The Angel of Redemption: a 2010s story, by Nikita Gill

Second verse of third chapter:

Trying to find each other,
in the distance they saw
what was a shooting star.
And desperate to see each other
to know themselves,

So, this is very unexpected. It’s a story written in the form of poetry, the internal reflections of the Weeping Angel who is destined to yank Amy and Rory back in time in The Angels Take Manhattan, telling the story of the origin of the Angels, their desperate attempts to feed and deal with a hostile universe, and towards the end their interaction with the Doctor and with the world of the early twenty-first century in England. Doctor Who stories rarely take the perspective of the monster, and even more rarely do it well (though see the Century 21 Dalek comic strips for another example). You can get it here.

A Bechdel fail for an unusual reason. Most stories that fail Bechdel step 1 will also fail steps 2 and 3 (that two female characters must have a conversation, and that it is not about a man). The Angels present as female, and they have many interactions (which can pass for conversations here) about the nature of reality and the fate of their race; but none of them has a name, so while the book would pass the original form of the Bechdel test, it doesn’t get over the first hurdle of the generally understood criterion that there must be two named female characters.

The Self-Made Man: a 1980s story, by Mark Griffiths

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The Doctor strode briskly from the TARDIS, fedora hat balanced on his thick thatch of curls, long scarf streaming behind him. Romana followed a little warily, still uncertain of her friend’s current mood. She glanced up into the flawless blue sky, shading her eyes with her hand. It was a warm morning, no doubt about to turn into a scorchingly hot summer’s day.

This is the longest of the Six Stories for Six Decades in wordcount (the next one has more pages but fewer words), though the story is straightforward enough. The Doctor and Romana, taking a break between seasons 17 and 18, arrive in a London council estate in 1984 where a local lad is achieving great things with technology. But where is he getting the technology from, and what price are he and his neighbours paying? And can police officer Hazel Harper put a stop to it?

About halfway through, it becomes fairly obvious which classic monsters have turned up and from then on the story runs on fairly predictable if entertaining lines. But I did like the way that the bad guy’s downfall has been triggered by Thatcherite economics, tying the merciless and logical free market to the merciless logic of the SPOILERS. I see a number of other reviewers who didn’t get this; perhaps you had to be there. Anyway, not quite as good as the first two in this sequence, but you can get it here.

Bechdel pass when Romana and Tiger Lily talk about cocktails in Chapter Nine.

The Cradle: a 1970s story, by Tasha Suri

Second paragraph of third chapter:

I don’t love everyone knowing my business. And I don’t love the way you have to run, sometimes, from people who want to bash your head in.

Where the previous story in this series took a fictional town and a timespan mainly in the 1960s but stretching to the present day, The Cradle is set very firmly in 1978 in Southall, at a time of maximum tension caused by the National Front, with the protagonist a gay Indian teenager who is at the front line of racism. I know Tash Suri a bit from our joint stint as guests of honour at the 2022 Eastercon:

I remember an Eastercon discussion a few years ago about places that Doctor Who cannot go – the Holocaust, for example, or indeed Ireland (other than symbolically). 1970s racist London might at first sight seem to be potentially one of those places, but Tasha Suri has found a way of doing it, taking her protagonist and friends on a personal journey mentored by the Twelfth Doctor. At the end of the story everything is not all right, everyone is not OK, but the Doctor has helped and the future looks just a little better than it did. I liked this one too. You can get it here.

Bechdel pass in the first chapter when Seema and her grandmother talk about cooking and the strange lights in the sky.

Imaginary Friends: a 1960s stpry, by Jacqueline Rayner

Second paragraph of third chapter:

We went to Rome, which is from history and sometimes from Sunday School. There was a lion! I think I mite like lions even more than cheetahs. The Emperer chased Barbrar and the Doctor pretended to play a liar and made it sound silent. I wish Anne would play silent when she does piano practice. There was a lady and her job was to poison people! I thought the police would come and arrest her but they did not.

This is the first in a series of six YA Doctor Who novellas published to commemorate the recent anniversary. It’s a very good start. Young Gerry has dreams of the Doctor, his companions and their adventures together, in a world that is just the same as ours, except that there is no TV show called Doctor Who and strange things happen like the unsolved murder of a pesticide researcher, or the odd goings-on at the Post Office Tower…

Really this is lovely. Jacqueline Rayner on form is one of the best current Doctor Who prose writers, and she’s on form here. She brilliantly evokes the decaying industrial atmosphere of the mid 1960s and the need for escapism, and the changing dynamics of family relationships over the last sixty years, and the universal difficulty of growing up. I loved it. You can get it here.

Bechdel fail, I’m afraid, with tight third around the boy protagonist.