Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sontarans and other covers

Here's the cover to Whographica, the book of Doctor Who infographics I've written with Steve O'Brien and Ben Morris. The cover is by designer Jim Smith, and the book is out on 22 September.

And here's the cover for Doctor Who and the Sontarans - in which the Doctor meets the potato-headed monsters for the very first time. It's out in December.

Out now is Doctor Who Magazine issue #502, featuring my interview with artist Mike Collins, talking about his overlapping work on Doctor Who comics and storyboards for the TV show.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Economics of the Daleks

In the 1964 Doctor Who episode World's End, the TARDIS materialises on the banks of the Thames – but something is very wrong. A sign warns that, under emergency regulations, it is forbidden to dump bodies into the river.

The Doctor's companions also point out what to them is the odd sight of Battersea Power Station without two of its chimneys (as, er, it is today). All the bustle and business of London, that great centre of trade, has been silenced.

As the Doctor and his friend Ian explore, they discover a clue to what's happening in a desk in a warehouse:
DOCTOR: Ah, here, look. At least we know the century, dear boy. Look. 

IAN: 2164. 
Now, this calendar is a simple method of telling the audience that we're some 200 years in the future. But I think it also suggests something about the mechanics of the world we've arrived in, as I'll explain in a moment.

Soon the Doctor and his friends discover that Earth has been conquered by Daleks - this is the first episode of a story better known as The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In the next episode we learn from a man called Craddock how this conquest came about, his speech full of vivid, horrific detail too expensive to realise onscreen:
CRADDOCK: Meteorites came first. The Earth was bombarded with them about 10 years ago. A cosmic storm, the scientists called it. The meteorites stopped, everything settled down - and then people began to die of this new kind of plague ... The Daleks were up in the sky just waiting for Earth to get weaker. Whole continents of people were wiped out. Asia, Africa, South America. They used to say the Earth had a smell of death about it. 
Another man, David Campbell, continues the story:
DAVID: The plague had split the world into tiny little communities, too far apart to combine and fight, and too small individually to stand any chance against invasion ... About six months after the meteorite fall, that's when the saucers landed. Cities were razed to the ground, others were simply occupied. Anyone who resisted was destroyed. Some people were captured and were turned into Robomen, the slaves of the Daleks. They caught other human beings and many of them were shipped to the vast mining areas. No one escapes. The Robomen see to that. 
The Earth and all its surviving people have become resources for some merciless Dalek project. So what about that calendar? Does it seem likely that after the plague, the invasion and the enslavement of the human race, people continued to print and publish calendars? Or does it seem credible that the Daleks produce them for their human slaves, using our Arabic numerals rather than the Dalek lettering seen elsewhere in the story?

If not, then it seems probable that the calendar was produced before the coming of the meteorites in 2163 (to serve the following year). The TARDIS has landed, according to Craddock, "about 10 years" later so The Dalek Invasion of Earth is set c. 2173 (23 years after the movie-version, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD.)

Except that in the 1965 episode Day of Armageddon, (part of the story known as The Daleks' Master Plan) the Daleks again threaten Earth, this time in the year 4000. The Doctor refers back to the earlier invasion:
DOCTOR: If the Daleks were going to attack Earth, as you seem to fear, then you must tell Earth to look back in the history of the year 2157 ... History will show how to deal with them. 
It's a passing reference. We don't know if 2157 is the date of the meteorites, the plague or the arrival of the Daleks on Earth - or of all three. And perhaps the Doctor has muddled his dates. But if we take him at his word, the invasion of Earth began six years before the production of that calendar.

Now, we could see that as a small continuity error, and conclude that writer Terry Nation or someone on the production team misremembered details of the earlier story. But I prefer to find ways to rationalise such apparent discrepancies - partly )but not only) because I spend a lot of time writing new stories to fit around old episodes of Doctor Who.

(Masters of Earth, the very good new story apparently set a year before the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth seems to ignore the date given in Day of Armageddon, using the calendar to conclude that the TV story takes place in 2164, and, following Craddock's "about 10 years ago", that the invasion began in 2153.)

As well as establishing a date, I think we can use the calendar to better understand how the Daleks run their occupation of Earth. Despite enslaving Earth and turning various humans into Robomen, the calendar being produced during the conquest suggests that other humans have at least been granted a level of autonomy to carry out specific tasks set by their Dalek masters. My reasoning is that to complete those tasks successfully requires a certain level of administrative infrastructure, and continuing to print and distribute calendars helps the enslaved humans deliver their tasks on schedule.

The only alternative I can think of is that the calendar has been produced by the human resistance - the allies of Craddock and David Campbell. Perhaps it's useful when planning anti-Dalek activities. But then there's the Doctor's response when he first walks into the warehouse:
DOCTOR: A musty smell. This place hasn't been used in years.
That suggests the warehouse is not in active use by either the Daleks or the human resistance - which is why it's a convenient place to hide a murdered Roboman. But that also suggests the calendar found in the drawer there is a few years' old - so the TARDIS has arrived sometime after 2164. If the Doctor is right in Day of Armageddon about the invasion beginning in 2157, then Craddock's "about 10 years ago" suggests this is c. 2167, and the warehouse has been abandoned for about three years. But it was still being used six years into the invasion.

For the sake of argument, let's say the calendar was produced by the Daleks and the warehouse, before it was abandoned, was used by the Daleks, too (I'll come back with some corroborrating evidence for that in a bit). The warehouse doesn't seem directly connected to the Daleks' mining project in Bedford - a key part of the plot of the story - so it seems there were other Dalek initiatives going on, which needed warehouses and schedules. There are plenty of other things the Daleks might find useful to exploit from Earth: minerals, or information, or perhaps human slaves they could ship out to work on other Dalek worlds.

That speculation about this particular story is backed up by what happens in 1972 story Day of the Daleks, when the Daleks have again conquered Earth in the 21st century. Note, it's not the same invasion as last time, for all it might take place in the same period of future history. In episode 4, the Daleks' human Controller explains to the Doctor and his friend Jo what happened:
CONTROLLER: Towards the end of the 20th century, a series of wars broke out. There was a hundred years of nothing but killing, destruction. Seven-eighths of the world's population was wiped out. The rest were living in holes in the ground, starving, reduced to the level of animals. 

JO: So the Daleks saw their opportunity and took over. 

CONTROLLER: There was no power on Earth to stop them. 

DOCTOR: So they've turned the Earth into a giant factory, with all the wealth and minerals looted and taken to [Dalek planet] Skaro. 

CONTROLLER: Exactly. Men who were strong enough, of course, were sent down the mines, the rest work in factories. 

JO: Why? Why are they doing all this? 

CONTROLLER: They need a constant flow of raw materials. Their empire is expanding. 
For all the parallels with the earlier story, we don't see any Robomen in this Dalek-conquered Earth. Instead, the human Controller and his staff of technicians and guards collaborate with the Dalek regime - the Doctor calls the Controller a "Quisling". In fact, we seen this sort of collaboration in The Dalek Invasion of Earth when the Doctor's friend Barbara meets a woman and girl who appear to be free:
WOMAN: We make clothes for the slave workers. We're more use to them [the Daleks] doing that than we would be in the mine.
The woman and girl soon betray Barbara to the Daleks in exchange for a small amount of food. To survive, these humans conspire in their own oppression.

There's another clue to the way the Daleks run the planets they conquer in Death to the Daleks (1974). Here, we learn of a disease wreaking havoc across various worlds. But this is a not a Dalek plot, a prelude to yet more invasion. As the Doctor explains in episode 2:
DOCTOR: Several of the planets the Daleks have colonised are suffering from the same disease. They're dying in millions. Now they need that chemical just as badly as you [humans] do. 

His choice of words is interesting - he refers to planets the Daleks have "colonised" not conquered, which (for all Doctor Who of the period critiques colonies in space) almost sounds like he thinks they're there legitimately. More pertinently, the Daleks have been prompted to act because people are "dying in their millions". Why would the merciless Daleks care about that? I think the only reason can be that the Daleks need these people to make their empire work. They may talk about wanting to exterminate all other life forms, but in the short-term they must be more pragmatic. They need us.

(ETA: Jonathan Morris points out that later in the story the Daleks say that, having gathered up all the supplies of this special chemical, they "can force the space powers to accede to our demands. If they do not, millions of people on the outer planets will perish." But if the Daleks have, as the Doctor says, colonised worlds with millions of people, that potential for blackmail is in addition to that need to cure their own workers.)

(ETA 2: Paul Smith points out that we're given no indication that these "colonised" worlds of the Daleks were populated by anyone other than Daleks, so that it is Daleks "dying in the millions". That's not how I'd interpreted it, but watching again I think Paul is right. Even so, we know from other examples how the Daleks treat native populations as their exploit a planet's resources: see their invasions of Earth (above), Spiridon (in Planet of the Daleks (1973) and Exxilon (in Death to the Daleks (1974).)

The expanding Dalek empire is not only reaching out into space for ever more resources. Day of the Daleks also suggests something new, as the Doctor is told in episode 4:
DALEK: The Daleks have discovered the secret of time travel. We have invaded Earth again. We have changed the pattern of history. 
The Daleks had the ability to travel in time in three of their four previous onscreen adventures, The Chase (1965), The Daleks' Master Plan (1965-6) and The Evil of the Daleks (1967). But note that the Dalek says "again". They're using time travel to rewrite the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, coming back to conquer the Earth at the same point in future history, but this time doing it better to more efficiently exploit Earth's resources.

The Doctor defeats this attempt to change future history, and the suggestion at the end of Day of the Daleks is that he has thwarted the Dalek invasion. Yet in part 1 of Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), we're told this:
ACE: And now [the Daleks] want to conquer the Earth [in 1963]. 

DOCTOR: Nothing so mundane. They conquer the Earth in the 22nd century. 
So the Doctor prevented the invasion in Day of the Daleks from ever happening, but not the one from The Dalek Invasion of Earth - which now takes place as before. There's a clue as to why that might be in part 3 of Remembrance of the Daleks, when the Doctor warns Ace about changing history:
DOCTOR: Ace, the Daleks have a mothership up there capable of eradicating this planet from space, but even they, ruthless though they are, would think twice before making such a radical alteration to the time line. 
Note that it's not that they wouldn't do it, just that they'd think twice. Why?

As we've seen, the Dalek empire depends on expansion to gain ever more resources, and the gathering of those resources depends on the work of enslaved people. The most efficient use of these people is not merely to enslave them, robotised or otherwise, but to offer some of them autonomy to run particular tasks themselves, with an infrastructure to support them which includes printing calendars. But all of this takes ever more resources, so the Dalek empire must constantly expand. And that brings them up against a people just as powerful as they are.
TIME LORD: We foresee a time when they will have destroyed all other lifeforms and become the dominant creature in the universe.
In Genesis of the Daleks (1975), the Time Lords send the Doctor back in time to the point where the Daleks were created. He is meant to either destroy the Daleks entirely, or affect their creation so that they will develop to be less aggressive. It's effectively what the Daleks do in Day of the Daleks - using time travel to pre-emptively weaken a rival.

It's been argued that Genesis of the Daleks sees the Time Lords strike the first blow in what will become the devastating Time War between them and the Daleks, which has haunted all of Doctor Who since 2005.

But we don't hear of the Time Lords battling the Daleks again until the events of the Time War. Indeed, Davros - creator and later emperor of the Daleks - tells the Doctor in Resurrection of the Daleks (1984):
DAVROS: You are soft, like all Time Lords. You prefer to stand and watch. Action requires courage, something you lack.
The suggestion is that, despite provocation, the Time Lords are not acting against the Daleks - yet Davros is still plotting to wage war on them. Then, in Remebrance of the Daleks, the Daleks battle for control of a remote stellar manipulator that will give them the same power over time as the Time Lords.

I noted before the Doctor's comments in this story that the Daleks would be wary of making big changes to history. We've seen them change (future) history before, so perhaps the wariness is because they know they lack the same powers over time as the as the Time Lords, who would thwart such interference (just as the Doctor, a Time Lord, does in Day of the Daleks).

So my thesis is that the Daleks cannot expand their empire through history while the Time Lords have superior power over time. But the Daleks must expand their empire through history because of the way that empire operates, guzzling up ever more resources.

And we can trace how it operates - and thus the economic root of the Time War - from that calendar found in World's End.

(I'm thinking through this kind of stuff as I work on my book about The Evil of the Daleks (1967), to be published by the Black Archive next May. So expect more. Sorry.)

Friday, July 08, 2016

Doomsday +10

It's 10 years today since the Doctor Who episode Doomday, in which Rose and the Doctor were separated by a wall and the unyielding laws of the universe.

To mark the occasion, Cameron K McEwan at DoctorWho.TV has filched the memories of the great and the good - and, er, me: Ten and Rose part: Doomsday - 10 years on...

And, because this 'ere blog is so creakingly ancient, here's what I thought at the time.

I was also interviewed by David Hollingsworth at TV Times on three times Doctor Who predicted the future.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Doctor Who: Adventures in History

The Essential Doctor Who: Adventures in History is out now, a "lavish 116-page issue about the Doctor's journeys into Earth's past".

It features my interviews with director Saul Metzstein about Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and writer Jamie Mathieson about The Girl Who Died.

(I should really get around to posting some of my old Doctor Who Magazine interviews here. But you can read my interview with Master actor Gordon Tipple, my interview with Leela actress Louise Jameson and my very first feature for DWM, about movie Doctor Who.)

Also announced is BBC Audio's Eleventh Doctor Tales, a collection of 14 original audio adventures that includes The Empty House, written by me and expertly read by Raquel Cassidy. The set is out in October but available to pre-order.

I'm currently writing a book on 1967 Doctor Who story The Evil of the Daleks to be published in time for its fiftieth anniversary next May. It's part of The Black Archive series from Obverse Books.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

End of the End

Out this August in paperback and electric bookery is End of the End, "a post-apocalyptic omnibus" including my novella Fall Out, which was previously published as an e-book. You can pre-order End of the End on Amazon.

The amazing cover - showing a character from my story - is by the very clever Sam Gretton. 

Saturday, June 04, 2016


The Lord of Chaos and I had a brilliant short break in Liverpool, visiting relatives and seeing the sights. It helped that the weather was glorious - in stark contrast to London. In fact, we got soaked to the skin in the short walk from our house to the train station, and were still a bit soggy hours and hours later when we arrived into bright sunshine at Lime Street.

On Wednesday we began with a tour of Beatles-related sites. Mossley Hill, is quite smart, even fancy with its posh bakery and coffee shops, so it's weird to think of young John Lennon tramping to school there. He's not quite the working-class hero of lore.

The Lord of Chaos was more excited to spot the word "poo" hidden in the red writing of the street signs.

We then caught the bus into town for a nose round The Beatles Story museum and took the brightly coloured ferry over the Mersey. On such a nice day - and at half-term - it was all pretty busy, but good fun.

The tour took us past the largest brick building in the world, its 27 million bricks now inevitably being converted into swanky flats. The ferry gave us a good view of how much Liverpool has been transformed in recent years, modern glass and towers dwarfing the older Victorian architecture, the famous skyline peppered with space-age design.

But then there's always been something of the future about the place. The art deco design of the buildings at Wallasey, on the other side of the river, look like something from Dan Dare and have been reclaimed as a Spaceport. I'd marvelled at that the last time I was here, but not ventured inside.

The museum turns out to be great, full of hands-on exhibits that - so rarely in this sort of thing - are not broken. His Lordship was entranced by the toys to demonstrate orbital mechanices and the hurricane machine. We could have stayed another hour.

In fact, his only disappointment was the shop which, after all the perfectly pitched imagination of the galleries, didn't seem as well thought out. There were the usual (boring) pencils, key-rings and whatnot, and some surprisingly expensive Doctor Who merchandise from about five years ago. We decided against £20 for a sonic screwdriver. Then there was late lunch in the Albert Dock, and a trip to a toy shop.

On Wednesday, we climbed the tower of Liverpool Cathedral - a genuine bargain at £5.50 for adults and his Lordship free. What's more, two lifts meant there was only 108 steps to climb - but those on a staircase looking out and over the dizzying spectactle of the bells.

The view from the top was amazing, and we spent a happy time leisuredly working our way round twice, spying out all the details. 

I failed to take pictures of the various other things we got up to, such as our trip to the very well run Storybarn, or much note of the various lovely bookshops I nosed round looking for something suitable as tribute for the Dr. (I am quite delighted with the 1893 third edition of Eric Brighteyes that fell into my arms in an Oxfam.)

And then, pottering about in Mossley Hill again, his Lordship spotted Roman numerals on this post box. It's apparently one of the 271 letter boxes made during the short reign of Edward VIII in 1936. It is a great help to have a pair of eyes at the right level to spot these things.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gordon Tipple interview

It's 20 years today since the Doctor Who TV movie starring Paul McGann was broadcast in the UK. Below is my interview with actor Gordon Tipple, who played the "Old Master" in the movie - for all of 37 seconds. It's as published in pages 42-43 of Doctor Who Magazine #497 (cover dated April 2016). Thanks to editor Tom Spilsbury for permission to post it here.



He might have had a 'blink and you'll miss it appearance in the TV Movie, but Gordon Tipple really was a bona-fide incarnation oof the Master...
Interview by Simon Guerrier

“I'm probably going to get in trouble for this,” admits Canadian actor Gordon Tipple, “but I’m not a huge Doctor Who fan.”

So when in early 1996 he was first offered the part of 'The Old Master', exterminated in the opening scene of the Doctor Who TV Movie, did he know what he was letting himself in for?

“Oh, I was certainly familiar with the series and how it had been around for a long time. Going way back to my childhood in the 1960s and collecting monster magazines and stuff like that, I remember articles about Doctor Who and pictures of the Daleks. We couldn’t watch it in Canada then, but we knew about it.”

Born in 1953, Gordon grew up in London, Ontario. A childhood friend was David Boswell, the cartoonist who later created the cult comic strip Reid Fleming, The World's Toughest Milkman. So was Gordon into comics as a child?

“Oh, absolutely. Marvel and DC Comics, and of course Mad magazine. When we were kids, we thought that was just the funniest thing going. We thought it was real, cutting-edge humour.”

“David and I also had a fondness for horror and cheesy monster movies. As kids, we would try and put horror make-up on ourselves using latex rubber. At the time they called it ‘mortician's wax’, and I recall going with David down to a drugs store to try and buy some. The chemist there really gave us the third degree. He thought we wanted to disguise ourselves to pull off a bank robbery!” He laughs. “We eventually convinced him, and he relented and sold it to us. So yeah, we were playing with make-up and effects.”

Does this childhood interest in horror explain the path of his later acting career? His CV is full of roles in horror and science-fiction: as well as Doctor Who, Gordon appeared in four episodes of The X-Files, and two episodes of The Outer Limits.

“Yes, I like that stuff,” he says. “But it wasn’t really my choice to do those specific kinds of things. I’m at the mercy of my agent who puts me out for audition, the cast directors who are willing to see me, and then whether producers and directors like me enough to hire me. So I do all kinds of work. But then, when you get to do something like The X-Files, it’s a lot of fun and brings out the kid in you: ‘I’m going to get horribly killed? Oh, I’m going to love doing this!’”

In fact, Gordon has been killed in a lot of film and TV. He laughs. “Yeah, I was joking about it with a friend the other day. It seems to be, ‘This character really dies a horrible death, who can we get to do it? Oh yeah, there’s that guy…”

Was it his skills at dying that led to Doctor Who – where he’s killed off within the first minute? Again he laughs. “For the audition, as I read my line of dialogue they were just focused on my eyes and eyebrows. I have rather pronounced eyebrows, and they wanted me to be as expressive as I possibly could. So that’s what got me in there.”

We’ll discuss that line of dialogue in a moment, but once Gordon’s eyebrows had secured him the role, “they sent me to an optometrist’s shop downtown to fit me with those reptilian-looking contact lenses. I don’t wear contacts – just glasses for reading – and these things were really thick and uncomfortable. So they just put in one. There was a photography studio upstairs, and they sent me up to be photographed so the production office could see what I looked like. I then go back downstairs to the shop to have the contact lens taken out – and walk straight into a woman who’s come into buy new glasses. I scared the living hell out of her!” He laughs delightedly. “So we knew it looked good.”

When it came to recording, the contact lenses caused Gordon a lot of discomfort.

“My vision was obscured, but I was able to see just enough to get around. The problem was how quickly they dried out. The optometrist had to be there and was constantly putting on eye-drops so I’d be able to actually remove the lenses later.”

Gordon recorded his scenes at the sound stage in Burnaby, Vancouver, being used for the production. For the close-up of the eyes, he was also peering through a mask.

“Originally, in the wardrobe fitting, they had me in a kind of leather bondage mask,” he laughs. “You just saw my eyes, and there was a little vent for my nose so that I could breathe. Everything else was covered. They ended up modifying that so it covered just part of my face, because I also had that goatee thing going on.”

A goatee beard had been sported by the Master in two previous incarnations.

“I think the make-up department was given images of the guys that had gone before and tried to match me up.” Then it wasn’t a real beard? He sighs, trying to remember. “I’ve had a goatee off and on several times in my life, so I’m not sure. But looking at the image of me on set, that does look bigger than what I would have had.”

Gordon Tipple's own photos,
as featured in DWM #497
What Gordon does remember, though, is “the suit that they made for me. You don’t get a chance to see it in the little bit I’m in, but it was this black fabric that looked like little snake scales, and it had red piping. I regret not asking if I could buy the suit at the time. It was very, very cool!” In fact, the suit can be seen in the TV Movie – at the end, when it’s worn by Eric Roberts’ Master, along with his magnificent robes.

As well as the suit, Gordon wore an oddly shaped hat that looked – when seen looking down from above – like the pupil of his reptilian eyes. He was then encased in a sort of cylindrical prison. Director Geoffrey Sax explained in a book on the making of the TV Movie that these sets and effects, though looking computer-generated, were physically created.

“Yeah, that prison was a real thing that they built. Those glowing tubes were this material where you put a light on it and it glows back at you. And they wanted a physical reaction from me when I die. Watch the hat, and you see me moving.”

As broadcast, Gordon’s brief appearance and death are accompanied by narration given by the Doctor – as played by Paul McGann. But the original script has narration by Gordon – and it was recorded. DWM emailed him a link to an audio track. “This is wild lines for Scene 1 apple”, says the voice of one of the crew – possibly director Geoffrey Sax. Then, in a gruff, menacing voice we hear Gordon:

“I hereby make my last will and testament. If I’m to be executed and thus cruelly deprived of all existence, I ask only that my remains be transported back to our home planet by my rival Time Lord and nemesis – he who calls himself the Doctor.” (Readers can find this clip at

There’s a brief pause, and then the crewmember asks for another take, “a little bit quicker, for variety.” Gordon obliges.

“I’m amazed you were able to find that!” he enthuses now. “That was really something. And when I heard it, I remembered the circumstances. After we’d done the filming, we just sat off at the side of the set and they recorded me. And it was wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am – we were done.”

It’s a very different voice to the gently spoken man DWM is chatting with today.

“I don’t recall getting direction per se,” he says. “I guess I was thinking of making it determined, you know: ‘You’ve got me now, but not for long; I’ll be back to get you!’ That was my basic motivation.”

Recording on the TV Movie had originally been scheduled to run Monday to Friday, but Gordon recorded his material on Saturday, 10 February 1996 – the weekends being added because of the complex demands of the shoot. The extra filming day meant that Gordon was “very isolated – I was the only actor on set.”

Did that mean he didn’t meet the other cast members? “No, I didn't, unfortunately. I was hoping to get a chance to meet Eric Roberts, but no such luck. But that also meant I got a chance to look round. They put a lot of effort into making the sets, which were really terrific.”

And what kind of atmosphere was there on set?

“A definite sense of urgency,” he remembers. “You can hear it in that clip – they did the two takes and it’s ‘okay, we keep moving. Thank you very much.’”

His work on Doctor Who was done.

At what point did he learn that his dialogue wasn’t going to be used?

“I didn’t find out until after the fact. I think I saw it when it was televised and of course, my first thought was, ‘That’s not my voice!’” And how did he feel about it? “It’s no big deal. I’d been acting for a while and it’s not a rare occurrence. Pretty much every actor I know has had a situation like that. Your first thought is, ‘Oh my God – I must have been awful.’ But that’s not necessarily the case.” He laughs. “It’s a strange business, acting. You get used to it.”

DWM explains that late in the day the production team thought it better to have the Doctor introduce the story, to give him more of a role from the start.

“I’m inclined to agree,” says Gordon.

He said that acting is a strange business. Gordon spent one day on Doctor Who 20 years ago, but in October 2014 he was a perfect “zero” answer on the BBC One primetime quiz show, Pointless – where contestants had to name actors who’d played the Master, but not give answers other people had thought of. He’s delighted by that. Does he get recognised a lot?

“A bit. The first time was maybe ten years ago or so. I was at an audition and another actor came up to me and said, ‘Scuse me, are you Gordon Tipple? Everybody’s talking about you on the internet.’ I thought, ‘Oh God, what did I do?’ It was because of Doctor Who. I said, ‘Well that was a lot of fun, doing that little bit,’ and told him what I’ve told you. He said, ‘Oh, man, they would love to hear what you have to say.’” So did he go online? He laughs. “I like to keep a low profile. But I’ve had a bit of mail through my agent. Doctor Who fans are really organised – they include self-addressed and stamped envelopes! So I’m happy to send back an autograph.”

In fact, Gordon’s daughter Erin is “a huge fan. When she meets people at parties and they know her dad was in Doctor Who, she’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’m the Master’s daughter.’” He laughs. “Knowing I was going to speak to you, she gave me a lecture on what’s been happening in the series. After half an hour, my head was spinning. I thought it was terrific.” So does Gordon know that the Master is now a woman? “Oh yeah.” He doesn’t mind? He laughs again. “I could come up with some real smart-ass answer, but let’s refrain.”

How does Doctor Who compare to the attention Gordon gets from having been in The X-Files and other popular shows?

The X-Files is still very popular. It’s not uncommon for me to be in a store or restaurant and somebody’ll go, ‘Hey, you’re that guy...’ He cites the 1995 episode Humbug as one that seems to stick in people’s minds. “I played a guy called Hepcat Helm in this story about a freakshow. But I think Doctor Who takes the prize for people’s interest. It’s great that it has fans who are that passionate about it.” DWM

[I previously wrote about the experience of watching the TV Movie at the time, and how things have changed, with guest contribution from Joseph Lidster.]