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The Fiction Factory


Released
Title
Narrator
Format
Release Code
March 1998
Nicholas Courtney & Sophie Aldred
2 cass
ZBBC 2147
March 1998
Paul McGann
2 cass
ZBBC 2223
March 1998
Colin Baker & Nicholas Bryant
2 CD
ZBBC 2274CD

Having decided to continue with their range of talking books, BBC Worldwide looked for outside assistance in producing worthwhile cassettes. Although Chris Wallis of Watershed Productions was still interested in producing further abridgments of the Target novelisations, the BBC wanted to promote their own range of adventures and take the TARDIS on new journeys outside the realms of the TV series. The Paul McGann reading of the Novel Of The Film had been successful, but to continue producing audio versions of full-length novels (taken, perhaps, from the BBC range of Eigth Doctor novels) appeared to be rather limiting. Instead, Worldwide decided to commission readings of short stories from BBC Books' Short Trips anthologies, several volumes of which were published during 1998 and 1999.

While earlier talking books had been little more than an actor reading a script, with only minimal use of music and sound effects, the range of Doctor Who cassettes produced by The Fiction Factory almost inverted the trend. Each story was accompanied by a specially composed soundtrack of original music (by BBC range producer Stephen Cole) and sound effects, and certain passages were dramatised by more than one reader, with edits made to the text to leave only the dialogue for that section - producing the effect of a mini-audio drama within the narrative. Each release also included a story specially written either for the audio format or the actor chosen to read it - a ploy to interest and attract sales from those who had already bought the relevant books.

For their third release, director John Taylor suggested to BBC Worldwide that the readings be made available on double CD instead of cassette. Since the books they were based on had been aimed at a more adult audience, he felt that the readings should also be pitched at an adult fan level (more so than, for example, the 1995 range of talking books). Out Of The Darkness, expertly read by Colin Baker and the seldom heard Nicola Bryant (who reproduced a variety of accents to dispel her American stereotype) suffered from early distribution problems and failed to sell as well as the eagerly anticipated Short Trips or Paul McGann cassettes. As a result, BBC Worldwide put aside considerations for further releases while negotiating with Big Finish Productions over their request to produce full-length Doctor Who audio drama on CD and cassette. By early 1999, the BFP license had been granted, and the BBC Radio Collection were working on further releases of missing episode soundtracks, as previously released as The Missing Stories Collection during the early 1990s. The call for spoken word, even those imaginatively produced by The Fiction Factory, had past.

A fourth release was announced but never recorded. Doctor Who: 4 x 4 was to be a double-cassette release for July 1998, with Tom Baker narrating four stories featuring the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, which would once again have been selected from the Short Trips collection. DWM announced the concept in April 1998 with the Gallifrey Guardian headline TOM ON TAPE THIS SUMMER! (DWM 264), only to laugh at themselves the following year in a feature listing their embarrassingly inaccurate news articles (DWM 283). The tape was never recorded.

The recordings were dusted-down and rereleased on two mp3-CDs in July 2004: Tales from the TARDIS: Volume I included both Short Trips and Out of the Darkness (alongside the earlier readings of The Curse of Peladon, Kinda and Attack of the Cybermen), whilst Volume II contained Earth and Beyond (alongside McGann's earlier reading, The Novel of the Film, and the 1995-7 releases Planet of the Daleks, Warriors of the Deep and Venegance on Varos).

Short Trips

Short Trips
Read by Nicholas Courtney & Sophie Aldred
Directed by John Taylor
Production and Sound Design by The Fiction Factory

Freedom by Steve Lyons - The Third Doctor faces the Master and a conflict of interests in a mysterious prison... / Model Train Set by Jonathan Blum - The Eighth Doctor comes up against some very old problems.. / Degrees Of Truth by David A McIntee - The Brigadier faces a deadly confrontation in a story unique to this cassette... / Glass by Tara Samms - An ordinary woman is plagued by a sinister apparition... / Stop The Pigeon by Robert Perry & Mike Tucker - The Seventh Doctor is embroiled in a bizarre battle to save Earth... / Old Flames by Paul Magrs - The Fourth Doctor meets a mischevous acquaintance from his past...

Each side of Short Trips opened and closed with an explosion leading into the TARDIS Take-Off effect. The start of Side One also included a 1'26" edit of the original Doctor Who theme (the 1973 single version), while Side Four ended with 0'42" of the 1970s opening theme and more of the TARDIS effect. Original music and sound effects appeared throughout. To promote this release, a 3'56" excerpt from "Freedom" was included on the CD "TV Zone - Sound On, Vision On" with the magazine TV Zone Special No.28

Model Train Set is the only Short Trips story to escape abridgement. Freedom lacks 3,700 words, with cuts made to padded conversation, links to televised stories, the Doctor's premonitions of his later selves, his discovery of the moved wall and exploration of the laboratory. While Nicholas Courtney narrates, Sophie Aldred voices some of Jo's dialogue, including a narrative section in the TARDIS where she speaks inwardly. Glass has been greatly reduced, with 2,100 words removed from an already short text. The colloquial style of the first-person narrative has been slightly formalised, with repetitions and asides edited out. The 'doctor' is changed to "GP" to avoid confusion with the Doctor, and a mistake in the original text is corrected so that both references to the character are 'she's. The scenes in Smiths are paraphrased by several short sentences, and Baker and Ward's mannerisms and conversation are minimised.

Stop The Pigeon, quite an epic in its original form, has been reduced (often pages at a time) by 8,400 words. Entirely missing from the audio version are the activities at Channel 7 (including the Epilogue); Otto, the ancient hippie; the paradoxically rescued baby, and Garth's nursing duties. Sizeable cuts are made to Joe's train journey, banter between the Doctor and Ace, general character history - and Ace and Joe do not discover the nursery until the Doctor arrives. Old Flames has also been thoroughly edited, with 4,600 words removed and the structure altered to a linear narrative (the Rector Adams rescue and retrospective are saved until the appropriate moment in what would otherwise have been a flashback, with 50 words of paraphrased narrative and a section of text lifted from the first page). Sarah's thoughts during her dance with the Captain are also paraphrased, and dialogue is continually swapped with its accompanying narrative. Lady Huntington knows less about the Doctor and Iris, references to previous adventures (of all the time travellers) are cut, Iris does not have a stash of weapons and distress flares aboard her TARDIS and she and the Doctor do not flirt quite so obviously.

One of the stories from the cassette, Model Train Set, was selected to represent Doctor Who on audio for the BBC's collection of AudioCards in 1998, a range which also included complete episodes of Blackadder and Only Fools And Horses. The 20 minute CD came in a fold-out cardboard sleeve and a bright-yellow envelope, with a short description of the programme history, a large blank space with a helpful To and From on the other side and a two-sentence quote from the story on the back. The CD itself, titled Dr. Who: Short Trips and coded BBC / Cartel Z65BBC013, appears to have been taken directly from the cassette master, with the music fading in and out just in time to avoid Nicholas Courtney's narration on either side.

Earth and Beyond

Earth And Beyond
Read by Paul McGann
Directed by John Taylor
Production and Sound Design by The Fiction Factory
Music by Jason Loborik and Stephen Cole

Bounty by Peter Anghelides - Seventeen-year-old Sam Jones's first trip in the TARDIS is to the Seychelles in the present day - and involves a deadly encounter with alien bounty hunters. Can the Doctor stop them making Earth their battleground? / Dead Time by Andrew Miller - The TARDIS crash-lands in a freezing world of utter darkness. Who are the whispering creatures that want the Doctor dead? And what terrible consequences will their actions have for the entire universe? / The People's Temple by Paul Leonard - Arriving at Stonehenge during its construction, the time-travellers soon discover that its mystical origins are steeped in human suffering. But in her attempts to make things better for the slave workers toiling to complete the stone circle, will Sam start a war?

The Doctor Who theme does not appear on Earth And Beyond - instead, dramatic and atmospheric music specially composed for the individual stories opens and closes each side. Bounty and Dead Time feature a variety of sound effects to punctuate the narration, including TARDIS interior effects throughout the latter that bare resemblence to those heard in the 1960s Aaru movies.
Dead Time (later to appear in More Short Trips, BBC Books 1999, but unpublished at the time of the cassette's release) is cut by approximately 430 words, mostly from the Doctor's dramatised conversation with his future self where all narration has been removed. Elsewhere the script has been extended: there are additional memories of "Ogrons and Draconians, Drashigs and Axons" as the Forgotten travel towards their fate, extra narration as Sam runs from the faces and the Doctor realises where they have landed, and a 5-line prelude conversation between the Forgotten (voiced with effective, echoing whispers) and the Doctor. The 'Lucreece Shift' is now a "Sunaslun Shift" [sic], Sam asks about the red light "in alarm" not with 'a casual air', and the situation registers "7.5" not '8.5' on the Jones-Richter scale.

The People's Temple (from Short Trips, BBC Books 1998) is missing less than 50 words. Amongst pointless changes - 'strange' to "incomprehensible", 'whispered' to "said" - are several significant alterations: Coyn sees the TARDIS' 'glass' windows as "ice", the Doctor does not cry out before he falls unconcious, and Sam has a spear levelled at her "head" instead of her 'chest'. Many narrative additions are made throughout the second side to identify the speakers of dialogue.

Out of the Darkness

Out Of The Darkness
Read by Colin Baker & Nicola Bryant
Directed by John Taylor
Production and Sound Design by The Fiction Factory
Music by Stephen Cole and Jason Loborik

Moon Grafiti by Dave Stone - The Doctor and Peri become caught up in one of humanity's final fights for survival in the far future, battling against the all-consuming power of the pararachnids... / Wish You Were Here by Guy Clapperton - The Doctor investigates the disappearance of an old friend in an alien holiday camp. Is Lakksis, the cheery robot redcoat, as innocent as he seems? / Vigil by Michael Collier - When the Doctor and Peri arrive in Hastings, hideous deaths begin to occur. Can they really be linked to a girl in a coma?

Not only is the Doctor Who theme absent once again, but convention is broken by the decision to remove the narrated introductions to the stories (where title, author and narrator are spoken). The stories simply begin with appropriately composed music. All three stories feature a collection of sound effects, including the TARDIS Take-Off/Landing noise in Wish You Were Here.

Approximately 2,000 words have been cut from Moon Graffiti (More Short Trips, BBC Books 1999), with a significant remainder rewritten. The Wibliwee's dialogue is consistantly reworded, and many scenes between Peri and the Doctor, Peri and the Wibliwee and the Doctor and the Parachnid have been dramatised, with all narration removed. Complete cuts are made to the Doctor's idle conversation about hats and the final paragraph concerning Captain XiiXwiiB. Moon Graffiti is the only Fiction Factory recording to be duelly narrated throughout: Baker handles the Kimo Ami scenes while Bryant describes those with Peri and the Doctor.

Wish You Were Here (from Short Trips, BBC Books 1998) has been cut by 2,400 words, with descriptions of location, character history and much of Lakksis' bubbly dialogue removed. It is amusing to note that many references to the sixth Doctor's wide girth have also been trimmed - perhaps at Baker's request!