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Beyond the Book

By Paul Scoones

Back by popular demand, this 'behind-the-scenes' look at the influences and changes relating to the New and Missing Adventures novels published over the last twelve months is adapted largely from interviews conducted with the authors by Craig Hinton, as first published in Doctor Who Magazine issues 221-223. Please note that this article discloses plot details which will not be known by those who have yet to read the relevant books.

Conundrum by Steve Lyons

Steve Lyons' original inspiration came from watching The Mind Robber and wondering what a sequel would be like. He decided that things would be updated by having a new Master of the Land, so fairy tales and children's classics were replaced by superheroes and the Famous Five. He'd originally had the Land of Fiction simply surviving after The Mind Robber, but in order to fit his idea into the 'Alternative Universe Cycle' (Blood Heat to No Future), this was changed so that the Monk had altered time to bring it back into being. The Master of the Land had originally addressed his story to the Gods of Ragnarok, but Lyons also changed this to the Monk; 'again that was only a matter of altering a few lines.' Lyons particularly enjoyed writing for the pairing of Bernice and Norman the retired superhero, but found the new version of Ace difficult to write for as her re-introductory story, Deceit was published less than a month before his deadline. The changes made to the book by the editor were consequently almost all to do with Ace's character.

Index Node: Conundrum

Tragedy Day by Gareth Roberts

Gareth Roberts feels that his novel has 'far too many ideas' packed into it, and that he should have trimmed it so that the importance of the central concept was more apparent. 'I dolloped it on a bit too much. Totally my fault... I should have made the plot simpler.' The central message Roberts wanted to get across was about the role that giving money to charity plays in our lives; that people give money 'simply to feel good, rather than to change things for the better.' Linked with this was the concept of a carnival. Tragedy Day also dealt with the notion of social fatalism 'where society just accepts its decay and decline.'

Index Node: Tragedy Day

Theatre of War by Justin Richards

The starting points for Justin Richards' novel were the concepts of the dream machine and the play The Good Soldiers. W.H. Auden's poem As I Walked out one Morning provided inspiration; according to Richards it 'captures the essence of what I wanted the final performance to be about. Basically it talks about how time will get us all in the end.' Theatre of War was a complicated book to write because Richards wanted to make it multi-layered with a number of hidden and misleading clues to keep the reader guessing until the end. His intention was to write a book 'you could read several times and still get something out of, so even if you know what's going on and what the twist is, you can still read back through, see the clues, and reinterpret the evidence.'

Index Node: Theatre of War

All-Consuming Fire by Andy Lane

By integrating Sherlock Holmes into the Doctor Who mythos, Andy Lane had the opportunity to combine two of his interests at the same time. He has admired Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories since he bought A Study in Scarlet when he was young. He would very much like to write another adventure with Holmes and the Doctor. 'It's such a wonderfully relaxing experience, sinking back into Watson's way of phrasing things as narrator,' says Lane. 'No problems with wondering what to write next - the words just flow from the quill pen! If you can find a voice to write a book with, then half the battle is won. Nicking a voice - the way I did with Watson - solves half your problems.'

Index Node: All-Consuming Fire

Goth Opera by Paul Cornell

Paul Cornell wanted to do a vampire novel, for which he had come up with a number of set pieces, and since Terrance Dicks was already writing Blood Harvest Virgin got the two writers together to link their books. Cornell says that Goth Opera was influenced by the story To Say I Love You from the British television drama series Cracker. The only thing that Cornell might have changed was chapter six, which he calls 'the continuity chapter', featuring Romana, Drashigs, Glitz, Miniscopes and more. Cornell explains that this was done as an example to the reader of how the Missing Adventures would link characters and concepts from the Doctor Who universe.

Index Node: Goth Opera

Strange England by Simon Messingham

Simon Messingham's plot wasn't originally a Doctor Who novel. It started out as a comic strip idea he'd formulated with his friend, 2000 AD comic artist Tim Bollard, 'about a Victorian cleric who went around England finding odd animals and plants.' Once Messingham decided to develop his idea as a New Adventure, he wanted 'to do the ultimate Doctor Who novel. I wanted a story that would have the Doctor questioning why he does what he does. A story where the very act of arriving somewhere and expecting an adventure would be the cause of the adventure itself!' The stories of writer Robert Aickmann provided inspiration, so Messingham created the character Richard Aickland as a form of acknowledgement. In Messingham's view, the book is about experience and gaining knowledge: 'If a person never experiences any bad things, are they any less a person than someone who has? I'm sure that Charlotte, Garvey and the others would have been just fine without the Doctor arriving. However, even they realise that they live in the real world, and have to deal with that. At the other extreme we have Rix, full of challenges and experiences. Too full, and it has turned his mind.' Messingham makes no secret of his unhappiness with the way his book turned out. The problem as he sees it lies in the ending, which was not what he'd intended. He'd wanted 'the ultimate anticlimax. Everything is going wrong, people are dying, what can the Doctor do? He realises that he is responsible for the decay, and the only thing he can do is go away and never come back, hoping that things will get better. Great ending!' Virgin refused to let this through, and he was instructed to come up with a 'proper' ending, for which Messingham devised the character of the Time Lady sculptor who is an old friend of the Doctor's. 'I would definitely change the end; I hate it,' says Messingham. 'Overall. I would like less of the sci-fi stuff and more of the slow-burning 'strangeness'.'

Index Node: Strange England

First Frontier by David A McIntee

After his first New Adventure, White Darkness, David McIntee submitted three or four pure SF proposals, all of which were rejected. McIntee wanted to write a UFO novel in which the aliens turned out to be 'creatures from a parallel dimension that occasionally slipped into our own, feeding on fear and paranoia. Once, they had been thought of as elves and fairies, but by the Fifties, they were seen as aliens in UFOs.' Virgin rejected the 'fairies and elves from another dimension' aspect, since this had already been covered in Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark, but they liked the UFO element. The first half of the book remains much the same as McIntee originally intended. It was McIntee's idea to include the Master, but at first he'd wanted to do the last Delgado Master story. When he was instructed to follow on from the Master as he appeared in Survival McIntee - with additional persuasion by Gary Russell - managed to persuade Virgin to allow the Master to be regenerated. The new Master was based on the likeness of the actor Basil Rathbone as he appeared in the film The Adventures of Robin Hood. The personality was a mix of the character Karswell from the film Night of the Demon, Timothy Dalton's character from The Rocketeer, Julian Glover, Ricardo Montalban and even a little of McIntee himself! The Master's alias was an in-joke, since Roger Delgado had played a character called Kreer - a malevolent hypnotist - in an episode of The Avengers. It was McIntee's idea to keep the Master's involvement a surprise; Virgin had wanted to put him on the cover of the book. 'In a way,' says McIntee, 'the Master is the hero... the Tzun leave the Earth voluntarily, but vow to return. And then the Master destroys them in the same way that the Doctor destroys the Daleks in Remembrance of the Daleks.'

Index Node: First Frontier

St Anthony's Fire by Mark Gatiss

After Mark Gatiss's first novel, Nightshade, he submitted two proposals to Virgin, both of which were rejected. One of which, Maniac's Tear, dealt with Jack the Ripper and was considered too similar to Birthright. St Anthony's Fire was his third proposal. and was deliberately set away from Earth since Nightshade had been Earth-bound. Gatiss consciously made the alien Betrushians anthropomorphic both because he sees this as is in keeping with the style of Doctor Who and because he felt that if he made the society too alien he might lose his audience. He wanted to capture the gritty crudeness of the First World War, hence machine guns in place of lasers. The War Games provided inspiration in terms of pace, changing from the initial 'grim-and-grittiness' as Gatiss describes it, to 'campness'. 'So I went from the grim warfare on Betrushia to some of the campest performances ever seen in a Doctor Who book!' His inspiration for the religious leader was a Bond villain. The anti-religious tone of the novel came from Gatiss's dislike for organised religion: 'It's the source of most of the world's worries, and the hypocrisy of some faiths makes me very angry.' The book was originally to have concluded differently; Gatiss wanted a 'really downbeat ending. The Doctor realised that after the organism had originally spent itself, it became part of the planet - including the Betrushians. So to prevent it from escaping, they had to sacrifice themselves.'

Index Node: St Anthony's Fire

Venusian Lullaby by Paul Leonard

Paul Leonard's full name is Paul J Leonard Hinder, but he dislikes his surname and therefore decided to write under a non de plume, using Leonard, one of his middle names. He belongs to the same Bristol writers group as Jim Mortimore, and it was Mortimore who persuaded him to write a Doctor Who novel. Leonard had not watched the show for some years and studied up on the subject by borrowing books and video tapes from Mortimore. Leonard's first submission to Virgin, titled Root of Evil did not get accepted, but led to him submitting a second which has mutated into Leonard's third book, the yet-to-be published New Adventure Toy Solstice. Venusian Lullaby was Leonard's third submission which was put together in just two weeks (his first submission had taken five months to prepare). Leonard feels that the proposal for Venusian Lullaby was as a result 'more coherent and much tighter.' The title came about from his recollection of the Third Doctor making comments about Venusians and their lullabies. The novel leads directly into Jim Mortimore's short story The Book of Shadows which appears in Decalog.

Index Node: Venusian Lullaby

Falls the Shadow by Daniel O'Mahony

Daniel O'Mahony first had the idea for the plot for this book back in 1989 when he heard rumours about Ghost Light through the fan network. He then wrote a story by piecing together all the advance rumours, which turned out to be nothing like Ghost Light. His original storyline was called Freakshow and continued to develop even after he'd seen Ghost Light. The storyline went through many changes before O'Mahony finally submitted it to Virgin in July 1992, including the removal of the Doctor at one point. The unusual title is a quote from T.S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men: 'Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow', but O'Mahony found the line in a book of quotations, and it wasn't until he was redrafting the book that he read the poem, and subsequently included more T.S. Eliot references. Unlike Virgin's standard requirement of a synopsis and sample chapter for a submission, O'Mahony wrote the complete book and sent it to the publishers in an attempt to get them to accept it. Virgin agreed to publish it providing he made some cuts, as it was a hundred pages over their maximum length, and considered too violent and gory. O'Mahony was instructed to rewrite Bernice's part since he hadn't known much about her to begin with, and to rewrite the ending. In particular he feels the ending is an improvement; 'it ties up the loose ends, and the last two chapters are thematically better.' He does however regret that the loss of the hundred pages included an insight into the motivations of the character Sandra, whom he feels consequently doesn't come comes very well. Tanith and Gabriel are, as the cover artwork suggests, based on Sapphire and Steel. O'Mahony says however that the pair changed as he wrote the book, becoming very unlike their inspiration, and is therefore disappointed that the cover suggests Sapphire and Steel.

Index Node: Falls the Shadow

Parasite by Jim Mortimore

Jim Mortimore first came up with the idea for Parasite before writing Blood Heat. At that time it was envisioned as a comic strip. The idea was salvaged for his next book proposal which was a historical adventure set in Alexandria. Mortimore then divided the concepts into two separate stories, one of which became The Book of Shadows, published in Decalog, and the other became Parasite. Originally the book did not have a villain, but Virgin asked Mortimore to include one. The plot underwent many changes in the process of getting accepted, and Mortimore was far from satisfied with the finished result, both in terms of what he wrote, and the cover, which he feels does not reflect what he'd envisioned. The prologue of the book had originally been written as the Prelude for Doctor Who Magazine. In the course of writing the book, Mortimore experimented with different writers' styles - including Arthur C Clarke and Cracker scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern. In fact during the writing of Parasite Mortimore took time off to novelise the first Cracker story for Virgin - a task he enjoyed far more than writing Parasite. Given the chance, Mortimore says he'd 'remove the villain and rewrite the ending a little, setting up a tiny part of the Artifact's life-cycle so that the Doctor could resolve the problem with Ace in a way that was more internally consistent.'

Index Node: Parasite

State of Change by Christopher Bulis

Christopher Bulis started work on this book with the intention of writing for a Doctor other than the Sixth. 'I eventually latched on to the Sixth Doctor and Peri. It was set in Ancient Egypt, with the obvious storyline of the Doctor meeting Cleopatra. Originally it was an epic; parallel universes, Gallifrey, time rifts, fleets of Egyptian starships... Peri and the Doctor would have been split in two by the rift, with one pair good, and one evil. Although the bad Peri died, the evil Doctor survived and became the Valeyard.' After submitting this storyline to Virgin, he discovered that the subject of parallel universes had been done in the 'Alternative Universe Cycle'; that ancient Egypt already featured in the Decalog story The Book of Shadows, and that Virgin's policy was to avoid the subject of the Valeyard. Bulis therefore heavily revised his proposal, including setting the adventure in Rome in Bulis's favourite period of history. His story was to have featured a group of immensely powerful energy beings who were responsible for everything that had happened to change Rome. These beings were just school children, and when the Doctor broke out of the energy barrier surrounding Rome, this drew the attention of their elders who told them off. Virgin felt however that the book needed a villain, and the old enemy who fills this role was suggested by Virgin fiction editor Rebecca Levene.

Index Node: State of Change

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: Beyond the Book