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January’s short trip sees a very Doctor-lite entry (if that is even possible when the narrator is usually a companion). Paul McGann may be peering heroically out of the cover, but his character is only mentioned fleetingly.
The story is narrated by Liv Chenka (Nicola Wood), and features quite a few references to a previously released Short Trip from last year - Damascus, that featured the third Doctor. Jonathan Barnes wrote both Damascus and The World Beyond The Trees.
I must confess that I found myself at a bit of a disadvantage with this story, which probably dented my enjoyment somewhat. I’ve not listened to Damascus, and I’m also not familiar with Liv Chenka, a character who started with the seventh Doctor, but is more of a companion to the eighth.
In The World Beyond The Trees, the Doctor is seemingly communicating with Liv through a dreamthat she has. In the dream, the Doctor is in a rose garden, he mentions Damascus, and that she should knock four times (does that ring any bells reader?). Liv is living in Baker street, with another of the eighth Doctor’s companions, Molly. When she wakes from her dream though, something is wrong. Molly is unresponsive, staring into space. When Liv ventures outside, she finds the whole of London has been affected by what is revealed to be a 'Listless Field', rendering the population prone and inert…..except one other person….
Nicola Wood reads well, and is quite engaging, ensuring that there is a differentiation between her and the other major character. The stories undertones are about grief, and losing someone who is dear to you (in this case Liv’s father), and that message is relayed well.
For me there were two main problems, the first being the lack of the Doctor’s presence. I’m a big fan of most of the ‘Doctor-lite’ television episodes, but when you are relying on a story based around a character that might not be as familiar with the general audience as others, then the missing Time Lord becomes a problem. The other issue is that it seemed to heavily rely on the listener’s knowledge of previous Paul McGann audio’s, which - as they are now released in big chunks of series box sets can be a big ask if you haven't listened to them before.
The World Beyond The Trees is a fine science fiction story, but not a particularly great Doctor Who entry.