Writer's Commentary

Nineteen: August 1971

Stevens returns to the Glasshouse as part of a live BBC3 TV show. The director of the outside broadcast unit, Bill Jeffs, gets his surname from a friend I had at school, Michael Jeffs. We both loved Doctor Who and used to swap Target adaptations, grateful to have someone of a like mind. Michael is now general manager of a massive financial company in Auckland.

The Glasshouse has been emptied out since the journalist escaped with Cleary earlier that day. The private from UNIT also disappears and Stevens is left to carry the blame for this 'hoax'. He has to fight his way through a scrum of news media upon his return to London, a sequence that was inspired by my experiences as a reporter for the New Zealand Herald during the infamous Peter Plumley-Walker murder case in 1989. A dominatrix and her boyfriend were accused of murdering a client. Their trial was a media circus of levels previous unseen in New Zealand. Every day you would emerge from the courthouse to be blinded by the TV camera lights and photographic flashes going off. I was lucky; my associates in the news media didn't want to talk to me. I can't imagine what it must be like to suffer such total scrutiny. Anyway, Stevens gets a taste of that scrutiny, transformed from being the reporter to being the story.

He returns home to discover his lover Dodo has been murdered. I may be wrong, but I think Who Killed Kennedy was the first novel to kill off a former companion. I wasn't sure I could get away with it, but as Who Killed Kennedy wasn't part of the regular New or Missing Adventures published by Virgin it seemed exempt from some the rules that it faced. Nearly a decade later, killing former members of the TARDIS crew is old hat and turns up all the time in books like Bullet Time, Heritage and Loving the Alien. Back in 1996 this was pushing the envelope. I felt it gave the reader of Who Killed Kennedy a serious jolt - if a former companion like Dodo could be killed off in this book, then anything was possible.

On screen Dodo had been one of the least developed companions, although few of the Hartnell era TARDIS team were ever given more than one or two dimensions. Anyway, Dodo was something of a blank slate and book authors were not afraid to make her suffer. Daniel O'Mahony had her engaging in a fairly steamy relationship and contracting an illness interpreted by some as a form of space herpes during The Man in the Velvet Mask. Who Killed Kennedy went even further, killing her with three bullets. I always felt I should apologise to Jackie Lane, the actress who played Dodo on screen, but since I've never met her that hasn't happened yet!

For those of you keeping track of the disappearing revolver, Stevens' gun reappears at the crime scene, having been left there by Dodo's killer. It's taken as evidence by the police. The cops tell a still shocked Stevens that Dodo was pregnant - something she had been hinting about but never got the chance to tell the journalist. For the second time Stevens is denied the chance to be a father to his offspring, here by murder. Babies and pregnancy are also a repeated motif of my forthcoming Fifth Doctor and Nyssa novel Empire of Death. One question - how did the police know Dodo was pregnant? I don't think this is answered in the text of Who Killed Kennedy, although there are several rational explanations - a pregnancy test being found elsewhere in the house, or Dodo having told the killer about the baby whilst pleading for her life and the killer passing this information on somehow. As Stevens is being taken away he sees a young man with a lisp addressing the news media. This is a cross-reference to another of the Virgin novels, Gary Russell's The Scales of Injustice. (By a happy coincidence, while the eBook of Who Killed Kennedy has been running on this site, the BBCi Doctor Who site has announced The Scales of Injustice will be its next eBook - watch out for it.)

Stevens is eventually cleared of Dodo's murder and set free, but his life and reputation have been scarred by the experience. The journalist believes it was Cleary who murdered Dodo, under the Master's control. Stevens leaves his and Dodo's home for good, taking the abandoned Time Ring with him.

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