Archive for the ‘Script Editors’ Category

Andrew Cartmel (2010)

February 16, 2010

Out of the blue, a little bit of a fuss has been kicked up by the suggestion that ‘Doctor Who’ may have included a few anti-Thatcher characters during the Sylvester McCoy era. Scandal! Anyway, here’s Andrew Cartmel – script-editor during the McCoy days – on ‘Newsnight’ discussing the claims:

Q: Was ‘Doctor Who’ really a satire on Thatcherism in the 80’s?

Andrew Cartmel: Well, I didn’t see the stories as a satire on Thatcherism, but the character (Helen A) was a take on Mrs. Thatcher, absolutely.

Q: You were quoted as saying, when you joined the BBC, that you wanted to overthrow the government. Is that an accurate quote?

A: Well, it is, but I’m a beneficiary of the art of selective quotation, which is the cornerstone of journalism. John (Nathan-Turner) asked me, if there was one thing – this was towards the end of the interview, when it was obvious I was going to get the job – he asked me, ‘If there’s one thing you could do with the show, what would it be?’, and I said ‘Overthrow the government’, because I was young and I didn’t like the way things were going at the time. John said ‘Well you can’t do that, the most you can do on Doctor Who is say that people with purple and green skin are all equal’, which we then proceeded to do.

Q: Is it true to say that British sci-fi tends to be left-wing and American sci-fi tends to be right-wing?

A: The notion that we promoted Marxism is wonderful, but it’s not true. One of the writers had a father who was a Marxist (Ben Aaronovitch), but that’s about as close as we got. And all the writers were chosen because, not only were they good writers, but they could do ‘Doctor Who’, which was a very strange show. If my criteria to get writers for ‘Doctor Who’ had been to get good writers who could do ‘Doctor Who’ who were at any particular point on the political spectrum, it would have been much too much like hard work.

Q: Michael Grade, at time, said that ‘Doctor Who’ had no redeeming features.

A: ‘Doctor Who’ at the time had gone into a real trough, and it’s true that there were some very, very bad episodes, so I can understand that. But I do feel that we were pulling out of it, so it’s a great shame that we never got a chance to continue.

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David Whitaker (1970’s)

November 20, 2009

As promised, here’s more from David Whitaker, talking about the creation of Vicki’s character, his Troughton-era Dalek scripts and his work on the first Doctor Who novelisations.

“The new girl Tanni (later Vicki) was intended to be something of a waif and stray, someone basically for the Doctor to adopt in place of Susan and to carry on her role in the series. I don’t think it was a particularly inspired piece of writing, but it was a necessary one.

“The Crusades is the story I am technically proudest of. It achieved almost to a word what I set out to depict and was people with some particularly interestingly real characters. I became fascinated with the relationship between Richard and his sister, which was almost incestuous in its intensity. I relished the dialogue that the story allowed me to write, and the period itself was so interesting that it became almost a labour of love to produce a script worthy of the colour and depth of drama that had inspired it, within the limits of the budget – and what was permissible for that time slot and indeed for that time, when television was not the liberated lady it has since become. The final satisfaction came with the truly inspired acting and direction – Douglas Camfield worked my words into some beautiful and taut images.

“I was approached to write the ‘Doctor Who’ novels and, once I agreed, found that I had taken on an incredible amount of work, because the whole of Terry Nation’s story for ‘The Daleks’ had to be re-structured and largely re-written by me to make the thing stand up on its own as a novel, separate from the continuing threads of the mainstream television series. I was quite pleased with the result and though it was hard work, I enjoyed it. The second book, ‘The Crusades’, was much more straightforward and less complicated, though, as I liked that one so much anyway. I found it enjoyable from the start.

“With ‘The Power of the Daleks’, it was around the time that William Hartnell was leaving and so, aware that the idea was to replace him with another actor, I wrote the Doctor’s part as sketchily as possible, so that it could be easily altered. I then concerned myself with the rest of the story and delivered my script just before I was due to leave the country. It was a very different kettle of fish when it appeared, and I wasn’t desperately happy about the whole thing.

“The Evil of the Daleks had a lot to it, and it included a theme I’m very fond of – the lure of alchemy. It was as good opportunity to write an atmosphere story, and I had some pleasing characters to work with. It still suffered from re-writes, however, and although it was intended to be the final Dalek story, as Terry wanted to launch them in America, I didn’t really think they’d be gone for good.”

Victor Pemberton (1980’s)

November 7, 2009

Here’s Victor Pemberton talking to DWM about working on ‘Doctor Who’ during the Patrick Troughton era, as well as his script for ‘The Pescatons’ and his enduring interest in the sea.

“We had great fun producing ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’. I remember we introduced those little Cybermats. They were entirely Kit’s idea, because he was a great scientist and a very scientifically-orientated man, and in a way they almost wrote the thing around the Cybermats. The special effects team actually built them, but they came to us for the idea. It was quite a spooky story, because all the Cybermen were in ice tombs and they came back to life – like ‘Frankenstein’. But the Cybermats were better and in those days, they would have made lovely toys and we used to play with them.

“Two of us worked on ‘The Moonbase’ with Peter Bryant, although I can’t remember who, I’m afraid. It was all about people’s veins suddenly being brought out onto their faces and I remember (as an actor) spending two hours with make-up every morning, having these ghastly veins painted on our faces. I played an astronaut on the moon, and we were exploring when something nasty overtook us and I died the most hideous death I know.

“After that I had a break, and then came back for the Dalek story. Innes Lloyd asked me back, and we did ‘The Ice Warriors’ with Peter Barkworth. None of us thought he’d do it, because ‘Doctor Who’ didn’t seem his cup of tea, but still he came. It was the same job with the Yeti story. Assistant script editor. We usually came in to do additional dialogue when the writers weren’t available. It was always last-minute hitches, and it’s quite a nerve-racking business being an editor, because you must learn to be an instant writer, especially during rehearsals.

“They asked me to write a serial called ‘Colony of Devils’. In many ways it was ‘The Slide’, the same sort of idea. But it came at a time when the North Sea gas fields were just being discovered, and I thought it would be wonderful to create a kind of sinister story around these gas fields. Natural gas being pumped out through the pipelines affected some seaweed, which turned nasty and produced this foam and gas that came through people’s gas ovens and affected them. It was helped along by two very sinister people, Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill, who became a sort of evil Laurel and Hardy, one always talking, the other silent. They were the accomplices of the kind of root centre of the nasty organic creature.

“A lot of Quill and Oak’s stuff was toned down, because they wore these boiler suits and it looked like ordinary people who knock on your door. I remember that the one who spoke was terribly polite and really quite chilling. I remember there was a Times article about ‘Doctor Who’ at that time, asking just how far the programme could go to draw the line between adult and children’s entertainment. In those days, they thought, we were scaring the pants off the kids, when in fact we were getting letters saying they loved it all – kids like to be scared. The only thing I didn’t like was that they changed the title. To me, ‘Fury From the Deep’ smelt of a Hollywood ‘B’ movie but I guess the producer, Peter Bryant, liked it.

“The man at Argo Records who did ‘The Pescatons’ was Don Norman, who certainly knew I’d done ‘Doctor Who’ before, but also knew me because his agent used to be mine as well. It was purely a matter of knowing my work and needing someone who could do it quickly. However, they didn’t really know what to do and ideas were thrashed out by myself, Don and Tom at a visit to Tom’s house.

“I feel there’s a great deal of menace in the sea. I’ve always felt so. Even as a kid, I used to stand down on the seashore at Brighton or Southend and watch – during winter – the waves smashing against the rocks and thinking it’s menacing. It’s so very big and so very wide and so very everything.

“I don’t think ‘The Pescatons’ would have worked on television. They were too big and really only for records. I did once get approach by Anthony Read to write during the end of Tom Baker’s years on the programme, but I was working at that time and sadly had to say no.”

Click here for Victor Pemberton’s website, which has a lot about ‘Doctor Who’ as well as his other work, including his successful career as an author and the time he met Laurel and Hardy.

Dennis Spooner (1980’s)

October 25, 2009

Here’s Dennis Spooner, one of ‘Doctor Who’s first script editors, talking about the early days of the show, including the need to edit down the script for ‘Power of the Daleks’ and the reasons why the Zarbi never returned.

“While he was working at ABC at Teddington, Sydney Newman did ‘Armchair Theatre’ and that was where Verity Lambert started. The BBC at this time were getting a terrible beating from ITV as they still hadn’t changed from their 15-minutes-of-the-potter’s-wheel interval style. ITV had become far more viable, and there was pressure from the government for the BBC to increase their hours and provide a proper channel. So the BBC brought over Sydney Newman, who in turn brought over Verity Lambert, and ‘Doctor Who’ was one of the first products of the shake-up.

“Sidney Newman started the post of story editor. They had never had story editors at the BBC until Sydney Newman came and David Whitaker was appointed by him to be the story editor for ‘Doctor Who’. Terry Nation was asked to do one of the early ‘Doctor Who’s by David Whitaker, and Terry mentioned to him that he knew me – we shared the same agent at the time. I went along to see David Whitaker and he said they were planning to do some historical stories and some science fiction, but really they had got all the science fiction ones so would I do one of the historicals? He gave me a list of about four possible subjects and I went away to the local library, did a bit of reading up and then phoned him back and said I would like to do one on the French Revolution. And that was how I came into ‘Doctor Who’.

“I tried to do it fairly light. ‘The Reign of Terror’ was three hours long, six half hour episodes, and you know there are going to be places in episode two where you don’t want to get further into the story because you don’t want that to happen until episode four. So if you can introduce an element of humour, it becomes a marvellous way of padding the show without boring the audience or breaking up the plot. The audience will always watch ‘a funny bit’ and quite like it. If the character had been a straight jailer, and I had needed to do three minutes on him, it would have turned out terrible. You have to be careful, though. You only have to look at Chandler’s Philip Marlowe to know how you can even let the humour take over at the end, whereas at the beginning it was just put in to vary the process.

“After the first series, we realised that the show was destined to run a long time. And in a television show, you have to learn very quickly what you are going to get away with, because once it becomes at all established they you cannot change it. People don’t like, for example, Noele Gordon being sacked from ‘Crossroads’, even though the scripts may require it. With the second series of ‘Doctor Who’, we knew that whatever we could establish would make the boundaries for a long time to come. ‘The Romans’ was done for comedy, and in ‘The Web Planet’ we wanted to see how far we could go with being weird. And my god, that tested facilities and technical resources to the limit. It went over-budget, in that you couldn’t take anything from stock – it was all webs and things like that, a designer’s field day.

“The Web Planet got very good figures – the first episode was the highest placed of that season – but we all decided we would not do anything like that again. Not because of the story content, but because of the sheer cost and technical problems involved, plus the fact that in the end we ended up with something that wasn’t that sensational compared with ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. That story looked a far more realistic show, because it was recognisable with Daleks going over London Bridge. It set a precadent that has been more or less followed ever since for the Daleks. With ‘The Chase’, because we were able to go through time, one was able to constantly do episodes in recognisable situations. Even when Terry, in subsequent years, went back and did the origin of the Daleks, he put them in a Nazi environment.

“The Zarbi did not return because I think we felt we had over-stretched our resources with it. If you do a series like ‘Doctor Who’, you tend to work your costs pro rata and what happened was a show like ‘The Space Museum’ paid for ‘The Web Planet’. You see if, say, the budget per episode was £1,000 and you were doing 26 episodes, then Verity always used to look at it from the point of view that she had £26,000 to make 26 episodes. So, if she wished, she could have spent £25,000 on one episode and about £20 on the next 25. She had that power.

“We did one story, ‘The Crusade’, in which Bill Russell wanted to take a week or two’s holiday. Now much earlier on in the season, you have to decide your allocation of so many days of rehearsal, so many days in the studio and so many days on location. In those days, you did all the filming for a story in one go even if, in s tudio time, we were a serial or two in front. For ‘The Crusade’ we need not have had any filming, but because Bill Russell wanted to go on holiday and because we wanted to have him in the episodes, the story had to be re-structed so that we would see him in the desert for two episodes. Those sequences in the desert would then be filmed as part of the location filming allocation which meant, in turn, that certain scenes, which need not have been filmed technically could now be done on film. By doing that, though, it did limit the amount of film you could use for other serials which might call for it, more obviously.

“The William Hartnell series were always geared towards getting a good story and the Doctor would arrive and then work within it. The reason why I could not have cottoned on to doing a Tom Baker story was that those series always tended to start with the Doctora rriving when there was nothing going on, and then he would make it happen. In other words, he would initiate the events. If we had any brief at all as writers under Sydney Newman, we were told that the Doctor is an observer – a time traveller – looking around, and if he happens to go into history, or indeed into the future, he can never actively interfere with the events in order that he would change them.

“I was under contract to ITC when I got this call from Gerry Davis, who was just taking over as script editor for ‘Doctor Who’. They needed a rewrite on ‘Power of the Daleks, partly because David Whitaker had written far too much in his original scripts, but mainly because they needed a bit more for the Doctor to do. David’s script had ‘a’ Doctor in it, but because it was written before Pat Troughton had been cast in the role, nobody knew how the part was going to be played.

“By this time, David had gone off to live in Australia, so I was given the task of writing the opening story. I went and had a long meeting with Pat, and he told me his ideas about the recorder and the zany humour and I re-wrote the scripts from there so that the Doctor had a lot more to do in the story. I didn’t create anything new in the plot itself, although the director, Chris Barry, was very pleased that I cut out certain scenes such as one very long one involving the food machine. It was just a vast editing job, really, but it would have taken Gerry Davis right out of circulation for six weeks at the start of his taking over as script editor, and he couldn’t spare the time.”

Robert Holmes (1980’s)

October 24, 2009

Here’s another set of quotes from Robert Holmes, one of ‘Doctor Who’s most popular script editors and writers. He talks about being called a clot by the Head of Series and Serials, about not wanting to use the Daleks, and about the ‘intentional’ continuity problems of ‘The Two Doctors’.

On ‘Spearhead From Space’

It was about the time plastic was coming in, in a really big way – it was everywhere. As there was so much of the stuff around, I thought it would be effective to have an alien force that inhabited and used it. ‘Doomwatch’ did a plastic scare story at exactly the same time, so it was a kind of current issue. The Nestene itself I thought of as a plasticky, swirling mass, a glob of pure instinct which spawns the Autons. The Autons come from the word autonomous, because although they were formed from the Nestene element, they weren’t a part of the host form. I started the show with a swarm of meteorites landing, because in ‘Doctor Who’ it’s very rare to actually see the alien land. As this was to be a season set on Earth, I thought it would be a good grab to open it with.

On ‘Terror of the Autons’

I was sitting opposite Ronnie Marsh, the then Head of Serials, across acre of polished maple. He started telling me about the guidelines he felt the programme should follow. ‘Two or three seasons ago,’ he said, ‘we had some clot who wrote the most dreadful script. It had faceless policemen in it and plastic armchairs that went about swallowing people. I might tell you, there were questions in the House. Mrs. Whitehouse said we were turning the nation’s children into bed-wetters’. Could it be that he was referring to my ‘Terror of the Autons’? ‘Tut, tut’, I muttered, feeling the job slipping away. ‘how awfully irresponsible’.

The elements in the story all came from plastic again. At the time there was a soap powder distributing plastic daffodils outside supermarkets, and I remembered all the warnings about children not being allowed near plastic bags. Then it all came together – I suddenly realised that all you need is a four-inch square of clingfilm to suffocate someone, and the spitting daffodils followed on. As for the doll and the armchair, well, there were some Danish troll dolls on the gimmick market at the time and I thought they were horrible, so I used that idea. Also, those plastic inflatable armchairs were all the rage, which is why I wrote in McDermott – specifically to kill him off in that chair!

On ‘Carnival of Monsters’

I was particularly fond of the ending, where the Master finally gets to finish his book! Meanwhile, Vorg and Shirna were a kind of in-joke on the acting profession – they’d been in theatrical digs all over the galaxy, and were deliberately very tacky. I thought it added depth to it. That was the one where I created a little anecdote about a place called Metebelis 3 – which they then went on to use!

On ‘The Time Warrior’

They wanted to do a historical, which they hadn’t attempted for some time. Now, I hate ‘Doctor Who’ in the history mode, because I think it’s too whimsy and twee. So I compromised and offered them a story mixing science fiction with a kind of pseudo-history. The Sontarans came after I’d been reading some heavy tome on war – it was terribly Teutonic and all about the Fatherland and so on. I saw the cloned Sontarans gaining sustenance from their shops wherein they are monitored to make sure they don’t spend too much time on the recharding. If they do, I saw a kind of umbilical regression surging down to kill them.

The bifurcated hand was my mistake – it was very difficult for the actor to pull out his laser or whatever. Other stuff in that script was Professior Ruebish, a favourite character of mine, because I like zany professors and that wonderful sexist line about Sarah, where Linx says she is useless because her thorax shows her to be the female of the species! The name Irongron was inspirted from the Danish names of warriors, while Bloodaxe was just hokey ‘Robin Hood’ style – you know, terribly butch men living in castles.

On ‘Genesis of the Daleks’

I said ‘Unless somebody can come up with something different, I’m not doing a Dalek story’. A lot of pressure was put on me to change my mind. Then Barry came up with the idea of calling it ‘Genesis’ and having this Davros character who had actually invented the Daleks in his own image. This gave the story some scope and we could have some acting going on. I’d looked at the viewing graphs for the Daleks, and saw that every time they were brought back they were popular in week one, as a lot of people had perhaps never seen them before, and then the graph would go straight down, because they were boring.

On ‘The Android Invasion’

I said to Terry Nation ‘Let’s have another story, but not Daleks’, and I think he was quite keen, as Daleks are terribly difficult to use, anyway.

On ‘Pyramids of Mars’

We had a character try to steal the TARDIS, to which the Doctor said it was isomorphic, only he could operate it. Then, later stories should Leela and lots of other flying the TARDIS willy-nilly. This appeared to be bad continuity – but surely when faced with Sutekh, the Doctor had good reason to lie.

On ‘The Brain of Morbius’

I ended up writing most of it, and it was the same with all my ‘Doctor Who’s – very difficult because you’re inbetween Grand Guignol Gothic horror on one sie, and Monty Python on the other. ‘The Brain of Morbius’ could terribly easily have gone over to the other.

On ‘The Masque of Mandragora’

The starting point for the story was an idea Louis Marks had that there might be some basis for the ‘science’ of astrology. That the stars, in fact, did have an influence on human affairs. We tried to rationalise this idea, and this led us to Demnos. We also decided that, if the story was to work properly, it should be placed in an era when astrology was taken very seriously.

On ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’

Tom didn’t like the Leela character at all, and at first was only mollified because he thought she was only gonig to be in the three stories. I remember during ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ that Philip Hinchcliffe had still not told Tom that she was signed up for another season. I kept going to him and saying ‘Have you told Tom yet?’. I think in the end he left it to Graham Williams.

On ‘Underworld’

Unfortunately, the CSO was very hard on the director, Norman Stewart. For years, he’d been one of the BBC’s senior production managers, and finally he went to the head of department and said ‘I think it’s time I became a director’. He did the course and went freelance, but it was really being plunged in the deep end to have to direct ‘Underworld’ as virtually your first assignment’.

On ‘The Ribos Oberation’

I like wild, rich, hammy characters and ‘Doctor Who’ is one of the few series where you can get away with them. I liked the Graff, with all his German connotations and one of the key stills in writing for the Baker Doctor was to make sure that there were strong enough parts so that Tom didn’t completely dominate – if an actor wasn’t strong enough, or if the part wasn’t there, Tom would overtake.

George Spenton-Foster directed and he tended to appreciate the humour in the script, so that Iain Cuthbertson was allowed to get away with a lot. That was my fault because of the writing, but this basic joke of a splended galactic con-man trying to sell a planet amused me.

On ‘The Power of Kroll’

It’s probably the least favourite of all my stories. It didn’t work. Anthony Read said to me ‘I don’t want any humour. I want the biggest monster ‘Doctor Who’s ever seen’. I instantly thought ‘We’re in trouble now’. It gave Norman Stewart terrible problems and I think it was a bit dull. Anyway, I hated the umbrella theme, because it gave everything an additional complication.

On ‘The Two Doctors’

When I wrote ‘The Two Doctors’, it was no mistake that the Troughton Doctor knew he was being controlled by the Time Lords. The theory which myself and other who worked on ‘Doctor Who’ began to conceive was that the Time Lords were in dual control of the TARDIS all the time. The first trial was a mockery, a public relations exercise, because the Doctor had become involved too close to home and something had to be done about him. That’s why he is almost half-hearted about attempting to escape, which normally he never was. He knew that they were in complete control and had been all along. To operate as sneakily as this, you would have to be corrupt, and that’s what came later, when I was the script editor. Did they not condemn the Doctor to exile for interfering in the affairs of other planets? And yet who had sent him on these missions? They had!

David Whitaker (1970’s)

October 23, 2009

Here’s the first part of a long David Whitaker interview from DWM, although I think DWM may have been reprinting material from another sources since the magazine began in 1979 and Whitaker died in 1980, and I don’t think DWM was really focusing on behind the scenes interviews in its early days. But anyway, yes, this is the first part, because it’s very long, so part two will be along tomorrow. In this part, David Whitaker talks about the brilliance of William Hartnell’s Doctor, about the decision to go ahead with ‘The Daleks’, and about the need to write Susan out of the series. Tomorrow it’s onto ‘Power of the Daleks’, ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ and the first ever ‘Doctor Who’ novelisation.

“I was very restless, eager to get on and do something – prove to myself that I did indeed have something to offer. I think the fear of having no talent was uppermost in my mind, though looking back it’s hard to think why; I mean, once I involved myself in something, I could usually get on with it with a mixture of adrenalin and interest. Because I was so enthusiastic, it was always easier – the worst experiences of my career have always been when I’m not really in control of my own work and when I’m being asked to write to a formula that bores me.

“I began to see writing more and more as the lifestyle that suited me most. While it can be just as transitory as acting, providing you can do it, there is an entirely different reward from writing, and there’s no doubt that it’s eminently personal. I got enormous satisfaction from my first successful writing ventures, and with some of the encouragement I received from friends and employers alike, it quickly took over. I joined the BBC as a staff writer and story editor in late 1957, if I remember correctly, and was plunged into a hectic but wonderful few years of extremely hard and gratifying work.

“The first thing to remember about ‘Doctor Who’ then was that we actually had a very reasonable budget for the time, and were consequently feeling very vulnerable to failure; if it failed, our careers would have been at least slightly tarnished. As it was Verity Lambert’s first job as a producer, she had a lot to live up to and we were, to be mild about it, terribly, terribly nervous. We were also terribly, terribly excited, excited in the faith we had been shown and about the series itself which, as an idea, got more interesting by degrees.

“People find it hard to conceive now just how much commitment working on any television series required at that time. We weren’t that exceptional, but we had the burden of science fiction in that the illusion we were trying to convey had to be done with the relatively limited resources of the time. So often, sets or costumes had to be made totally from scratch and one, albeit fairly minor, reason for the historical stories was that they at least took some of the financial burden off us.

“In those days, the story editor was far more of an active element in the overall production, whereas now the job is more academic. I would often find myself liasing with props, advising our designers, and dealing with any outside interests. I always went to as many rehearsals and recordings as possible, especially at first, but sometimes the pressures of paperwork would keep my away. When the show became a success so early on, it was a tremendous feeling, one that I can’t quite describe. We all felt it, though, because with the job virtually dominating one’s living and breathing, it swallowed our private lives. The pressures inevitably got less once we were underway, but the sense of belonging to a programme very much remained.

“At the very beginning, we looked for exactly what Billy Hartnell gave us. The Doctor was without a doubt a formidable man, so much so that I was once asked why we made him almost remote from the audience. That remoteness, I argued, was the very strength of the Doctor’s character, for it established a respect for what he said and did, as well as making him a genuine father figure. I was keen, too, on ensuring that an aura of mystery remained around him. We had, after all, got a series that had as its title that most potent of questions, Doctor Who? Since we’ve learnt all about him, seen so much of what motivates him, and since he has become very much more whimsical, an atmosphere has been lost. I can appreciate the process of discovering about the Doctor was the more inevitable the longer the series continued, and I’m not really disapproving of the development. It’s just, to me, a shame that the mystery has rather evaporated in favour of greater security, and consequently lessened impact.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that William Hartnell secured the success of ‘Doctor Who’ for us, and that the BBC has always understood that only an actor of talent and personality could fill the leading role. The series was very fortunate in its choices. Verity was a splendid producer, and we had the services of fine directors such as Waris Hussein and Douglas Camfield. Raymond Cusick headed a list of designers who produced miracles out of cellophane paper and battery bulbs.

“Ironically, Terry Nation didn’t want to write for us, considering it rather demeaning that he’d even been asked. However, in the end, something – I think the collapse of another job – persuaded him to go ahead and do something for the show. That turned out to be ‘The Daleks’, and with it  came two things, first a row and then audiences of an incredible number. The row came when it was thought that the Daleks would drag the show down to being puerile rubbish. One of our prime intentions was to keep an educational slant to it, and Daleks were felt not to be in the right mould at all. Actually, that Dalek story was educational in a subtle way – it showed the dangers of war, pacifism and racial hatred. It contained many admirable and idealistic truths in it, and it was also a jolly good adventure story.

“We were allowed to go ahead with ‘The Daleks’ simply because none of the other scripts had been finished. When it was shown, not very long after being recorded, we were, and I don’t mean this to sound smug, proved quite right. Terry Nation then came up with another story for us and he has been writing on and off for the programme ever since – rather like me! One interesting thing was that we weren’t actually intending to bring the Daleks back. I felt very strongly that we should try constantly for new ideas and treat new unexplored ground. As it turned out, their popularity ensured, in fact rather blackmailed us, into commissioning a sequel. The Daleks were a smashing invention, and I took to them at once. I would say they’re worthy of Jules Verne.

“The Edge of Destruction was a good example of the violent pace of my job. We had a choice – either the series went off the air until they were ready (with new scripts) or I wrote a short story, say two episodes, using the sets we had in stock. That effectively meant a TARDIS-bound story with no guest cast, and while this was good news for Verity on a financial basis, it was a fairly horrendous prospect for me. As I recall, I spent about two days and most of two nights writing this weird, mysterious set piece that was to stand in for our proper stories. It was, to be frank, a bit of a nightmare, though it seemed to go down quite well with everyone except our confused cast, who knew their characters and couldn’t quite grasp the totally discontinuous way in which, for dramatic purposes, I had to make them behave.

“By the time we reached the completion of the first fifty-two episodes, we realised there would be a second series. Thus the first stories were held over, in case we caught up with ourselves. I hadn’t honestly planned on staying after that initial year, as for one thing I wasn’t at all sure the series would continue. I had committed myself to working on another production, so I had to leave anyway. It was a shame, but probably just as well for both me and the series. I was very tired, and beginning to feel dangerously jaded. About the last thing I had to do was help decide how Carole Ann Ford should be written out. It was an important decision, for it was the first main cast departure, and we gave it a lot of thought. Susan became the first girl to be married off, but she was an important break – being, of course, the Doctor’s granddaughter. We knew nothing would part him from her, except the independent action of the Doctor himself. So it was decided that Susan would be given no alternative other than to go, and I think in the process we created one of the most moving scenes ever to be written and recorded for the series.”

Terrance Dicks (1990)

October 22, 2009

Here’s a long DWM interview with Terrance Dicks, covering his first time working on ‘Doctor Who’ during Patrick Troughton’s era, through the Jon Pertwee years, onto his blazing row with Robert Holmes over ‘The Brain of Morbius’, then his original script for ‘The Five Doctors’ before Tom Baker pulled out, and then ‘The Ultimate Adventure’ stage play.

“I was a freelance radio and script editor in the mid-1960’s. I’d just left a well-paying job in advertising to take the plunge and one of the first jobs I got was a soap, ‘Crossroads’. One of the other writers on the series was a guy called Derrick Sherwin. He and I used to go to the weekly story conferences together, and we got to know each other quite well; not best buddies or anything, but we would travel up on the train together and chat. He left ‘Crossroads’ to be the script editor on ‘Doctor Who’, and some time after that he phoned me up out of the blue and said ‘How would you like to be the script editor on Doctor Who?’. It was just as casual as that.

“The first thing I heard when I joined was ‘They’re going to end it this season’. The show was going downwards at that time. I thought it was like being given a job on the Titanic! They were actually looking for a replacement at the time, but they never really found anything, so they decided to do another year of ‘Doctor Who’. Around that time, it all sort of came together. Barry Letts became producer, I took over as script editor, Jon Pertwee became the Doctor, the show went into colour, and the whole thing clicked. We suddenly took off again and started getting really good viewing figures. It was like a renaissance for the show.

“With ‘The War Games’, if I remember correctly, what happened was that not one but two script projects collapsed simultaneously. The show was in a tremendous state of chaos. So we came up with the idea of having one, very long serial. We didn’t really know, however, until the end, whether Patrick was going to leave at the end or not. The scripts were written at about the rate of one a day! Malcolm Hulke, who was a very fast touch typist, would sit at the typewriter, and one or the other of us would say a line, and it would appear on the page. In retrospect, I think that the story would benefit from losing about four episodes. The concept of the different time zones, the different wars etc., is good. And some of the cliffhangers were good too. But the plot didn’t actually advance much for several episodes.

“My memory is that Derrick Sherwin said that the Doctor comes from this superior race of beings called the Time Lords. Where he got that from, I have no idea. Since they seemed to work in ‘The War Games’, we developed and extended them over the Jon Pertwee years. Whenever we wanted to get the Doctor off Earth on some mission, we’d have the Time Lords use him as a kind of reluctant secret agent. That was all quite fun, the idea of having the Doctor arrive somewhere in a state of great indignation, and then get involved! Then, at the end of ‘The Three Doctors’, we decided we wanted to be finished with that whole concept. So, the Doctor was pardoned and given back his knowledge of time travel and some vital component of the TARDIS.

“In the early years, it was a general feeling of getting the show working again, because there had been a lot of changes of script editor and producer, and it was a mess. When Barry and I took over, it was a shambles, and there was a lot of pleasure in bringing order out of that.

“Having a season that was one giant story was an option that Barry and I considered several times, and always rejected because we felt the disadvantages outweighed the advantages. Obviously when they made ‘Trial of a Time Lord’, they made the opposite decision. I feel on that whole that they proved we were right. We did it in season ten with the Master, because you can have him come and go, and yet you have the liberty to do certain stories. The way the Master worked best was to keep him up our sleeves, do two or three shows without him, and then kind of bring him in suddenly. It’s rather like the Daleks.

“Robert Holmes was a super chap and a great friend of mine. I was always rather proud of him, because he was my protege, even though he was older than I was. He started writing for ‘Doctor Who’ while I was script editor, and in fact wrote one of the first stories that I script edited, one of the Auton stories. His was a submission that came out of the blue which I liked, and so I kind of picked it up first, and he became one of the stalwarts of the programme. He was certainly one of the best ‘Doctor Who’ writers, I think.

“However, I was furious when I read the rewritten scripts for ‘The Brain of Morbius’. I rang up Bob Holmes and shouted at him down the telephone. Eventually, I said ‘Alright. You can do it, but I’m going to take my name off it’ – the ultimate sanctino! Not because it was a bad show, but because it was now more him than me. He asked ‘Well what name do you want to put on it?’. I said ‘I don’t care. You can put it out under some bland pseudonym’ and slamme the phone down. Weeks later, when I saw the Radio Times, I noticed it was ‘The Brain of Morbius’ by Robin Bland. By then, I’d cooled down and the joke disarmed me completely.

“I’d always wanted to do a vampire story on ‘Doctor Who’. One day, at Bob Holmes’s request, I put up one which was called ‘The Witch Lords’ for a while, and then ‘The Vampire Mutations’. They commissioned it, and I started writing it for Tom Baker and Leela. Halfway through it, there was an absolute command from on high at the BBC that we were not to do vampires on ‘Doctor Who’. At the time, they were doing a serious dramatization of ‘Dracula’ with Louis Jordan, and they felt if we had vampires on ‘Doctor Who’, we would be making fun of their series!

“Again, we were in a crisis situation and had to do something very quickly. Bob said he’d always wanted to do a story on a lighthouse. So, we really cobbled up ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ very quickly. Somewhere towards the end of it, when we were really well on the way, I had the idea of having the villain be a Rutan, to link up with Bob Holmes’ Sontarans, but that was just a little in-joke between us. Now, I think ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ shows the signs of some of this haste, but it was fun in some ways. I’m quite fond of the first and the last episodes.

“In any event, a couple of years later, John Nathan-Turner was looking for new stories for the last Tom Baker season. He had a pile of old, unshot scripts that included ‘The Vampire Mutations’, and that was the only one he liked. So he got in touch with me and asked if I would like to do it again. Of course, I was pleased to have another go at it. I then rewrote the story with Romana instead of Leela, but it was basically the same plot. I just had to write in a lot of stuff about how the vampires came to be in E-space since, at the time, the Doctor was trapped there.

“When the BBC contacted me about ‘The Five Doctors’, I was in America at a science fiction convention in New Orleans. At about 8 o’clock in the morning, the phone rang and a voice at the other end said ‘This is Eric’. And I thought, ‘Eric who?’. It was Eric Saward, the current script editor of ‘Doctor Who’, and he said ‘We’d like you to write the twentieth anniversary special for us’. Of course, I was very pleased. It was like one of those games where you write a story out of objects found in a box. This particular box had an awful large number of objects in it. So, you just started shuffling them around, trying to find a reason for them to fit together.

“Obviously, they wanted to have all the five Doctors in it. The’d come up with the idea of having Richard Hurndall as  a William Hartnell look-a-like, because, I think, he’d been seen playing a rather Hartnellish old man in ‘Blake’s 7’. Various companions were also to be in it. One of the things that made it confusing was they they never knew quite who was going to be in it. So they were constantly telling me to write in so-and-so, and then, just when I’d written then in, they’d ring up and say ‘No, write him out, he can’t do it’. We also had to have a Dalek in it, and K9 too.

“The main job was to come up with a concept that would take in all the Doctors. I had the feeling that it had to be in some way a Time Lord story, because that would be appropriate. It really all sort of worked for me when I came up with the concept of the Game. Somebody would be playing a game in which all the Doctors, and all their companions, would be like pieces on a board. Then, you could have them kidnapped out of time and space. As soon as I got that central image of the hand putting the little model on the board, it gave the project a kind of unity that held it all together.

“The Master was going to be the final villain instead of Borusa, but Eric Saward said, quite rightly I think, ‘You really can’t have the Master as the final villain, because nobody is ever going to believe the Master is not the villain. You’ll never have any element of deceit’. So instead we chose to have Borusa as the villain, ostensibly trying to help the Doctor, but in fact being the player behind the scenes. It was possible to make it convincing, because Borusa had always been arrogant and rather paranoid. You could believe that even the good Borusa could become convinced that he should rule forever becuase it would be to everybody’s good… You had to exaggerate what his good points were in order to make him a believable villain.

“I’d just completed my first draft when I got a phone call from Eric Saward, saying ‘How’s it coming? Have you finished?’. I very proudly told him I’d just finished, and he said ‘Oh my God!’, which is not the reaction you’d expect. I asked what had happened, and he said ‘Well, I’m terribly sorry, but there was a confusion between Tom, his agent, and us. In spite of the fact that we thought he was going to do it, he now isn’t. So you’ve got to rewrite it without Tom Baker’. What they did have were these clips from ‘Shada’, the unfinished story, with Tom and Romana on the river in Cambridge. There wasn’t even time to show me that, but they told me what was in it. So I rejigged the action again.

“Originally, the Tom Baker Doctor eventually stole the Master’s transportation device to head back to Gallifrey and unearth the plot. The Peter Davison Doctor was going to stay in the Death Zone and conquer the Dark Tower by the main gate. I re-did that, and Tom Baker got caught in a time warp, which gave an added menace because, since he was temporarily unstable, he affected the stability of the Peter Davison Doctor, who started fading into invisibility every now and again. It all worked beautifully. I think that stuff from ‘Shada’ fits beautifully and you would never guess that it hadn’t been meant to be like that. I think it actually improved the story, because it was easier to cope with four Doctors rather than five. It was like what happened with ‘The Three Doctors’. It’s funny the way history repeated itself.

“I was pleased with how ‘The Ultimate Adventure turned out. There were one or two things that were sort of given from the beginning, such as the songs, which we all felt to be a bit of a burden at times. There were two or three songs, and one of them was a rousing pirates’ chorus called ‘Business is Business’, which was very good and which we all liked, but we were stuck with a romantic ballad which the producer insisted on, and which was a bit of an embarrassment. If it had been my own choice, that ballad wouldn’t have been there, but it was there for other reasons. Obviously, if we’d had the money of ‘Starlight Express’ then we could have done it even more spectacularly, but within the practical budget that we had, I think they did quite a good job. There are plans to novelize it. There’s a fairly complicated contractual position, you see, and all that has to be sorted out. There are more interests involved in the play than there are in a normal ‘Doctor Who’ book, but W.H. Allen is keen for it to be done and I’m going to be talking to them about it very soon.”

Douglas Adams (Various)

October 16, 2009

Here’s Douglas Adams talking about his time as script editor, although the majority of the interview is a story about going to Paris with Ken Grieve, who directed ‘Destiny of the Daleks’…

“I sent in my (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) pilot episode to the then script editor of ‘Doctor Who’, Robert Holmes, who said ‘Yes, yes, we like this. Come round and see us’. So we discussed ideas for a bit, and I eventually got commissioned to write four ‘Doctor Who’ episodes.

“The original concept of ‘The Pirate Planet’ was just the basic concept of a hollow planet. Graham was interested in space pirates, so we just married the two ideas together. The original storyline was of a planet being mind by the Time Lords. The inhabitants of the planet were a rowdy lot and the Time Lords had erected a giant statue, the inside of which was in fact a giant machine for absorbing all the aggression from the people. When they had all the ore that they needed, they sent a Time Lord to disconnect the machine, but he got trapped in the works and absorbed all the aggression. None of the other Time Lords had bothered to find out where he had got to, so he decided to take revenge on them by letting the mining equipment completely hollow out the planet, then making it jump to surround Gallifrey.

“When I became script editor for season seventeen, I was told ‘We want you, Douglas, because of the specific things you’ll be able to bring to the programme’, which I was systematically not allowed to do. This season of ‘Doctor Who’ will look just like any other season, and I feel very disappointed about that. It’s too big a thing for any one person to change – it’s like a big raft in the middle of a lake, and you’re trying to move it by swimming.

“An interesting thing actually happened during the making of ‘City of Death’, because although I’d written it to be in Paris I was the only member of the team who didn’t get to go to Paris! So I was rather upset about this, I was sitting in my office at the BBC feeling a little miffed, because everyone else was gallivanting off in Paris and I was by myself, and this wild Scottish ex-hippie came into the office and said ‘Where is everybody?’, and I said ‘They’re in Paris’, he said ‘Well I need to talk to the producer’, I said ‘Why’s that?’, he said ‘I’m directing the next show, the Dalek story, and there are some problems I want to talk about’. This was Ken Grieve, who is one of the world’s most stupendous and marvellous piss artists, and I said ‘Well you can’t talk to them, they’re in Paris’, he said ‘And you’re here all by yourself?’, I said rather bitterly ‘Yes’, he said ‘Why don’t we go to Paris?’, I said ‘Don’t be stupid’.

“So we got our passports, went down to the airport, jumped on a plane, got into Paris, arrived at the hotel we knew they were staying in. They were all looking tired after a long day’s shooting, other than Tom, and we said ‘Hey, bet you’re pleased to see us’, of course they weren’t. We said ‘Let’s go out and have fun’, but they’d had a long day, they said ‘You go out and have fun’. At that point, Ken and I sort of looked at each other, and gradually the realisation dawned on us that if we’d really planned this trip at all, well (a) we wouldn’t have made it, and (b) we’d have brought someone prettier than the other one.

“But we thought we’d better make the best of a bad job, and went off into the night, found a nice restaurant, had a nice meal, drank quite a lot of wine, went to a bar and stayed there drinking until the bar closed. We found another bar, stayed until that one closed, then we went to another bar, sat there and drank for a while until it closed and they threw us out. So now it was pretty late at night, we were in the Montmartre district and we couldn’t find another bar that was open at this point, so Ken said ‘Look, I do know for sure one bar that’s definitely open, do you want to go?’, I said ‘Yes, where is it?’, he said ‘West Berlin’. We phone the airport, unfortunately there were no imminent flight to West Berlin. Eventually we discovered another bar that was open, and we get going until about 5am, when it became apparent to me that Ken was quite drunk at this point, because whenever I managed to find him, which was quite tricky because he was about three feet away, he was doing things and saying things that I couldn’t understand.

“We called a cab, arrived at the airport, I got out of the cab, Ken fell out, cut his face open rather badly, by the eye, and we had to take him to the doctor at the airport, who stitched him up. We got him on the airplane, and British Caledonian were wonderfully sympathetic. We arrived back at Television Centre at 9am, feeling a little worse the wear, and Ken was further gone than anyone I’ve ever seen before, and he discovered he had to go to the basement and watch six episodes of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, which he wasn’t quite certain if he could face but he went off to do it bravely. I spent the morning in the office, I didn’t go home, and I went to the bar at lunchtime and I knew somebody would be there and somebody said ‘How are you, do anything interesting last night?’, and I said ‘Oh, it was one of those nights, 4am you start wondering how you’re going to get back to England’.

If you want more Douglas Adams, you can read a very good interview with him here.

Gerry Davis (1980’s)

October 13, 2009

Gerry Davis co-created the Cybermen (with Kit Pedler), but he also worked as script editor on the show during the period when William Hartnell left and Patrick Troughton joined. Here, he talks about the problems involved with ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, about the genesis of the Cybermen, and about returning to the show in the 1970’s.

“We had three or four stories, but the viewing figures had been going down because of the inclusion of fanciful historical stories. I trailed through ‘The Massacre’ and ‘The Ark’ and then I wrestled with ‘The Gunfighters’. That had a delightfully clever and sophisticated writer called Donald Cotton, but he was too much for ‘Doctor Who’. In one or two scenes, Hartnell showed what a great comedian he was – he could really handle comedy.

“The Celestial Toymaker was written by Brian Hayles, who I’d just been working closely with. We suddenly had a crisis on this one. Gerald Savoy had written this famous play called ‘George and Margaret’ and Donald Tosh thought it would be terribly funny to do a ‘Doctor Who’ version of this. This was a bit precious for a young audience, I felt, but Hayles had been asked to write this thing about two characters who actually never appear in the play – they are expected throughout but they only arrive, off stage, at the very end.

“We had booked the players, Carmen Silvera and on other whose name I’ve forgotten, and then suddenly Gerald, who was our head of department, read the script and threw his bombshell. He didn’t like the script and wasn’t having the names of his characters used for this. And it was actually pretty tedious, but the framework was good. The content was a sort of pseudo-smart Noel Coward comedy which was wrong for the audience. I literally had to sit down in the garden of the bungalow I’d just bought in Cookham and dash out an act a day. What happened was the Toymaker characters suggested toys, which suggested nursery and I played around with somethiing sinister on these lines. Had I more time, I could have done a better job.

“I got on with Bill Hartnell because I discovered it was no good confronting him, because as soon as you did he’d get angry. There was a lot of anger in him. What I would do was, having the necessary knowledge, talk about something to do with his past. For example, there was the occasion of the chair. He came onto the set, took one look at this chair, and said ‘This is ridiculous – I can’t sit in this chair, it’s wrong. Take it away and I won’t do anything until it’s taken away’. They used to send for me and I’d come down and say ‘What’s the matter?’, and he’d say ‘Look at this, it’s an insult and completely wrong for the scene’. So I’d reply ‘Doesn’t it look familiar to you? When Barrymore played his 1925 Hamlet he used a chair identical to that!’. And Hartnell would pause, think and then say ‘Oh yes, I saw him’. So we talked about Barrymore for five minutes and then I said ‘Well, sorry to disturb you, you’d better get on with the scene, but first we must get rid of that chair’, and he said ‘Oh no, that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that!’.

“I liked Peter Purves (as Steven), but Innes Lloyd decided he wanted a change. Peter was good but he was a bit unvarying in his portrayal. He was robust but stiff, and I think we wanted somebody a bit more flexible, so we got Ben, the cockney sailor. Dodo was dropped because the camera picked up that this was an older woman and we thought the audience would identity better with this leggy swinging Sixtiees girl. Ben and Polly were contrasts – light and shade, and Innes had a big input into those characters, while I was to create Jamie entirely on my own.

“I wanted a scientific adviser for the show, and I wanted to generate new science fiction-based story ideas, as we had decided to phase out the historical stories. I’d been having meetings with Patrick Moore, Alec Comfort, Professor Laithwaite and the like, with one or two stock questions to see if I could provoke their imaginations. I said to Kit Pedler ‘Supposing something tried to dominate from the new Post Office tower’, and he immediately said ‘Oh, it would have to have a control network, possibly using the telephones, and that’s how ‘The War Machines’ started. Ian Stuart Black was booked to write a script, so we gave him the storyline and between us, Kit and I came up with lots of stories. Every time we met, we’d talk for hours and ideas would start bubbling out. The Cybermen came because we’d lost the Daleks and wanted a new monster.

“We thought of a South Pole setting (for The Tenth Planet) because of the atmosphere it gave, with the tracking station and something – what? – affecting it. Also, the South Pole is so inhospitable that nobody would expect anything to come out of those howling blizzards And the image of those great big silver monsters stalking was wonderful – we even devised the walk for them! The regeneration was inspired directly from ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, a simple inspiration to get the change-over between actors.

“It was a head of series decision to continue (when Hartnell left). There was definitely a threat and a lot of hard thinking as to whether we should continue, but in fact, Troughton came in. I was reminding Shaun Sutton about this the other day. We had these big meetings and we sat around trying out ideas. Patrick Troughton was getting more and more confused. Suddenly, after sitting there for two hours and listening to a lot of talk going backwards and forwards, I lost patience and slammed the table and said ‘Just a minute’, and everybody stopped and looked at the most junior member. I said ‘Look, he’s got to play it. I’ve got to write it and get the writers to follow on. It seems it would be far better to leave it to us. Sydney Newman said ‘Okay, you two intellectuals get to it’.

“Pat and I worked it out. I’d noticed his principle characteristic was a very fey quality, you could never pin him down. The other ingredient came from a very favourite movie character of mine – Destry from the film ‘Destry Rides Again’. I recalled that he’d be around and get other people to do what he wanted by sheer word play and telling them little parables. I thought that for a complete change from the autocratic Doctor who told everybody what to do, wouldn’t it be fun to have someone who never told them to do anything! So in the first story, the companions have to do all the figuring out.

“For The Highlanders, I got hold of Elwyn Jones, who had just retired as head of series and was a big-shot in the business. He created ‘Z Cars’ and we thought it would give it a nice twist to use him, so I booked him and he jotted down a few things, but didn’t actually do anything. One day I was called into Shaun Sutton’s office and Elwyn was sitting there. Shaun asked me to take over from Elwyn, telling me that he had great confidence in me! So, for sheer credit, I ended up writing the whole thing. At the end, Elwyn wrote me a little note, saying ‘Dear Gerry, how very clever you are!’. As I had no story from him, I sued what was at the back of my mind – ‘Kidnapped’. I loved that swashbuckling period.

“Tomb of the Cybermen was all very Freudian, with the symbolism of going down into the catacombs. It was an old-fashioned horror story with the breaking of the foetal membranes an added touch. That also gave us more scope with the Cybermats, who were based on silverfish. Although we devised them thinking mainly of the merchandise, they were also pretty horrific, with red eyes and the ability to leap up at you.

“I was offered the producership of the programme by Innes, but I’m primarily a writer and I didn’t want to get swallowed up into his kind of job. Peter Bryant was my assistant and I thought he was producer material rather than script material, so I pushed him in, in place of myself.

“With Revenge of the Cybermen, Mac Hulke called me and said he’d been asked to write this Cyberman thing, but he didn’t think there was enough material, so we talked and realised I was the one to do it. I did and was able to bring in some of my own background stuff. They asked me for more than I could supply, but I’ve fitted them in where I can. As for ‘Revenge’, which was the wrong title if ever there was one – mine was ‘Something in Space’ – basically what happened was that they wanted a cheapie, so I wrote the whole thing as a sort of Las Vegas in space. It was a little like ‘The Moonbase’ with the Cybermats. It was a kind of Marie Celeste space casino, at first, with these deserted roulette tables. The Cybermen were destroyed with the gold used there, gold being the only pure metal. Then they got more money and decided to write in a sub-plot, which I thought diffused the interest a bit. Though I liked the Tom Baker Doctor, he was a bit over the top in places and tended to dominate the opposition, whereas I always thought that the menace should be greater than the Doctor.”

Terrance Dicks (1985)

October 12, 2009

Here’s a brief exceprt from a DWM Terrance Dicks interview, in which he talks about his work writing novelisations for the Target range.

“In the early days of the show, there were three novelizations – ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’, ‘Doctor Who and the Crusaders’ by David Whitaker, and ‘Doctor Who and the Zarbi’ by Bill Struttion Those were published in hardback and really didn’t make any great impression on the world. Then, in the seventies, Tandem books wanted to start a children’s publishing house, which they called Target. Their first editor was doing the rounds, and he came across these three old books. He bought them and published them in paperbacks and they sold like hotcakes.

“He very shrewdly went to the BBC, saying he desperately needed more ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations. He got himself a contract and eventually got shunted onto our office. I knew then that I was going to be leaving the programme soon, and I’d also always desperately wanted to write a book. I seized on this opportunity and said I would do one for them. That was ‘The Auton Invasion’. I then became a sort of unofficial editor, and farmed them out amongst a group of the writers, like Malc Hulke, Barry Letts, Gerry Davis, Brian Hayles etc. Gradually, over the years, most of the other writers dropped out, and there was a time when I had a virtual monopoly on the books.

“Since they’ve become more successful, more and more of the writers of the original scripts are thinking that they would like to do the book of their own script, which they have every right to do. So now, I do a smaller proportion of them, but that suits me very well because I don’t want to do only ‘Doctor Who’ books forever.

“The backbone of each book is something called the PAB script, which stands for ‘Programme as Broadcast’. When a programme is completely finished and edited, the BBC prepares a sort of retrospective script, which is taken from what is actually on the screen. What I will do is get the PAB script and read it, then have a viewing of the programme on videotape, from which I will take notes of the purely visual things. The sets may not be as described in the script, the costumes may be different, the appearance of the actors won’t be described, etc. Then, I sit down with the script beside me, and make my way through it, turning the story into a book.

“I try to change as little as possible. I will sometimes change a line, almost a matter of instinct. Sometimes a line that’s written to be spoken doesn’t produce the same effect when it’s read. Also, sometimes you have to fill in some holes or explain a few things. If it’s a particularly complex story, or if it’s a sequel to another story, I’ll write a little prologue to make things clearer. For example, I just novelised ‘Warriors of the Deep’, which is a new story that features the Silurians and the Sea Devils, and refers back to two Jon Pertwee stories. So there’s quite a lot in the book which wasn’t on the screen at all.”