Review: Short Trips – The Second Oldest Question

Review by Michael Goleniewski

If you are a Whovian at all in the slightest, you most likely know the oldest question in the universe. It’s been tackled and handled in multiple series across the show’s run and is instrumental to the very fabric of what Doctor Who is. But now the query becomes: what about the second oldest question in the universe? That’s what this Short Trip written by Carrie Thompson sets out to tackle further back in the Doctor’s timeline.

In a rundown medieval village in 1357, a strange court is about to take place with a most peculiar defendant being accused of heinous arson. When the Doctor arrives to take the stand for the defence with companion Nyssa in tow, a ridiculous ‘sort of’ trial ensues with an expected query to be answered but with very unexpected consequences for all involved.

As you might be able to guess, this is one strange Short Trip that’s impossible to discuss in full without spoiling completely. The cover of the tale gives a fairly big clue and the plot does a great job of building it up and dancing around the answer without giving anything away. But once you realise where exactly the direction and writing are going with the subject of the title, you honestly can’t believe your ears and the way the story chooses to answer that question turns out to be odd, bonkers, and frankly laugh-out-loud hilarious with plenty of twists to keep you intrigued and guessing.

Sarah Sutton is once again great as both narrator and performer and it’s obvious with her mannerisms and voice that she’s enjoying every minute of performing this story. Some of her voices get a bit lost in the mix at times especially her imitation of the Fifth Doctor which is nothing special. But the way she emotes with each character and the way her voice flows with the extravagant writing more than makes up for it and it’s rare for her to turn in a bad performance in anything she does no matter how everything else turns out around her.

The narrative goes back and forth between describing the trial and everything else around it and the script by Carrie Thompson is vibrant, creative, and completely over the top in all of the right ways even if it struggles slightly in a more predictable climax once all of its cards are played. It’s not exactly the best story for either character in our TARDIS team but the way in which everything is presented and just the absurdity of it’s premise more than makes up for it and this is a great example of an audio that anyone can jump into regardless of knowledge about this Doctor and Classic Who in general.

Make no buts about it; ‘Second Oldest Question‘ has to be the single strangest Short Trip ever released in the range and perhaps even one of the strangest Doctor Who stories ever created. If you are hoping for a more serious answer to what the story presents on the surface, you might walk away from it a tad disappointed. But if you are able to place those expectations aside, you’ll find one of the funniest and most creative pieces of writing we’ve had with a Doctor Who story in quite a long time. This is another one that might prove to be a tad divisive and partially for good reason given what a lot of Whovians might be expecting from it. But putting all that aside, you can’t deny that it’s different for better or for worse and it will certainly keep your attention no matter what you end up thinking of it. For this reviewer personally, this one is a major gem and one that will be revisited multiple times to come.

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