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Interview: George Mann

g mannNEW INTERVIEW TIME YOU FILTHY DOGS!

George Mann is a writer who has penned Doctor Who novels, audio adventures, and short stories. His latest Who novel, ‘Engines of War’, is especially noteworthy as it focuses on the War Doctor. I drop-kicked a pile of sexy questions his way. Please read both the questions AND the answers, otherwise this has all been a real waste of time. Thanks. Thank you. Here’s George Mann. Answering questions about Doctor Who. Right here:

When did Doctor Who first stumble groaning out of the dark and sink its remaining broken, rotten teeth into your tender neck meat?

As it was for many of us, Doctor Who was a huge part of my childhood. I remember watching Peter Davison at an early age, and pretty much being hooked from that point onward. I started reading Target novels, borrowed from the library. I collected VHS tapes. I avidly watched reruns of Tom a Baker stories on UK Gold at the weekend, when I was supposed to be doing other things. It’s been a part if my psyche ever since.

DavisonDoctor 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?

Oh, there’s very little about the show that I don’t take some enjoyment out of, so most of the things others deride I still find some value in! I know we look back now and laugh at the wobbly sets and bubble wrap monsters, but there’s something special about all of that, I think, that speaks to the imagination, that allows you to fill in the gaps.

If I had to pick one thing it would probably be Sam Jones from the novels. She seems to be universally derided, but I like her! That’s why I dropped that little reference to her in Engines of War.

It’s not all about the TV episodes, what’s your favourite bit of non-television Who ‘stuff’?

I think it would have to be the novels. I’ve by no means had a comprehensive schooling, but I am a completist and I’ve pretty much collected them all now. I’m working my way through the Eighth Doctor stories at the moment, and enjoying them immensely.

The_War_Doctor_Your latest Who novel, ‘Engines of War’ is a War Doctor story; now there’s not a whole lot of War Doctor stuff out there, was it difficult for you to find his voice or was what we saw in ‘The Day of The Doctor’ more than enough for you?

It was harder than capturing Matt’s voice and mannerisms in the Eleventh Doctor stories I’ve done, just by virtue of the amount of screen time each has had, and therefore the amount of material there is to observe and absorb. That said, Hurt gives such a strong performance that there are things to get your teeth into straight away as a writer.

The bigger challenge, really was working out his story arc. How does this Doctor end up in the place that he thinks genocide is the best and only solution?

Zygon_(Doctor_Who_monster)Is there anything from Classic Who that the modern series has yet to bring back that you’d like to see it tackle..?

I’m a big believer in looking forward, and enduringly we get lots of fresh new stuff, rather than constantly retreading old ground. That said, I’d love to see another story with the Fendahl. And give the Zygons a proper outing of their own, too! They deserve it!

You are set the task of turning a newb to the Who-side, which story are you gunna plop them in front of first??

The Talons of Weng Chiang. Or Rose.

Team Dalek, Team Cybermen, or Team Kandyman..?

If I had to choose, Team Dalek!

What are your favourite Who stories? (TV, Novel, Audio, whatever!)

The aforementioned Talons of Weng Chiang. Along with The Daemons, The Pyramids of Mars, The Seeds of Death, The Scarlet Empress, The Eye of the Tyger, Vampire Science, The Iron Legion, The Doctor’s Wife, The Chimes of Midnight… The list goes on!

Third DoctorYou’ve written for a few different Doctor’s now, is there one you’ve yet to tackle that you’d like to have a go at?

There are two that I’d LOVE to write for – the Eighth Doctor and the Third Doctor. Two of my favourite Doctors, and it feels somewhat incomplete that I haven’t written for them yet. Hopefully one day!

A missing story of your choice can be returned, but ONLY if you ditch one that we already have. SO, what do you want back, and what will you toss into a black hole in return? MAKE YOUR CHOICE:

I’d have Evil of the Daleks in exchange for Time Flight.

Which piece of Who that you’ve penned are you proudest of?

I think it has to be Engines of War, to be honest. Although I’m very fond of a Short Trip I wrote for Big Finish a few years ago, called ‘Rise and Fall’. The incomparable William Russell read it for audio, and it has to be one of my favourite things I’ve done.

Who’s your Doctor and companion? You can choose more than one, if you’re weak.

It’s probably cheating to say the War Doctor and Cinder, isn’t it? Otherwise, Third Doctor and Jo are always great.

doctor-who-engines-of-war-hq-300x465In ‘Engines of War’ you were able to create a companion for the War Doctor, Cinder; was your version of a companion already lurking in your brain meat, or was it more of a challenge?

She wasn’t fully formed, no. I think every Doctor needs a different companion at different points in their story, and with Cinder I tried to give the War Doctor the companion he needed at that particular juncture. She’s a reflection of him, in many ways, and a warning, too – she allows him to see how narrow his focus has become during the war, how far he’s drifted away from himself. It’s Cinder that makes him realise he’s the only one who can bring an end to it all.

Cinder was never a challenge, though. She just came to life when I needed her too. She was a joy to write for.

Do you have a favourite Who era, or do you love it all as though it was the very flesh that was given life from your sex junk?

It changes. Some days it’s the Third Doctor’s UNIT years. Other times it’s the Seventh Doctor, or the Hinchcliffe years, or the middle period RTD years with Donna. I guess that’s what’s fantastic and all-consuming about the show – it changes, just like the Doctor, and there are things to love in almost every permutation of it, depending on your mood.

hitchhikersAged about 11 I wrote an original (complete Marooned rip off) Red Dwarf story for English class, can you remember the first time you attempted to write a story for one of your favourite shows?

I wrote a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy story at around 12, I think. It’s probably that. I was always more interested in making up my own characters, to be honest, although they were always heavily influenced by what I’d read or watched. I don’t think I actually sat down and wrote a Doctor Who story until my first commission from Big Finish, although you can see the influence it’s had on my other work, particularly Newbury & Hobbes.

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?

I’d like to see the Twelfth and the Eighth appear in a story together. I’d be interested to see how they got along, with such different attitudes.

PLUG SOMETHING, YOU SHAMELESS SWINE:

I’m currently hard at work on more adventures for Newbury & Hobbes, as well as revisiting my 1920s vigilante character, The Ghost, in revised editions of the first two books, along with two new ones. My latest novel, aside from Engines of War, is a Sherlock Holmes novel, ‘The Spirit Box’, set during 1915 in the midst of the Great War.

THANKS, GEORGE!


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Deep Breath

DeepWell then. Well, well, well. Wellity-wellity-well. And so on.

I wasn’t going to do regular reviews, and perhaps I still won’t, but I thought I’d chuck up a few random, ill-thought out, poorly expressed thoughts on ‘Deep Breath’, the first episode of the Capaldi era.

WARNING: This isn’t a proper review, it’s a stream of blather. As I write this, I’ve only seen the thing once, so don’t come here looking for a deep, nuanced reading of the text. You are welcome.

Clara

CLARA EyesThere have been many complaints, some of it certainly justified, that Clara as a character was a bit thin. She was a character defined by her mystery, the whole Impossible Girl jazz. The focus on that perhaps got in the way of exploring her fully as a character, as to some degree to really be a mystery, she had to remain as such. Well now that’s done and dusted and the fully formed Clara can step into the spotlight and we can really get to know her. Not that, despite what some people might insist, there weren’t unique character traits there already. Much is made of her being a control freak in this episode, an ego maniac, but this is no character retcon, it’s always been there. Clara is the character that refused to take up with Eleven full-time; she remained at home and made him come to her, on days of her choosing. She was in control. All they’ve done here is tease that out more, made it more explicit.

I have seen some chatter about the fact it’s absurd for her to have a problem with regeneration. Has she forgotten she’s met ALL of the Doctors?!? It makes NO SENSE! Well, no. If that’s how you read this episode, then you’re reading it wrong. It’s not regeneration as such that she has a problem with, or that she suddenly doesn’t even know regeneration is a ‘thing’. She knows the Doctor changes, her problem is that she’s lost HER Doctor. Those other Doctor’s being out there is fine, but Eleven was her friend, not those other ones. Her silly, goofy, boyish, brave, sad friend. It’s like she said in ‘The Day of The Doctor’, she knew the Doctor pressed the button, destroyed Gallifrey, but she never saw HER Doctor doing it. This is what she is having trouble with, the Doctor is still there, but her friend, as far as she’s concerned, has gone. It takes a call from Eleven himself, a plea from her best friend, for her to decide to give him a chance.

ANYHOO. Clara was bloody marvelous in this, I’m so glad it looks like they’re now going to dig into her character more deeply, and massive ‘YAYS’ for when she gives Vastra and the Half-Face Man hell..! She may be scared, but she ain’t gonna take your shit, buster.

Length & Tone

I like my Who fast paced, a pre-credits sequence like we had for ‘The Pandorica Opens’, a dizzying thrill ride, really gets me going, but how nice it was to have a bit of room for once! We could actually stop and have people chat for a bit. This lead to some of the episodes very best scenes; the Doctor & Clara scene in the restaurant, Clara out-foxing the Half-Faced Man as he tried to threaten her, Vastra attempting to judge Clara. We stayed with it, we had time to dig deep. It’s a shame really that we now have to squeeze everything back into the straight-jacket of 45 mins again. Even an hour would do the job! But I understand, despite the shorter run times, that this willingness to stop and breath every now and again is something that we will be seeing more of throughout series eight, which I think is a really good call.

half faceThe Monsters

The return of the clockwork droids from ‘The Girl in The Fireplace’! Not that the Doctor remembered them. In many ways the monster threat was the B story to Capaldi rebuilding himself, but it did enough for me to grab my interest. All the scenes from the restaurant on were very effective. And it was a nice choice to feature a Robot that constantly rebuilds itself in a post-regeneration story, a mirror for the Doctor himself. It looked bloody good too, didn’t it? All those close-ups on the see-through head. Clara trying to hold her breath as she made her slow escape was incredibly tense. How many of you held your breath too..?

Poor Mr Half-Face only wants to get to the ‘promised land’ *ARC KLAXON ALERT..!*

Cap Point

Capaldi

We’ve heard a lot of publicity about how Capaldi will be ‘dark’ and ‘fierce’ and ‘unfriendly’, and whilst he certainly does exhibit those things, they ignored something very important: he’s really funny. Oh sure he’s unpredictable (When he leaves Clara trapped and seems to have saved himself, Lordy!) and he’s less friendly, but it was all delivered with a humorous edge. That was only really dropped when he had his final confrontation with the Half-Faced Man. There was no one there to hear his jokes. He dropped the facade and played it straight. And yes, it really was quite chilling to watch. Wonderfully so. I was always quite sad they never really followed through on Tennant’s ‘No second chances, that’s the kind of man I am’ line, it seems they’re going to explore this vein a bit more with Capaldi.

I don’t think we know or feel as comfortable with this Doctor at this point as we did with Smith, or Tennant. In one way this means I don’t see him as fully formed yet, but that’s not exactly a criticism. We’re not meant to quite know this Doctor yet, he’s supposed to be a little bit more of a closed book, we need to travel with him to learn more. But thumbs up, I like what I’ve seen. That scene with the tramp, superb stuff.

RANDOM STUFF:

-When Clara reached back her hand in her scene with the Half-Faced Man, hoping the Doctor would have her back, and they waited…. and waited…. and then a hand finally grabbed hers, but it was one of the robots! Well, only then it wasn’t, but boy, that had me worried!

-For me, there were some directing, or editing issues. I wasn’t always sure where the characters were specially. When the Doctor abandons Clara, I initially though it was HE who was trapped with the robots. I may well just have been dumb, have looked away, but there were one or two moments like that.

-The Doctor, asleep, translating the dinosaur, lovely.

-Doesn’t Capaldi have a very ‘Doctor-ish’ way of moving? All weird run and awkward arms.

-When Eleven makes a call. OH BOY….. Lovely.

-‘I don’t like her, I love her.’

-This is the first time since Pertwee that we’ve not seen the Doctor choose his clothes post-regeneration (Nine doesn’t count, we didn’t see his post-regen scenes!)

-I wonder what the Doctor got up to between abandoning Clara at the end and coming back for her..? It feels like time may have passed, the TARDIS looks different, he has his new clothes; will it be in any way significant..?

-Michelle Gomez. Her performance was certainly… arch..? Is she a full on baddie? It appears so. In which case I’d like a straighter seam of nasty, not just a riff on her very funny Green Wing character. Make me SCARED God damn it!

-Have I mentioned how ace Clara was???

Cap Promo

The Bottom Line:

I liked it. I liked it A LOT. I’m not sure if on first watch I loved it, not to same degree as the perfectly perfect and wonderfully magical ‘The Eleventh Hour’, but it was a blooming good start to a new Doctor’s reign and continues modern Who’s unbroken run of good-to-great debut Doctor stories.

I recently posted a Top 3 Debut Stories for a Doctor article, would ‘Deep Breath’ make it onto that list now? I’m not sure that at this point it would. It’s still too fresh, I’d need to give it another few watches. But! BUT BUT BUT, it was definitely an enjoyable first step for Capaldi’s Doctor.

Okay. ‘Into The Dalek’. COME AT ME.

@DoctorWhoThing


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Doctor Who U.S.A.

GOOSEIn the fall of 1967, America (the U.S.A.)  made one of several failed attempts to create their own successful version of ‘Doctor Who’. Unlike the Paul McGann TV Movie, this attempt from the 60s never actually made it to air.

Actor William ‘Bill’ Shatner ‘Shat’ (probably best known for his work on ‘TekWar’) was, the producers claim, their first and only choice for the lead role. In actual fact, I understand they approached John Wayne first, who turned them down flat and chased the producers from his property wielding a large whip (a gift from Director John Ford). They kept this information from Shatner as they believed he would throw one of his legendary crying fits if he discovered the truth. Two years previously, Shatner had almost wept all the moisture from his body after a minor disagreement over a parking spot.

Above is rare publicity shot of Shatner in character. Just as Matt Smith had ‘Geronimo’, and Tennant ‘Allonsy’, Shatner’s Doctor also had a catchphrase: ‘Eat fist, Commie!’

TAXIAlthough faithful to it’s source material in many ways, there were potentially controversial deviations. Rather than the TARDIS appearing in its familiar Police Box shape for example, Shatner’s Doctor traveled in a yellow New York Taxi-Cab, as producers said it was ‘more relatable in Ohio’. Although the Taxi-Cab couldn’t travel through time, it was marginally bigger on the inside, especially the glove box, into which Shatner at one point in the pilot crawls inside of to hide from some passing aliens.

FLINTThe finished pilot was not looked upon favourably by the network, who decided to shelve the show, stating: ‘This is nothing like The Munsters!’ The pilot’s producers found this point difficult to argue with. In a last ditch attempt to change the networks mind, the producers re-tooled the pilot, teaming Shatner’s Doctor up with a sassy Go-Go dancer named ‘Go-Go’, and changing the title to ‘Doctor Who: Spy Mission America’ in hope of cashing in on some of the ‘In Like Flint’  Spy-mania; but even this failed to turn things around.

The finished pilot pretty much disappeared from view, becoming something a a myth among Who Nerds, many believing that any copies had long since been destroyed. I thought the same, until last week when I was contacted by a private collector of classic TV. I have yet to see the pilot itself, beyond a few pictures, but since forwarding my source in Hollywood several hundred pounds and my bank details, he has assured me that he is in the process of sending a copy to me by FEDEX. I look forward to sharing a new post with you in which I critique this lost treasure!

@DoctorWhoThing


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Hey, Dummy!

steven-mofattOver the last few weeks, as we splash around in the… uh… swimming pool of pre-new season speculation..? Imagine I wrote something much better there. Anyway, as we thrash about impatiently, one armband quickly deflating causing us to swim around in circles, I’ve noticed a bit of an unwelcome blather-trend online; namely that Capaldi is arguing with Moffat and telling him exactly what to write. Capaldi is putting that no good show-wrecker in his place and giving us ‘proper’ Doctor Who back. Which, you know, is adorable. The very idea that anyone could seriously entertain such a notion enough to put it out there as fact is such an incredible load of nonsense that I struggle to understand how so many people are going with it. I recently read an article on some site called ‘Mary Sue’, which positively revelled in the idea; not as a possibility, but as a fact. It’s what’s happening behind the scenes. That monster Moffat is cowering at his keyboard whilst the mighty P-Cap towers over him, eyebrows a flame, yelling ‘No more romance! Cut out all these jokes! Bring back the Garm!!’

I won’t link to the offending dick-heel of an… I was going to say ‘article’; let’s go with puke-scrawl instead. Offending dick-heel puke-scrawl. I’m sure you can find it if you so desire, or other dick-heel puke-scrawls like it. Now look, this isn’t supposed to be bashing those of you who don’t like Moffat’s version of Who, because I sympathise, okay? I love the Mighty Moff, I think he’s penned more full on Who classics than just about anyone, and his era, shaky as it’s been at times, has been a delight, but obviously I can understand it not being your thing. Because it’s subjective. They’re stories. In any long running series with a huge fan base, you’re going to get a section of people who don’t like what the show becomes. And that’s fine. That’s unavoidable. But you know what isn’t fine? Being an insane person. Making toot up to spew vitriolically into the world whilst you stamp your little entitled feet.

Here’s the hard truth, so take a seat and prepare yourself: Capaldi likes Moffat. I mean, REALLY likes him. I’m so, so sorry. Capaldi likes Moffat’s version of Who, and he likes his writing. He would totes carry Moff’s book-bag and possibly even kiss him on the face given half a chance. He’s not a saviour here to right your perceived wrongs, he’s an actor here to enter into what is a creative collaboration with many other people, including the head writer. The boss. The man steering the ship. Steven Moffat. Capaldi will have his own ideas, suggestions and desires that he’ll put forward, and it’s then up to Moffat to decide what we’ll actually see. What bits and pieces the new guy brings that he’ll add to the pot to stir in. And it will be different to some degree to what has gone before in the recent past, because it’s a new Doctor, a new tone; time to shake the whole thing up again. But whatever we do see, it’ll be because Moffat has decided it’s right. Not because he’s been bullied into it by Capaldi, by Jenna Coleman, or even by the person in charge of catering, no matter how delicious their lasagne is.

For better or worse, depending on which side of the fence you sit, what we’re going to see in series 8 is STILL mostly the vision of one man, Steven Moffat. He’ll be taking on board all the ideas and suggestions of the people surrounding him, Capaldi of course included, and filtering them through his brain to give us the Who he thinks is right.

So to those of you being total dum-dum dummies, please, I beg of you: quit it already!

@DoctorWhoThing


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Top 3 Debut Stories

Deep Breath everyone! We’re about to/have had/are having (delete as appropriate for the time you actually read this) a newy new debut episode for a Doctor (Doctor Who) (Twelvey) (P-Cap). Will ‘Deep Breath’ be more of a ‘Christmas Invasion’, or a ‘Time and The Rani’..? We’ll soon find out (already have found out?). In anticipation I thought I’d bash out a quick list of my top three debut stories for a Doctor; if you don’t agree with my list you can GO TO HELL, COMMIE!

11th HourThe Eleventh Hour

OMG, DUH BESTEST EVAH, TOTES EMOTES AND MAXIMUM FEELS!!1! Moffat could hardly have got it more right with this one. Following in the footsteps of the sainted Tennant was always going to be a challenge, so Moff made sure we fell completely in love with the new guy immediately. It’s a warm, joyous Who-hug of an episode, and Matt Smith is just outstanding.

 

Spearhead_from_SpaceSpearhead From Space

Pertwee’s first, and it’s a belter. This was ‘The Eleventh Hour’ of its time, trying to do so much more than just launch a new actor into the role, it was basically a relaunch for the show. It introduces one of my favourite (and sadly underused) Who baddies, the Auton’s, and establishes the new format: Earth, UNIT, present (ish) day.

 

an-unearthly-child-13An Unearthly Child

I’m not so interested in all the cave man stuff that came next, but this opening episode is a spooky marvel. Dark, mysterious, potentially dangerous, Hartnell is all of these things and more in this very first episode of Who.

 

SPECIAL MENTION GOES TO:

Twin DilemmaThe Twin Dilemma

No, I’m not high. A little drunk maybe, but not… oh wait, I did drop that acid earlier. Okay, so I’m a little (lot) high and a bit (proper wasted) drunk, but if you ignore the ropey story, then good god is Colin Baker bloody well GOING FOR IT. It may be a bit naff overall, especially coming the week after Caves,  but Baker himself leaps at you and makes his mark immediately. For better or worse, he IS the Doctor.

Agree? Disagree? Which debut stories for a Doctor would make your own top three, hey? Hm? ANSWER ME!

@DoctorWhoThing


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The Young Dr. Who Adventures

Young Dr WHo

‘He’s 17, and it’s about time!’

Doctor Who Thing can EXCLUSIVELY reveal that filming has begun on a new CBBC pilot, ‘The Young Dr. Who Adventures.’

A spokesperson for the channel said. “Yes. This is a true thing that is happening.”
GatissShowrunner Mark Gatiss says that he is “Chuffed to my very balls that CBBC have decided to show such faith in me.” He went on to say that “It’ll be Who, but funky fresh. Vanilla Ice will be rapping over the theme tune, stuff like that.”

Former Harry Potter/naked on stage actor Daniel Radcliffe is said to be delighted to be taking the lead role. “I’m delighted to be taking the lead role”, Radcliffe revealed. “Really delighted” He further added. “Really, really delighted.”

binThe role of the companion will be taken by a relatively inexperienced performer, the burping bin from ‘Rose’. “Kids love burps, that’s a scientific fact”, claims Mr Gatiss (from The North), “But we’ve gone one further, and now Binny can actually fart too! Kids love farts. Farts are funny.”

Radcliffe (14, shoddy Wizard) says, “Binny can’t talk, but through a series of differently pitched burps and farts, I learn to trust her.”

Bieber

 

Doctor Who Thing understands that the current favourite to take the role of the Doctor’s main villain, Young Master, is singing twonk, Justin Bieber. When contacted for clarification, Bieber replied, ‘What?’

 

 

A spokesperson for CBBC again stated, “Trust me. This is real. LOOK HERE:”

Youg WHo

@DoctorWhoThing


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Interview: Andrew Smith

Andrew SmithAndrew Smith is better than you, okay? Let’s just get that out of the way right now. This guy has written words that Tom Baker has spoken on screen. In Doctor Who. What THE HELL have you done that could EVEN compare? Yeah, EXACTLY. Compared to Andrew Smith you’re, at best, on a par with that thick mucus I sometimes cough up in the morning (I do not enjoy a healthy diet).

Andrew Smith wrote ‘Full Circle’ for Tom Baker’s final season, and can still be found writing Who-Stuff (and beyond) for Big Finish. Here he is being a gent and flapping his gums about Who:

2 & JamieWhen did Doctor Who first enter your Mind Palace and set up home?

The show started a year and a bit after I was born, but my first memories are of watching Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines up against the Cybermen, Yeti and Quarks.  So probably around 1967.  The first story I can point at and say ‘I definitely watched that’ was The Web of Fear, as Yeti in the Underground are etched in my memory.  I may have seen earlier Cybermen stories, as Cybermen are prominent in my viewing memories.

akDoctor 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’m wary of any story or story element being labelled as bad as if fandom was some monolithic entity with a single point of view.  Doctor Who is such a mix of styles, tones and story genres that there will always be a spread of sometimes polarised opinions whatever is on screen.  One story where I was very surprised by the amount of immediately negative reaction was The Rings of Akhaten.  I loved it, and went onto Twitter immediately afterwards expecting to read an outpouring of Akhaten love.  But what I read was not that.  I remain surprised by that and will continue to feel a warm happy glow whenever I think of this story.

Full Circle 4Do you remember the initial spark of the idea that became ‘Full Circle’?

What I remember is coming up with the idea of the natural cycle of the planet first, before any of the characters in the story and even before the Marshmen.  It was always about the setting, this lush verdant world that regularly transformed into a life-threatening mist covered environment, from which various monstrous life forms emerged to protect the planet.

What did you make of the finished televised version of your script; was there anything that surprised you about it?

I was really pleased with it.  What a cast; and there was exceptional work by all involved including Peter Grimwade and film cameraman Max Samett.  One thing that surprised me was the appearance of the Marshmen.  In the script I think I described them as ‘half-men half-beasts’, and I imagined them as being similar to cavemen in appearance.  So when I turned up on location and saw several Creatures From the Black Lagoon queueing at the catering van yes, I was surprised!  But it was all to the good.  JNT told me that they were the most expensive costumes on Doctor Who to date, because they were designed around scuba diving suits.

first sontaranWere there ever plans for you to write for the show again?

I was commissioned for the following season, a story called ‘The Torsan Triumvirate’.  I remember very little about it except that it was set in the modern day and involved aliens living as humans bringing together three parts of a device to initiate an invasion.  That story reached the scene breakdown stage but wasn’t produced.  In 1983 Eric Saward asked me to come up with a Sontaran story for Colin and Nicola’s first full season.  That was ‘The First Sontarans’, which also got to scene breakdown stage.  Happily I still have my material for that (unlike The Torsan Triumvirate) so when Big Finish asked me to adapt it for audio I was in a position to do so.   I am so very pleased that The First Sontarans now has an audience – Big Finish did such an excellent job with it, as ever.

Please say something nice about The Kandyman- and mean it!

He’s sweet.

tom bakerYou seem to not only be a Who writer, but also a massive fan of the show, something that wasn’t always the case with classic Who writers. Did it seem surreal at the time to be writing for Tom Baker?

I do remember a particular moment when I was standing on the platform at Argyle Street station in Glasgow during the period I was writing the script, thinking to myself ‘My ten year old self watching Jon Pertwee wouldn’t have thought for a moment that I’d be writing for Dr Who just a few years later’.  And it was a buzz to find myself writing scene directions and dialogue for my favourite television programme.  But more importantly, I was finally writing a TV drama script for production.  I’d written radio comedy sketches and even a couple of TV sketches, but this was a big breakthrough for me as a writer.  I’d been approaching Doctor Who and other dramas with scripts and storylines for about three years at this point.  I went to great pains not to be perceived as a fan (apart from anything itself, being a declared fan at that time was not something you flaunted if you worked on Doctor Who), but as a writer.  And my ambitions were wider than just writing for Doctor Who.  But of course, writing for the Doctor was a particular joy.  And I was very glad I managed to write for Tom Baker, the Doctor I’d grown into maturity with.

You were quite young when you penned ‘Full Circle’, it’s an opportunity that would be impossible with today’s show; do you think this is a healthy thing for the modern show, or just a necessity considering its importance to the BBC these days?

It’s neither healthy nor unhealthy, it’s just a feature of programme making these days.  I was asked to write my script after sending in a number of unsolicited scripts and storylines.  Nowadays unsolicited material is not read, mainly as we are living in a more litigious society and this ensures that no-one can claim that an idea from a rejected story was then used in the programme.

Although the opportunities to submit unsolicited material and catch a producer or script editor’s eye are fewer these days, there are other ways in which it is far easier to get somewhere with your TV writing aspirations.  From writing initiatives like the BBC Writers Room, to the availability of software that helps format a script professionally, and readily available archives of scripts and professional screenwriting advice.  Also, there are many more outlets.  In 1980 we had only three television channels in the UK.

The Daleks' Master Plan 2Are there any missing or partially missing stories you’re hoping will turn up next?

Most of them!  Top of my wish-list to the Missing Stories Santa would be the Dalek Master Plan (if anyone out there hasn’t heard the soundtrack recording, you must put this right immediately – it’s a glorious story), followed closely by Power of the Daleks.

Adric was first introduced in your story and went on to be quite a contentious, and in some quarters derided, companion; did you feel at all protective towards the poor sod and his badge for mathematical excellence?

I had no idea there was any anti-Adric sentiment out there until years afterwards – in fact, when the Earthshock DVD came out.  It came as quite a surprise.  I didn’t feel protective towards him, although I was and am glad to have introduced him.  He was derived from a character description given to me by Chris (Bidmead) at our first script meeting, and I inserted him into my existing story.  I created the badge for mathematical excellence, and I’m glad that had its day in the sun by bringing down a Cyberman at a critical time!

pertwee JoDo you have a favourite era (or eras) of the show, or do you love it all as though it were flesh birthed from your own man-womb?

There are many factors that mark a Doctor Who ‘era’: the Doctors, of course.  Also producers, script editors, companions.   I don’t see them as being in competition with each other for our favours and I do love the programme across the board.  However, I’ll always have a special hankering for the old black and white episodes, and for when Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning were the TARDIS crew.  And, for an example of when you had the perfect storm of cast and production crew, I don’t think you can do better than the Philip Hinchcliffe years.

Not too long after working on Who you seemed to move away from writing as a career. Was this a purposeful decision or a mutual falling out?

I’d been interested in policing from my mid-teens after a police careers talk at my school.  I worked as a professional writer for four and a half years and was happy and productive (in all that time I always had a commission to work on), but the lack of security worried me, and I found it a bit solitary.  I was also aware that, having started at such a young age, I might have been lacking in the life experience that is so important to a writer.  And, I was still drawn by the idea of being a police officer, particularly by the opportunities for excitement and a bit of an adventure.  So I decided to give that a shot, I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1984 and have had thirty exciting, rewarding years doing that.   

doctorwho604Favourite modern Who episode/episodes, and why?

Dalek, Midnight, Human Nature, Blink, Silence in the Library, The Doctor’s Wife… that’s just off the top of my head.  Why?  They make me smile when I think of them.  There are plenty more like that.

What baddie that has yet to be featured in the modern series would you like to see back? No, you can’t go the easy option and say The Quarks, pick something else.

The Krynoids.  Let’s see what today’s costumes and effects could do with transforming an unlucky victim into a great big towering throbbing thrashing mass of green hate.

FDWM mcgannavourite piece of non-telly Dr Who ‘stuff’?

Doctor Who Magazine.  I have absolutely no idea how Tom and Peter and their co-DWMers manage to produce such a consistently fabulous product month after month, but I’m in awe and delighted that they do.  And hurray to their predecessors too.

Re toys/gadgets, my fave is the Cyberman shower radio.

In recent years you have begun writing for the good Doctor again, penning audio adventures for Big Finish. How did this return come about?

Soon after the E-Space Trilogy came out on DVD I was invited to be a guest at a convention in Glasgow called Army of Guests.  Big Finish were there of course, in the form of David Richardson and Nick Briggs.  David talked to me about The First Sontarans and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Big Finish, which of course I was.  And then, a few weeks later, he got in touch to ask if I’d like to write a Companion Chronicle for the second Romana set in E-Space.  That became The Invasion of E-Space, and I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to write a few more since then.

001_domain_of_the_voord_cover_largeDo you have a piece of Doctor Who that you’ve written that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud of them all in their own ways.  I was very pleased with how The First Sontarans turned out.  And I remember feeling particularly happy when I came to the end of my first draft of the script for Domain of the Voord, the first in a new Big Finish range, The Early Adventures, that comes out in September.  That’s a First Doctor story starring William Russell and Carole Ann Ford.

Favourite classic era story/stories?

Robots of Death, and The Talons of Weng-Chiang (that was a good ten weeks).

robert holmesDo you have a favourite Dr Who writer from the first fifty years of the show? You can include Big Finish or Who novel writers!

Among the writers whose names in the Radio Times (because that was all the notice we got back then) always made me want to see their episodes were: Robert Holmes (obvs); Chris Boucher; Robert Banks Stewart; and Chris Bidmead (and that’s not just because he was my script editor – Chris is one of the most original thinkers ever to put pen to Doctor Who).   I couldn’t possibly pick out names from among m’Big Finish colleagues.

Who is YOUR Doctor and companion? You can choose more than one combination if you’re a weak sort!

Second Doctor and Jamie.  Seared into young me’s imagination as THE Doctor and Companion pairing.  I liked their comic strip appearances too.

happy vlleyNeil Gaiman would have been a writer on many Who fans fantasy wish list; is there anyone you’d be interested to see tackle an episode?

Sally Wainwright or Lucy Gannon.  And not because they’re women and the series has had a dearth of female writers – those names were the first to pop into my head, because I’m massive fans of both of them.   Sally’s ‘Happy Valley’ has been the best drama on television this year, or in many a year, and that’s a title that faces stiff competition because drama output is of a very high standard at the moment.  Lucy’s is a name I’ve known since the Soldier, Soldier years.  Both of them consistently deliver in spades and I would salivate to see their names attached to a Doctor Who script.

Go ahead and plug something, you money hungry monster:

I was so very pleased to be asked to contribute to Big Finish’s new ‘Early Adventures’ range,  and as I mentioned earlier I was pleased with my script for ‘Domain of the Voord’.  I recommend the whole series, which has an engaging format to bring us powerful stories featuring the early Doctors.  And if anyone wants to know what it truly means to be Voord, you should check out Domain …

Domain of The Voord

Away from Doctor Who, I and everyone involved has been blown away by the reaction to the first series of Survivors , which came out on audio in June.   I wrote one episode of the four and the whole thing is an assault on the senses.  The sound design by Neil Gardner and the  hugely original ambient music by Nick Briggs polish off a production that has one of the best casts ever assembled by Big Finish.  It may make you cry, it will definitely make you think.  And you don’t need to have seen the TV show.

Survivors: Series One

Thanks Andrew!

@DoctorWhoThing