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An Interview with Andrew Pixley

Part 2: Beyond the Archives

By Paul Scoones

Doctor Who historian Andrew Pixley is probably best known for his indepth and highly informed story Archives in each issue of Doctor Who Magazine. But the Archives are only one facet of Andrew's research work - involving not just Doctor Who, but many other classic television programmes. Last issue, Andrew talked about his work on the Archives. In the second half of this interview, we speak to Andrew about his other work, and his views on working for television, episode guides, and the future of the series...

You wrote a letter about the Hartnell episode titles, which appeared in Starburst issue 8 back in April 1979. Is this your earliest published piece?

Gosh yes - well spotted. That came at a crucial moment in my fandom life because - at the time - I was veering off Doctor Who towards the more ‘adult’ Blake's 7. I loathed Season 17 at the time and after Destiny of the Daleks I had just about decided to give up on the series. Anyway, this rather pompous letter I'd written as a precocious 14-year-old (correcting a rather iffy Dalek episode guide in issue 6 as I recall) got printed and I got a 'phone call in late September from a gentleman in Miami named Kelvin Mead who was one of the first movers and shakers in Doctor Who fandom in the USA. He was fascinated by this information and keen to trade, and he was able to offer me the old Pertwee stories and early Baker serials I'd enjoyed on tape. Thankfully, that sustained my interest through to Season Eighteen, which I enjoyed far more. I owed Kelvin a great deal. We met up eventually in 1983 and then got in touch again a few years ago; sadly he fell into a coma at a convention and died. A great loss. If you look back at early issues of Fantasy Empire, there's photos of him in action at conventions. Nice fella.

You took over from David J. Howe on Doctor Who Magazine's Matrix Data Bank. What guidelines were you given to work under? Who selected the questions - or were only the questions that had an easy-to-give answer the ones published?

I'd already helped David with many of his later questions (identifying who the character James was in Inferno is one that comes to mind) and so John [Freeman] offered me the job when David decided to move one. There were no guidelines as such at all. All the questions were sent to me and I selected the few that I thought would produce readable answers. Some were very long, tedious and - as far as I could see - pointless lists that were too time consuming for the end result. Others were too short - in fact I think I did one issue where I raced through the short answers to see if we could cram in a record number. On one occasion, I'd taken a batch on holiday with me to Edinburgh and we found that one came from a reader living just round the corner... so we hand-delivered a reply! Generally I aimed for a variety, or to pick items that would be of use/interest to a wide readership (e.g. a list of records and tapes)... but the variety started to dry up so Gary Gillatt and I mutually agreed to end the item.


You used to be co-editor of a magazine called TimeScreen. What was it about?

TimeScreen is something that I'm still very proud of 'cus it allowed a lot of other people to write for a minority audience. It was born out of the Sheffield DWAS Local Group in late 1983. We'd had a Doctor Who fanzine called Steel Sky edited by a very talented guy called Steve Crookes that ran for four issues. When Steve lost interest, we wanted to do something else. But of course, this was the apex of Doctor Who's international fandom, with fanzines virtually choking the Post Office sorting machines to death! Now, I've always loved other telefantasy shows and had recently got hooked on The Avengers and The Prisoner. Since 1981 I had been logging the history of British Telefantasy with a view to writing a book on the subject - something akin to Roger Fulton's excellent The Encyclopaedia of TV Science Fiction. Now, a mate of mine, Paul Hickling, was also a great fan of other shows and we decided to do a fanzine devoted to British Telefantasy, but keeping the first issue half Doctor Who because it was a safe audience. The very first one was published in May 1984 and covered Season 21, as well as The Avengers and The Prisoner, but we then had a very favourable response to an interview and episode guide concerning The Champions that we'd run. The Champions hadn't really aired in the UK since 1974 - and by sheer luck, ITV purchased it to repeat from August 1984... and we were in demand.

Paul dropped out as editor after Issue 2. My good friend Anthony McKay and I didn't have anything better to do with our time, so we carried on. So, we were doing articles and guides to shows that people wouldn't touch, had never researched or even never heard of (e.g. Adam Adamant Lives!, Ace of Wands, Timeslip)... stuff that people hadn't seen in years and was only just coming onto the pirate video circuit. We also loved doing guides; books, records, videos, archive holdings, comics... we had lots of people help on those and it was great fun.

In all we did 21 issues as well as special publication guides such as Anthony McKay's landmark A Guide to Avengerland which tied in with our annual Treasure Hunt/Convention. Although TimeScreen as a magazine ceased around 1995 - by which time magazines such as TV Zone had far surpassed it in news and print quality - the name is still active. Tony, who now lives in New Zealand, is working on an electronic version of it for the Net, and we're hoping to use the name on a DWAS co-production book concerning the Quatermass serials.

It was from TimeScreen that John [Freeman] wanted to recruit me onto Doctor Who Magazine. Because I've always believed in encouraging people to watch new shows, John agreed to carry that credit while we were a regularly published item.

The season-by-season guide you wrote for the 1995 Marvel Doctor Who Yearbook is particularly good.

Thank you - but please remember that half of it was written by the wonderful Stephen James Walker in one of the happiest writing collaborations I've ever had. Great weekend! And Gary Russell wrote the final chapter covering 1990 onwards at the last moment. I was happy with the way it turned out.

It almost reads like an errata / addenda to the DWM Archives.

The intention that Steve and I had on that one was to cover every story, attempting to describe the storyline itself in a fresh, non-cliched manner ... although most of this was removed when Gary [Russell] realised we were over- writing. The other material was just general stuff where we wanted to convey the feel of "other things" (e.g. TV appearances, interviews, etc.) that were going on at the time and also cram in as many other odds and ends we'd discovered that hadn't fitted into the Archives, the decade books, the Handbooks, etc. I'm still very fond of it.

Is this guide something which might be updated to include 1996-2000, and beyond?

I doubt it. It would only work with a complete reprint.

Tell me about the Production Guide and Chronicles series of books that you've been doing with David Brunt.

I first met the Welsh Wizard from the fair valleys at PanoptiCon 1993 - and he's been great fun to work with ever since. Of the books, the first reference department item was, I think, a location guide from Keith Armstrong, who had done a lot of excellent legwork on the subject and was looking for extra information and advice on how to present it. At first, I tried to get Richard Bignell to work with Keith - since they were both in the same territory - but Richard had hopes of a professional deal, while Keith was happy with a small-run DWAS [Doctor Who Appreciation Society] item. My main concern was the usability of Keith's guide, which I attempted to help him with - incidentally, there was a new edition in 1998 with my name on the cover which really has nothing at all to do with me! That was The Doctor Who Production Guide: Volume One: The Locations.

After that, David and I realised that we'd got fed up with having to phone each other or Steve or David Howe up and ask for running orders and shooting dates and PasBs [‘Programme as Broadcast’]. So we decided it would be convenient if we could publish the whole lot in one big, very tedious book. Days, dates, times, durations, music, film, broadcasts, recording, project numbers, VT numbers - the lot. We reckoned that we had 75% of the material between us. I roughed out a format, David developed it, and then we started doing all the research for David to assemble and pass to Keith. As David is landlocked in South Wales, I visited the enormously helpful Dave Howe - who gave me two days to work through his notes and paperwork - and also engaged the curiosity of Jan Vincent-Rudzki, DWAS founder and editor of TV Zone, who had phoned me on a totally different matter. Jan filled in virtually all the gaps from his script collection. It was also amazing to get a postcard from Sophie Aldred, offering me access to her scripts and OB [Outside Broadcast] schedules which allowed us to nail nearly all of the McCoy years. Everybody helped! It was the most amazing work of co-operation I've ever seen. Anyway, that formed The Doctor Who Production Guide: Volume 2: Reference Journal which came out in 1997.

At the same time as Volume 2, I had also been collating information for Volume 3: Cast and Crew which came out in 1998. This took up a notion of Dave Howe's from his days at the Reference Department - a listing of all cast including extras and the stories they were in. To give added value, David Brunt and I decided that we wanted to make clear who was credited and who wasn't, if artistes appeared only on film - a piece of information recorded on PasBs - and include many of the recasting notes I had found at Caversham [the BBC's Written Archives Centre]. David did the first draft which I then added the notes to. That tends to be the way we work - by and large. Oh, the printers printed that book the wrong size - it should have been A4 like the first two.

Also in 1998 we began to rework the Plotlines and DataFiles [DWAS publications] series of the 1980s in more detail as the Chronicles. David Brunt originally aimed to do one book on Hartnell and one book on Troughton, but I was sceptical that people would buy books of synopses - even if they did want to know the content of the missing episodes. My argument was that we should annotate the serials against script changes - which I had been impressed with in a number of Faber & Faber script books - notably The Third Man. And while we're about it, why not cover all narrative matters for the period - commissioning dates (which I was still getting from Caversham), working titles (as you know from that bloody long piece I wrote for TSV 54) and unused stories? Seasons One and Six came out last year, Season Two has just been issued - in which David has written some incredible stuff on the first drafts of Terry Nation's two scripts - and I've now got most of the manuscript for Season Five. Furthermore, I've just finished rewrites and footnotes on The Myth Makers, The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve and The Smugglers and am now writing from scratch the entry on The Underwater Menace - which I've very much enjoyed! Some snappy dialogue in there!

Why won't these be professionally published?

They won't be professionally published, because the market isn't there. We know our market - and it's very, very specialist. The print runs are about 200 or so - and about a third sell at once. There simply aren't enough sad people to sustain any more. And even at the low prices which David achieves - under £10 for a bound 128 pages illustrated A4 book with about 150,000 words - it's simply not there to appeal to everyone. This is academic stuff that we're starting to dabble with. Reference library stuff. Incidentally, copies of the DWAS Production Guides and Chronicles are actually lodged back at the BBC!

I think that the superb work from Stephen James Walker, Mark Stammers and David J Howe on their decade books is the final word in publishing in the professional respect. I believe that if we are to go deeper, that's what we must do via our use of fandom - hence the time I devote to the far more detailed publications that I enjoy doing with David Brunt at the DWAS. I think that's the way ahead ... but I'd like to be proved wrong! What sorts of professional reference books do you think are left?

I've long maintained that a nice fat large format hardcover book structured along the same lines as The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn is needed. To my mind the information's mostly there in your Archives; it would just require restructuring.

Yes - isn't that a fantastic book! I've got an immense amount of time for Mark Lewisohn, indeed we corresponded recently on one of our great loves, The Phil Silvers Show. He also did a wonderful book on TV Comedy, which the BBC published last year. It was actually The Complete Beatles Chronicle that inspired The Doctor Who Production Guide: Volume Two. However, Mark only had to deal with one decade... again, I wonder how practical such a book would be. I do recall that Marcus Hearn had a similar notion, and somewhere I have some sample pages from 1975 which he wrote. But then again of course, it's merely what Peter Haining - in one of his smarter moments - attempted to do with The Key to Time book, and that's 15 years ago next month!

At the risk of repeating myself - yes - I'd love to do it. But I can't imagine finding a publisher who sees it as practical.

Are there aspects of Doctor Who that you're not interested in writing about or have otherwise avoided covering?

Can't do fandom - don't understand it, don't socialise and don't get out enough. Can't write original stories - no imagination, just a mish-mash of every idea I've ever liked in the work of others. And no interest in writing things that have nothing new to say ... unless I need the money for the mortgage or unless reference material that will let me write something with something new to say is being offered in return.

Your writing extends to the coverage of many productions other than Doctor Who. Is there a point at which you consciously draw the line between what you will and won't research and write articles about?

I will write about something that I like, feel I understand, and want to share my enthusiasm with others for ... even if only one other person reads a piece and says “Hey, I loved that too!” Boxtree asked me to write a book on Stingray for them; it was easy money and I knew the series, but I actually didn't like it ... so I politely declined and recommended Dave Rogers, whom I knew had worked for them before. Never really took to Troy Tempest, more a Steve Zodiac [Fireball XL5] man myself...

I'd love to write more about comedy shows - The Phil Silvers Show, The Goodies, performers such as Tom Lehrer, and Michael Flanders and Donald Swann.

Which publications other than DWM have you written for and what sorts of subjects have you covered?

Gosh ... a fair few! Well, I've mentioned Steel Sky and TimeScreen [see boxout] - and tied in with the DWAS stuff come pieces for TARDIS and Celestial Toyroom. I always submit notes to Jeremy Bentham for In.Vision. On the Doctor Who front, TSV is somewhere that I'm always happy to ramble on - and I've written for Skaro and for Nothing At The End Of The Lane. I've written several items for Horizon: The Blake's 7 Appreciation Society and Six Of One: The Prisoner Appreciation Society.

Other fanzines I wrote for included Brit TV (a US newsletter devoted to UK shows), the newsletters of the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Appreciation Society and fanzines for The Avengers such as Bizarre and Stay Tuned. I wrote for a now defunct Gerry Anderson magazine called SiG, and both old and new incarnations of Primetime (a general TV magazine on subjects like Callan, The Sweeney, Monty Python's Flying Circus and Probe).

Professionally ... well, the first paying stuff was in 1987 when I also wrote about The Prisoner for Vulcan, a rather odd media mag. Fantasy Zone was an ill-fated attempt by Marvel to relaunch a Starburst style title in 1989; it ran six issues for which I did bits on Doomwatch and The Avengers. I worked on DWB and Dreamwatch with items/guides on Journey into Space, The Wild, Wild West, The Time Tunnel and so on. Now, I find that Jan Vincent-Rudzki at TV Zone shares my passions and will let me do odd items on archive shows; he's let me do Ace of Wands, Virtual Murder, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, kolchak: the night stalker and The Invaders amongst others. Also for Visual Imagination, I do a monthly What Was On ... column in Cult Times, plus pieces for Starburst and the short-lived ETV. I also wrote bits for the pilot issue of Marvel's unrealised TV magazine Playback. Did a piece for Music Collector about TV records that got hacked around a lot and I never cared for. Wrote for Epi-Log about Red Dwarf and the Hammer TV series. And my old friend Marcus Hearn invited me to do the TV material for Titan Magazine's tie-in to last year's movie version of The Avengers ... which me and Julie liked even if the other miserable b*st*rds didn't!

I've also written programme notes for the National Film Theatre screenings of old shows - notably much of the Past Visions Of The Future event in July 1986.

Many of your fan peers have made the leap from magazine to book publishing. Have you been tempted to follow them into this medium, either with Doctor Who or another programme that interests you?

Yes - and had bad experiences. Virgin asked myself and Neil Alsop, a Grade-A TV researcher who lives in Bristol and whom I've worked with since 1985, to do a book which they called The Complete Blake's 7. We did a draft manuscript in 1991, but the contract situation never worked out; they couldn't get clearance from Terry Nation's agents and wanted us to go ahead without it. We said no, and pulled out. I have written a large book about the 1949 movie The Third Man - the best British film I've ever seen - and after three years am still looking for a publisher. Books are a lot of work for not much immediate cash return to keep your mortgage paid in my experience. More kudos, sure ... but I like magazines. That, or books we can control ourselves! Wouldn't mind doing a Doctor Who book if somebody can find a workable, fresh format ... otherwise we're just recycling the same old stuff again and again!

Episode Guides

You're something of an aficionado of television episode guides. Looking at all that you've read, not just Doctor Who, which guides do you regard as the very best, and why?

Gosh ... to quote Alan Plater, that's a bit like asking the Pope for a quick run down on original sin! The Dark Shadows Companion by Kathryn Leigh Scott has a very basic episode guide - since the series was a soap that ran to 1225 episodes! That's a gorgeous book, as is the Dark Shadows Almanac. The episode guides for Gerry Anderson shows printed in Fanderson's FAB are amazing; I cannot recommend the organisation highly enough for anyone with an interest in Anderson's shows ... the CDs these guys do are astounding, and the name Chris Bentley is a good hallmark of quality and accuracy. The First 200 Years of Monty Python by Kim ‘Howard’ Johnson is a wonderful guide to the original shows. Television's Greatest Hits compiled by DJ Paul Gambaccini and Rod Taylor gives me all the facts and figures on UK TV charts - and Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy by Mark Lewisohn has great details of writers, directors, cast and dates. Two exotic imports from the US well worth the cover price were The Lost in Space Handbook by Paul Monroe which gives extensive details about the pilot episode, and also The Wild Wild West - The Series by Susan E. Kesler, a real labour of love. The Get Smart Handbook by Joey Green is good fun and captures the feel of the show, as does Joel Eisner's bam! zok! of The Official Batman Bat-Book. The original The Avengers by Dave Rogers is still very important, as it kicked off such works in this country back in 1983. I also admire both The Fugitive - Recaptured by Ed Robertson and Kevin Marshall's wonderful The Making of Terry Nation's Survivors which raised money for cancer research. Highlights of a visit to Toronto in 1987 included buying The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree and also the book it inspired, The Outer Limits: The Official Companion by David L Schow and Jeremy Frentzen, which, along with Matthew J White's The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier are two of the very best TV books ever done. John Heitland's The Man from UNCLE is also worth a look as is Night Stalking by Mark Dawidziak. Dad's Army: The Making of a Television Legend by Bill Pertwee is fantastic, as are most books by Roger Wilmut - notably The Goon Show Companion and Tony Hancock Artiste. There are so many good books around - look for those by proper fans, not hacks who churn out stuff on anything. Also ... any of the guides compiled by Richard Down and Christopher Perry for Kaleidoscope - a group dedicated to archive TV. And as a companion to Roger Fulton's Encyclopedia, seek out Alan Morton's The Complete Directory to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Television Series.

Other than your own work, what do you regard as outstanding in the multitude of Doctor Who reference works available?

I'll never forget my excitement at seeing Lance Parkin's first draft of The Doctor Who Chronology, which I still rate as vastly superior to the Virgin History of the Universe. Lance had put in a helluva lot of work and not just taken the easy ways out. The First Doctor Handbook is magnificent, and I also still love The Sixties ... and in the days before that, Steve Walker wrote a cracking piece about Hartnell story titles in The Frame. Richard Molesworth's pieces on the archival holdings in DWM were inspired ... and I desperately want to see him compile all his detective work on the overseas sales. I've still got a very soft spot for the early editions of Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time from CMS; Jeremy pooh-poohs them a bit now, but they were brilliant! Likewise, I admire the CMS tradition with In.Vision, and the material issued by the DWAS Reference Department over the years. I'm lucky enough to have private notes assembled by people like Jan Vincent-Rudzki and Richard Bignell, whose dedication to detail I feel is not nearly as well appreciated as it should be! There's other names I also look out for on by-lines too: Jon Preddle, Keith Topping, Robert Franks, Steve Lyons, Chris Howarth, John Molyneux and god knows how many more.

Have you come across many guides which are blatantly inaccurate?

Yes I have, many, many, many of them ... but you tend to pick them up cheaply and put them on the shelf anyway as a comparison or second source. Some of the bad volumes are due to sloppiness, while others are produced with a genuine enthusiasm, but with a regrettable lack of rescources. Again, things move on. When Jean-Marc L'Officer produced his first edition of The Doctor Who Programme Guide in 1981, it was about as cutting edge as you could get! These days we have The Television Companion and many other works - so although the book seems inaccurate now, for its time it was very important. The same could be said of The Avengers by Dave Rogers. Also, in many cases it's not the inaccuracy that annoys - it's the brevity or lack of knowledge of surrounding issues - often because the writer is working in a vacuum. And when you have to produce five or six books a year to make a living, writers don't always have time to do the research that we sadder souls can take on ...

How does it make you feel to realise that books like this are out in the public arena, the inaccurate information they contain potentially being accepted as gospel by the readers?

It doesn't really make me feel anything. There will always be bad TV reference books in the same way that there will be bad plays and bad music and bad art. I have a belief in the facts regarding Doctor Who and any show that is unique to me. I am very lucky in being in a position where I can communicate these to others, and have a duty not to abuse that. If somebody else writes something that I've not come across, I will evaluate it as evidence and take it on board or ignore it as I see fit. However, I don't see any reason to get emotive about it ... any more than I would expect another writer to get emotive at anything I write which they may have differences with.

What's your ideal episode guide format?

Reasonable synopsis. On-screen title. Working titles and origins. Cast, as given on screen. Supporting cast who are not credited. Crew listing ... all denoting pseudonyms, of course. Original air date, time and channel, with repeat details. Production number and production dates. Opening narration. Locations and production venues. Brief critique. Oh, and a section at the end of the episode about production anecdotes or script changes. And photos. I'm easy to please aren't I?

Given your preferred episode guide layout, if such a book as the “ultimate” Doctor Who reference book was ever to be written, what would you like it to contain?

The elements I've mentioned above - certainly - but if we're looking for ultimate I think you must include more essays, comparison of appreciation and criticism, contemporary comparisons, scene breakdowns and annotations, archival holdings, overseas sales and broadcasts, merchandise and collecting guides, biographical details, indexes. And some great photos! And have all the information formatted so that it could be accessed by different methods ... in fact something more akin to a database!

Do you regard the Big Finish audio productions as legitimate Doctor Who in the sense that they form part of the series production history?

Put it this way ... if I was to write my ultimate episode guide, then the main body text would run An Unearthly Child through to Doctor Who, Appendix A would be the pilot, Appendix B would be Shada, Appendix C would be K9 and Company ... and I guess that the Big Finish shows would come in around Appendix E on that basis! They're most definitely there, but - from my point of view - Doctor Who was primarily a broadcast television production.

How did you become involved as a consultant on BBC productions such as 30 Years in the TARDIS and the Dalek book for the video box set?

In the case of the video box set, I was a) out of work and b) had overwitten badly on that year's DWM summer special, which was a Dalek issue. Gary Russell had asked me to cut all the storyline material from it, so that was lying around. Then when BBC Enterprises said that they wanted to do a booklet, Gary suggested myself as the writer, knowing that I had these offcuts. That tends to be how these things work - it's not whoever is best for the job - simply whoever happens to be about at the time. It was an un-interesting but lucrative assignment that helped pay the mortgage until I got another job.

As for 30 Years in the TARDIS, that came through Kevin Davies, who has been one of my dearest friends and colleagues in recent years. I had spoken to Kevin briefly on the phone around 1990 when he rang to ask me about episodes of UFO he could get hold of to study; at that point, I vaguely knew him as a fat hairy bloke who had done the title sequence for Terrahawks - which I hated! Anyway, in March 1993, my life hit a crisis regarding jobs and relationships ... and one of the “treats” to cheer myself up was The Making of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy which had just been issued by BBC Video. I was gobsmacked by how good this was - the style of production, the animation, the writing and the magnificent archive footage. I found Kev's number and phoned him up to congratulate him, at which point he said “I'm glad you called - I was going to give you a bell. BBC Video have just asked me to do a Blake's 7 documentary and I gather you've got an unpublished book on it in your back room ...” We met up in London in early April and chatted at length, and then Kev visited me in May to spent 48 hours going through my notes - in return he brought me a box of Hikers paperwork and lots of old episodes of Moonlighting! Then on Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 June, we recorded the first two of five days on The Making of Blake's 7 - which by now Kevin had grandiose ideas for regarding two tapes marked Good and Evil which could be run concurrently to show a dramatic documentary. Always had misgivings about that! Anyway, after two days of melting in a small studio in Soho, the project was abandoned because of ... surprise surprise ... mumblings from the direction of Roger Hancock.

Kev and I met up regularly during my period of enforced unemployment that summer and viewed more of the Blake's 7 archive material we had found; out-takes, behind-the-scenes stuff, studio tapes, etc. Anyway, we spoke every few days, and in late August he started hinting something big might be happening. At PantoptiCon 93, he happily told me that we were on the verge of starting something, and was I still free to work with him? I certainly was, and within a couple of weeks he confirmed to me that we were doing a 40 minute show. Much of the time I also stayed with Kevin during production; he and his family have been very caring and welcoming ever since, and really love working with the bloke.

How did you get the job as advisor on the recent BBC2 theme night?

At the beginning of September, I had my usual daily chat with Gary [Gillatt] at Panini and he said that this was gearing up. Since redundancy in the day job was looming, I asked him if he would be kind enough to put my name forward if they needed a consultant as I would be glad of the pennies. The following day, he asked me to telephone Christine Kenrick, one of the assistant producers, in Manchester who massively impressed me with the information that she as a non-fan had picked up in the space of about 48 hours. She was saying to me things like, “Oh, we could do a science feature on black holes because apparently Rassilon, who was one of the first Time Lords, captured the nucleus of a black hole and that's where the Time Lords get all their power from on Gallifrey,” and I thought, “I like this enthusiasm, I can work with this lady”. Christine was great - as were Mike Wadding and Stephen McGinn. Wonderful team. Anyway, we had a chat about Doctor Who in general and who they could speak to and the general form of the evening and the forthcoming repeats and interesting footage. That night, I realised that even if there wasn't a consultant role - Mike later told me he had never wanted a consultant on his theme nights - I wanted the team to be using reliable reference books. Next morning, I gave Christine a bell and advised her to get The Television Companion for factual checking and From A to Z which might include themes for discussion. I think she then asked me a question which I answered off the top of my head and she rang off. Ten minutes later she called back and said, “I think we'd better have you under contract ...” and offered me a deal to be at the end of the 'phone to answer questions, as well as attending the interviews, helping with the edit and other odds and ends. And it was three very interesting months with some nice people!

You're currently helping to prepare Doctor Who: The Scripts - Season 12 for publication by BBC Books. What's your area of involvement and what can readers expect to see in this book?

We haven't fully got underway on these, but Justin [Richards] first contacted me about these in December 1999 when the first book was due to be Season 7. Basically, I will provide (and in some cases have already provided test pieces for) a ‘mini-Archive’ on each story, early script/storyline information, cast and crew listing and production schedule to the five stories, as well as other information possibly incorporated in footnotes. Justin will be sourcing critical appraisals of the serials and general material on the season and there will be a profusion of photographs. So far, we've done bits of Genesis of the Daleks as a test piece, but the scripts will be the full camera scripts including deleted scenes and with annotations to show changes or comments from production staff.

Some long-running television drama series, such as Coronation Street retain the services of a ‘continuity consultant/historian’. Is this a role you'd ideally like to occupy on a series such as Doctor Who, or are you happier being on the outside, looking in?

I like being on the outside. I never saw Doctor Who being made... and when I saw 30 Years in production, it was rather tedious! So much so, I rejected Kev's offer of being around for Shakedown. I could be hired onto a drama show, and then impede the notions of directors and writers with arcane continuity. After all, it's the cock-ups which make the study of the show all the more fascinating. No, I don't really feel - in my heart of hearts - that there is any place for fans in the production of the show. But then we wouldn't have had Ghost Light, which I love. So I'm probably talking rot again! I'll stick with the Archives ... but if the BBC would like to make an offer, they know where I am!

Do you think Doctor Who will ever come back as a new, regular series on TV?

I don't know. I'm afraid that my territory is the past ... not the future. We'll have to wait and see... and be ready to catalogue it all when it does!


It was extremely kind of Paul to proceed with a second part of this interview which covered my work beyond Doctor Who Magazine, and indeed Doctor Who itself. I probably bullied him. I probably said, “I don't just do Doctor Who you know. I'm not going to be pigeonholed.” And he was probably too polite to say otherwise, which is why all this other stuff was inflicted on the readers of this excellent zine. Maybe I was very insecure? Maybe I still am? Yes, that sounds very likely.

Ahhhh! Matrix Data Bank; this reminds me how I did the similar Memory Alpha column in TV Zone for some years ... but the eternal problem was a) getting decent questions from the readers and b) being able to illustrate the things. It became a chore, and no fun, and it was time for me to get out.

I see we return to the subject of my work with the DWAS Reference Department with the wonderful David Brunt. It was a shame that a conflict of interest with the BBC script books for Doctor Who would have prevented me from continuing as a major player on the Chronicles series, but I would have assisted David wherever I could. David also did a revised draft of the Doctor Who Production Guide, a massive tome which I still regularly consult my edition of, and it's a shame it never saw the light of day. There were some brilliant covers drawn for these by the incredibly talented Nigel Griffiths, and it's a crime they never saw the light of day.

I'm still pleased that things like this aren't professionally published as it does give us so much more freedom to do the standard of product we dream of. There's a couple of similar projects on comedy shows I'm currently dabbling with. Vive le fan!

Interesting that I said, “Can't do fandom” when asked what I would and wouldn't write about in terms of Doctor Who. Gary Gillat's Fan Gene pieces for Doctor Who Magazine were amazing and summed up a lot of what I'd felt; I don't think those can be bettered. However, in recent years a detailed study of the development and growth of fandom has intrigued me, and it's something I'd like to do if I ever got a chance ... now that I'm old enough to write essays on contemplating my own naval. However, I still can't write original stories, and will never be able to.

I'm still fortunate that there's very little I've written about since the interview that I haven't believed in or liked. The odd set of sleeve notes perhaps, but even then, if I don't like the subject matter, the research was still rewarding and intriguing. I've done more on comedy - mainly for TV Zone - and with the emergence of DVD there's been the chance to do things that were never previously imaginable! A documentary and a small book about Adam Adamant Lives! Wow!

What else have I written for of late? There was a bit for TV Times about Doctor Who Night and the Guardian newspaper was kind enough to commission me for a rather fun Doctor Who quiz a week or so before Rose went out. A lot of my work in the last five years has been notes for CD and DVD releases. 2|entertain were kind enough to indulge my passions on DVD releases for the Quatermass serials, Adam Adamant Lives! and so on, and I was delighted by the results. A company called Network meanwhile have been similarly kind in letting me research viewing notes for Ace of Wands, Ripping Yarns, The Beiderbecke Affair, The Goodies and eventually culminating in full-size books on Danger Man and The Prisoner. They've also diversified into soundtrack CDs, which means I've been able to assemble specialist collectors discs with rich and wonderful scores from shows such as Man in a Suitcase, Department S and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). BBC Audiobooks have been kind enough to let me write various booklet inserts and linking narration for some of the Doctor Who releases (which are terrific fun), to furnish the sleeve notes on their classic range of science-fiction radio shows, and to provide full blown booklets for boxed releases of some of my favourites such as Journey into Space, The Navy Lark and one of my current passions, The Goon Show. There's been consultancy work on BBC Two's Britain's Best Sitcom (the segments on Fawlty Towers and One Foot in the Grave) and - best of all - I was fortunate to put forward a programme proposal for a reunion of The Goodies which won an independent production company a BBC Two commission, and had the pleasure of seeing my heroes of comedy brought together for a special, highly-rated programme. That was magical.

I did finally do two books. The first was the first volume of Doctor Who: The Scripts covering Tom Baker's first series on the show. A wonderful format and a great project to work on, but even as we started on Series Seven we got the feeling there wouldn't be any more. A shame, as Justin Richards came up with a winning format. I then did a book at very short notice for my old friend Marcus Hearn at Reynolds & Hearn (a brilliant publisher of specialist genre books) to extricate the company from a mess which one of their authors had dumped them in. It's a very strange thing called The Avengers Files, and it's a bit of an overgrown fanzine idea ... a huge joke which I fear a lot of the readers didn't get. Brian Clemens got the joke and joined in, so that was pleasing. But Reynolds & Hearn did a wonderful job with it, bless them, and I still find the finished work amusing in my own way. It was very kind of them having the faith in me to allow me to experiment in doing something which I hadn't seen done with a television series before.

And still the great Doctor Who reference works appear. I love the About Time series, mainly for its imaginative essays. The new series books on Doctor Who and Torchwood from Telos have also been a joy. And wasn't Richard Bignell's book about Doctor Who on Location just awesome? The other work on the subject I really loved of late was Inside the TARDIS, a very incisive and yet massive accessible academic study by the very clever James Chapman. If you've not read it, check it out! And I really couldn't ask for more than Gary Russell's Doctor Who: The Inside Story could I? Can't wait to see Russell and Ben's book either ...

The question about a “continuity consultant” is interesting in the light of the return of Doctor Who. I still like being on the outside. When each new episode starts on BBC One, I know little more than what's in the Radio Times ... and then have to ramp up very quickly because by 8pm the following evening I really need an 8000 word draft piece to send to Panini. It's very demanding and hard work, but such a joy at the same time. And, of course, it's the fact that the fans have taken over, and are generating such success through running the series on love and passion and professionalism, that means that thankfully they know the folklore and don't need consultants, something which I am sure has contributed to many of the particularly rich and enjoyable storylines in the last four years. Documenting it all afterwards keeps me quite busy enough without worrying about it beforehand as well.

And finally, I'm delighted that Doctor Who has come back ... and so brilliantly! I don't really get this old/new series divide. It's all Doctor Who, the same wonderful show which has changed and evolved so much over the last 45 years. The last four series have been very entertaining, with the sheer diversity of storytelling in this 2008 run a particular delight. And Tom and Peter and Russell and Gary and everyone else at the BBC and Panini have been kind enough to let me document it the way I wanted to. So, I can't really complain can I?

Thanks again to Paul for being such a brilliant, kind and generous editor, for asking interesting and thought-provoking questions, and for managing to perform the almost impossible in making my mundane work sound as exciting as it ever possibly can be.

- Andrew Pixley
July 2008

This item appeared in TSV 60 (June 2000).

Related Items: An Interview with Andrew Pixley: Part 1