Jenny Colgan is a mysterious international mystery woman of mystery who has gone by many names: Is she actually Jenny Colgan? Or perhaps Jenny T. Colgan? Or even J.T. Colgan ? Who is the real Jenny? Why does she lurk behind so many different names? Just what is it she’s hiding from? I’m not saying she’s left anyone inside an old sack at the bottom of a lake and is now attempting to evade the law as she leaps from identity to very similar identity, that’s for others to decide. I asked Jenny ‘The Sack in the Lake Murder’ Colgan some questions about Doctor Who.
Okay, serious questions first; Mel, Adric and failed companion Adam are hanging by their fingernails from a cliff edge- who do you help up, and whose fingers do you quietly tread on whilst no one’s looking..?
Adam. Seriously, you’re on the biggest, best, brand new show on earth. With the chance to be a new fricking companion. And you blow it SO SPECTACULARLY you can practically see them writing you out live on air. Unbelievable. Mel was too fleeting to feel more than a plot device, and I didn’t really mind Adric. As an annoying, whiny kid I always quite liked the fact that the Doctor let an annoying whiny kid travel with him on the TARDIS. Same reason I liked Donna.
When did Doctor Who first barge its way into your Mind Palace and then point blank refuse to leave?
There’s loads of fans exactly the same age as me (including David Tennant), because we were all 8 when City of Death came out. That’s the first one I remember being utterly gripped and engrossed by, and that whole series is good. When I knew it was the best thing ever was Warrior’s Gate; it felt like living a dream in real life. I liked it as much as Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is to say: a lot. Logopolis broke my heart.
Not only are you best known as a writer of romantic comedy novels, but you’re also an actual real life woman, still something of a rarity when it comes to Who writers! How did you come to write your first Doctor Who novel, ‘Dark Horizons’; was it difficult to get your chance?
No, I just bugged them a lot and still do. I pitched constantly, and they would say, well, you know, Romantic Comedy novelist, we can’t have any snogging or sex or romance in it and I’d say noooo, none of that. So I wrote a Matt Smith novel without any of that stuff, whereupon on the actual show he proceeded to do basically nothing else but snog people for the next three years, occasionally pausing to get married or take off all his clothes.
CHALLENGE TIME: Victoria screaming at you at point blank range for 37 minutes, or explaining the ins and outs of Ghost Light to a four year old until they fully grasp it: MAKE YOUR CHOICE!
Me and the 8 year old watched Ghost Light recently. But I did tell him before we sat down: don’t ask me any questions, okay? I rather like Sylvester McCoy, I don’t think he’s the Doc who did for it. So, Ghost Light please. It’s evocative.
Doctor Who fans hate a lot of things with a fiery passion about the show they love; what’s a generally derided element (story, Doctor, monster, outfit, WHATEVS) that you actually think is ace, skill and super nifty?
I don’t think Martha gets enough love. There was too little Martha and too many other annoying Joneses in that arc. I did pitch (unsuccessfully) a Martha/ Mickey divorce novel. They’re dealing with a hasty, ridiculous marriage where they both actually really wanted other people. Then she has to do dangerous UNIT medical stuff with a new Doctor and deal with all of that too, can you imagine, when the person you love changes so completely? Well, it was very interesting to *me*. Mind you I also pitched the Doctor-Donna/ Rose post- show human life-adjustment sitcom, so don’t listen to anything I have to say.
Do you have a favourite Who era, or do you love it all as though it was the very flesh given life from your sex junk?
I think it’s almost a point of pride that you can’t like all Who; if you do, then the show is going awry, because it should always be different and always explore. Anyone that liked every single Doctor Who would make me very suspicious.
IMO Russell & Steven working together on modern Who simply made some of the best television there has ever been; the Douglas Adams and the Key to Time eras in classic Who meant a lot to me.
You’ve now written twice for Matt Smith’s Doctor, would you like to have a go at Sweary McMurder-Eyes himself, Mr P-Cap?
I couldn’t possibly comment *winkswinkswinks*
Do you have a favourite modern series episode, and why?
Silence in the Library/ Forests of the Dead. I just never tire of watching it. It’s before River got annoying, and it’s just exquisite; always surprising; full of ideas; wonderful sets and characters; clever; scary; tender without being mawkish, and it puts you right through the wringer. And such gorgeous writing, from the big stuff:
“Not one line. Don’t you dare! It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not over for you. You’ll see me again. You’ve got all of that to come. You and me. Time and space. You watch us run!
To the small:
“It’s a screwdriver. It works in the dark.”
If it’s on, I’ll always watch the whole thing again, like Terminator: it just goes from good bit to good bit.
As a child stuck way up north in Carlisle, where science fiction was routinely chased out of Cumbria by torch wielding farmers, I indulged my Who-love more or less isolated from wider fandom; how involved in sci-fi fandom were you growing up?
Oh I felt terribly isolated (I grew up in Ayrshire, so we’re not far apart). Being a girl then made it even worse. It’s cool for girls now but back then I was convinced I was the only one on earth. Even as I got older it was my ‘comedy quirk’, rather than a totally acceptable thing to really love the show.
It’s not all about the TV episodes, what’s your favourite bit of non-television Who ‘stuff’?
I like my tattoo. Otherwise, and I apologise to BBC Worldwide, who send me lots of lovely things, I splashed out on one of those very expensive handmade River Song journals and all my story notes, pitches, sketches and plans go in that and I would not like to lose it.
Since the return of Web and Enemy, the rumours have continued to swirl about what else might be out there; if you could pick one missing (or partially missing) story to have returned, what would it be?
I will be completely honest: I’m not that interested in stories before my Doctor (4) , I’m just not a completist like that.
Neil Gaiman would have been a writer on many Who fans fantasy wish list; is there anyone (apart from me) (and you) you’d be interested to see tackle an episode?
Sally Wainwright, obviously. She seems a natural Russell style writer. Jane Espenson- they MUST have asked her, surely. Joss. Aaron. And actually I’d like another Richard Curtis, I thought his was utterly charming.
Is there anything from Classic Who that the modern series has yet to bring back that you’d like to see it tackle..?
Do you have a favourite Doctor Who writer? (TV, audio, books, whatever!)
Paul & Gareth.
The Kandyman can or The Kandyman really, really can’t and, what’s more, definitely shouldn’t?
I am nearly half way through my lifetime, if I am really lucky. I have never seen it and I suspect I never will: I’m running out of time.
Who’s your Doctor and companion? You can choose more than one, if you’re weak.
I loved scary first Romana. Now THERE was an equal. Although if we’re going the opposite way, I really crushed on Nyssa too, even though she fainted any time something scary turned up, or would wander off on holiday for a month or so. But you can’t deny the 10/ Rose chemistry. It’s like they didn’t want it to happen, but they couldn’t help themselves. Lovely stuff. I thought 11 and Amy had great chemistry too, before Rory came along and ruined it by lying lifeless on the floor 300 times.
Do you think you’d like to tackle a scripted piece of Who; say a Big Finish audio for example?
I’d love to, they haven’t asked me yet, but I’d absolutely adore that. I’d love to do a 5, all hands, Tegan, Nyssa; Adric taking a kicking. Four people in the TARDIS is such a tricky dynamic that I’d love to have a shot at it.
Team Master or Team Rani?
Old Master > Rani > new Master
Let’s assume magic is real and not only can you now fly and turn some wine into even more wine, but you can pick any two Doctor’s, living or dead, to team up for a new episode; who’s it gonna’be, hm?
Like everyone else, Paul coming back gave me the most humongous thrill, as well as making me sad at how good he could have been. Plus I liked the last season DT when he was really really bad, like in Waters of Mars. So DT being bad, and Paul egging him on, for some proper mischief. I just want to see more Paul McGann Who now really, that wasn’t nearly enough.
Is there an era of Who that, whilst watching it, makes you want to push your finger into your brain to make all the bad feels go away?
I know this will sound terribly daring and pushing the envelope but I truly wasn’t a one for ye olde Baker C. I know, controversial, hey? I don’t even like my non-Who friends seeing pictures of him. And I didn’t much like Jon Pertwee being stuck on earth. Where are we this week? OH EARTH VERY GOOD. My eldest likes him though. He has a cool car and he does kung fu.Also I know it all had a lovely happy ending in real life and all the rest of it, but the Doctor’s Daughter I find really embarrassing.
Congratulations, you’ve just been put in charge of Doctor Who and can make whatever changes you want to it; so what’s your big move? Strand the Doctor on Earth again? Cast a Woman in the title role? Bring back K9, but also add his nephew, Scrappy-K9? Or something else..?
Traitor companion. Constant jeopardy and side-switching, Homeland style. Turlough the whole thing up a bit, I’m slightly over people who think he’s awesome.
Promote something you capitalist pig!
OOH do buy Into the Nowhere please. It is a full-on, rollicking Matt and Clara story, with my take on Clara. www.tinyurl.com/intothenowhere