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Short Trips: Zodiac
edited by Jacqueline Rayner

Cover Blurb
Short Trip: Zodiac

Take a TARDIS trip through the constellations, as the Doctor travels to twelve thrilling tales inspired by the mystical zodiac.

Telepathic fish, miniature lions and twin planets are the least of his problems, as the Doctor -- all eight of him -- faces the Capricorn Killer, endures a mindswap with the Machiavellian Master, and dances with Death herself.

And that’s not the half of it -- as the two K9s can attest.

This collection features twelve exclusive short stories from well-known names in Doctor Who fiction -- including acclaimed novelist and Booker nominee Paul Magrs, alongside Simon A Forward, Mark Michalowski, Paul Leonard and Joseph Lidster -- as well as fresh new voices.

  • This is the first short stories volume published by Big Finish in the Short Trips series.
  • Each story has a special, astrological introduction by Jim Sangster.
  • Released: December 2002
    ISBN: 1 84435 006 1

ARIES: The True and Indisputable Facts in the Case of the Ram’s Skull by Mark Michalowski 1st Doctor, Ian and Barbara

Author Edgar Allen Poe and a number of other guests attend a séance at the house of Mr R____, who has promised a surprise for the evening. Amongst the other visitors are an unnamed doctor, his friends Ian and Barbara, and Miss Allardyce and her sullen young ward Abigail, who has the gift of second sight. Drinks are served, and the visitors enter a back room where they sit in a circle around a table on which has been placed a ram’s skull with a pentagram carved upon its forehead. At Mr R____’s request, the visitors all focus their attention on the skull, and all become transfixed in place as the flesh begins to seep out of Abigail’s body and onto the skull, creating a hideous demonic visage. Abigail chortles evilly, possessed by an evil force attempting to reincorporate itself, and the Doctor manages to fling his cognac over the skull but is then paralysed, unable to move further. Realising what the Doctor intended, Poe manages to knock over the candle next to him, and the skull -- and Abigail -- both burst into flame. The others’ paralysis is broken, but, knowing that Abigail is beyond rescue, the Doctor stops the others from saving her and lets her burn. He bids a sad farewell to Poe, who, shaken by his experience, returns home and sets it down on paper... but realises too late that in doing so he has opened another gateway through which the evil may manifest itself. The next day, Poe is found wandering deliriously in the streets of Baltimore, and is taken to a hospital where he dies four days later. Shortly after his burial a mysterious figure leaves roses and cognac on his grave.

Time-Placement: The Doctor, Ian and Barbara appear to be travelling alone, which would place this story at some point between The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue.

Continuity Notes: as the “Miss G____” who secured the Doctor’s invitation is never referred to by her full name, it’s tempting to speculate that she may have been the Countess Gallowglass, the keeper of the Doctor’s mail introduced in Relative Dementias. If so, then since it’s unlikely she is alive in this era, either the Doctor has been holding onto the invitation for some time and took advantage of it when he happened to arrive in this time zone (most likely), or he successfully piloted the TARDIS to these co-ordinates. If the latter, he’s most likely using the Venusian algorithms provided by Trikhobu in the relatively recent Venusian Lullaby.

TAURUS: Growing Higher by Paul Leonard 8th Doctor and Fitz

82-year-old Sewa Singh moved to the moon because of its low gravity; when combined with antisenility treatment and organ replacements, there appeared no reason why he could not live virtually indefinitely. However, four months ago the artificial world Kuppam disintegrated when three bearings failed and the hull was breached; 50,595 people died in the disaster, and Singh was responsible for the bearings’ quality control. Political tension has been developing between the Earth and the lunar colonies for some time, and two UN officers are now on their way to take Singh back to Earth for trial; if found guilty, he will be sentenced to community service on Earth, where he knows the effect of the relatively high gravity will cause him to age and die. As his 19-year-old lover Bernadette Franklin makes breakfast, he goes out for one last look at the lunar surface. When the UN officers, Fitz Kreiner and Dr. John Smith, arrive at Singh’s home, Bernadette informs them that she will accompany Singh to Earth, to challenge the findings of the UN. Many lunar citizens feel that Singh is being used as a scapegoat, and this trial could spark a civil uprising. However, as she speaks, she receives word that the real UN officers have just landed, and the Doctor sadly reveals that he and Fitz spoke with Singh earlier -- and that he’s deliberately gone out onto the Moon’s surface in a suit without enough oxygen. The Doctor agreed to speak with Bernadette and keep her occupied until it was too late for her to rescue him, thus letting Singh take his own life with dignity rather than letting his trial condemn him to a slow and painful death and sparking the first human war in over eighty years.

Time-Placement: only the Doctor and Fitz appear in this story. It’s possible that their other companion -- Sam, Fitz, or Anji -- is doing something else in this time zone, but we speculate that this takes place immediately before The Shadows of Avalon, while Compassion is learning to be human on Earth and the Doctor and Fitz are temporarily travelling alone.

GEMINI: Twin Piques by Tony Keetch 2nd Doctor and Jamie

The Doctor and Jamie have just helped the benevolent King Gavin to oust his evil twin Conrad, and after celebrating their victory with the people, they depart in the TARDIS -- only to materialise in apparently the very same place, ten years later. Oddly, Conrad is now the king, but he’s a benevolent monarch, and the people are all convinced that the Doctor and Jamie helped him to oust his evil twin Gavin. Jamie notices that the constellations in the night sky are different, and the Doctor realises that they’re on a doppelganger world, exactly the same as the other in every respect down to the blades of grass -- but if that’s the case, why is Conrad good here and Gavin evil? The Doctor uses the TARDIS’ Fast Return Switch to arrange for both kings to meet, and soon determines that this was actually a case of sibling rivalry; both kings were annoyed by petty little aspects of the other’s behaviour, like Conrad eating with his mouth open, and their followers were too awe-struck to admit this to the kings themselves. The Doctor returns the kings to their respective worlds, but he and Jamie wonder; since they didn’t help the good King Conrad, will they do so in the future -- or do they also have doppelgangers out there?

Time-Placement: the Doctor and Jamie are travelling without any other companions, and as this does not appear to have been a mission for the Time Lords, it presumably takes place between Fury from the Deep and The Wheel in Space.

Continuity Notes: the Fast Return Switch was first introduced in Inside the Spaceship, and also played a significant role in The Witch Hunters.

CANCER: Still Lives by Ian Potter 3rd Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier

UNIT corporal Helen Martin goes missing after the Inferno incident, and there’s still no sign of her weeks later. The Doctor purports to be uninterested, but the obvious eventually occurs to Liz, and she fears that it’s occurred to the Doctor as well. When Helen went missing she was on patrol behind the Doctor’s hut, and just as Bessie was swept into the alternate universe along with him, perhaps she was as well -- and if so, there’s nothing the Doctor can do about it. In fact, Helen is sliding slowly through the parallel worlds, caught up in the wake of the Doctor’s journey and watching the entire world change slowly around her; fashion styles, news headlines and the weather altering incrementally as the days go on. After five years of this strange life, however, she briefly meets a man going the other way, a former RSF solder named Mark. They only see each other for a few seconds before sliding off in opposite directions once again, but Helen realises that they’re switching places, and goes on with renewed hope, knowing that in another five years her journey will be complete.

Time-Placement: immediately after Inferno.

LEO: Constant Companion by Simon A. Forward 2nd Doctor, Jamie and Zoë

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoë visit a strange world where spring, summer and autumn all seem to be occurring at once. There, just outside the TARDIS, the Doctor finds a cat-like creature which he impulsively decides to take aboard the TARDIS and name Marmaduke. After some weeks of having the cat claw up the TARDIS corridors and shred the clothing in the wardrobe, the Doctor begins to suffer telepathic fits and finds that he can’t keep Jamie and Zoë’s thoughts out of his head. Concluding that Marmaduke must be responsible, he tries various methods of getting rid of it, but the cat always comes back -- and the world where he first found it seems to have disappeared. Realising the truth, the Doctor re-sets the co-ordinates and materialises on the cat’s homeworld several centuries in its future. The “planet” is in fact a pocket dimension inhabited by a powerful telepath who was exiled from her own people; the cat is an extension of her id which she created as a companion, but it became too much for her to handle. When the Doctor arrived she influenced him to take it away, but since the cat is a part of her mind, her powers have waned without it, and the Doctor simply had to travel into the future until she was no longer able to shield the planet from his view. The woman accepts the cat back with good grace, admitting that she was lonely without it... and as the Doctor departs, he realises that he will be somewhat lonely without it as well.

Time-Placement: as there are no specific references to other adventures the choice of setting is somewhat arbitrary, based on the claim in The Final Sanction that Zoe continued to travel with the Doctor for some time after that adventure.

VIRGO: Virgin Lands by Sarah Groenewegen 7th Doctor, Ace and Benny

The Doctor takes Ace and Benny to an old colonial mansion in Sydney, Australia to visit a woman named LaMort. Ace is hoping for a confrontation; a gunman recently ran amok in Port Arthur, the second such massacre in a month’s time, and Ace wants to believe that an alien monster is responsible. Ace waits and then follows the Doctor in through the front door, while Benny sneaks into the house around the back -- and while Ace sees herself in an opulent house full of party guests, Benny has fought her way through an overgrown backyard jungle into an abandoned, decaying ruin. Upstairs, the Doctor is talking to a woman whom only he and Ace can see, but whom Benny can hear. Her face looks like skin stretched over a skull and her voice sounds like decay; she is LaMort, Death, and she’s weary of her role, having seen everything on Earth there is to see. The Doctor knows that death still has a vital part to play, and has Benny tell LaMort about her life. Death realises that the human race is bound to leave Earth and expand out into the cosmos, taking her influence to new worlds previously untouched; there will always be more for her to see. Ace can’t accept the finality of death, but accepts that the human race is responsible for its own crimes.

Time-Placement: somewhat arbitrarily chosen to fit within the release schedule of the other “New Adventures” released by Big Finish.

Continuity Notes: the Doctor has dealt with Death before in the New Adventures, most notably in Love and War, Set Piece and SLEEPY; it’s also likely Death was the Eternal who punished the Doctor for his arrogance in So Vile a Sin.

LIBRA: The Switching by Simon Guerrier 3rd Doctor, Jo, and UNIT

The Master manages to construct a device out of spare parts which temporarily transfers his mind into the Doctor’s body, and vice versa. The Doctor finds himself locked up in prison, and is overpowered by the guards when he tries to escape. The Master, meanwhile, gets into the Doctor’s TARDIS only to find that the Time Lords have configured its isomorphic controls to reject any commands from the Doctor; thus, he can’t make them obey him as long as he’s in the Doctor’s body, and he doesn’t have enough time to get back to the prison and free himself by conventional means. He does modify the internal appearance of the TARDIS to a more annoying configuration, knowing that with the Doctor’s knowledge of TARDIS mechanics gone it will take him forever to change it back. He then visits the Brigadier, who has just learned that “the Master” apparently became violent this afternoon, and asks that the Master be moved somewhere more spacious with a better view; perhaps this will improve his behaviour. Having enjoyed this brief moment of freedom, and realising that Mike Yates and Jo Grant are fond of each other, the last thing the Master does before returning to his body is to set Mike up to ask Jo out on a date, believing that he’s got the Doctor’s blessing to do so.

Time-Placement: the Master changes the internal configuration of the TARDIS to its appearance from The Time Monster. As this had not yet happened in The Curse of Peladon, this story must take place afterwards; and as this story sees the Master sent to the island prison of The Sea-Devils, it must take place before that.

SCORPIO: Jealous, Possessive by Paul Magrs K9 Mark I and K9 Mark II

K9 Mark I sends a rather condescending birthday letter to K9 Mark II, sparking a catty correspondence between the two in which each tries to one-up the other. K9 Mark I appears to have let fame go to his head on Gallifrey, and looks down on the savage Leela’s ways, while K9 Mark II and Romana have decided that freeing slaves sounds like too much work and are instead taking it easy in a swanky hotel elsewhere in E-Space. K9 Mark I responds with news that Leela is expecting the first natural child to be born on Gallifrey in many centuries, and questions whether this “Key to Time” business which K9 Mark II mentions was all that important, as he’s been unable to find any records of it in the Matrix. K9 Mark II in turn informs K9 Mark I that the Key to Time business was very hush-hush, and that of course no commoner would be aware of the fact, particularly not one who runs around with a knife-wielding savage rather than a glamorous, well-bred Time Lady. The correspondence comes to an abrupt end when K9 Mark I receives word that the Doctor has had a serious fall and may regenerate.

Time-Placement: non-Doctor story, but the end refers to the events of Logopolis having just taken place.

Continuity Notes: word of Leela’s pregnancy here appears to contradict the events of Lungbarrow. If any of this story is to be taken at face value then it can be assumed either that this first pregnancy was unsuccessful.

SAGITTARIUS: Five Card Draw by Todd Green 5th Doctor and Peri

The Fifth Doctor responds to a telepathic summons and materialises in a medieval castle to find his first, second, and third incarnations there already. A future incarnation dressed in a loud, colourful coat arrives, and the First Doctor deals out poker hands, explaining that he called his future selves for help, all but his manipulative seventh incarnation; the fourth decided not to come, and the confused eighth incarnation failed to respond at all. The First Doctor explains that while Ben and Polly were visiting a friend, he came here to conduct target practice with a golden bow he acquired from Gallutia; however, none of the others can remember quite what happened on Gallutia. On the TARDIS scanner, he saw a young lady being attacked by bandits, who fled in panic when the TARDIS materialised in their midst. The Doctor pulled the young lady into the TARDIS to safety, but when he emerged to see if the coast was clear he was surrounded by angry and frightened knights who accused him of kidnapping Lady Mary through sorcery. The Doctor fled to this castle and raised the drawbridge, but the knights laid siege to the castle and he was unable to return to the TARDIS.

Unable to escape, the First Doctor sent a telepathic cry for help to his future selves, who play poker to decide who will go out to confront the knights, and the Fifth Doctor loses. He takes the golden bow with him, and takes his TARDIS out to confront the knights, telling the confused Peri to stay where she is for now and programming the TARDIS to return to the castle without him when he emerges. Outside, the frightened knights prepare to kill the Doctor, but he bargains for his life by handing over the golden bow. Though still wary, Mary’s brother Edward agrees to let the Doctor open up the TARDIS and let Mary out, which the Doctor assures him is all he ever wanted to do in the first place. As the knights celebrate her return, the Fifth Doctor pilots the First’s TARDIS back to the castle, where he and the other Doctors are surprised to realise they can no longer remember what it was the Fifth Doctor traded for his safety. As they prepare to leave, however, Peri enters -- but she’s dressed differently, and the Fifth Doctor is startled when she greets his future self instead of him. The Sixth Doctor rapidly ushers her out, but the Fifth Doctor now knows that he will regenerate much sooner than he ever expected.

Time-Placement: as the story is told from the point of view of the Fifth Doctor we’ll treat it as a Fifth Doctor story with other Doctors as guest stars. Though Peri barely appears, the Doctor considers his destination hardly “the best place to start” showing her the wonders of the Universe; thus this story presumably takes place early on in their travels.

Continuity Notes: the First Doctor is travelling with Ben and Polly, although he claims that they’re currently visiting an old friend; this places the story after The Smugglers, but makes it unclear how he’s able to pilot the TARDIS with such precision; however, he claims that the correct co-ordinates for this location “just came into [his] head,” which suggests that there’s likely more to the story of the golden bow than we have been told as yet. More likely, this takes place during the gap allowed by Rassilon at the end of The Five Doctors to settle things before his coming regeneration in the The Tenth Planet. The Third Doctor has already met Sarah Jane Smith and refers briefly to an similarly unpleasant encounter with medieval humans, placing him just after The Time Warrior. The Eighth Doctor’s failure to respond suggests that he picked up the telepathic call following The Ancestor Cell.

CAPRICORN: I Was A Monster!!! by Joseph Lidster 4th Doctor and Romana II

An ordinary office worker in his early 20s who has gone out clubbing with his friends wanders home drunk and encounters a seductive red-haired vampire. She is frightened off while feeding by the sound of somebody approaching, and when the young man awakens back home the next day, he finds that he has developed a thirst for blood. He tries to resist the urge for some time, sleeping days and hitting the clubs at night, using booze and drugs to try to bury the hunger -- but the cravings overwhelm him, and when a passer-by mutters a casual insult he beats the man to death and drinks his blood. More murders follow, and although he no longer casts a reflection his image still appears on security cameras. The media dub him the Capricorn Killer due to his goatee, and he comes to crave his notoriety even more than the blood. Realising that his fame will be as fleeting as that of the summer’s manufactured pop idols, he tries to move up into the celebrity A-list by killing a young soap star in the middle of a nightclub, but even that isn’t enough for him. When he dies he will be forgotten unless he leaves a mark on the world which nobody will forget. He thus visits another nightclub, intending to go on a murder spree and slaughter millions, but instead he meets a woman named Romana who doesn’t act like any of the others; they’re all trying to be louder and larger than life, but she simply exists on her own terms. Confused by her, the young man follows her into a side corridor where a man in a red coat and scarf stakes him into dust, and he dies not knowing how much of his life was ever real.

Time-Placement: the Fourth Doctor is “dressed entirely in red” and there is no sign of K9, presumably placing this between The Leisure Hive and Meglos.

Continuity Notes: oddly, though this story must take place before State of Decay, Romana subsequently seems surprised to learn of the existence of vampires in that story. Though it seems unlikely, it may be interesting to speculate whether this story in fact takes place on an alternate version of Earth located in E-Space.

AQUARIUS: The Invertebrates of Doom by Andrew Collins 7th Doctor and Mel

An anomalous concentration of artron energy knocks the TARDIS off course, forcing it to materialise near a research establishment in Britain in 1978. There, Professor Leech and his assistant Ly are studying an alien artefact recently unearthed by potholers who are currently in the medical bay, suffering from extreme exhaustion. The Doctor finds that the artefact is absorbing energy from its surroundings and sending out a distress call, and moments later a large spaceship materialises over the centre and jellyfish begin raining down and splattering upon the asphalt.

The Doctor realises that the device, like Earth’s Voyager probes, was meant as a friendly hello gesture to the cosmos, but Commander Hydra Sowebii of the Imperial Cnidarian starship Water Carrier then contacts to reveal that they have rejected their naive past and become conquerors. Most of the Cnidarian attack force has been killed by plummeting down to dry land, but some splash down in a nearby lake and grow into fearsome battle-jellies which attack the soldiers at the research centre. Hydra has the Doctor brought on board to gloat over his victory, and back in the research centre, Leech, Ly and the affected potholers begin to transform into human-Cnidarian hybrids, having been infected by the zooplankton growing in the cave where the probe was first found. Mel defends herself by throwing a saline drip at the infected Ly, and is surprised by what happens next.

On board the Water Carrier, the Doctor realises that the Cnidarians are freshwater jellyfish who hadn’t realised that most of the Earth’s water is saline. Hydra isn’t actually a very good conquering warlord. Ly then comes on board, claiming to have vital information, but she’s actually been cured by being doused in the saline solution and she flings a bag of salt at Hydra, poisoning the water around him. With their leader gone, the other Cnidarians give up the battle and retreat.

Time-Placement: there are no references to other adventures; thus the choice of setting is arbitrarily assigned alongside the other comedic Seventh Doctor and Mel release from Big Finish.

PISCES: The Stabber by Alison Lawson 6th Doctor and Peri

The Doctor and Peri answer a telepathic cry for help from Tom Watson, a young man who works inoculating factory farm fish against disease. Tom claims that the fish are speaking to him telepathically, begging him to release them from imprisonment. The Doctor realises that Tom accidentally injected himself recently, and Tom admits that he felt so fit and healthy afterwards that he deliberately spiked his own tea with the antibiotics. The Doctor has Peri remain with the young man while he runs some tests on the serum, and Peri meets Tom’s family and learns that, although he loves them and took this job for their benefit, he has serious ethical reservations about genetically modified foods. Meanwhile, the Doctor determines that the antibiotic mixture could have hallucinogenic side-effects in humans, and thus whips up an antidote which he provides to Dr Graeme Harden, who developed the antibiotics but was forced by management to rush them into use before he’d finished testing them to his satisfaction. The Doctor then slips the antidote into Tom’s tea, and he and Peri depart as Tom returns to normal, forgetting that he ever heard the fish’s cry for help -- whether real or imagined.

Time-Placement: Peri is described as having “shoulder-length” brown hair, presumably her hairdo as seen in The Mysterious Planet.

Source: Cameron Dixon

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