7 ways Chris Chibnall is reinventing Doctor Who

We’re now only one month away from the first episode of Doctor Who’s eleventh series, and it’s becoming ever clearer that showrunner Chris Chibnall has some big plans for his first series at the helm. With a new Doctor, new companions and a new vision, how does Chibnall plan on making this 55-year-old programme shiny and new again? Here are a few examples.

A New Logo

One of the the earliest indications of Chibnall’s vision for the series started with the release of a new logo back in February. A significant departure from the Moffat era’s big, blocky, blue logo, Chibnall’s opts for a warmer colour scheme and slimmer lettering – perhaps in an attempt to make the series come across as more friendly and inviting for new viewers. This new style has been extended to other aspects of the series publicity, with promotional images featuring bright, bold colours. Significantly, the new logo has been applied to all Doctor Who merchandise released since its reveal – whether classic series or new – thus uniting the entire history of the show under one banner and affirming that it is all part of the one universe.

A New Look

The logo is far from being the only visual change to the series – a brand new camera and lens combination is being introduced for Series 11, providing it with a whole new visual style. Since the return of the programme in 2005, Doctor Who’s look has become increasingly cinematic, with a least one of the series’ directors, Ben Wheatley, already having a list of film credits to their name. Even though the look of the show is already very cinematic, the new setup promises to take things even further, with post-production house Films at 59, who are supplying BBC Studios with the cameras and lenses, describing the new look as a “monumental leap”.

A New Night

The move to Sunday evenings in the UK (and Mondays in Australia) may seem like a bit of a strange move, given Doctor Who’s traditional “Saturday teatime” slot, but could well pay off for the BBC as a way of capturing a new audience. Don’t forget that the ABC broadcast Series 1-3 on Saturday nights then moved to Sundays from Series 4 – and got an instant increase in ratings, attracting viewers who were having quiet nights at home in the lead-up to school or work the next day. Let’s see if the BBC can replicate this success!

New Friends

For the first time since the early 1980s, the Doctor will have not one, not two, but three companions! It’s an approach that should provide a new kind of dynamic amongst the regular cast and give the show more of a family feel, with the TARDIS team of Ryan, Yaz and Graham likely to complement each other while also relating to the Doctor – and to each other – in their own particular way. Significantly, the new team are often referred to as the Doctor’s “friends” rather than “companions” in BBC marketing material – a much warmer descriptor which more or less puts them on equal footing with the Doctor.

A New Episode Length

One of the key descriptors of Doctor Who’s revived series would be “pacy”, with whole stories often told in the space of 45 minutes or less – with room for the occasional two-parter or special episode. By contrast, Series 11 will begin with a 60-minute opener followed by nine 50-minute episodes – and while an extension of 5 minutes per episode may not seem like much, it can actually be a long time in a television environment, where the editing process can be ruthless and key scenes are often cut due to time restrictions. The extension should thus allow for more plot, more character development and more room to breathe in each standalone episode. This may also mean that there will be fewer (if any) “filler” stories to stretch the series out to 12 or 13 episodes – by instead focusing on telling ten carefully crafted stories, we could end up with an entire series where every episode is just as significant as the next.

New Music

One of the biggest transitions of the new series will be a change of composer, with Murray Gold having stepped down from his position after an impressive 12 years and 125 episodes. Gold’s orchestral scores have been a mainstay of Doctor Who since its return in 2005, so it’s fair to say he has big shoes to fill. The composer selected for the task? Segun Akinola, a member of the BAFTA Breakthrough Brit program in 2017 and a rising star among British composers. Akinola has mainly composed for documentaries in recent years but has also covered short films and even the video game Godsweeper, so he clearly has the versatility to adapt his skills to different genres. We’re particularly keen to hear his unique take on the iconic Doctor Who theme!

New Voices

There will be even more big changes behind the scenes of the programme, with five new writers and four new directors contributing to Series 11. That’s right – apart from Chibnall himself, all nine are brand new to televised Doctor Who, though former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman did write a Seventh Doctor short story for the programme’s 50th anniversary and director Jamie Childs was responsible for Jodie Whittaker’s reveal as the new Doctor. More importantly, all have very impressive CVs and are united by a love of Doctor Who, with Chibnall saying “they are awesome people as well as brilliant at their job… And they’ve all worked above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to bring audiences something special”.


Image credit: Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s clear that Doctor Who truly has undergone something of a regeneration over the past year or so, with Chibnall and co. working hard behind the scenes to bring viewers old and new a programme that is fresh, exciting and relevant to 2018. So as the countdown continues towards the very first episode, we as fans are getting ready to fall in love with Doctor Who all over again. After all, it’s only because Doctor Who has continuously evolved and reinvented itself over so many decades that it has managed to survive for so long.

6 tips for getting into Classic Doctor Who

With the recent Australian releases of Season 12: The Collection on Blu-ray and The Enemy of the World Special Edition on DVD, the classic series has come back on the radar for many fans. But if you’re still yet to experience the show’s original run, here’s a handy guide to help you get started.

1. Don’t feel like you have to start at the very beginning

There’s a myth that in order to experience Doctor Who “properly” you need to watch it from the first episode and in original broadcast order. The reality is that you can start virtually anywhere amongst the 26 seasons of the classic series and get your bearings fairly quickly. As much of the classic series was made in an age before content could be easily be watched over and over again, it had to remain largely accessible, so complicated plotlines relying on knowledge of episodes from previous seasons, or even from a few months ago, were pretty rare. Even when this sort of thing does happen (such as Davros’ second appearance in Destiny of the Daleks), there is often some handy expositional dialogue that helps out the uninformed viewer. This gives you the option to start with a particular TARDIS crew and follow their adventures, or maybe a story with a recognisable monster in it, or maybe even picking a story at random if you’re feeling adventurous. You may feel a little lost on your first foray into the classic era, but as long as you understand the show’s basic premise, and you start with the first episode of whatever adventure you’re watching, you’ll find yourself enjoying the journey wherever you end up – a bit like the Doctor!

2. The World Wide Web can be your friend

If you do find yourself a little lost then there’s a huge repository of information on the classic series available online, including episode synopses, character arcs and any other niggling details that might be tingling your fan-senses. Of course, if you’re a spoilerphobe then you might want to tread carefully and wait until after you’ve finished watching a given story before looking it up. Be warned!

3. Resist the temptation to binge

In the age of instant streaming and TV on demand, we know how tempting it is to consume several episodes of a programme in one session. And with your standard classic series story being four, maybe six 25-minute episodes in length, that sounds like nothing to the hardcore binge-watcher. But television in the 20th century was simply not made to be watched all at once. Sure, the classic cliffhanger endings were designed to get you excited for the following episode, but they were meant to get the audience to tune in the next week, not a matter of seconds after the end credits. In the early years of the classic series, characters would often recap events from previous episodes, and in some instances plot elements repeat themselves (some stories play the ‘capture and escape’ routine more frequently than others) – things which you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you watched the story over a few weeks or even days, but are likely to find frustrating over the course of a single evening. So resist the temptation, enjoy the anticipation and space out your viewing – it’s going to be far more rewarding that way.

4. Think theatre, not film

It’s not only the way television was broadcast that has changed, but also how it was produced. Whereas today we can expect our television programmes to be fast-paced and full of high-quality special effects, the classic series (in the ’60s in particular) was more like going to a play – to the extent that early episodes were filmed more or less live and almost entirely in a single, small studio! So there’s less cutting during scenes, and more emphasis on storytelling through dialogue. Striking costume design is used as a short-hand to convey alien species or ancient cultures, while the production team were forced to be innovative with their limited resources in an effort to transport viewers all through time and space. In that way, watching the classic series is a bit like watching the evolution of television over three decades, with later episodes growing in visual sophistication, but ultimately it’s the stories that matter. If you do ever find yourself thinking that a classic episode looks a bit stagy, just imagine it’s being acted out in front of you.

5. Make your own journey

There are several stories from the classic series that have been firmly cemented over time as The Good Ones, as well as those considered The Not So Good Ones. But while it can be tempting for new viewers to seek out and prioritise the “best” stories and/or Doctors, fan consensus is often shaped by very specific circumstances. For instance, Tom Baker was certainly popular during his run on television, but it also helped that he stuck around for seven years, so he became the definitive Doctor for an awful lot of children growing up in the ’70s. Meanwhile, the 1996 TV movie was the only Doctor Who produced since 1989 and failed to spawn a new series, so is likely to be viewed as more of a disappointment by those who were there at the time than the curious newbies of today. Reputation can be a problem as well – a bad reputation can blind you to a story’s overlooked merits, whilst a good one can create unrealistic expectations. So while you’re certainly welcome to seek advice, remember you are your own person with your own opinions, and you are under no obligation to enjoy a particular story just because it topped a list you found on the Internet. It’s much more satisfying to wipe away any expectations and make your own mind up. It’s your journey – own it.

6. Have fun!

26 seasons can feel like an intimidating amount of content, so make sure you’re having fun along the way. Take things at your own pace so you don’t end up turning this magical series into a chore. Don’t feel like you need to commit yourself to watching a whole bunch of episodes just for the sake of it – if you’re finding you aren’t enjoying things much, then maybe give a different Doctor a try and come back later. Ultimately, Doctor Who should be an entertaining experience and the classic series is no exception – after all, it wouldn’t have gone on for so long if there wasn’t something to enjoy about it.

With these six tips, you should now be ready to embark on your voyage beyond the mind, your flight through eternity, your wanderings through the fourth dimension. As someone who has been through it all, I can confirm that the classic series is a fun, exciting, weird, charming, spooky, witty, camp, clever, never-quite-the-same-twice adventure and it’s well worth your time. Best of luck on your journeys through the classic Whoniverse, whatever path they may take.

Both Season 12: The Collection Blu-Ray and The Enemy of the World: Special Edition DVD are available now from the DWCA Shop. You can browse further releases from the classic series here.

6 screenwriters we’d like to see in Series 11

With the recent announcement that Segun Akinola will take over as composer for Series 11 of Doctor Who, we’re getting a better idea of the production team that will be helping to bring Jodie Whittaker’s debut series to life. But despite the series having begun filming, there is still no word from the BBC on which writers, apart from showrunner Chris Chibnall, are penning the new season. So we thought we’d suggest our own.

Dominic Mitchell

Dominic Mitchell is the creator and writer of the supernatural drama In the Flesh, for which he was named Best Writer at the 2014 BAFTA TV Craft awards; the series went on to win Best Mini Series at the 2014 BAFTA awards. More recently he was lucky enough to work on HBO sci-fi show Westworld, serving as a supervising producer during the show’s first series as well as writing its fifth episode. If anything could keep Mitchell in the UK, we bet it would be Doctor Who!

Fintan Ryan

Fintan Ryan first rose to prominence as a writer on drama series Party Animals, whose ensemble cast featured none other than a young Matt Smith. He went on to write two episodes of In the Flesh and was more recently the creator of short-lived series The Aliens – a show that’s part social commentary, part comedy, part gangster drama. If only there was another programme that blended genres so flawlessly…

Debbie Moon

Welsh writer Debbie Moon is best known as the creator of British–German series Wolfblood, a fantasy teen drama series about werewolf-like creators known as wolfboods. The show ran for five series and won numerous awards, so clearly Moon knows how to keep her audience glued to the screen. Who knows what weird and wonderful creatures she could create for Doctor Who?

Emma Reeves

Emma Reeves has been making a bit of a name for herself writing fantasy shows for young people, including comedy-drama Dead Gorgeous (an Australian-British co-production), Young Dracula and the recent revival of The Worst Witch. She even won a Writers’ Guild of Britain Award in 2016 for sci-fi show Eve, which she co-created. She has already dipped her toe in the Whoniverse thanks to Big Finish Productions, writing audio adventures for both Torchwood and Bernice Summerfield. We think it’s about time she moved on to the parent programme!

Charlie Brooker

Charlie Brooker is of course best known for being the creator of twisted anthology series Black Mirror, one episode of which featured none other than the Thirteenth Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker! Prior to that, he was the writer of miniseries Dead Set, about a group of Big Brother contestants who have no idea that a zombie outbreak is occurring right outside their house. Brooker revealed in 2016 that he had actually been asked to write for Doctor Who once before but his schedule got in the way – maybe it’s time for a second go…?

J.K. Rowling

Doctor Who fans have been hoping for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling to be involved with the series for years. Former showrunner Russell T Davies entertained the idea of Rowling either writing for or appearing in the series, while his successor Steven Moffat hinted that a short story from the legendary writer may be on the cards. So what’s changed? For starters, Rowling has since had a chance to hone her screenwriting skills thanks to her work on the Fantastic Beasts films, so the transition to television would not be as much of a stretch as perhaps it might once have seemed. More significantly, Rowling has never shied away from the opportunity to speak in favour of gender equality – and the opportunity to write for a female Doctor may be too enticing to resist…

From the Archives: Katy Manning at Lords of Time 3

Issue #239 of Data Extract magazine, released last month by the Doctor Who Club of Australia, features a new interview with classic companion actor Katy Manning, conducted at the club’s Look Who’s Talking event earlier this year. DWCA members were absolutely thrilled with the visit from their patron, whose last appearance at an Australian sci-fi event was the Lords of Time 3 convention back in December 2014.

Here we present the interview that was conducted at that very convention, republished courtesy of Culture Shock Events.

Hi Katy, welcome back to Australia.

Australia is so much a part of my heart – thank you for the lovely welcome!

Since you’ve been back in England, have you been approached to come back to do any work here?

Yes! I must be honest with you – I’ve been very lucky. I’ve lived in three countries and managed to get work, and it’s even easier now because I can play old ladies! Once a year, I do a thing called ‘art’, which means I work for very little at places like the Edinburgh Festival. And last year, along with Susan Penhaligon, who was in The Time Monster, we played these dear old actresses who both had different stages of dementia. I’m not being disrespectful when I say this is not hard for me. People say, “What did you do yesterday?”, and I literally go, “I have no idea!” Life goes so fast, it’s wonderful.

Speaking of playing older ladies, you played that old icon Bette Davis in your one-woman show ‘Me and Jezebel’.

She’s been right across Australia, poor old bat. When I took Bette across Australia, we were right in the middle of the outback, and that’s where my heart is. You put a play on out there, and people get in a van, and they travel for three hours, and they bring their little kiddies with their little blankets, and they bring the picnic, and they’ve got everything there. One lady said, “We’ve never had a play here before! A lot of country and western music, and some very good Irish dancing.” So when I got up there and played nine people, including Bette Davis, they were all in gobsmacked amazement. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done – taking theatre to people who don’t get theatre. I mean, Sydney is beautiful, Melbourne’s beautiful, but it’s the outback of Australia that is the true Australia to me. It really is remarkable.

You seem to be very busy in England, no doubt due to your work with Big Finish Productions over the years – playing not only Jo Grant, but also Irish Wildthyme.

I used to go back and do Big Finish, and do the characters in Terrance Dicks’ books, which are all men. I’ve never played so many Welsh miners and army men in my life! I thought I was a girl until I came out of there! But I’d just arrived from Australia to do a Big Finish, and I said, “What am I doing?” Gary Russell said, “Oh, it’s a new character”. So, Iris Wildthyme. I said, “Who is she?”, and Gary said, “Oh, just do a voice”. So I thought: every part of Northern England, that’s the voice I’m going to give, and then they can choose.

Well, it stayed. Thirteen years I’ve been playing Iris. And of course I do Jo, and then I put Jo with Iris, and then I did a one-woman show that I wrote when I was living in LA called Not a Well Woman. It was Big Finish’s very first non-Doctor Who drama audio. I play 26 characters in it, which is no easy feat – from newborn babies crying, to old Australians, to Africans, to Greek men… so many characters in it.

The most amazing thing that I had to do in it, though, was… there’s a rap song in it. But we couldn’t afford to pay the rights for a rap song, and it had to be a real gangster-like rap song – the ruder the better for the joke. So I was sitting there, and I said, “It’s okay, I’ll write the rap song”. So I ended up sitting there writing this rap song, which of course I had to sing. I had to do gangster rap. I’m an old, pension-carrying woman, and I’m sitting there, and I’m writing, “ridin’ with ma homies”, and it felt so right!

I have to be honest with you – I was really proud of that. I did it all by myself, and we recorded it in a day. There were 26 voices, and I don’t do it like separate tracks, I do it all in one hit. When I do Iris, and Jo, and Jon Pertwee, they’re all done as it comes off the page – and that’s why I’m nuts!

You actually said many years ago that you didn’t really want to go back and do Jo Grant, yet now you’ve reprised her on audio and TV. What made you change your mind?

I didn’t want to do her on audio. I remember saying to David Richardson, “Why would I do Jo without Jon? It just doesn’t compute.” He said, “Well you play Jon.” And the rest is history.

Some time later, though, I was trotting along in the West End, trying to find this theatre. My phone rings, and it’s Russell T Davies. And he said, “We’d like you to come back as Jo Grant.” So I was sent the script, and I thought it was one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever read. I knew that Gary Russell would be script editing, I knew that Russell T is a genius and one of the loveliest men in the world, and of course on top of all that, beautiful Lis. So that was one of the greatest gifts you could give somebody – all of those things. And I got very nervous, but Lis was just wonderful, and to work with Matt Smith was such a treat. Lis said it was lovely, because having Jo gave her character an opportunity to lighten up, and I think the audience could see that.

 

Interviews with Katy’s fellow Lords of Time guests, including Matthew Waterhouse, Terrance Dicks and Geoffrey Beevers, can be found in Issue #226 of Data Extract magazine, available for purchase here. Katy’s most recent interview can be found in DE #239, currently available exclusively to DWCA members.

Hines sight for Jamie

IT is more than 50 years since Frazer Hines first donned a kilt, fine-tuned his Scottish accent and met the Doctor – it’s an event that not only continues to influence his life but a lot of other people’s too, and in surprising ways.

Hines, 73, is still a Doctor Who fan favourite, touring the world going to conventions and still working – and in fact he will be in Australia this month doing both.

He is set to appear at Supanova Sydney from 15-17 June at the Sydney Showground and will appear in Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from 29 June to 8 July and then Sydney’s State Theatre from 13 to 22 July.

“If I had known how successful it would be I would have kept the props, but back then it was just three years in a kids show,” he laughed.

“I was supposed to be in it for two episodes set in the Highlands. I didn’t have to read for it – I just had a five-minute discussion over a cup of coffee.”

However, the producers and BBC viewers liked what they saw in those two episodes and after a lot of fan phone calls to the channel, he was asked to join the TARDIS crew permanently, spending the next three years from 1966 to 1969 having too much fun traversing time and space with Patrick Troughton, who he described as “a lovely man”.

Having already shot his final scene for the show, he was called back for a reshoot and instead of standing there with the other Highlanders waving the TARDIS goodbye, he got in, commencing a three-year run on the show that would finally conclude with 1969’s The War Games. It changed his life and, years later after seeing a rerun of his departure story, that of one particular American fan.

It is part of folklore now that Arizona writer Diana Gabaldon saw a rerun of The War Games and something fired in her brain. The resulting book – her first – was released here in Australia as Cross Stitch in the early ’90s. It became a worldwide best-seller, spawned a long series of novels and in more recent times, a television show which is now seen all around the world. It is of course Outlander; the novel’s lead character Jamie Fraser is named for Frazer’s Jamie McCrimmon.

And Frazer said it was amazing experience to know that his legs in a kilt had inspired such a worldwide phenomenon.

“She told me she saw me in Doctor Who as Jamie and was still thinking of my legs in a kilt the next day at church,” he laughed because the rest, as they say is history.

“She sent me the book while I was working on Emmerdale, I was still young enough to play Jamie, I took it to my bosses at Yorkshire Television, but they said it would be too expensive to make.”

Instead, more than two decades later Outlander has made the current “Jamie”, Sam Heughan, a worldwide star.

But Frazer didn’t miss out entirely, playing Sir Fletcher Gordon in one episode back in 2015.

“Ten to 12 episodes might have been nice,” the affable Frazer quipped, saying it was an honour to know that his time as Jamie had inspired such a massive hit.

“I just wish Diana Gabaldon would pay my mortgage off,” he laughed. “I have certainly paid off hers and probably Sam Heughan’s too, it is so big around the world, everywhere… Brazil, America, Australia.”

Not that Frazer can really complain, he is still getting work in his 70s and still obviously loving it – including his latest pantomime gig here in Australia – a gig that came about in a very modern way.

“I’ve known the pantomime director Bonnie Lythgoe for years – I just happened to pop up on her Facebook profile a few months ago and told a joke and she said oh my god I forgot you had such a great sense of humour and asked me to come down for the pantomime,” he said.

“I think it will be my thirtieth or at least 29th pantomime – I love it. It is such a great introduction to theatre for children.”

Frazer will play Sleeping Beauty’s father, King Louis, with Australian stage royalty Rhonda Burchmore taking the role of the wicked fairy godmother Carabosse and comedian Kev Orkian playing Silly Billy. It is the fifth panto produced in Australia by Lythgoe after the nationwide success of last year’s The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Cinderella in 2016, Aladdin and his Wondrous Lamp in 2015 and Snow-White Winter Family Musical in 2014.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster for both the Sydney and Melbourne shows. Supanova tickets can meanwhile be purchased from Moshtix, where you can hear Frazer’s other stories – including the time he worked with Charlie Chaplin – and don’t forget the DWCA will have a booth at the event, so you can pick up a DVD or two for Frazer to sign!

Following both the panto and the con, Frazer said he would be heading up to the Solomon Islands for a week to visit the scene of World War II’s battle of Guadalcanal before heading back to Britain.

Frazer Hines set for Supanova.

Six Times Steven Moffat Did the Impossible

The DWCA is bidding a fond farewell to outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat with a special day event celebrating some of his most significant contributions to the programme – tickets are available here. And it’s fair to say that the past eight years have been somewhat divisive, with the controversial executive producer never afraid to fly in the face of what fans had accepted as true. Here are six examples of fan “myths” Mr Moffat very firmly busted…

Companions Leave the Doctor When They Get Married

Ever since the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan fell in love during The Dalek Invasion of Earth back in 1964, there has been a clear trend of the Doctor’s female companions (some of them, at least) leaving behind life in the TARDIS in exchange for wedded bliss. Fiery redhead Amy Pond, the first companion of Moffat’s tenure as showrunner, was having none of that, jumping back into the TARDIS before her wedding night was even over – with her new husband Rory in tow. Even after “officially” leaving the Doctor at the end of The God Complex, Amy and Rory found themselves dragged back into TARDIS life in Asylum of the Daleks and travelled with him on and off over at least ten years, before their eventual departure in The Angels Take Manhattan. Their status as “part-time companions” was one that was subsequently taken up by Clara Oswald and Bill Potts, showing that Moffat remained willing to subvert the traditional companion role for the remainder of his tenure.

The Doctor Can’t Get Married

Unlike their companions, the Doctor’s own love life was somewhat lacklustre during the classic series, leading many to believe the character was in fact asexual. This all changed with the Doctor’s “first kiss” in the 1996 TV Movie, followed by the development of an intense emotional relationship with companion Rose Tyler in 2005. Steven Moffat went one step further, weaving a flirtatious relationship between the Doctor and River Song that overcame the rules of time itself – and ultimately culminated in their marriage in The Wedding of River Song. And while the wedding was apparently just a ruse of the Doctor’s in order to get River to kiss them and restore the correct timeline, further stories went on to confirm that their feelings for River were sincere all along. Nowhere is this clearer than The Husbands of River Song, the ending of which sees the couple looking lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Gallifrey Was Destroyed in the Time War

Long-time fans of Doctor Who were shocked in 2005 when the Ninth Doctor announced he was the last of the Time Lords – the result of then showrunner Russell T Davies wanting to wipe the slate clean for new viewers. Over the next eight years, fans gradually learned bits and pieces about the devastating war that had wiped out both the Time Lords and (most of) the Daleks. But while it was something of a surprise to see the last moments of the Time War covered in the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, no one could have expected the story’s climax – the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey was saved! It was a bold move by Moffat to revise almost a decade’s worth of character development, but it just about worked, and has since allowed the Doctor to revisit Gallifrey in the Series 9 finale Hell Bent.

The Eighth Doctor Fought in the Time War

Of course, we cannot mention The Day of the Doctor without discussing the elephant (man) in the room – the late, great Sir John Hurt, aka the War Doctor. Steven Moffat has made it known that he could never really picture Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor fighting in the Time War, and so approached Ninth Doctor actor Christopher Eccleston about a possible return – an offer that was ultimately turned down. But rather than abandoning his Time War plot, the resourceful showrunner pitched the idea of creating a hitherto unknown ‘War Doctor’, ideally to be played by an actor of exceptionally high calibre: “Someone like John Hurt.” Little did he know that the role would go on to be accepted by Hurt himself, who was embraced by fans and even returned to the part in four audio drama boxsets for Big Finish Productions.

You Can’t Show the Doctor as a Child

The Doctor’s pre-TARDIS life has been shrouded in mystery, with our hero offering only a few anecdotes over the decades to indicate what they were like as a youngster (several of which point to a somewhat rebellious youth spent at the Time Lord Academy). Moffat wound back the clock even further in Twelfth Doctor episode Listen, depicting a pre-pubescent Doctor (although we never see his face) sleeping in a barn on Gallifrey – apparently adjunct to a house he shares with several other young boys. When Clara impulsively grabs the lad’s ankle from the under his bed, she realises she has inadvertently become the source of her friend’s greatest fear. Her solution? To teach him that fear is a superpower; a force that will ultimately drive him to become the greatest and kindest hero the universe has ever seen. Clara’s influence on the Doctor’s life up until this moment has always been substantial – from telling them which TARDIS to steal to helping them avert the destruction of Gallifrey – but this moment truly trumps them all.

Time Lords Can’t Change Gender When They Regenerate

This is the big one. Over the course of the classic series, several Time Lords (and Ladies) appeared across various incarnations – but always retained the same gender. It was in The Doctor’s Wife, penned by Neil Gaiman during Moffat’s second series as showrunner, that viewers first heard anything otherwise, with dialogue indicating that the Doctor’s old friend the Corsair had experienced multiple female incarnations as well as male ones.

It was a revelation that Moffat would go on to revisit – three years later the character of Missy revealed herself as the latest incarnation of the Master, and one year later the process itself was depicted in Hell Bent with the regeneration of the Time Lord General. So while it was incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall who took the bold step of casting Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, it was Moffat who laid much of the groundwork that allowed this to happen.

In his tenure as showrunner, Moffat has shown a playfully flexible attitude towards the do’s and don’ts of Doctor Who, taking the opportunity to reinvent the mythology of the programme at several points with an almost gleeful mischievousness. And why not? After all, aren’t reinvention, adaptation and change key to the show’s survival?

Our celebration of Steven Moffat’s time on Doctor Who is taking place on 27 May. Head here for more information and to grab your tickets.

 

Targeted – A Defence of the Target Novelisations

This month sees the much-anticipated release of four newly novelised New Who episodes from BBC Books, formatted in the style of the classic series novelisations from Target Books: Rose by Russell T Davies, The Christmas Invasion by Jenny T Colgan, Twice Upon a Time by Paul Cornell and The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat – the last of which the DWCA Book Club will be discussing at our June meeting.

But while the Target books are currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity, there have always been those who have looked down upon them as nothing more than throwaway fluff for children. Back in 2013, Mitchell Sutton submitted an article to Issue #219 of Data Extract magazine in which he outlined his case in defence of the Target books – an article which we now reproduce below for your reading pleasure.


Target novelisations seem to be the marmite of the Doctor Who fan community. On the one hand, there are those who had a large portion of their childhood invested in brilliant retellings of barely remembered episodes. For these fans, Terrance Dicks is a part of the Western Literary Canon, Chris Archilleos the greatest unrecognised artist of the 20th century and the term “pleasant, open face” the definitive description of manliness. For others, mostly those who never found them in childhood, the books are embarrassing throwbacks to a dark time before the Internet and home video: simplistic children’s literature churned out in a week so that the show’s writers could have some extra cash.

I fall squarely in the former category. For me, the Target books are probably the greatest item of merchandise the show ever produced and is ever likely to produce. From the brilliant covers of Alastair Pearson, Chris Archilleos and others to the completist part of my heart that really, really likes seeing them on my shelf in televised order, they are the definitive tellings of the Doctor’s adventures (and let’s face it, no matter how much money the BBC spends, it can’t rival imagination).

But first let’s look at some of the criticisms. The main charges I’ve seen levelled against them are that they were mostly filler pushed out by Terrance Dicks in a week, that they were simply transcripts of the episodes in novel form, and that they are embarrassingly childish when compared to the modern BBC books. Cue rabid defence.

Looking back on the range today, I’m not surprised by the number of filler novels that were produced, but rather by the lack of it. It was pretty much inevitable due to the sheer number of books produced over the thirty-year period that some would be poorly written cash-ins. But there was never a period when the good ones stopped being produced. Every Doctor has at least four or five outstanding novelisations, spanning from David Whitaker’s pre-Target effort to novelise The Daleks to Ben Aaronovitch’s expansive Remembrance of the Daleks.

Now on to Terrance Dicks. Alright, it is true that the man commonly known as Uncle Terry turned himself into a freakishly fast author of novelisations, was known to skimp on such trifles as originality and did re-use a lot of stock phrases. But wouldn’t we all be worse off if Terrace had never drummed up the phrases “pleasant, open face”, “wheezing-groaning sound” and “dominated by a many sided central console” into the minds of generations of impressionable children? Without Terrance Dicks the Target library would be a little less than half its present size (according to the ever reliable New Zealand fan club site he wrote 64 out of 154, or 42% of all the Target novelisations), and it might have died off altogether if he hadn’t been there to transcribe such beloved classics as State of Decay, The Smugglers and The Krotons in 128 pages. If the original authors couldn’t make them seem interesting then what chance did Terrance have? Someone had to transcribe them and nobody did that better than he.

The accusation that the novels were simply dull rehashes of the episodes they were based on is greatly exaggerated (dull television stories aside). There are even some novelisations so perfect that they’ve displaced the episodes they were based on in fan consciousness. Without Doctor Who and the Cybermen, The Moonbase would be a largely scorned rehash of The Tenth Planet rather than the tense, eerie adventure that it’s remembered as. I would also wager that the fond memories of old episodes created by the Target books during the 1980s contributed to the hatred directed towards one John Nathan-Turner and the idea that everything before the 1980s was beyond reproach. In many cases the Target books created memories that were better than the original television.

Likewise, when the author of a TV serial wrote the novelisation we often saw a better product than what we got on TV because the writers were able to flesh out the characters a little bit more and allowed us to see inside their heads. For example, in Malcolm Hulke’s novelisation of The Silurians we see the events that lead the Silurians to hibernate through the eyes of their leader, which makes them must more sympathetic creatures.

As for alleged childishness, whilst they were published as children’s books initially, there was a huge evolution in their tone, the quality of writing and content. Whilst they thankfully never achieved the sex, violence and convoluted story arcs of the desperately-trying-to-be-mature New Adventures, the novelisations grew up with the fanbase in many ways. By the end of their run during the 1990s, many of them were being written by authors like Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch, who included many elements of their fabled ‘masterplan’, going beyond the brief for children’s novelisations.

I hope my little rant has dispelled some myths about the Target novelisations and revealed a little of why I, and many others, love them so much. While I don’t think I’ll have created any new Target fans, I do hope that it has helped to restore the novelisations to their rightfully deserved place in Who canon.

The DWCA Book Club’s discussion of The Day of the Doctor is taking place on 1 June – join the conversation by coming to the event or heading to our Facebook page. The Book Club meets once every two months to chat about a given book relating to the Whoniverse. With a vast history of books to choose from, including original novels, comic books, short story collections, biographies and classic novelisations, there’s always something different at Book Club! Keep an eye out on our website for news about future books!

12 actors who have written for the Whoniverse

The DWCA Book Club is on again Friday 6 April, this time discussing the Torchwood graphic novel World Without End, written by Captain Jack himself, John Barrowman, along with his sister Carole. But this isn’t the first time that one of the stars of the Whoniverse has written an adventure of their own. Here’s our list of 12 actors who have also written for the Whoniverse across a host of different media.

1. Ian Marter

Appearing as companion Harry Sullivan in Tom Baker’s first six serials as the Doctor, Ian Marter was one of the first to cross the actor-writer divide. He contributed his first Target novelisation, Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, in 1977, having appeared as Harry in the TV story the book was based on. This was followed by eight further novelisations, including The Sontaran Experiment (another story featuring Harry) and a controversial adaptation of Second Doctor story The Enemy of the World. Marter also wrote an original, Doctor-less novel titled Harry Sullivan’s War, catching up with the character 10 years after his travels in the TARDIS.

2. Colin Baker

Most famous for portraying the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker also has an unusually broad writing resume, having written Doctor Who stories in prose (in the form several short stories for Doctor Who Magazine and the Doctor Who Yearbook), on audio (The Wings of a Butterfly, released in Big Finish’s anthology collection Short Trips Volume 1) and as a comic (the 1994 graphic novel The Age of Chaos). The last of these also included a return appearance from Frobisher, a shape-shifting alien companion who often took the form of a talking penguin and remains one of the most popular characters to originate from Doctor Who comics.

3. Noel Clarke

Best known as Rose’s long-suffering boyfriend (and Martha Jones’ eventual husband) Mickey Smith, Noel Clarke is also an accomplished screenwriter, penning the screenplay for a trilogy of crime thriller films (titled Kidulthood, Adulthood and Brotherhood) and co-creating the forthcoming cop drama Bulletproof for Sky Television. One of his early writing credits is for the 2006 Torchwood episode Combat, which follows Owen Harper as he deals with the recent departure of his lover whilst also investigating a group of wealthy young men running an alien cage-fighting ring.

4. John Barrowman

The star of Torchwood has also penned a number of stories for the spin-off with his sister and frequent collaborator Carole. The pair contributed Captain Jack and the Selkie for Torchwood Magazine in 2009 and later wrote the full-length novel Exodus Code, set in the aftermath of the programme’s fourth series. Always keen ambassadors for Torchwood’s return, the Barrowmans have written all installments of Titan Publishing’s Torchwood comic since its launch in 2016. The first graphic novel collection from the range, World Without End, is the subject of this month’s DWCA Book Club and sees Jack in charge of a reborn Torchwood, their headquarters housed in the ocean-faring vessel The Ice Maiden.

5. Gareth David-Lloyd

Barrowman’s co-star has made a more recent leap into writing, authoring two Torchwood audio adventures due later this year through Big Finish. Both focus on David-Lloyd’s character Ianto: Blind Summit depicts his initial recruitment to Torchwood One in London, while The Last Beacon sees Ianto take a camping trip with his abrasive colleague Owen in order to stop an alien invasion.

6. Nicholas Briggs

Briggs has made a few low-key appearances in the TV Whoniverse (with a supporting role in Torchwood: Children of Earth and a brief cameo in the docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), but he is best known for being the go-to voice artist for Doctor Who monsters since the series returned in 2005, lending his pipes (and his ring modulator) to a menagerie that includes Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons and Judoon. Briggs is also one of the most influential people in the world of Doctor Who audio, fulfilling a mulititude of production roles across scores of releases for Big Finish. As a scriptwriter, some of his more notable works include 50th anniversary special The Light at the End, Sixth Doctor regeneration story The Brink of Death and Big Finish’s first ever Doctor Who release, The Sirens of Time.

7. Barnaby Edwards

You might not know Barnaby Edwards’ face, but you’re almost certainly familiar with his work! Edwards’ performances as a Dalek operator span every major appearance of the Doctor’s arch enemies since 2005. Outside of his casing, Edwards is a seasoned director at Big Finish and has also dabbled in writing for the company, his scripts including Ice Warrior tale The Bride of Peladon as well as The Emerald Tiger, a Fifth Doctor adventure inspired by The Jungle Book.

8. David Banks

Banks is another monster actor to cross over into writing. Having portrayed the Cyber-Leader in every Cyberman story during the 1980s, Banks later wrote a non-fiction book on the Cybermen that also fleshed out several aspects of the Cyber-race’s in-universe backstory. He subsequently wrote the novel Iceberg for Virgin Publishing’s New Adventures series, which saw the Seventh Doctor square off against – you guessed it – the Cybermen. Given the programme wasn’t on the air when the novel was published in 1993, Banks was able to get away with a number of adult touches to the story, including rather a lot of naughty words!

9. Louise Jameson

To many Doctor Who fans, Louise Jameson is ‘70s companion Leela: a fierce warrior from the tribe of Sevateem and still one of the Doctor’s most distinctive companions. Jameson has also put her writing talents to use, partnering up with experienced Big Finish scribe Nigel Fairs for Fourth Doctor audio adventure The Abandoned in 2014. Set entirely within the TARDIS, the story sees the emergence of a malevolent presence deep within the workings of the ship. Leela also gets some strong character material in this adventure, coming to terms with the death of her father.

10. Dan Starkey

He may be known and loved for his turn as Strax the Sontaran Nurse/Butler, but there’s much more to Dan Starkey. Aside from a prosthetic-free appearance as Ian the Elf in the 2014 seasonal special Last Christmas, Starkey is also a frequent voice actor for Big Finish, playing various roles including priests, robophobic security chiefs and, yes, more than a few Sontarans. In 2015, Starkey teamed up with one of Big Finish’s best writing talents, John Dorney, for Terror of the Sontarans, an audio adventure starring the Seventh Doctor and Mel and featuring an adversary that strikes fear into the hearts of the clone warriors.

11. Geoffrey Beevers

Eleven years after a small role as a UNIT private, Beevers turned in a highly memorable performance as the Master in 1981’s The Keeper of Traken. Despite only one television appearance, Beevers’ decayed, desperate incarnation has been significantly expanded through several new audio adventures with Big Finish. Beevers published his first novel, The Forgotten Fields, in 2013 and is set to make his Whoniverse writing debut later this year with I Am the Master, a Big Finish Short Trip.

12. Mark Gatiss

Perhaps the most high-profile writer on this list, Gatiss’ first professionally published work was the Doctor Who novel Nightshade in 1992. Over the next 13 years Gatiss wrote a further three Doctor Who novels and two Big Finish plays whilst also developing his career as an actor and screenwriter, landing a cult hit with The League of Gentlemen in the late ‘90s. Since 2005 he has written nine TV episodes of Doctor Who and performed in four (most recently as The Captain in Twice Upon A Time). Gatiss was also nominated for a Hugo Award for his screenplay for An Adventure in Space and Time, which formed part of the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2013. His impressive string of credits makes him one of the few people to have appeared in episodes starring four different Doctors; one of the few people to have written episodes for four different Doctors, and certainly the only person to achieve both of these feats!

Honourable Mention: Peter Davison

Whilst Davison (aka the Fifth Doctor) hasn’t written anything that could reasonably be included in the Doctor Who canon, he did write and direct The Five-ish Doctors Reboot, an utterly charming tribute to the long history of the programme made as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations and full of more in-jokes and cameos than you can poke a stick at. Like Gatiss, Davison was nominated for a Hugo for his contribution to the anniversary.

It’s clear that the contributions of actor/writers to the Whoniverse are many and varied. Some actors have expanded on their onscreen characters, whilst others have made cheeky jokes about them, and others appear to love Doctor Who so much that they have to do more than just act in it. So the next time you pick up a book, press play on a Big Finish audio or sit down to a television episode, make sure you check who wrote it – the results might just surprise you!

 

The DWCA Book Club’s discussion of Torchwood: World Without End is taking place on 6 April – join the conversation by coming to the event or heading to our Facebook page. The Book Club meets once every two months to chat about a given book relating to the Whoniverse. With a vast history of books to choose from, including original novels, comic books, short story collections, biographies and classic novelisations, there’s always something different at Book Club! Keep an eye out on our website for news about future books!

DATA EXTRA: The Whovian World of Adam Richard

For the Autumn 2018 issue of Data Extract, the DWCA’s official magazine, we were lucky enough to interview actor, comedian and Whovians panellist Adam Richard – an interview that was so extensive, we couldn’t fit it all in the magazine!

The good news is, we’re making the “cut scenes” of the interview available right here on this very website! The remainder of the interview can be found in Issue #238 of the magazine, currently available exclusively to all DWCA members.

Image credit: Norman Keshan.

You co-wrote the comedy series Outland with John Richards. What inspired you to create the show?

It was back in 2003 that we started writing it. I’d been on the telly a couple of times and was doing a bit of radio work, and John kind of called up and said, “We should do something, now that people are paying attention to you.” We came up with all these stupid ideas, and then one day I said, “What about a gay science-fiction club?”, and he’s gone, “Oh that’s good.” So we created a whole bunch of characters. Originally there were about thirteen characters, but you know, it’s the ABC – you can’t have too many people on screen, it’s expensive.

We originally wrote it as a script and tried to pitch it to SBS, because we thought SBS would be its natural home. It had an Aboriginal lesbian in a wheelchair – surely that alone ticks all of their boxes! And they said no. The ABC didn’t really want it either, and that’s when it was in script form. So we went away and did it as a short film. We just made it in John’s flat for barely $1000, and it toured the world as a short film for ages. And then once executives could see the thing, they were like, “Oh, we get it! We could make that!” And it was Princess Pictures who produced it, who do all of Chris Lilley’s shows, and I think Peter Helliar’s dating show.

How closely would you say you resemble your character, Fab, in real life?

I used to say that John wrote Fab as me when I’m drunk. Having said that, I haven’t had a drink in four years – and I’ve discovered that I’m like that when I’m sober as well. It’s just of the extreme end of my personality. If I’m in a big enough room, I will behave like that.

The first episode of Outland revolves around Doctor Who. How did you personally become a Doctor Who fan?

I think when I saw my very first episode of Doctor Who I would have been five, maybe? It was when Doctor Who used to be on one day a week. So I used to watch it one day a week, and I was obsessed with it. And then I had a friend, when I started at school, who loved it. Then it became weekdays, and we would sit and talk about it the next day at school instead of doing our work. And it’s just never gone away. Doctor Who’s one of those things that I never stopped loving. As we all know, it’s always surprising. It’s a comedy some weeks, it’s a horror show one week, then it’s a space opera, it’s claustrophobic… it can be any show you want it to be. You never get to the point where you’re like, “Ugh, they’re doing this again.”

Do you have a merchandise collection similar to that showcased in Outland?

Many of the things in that episode were mine. The Zygon that gets kicked under the desk, that was mine… the blanket that was on top of everything, that was my Cyberman blanket. ‘Cos when the classic series figures came out, the ten-year-old in me went, “I would have loved these when I was ten!” I had to play with Star Wars toys, and they were fine, but they weren’t enough. So I have a massive collection. I lived in a really big house in Melbourne, and when I moved to Sydney, as we all know, the property prices are crazy, so I live in a really tiny flat. And I have drawers full of toys, which sometimes I just pull out and look at. So most of those Doctor Who toys were mine.

What was your reaction like when you got the phone call from Whovians asking, “Hey, would you like to talk about Doctor Who on TV every week?”

I’d been writing on quiz shows – I’ve been writing for The Chase, and I’m also one of the senior writers on Hard Quiz – and I’d kind of gone, “You know what? I’ve been enjoying writing so much, I don’t think I’ll do any more on-camera stuff.” Also, I did Spicks and Specks when it came back, and people were angry about it – as many people were when Doctor Who came back in 2005. So people would get upset, and say horrendous things to me on social media, so I’d kind of gone, “No more, I don’t want to be in front of the camera anymore, I’m having too much fun.” But the opportunity to work with Rove, who I’d worked with on Channel 31 when we were both very young – so the first person I ever did any television with – and to talk about my favourite TV show every week… in the end, I think I ended up paying them to do the show. But I was living in Melbourne working on Hard Quiz at the same time, so I would have to come to Sydney every Friday, have Saturday off, work all day Sunday, and then back to Melbourne on Monday for five days of work. So it was a nuisance, and it was difficult, and I desperately wanted to do it no matter what.

What, if anything, did you have to do in order to prepare for each week’s episode?

We would get a copy of the episode usually about a week, a week and a half before. That became less and less as we went on. Like, the copy of the final episode that we saw had no effects in it. There were just very disgruntled-looking stagehands holding green screens, while Bill the Cyberman is crying over the Doctor’s body and a car goes by in the background. That makes it very hard to get emotionally involved. Also, the music wasn’t finished yet, so they just had music from The Dark Knight. And the final scene, which obviously was from the Christmas special, had only been delivered the day before. So there was a person standing next to a snow machine in the shot. So we would get it a little bit ahead of time, but I would never watch the next one ahead. I wouldn’t watch it until the plane flight on the way home from that week’s Whovians. ‘Cos if I was coming up with a theory, I didn’t want to know that I was right about something.

Had you and Rove ever geeked out together in the past?

We’d always kind of geeked out. Back then, Rove was way into wrestling. We’d go out to lunch, and we’d be in a food court somewhere, and he would just rip open these wrestling toy packets and start making them fight. He’s always been deeply, deeply nerdy. He doesn’t care about the sanctity of the packaging – he likes to play with the toys, rather than keep them in there. And before this even came up, he’d started listening to the Big Finish audios, which I’m obsessed with. So we’ve always had fairly nerdy conversations about all sorts of stuff.

You’re quite experienced in the audio medium, having worked on radio and produced podcasts. When you’re listening to an audio drama, are you thinking about how it might have been put together?

This is another reason why I think I love Doctor Who so much. When I watch a sitcom, I’m constantly breaking down where this joke is heading, where that’s coming from, so I’m always kind of analysing the writing side of it. But with Doctor Who, because you never know what’s coming, that’s one of the only shows that I still am surprised by. Where I can still go, “Oh! Well that makes sense now.” My boyfriend lives here in Sydney, and for a long time we were having a long-distance relationship. So I was driving up and down the Hume, and everyone would be like, “How could you do that?”, and I’d be like, “Oh, I could barely get through two Big Finishes. I’m thinking of dating someone in Brisbane.”

You acted in an episode of the audio series Night Terrace, co-created by John Richards, which has been described as Australia’s own version of Doctor Who. What was that like?

I did! I played an alien night-club owner. It was a very strange episode, but they were all strange episodes. The recording studio was down a laneway in North Fitzroy, in a basement with a low roof, so very claustrophobic. And we’re all just in this one room, facing each other, and facing down Susan from Neighbours. It’s like, “Oh my God, it’s Jackie Woodburne! She’s amazing!” But really good fun. That’s another one that I’ve listened to on drives, and hearing mates like Cal Wilson do incredible work in those shows, they’re really good. If you ever get a chance to have a listen, Night Terrace is good fun.

Coming back to Outland, it was on the ABC around five years ago, and it seems like a lot has changed since then. For one thing, do you think it is now cool to be a geek?

I think it’s way more cool now, especially ‘cos you’ve got things like the huge, big-budget Marvel movies. When we wanted to use all those Doctor Who toys, we had to apply for permission to Cardiff to use them – which is why there’s that weird scene where we’re talking about how Doctor Who’s not a science-fiction show. We had to put something in to say that Doctor Who is actually a family drama, ‘cos they didn’t want all these crazy nerds to start liking Doctor Who. And I’m like, “It’s too late…” And that’s why the guy who comes over for the date likes Doctor Who – the normal guy likes Doctor Who, but he has no idea what any of the other shows are. So we had to jump through a lot of hoops. The sci-fi character of Ulara was meant to be Uhura from Star Trek, but they would not come to the party because they were about to reboot the movie.

It arguably works better with Ulara, because there’s this sense of mystery about her throughout the series.

Jonathan Blum was working for SFX magazine at the time, and he organised someone to make an issue of SFX with Ulara on it. So there’s an episode where I’m reading an issue, and this is how deeply nerdy I went into crazy Doctor Who-ness. There are stories of Jon Pertwee sticky-taping his lines around the console and everything; I sticky-taped my lines into that magazine. And I only had like six lines in that episode as well. So whenever I had a line, I was reading the magazine.

A lot has also changed in the Whoniverse over the past five years, particularly with the casting of Jodie Whittaker. Do you have any theories as to what Doctor Who may look like five years from now?

Oh my God. I imagine Jodie will stay for a minimum of three, and it’s obviously going to be on because they’ve done that deal with China. So it’ll be on, but I don’t know. Again, this is why I love the show, because it’s always surprising. People say to me that my theories are always right, but one or two of them were right – about thirteen of them were terribly, terribly wrong.

Do you think the show will get more progressive with its casting?

I think there could be a lot more stunt casting. I mean, there’s always been big names in Doctor Who. Like when I found out Hugh Grant had been offered the part and turned it down, I was like, “Oh my God, why would you say no?” But who knows who they’ll get into it? I do think it’s going to be amazing. I don’t know if anyone’s watched the new Star Trek, but I was worried that they were talking about that being a whole long serial, and I was like, “Ugh, that’s not really Star Trek”, but I’ve really enjoyed the three that have been on. So maybe this whole long season arc, if they’re going to do that with the new Doctor Who, will work. Because that has been the talk – that the entire series will be one story. But Chibnall’s kind of skilled at that.

When it was announced that Jodie Whittaker was doing it, I kept being dragged into interviews with anyone who would listen. I was on the train on my way to do Hard Quiz, and I got a call from my agent asking, “Can you go and do ABC News Breakfast?” I was like, “Yeah, I’ll get off a stop earlier.” But Jodie Whittaker and Chibnall have had an amazing run together, and I think it’ll just continue to grow. I love Broadchurch, and the first couple of episodes of that third series, I thought, “Yeah, it’s alright.” Then when Jodie Whittaker’s character turned up, I was like, “Oh thank God!” I’d forgotten how much she brings a really grounding presence to a show, so I think she’ll be a really nice anchoring presence in a show that can get crazy and out of control.

AUDIENCE Q&A

Did you come up with the spray on Whovians, or was that Rove’s idea?

Originally I came up with a fire extinguisher, so I’m glad it was only a spray! It was just a stupid idea because, look I did not enjoy Series 8 of Doctor Who. I enjoyed a couple of them, but there were some where I was getting annoyed with it. I enjoyed a lot of Series 9, but there were a few that still annoyed me. And I thought that if it was going to be like Series 8 again, I’m going to get very angry on the show. I said I could get furious about contradictions in continuity, I could become angry about anything, and we need to have a mechanism for Rove to be able to calm me down if I lose my mind. And I said, “You know, like a fire extinguisher or something.” And then the ABC budget lent itself to a plastic spray bottle.

Do you know when the next season of Doctor Who is going to start filming?

It’s a long lead time, because the next season will be screening in our Spring. A single episode of Outland took five days of filming – so for a 25-minute episode, five minutes is all you get to film in a day. And we’re talking about 45 minutes, with a lot of special effects. We had nothing – we had a couple of little sparky bits that were done in post-production, and that was it. A comedy is a quick show to make, and a cheap show to make, whereas a drama takes ages, and an action drama even longer. So it’s a long period of time. Sometimes when I’m watching something, even Doctor Who, there’ll be moments when I’ll go, “Oh wow, imagine doing that twelve times.” ‘Cos you’ve got to get different angles, sometimes the lighting’s wrong, sometimes a plane flies over, someone farts, someone’s phone goes off… By the way, if someone’s phone goes off on a set, in Australia we call it slabbing a take. Because if your phone goes off and it’s meant to be quiet, you have to buy the whole crew a slab of beer. And Justin Hamilton’s phone went off in the very last episode of Whovians, when he was recording his news segment, so he had to buy the entire crew a slab of beer.

Do you think Moffat plays with the fans?

I think Moffat plays with his internal fan. I think the fan inside Moffat has an argument with the writer who is Moffat, and he’s constantly at war with himself. I think it’s a constant thing of, “I’m going to do this amazing thing! I would love to see this!”, and then he’s like, “Actually I would hate it… but I’m going to do it anyway.” Especially since he’s taken himself away from social media, and doesn’t really involve himself in online forums or anything. So unless someone was sending him an email, he would never really see anything – you can hide away from that sort of stuff. So I reckon it was just an internal fight of going, “Oo, this’ll upset you.”

 

The remainder of this interview can be found in Issue #238 of Data Extract magazine, currently available exclusively to all DWCA members. Back issues of the magazine are available to both members and non-members here. For those interested in learning more about Night Terrace be sure to check out Issue #229, where we interview series co-creator Ben McKenzie!

A Brief History of Time Ladies

March is the month of International Women’s Day. To celebrate, we’re hosting a special event commemorating the achievements of women in Doctor Who both behind and in front of the camera on 25 March – you can find tickets here. But before all that, we’re taking a look at the long and rich history of Time Ladies – one that is set to become even richer with the arrival of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

1963

The name of the Doctor’s species was a mystery when the series first began, but the first potential Time Lady was present at the very beginning in the shape of the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan. The key word here though is ‘potential’ – due to an odd combination of subsequent continuity developments (can Susan regenerate?) and an understandable reluctance for a family programme to explain how Time Lord reproduction works (is Susan the Doctor’s granddaughter in a biological sense? If she isn’t, then is she of the same species as the Doctor?), her Time Lady status is somewhat in doubt.

1978

Aside from Susan, Time Ladies were conspicuous by their absence for the first fifteen years of the programme, leading some fans to speculate that Time Ladies simply did not exist (!). This changed dramatically with Season 15 finale The Invasion of Time, which not only included the first depiction of a female living in Gallifreyan society, but also a female rebellious outsider living beyond the protection of the domed city of the Capitol. The former was Rodan, who worked as the Gallifreyan equivalent of an air-traffic controller and befriended the Doctor’s companion Leela. The latter was Presta, who was played by Australian actor Gai Smith, better known these days as businesswoman and horse trainer Gai Waterhouse (yes, really).

Later the same year, the Doctor began his travels with the Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, otherwise known as Romana (or, on one occasion, ‘Fred’). Whilst initially characterised as a sheltered academic, Romana soon developed a greater confidence and sense of adventure as she became more experienced. Played by Mary Tamm in her first incarnation and Lalla Ward in her second, Romana was the first character to be referred to as a Time Lady on screen, in 1979’s City of Death. She would often appear much more level-headed than her companion, fulfilling a Doctor-like role in the adventure whilst the Doctor goofed around elsewhere, and at times was even shown to be the Doctor’s intellectual superior. She also built her own sonic screwdriver, a sleeker design that the Doctor liked so much that he once tried to steal it!

1983

Two more notable Time Ladies were introduced in Doctor Who’s 20th anniversary year. The opening story of the programme’s 20th season, Arc of Infinity, saw the introduction of Thalia, who sat on the High Council of Time Lords fulfilling the role of Chancellor, making her the first Time Lady in a position of power to be shown on screen. The anniversary special, The Five Doctors, saw another female Chancellor by the name of Flavia, who ascended to the position of President at the episode’s conclusion. With Flavia as the first female President of the Time Lords, Doctor Who managed to show us a female political leader at a time where such a thing was scarce in reality.

1985

A striking new villain was introduced in the Sixth Doctor story The Mark of the Rani. Portrayed by Dynasty actor Kate O’Mara, the Rani was a female renegade with her own agenda, not merely a ‘female Master’. A brilliant biochemist, she had a detached, scientific outlook on the universe and firmly believed that the ends justified the means. She also had her own rather groovy TARDIS that was decorated with dinosaur embryos for undisclosed reasons. The Rani was her own woman whose plans didn’t revolve around trapping or tricking the Doctor – in fact in her first appearance she seemed irritated that the Doctor had become involved at all – and by leaving Gallifrey to embark on her own adventures the Rani was in many ways the Doctor’s equal.

A Comedic Interlude

Even though Doctor Who was mostly off the television between 1989 and 2005, there was plenty still going on in the Whoniverse. The Wilderness Years may have seen the flourishing of the expanded Doctor Who universe – the adventures continuing through various novels, comics and audio dramas – but they also saw a large number of spoofs, parodies and unusual ‘what if?’ takes on the programme. Two examples from the Wilderness Years notably included female Doctors – The Curse of Fatal Death, an affectionate parody of Doctor Who written by Steven Moffat for Comic Relief in 1999, and Exile, an alternative timeline audio drama produced by Big Finish in 2003. Whilst actors Joanna Lumley and Arabella Weir offered brief glimpses of what a female Doctor might be like in these two productions, both of the stories had a comedic tone that sometimes veered into the downright crude – perhaps reflecting just how seriously the idea of a female Doctor was taken at the time.

2008

Thanks to the Doctor being made last of the Time Lords when the series returned to television in 2005, Time Ladies were once again thin on the ground for a while. Then along came Jenny, the progenated offspring of the Doctor (which means that whilst Jenny is the Doctor’s daughter, the Doctor is both Jenny’s mother and father in a biological sense). Whilst the Doctor rejects the idea that Jenny could be a Time Lady, she does have two hearts and over the course of an episode proves herself to be very much her father’s (and mother’s!) daughter. By turns, Jenny was inquisitive, rebellious, cheeky and resourceful and she’s even getting her own audio series from Big Finish later this year. Perhaps this could be the clearest indication yet of what the Thirteenth Doctor could be like?

2011

The next notable Time Lady is unusual in that they never fully appear on screen (rather, bits of them do). The Corsair was mentioned in the Neil Gaiman-penned episode The Doctor’s Wife as being an old friend of the Doctor’s, and further dialogue stated that the Corsair had multiple female incarnations as well as male ones – establishing for the first time on-screen that Time Lords/Ladies can change gender when they regenerate.

2014

Further evidence of gender-change regeneration emerged when the character of Missy revealed herself as the latest incarnation of the Doctor’s old foe, the Master, in the first instance of an established Time Lord character changing gender. Over the course of three series, Michelle Gomez gave many highly memorable performances in the role and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her predecessors. Gomez’s Master has echoes of Delgado’s charm, Jacobi’s menace and Roberts’ camp deliciousness and bristles with a manic energy akin to Simm’s take on the role. Missy undergoes what is arguably the most interesting character journey of any Time Lady, from ambiguous frenemy territory to outright villainy to the hard path of redemption in the eyes of her oldest friend.

2015

Just to prove outright that gender-change regeneration is definitely canon, the process itself was depicted in the Series 9 finale Hell Bent, with the General regenerating from a Time Lord into a Time Lady after being shot by the Doctor. In a neat twist, further dialogue established that all the other previous incarnations of the General had been female, thus proving that Time Lords/Ladies who change gender can also change back – and that just because a Time Lord/Lady remains the same gender for multiple incarnations, it doesn’t mean that their gender is fixed forever.

2017

After so many lifetimes of dashing about and trying to make the universe a better place, the Doctor seemed ready to throw in the towel and finally die just to have some rest. A last-minute plea from the TARDIS cloister bell led the Doctor to a change of hearts, and instead of coming to an end, the Doctor embraced change in a way like never before. The newest incarnation of the Doctor is female. What exactly she will be like is still anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain: she will be the Doctor that the universe needs.

Looking back, we can see that there have been many and varied depictions of Time Ladies throughout the history of the series. Time Ladies can be anything they want to be – they can be villainous renegades, or occupy the highest office on Gallifrey, or wander the universe as the Doctor’s best friend. They can even be the one that the monsters are afraid of, that brings hope to people however lost they may be, that can save the universe a thousand times over and still have time for some tea.

Our celebration of the women of Doctor Who is taking place on 25 March. Head here for more information and to grab your tickets.