Seventeen years after its first appearance on a long-running series of Doctor Who short story anthologies, the Short Trips banner is being revived.
This time, Short Trips is a monthly series of downloadable audiobooks featuring the first eight Doctors, read by actors from the TV series.
“It’s like chartering a fleet of TARDISes!” smiles producer Michael Stevens. “The objective is to take listeners on new journeys in time and space, in the company of old friends. Yet their nature as short stories doesn’t always mean the adventures are small. These Short Trips tell epic tales, which take place over days, weeks or months.
“But as well as being epic, these stories can also be quite intimate. The first one, Flywheel Revolution by Dale Smith, is told from a single character’s point of view, and takes place within the confines of a very small area. These are perhaps your definitive ‘short stories’, and it would be difficult to imagine them sustaining four full-cast episodes on TV or, indeed, on audio. Yet in crystallising a moment, or an idea, or a fleeting event, they tell in themselves a fully rounded tale. In many ways, you can’t beat the single voice reading - it’s just you and the reader for the whole journey, exploring the realms of imagination.”
“It’s different from a lot of what we do at Big Finish,” admits director Lisa Bowerman, “but you still have to treat it as a dramatic piece. This is still going to have sound effects, it’s still going to have music, so it’s not a dry reading with no effects at all. It isn’t, effectively, a talking book - it’s still going to have those colourings. Though what I don’t want to do is over-embellish it - the music will segue between scenes rather than colouring what you think.”
The new range launches the aforementioned First Doctor story Flywheel Revolution, which is read by Peter Purves, who played the first Doctor’s companion Steven Taylor.
“The great strength of audio short stories is that they’re very intimate,” writer Dale Smith concurs. “You can tell a story directly to the listener - and if you get one of the characters to tell it themselves, so much the better. A kiss in the dark from a stranger. You can do things you’d never get away with in longer Who - jump in, make your point and then get out before anyone overstays their welcome. They’ve got their own pace and language.”
The adventure is told from the point of view of Frankie, a clockwork robot.
“His GPS is broken, so the robots who run his planet have decided he’s no use to them and consigned him to the Scrapheap,” Dale reveals. “But he’s still got that adventurous spirit and wants to explore. Even if he never knows where he is.
“I wanted to show how the Doctor looked to the inhabitants of the Scrapheap, and how his actions might be interpreted. I also knew right from the start that the story wouldn’t be narrated by anyone from the first series, so I didn’t want to tell it from the companion’s point of view. I think audio can be really effective when it’s one character telling you their story, and it’s a style I haven’t done much with.
“Frankie makes the story: it’s his voice and his view of the world that drives it. It actually made it a lot easier to write: I wasn’t quite sure at the start what the story was, but once I had Frankie, he told it to me…”
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