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Short Trips: The Muses
edited by Jacqueline Rayner

Cover Blurb
Short Trips: The Muses

Tell me, O Muse, of that many-aspected hero who fled his home world to travel every corner of time and space. Tell me, daughter of Jove, of his battles and his tragedies, of the strangers he encountered and the evil plots he foiled. Speak with laughter, with tears, through songs and visions of the Doctor, the hero and champion of this world and many more.

The nine Muses have since ancient times brought inspiration to those willing to receive it. Nine authors have received the inspiration of the Muses, to speak of the mysterious Time Lord known only as ‘the Doctor’. They will tell tales of History, of Dancing, of Comedy and Tragedy, of Sacred Poetry, Epic Poetry and Love Poetry, of Music and Astronomy. May they speak to your hearts.

  • This is the fourth volume of short stories published by Big Finish in the Short Trips series.
  • Released: September 2003
    ISBN: 1 84435 009 6

TERPSICHORE: Teach Yourself Ballroom Dancing by Robert Shearman 6th Doctor

While Peri is visiting friends, the Doctor decides to take dance lessons. At first, his teacher, Rebecca, is unsure how to react to this brash stranger, but eventually, his enjoyment and his desire to learn awaken something which was almost dead in her. After a few days, she opens up to the Doctor, and admits that she feels trapped in a loveless marriage and that she blames her unsupportive husband, David, for her failure to make anything of her life. Fearing that Rebecca is getting too close to him, the Doctor leaves after learning the waltz and the foxtrot. Eighty years later in his life, while fighting aliens on Earth in the 1970s, the Doctor meets a younger Becky, and tries to repay her future kindness by teaching her teenage self the dance steps her older self will one day teach him. He also speaks to her boyfriend, David, and tries to convince him either to support her dreams or to let her go her own way. He gets nowhere with the arrogant teenager, and realises too late that he should have given David the dance lessons so that he would have something in common with his future wife. Much later, towards the end of his sixth life, the Doctor visits the elderly Becky on her 88th birthday and offers her the chance to travel with him; he’s been alone for too long, and he wants her to see the wonders of the Universe. She kisses him goodbye, knowing that it’s too late for her to travel with him, and as he leaves her, she falls asleep and dreams of dancing.

Time-Placement: When the Doctor first meets Rebecca, he is travelling with Peri, but she’s off visiting friends. He next meets Rebecca eighty years later in his lifetime, and then again towards the end of his sixth incarnation; on both occasions, he is travelling alone. Since we never see Peri in the story, we’ve chosen to place this during the final segment, at an arbitrary point during which he is travelling alone.

Continuity: While visiting the 1970s, the Doctor helps an unidentified military organisation defeat an invasion by the Nestenes, introduced in Spearhead from Space.

THALIA: The Brain of Socrates by Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Leela

The Doctor decides that Leela needs to develop her sense of humour, and to that end, he takes her to Athens to see a play by Aristophanes. It soon becomes obvious that in order for her to understand the satire and the jokes, Leela must first understand the background of the city’s politics and history. The Doctor thus takes her to a party which both Aristophanes and Socrates are attending. Before the Doctor can begin enjoying himself, however, a detector in his pocket begins beeping and Socrates abruptly takes his leave of the party. The Doctor and Leela follow him to a damaged spaceship which has crashed just outside the city. The ship’s owner, Grimmon of the Jezark, has used a sub-plasmic beam to locate the most advanced life form in the vicinity, has linked Socrates’ brain to his ship’s computer and is forcing him to conduct repairs. Grimmon has only contempt for the primitive people of Earth, and does not care that he is burning out Socrates’ brain or that his ship’s hyper-Zison drive will destroy Athens when he takes off. The Doctor holds Grimmon at bay with a knife which he confiscated from Leela earlier, and while Leela escorts the dazed Socrates to safety, the Doctor convinces Grimmon to let him repair the ship instead. He does so successfully, enabling Grimmon to take off without destroying Athens.

Time-Placement: Leela recalls the Victorian theatre, placing this at some point after The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

MELPOMENE: Mordieu by Tara Samms 8th Doctor

Bill was once a successful Hollywood screenwriter, but these days he’s stretching himself too thinly, drinks too much, and has trouble concentrating. He has farmed out most of his work to ghostwriters, including a British talent named “John” whose head is full of fantastic but unworkable ideas. One day, people in the neighbourhood are stricken with stigmata, including Bill’s mistress Susie, but the stigmata soon fades. Bill doesn’t believe in miracles, but he too begins to have trouble breathing -- a genuine symptom of crucifixion, unlike bleeding from the palms (victims of crucifixion were nailed through the wrists). This too passes, but John knows that the real reason Bill is having trouble concentrating is that he’s suffering from a progressive mental disease which will kill him within three years. In an abandoned church in the neighbourhood, John can sense an alien presence which seems desperate to make contact; perhaps it has created the stigmata as an attempt to reach out to others. But the miracle is fading as the presence loses strength, and John chooses not to investigate, instead mourning Bill, whose miraculous talent is also fading.

Time-Placement: set during the Eighth Doctor’s “Earth arc.” Bill refers to Cuba perhaps triggering an international crisis, which implies that this takes place in 1962, and thus between Endgame and Father Time.

Continuity: The amnesiac Eighth Doctor also submitted prose works to the periodical Amazing Stories in the 1930s, as revealed in Wolfsbane. As in Wolfsbane, his stories, rejected as unworkable, resemble forgotten events from his past; in this case, the events of Inferno.

EUTERPE: An Overture Too Early by Simon Guerrier 3rd Doctor, Sarah, Brigadier

Sarah meets a composer named Isaac who is trying to defect to Britain, but she is unable to find any evidence that he existed more than 20 years ago and comes to suspect that he is an alien. However, he reveals that he is a time traveller -- in fact, he's one of the Doctor's future companions. Though unwilling to learn too much about his own future, the Doctor convinces the Brigadier to help Isaac defect, but Isaac is being stalked by two mysterious grey figures and turns up dead, having apparently committed suicide. All Sarah has to remember him by is the scribbled draft of his last composition. Everyone who reads the music finds it hauntingly familiar, but can't figure out where they first heard the melody; diplomat Nikolas Faro, who had sponsored Isaac's defection attempt based on the strength of his talent, is particularly disappointed to learn that the melody may have been stolen. However, when Sarah tries to publish her story on Isaac, it's blocked by a D-notice -- which was apparently requested by the future Doctor. The two grey figures then materialise in the Doctor's laboratory and steal Isaac's notes. Determined to solve the mystery, the Doctor attempts to trace the figures back to where they came from, but at the last moment a Time Lord in a bowler hat intervenes, telling him that these events must wait for the Doctor to encounter them at the proper time. The Doctor is left with only a tantalising fragment of Isaac's composition in his mind. Some weeks later, after the Doctor's regeneration, Sergeant Benton finds a scrap of paper in the old Doctor's jacket pocket and realises that he'd worked out the full composition and then discarded it -- but why? And how long was he stuck in the TARDIS, travelling back to Earth as he died of radiation poisoning?

Time-Placement: set shortly before Planet of the Spiders.

Continuity: The novel Love and War suggested that the Third Doctor’s return journey from Metebelis 3 to Earth in Planet of the Spiders, following his lethal dose of radiation, took an agonising ten years. The Time Lord who intervenes at the end is presumably the same one who appeared in Terror of the Autons. The loose ends from this story are tied up in the anthology Short Trips: Time Signature.

POLYHYMNIA: Hymn of the City by Sarah Groenewegen 7th Doctor, Ace

31 May, 1942: The Doctor and Ace arrive in Sydney just as a fierce battle breaks out in the harbour between Japanese subs and American warships. The Doctor visits a young fortune teller named Li Chen Mei, who gives him an empty jade box which the Doctor passes on to Ace for safekeeping. The Doctor then takes Ace to a boarding house run by Mrs Kitty Harris, and leaves her there while he visits the cliffs called the Gap. Ace sees Mrs Harris sacrifice a chicken for use in a magic ritual of some kind, and heads for the Gap, drawn by the humming of the empty jade box. There, she sees Mrs Harris’ other billet, the American Corporal Jed Allum, attack a young Aborigine woman, apparently under the impression that she is one of the enemy. She intervenes, at first knocking Corporal Allum unconscious, but then, like Allum, becoming swept up by a compulsion to kill the enemy; fortunately, the Doctor arrives in time to stop her from killing Allum. He then takes her back to the boarding house, but she begins to see him as the enemy and tries to kill him with nitro-nine. Mei arrives just in time to knock Ace out, and she and the Doctor explain to Mrs Harris that her rituals are not having the effect she intended. Mei and the Aboriginal girl are guardians of the hymnal skein, a power which underlies all existence; Mrs Harris could sense the skein, and was foolishly attempting to manipulate it in order to keep her city safe from attack. The Doctor manages to convince her that she does not have the skill to do so, and she agrees to stop.

Time-Placement: Ace recalls a conversation similar to one she had with Kathleen Dudman from The Curse of Fenric, which took place “not so long ago.”

ERATO: Confabula by Ian Potter 5th Doctor, Nyssa

The TARDIS materialises on a city-train crossing the wastes of a post-apocalyptic Earth. The Doctor and Nyssa are separated by a security alert, and Nyssa falls in with a group of rebels while the Doctor hides in the upper-class compartments. However, the Doctor soon realises that there are several inconsistencies in the society’s backstory, and deliberately leaps out through the window. He finds himself in a lush apartment with a woman named Maya, who reveals that she is an extension of a Psionosphere, a living planet which the Doctor and Nyssa recently materialised on -- and never left. Maya’s creators are long dead, and Maya has ensnared the Doctor and Nyssa in one of her illusory dreamscapes because she wants company and wants to help heal the Doctor of his neuroses and character issues. The Doctor refuses to accept illusion as reality, but the unbalanced Maya claims to have fallen in love with him and threatens to kill Nyssa unless the Doctor agrees to stay. The Doctor thus agrees to help Maya convince Nyssa that he’s chosen to remain in the dystopian Earth to rebuild society, and sends Nyssa on her way in the TARDIS to continue his legacy. He gives Nyssa a set of codes which he claims will transfer the TARDIS’ symbiotic link to her -- but in fact the psionic pulse temporarily disables Maya, enabling the Doctor to reprogramme her mind so she’ll believe the Doctor is still her captive. The Doctor then departs with Nyssa, but remains aware that he’ll never be entirely sure whether he tricked Maya into believing he was still there, or she tricked him into believing he’d escaped.

Time-Placement: Nyssa recalls her experiences on Mondas, setting this at some point after Spare Parts. For purposes of irony, we believe that, after choosing to abandon a life of illusion, the Doctor and Nyssa end up in the brutal situation of Creatures of Beauty (whether this was by accident or an illusion created by Maya to punish the Doctor for trying to leave her is up to the reader to decide).

URANIA: The Astronomer’s Apprentice by Simon A. Forward 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Victoria

The Doctor takes Jamie and Victoria to the peaceful planet {Traken}, where they attend a celebration before a fossilised Melkur. Another visitor to the planet, the beautiful Viola -- who nevertheless occasionally speaks as though she were a native of Traken -- recites Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky for the occasion. Viola’s companion Neverglade is an alien astronomer making a map of all the stars in the galaxy, and while the Doctor helps him with his work, Viola takes a shine to Jamie and shows him around the surrounding countryside. Victoria is less pleased by the attention she receives from a strange man who calls himself the Keeper, and who invites her to remain and share her innocence with his world. Meanwhile, Consul Symia detects disturbances in the biomatrix, and Neverglade admits that Viola has the power to bring her imagination to life, almost literally. Elsewhere, when Viola tries to create an illusion of a knight for Jamie to defeat on her behalf, the illusion proves actively dangerous. Viola and Jamie flee back to the village, only to find it under attack by the Melkur, which resembles the Jabberwock of the poem. Jamie defeats it, saving the village, but the Doctor realises that Neverglade’s research is responsible for the disturbances; in his observatory, he has recreated an image of the Universe, which is having an astrological effect on the delicately balanced biomatrix of the Traken Union. The Doctor and his friends are forced to depart, as are Viola and Neverglade, but the Doctor realises that Neverglade himself is one of Viola’s illusions, which she created to keep her company. What he doesn’t know is that Viola is in fact an aspect of Victoria herself; the Keeper, sensing that his world would be destroyed at some point in the future, planted a seed of the Source within Victoria’s mind. Much later, after Victoria has stopped travelling with the Doctor, it blossoms and takes form as Viola. Through Viola, Traken will live again, and Victoria’s travels will continue.

Time-Placement: arbitrarily assigned, as there are no definite references to other adventures.

Continuity: in The Keeper of Traken, the Fourth Doctor claims to know Traken only by repute (“I don’t think I’ve actually been there”), suggesting that this adventure has somehow slipped his mind.

CALLIOPE: Katarina in the Underworld by Steve Lyons Katarina

Katarina’s spirit is trapped in Asphodel, without the coins to pay her way across the River Styx. An old woman takes sympathy on her and summons the Doctor, who apparently finds himself here after falling asleep. Appalled by Katarina’s fate, he vows to see her to her rightful destiny, though she fears suffering the wrath of the gods should she challenge their judgement. Charon refuses to transport anyone without payment, and refuses to transport Katarina in any case, since her body was not buried; however, the Doctor pickpockets Charon’s purse, spills its contents on the riverbed, and steals Charon’s ferry while he scrabbles to collect his money. The Doctor and Katarina cross the River Styx, the Stygian Marsh and the wild waters of the river of Hate, only to find their way barred by Cerberus. The Doctor weaves a whistle from the reeds in the river, and the sound, though silent to human ears, irritates Cerberus into howling until he falls into an exhausted slumber. The Doctor and Katarina steal past him to the Judges of the Dead, who review her life -- and declare her neither good nor evil, and thus fit only for Asphodel. The Doctor refuses to accept this and demands that Katarina present her case to Hades himself. Before Hades, he insists that Katarina sacrificed her life to save millions despite knowing that she would not be buried on hallowed ground. Hades is not entirely convinced by the Doctor’s arguments, but his wife Persephone points out that simply by reaching Hades to present her case, Katarina has proven her commitment and good nature. Hades thus agrees to let Katarina into the Elysian fields, and Katarina realises that Persephone was the old woman who first summoned the Doctor to help her. As Katarina passes on to the Elysian fields, the Doctor vanishes; perhaps he was only a dream, but even if this is the case, she knows that the real Doctor inspired her to come this far and achieve her destiny.

Time-Placement: obviously, some time after Katarina’s death in The Daleks’ Master Plan.

CLIO: The Glass Princess by Justin Richards All Doctors

On Princess Clio’s fifth birthday, her uncle Ferdnand, the ambassador from Dolmara, gives her a terrible present. Malvek, the Regent of Dolmara and next in line for the throne if Clio dies, has threatened Ferdnand’s family unless he follows orders, and Ferdnand thus reluctantly gives Clio a pair of glass slippers containing a hidden needle tipped with a deadly poison. Ferdnand then commits suicide, but as the poison begins to affect Clio, the First Doctor -- who was attending the celebrations -- provides her family with a stasis bed which keeps Clio alive but asleep. Stopping and starting the stasis field requires a great deal of energy, however, and it can only be done on special occasions. Clio, who doesn’t fully understand what’s happening to her, thus finds that each time she wakes, her family looks older; and each time, a different Doctor is there to greet her for her new birthday. While only days seem to pass for Clio, her body ages, her friends grow older and vanish in “the wars”, her mother and father grow elderly, and soldiers dressed somewhat like Ferdnand appear in the palace, holding her family prisoner. Eventually even her father is no longer there when she wakes, only an old woman who looks like her mother and who has been waiting see her daughter all grown up. Finally, a young and handsome Doctor wakes her one last time and takes her outside the palace to run free for the first time in her life. As she does so, he tells her a story of a princess cursed by a magic spell, who slept while the world moved on and left her behind. Outside the palace, civilisation has fallen and only a forest is left, but the Doctor has decided that she deserves one last chance to enjoy what little life she has. As the Doctor finishes his story, Clio falls asleep, exhausted but happy, for the last time.

Time-Placement: Yeesh... for sanity’s sake, we choose to treat this as an Eighth Doctor adventure with cameos rather than trying to locate it exactly in the timeline of each Doctor. Since the Eighth Doctor still has his memory, it must take place before The Ancestor Cell. For thematic reasons we choose to place it between the short stories Model Train Set (which ends with the Doctor finding a bittersweet appreciation for life) and Totem (which begins with the Doctor atoning for something).

Source: Cameron Dixon

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