“Some take seed and some blossom, such as the idea that different means broken. And broken means disposable.”
I always found the best fiction to be short form.
There’s something to be said for the sprawling expanse provided by the long form play or novel, a bit of extra room to flesh out characterization being the main benefit thereof. But all too often, attentions are left to flag, plots overthought and made especially convoluted, and lesser, often unimportant side stories and in depth explorations of otherwise minor characters and events are delved into in the interest of padding out the page count. It can really work in the hands of a master…but more often, it just feels like wasted time, thick layers of fat around a kernel of brilliance.
On the other hand, we have the short form, so particularly well suited to the fantastic – pulp fiction, sword and sorcery, science fiction and fantasy, crime, otherworldly horror, even Decadence have some of their finer moments in tales running anywhere between 6 and 100 pages. While often leaving the reader with a vague feeling of incompleteness, this can also be an advantage of the form – a vignette in an ongoing story, a life which began prior to our investment which continues upon our turn of the final page, to continue in the dreams and imaginations of the recipient until forgotten with the passage of time. Major authors seldom left the form: Poe, Hawthorne, Saki, Lovecraft, Howard, Ellison…the list goes on and on.
And so we come to Short Trips, a half hour window into events in the life and travels of The Doctor unencumbered by the weight of canon or the need to delve overly deeply into the waters of established Whovian form. If anything, the ostensible central character is more of a guest walk on here, a catalyst for events more than the leading role. And despite how that may sound to the more dogmatic among the Whovian community, that’s not really a bad thing.
Consigned to The Scrapheap, Tunneller Toby and Rover Frankie ease the tedium of their dreary days by adventuring off into the far corners in search of The Monster, a legendary creature who cannibalizes the corpses of their fellows. Their search leads them to the very Barrier itself…
Left alone to face the horrible creature, Frankie learns the truth behind the legend…and discovers a new purpose, a life self-determined in the process…
“We can escape?”
“Of course! If they didn’t fear you escaping, why would they build such a high wall?”
With equal touches of Isaac Asimov and the aforementioned Harlan Ellison, author Dale Smith taps into a well established vein of hard SF with an undercurrent of humanistically inclined politicosocial relevancy. While never quite as dry as the I, Robot stories most obviously mined herein and certainly far less pointed and dynamic than something like “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman”, The Flywheel Revolution manages nonetheless to feel quite ‘retro’ in a strong evocation of both authors’ work, bringing a warm hearted life to what should ostensibly be the cogs of cold machinery.
Peter Purves gets another go at the Hartnell Doctor, while investing the true protagonists with sufficient liveliness and nuance to put across the curiosity, fear, distrust and eventual sense of liberation the story demands, with Lisa Bowerman once again helming an audio driven by strong characterization and development rather than the pointless bombast modern culture seems so bizarrely yet omnipresently drawn to. It’s a quiet piece, but one of value, that leaves a surprisingly positive toned feel in its wake.
“They made a mistake putting us in here. Someone should make sure they realize it.”
With strong undertones of self-determination and a call to overturn a corrupted and narrowminded establishment, the Flywheel Revolution is aptly named indeed, though this is more of a quiet revolution, one where the truest and longest lasting changes take place. Because it’s one that begins with an individual’s realization that they are more valuable than their ostensible peers and supposed “betters” tell them they are. That imperfections are the very essence of art and beauty, where uniformity and mathematical precision leave dead, worthless utilitarianism in their wake. And that the only true limitation and barrier to one’s personal growth and potential greatness is oneself.