Short Trips – Monkey House (Subscriber Bonus)

This is a clever little SF story, although it’s really a Third Doctor story given to Team Five.

It weaves together three strands we’ve heard before on audio: the Doctor working to save the Earth from invasion, a tale taking place over a number of years thanks to the Doctor time-hopping, and the Doctor and friends seen through an alien’s eyes. The last provides most of the fun and interest to the story, squeezing a fair amount of worldbuilding into 35 minutes.

It’s very playful, and the alien-POV character is appealingly three dimensional. How does it feel to be on the receiving end of one of the Doctor’s invasion-thwarting strategems?

The only problem is that Five’s companions don’t have much of a function in this story. I was very intrigued to see Nyssa and Turlough listed in the same story on the Subscriber Short Trips page, since their opportunities for crossing paths are so tightly constrained. Yet that doesn’t matter here, since they’re just standing around in the background for a few scenes. Why bring them along? Why bring Tegan? Tiny continuity/character glitches for each of them made me wonder if they were illusions or if there was some sort of temporal monkey business going on, but I think it’s just a matter of the writer knowing the Three-era better. That said, his Fifth Doctor is superb.

It’s still a charming story. Five is wise, patient, and stern by degrees, putting the parenting skills he’s been practicing this incarnation to good use. Stephen Critchlow has been reading all of them since mid-2014, and he’s an excellent narrator who captures echoes of everyone’s voices. And it’s a sweet, satisfying ending.

One can’t nitpick the subscriber bonuses too much, as they’re freebies. I was just so delighted by Dodo in The Horror of Bletchington Station and Liz in Home from Home that I’ve gotten spoiled.

Continuity (Spoilers)

The continuity on this one is all over the place.

The bushy-haired, angelic Nyssa sounds more like Season 19 than 20. Tegan’s wearing her purple air stewardess uniform, which has to be Season 19; she was wearing it when she left the TARDIS at the end of Time Flight, and she didn’t come back until a year later, by which time she’d been fired from that job! Yet Turlough is, absolutely, from Season 20.

As I alluded to above, Turlough joins the TARDIS crew at the end of Mawdryn Undead, and Terminus begins with Tegan finding quarters for Turlough, and then Nyssa falls out of the TARDIS onto a passing plague ship about five minutes later. So it’s hard to justify any kind of story squeezed between those two episodes. Jenny Colgan managed it in Gardens of the Dead, though, so it is possible, but this story seems to take place over a significant amount of time, with the companions asleep or off somewhere in the TARDIS during the final encounter between the Doctor his alien pal.

The other possibility is that this is older!Nyssa from the Big Finish Cobwebs through Entropy Plague audios, after she rejuvenated to look like a girl again. But why resurrect older!Nyssa and then not use her?

So I’m stumped. I suspect it’s supposed to take place between Mawdryn Undead and Terminus, despite continuity straining at the seams.