Travelling in the TARDIS with Robert Hood


by - June 24th, 2010


Today has certainly been a day of political interest here on Australia’s fair shores. But have no fear, there will be no talk of Prime Ministers, political parties or mining taxes here at Literary Clutter. Instead, I’m sticking with the topic I introduced last time — Doctor Who. My last post was about the literally hundreds of books dealing with this television series. Now it’s time to meet some authors who have played in the Doctor Who universe.

Between 2002 and 2009, Big Finish Productions in the UK published 29 Short Trips books. These were short story anthologies featuring the first eight incarnations of the Doctor. I myself was lucky enough to be published within the pages of one of these books — Short Trips: Defining Patterns. If you want to find out about my experience of writing Doctor Who, check out my guest post over at the Great (book) Expectations blog — “My little fan-boy moment”.

In the meantime, let me introduce Aussie author Robert Hood. As well as having written several novels, including Backstreets and The Shades series, and a plethora of short stories, Robert has had the chance to delve into the universe of Doctor Who. Take it away, Robert…

Me and the Doctor: “Gold and Black Ooze” from Doctor Who Short Trips: Destination Prague
by Robert Hood

As a longtime stalker of the Doctor (since the show was first aired in Australia in 1965 – when I was 12), I was naturally overcome with nerdish glee when Steve Savile suggested I should submit to a Doctor Who: Short Trips anthology he was editing for Big Finish.

The competitive process involved choosing a Doctor (from Hartnell to McGann) along with an appropriate companion and a storyline, then waiting for a response. I chose the unpopular Sixth Doctor. I liked Colin Baker’s quirky interpretation, even if the scripts he was saddled with were mostly rather dire.

The theme – Prague – was designed to take the Doctor away from the more familiar environs of London into a European city rich in turbulent history. While researching that history, I came across the fact that in 1648 in Prague the alchemist Richthausen had supposedly transmuted mercury into gold in the presence of Ferdinand III – so I decided I’d use that. My Prague, however, was haunted by a “bizarre metallic creature” – and besides, the Doctor had been headed for Prague in 4240 AD, so why was it looking exactly the way it had in 1648 – and why was it surrounded by a sea of nanotech tar?

The story fit nicely into the Doctor’s established “history”, coming after the events of “Revelation of the Daleks”. In that story Peri accidently breaks the Doctor’s favourite watch. So I decided that the Doc would naturally want to get the watch fixed. And as everyone knows, the watchmakers of Prague in 4240 AD are the best in the galaxy.

For research I re-watched Baker’s episodes, used the terrific website The Whoniverse to check continuity and, when the outline was accepted, scoured Google to become more familiar with Prague in the 15th century, not just in terms of its history and politics but also at a ground level. With Peri and the Doctor doing their usual running through the streets, I needed to know where everything was located, relatively speaking. Writing the story – and in particular making sure the Doctor and Peri sounded and acted right – was an exciting challenge and a lot of fun. The BBC not only approved the story but also used it in their pre-publicity.

It seems to me that, unlike other franchises, Doctor Who offers much more artistic freedom to writers – within limits. Don’t kill the Doctor. Don’t kill his established companions. The only change that was required to my story was to something I knew was a bit cheeky. The Sixth Doctor didn’t have his sonic screwdriver during that period, but I put it in anyway – a version knocked-up by the Doctor and subsequently cannibalized to defeat the monster from the nano-tar. I destroyed it at the end so everything reverted back to the official timeline. No good, however. It had to go. So I re-made it into a different gadget and all was well.

Writing for Doctor Who was a unique experience and I love the fact that my story of the Doctor is now part of his official canon.

Would I do it again? In a (double) heartbeat!

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Robert for stopping by. If you’d like to know more about Robert Hood and his writing, check out his website.

And tune in next time for another trip in the TARDIS, this time with author Stephen Dedman.

Catch ya later,  George


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