The version I listened to was from the re-re-release of the MP3-CD anthology Tales from the TARDIS, downloaded from Audible.  Eighth Doctor stories don't get much earlier than this.

Is it a taste of paradise?  Oh God yes.  It's taken me (does maths) twenty-five years to get around to listening to this  (although to be fair I didn't become a fan until a couple of years after its publication date) and it's a nostalgic delight to hear Paul reading a story about Sam Jones, with writer Peter Anghelides (who offers some background on this website) managing to fit in some of Eighth's early signature elements like the way he repeats his new companion's name "Sam, Sam, Sam ...", his purple Volkswagen Beetle, waistcoat business and how he somehow (telepathically?) knows facts about the people he encounters not long after he's encountered them.  How much did he know about where these tales came from?  Did he expect to be reading more or was this a one off?

The story itself is pretty straightforward but that in and of itself is refreshing.  The tendency with Short Trips and Short Trips about the Eighth Doctor in particular is to take a more experimental approach but there's also something to be said for a well executed adventure with a couple of character through lines and an explosive conclusion.  Bounty isn't long, just over half an hour in mp3 duration, but there's enough here to explain how this TARDIS team bonded between The Eight Doctors and Vampire Science, even if the Doctor dropped Sam off at a Greenpeace Rally soon afterwards and spent three years mentally getting his shit together before scooping her up again.

Placement:  Just after The Eight Doctors.

One Fateful Knight (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)

Prose  In his introduction, anthology editor Keith R A Candido offers some amazement at the names he's been able to coax into writing their first Doctor Who stories for his book.  One Fateful Knight written by Peter Freaking David, who's writing has touched on almost all of the major and minor franchises across comics and novels, not to mention his own IP.  In his single (so far) entry for the Whoniverse, David (presumably on the assumption it would be his only chance) decides to do nothing less than provide a prequel and sequel to Battlefield, attempting to explain the references to the Doctor being Merlin.

Was he aware of what's come before?  It's been pretty well established via numerous other spin-off sources that the Merlin in Battlefield is a future incarnation of the Doctor, although given the number of different explanations offered elsewhere over the years, having him be both the eighth Doctor and another Monkish renegade pretending to be the eighth Doctor, popping in and out of Arthur's life is as good as any especially since as late as 2021, Jac Raynor wrote a novel in which the Tenth Doctor inherited the mantle.

What does matter is that this is a thrilling entertaining story which packs a lot into its twenty or so pages as the author also offers his own take on what a post regeneration Eighth Doctor would be like - he even refers to still relearning how to fly the TARDIS.    Was this simply so he didn't have to deal with over a decades continuity?  Did he choose to write for the Eight?  Either way. his face offs with "Merlin" and Morgaine are as amusing as they should be and there's plenty of fun to be had seeing how David ties it into the television adventure.  

He's still experiencing ongoing health issues amid the US system, so if you want to contribute, the GoFundMe is here.

Placement:  After all these years this is the last of the Big Finish Short Trips anthologies I've had to catch-up on, so its a wild coincidence that it should be the first chronologically.  Much like Model Train Set and Totem, this is Eighth dealing with some of the more questionable choices of his previous incarnation, so lets drop it just after them.  Onwards to the rest of the audios.

From Little Acorns/Epilogue (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)

Prose  The Quality of Leadership's theme is baked into the title, the Time Lord interacts with numerous heads of state in his various incarnations.  From Little Acorns and the Epilogue offer a framing device in which Eighth, having successfully helped the rightful heir to the throne fight off a coup, spends and even recounting these tales in order to offer some insight into successful governance and bolster a new King who is unsure of his experience or talent.  In the epilogue he returns to see how the premiership went and if his guidance helped as we discover that to some extent the Doctor is salving his own conscience having somewhat failed in similar efforts before.  Eighth gets a few rare sonic screwdriver moments in here and after recently reading so many small scale stories recently, it's fun to have something on a more epic scale with higher stakes.

Placement:  As with so many of these Short Trips, early.  But not as early as the other story in this anthology.

The End (Life Sciences)

Prose  As the title suggest, this is supposed to portray the Eighth Doctor sensing the end of his current incarnation and thinking about unfinished business and legacy.  Along with some fellow time travellers, he's set up a kind of waystation out of time in the event horizon of a black hole, where they can meet, exchange ideas and feel a kinship, the Doctor motivated by his estrangement from the other Time Lords.  As you might expect, it does not go well.  Although this was written in 2004, this version of Eighth feels akin to the broken mess who bothered River and Bernice in The Legacy of Time's Lies in Ruins and the "future" version we heard in the Mary Shelley portion of A Company of Friends (if slightly more coherent), the living embodiment of chronological existentialism.

Placement:  This old chronology puts it just before The Night of the Doctor and I can't disagree.

Jonah (Life Sciences).

Prose  Who knows (other than the author) how the Doctor stumbles into stories like this?  Did he just happen to be in the area and stumble upon young Jonah randomly or was he already on the trail of some medical malfeasance?  Either way, this the kind of "low key" adventure about the Doctor taking an "ethical and moral" stand and choosing to save one life over another even though, given that he has access to "all of time and space, everywhere and anywhere, every star that ever was" he could probably find a way to medically save both (justice for Abigail).  Of course, if the Doctor would be breaking some kind of temporal prime directive if he went around curing all diseases,  but at least he'd be living up to his name.  A framing device tries to explain his choice is justified but there's still something inherently unDoctorish about his solution.

Placement:  Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and put it early, in the moments when he's still trying to work what kind of man he is. 

Syntax (Short Trips: Life Sciences)

Prose  Another "with Izzy" exploit from David Bailey and like his later Illumination from Christmas Around The World, he captures this particular Doctor/companion relationship perfectly.  There's a moment when Izzy recounts one of the Doctor's lectures back to him and you can imagine a couple of frames in the comic in which the speech bubble almost crowds out her head.  The story itself, about a sentient pheromone which enslaves the population of a planet would work as a two or three part strip with plenty of scope for outlandish artwork, especially when Izzy is under the influence of the atmosphere.  Unless something changes, this will be last of the stories I'll be reading featuring this most important of characters and I'm really going to miss her adventures.  I'll certainly be having another look at the comics once I'm all caught up with the Eighth Doctor's other adventures.

Placement: Tucked in between TV Action! and Illumination.

DS Al Fine (Time Signature)

Prose  Thematically, the Time Signature anthology seems akin to the Ashildr from the television series, in which one of the Doctor's choices has ramifications which on and on.  Unlike that story, here the Doctor is able to have do-over and large sections of his own personal history are re-established so that a decision he made in good faith doesn't destroy half the universe after all.  Of all Short Trips books, this seems to be one which works best when read cover to cover, which I'm sure you'll be unsurprised to hear, I haven't done (yet).  So not a lot of this story made much sense without a glance at the TDC.  So consider this paragraph a placeholder until I've had a chance to experience the whole story.

Placement: Between Shada and Mary, I guess.

Second Contact (Time Signature)

Prose  To what extent has any Doctor Who story "happened"?  If time can be rewritten and the whole timeline is changes anyway every time a TARDIS lands and someone steps out of the doors, any continuity errors or Time Lord memory lapses across the franchise can be excused because fixed points in time only exist when the Doctor (or whoever) knows or remembers what was supposed to "happen" and his big alien brain can't really keep everything on track.  Thanks to Genesis of the Daleks, the first Doctor's encounters with Davros's creations become malleable to such a degree that some versions of AHistory have to account for there being two different continuities before and after.

Although it appears earlier in the anthology, the events of Second Contact are rewritten by something which happens in a later story, so does that mean the Doctor was never in place to mediate this encounter between the native peoples of a continent and a doomed Viking colony and was there even greater loss of life as a consequence?  The TARDIS Datacore suggests this story happens in an "alternative timeline" but Doctor Who has rarely gone in for that sort of thing.  But its also undeniable that the Doctor shouldn't be in this place because his future self changes his past.  Honestly, Blinovitch would have a fit.

Placement:  Given the mess this has made on the carpet, I'm banishing it to the "almost" section.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1957.

The Toddler's Truce ended in 1957.  This didn't lead to some kind of conflict with children (well, not more than usual), but rather the gap in programming which had been agreed just after the second world war between 6pm and 7pm, the end of CBBC and prime time, enough time to put the little ones to bed.

Except by 1956, franchise holders in the fledgling ITA/ITV service found that it was cutting severely into their advertising profits and so their ability to continue broadcasting.  They saw the BBC's ability to broadcast for as long or short as they like because of the licence fee as unfair competition.  

So petitions were made by Granada, ABC, ATV and Associated-Rediffusion, and the then Postmaster General, Charles Hill agreed, suggesting "it was the responsibility of parents, not the state, to put their children to bed at the right time ..."  

The BBC objected, presumably because it meant they had then to budget to fill the slot with something and refused even to a thirty minute compromise so it took a parliamentary order to force the issue, which they did on Halloween 1956.  It ended on 16 February 1957.

From the off, the BBC filled the weekdays with a news programme, in that case Tonight, and it's stayed pretty much the same ever since.  Saturday's brought the Six-Five Special and although it remained in abeyance on Sundays for at least three years, eventually Songs of Praise was added to the line-up. 

The Sky At Night

Correspondence between Patrick Moore and TV producer Paul Johnstone reveals how the birth of The Sky at Night came about.
[Sky at Night Magazine]

Numerous archive episodes of the programme.
[BBC Archive]

"Patrick Moore: Moon-mapper, xylophonist and eccentric genius. He hates May bugs and loves cats."

The Science Museum holds Sir Patrick's archive, which includes episode scripts for The Sky At Night (although nothing is digitised).  The also have a number of his possessions including a monocle and pipe, photographs of which are here.
[Science Museum Group]


"The famous Lancashire artist speaks informally about his life as the film camera explores his subjects and pictures. He is seen at work on a new painting in his studio.  Commentary by Robert Reid"
[ClarkArtLtd][BBC Programme Index]

"A star-spangled visit to the seaside.  Hylda Baker, She Knows Y'know.  David Whitfield, Cara mia. The Western Brothers, Jolly good show, chaps.  Semprini, Old ones, new ones.  Harry Bailey, A bit of blarney.  The Maple Leaf Four, Singing Canadians.  Your resident stars are:  Reginald Dixon, Mr. Blackpool himself and the Littlewood Songsters.  Introduced by Jack Watson."
[Bramley Productions][BBC Programme Index]

"Panorama reports from Switzerland, where the combination of a mild winter and the virtual disappearance of pests like the spaghetti weevil, has resulted in a bumper spaghetti crop."
[BBC Archive]

"William Forsythe tells the story of life on his farm in Ballynure, where he lives and works with his wife Joyce, and children Wilson, Charles and Muriel. How do they live and how do they like living in the country? This is the way they see their life and their countryside, village, market town and big city in Northern Ireland."
[BBC Rewind]


"Queen Elizabeth went live into millions of living rooms on Christmas afternoon in 1957."
[Town & Country]

"Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 29 May 1957: Sir Arthur fforde, who has been Headmaster of Rugby School since 1948, is to become chairman of the B.B.C. from December 1. His appointment runs until June 30, 1962."
[The Guardian]


"A new television transmitting station has been constructed at Rosemarkie, near Inverness, which should greatly improve reception in the north east of Scotland.  BBC reporter Basil Gibsone visits some Ross and Cromarty residents, to find out if they are planning to get a television set in the wake of this exciting development.  He also speaks with the technician in charge of the new transmitter about the challenges of building and maintaining a transmitter in such a remote location.  Originally broadcast 19 August, 1957."
[BBC Archive]

"An item about the BBC outside broadcast unit which will complete the television link-up that's to bring the Queen's Christmas message to the viewers."
[BBC Rewind]

"Today, a new shape in the form of a television transmitter stretches into the sky beside reminders of the past, a symbol of something undreamed of by those who wondered at the marvels of the original Crystal Palace."
[BBC Rewind]

"Today the BBC opened a new television station in Derry / Londonderry, Northern Ireland."
[BBC Rewind]


Website dedicated to cataloguing the episodes.
[Six-Five Special]

"Interview from a series of BBC radio talks in the early 1950s, including Craig's reminiscences of the artist Mary Fedinand Jacomin and Mr. Brock followed by (00:14:45) a later broadcast of "How I played Shakespeare in Salford."
[Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center][BBC Programme Index]

"Nicholas Kenyon explores early music at the BBC in the 1950s and 60s."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"On Christmas Day 1957, the BBC made a ground-breaking hour-long live broadcast, transmitting Christmas songs from around the British Isles. Texan folklorist and broadcaster Alan Lomax was the host."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"This is a brief chronology and history of series that presented theatrical adaptations on BBC television from 1957 to 1985, presenting examples of the institutional discourses that surrounded the making and transmission of these programmes."
[Forgotten Television Drama]

"Do any of you lolloping landlubbers want to know how Captain Pugwash was made? Well, coddling catfish! Here's the brave buccaneer himself to take you behind the scenes."
[BBC Archive]

"On the 18th February 1957 the BBC broadcast the first programme of a series that was destined to run to over a thousand episodes, although many people involved in making the programme were far from convinced that they would be able to pull off even the pilot successfully."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Rory Bremner looks back at 50 years of BBC Radio coverage of British test match cricket."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]


"This article examines attempts by the centralised policy makers of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to overcome a crisis at their radio service consequent to the launch of commercial television in 1955. It looks in particular at the work – the successes, failures and frustrations – of an assistant director, a bureaucrat, who planned to regenerate music policy, especially so in terms of pop and light music, which led to the formation of the numbered station system still in use today: Radios 1 - 4."
[French Journal of British Studies]

"Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North) Mr. Deputy-Speaker, my request to Mr. Speaker for an allocation of time this afternoon arose directly from a Press statement put out by the B.B.C. on 8th April. First of all, I should like very briefly to review the events which led up to that statement."

"During the year 1956-57 the Corporation reviewed its policy in relation to the home sound broadcasting services."

"Broadcasting continues to develop and expand.  The BBC has recently evolved a new pattern for its domestic sound broadcasting services, and its television services - the network of the nation - reaches into early every part of the country."
[World Radio History]