(Originally posted to the Doctor Who Ratings Guide on 13 September, 2000.)
In quickie form: ST&SS was another Doctor Who short story collection, full of plusses and minuses.
First, let me just say that the "theme" of ST&SS, that of "out-of-continuity" adventures, rarely if ever works. Most of the stories are ones that work just as well in continuity as out of it, and those that don't are usually distinguished by mind-numbingly painful badness. There's only one that a) is clever, and b) uses its status as being out of continuity to good effect...Face Value, by Steve Lyons, which does clever things with the idea of a musical version of Doctor Who, and is quite funny to boot. So, going down the line in quickie reviews...
The Longest Story in the World is an alright introduction to the series, but not really a 'story' in the sense that it has no ending. Then again, that might be the point. A Town Called Eternity (which is, appropriately enough, split into two parts) seems almost schizophrenic -- like either Lance was planning a farce and Mark a serious story, or the other way around. It's a clever idea, but the style is very inconsistent, which grates slightly. The first three Special Occasions stories are great, and then the fourth derails the whole concept by trying to link the first three into something (I think perhaps The Well-Mannered War, but I'm not sure), and the whole thing falls apart. Nothing At the End of the Lane, which is split into three sections, reminds me of how much I'd like to see Daniel O'Mahoney write for Doctor Who again. It's basically a retelling of An Unearthly Child via a plot device similar to 'Shades of Gray' (the ST: TNG episode), but O'Mahoney has a masterful love of the language that evokes the strange and terrifying in the everyday. It falls apart a bit at the end...OK, a lot at the end...but it's worth reading for its haunting text. Countdown to TV Action...at first, I wasn't sure whether to lambast Gary Russell for his agonizingly bad prose, or to let him off the hook by saying, "He's just duplicating the bad dialogue and plots of the comics." Then I thought about it for a moment, and decided to lambast him for deliberately celebrating that which should be left forgotten in the name of nostalgia. It's like doing a pastiche of Timelash, or trying to make a perfume that precisely re-creates the scent of dog vomit. Yes, it can be done, but _WHY_? The Queen of Eros is Doctor Who meets "The King and I", but well done for all that. The Android Maker of Calderon IV is the best story in the whole book, and one that I made all my friends sit down and read. Revenants is alright -- a clever little time puzzle. Doesn't fit into continuity, but who gives a rat's arse? Please Shut the Gate is a cute little one-joke premise that does a good job of nailing down the Second Doctor, and it's short. Turnabout is Fair Play is a nicely done twist on the old 'body switch' idea (nice one, Graeme.) The House on Oldark Moor is a good little story, but was there any reason why this had to be done with the Peter Cushing Doctor? Gone Too Soon is a great story about the Doctor indulging in a little bit of cosmic vandalism that's nicely paced, too. Reunion is a pretty bog-standard Doctor Who story, but not bad. Planet of the Bunnoids isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Monsters is a nice evocation of the Cartmel era of Doctor Who, right down to the scenes of the Doctor being strangely philosophical in ways that turn out to fit into the plot. Face Value is, as I said, quite clever. Storm in a Tikka is, as I've said, not -- and again, why did this have to take place in between Dimensions in Time and Search Out Science, other than the writer wanted to use K-9? Vrs is the second best story in the book, and I'm gonna miss Lawrence, dangit.