Readers of my reviews on this site know of my love for Nicola Walker’s Liv Chenka — so of course I was excited to hear that Walker was reading an Eighth Doctor Short Trip, The World Beyond the Trees. Jonathan Barnes’s story takes place in a small gap during the fourth disc of Dark Eyes 2: while the Eighth Doctor is off in space battling the Daleks (as heard on the first disc), Liv and Molly live in the house on Baker Street, with the Master eventually arriving to kidnap Molly. The World Beyond the Trees shows that time to be not uneventful, with Liv writing a letter to her father to describe some fantastic events that transpired recently, ones linked to the Third Doctor Short Trip Damascus. (Liv and Molly are, after all, living on Earth during the UNIT era.)
Between the writing and the performance and Steve Foxon’s eerie sound design, the beginning of this story is beautiful and haunting. Walker’s melancholy voice makes for great listening — just five minutes into this I knew I wanted to hear more audiobooks read by her (but alas, there’s only one, and it’s an instalment in a long series of mystery novels). As always, Walker captures Liv’s humanity so well, with some hints here as to her grief that would be more fully explored in Doom Coalition 3 (a bit of retroactive foreshadowing) but also humour from Liv’s life in the 1970s.
The ending, however, seems underdeveloped. I get that Short Trips stories are mean to be, well, short, but given the constraints of time, I’d have preferred to have some of the earlier parts cut down (which retread stuff we already know, both as watchers/readers/listeners of genre fiction in general, and as listeners of Damascus in particular), and later parts expanded (the eponymous world, and how Liv finds it, are curiously glossed over). Still, on the whole, this is another strong example of a range that seems to have come into its own.
The World Beyond the Trees (by Jonathan Barnes; read by Nicola Walker) was released by Big Finish Productions in January 2017.