Archive for the ‘New Adventures (Virgin)’ Category

Andy Lane (Various)

June 29, 2010

I’ve accidentally started focusing on New Adventures authors on the site recently, and here’s another – Andy Lane. He wrote ‘Lucifer Rising’ with Jim Mortimore (of whom more soon) and then ‘All-Consuming Fire’ and ‘Original Sin’. Quite a few of these quotes come from a long and excellent interview here.

Getting into the New Adventures

Jim Mortimore and I decided that if Paul Cornell could sell a Doctor Who book then we could, by which I don’t mean that Paul’s stuff was bad, just that he came out of the fanzines that I’d been in, and people had said equally nice things about both of us.

We sent in a proposal. Peter Darvill-Evans rejected it because it was too like standard TV Doctor Who We sent in another proposal. Peter rejected it because it was far too weird — it was called Bodyshock, and started out when the Doctor and Ace woke up in the bodies of giant lobsters separated by millions of years on an alien planet. I can see what Peter meant about it being weird… Then Peter telephoned Jim and said, ‘Jim, that first proposal you wrote… I’ve been thinking about it, and I’d like to give it a go.’ Cue fame, success and happiness.

On co-writing Lucifer Rising with Jim Mortimore

The way Jim and I agreed was to thrash a detailed plot out over the course of some months, then write alternate chapters, sticking to the plot. The only problems we had were in chapter 5, when Jim wandered away from the plot, and chapter 10, when I wrote some sub-standard stuff. Both chapters got rewritten.

On Virgin’s approach to the New Adventures

I’m impressed with the amount of care and attention that Virgin lavish on the series. Yes they make mistakes, and yes they let things slip through that we wish they hadn’t, but that’s because they’re thoroughly overworked. Rebecca Levena and Andy Bodle, the people with whom I have most contact, are very knowledgable about continuity and the way the series should be going. Rebecca is proud that no proposal has gone through without having been changed.

People buy the Missing or New Adventures for their own reasons. We can’t change that reason. The reason is people want to recapture the feeling of watching Doctor Who. We’ve got to cater to that… If we want to do something more serious, we should write serious books. Not Doctor Who. Tolstoy wouldn’t be writing New Adventures, he’d be writing his own stuff. So should we. (But) if I went out and wrote a science fiction or horror novel now, and sold it, even through my agent, I’d be getting a much smaller print run than I do for the Doctor Who books. We’re getting a very good deal.

On cover art

I was asked to write a page or so on what I wanted on the cover, and I was consulted over choice of artist. Virgin are brilliant in the way they deal with writers.

On Original Sin

It was originally meant to be a Third Doctor Missing Adventure titled Broken Heroes, but it mutated along the way.

On writing for Ace

Ace is a bitch to write for — literally and metaphorically. She isn’t a real character any more. What she’s been through is enough to drive any normal human being mad.

On writing for Benny

I suspect that my take on her is different from most other people’s. Paul Cornell and I have talked it through, and I think – I hope – he’s happier with my interpretation than he is with some of the others.

Lawrence Miles (Various)

June 27, 2010

Lawrence Miles wrote some of the most interesting New Adventures novels, and now (among other things) has a blog that, whether or not you agree with him, is definitely worth a look. These quotes are from various interviews over the years. For a really good, really long interview, try here.

On the original TV series

Doctor Who’s my native mythology. If you read, say, the work of Salman Rushdie… forget about the blasphemy for a moment, it’s not important right now… there’s a lot of material in there that comes from traditional Indian culture, there are lots of links to Indian mythology. Which doesn’t mean he has to believe in gods with the heads of elephants, obviously. It’s just part of his background, those are the symbols he grew up with. That’s more or less the way I feel about Doctor Who. I’ve got a pretty low opinion of a lot of the original episodes, but it’s still my home territory.

Doctor Who always went for action over style, and that’s one of the things I like least about it. Plenty of interesting things happen, but there’s not a lot of artistry there. Which is probably why Logopolis is my favourite story, because it’s supposed to be the Fourth Doctor’s funeral, and it feels like a funeral.

If the TV series had survived, then I don’t think there’s any question that by Season Thirty they would’ve been doing stories like Warhead. That’s what’s most interesting about Doctor Who, I think, that constant development.

On Alien Bodies

One of the points of Alien Bodies… was to do something that felt like a Robert Holmes story, but set in the same universe as the TV Movie. I felt the TV Movie was only half a Doctor Who story, it was like a cross-breed of Doctor Who as we knew it and American SF television.

So, the idea was to do a kind of second-generation cross-breed, kind of 75% Doctor Who instead of just 50%. It needed an ‘old’ monster for it to work properly, and I felt fairly confident about using the Krotons because… well, it’s not really as if anybody’s that bothered about them.

On reinventing monsters

I’m not sure that “making over” monsters is such a good idea.If you’re writing a book about Daleks… oh, if only… then nobody’s going to want to read something that’s post-modern and ironic about the subject of Daleks.

They’re going to want a story with huge Dalek armies exterminating everything in sight and a great big Dalek battlefleet coming over the horizon. A good monster’s a good monster, there’s no reason to play around with it.

If you start playing around with Cybermen, then there’s a chance of you just spoiling the Cybermen, but I thought I could probably get away with doing whatever I liked to the Krotons. Not exactly a first-division monster.

On the prospect of Doctor Who returning (pre-2005)

Eventually, there will be another TV series of Doctor Who. And it will fail horribly, because inevitably it’ll be aimed at the kind of fan-targeted SF market that didn’t even exist until Star Trek: The Next Generation came along and spoiled everything. Doctor Who only works as a family adventure series, but when it finally comes back you can bet any money you want it’ll be like Babylon 5 or something. It’ll only last one series, maybe two. So then the TV programme will be dead forever.

On Doctor Who in 2010

Moffat tries to make the Doctor a fetish-object, because that’s how we think of him as long-term Doctor Who viewers, and because we’re the ones to whom he’s pandering. (Well, not me. But you know what I mean). What the author’s actually doing is ensuring the Doctor’s worthlessness. If you make someone all-powerful, then power’s worth nothing at all, especially if you do it just to reinforce fan-opinion of the safe and clean-cut Boy One.

Gareth Roberts (Various)

May 31, 2010

Here are a few quotes from Gareth Roberts, one of the New Adventures authors who ended up writing for the series upon its return. Some are taken from a great, andfairly  long, interview here.

On The New Adventures

I quite like the idea of the Seventh Doctor. I remember being hugely excited by Remembrance of the Daleks, but the idea of the cosmic manipulator is a hell of a pig of a notion to sustain effectively, and was showing signs of strain in 1989.

On Doctor Who returning to TV (quoted years before it happened)

I’m not sure if it should. If it does, I’d like to see the fans alienated and the general public wildly acclamatory.

On The Shakespeare Code

Russell T. Davies just said ‘Shakespeare’. At that point it was all open, and we thought about it and discussed the possibilities. One of my first ideas was to use the lost play Love’s Labours Won. It’s nice if you can tag a little real-life mystery to the historical character you’re using.

There are very few references (for Shakespeare’s character), and trying to extrapolate from them could lead you down all sorts of weird alleys. So what we thought was fun was to make him a kind of celebrity.

On The Unicorn and the Wasp

Agatha Christie’s a brilliant writer, very good at character. And brilliantly simple prose. Anyone can write simple prose, but to write simple prose that’s gripping is very difficult.

We couldn’t decide initially whether Christie should be young or old. When someone says ‘Agatha Christie’ to you, you immediately think of an elderly lady, but her disappearance was just too tempting, so it’s set firmly during the time of that disappearance.

We don’t see posh people on television much any more, except at Christmas, and it’s kind of odd to be writing a Doctor Who where people are talkin in cut-glass accents.

When I saw the finished episode, I was quite taken aback by how different it was in some regards. Because of the genre, little things hae a lot of emphasis in whodunnits, and little things never have any emphasis in Doctor Who – nobody ever says ‘Your hair looks nice’ or ‘Ooh, what’s in your handbag?’. In Doctor Who, when somebody speaks, it has to be significant or relevant; there’s never any slack. The murder mystery plays by different rules. I think this will intrique people, because it’s different.

Paul Cornell (2009)

February 22, 2010

Here’s a transcript of Paul Cornell at a convention in Dublin. You can find videos of the panel on YouTube, and he talks about his work for Marvel etc.; I’ve focused on the ‘Doctor Who’ material from the first part. I met Paul Cornell once, at the ’93 Panopticon thing in London. I was eleven years old and thought ‘Timewrym: Revelation’ was “brilliant”.

Q: How did you end up working on ‘Doctor Who’?

A: Well this is sort of my life’s work, ‘Doctor Who’. Everything revolves around ‘Doctor Who’ to some degree, since that flip-flop moment when I decided to watch ‘The Brain of Morbius’ after avoiding watching ‘Doctor Who’ for so long because I thought it was far too scary, and the playground regarded it as something like a slasher movie, and I thought ‘Why do they subject themselves to that?’. And at the age of nine, I decided I was getting too old not to watch ‘Doctor Who’. So I watched ‘The Brain of Morbius’, and after four episodes when the Doctor beat the monster I was amazed. I had this huge Road to Damascus experience, or Road to Karn, and all my childhood fiction became fan fiction, which eventually got published in fanzines, and I realised I had an audience for this inner thing, and this inner thing has become my business, my lifestyle. How fortunate is that?

Q: You once suggested a panel on ‘Schoolyard Bullying as a Prerequisite for Doctor Who Fandom’.

A: Yes, absolutely. 90% of ‘Doctor Who’ fans have a history of being bullied, and 90% of the current writing team do, the ones I’ve asked. I think in many ways ‘Doctor Who’ is a show about bullying, monsters come along and want to bully you, and they’re stronger than you, and the Doctor’s the intellectual hero who, well, he’s been bullied in all sorts of ways. Russell claims he wasn’t bullied as a child, but a gay child, a gay man who’s put himself against gay culture in a lot of ways – they’ve never forgiven him for ‘Bob and Rose’, he knows what it’s like to be bullied, I think.

Q: There was that fifteen-year period between old ‘Doctor Who’ and new ‘Doctor Who’…

A: I think it’s a good system for telefantasy shows, that they have a fallow period. It’s like crop rotation. You have 75% on television, 25% fallow, so that new things can develop. ‘Star Trek’ has been through a fallow period. James Bond kind of did it without being fallow, although there’s a big gap there after Timothy Dalton. And in those fallow periods, the fans start working professionally. And that’s sort of what happened to ‘Doctor Who’ in those fifteen years. All of us who were fans, sort of thought about how the show worked, and between us we sort of worked out the nuts and bolts of ‘Doctor Who’ and started competing with each other. There was Big Finish, the different lines of books…

Q: Who was involved in that, then?

A: There’s kind of a Venn diagram. From the first season of ‘Doctor Who’ writers, the only one who hadn’t contributed to a BBC or Virgin ‘Doctor Who’ book was Rob Shearman, and the only one who hadn’t done anything for Big Finish was Moffat, although he’d had a story in a Big Finish book. A lot of the tropes of modern ‘Who’ comes from those books.

Q: What was the first ‘Doctor Who’ novel you wrote?

A: The first ‘Doctor Who’ novel was ‘Revelation’, the fourth of the ‘Timewyrm’ books, which was… I was living in Manchester, and was contributing to radio sketch shows out of Manchester, I’d already won a place on a BBC2 short play contest, but there were huge gaps of nothing opening up. I’d got a letter from Peter Darvill-Evans, the editor of the ‘Doctor Who’ book range, saying ‘If you’re not careful, you’ll be writing one of our novels’, and I remember literally jumping up and down in my hallway.

I had a direct line from the stories I first started writing as a kid, as essays, (which) featured some of the characters who then appeared in my fan fiction. I adapted a piece of my fan fiction for the ‘Doctor Who’ novels, I adapted one of my ‘Doctor Who’ novels for ‘Doctor Who’. There is a direct line. I’m really pleased with that.

It was a bit like ‘The Right Stuff’, we were all waiting… this group of fan fiction writers, waiting to see who would be the next one of us to get a ‘Doctor Who’ novel. So it’s be ‘Oh, there’s Andy Lane, there’s Jim Mortimore’. And we had one guy, actually, like ‘The Right Stuff’, who was the leading fan fiction writer, who never did it! He just stayed writing fan fiction.

Q: You also did TV guides, you did an episode guide for ‘Doctor Who’ and…

A: ‘The X-Files’, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Avengers’. Me, Keith Topping and Martin Day. We invented that thing of chopping things up into little pieces and just looking at the little pieces. It was prevalent in the 1990’s, but everybody stopped eventually because I think it got really boring.

Q: While ‘Doctor Who’ was off-air, there was an enormous amount of material generated, and those novels are worth taking into the canon –

A: Oh dear, don’t say the word canon. I just don’t think there is such a thing as canon in ‘Doctor Who’. And carefully, and it has to be carefully – the silence is just so big and obvious – there’s no-one in the ‘Doctor Who’ production office who has ever declared anything about canon. There’s two reasons for this, chiefly, one is that Russell thinks this whole conversation is remarkably geeky and he doesn’t want to go anywhere near it, but on the other hand his reaction to that could be ‘So, I will declare that only the TV show matters, nothing else matters’, but he’s never done that. So unlike Paramount (‘Star Trek’) and ‘Star Wars’, we do not have a canon in ‘Doctor Who’. This has given us remarkable plasticity and power as a show. Also, and I don’t know if this is the case, but I think maybe Russell doesn’t want someone who’s reading the ‘Doctor Who’ novels from the new ones to think ‘This doesn’t count’.

Q: Some of the stuff, though, like the Time War, is deemed to have happened.

A: Well the Time Lords rewrote an awful lot of history, so you could say that all of ‘Doctor Who’ history, in all media, did happen at some point, and then unhappened! Van Statten in ‘Dalek’, in the first season, is a great big entrepreneur with an interest in aliens, who lives in the year 2018 or something, who has never seen or heard of a Dalek, despite them having invaded Earth last Christmas. Because of the time travel, the show rewrites its own continuity. So everything did and didn’t happen.

John Nathan-Turner (1993)

August 30, 2009

Here’s John Nathan-Turner, probably the most controversial producer in the show’s history, giving a quite wide-ranging interview about the show. He talks about working as a Floor Manager in the Patrick Troughton days, about trying to persuade Peter Davison to stay on for a fourth series, and about the real reasons for the Colin Baker era’s troubles.

Q: Going back to ‘The Space Pirates’, how did you find the production team, the atmosphere, compared to under Barry Letts, who was producer on your second one ‘The Ambassadors of Death’?

A: Well when I first worked on the show it was in the role of Floor Assistant, the most junior member of the production team, basically a kind of glorified Call Boy, my main responsibilities being getting the actors on the set at the right time. And the very first story I worked on was with Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, and subsequently two other stories with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. Now the thing about the role of the Floor Assistant is that you’re working on the floor, you don’t have headphones, you’re not aware of what’s going on upstairs, and certainly it seemed to me that what was going on down on the floor was more fun on the Patrick Troughton show. There was a tremendous atmosphere of naughty schoolboys, almost, with the last Pat Troughton and Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury all goofing around. Being serious for the rehearsals and takes, of course. Now that’s not to say that when it came to working on the Pertwee shows they weren’t fun, they were just not as much fun. I think perhaps the technicalities of the show undoubtedly had become greater. The show had moved into colour, which required greater concentration in those areas. So that’s why my chief memories of the show are of Pat’s era, towards the end of black and white era of ‘Doctor Who’, as being a very fun environment, and Jon’s era being a little more serious from upstairs.

Q: When the BBC gave you the producer’s post in 1979, you’d already proved yourself as a Production Unit Manager on ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and on ‘Doctor Who’ under Graham Williams. Did you know what you wanted to do from the start with ‘Doctor Who’, particularly with the changes to fan consciousness of the show in America?

A: I think if you’re hoping for something to happen, like you’re hoping to take over ‘Doctor Who’ as producer, then you tend to have very very tentative plans indeed, because I think the whole time perhaps you’re expecting disappointment and that it won’t happen. So I’d made only a few initial plans of what I’d do if I got to take over from Graham Williams. It wasn’t until I actually took over that I sat down seriously to appraise what it was that I actually wanted to do. I think it was a case of tempting fate too much, if I’d had an enormous list before I got the job.

Q: Recalling what Pat Troughton told Peter Davison, to not play the Doctor for more than three years, and then recalling the 18th month hiatus, the cancellation in 1989, and all that happened, do you wish you’d got Peter Davison to stay on for a fourth year?

A: Well I did attempt to persuade Peter to stay on after he’d completed three years. I think the decision that the optimum period is three years is one that’s been made subsequent to Peter’s time. I think everyone at the BBC – myself, the head of drama, perhaps even the controller of BBC1 – did attempt to persuade Peter to stay on. If that had happened, I think those questions of ‘What if?’ are very difficult to answer. One thing I know is that I really wish that I had moved on earlier, because I feel to some extent, although every actor who plays the part gets labelled by playing the leading role in the world’s longest-running science-fiction series, I feel that as producer for eleven years it labelled me more than I would like, because I don’t see my future being concerned totally with science-fiction. I actually see my career having a much broader canvas, really, so I think in terms of people moving on maybe I should have moved on earlier.

Q: On the bright side, if you come to the States you always have somewhere to stay.

A: (laughs) That’s true.

Q: Looking at Colin Baker’s era, and the official story that the show was put on hiatus for 18 months because of the excessive violence in his first year, do you wish you could change the violence level, looking back at it?

A: Well I think I have to pick you up there and say I don’t think it’s ever been said that it was taken off for 18 months because it was too violent. I think the real reason was that they needed a certain amount of money by cancelling many programmes – ‘Doctor Who’ was one of them – to establish daytime television on the BBC, and it was an attempt to suddenly demand this money because the BBC wished to pull forward their launch date because the independent companies were pulling forward theirs. So there was a sudden and dramatic attempt to get this money by cancelling a lot of shows, and this was always the reason, or certainly the reason I was always given, as to why it was rested. As for Colin’s contribution, I actually think he got a tremendously raw deal, in that he did one season, then there was the hiatus, then we came back and there were only fourteen episodes and they were in a different format, and then the decision was made to move forward with a new Doctor. So Colin never got a chance to get his teeth into the part. I think most people would agree with me that the first season of virtually every Doctor is really a very tentative one, the actor trying desperately to find a way to play the part, which after all is veyr thinly sketched, and coming to terms with the amount of themselves that has to be injected into the portrayal. So I really feel that Colin, maybe, if there hadn’t been that hiatus, would have got into a slightly higher gear that would have allowed him to mature his portrayal.

Q: He did seem to get screwed, and he did very well with the resources that he had. Was ‘Doctor Who’ put off a bit to make way for ‘Eastenders’?

A: No, I don’t think so. ‘Eastenders’ had been on the cards for a number of years. I think that where ‘Doctor Who’ got involved with ‘Eastenders’ was that after ‘Doctor Who’ was moved from its traditional Saturday slot, each year we’d be on different days. One year it’s be Monday and Wednesday, then another year Monday and Tuesday, and so on, and apart from doubling our audience during this time, which was a significant indication that those early evening drama slots could work, I think that what we were doing was really rehearsing which of the two evenings of the week would be ideal for a soap opera which had yet to be named, which was ‘Eastenders’. And the whole thing has come full circle, because this weekend in Britain there has been a programme celebrating thirty years of ‘Doctor Who’ combining the programme with ‘Eastenders’. The TARDIS arrives in London and gets embroiled with characters from ‘Eastenders’ in a two-part mini-adventure in 3D, a very exciting technology that I don’t think we’ve seen the end of. The story has all five living Doctors, twelve companions, a multitude of characters from ‘Eastenders’, and a multitude of monsters, something like twenty different monsters. And in a way there’s a certain irony that we were once rehearsing the slot for ‘Eastenders’, which by the way has just become the most popular programme in Britain, in positions one and two, it’s finally beaten ‘Coronation Street’.

Q: Fans want to know if the selection of Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush was because the BBC wanted to keep the show on track when it returned, because she was popular from ‘Crackerjack’, or was it more a matter of calming down the front office from the BBC’s point of view?

A: You’ve got a lot of mis-information there. Bonnie was never on ‘Crackerjack’, which was a programme that was cancelled when ‘Doctor Who’ was rested in 1985, and ‘Crackerjack’ never came back. I don’t think Bonnie was ever involved in that. I cast Bonnie, it was my idea, I thought she was right for the part. I also thought that bringing in someone who already had a name, as a companion, would help with publicity, to refresh people’s memory and to help with that. It was not a popular decision with many of the fans in Britain, but I think you have to keep that in perspective. Fans with a big ‘f’ who are members of the DWAS in Britain total 2,500 people, and over the years, for example when we were doing two episodes a week and getting ten million viewers, I think you have to keep the views of the Fans in context.

Q: I was speaking to Sophie Aldred, and she said that she didn’t originally audition for the role of a companion. She said she auditioned for Chris Clough, then went to you for approval, then back to Chris Clough and found out that you had just selected her in a way that required no test readings or auditions whatsoever. And she said that she owes her career success to you.

A: Well it was a weird situation in a way, because at the end of that season there were two stories both of which featured a possible ongoing character. There was a young girl in ‘Dragonfire’ and a young girl in ‘Delta and the Bannermen’, and the script editor Andrew Cartmel and I couldn’t  decide which story should end the season, and consequently the casting of these two young girls involved my office in a very major way because whichever one went out last would possibly hold the key to staying on in the show as a companion. But I’m delighted that it was Ace. I certainly don’t think that Sophie was right for the other part. I’m not saying she couldn’t have played it, but I think she was much righter for Ace, and I think the combination of Ace with Doctor number seven, Sylvester McCoy, is probably one of the most successful in the show’s history.

Q: How do you know if that chemistry will exist?

A: If you could bottle that kind of chemistry, you’d be the next multi-millionaire. I think it’s very much a kind of instinctive chemistry that happens between two people who are working together and something additional gels in front of the camera. It’s something that I think was particularly applaudable in the work that Sophie and Sylvester did.

Q: Onto the ‘New Adventures’ books, do you like the novels and their treatment of the characters?

A: I have to confess that I have limited knowledge of those novels and their characters. Not being the resident producer of ‘Doctor Who’, although I’ve just guested on this Children in Need thing, I find some of the things that have developed that I’ve read slightly odd, you know, but then I’m a sweet old-fashioned thing hankering after my old days. I think it’s right that the show should develop, and I’m not knocking what Peter Darvill-Evans does with the books, and I think it needs to go forward in order to be successful. The development of characters, situations, the whole premise of the show, I think it would be infinitely preferable if it happened on television rather than in the novels first.

Q: Sophie Aldred said that she didn’t like seeing Ace as a warmonger in the books, she wanted her to be a pacifist, but she said that she hadn’t actually read the books. I take it a lot of people from the show don’t know how the books have developed things?

A: Unfortunately not had the time, I guess.

Q: Your participation with the video releases, after the cancellation, did that help to convince the BBC that they didn’t really need to make new stories? That they could just make a buck with rehashed old stories.

A: Well, I think that’s a very simplistic view, if I may say so. I think inevitably there’s a buck to be made, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to see that the buck is going to run out pretty soon. In the UK, they release twelve complete stories each year, plus three specials, and that’s a hell of a lot of material. They’ve been doing it for a number of years, and I don’t think it’ll be long before those video releases run out. I know you get them slightly slower in the States, so they’ll hang on longer, but I really don’t think that anyone thinks it’s a substitute for making new product.

Q: When the show comes back, how would you like to see it?

A: I’ve said in print and in a docuumentary that goes out tonight in the UK that I see this ‘Children in Need’ thing as my absolute farewell to ‘Doctor Who’. Although it’s only twelve minutes, it has brought together every living Doctor, all of them in costume, all of them recording new material that’s specific to this rather than using material that was left over from a junked story, and it’s brought back so many of the companions and so many of my old team that I really feel that it’s the end of ‘Doctor Who’ for me. What it needs for the future is a new team with new ideas and a whole new aegis of taking the show forward into the next century.