Paul Cornell and Doctor Who
by George Ivanoff - July 19th, 2010
Being a long-time Doctor Who fan, I am very excited to be interviewing British writer Paul Cornell for Literary Clutter. Paul is well known for his Doctor Who writing, but he’s also written a heap of other stuff, including radio and television scripts, short stories, novels and comics, and has had four Hugo Award nomination.
Paul came to notoriety in the 1990s, writing numerous Doctor Who novels, including Timewyrm: Revelation and Human Nature. He went on to write several scripts for the Doctor Who audio dramas and for the revived television series, including a two-part adaptation of his novel Human Nature. So, I thought I’d begin the interview by focusing on his Doctor Who writing.
Can you tell us a bit about your first Doctor Who writing experience?
That would be the fan fiction I wrote at school. Some of that got published in fanzines, and one of those fanzine stories (Revelation) was made into a Doctor Who book, and one of those books (Human Nature) was turned into a TV story, so I’ve been lucky enough to have a ladder leading from my earliest amateur Who work right to the show itself.
You adapted your Doctor Who novel, Human Nature (featuring the seventh Doctor), into a two-part script for the third season of the new Doctor Who series (featuring the tenth Doctor). How did that come about? And was it difficult changing the story from one medium to another, and from one Doctor to another?
Russell phoned me up and asked me to do it. “How did it come about” stories, at least in TV, are rarely more exciting. And well, yes and no. Doctors, not so much, it’s just one voice to another, but there were a lot of other things to consider, like how long Smith and Joan had known each other, and how much a product of his time Smith is. In the book, he’s still kind of an outsider… in the TV version, an upstanding member of society.
You wrote the animated webcast Doctor Who story “Scream of the Shalka“, which featured Richard E. Grant as the Doctor and Sir Derek Jacobi as the Master. This story played around with Doctor Who mythology and took the Doctor/Master relationship in a new direction. Were you given free reign when writing this story or were you given a direction to follow? And were you happy with the way it all worked out?
I was given free reign, just about, to create the format. And then Richard E. Grant added loads of lines of his own! I was really happy with it. The animation looks primitive now, but won awards at the time. I like the things it tries out, things the TV show would decide against, and some it went in the same direction with.
Okay… Now for the nerdy fan-boy question: Who’s your favourite Doctor?
Old show, either Davison or McCoy. New show, can’t choose between them. All brilliant.
You created the character Bernice Summerfield for the New Adventures series of Doctor Who books (introduced in the novel, Love and War). Since then, Bernice has spun off into her own books and audio adventures. What it’s like for you, as a writer, to hand over your character to other writers?
It’s a joy to see her continue to grow and flourish without my help. I think it’s a good sign that she was made sturdy in the first place.
George’s bit at the end
Paul’s Doctor Who books include, Timewyrm: Revelation, Love and War, No Future, Human Nature, Happy Endings, Goth Opera and The Shadows of Avalon. His Doctor Who television scripts include, “Father’s Day”, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”.
And tune in next time when Paul returns to chat about some of his other writing, including the new television pilot Pulse and his Hugo Award nominated novella “One of Our Bastards is Missing”.
Catch ya later, George