Short Trips 6.10 – Rulebook


A society stifled as much by regulations as by slavery is a clever idea, but this story has a sluggish start even though it’s just half an hour long. In the first place, listening to pointless red tape is almost as frustrating for the listener as for the Doctor and Peri. In the second place, the descriptions are a little too meticulous and belaboured, contributing to the sense of fussy minutiae:

“An alarm sounded. She flicked her eyes towards the larger screen, then lowered her book. Before closing, she marked the section she had been reading with a blue pen before putting both book and pen into a shoulder bag. She tapped at a console and looked again at the screen. It showed a three-meter-square platform in a deserted room…”

See what I mean?

Luckily, both problems smooth out once the story gets going. There’s a fascinating ethical problem I won’t spoil, but it’s an issue Doctor McCoy grumbles about in a parallel universe. Peri and Five take turns trying to talk their way out of trouble, getting deeper and deeper into it. Eventually the stakes are raised above the level of bureaucratic aggravation to an actual clear and present danger, requiring the Doctor to do something clever. Meanwhile, Peri’s blunt honesty makes a favourable impression on a young alien woman who’s the real star of the story.

Have a trailer.

Between the court procedures and a few clashes between Peri and the Doctor, I almost feel like this was originally written for the Sixth Doctor and toned down to change it to the Fifth.

It’s a solid little story with some clever twists and good character beats. It just doesn’t pack as much of an emotional punch as some recent Short Trips. Regardless, Nicola’s always a joy to listen to, and it’s fun to hear her switch between her own beautiful accent and Peri’s Mid-atlantic drawl (even if the latter is too close to my own for comfort).

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