Interview-Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat

HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU WERE TOLD OF PLANS TO NOVELISE NEW SERIES DOCTOR WHO EPISODES?

RTD: I was very excited! I’d collected Target books as a kid, so it felt like closing a circle. And I wanted to test myself too, I was interested to find out what the process would be like. And to look back on an old piece of work after 13 years was fascinating.

SM: Well, surprised – I knew nothing of the plans, because this all started around the time I was leaving. The biggest surprise, though, was that I actually wanted to novelise The Day Of The Doctor. I had a hell of a time on that script, I had no idea I wanted to revisit it!

WHAT DID THE ORIGINAL TARGET DOCTOR WHO BOOKS MEAN TO YOU, GROWING UP?

RTD: I loved them. I’ve still got them all, on a shelf here in my office! In the days before DVD or streaming, they were the only official records of an adventure. And they were so mysterious, detailing stories we thought we’d never see again. Some we still won’t, because they’re missing from the archive. I can probably tell you where I was, which shop I was in when I bought it, for every single one of my Target originals.

SM: Every time I’d go to a bookshop – and I was a keen reader, so I went a lot – I’d head straight to the Doctor Who book section. Because I’d stared at all the book covers I already owned with such manic intensity, they were carved into my brain like wounds – so I could tell from right across the shop, by the tiniest variation in colour or artwork, if there was a new one on the shelf, and if there was my heart would leap. Then, sometimes, I’d wake up. So you could say I was – y’know – over invested. I think that’s the polite way of putting it.

WHAT ELSE DID YOU READ AS A CHILD? DID THE ORIGINAL TARGETS LEAD YOU INTO OTHER SERIES OR AUTHORS?

RTD: I read anything and everything. Enid Blyton! Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Agatha Christie. Dune. Jaws. I was a voracious reader, I still am, I was trying D.H. Lawrence by the time I was 11. A lot of young readers will tell you that Targets led them onto many other books, which is brilliant, but frankly, I was there already!

SM: I’m very old, so I was already a voracious reader before the Target series got started – I loved the Narnia books, and The Hobbit, and especially Tom’s Midnight Garden. Reading and Doctor Who were my two favourite things. But the thing I wanted more than anything was to combine my enthusiasms. I longed for there to be Doctor Who books! There were Star Trek books, so it didn’t seem fair there weren’t any Doctor Who ones. And then, suddenly there they were. I was on holiday in Cornwall, in a little town called Mevagissey, and in a shop called Dunns there was a solitary rack of books which I’d always walk round and round, looking for something to read – then one day my Dad grabbed and my arm and pointed to the bottom row of paperbacks: Doctor Who And The Daleks, Doctor Who And The Zarbi and Doctor Who And The Crusaders. I was so happy!

HOW DID YOU APPROACH THE TASK OF NOVELISING YOUR OWN SCRIPT?

RTD: It was tricky, I wanted to capture the essence of the TV episode, but I didn’t want to repeat it. I’d long since lost the scripts! I’m always asked to give away Doctor Who stuff for raffles and prizes, so everything has gone. I found a transcript online, and someone found me a copy of the very first draft. But I didn’t always look at them. I was a bit more freefalling. Or rather, I wanted to add stuff to most of the dialogue because I knew fans would know a lot of it off by heart already, so there had to be new things to discover.

SM: I just sort of started. I had a few ideas about how it might translate, but really, as with any writing, I just dived in. I found the shooting script on my hard drive, and was shocked to see how much I’d altered it during filming. Quite often, I’d have to watch the DVD and transcribe useful bits of dialogue, because I found I had no written record of really quite important scenes. Then, of course, you find the parts that don’t quite work in prose. The shock of seeing David and Matt together, John Hurt as the Doctor, surprise appearances by Tom Baker and Peter Capaldi – you have to find a way to make those moments work in a book, without surprise guest stars, which can be a challenge.

HOW DID THE EXPERIENCE OF WRITING A NOVEL COMPARE TO WRITING A TV SCRIPT?

RTD: It’s all hard work! But it’s a different focus. That became clear with the character of Mickey, Rose’s long-suffering boyfriend. On screen, played brilliantly by Noel Clarke, he flies past, he’s wonderful, he’s fast and fun and furious, but when a novel goes inside someone’s head, I had to give him more focus. Also, bear in mind, on TV, I knew I had 13 episodes to tell Mickey’s story, but in a one-off book, I had to complete him a bit more.

SM: When you write a screenplay, you make the audience a witness to events. When you write a book, you make the reader experience them. You go from the grandeur of spectacle to the intimacy of inside someone’s head. I don’t think either is better than the other, but they are different. Twists and turns, suspense, humour – they all work in different ways. You’re aiming for the same effects, but by other means.

IN A WORLD WHERE THE ORIGINAL SHOW CAN BE ACCESSED IN A DOZEN WAYS ON DEMAND, WHAT PLACE DOES A NOVELISATION HAVE?

RTD: New stuff! Newness. Sheer newness. New action, new dialogue and new insights. A fan might have seen something a dozen times, so I felt honour-bound to add things that could only be found inside the pages of the book. And I know what fandom feels like, there’s nothing we love more than discovering something new about something old.

SM: Well, we’ll find out, won’t we? Back when the Targets started, those books were our only permanent record. The shows were on your telly exactly once, and then disappeared forever, like smoke up the chimney. Back then, Terrance Dicks would give us perfect, prose replicas of the originals, scene for scene, line for line, and very brilliantly done. He’d also do sly little fixes on the plotting when he felt inclined. But a few years later – from about Peter Davison on, I think – we all had VCRs, and we could keep the originals exactly as they were so we didn’t need the prose replicas. So the Target books changed – more of the original writers got involved, and they became more like alternative versions. Perhaps that’s how it will go now? As I say, we’ll find out.

WERE YOU TEMPTED TO ‘GO BIGGER’ WITH THE ACTION, UNFETTERED BY BUDGET?

RTD: Oh, a bit. A lot! Bear in mind, there’s a great big invasion of London by shop-window dummies at the end, so I’d paved the way for some epic action. On screen, the London Eye just sits there in the background. In this version, it’s a lot more involved! I loved writing that stuff.

And writing action is hard – seeing a bullet fly on screen is easy, describing it in prose is much harder, so that was a good test.

SM: Sometimes, yes. I don’t think it’s the big difference. In a way, many of the finest creative decisions in Doctor Who are direct responses to budgetary limitations – there’s a reason the Doctor’s space ship looks like a phone box, and he spends a lot of time in dark tunnels – so its good to go epic, so long as you don’t lose the signature style. I’m not the first person to say it, but the clash of the epic and domestic is a big part of what makes the show what it is.

REVISITING AND RE-PRESENTING PAST WORK – DID YOU FEEL NOSTALGIC?

RTD: I just felt old! But I felt mighty proud. Rose was the first episode in 2005, and for all the changes to the show, it’s fundamentally still the same show.

SM: Too soon for me. Day was only five years ago, and I’ve barely finished as showrunner. I don’t think I’ll ever feel nostalgia for Doctor Who, exactly – I think it will just carry on being my favourite show on TV, and I’ll have fond memories of having worked on it once.

WITH THESE NOVELISATIONS UNDER YOUR BELT WOULD YOU CONSIDER WRITING FURTHER BOOKS – EITHER FOR WHO OR SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY?

RTD: I think it’s more exciting to consider something new, now. I really loved writing this, and I think the chance to write brand new stories with brand new characters would be exhilarating. One day!

SM: Hugely enjoyed writing the book. Very much indeed. So yes, I hope I get another go at prose, in whatever form.

Doctor Who meets Mr.Men

Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s (DW’s global publisher) , will publish these stories in the UK.  Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House is master publisher and will release twelve titles, one for each Doctor.

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These storybook mash-ups, written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves, combine the iconic storytelling of Doctor Who with the whimsical humor and design made famous by his father, Roger Hargreaves. The first four books will be available in Spring 2017.

Francesca Dow, MD of Penguin Random House Children’s Books, said, “As the global publisher of Doctor Who and champions of books which push creative boundaries, we are delighted to be publishing such unique and fun stories. We’re confident and excited they will appeal to the thousands of Doctor Who and Mr Men fans around the world”

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Jan Paterson, Head of Book and Audio Publishing, BBC Worldwide commented, “We are thrilled to be teaming up with Sanrio on this fantastic project and think that fans will love these creative incarnations of the Doctor reimagined in the ‘Hargreaves’ style. We’re always looking for innovative ways to engage our fans so this is the perfect partnership for us.”

Alastair McHarrie, Licensing Director of Sanrio Global Ltd added, “There is a wealth of unofficial fan-created content online. We wanted to give something back to these supporters so we’ve created the first official Hargreaves mash-up. Who better to partner with than another classic British property, Doctor Who. We couldn’t be more excited.”

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Francesco Sedita, President and Publisher of Price Stern Sloan, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, added, “It is such a special moment for us to unite these two great properties. Our books bring Hargreaves’ wonderful, fun style to the mysterious, magical world of Doctor Who. I know we’re going to delight fans of all ages!”

 

 

Review-Ninth Doctor #1

Following last year’s successful five-part mini-series. Titan Comics and writer Cavan Scott have brought back the ninth Doctor for an ongoing series.
  
Eccleston’s Doctor is easily the most tragic incarnation in Doctor Who’s history. War-torn and holding the belief that he wiped out his entire species, he finds comfort and solace in the friendship with an Earth-woman, Rose Tyler and, another mysterious time traveller named Captain Jack Harkness. I’ve always felt there’s a romantic aspect to Eccleston’s portrayal, as he was “one and done”. 
  

The story takes place some time after Jack joined the team. 

After escaping a giant worm, the TARDIS trio soon pick up a transmission from a past version of Capatain Jack-sent before he had his memories erased. They then land on a planet where the Doctor is hailed as a celebrity, on this planet he is the star of a show called ‘Doctor Who’ (No, really) as soon as the trio step out the TARDIS, the Doctor is mobbed by people wanting selfies-much like Eccleston would have been at a Doctor Who convention in 2005. 

“Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor” #1 could easily fit in the 2005 series. The story is fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled and filled with humour. It’s as if Cavan Scott spent an entire week watching and re-watching series 1. He gets the characterisation of 9, Rose, and Jack down so well. You’ll wish even more, that Eccleston had done another series.

This is essential reading for fans of the ninth Doctor. 

Ninth Doctor #1 is out tomorrow, from Titan comics. 

Doctor Who: The Churchill Years

Reprising his performances during Matt Smith’s era of Doctor Who, IanMc Niece is back as Winston Churchill. Big Finish’s new box set departs from their well-honed format of unmediated aural adventures, with McNiece narrating as well as performing in each episode. The narration does cover a few bits that I felt it shouldn’t, notably an action sequence in the first story and the introduction of a famous historical figure in the third. I mention this to balance what I think has been a refreshing experience and a success overall.

Churchill’s narration includes recounting the words and actions of the first three new series Doctors. This has the brilliant effect of bringing the Christopher Eccleston Doctor to Big Finish, complete with the Ninth Doctor signature tune. As The Doctor changes, the title music changes. Across the stories one can spot the different speech patterns of each Doctor, even as related (and occasionally imitated) by McNiece.

There’s still plenty of full-cast audio action aboard, moved along nicely by the ‘companions’ of Churchill. As his new secretary, Hetty Warner (Emily Atack) leads many scenes apart from Winston and works well with both her employer and The Doctor. Kazran Sardick (Danny Horn) returns from Dr Who’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ and provides good contrast to the 20th century way in which Churchill reacts to being dropped into Roman Britain. In the final piece, another supporting artist from a Matt Smith Christmas special returns, Holly Earl As Lily Arwell. She looks after Winston at a particularly action-packed point in his twilight years.

The first story is the most conventional, with an alien object dropped into wartime Britain. The second shatters that mould as we find Churchill’s Black Dog – his controversial mental issues – woven into the story. In the third, Winston lives amid the subjects of his own historical books and the statesman’s fascination for butterflies is rolled rather surprisingly into the fourth adventure. Additionally, there’s a nice bit of Nick Briggs’ Dalek voice work in this set.

Doctor Who: The Churchill Years brought a delightful, fictionalised Sir Winston into my home over a couple of winter evenings. So pleasant was it that I might just sit down with Churchill’s own writing for just a bit more time with this true-life legend from long ago.

Review-Torchwood:Uncanny valley 

The tale of artificial intelligence is a stablemate of science fiction, but this is the first time the subject matter has been handled so maturely.

The adventure kicks of with Jack unexpectedly arriving at the home of reclusive billionaire/entrepreneur-celebrity, Neil Redmond.

Dubious of Jack’s intention, Richmond distrusts him until the good Captain drops some impossible knowledge. The duo then talk about the events that brought them both to the remote Welsh castle.

Richmond found himself wheelchair bound after being involved in a horrific car crash. A mysterious woman then persuaded him to purchase a company that make “living dolls”. He was then gifted an avatar of himself, which he christened NJ-which would appear at press conferences on his behalf.

Writer David Llewellyn proves again that he can handle Torchwood. this is a mature think piece with non-gratuitous adult moments. In other words, this is Torchwood at its best. It’s quintessential listening.

John Barrowman slips back into Captain Jack’s RAF Greatcoat with ease, he knows this character inside and out. He could do this in his sleep. Special mention must go to Steven Cree (Outlander). He is entirely convincing in his dual roles as Neil and NJ.

I’ve enjoyed each of the Torchwood audios, for different reasons. Each one has scratched a different sort of itch. If you haven’t tried a Big Finish audio before, I recommend jumping on board with this range.

Fourth Doctor And Sarah Jane Smith Return for An All-New Adventure!

Titan Comics and BBC Worldwide have announced a brand-new mini series starring the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, as played by Tom Baker and the late Elisabeth Sladen.
 
This series expands Titan Comics’ hugely popular and critically acclaimed Doctor Who comics line, which already includes adventures from the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors.
 
Entitled ‘Gaze Of The Medusa’, the five-part series will hit stores in March 2016 and will be penned by Gordon Rennie (Missionary Man, Judge Dredd) and Emma Beeby(Witch Hunter, Judge Dredd) with art by Brian Williamson (The Twelfth Doctor, Spider-Man, X-Men).
 

  

The all-new adventure is set in Victorian England, where a mysterious woman commands a hidden army in a house of the blind. Scryclops stalk the streets…and something alien and terrible screams from prehistory – with a hunger that cannot be satisfied! 
 
Issue #1 will come with six covers to collect: a painted cover by fan-favorite artist Alice X. Zhang; a photo variant; art covers by artists Brian Williamson, Jay Gunn and Matt Baxter; and a blank sketch variant. 

 
Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1 debuts in comic stores and on digital devices from March 2016.
 

Review-Back to the future issue #1

We’re now in a position where all the films in the franchise take place entirely in the past. The last installment came out in 1989, yet fans have constantly demanded more. Luckily for us, Bob Gale and IDW have teamed up to give us a four issue mini-series set in the world of Hill Valley. 

Bob Gale has been very outspoken about not returning to the franchise, as he explains in a note at the end of issue #1, he felt that anything more would just be repetitious, so he decided that the only way to expand on the universe  would be to not focus on time travel. Instead, he opted to reveal more about the  characters we fell in love with, all those years ago.

The Back to the Future comic is essentially the Untold Tales that fill in the narrative gaps from the films. The stories are set before and/or during the trilogy. 

    
Issue #1 takes place after Marty leaves 1885, but before Doc takes his family to see him. Whilst building his time travel train, Doc explains to Clara and the kids, how he and Marty first met. 

 
Doc and Marty first met, in 1982-three years prior to the events in the first  film. 
The issue is a lot of fun, as it riffs on the familiar tropes we saw throughout the trilogy. Writer John Barber is clearly a fan. Brent Schoonover’s pencilling is very cartoonish and basic, but it all works so well. 

Review-The Troop by Noel Clarke

In The Troop a team with super powers rises from a nightmare parade of violence, with memorable action sequences and flashes of sexual activity along the way.

Author Noel Clarke was part of the the main cast of Doctor Who’s 2005 return to television. Since then he’s written an episode of Torchwood and a couple of independent films, all of which show his knack for dark material. He told the Hollywood Reporter that he wanted to push boundaries with this comic. Where he does that is in his depiction of real life abusive human behaviour, which exists in the backgrounds that these super-humans come from. The Troop are not so much a fearless team of super heroes as a damaged pile of kids united by a shady character who comes off as a bit of a creep.

We’re in an early period for digital comics as they differentiate themselves from the heavy lines and solid fills of the past. In this book, artist Joseph Cassara paints with loads of photographic colour and texture. In one panel he simulates shallow depth-of-field, where the background has those discs you get from expensive cameras when points of light in the background are blurred.

It can be a little noisy but structure does win out over chaos, particularly in the action sequences. Movement in illustration is tied to the way shapes strike across the page and Cassara works this well. In a rainy forest chase he does this by putting his virtual camera high in the trees and in another, he grabs a snapshot from a flying belt’s hang time before a dangerous dad brings it down.

Issue 1 of The Troop is a bit of a contest between abuse violence and revenge violence but Noel Clarke is setting up something that is intentionally not shiny. This is a tale where everything soft is burnt away – that can lend the truly poignant bits great impact later on. Now it’s up to Clarke and Cassara to deliver on the promise shown so far.

Listen to our interview with Noel Clarke here.

Artwork preview:


  

Issue #1 is out 9th December 2015

The thick of it cast make a cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man

The cast of the BBC political comedy, The Thick Of It, make a completely unexpected cameo on the cover of December’s issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Chris Addison, Peter Capaldi, Joanna Scanlan, Paul Higgins, James Smith and Polly Kemp can all be seen on the cover, sat inside a London bus, whilst Spider-Man is fighting.

Armando Iannucci, the creator of The Thick Of It tweeted the image this morning and asked fans if they knew how the cameo came to be.

“Anyone know why Thick of It cast are in recent Spiderman issue? As a lifelong Marvel fan I’m delighted. And curious.