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.
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?
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.