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Interview: Una McCormack


UnaMcCormackUna McCormack is a writer who, in the picture to my left, is holding up a Star Trek book she wrote.

Star. Trek.

I’ll pause a moment to let your anger subside.


She’s a super talented lady who has written Who prose, as well as audio Who (and other things) for Big Finish. She was nice enough to answer a few questions, so the least you could do is read her answers, right? GOOD.

When did Doctor Who first sit astride your chest like a time-consuming succubus?

When I was very small I ate three Weetabix cardboard figures. I think that must have done the trick. I also used to devour Terrance Dicks novels. Sometimes for a light snack I would nibble on the extremely accurate Jean-Marc Lofficier programme guide.

My first memory of watching Doctor Who involves Peter Davison and a corridor, which really narrows things down. Do you have a first Who-memory?

My first Who-memory is being afraid of the chanting in ‘Planet of Spiders’. My father had to say ‘-lette!’ every time someone said ‘Om.’ ‘Om…’ ‘-lette!’ I am still more afraid of Buddhists than I am of spiders.

How did you come to write for Big Finish?

Gary Russell asked me to write for the Gallifrey series. Gary Russell has asked me to write for him many times over the years. Let us sing his praises and be thankful to him.

CHALLENGE TIME: Mel 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!

I will choose having to explain the ins and outs of Ghost Light to a four-year-old until they fully grasp it, since this is going to happen when my little girl reaches four, and I can direct her to her father.

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?

The Kandyman. Stop looking at me funny.

As well as Doctor Who you’ve written in the worlds of Star Trek and Blake’s Seven, are there any shows left that you’d like to tackle?

Which ones are paying?

Do you have a favourite modern series episode, and why?

‘Gridlock’ because it so brilliantly illustrates Foucauldian ideas of the self-disciplining subject. Also bringing back the Macra was funny.

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?

I was the only girl at my convent school interested in science fiction. It was a lonely time. I discovered Blake’s 7 fandom when I was seventeen, courtesy of Paul Darrow’s novel, A Terrible Aspect, which I bought by mail order from the Sheffield Space Centre. And with one bound I was free.

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

Our full-size Dalek.

Female writers in Doctor Who, be it for the TV show, novels or audio, are still is pretty rare occurrence; do you think that the perception of it being a bit of a boys’ club puts any women off attempting it? And do you have any advice for women who’d like to give it a go?

I think the perception of it being a boys’ club does put women off trying, but I would suggest that they ask anyway. But the desire to resolve institutional disparities w.r.t. class, gender, and race etc. has to come from within institutions and must involve concerted effort on the part of decision-makers within them. Individual freelancers can’t solve these wider problems simply by knocking on the door and asking to be let in. They don’t have that power.

That answer isn’t funny, but it’s what I think.

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?

Ursula Le Guin. Lois McMaster Bujold. I’ll put in a plug for ‘me’ anyway. And they should give some of the Big Finish boys a go: Jonny Morris, Simon Guerrier, James Goss.

Do you have a piece of Doctor Who related work that you’ve been involved in that you’re most proud of?

I’m very pleased with how The Way through the Woods came out. To be honest, I do a little Snoopy dance every time I get commissioned to do something Doctor Who related, so it’s hard to pick one.

Do you have a favourite Doctor Who writer? (TV, audio, books, whatever!)

I think James Goss is so brilliant that one day I’m going to re-enact the plot of Misery with him.

Aged 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 drew a series of Blake’s 7 stick man cartoons when I was eight years old. They’re about as good as you’d imagine they’d be.

Do you have a favourite classic series story, and why?

‘The Caves of Androzani’. It’s flawless, innit? What Magma creature? Sorry, can’t hear you.

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

I’m weak, but will choose only one anyway. The fifth Doctor and Tegan, because I would be as cross and unimpressed with the universe as Tegan is.

Team Master or Team Rani?

Team Count Grendel.

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..?

All that plus bring back the Dominic Glynn theme music from season 23. I’d go down in history as Hiatus McCormack.

Promote something you capitalist pig!

Please buy my lovely new Star Trek book, The Missing! It has Doctor Pulaski in it, fighting crime.



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Author: Matthew Stott


2 thoughts on “Interview: Una McCormack

  1. Pingback: This Weeks Top Posts | Doctor Who Thing

  2. Pingback: Ep 66 – Companions Who Never Were |

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