Short Trips: The Muses

Short Trips: The Muses is the fourth anthology published by Big Finish Productions. Each story is themed around one of the nine muses (the goddesses of knowledge and the arts from Greek mythology). The muses were:

Terpsichore The muse of dance
Thalia The muse of comedy
Melpomene The muse of tragedy
Euterpe The muse of music
Polyhymnia The muse of sacred poetry
Erato The muse of love poetry and mimicry
Urania The muse of astronomy
Calliope The muse of epic poetry and rhetoric
Clio The muse of history

The story An Overture Too Early would later form the basis for the anthology Short Trips: Time Signature.

TERPSICHORE: Teach Yourself Ballroom Dancing

TERPSICHORE: Teach Yourself Ballroom Dancing
Author(s): Robert Shearman
Doctor(s): Sixth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Roots: There is a reference to Marks & Spencers.

Dialogue Triumphs: 'I've been everywhere and done everything. I've fought battles you wouldn't believe. I've explored planets further away than human thought. I've done it all. I've no travelling companions any longer. No soldier friends to help me. They've all gone now I'm lonely.'

Continuity: The Doctor persuades ballet teacher Becky to teach him how to ballroom dance; he learns the Waltz and the Foxtrot. He deliberately causes a paradox and attempts to change her history by going back in time to when she was a teenager and teaching her to ballroom dance so that she can do so professionally. It doesn't work, since what she really wanted to be was a ballet dancer. He tells Becky his real name, which is apparently rather embarrassing, and explains that he usually claims that it is too long or unpronounceable.

The Doctor visits the younger Becky whilst in the 1970s repelling a new Auton invasion with a paramilitary unit. He doesn't contact UNIT because he knows that one of his earlier incarnations is currently engaged in helping them to defeat an entirely different alien invasion. The Nestene Consciousness again uses Autons disguised as shop window dummies.

Location: England, c2000, the early nineteen seventies, and the early twenty-first century.

The Bottom Line: A rather sweet opening to the collection, even if it is rather difficult to accept the Doctor's casual tinkering with Becky's timeline.

THALIA: The Brain of Socrates

THALIA: The Brain of Socrates
Author(s): Gareth Roberts
Doctor(s): Fourth Doctor
Companion(s): Leela
Season(s): Season 15
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Roots: There are references to Artemis, Bisto, and Homer.

Dialogue Triumphs: 'All cultures look odd from the outside. I seem to recall your shaman wearing a plastic glove on his head.'

Continuity: The Jezark race hails from the planet Jezark, an advanced industrial society. The air on Earth is breathable for them, but a little thinner than they are used to. They are vaguely humanoid, but with leathery green skin, three arms, and three glowing red eyes. Their teeth are located in the middle of their chest. Their spaceships use hyper-Zison drives, which destroy the landing grounding when activated.

The Doctor is trying to help Leela to develop a sense of humour. He likes kebabs. He has accumulated numerous unpaid credit card bills in the name of Dr. John Smith. He has never visited Athens before. He carries a sub-plasmic beam tracer. He and Leela meet Euripides, Socrates, Aristophanes and Plato. He has heard of the Jezark race, but has never seen or encountered one before. He reprograms Grimmon's drive using matrix formulae, bypassing the Zison effect, and allowing him to leave safely without destroying Athens.

Leela dons a light linen tunic and sandals for her trip to Athens. She is forced to pose as the Doctor's Spartan wife whilst a guest of Anaximander.

Location: Athens

The Bottom Line: A welcome return for Roberts, who once more captures the Fourth Doctor perfectly and exploits his relationship with Leela beautifully.


Author(s): Tara Samms
Doctor(s): Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): EDAs part 4 (Earth Arc)
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Roots: Various Stigmata legends. There are references to Bugosi Playhouse, Playboy, Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol and The Picture of Dorian Grey, Suspense Theater, the Emmys, Outer Regions, the LA Times.

Continuity: The Doctor uses the alias John. He eats onion soup.

No explanation is given for the outbreak of stigmata; the Doctor hypothesizes that it is caused by an alien trapped in a local church, but is purely guessing and there is nothing to support this.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor is alone and is working as a freelance writer, probably setting this story during the Caught on Earth arc. The Doctor has written for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse and U.S. Steel Hour and was on the staff of Alfred Hitchcock Presents for a while.

The Bottom Line: Like most of Samms' short stories, this is grim and uncompromising, with great characterisation. The lack of resolution however is rather irritating.

EUTERPE: An Overture Too Early

EUTERPE: An Overture Too Early
Author(s): Simon Guerrier
Doctor(s): Third Doctor
Companion(s): Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sarah Jane Smith
Season(s): Season 12
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Continuity: Sarah drives an MG.

Isaac travels with the Doctor at some point in the future, eventually staying on Earth in the 1950s apparently because he falls in love. He is a Russian composer, but his final piece is copied from another, undisclosed source which may be alien in origin. A future incarnation of the Doctor requests that a D-notice be placed on the news of Isaac's death.

The mysterious men who kill Isaac and steal all the copies of the sheet music are tall and grey. They dress in suits and top hats, one with a black rose in his buttonhole, the other with a white tulip. They enter UNIT HQ via a wormhole. The Doctor is prevented from investigating further by a man in a bowler hat and pinstripe suit [possibly the Time Lord from Terror of the Autons].

Location: London, England, [late 1972 or early 1973]; UNIT HQ summer 1973.

The Bottom Line: 'It'll drive me mad not knowing.' An obtuse and thoroughly annoying story that promises much but delivers little save a mystery that we would have to wait three years to see resolved.

POLYHYMNIA: Hymn of the City

POLYHYMENIA: Hymn of the City
Author(s): Sarah Groenewegen
Doctor(s): Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Ace
Season(s): Season 26
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Roots: There are references to the Sunday Sun and Star Wars (Not the Force?).

Continuity: The hymnal skein is a force that holds all life together. Immortal guardians, including Li Chen Mei, protect it.

The Doctor uses the alias Dr. John Smith again. Ace still carries nitro-9.

Location: Sydney, Australia, Sunday 31st May 1942.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor has met Mei before.

The Bottom Line: Competent, but forgettable. Despite Groenewegen's attempt to create a vaguely epic feel, neither the plot nor the characters are especially interesting.

ERATO: Confabula

ERATO: Confabula
Author(s): Ian Potter
Doctor(s): Fifth Doctor
Companion(s): Nyssa
Season(s): Season 19
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Roots: The story opens with a quotation from As You Like It. There are references to the Flying Scotsman, the Flying Dutchman and Louis Quinze.

Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor found himself simultaneously repulsed by the image and reminded of Milton Keynes.

Continuity: Maya is a Psionosphere. They are planetary computers created by a race called the Makers to bring people together in consensual artificial realities in which their minds can interconnect. The Makers have long since abandoned Maya, possibly as the result of a war. She has gone mad over the intervening years. She manifests herself as a humanoid image in order to talk to the Doctor. She can read the surface of the Doctor's mind despite his best efforts to resist. The Doctor tells Nyssa that he gave Maya the illusion of permanently keeping him prisoner so that she wont be lonely, but she believes that she has given him the illusion of escaping instead, which would of course mean that all subsequent Doctor Who stories are merely a fantasy experienced by the imprisoned Doctor.

The Doctor mapped love's chromosomal origins as a young Time Lord.

Maya's home planet has a pink and grey sky.

Location: An unnamed planet, date unknown.

The Bottom Line: Whilst nowhere near as funny as Potter's previous Apocrypha Bipedium (Short Trips: Companions), this is still a highly intelligent and witty story. The ending, which throws "canon" into doubt from here on, has been done before in Gareth Roberts' The Well-Mannered War but is still an amusingly cheeky twist.

URANIA: The Astronomer's Apprentice

URANIA: The Astronomer's Apprentice
Author(s): Simon A Forward
Doctor(s): Second Doctor
Companion(s): Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield
Season(s): Season 5
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Roots: There are references to Alice in Wonderland, the Flying Scotsman, the Mona Lisa, Three Blind Mice, Tennyson, the Beatles, Stan Laurel, and the Bible (Adam and Eve). There are quotes from Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and Jabberwocky

Goofs: Victoria compares Jamie to The Flying Scotsman train, even though that name wasn't coined until after she left her native time. [She saw the train in an unrecorded adventure.]

Technobabble: Simple biophotonic conversion.

Continuity: The Doctor has a penknife, which he uses to scrape moss off a stone.

The Melkur seen here is a massive monster that seems to have been dragon-like in appearance. The current Keeper of Traken is a young man, tall, dark and handsome. According to legend, the Union was founded when a Prince and a Princess battled a fire-breathing demon and buried him at the heart of a world called Araken, a lost world that good people cannot see and where evil is channeled away.

The Keeper of Traken gives Victoria a portion of the Source, which becomes an entity in its own right after Victoria stays on Earth after leaving the Doctor. The entity is Mimsy Borogoves; she can create other beings from her imagination, including Neverglade, an alien astrologer with whom she travels. The interaction of her Source-derived abilities and the actual Source on Traken, causes her to accidentally create dangerous illusions, reanimate a Melkur, and make the Trakenites behave unusually, including the Keeper.

Traken has a native species that look a lot like horses, with manes and gallops. The Trakenites dress their manes with ribbons and bells.

Location: Traken, centuries before 1980.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor once built a sandcastle on Ostermede Six or Ostermede Seven. The last time he visited the monarchy was using it as a summer palace.

The Bottom Line: A lyrical fairytale that makes good use of Traken and has a rather touching twist at the end. Forward's gift for characterisation continues to shine.

CALLIOPE: Katarina in the Underworld

CALLIOPE: Katarina in the Underworld
Author(s): Steve Lyons
Doctor(s): None
Companion(s): Katarina
Season(s): Season 3
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Roots: Greek mythology.

Continuity: It isn't explained precisely what is going on; either the events here are a hallucination suffered by Katarina in the last moments of her life, or else the afterlife of Greek mythology actually exists. If the latter is true, and this story is to be taken literally, it is possible that the realm seen here is a domain of Null-Space (The Ghosts of N-Space), which would explain the emphasis placed on the power of Katarina's belief [it is also possible, if this is the case, that the Greek Gods seen here are the trans-dimensional beings of Deadly Reunion, although their characterisation isn't entirely consistent with that novel.]

Location: The Greek Underworld!

The Bottom Line: 'Without your example, I would have remained lost forever. You were my inspiration!' A touching tale that makes use of Katarina in the only way possible and explores the faith in the Doctor that she exhibited in her brief time with him despite not understanding what was happening around her.

CLIO: The Glass Princess

CLIO: The Glass Princess
Author(s): Justin Richards
Doctor(s): First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor
Companion(s): None
Season(s): Unknown
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Roots: Sleeping Beauty.

Dialogue Triumphs: 'You have to live life to the fullest you can, not just sit back and let it all go by. You need to be out there doing it, not stuck indoors, watching it.'

Continuity: The Doctor visits Clio in each of his incarnations, each time without companions. He brings a gift from each Doctor, the Third Doctor bringing presents from his preceding incarnations in order to catch up. From the First Doctor Clio receives a broach, from the Second a recorder, from the Third an empty box containing hope, from the Fourth a bag of jelly babies, from the Fifth the piece of celery from his lapel, from the Sixth a cloth cat, and from the Seventh a Blue Peter badge (courtesy of Ace). The Eighth Doctor finally releases her permanently from sleep after her family has all died, keeping her happy as she enjoys the fresh air one last time before she ages to death before him.

Dolmara is a neighbouring planet, ruled by Clio's father's cousin Malvek.

Senexium Pulverate causes rapid ageing. The First Doctor builds a special bed for Clio that slows the effects of the poison whilst allowing her body to age the normal rate, but which keeps her in a coma save for single days at different points in her life. The bed utilizes a stasis generator, but uses power at an exponential rate.

Location: An unnamed planet, date unknown.

Future History: The planet and Dolmara are probably Earth colonies. Following the attempt on Clio's life, a war breaks out, which her family eventually loses.

The Bottom Line: A moving and melancholy tale that is a perfect example of how to make use of multiple Doctors without recourse to fanwank. The story is told through Clio's eyes, which makes her blissful innocence of her fate all the more tragic.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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