[Whopping great spoilers for my recently released Doctor Who story, The First Wave, follow.]
[End of spoiler warning.]
First I should thank you. Your post is full of nice things about my writing generally. You call me “educated and intelligent”, which is not something I hear a lot. So thanks for those bits.
You clearly don't like The First Wave, and I don't intend to try to persuade you otherwise. But you make a number of claims that I don't think are fair. So I'll address those.
You make a lot of comments about Big Finish generally. I don't speak for Big Finish – what follows are my own opinions – and I'm not going to guess what producers or writers were thinking or trying to do. But there are openly gay and bisexual characters in several Big Finish Doctor Who stories, as well as in related ranges such as Bernice Summerfield and Graceless.
My own experience is that it's tricky writing an openly gay character in a Doctor Who audio story. There's already a lot to set up in a Doctor Who audio: a new location in time and space, created entirely from what characters tell us about it; a plot that hasn't been done before in all the hundreds of TV episodes, books, comics and other audios; an exciting monster and lots of jeopardy. Into that must go the Doctor and TV companion – and under the terms of Big Finish's licence with the BBC, they must be as they appeared on TV.
That doesn't leave a great deal of room for anyone else, so other characters tend to be sketched in lightly – character types that the listener can quickly visualise. I'd argue that we're rarely told the sexuality of any of the characters, heterosexual or otherwise.
Oliver Harper gets more depth than most because I created him as a new companion who'd appear in three stories. But his life and background are still quickly and lightly established. And that means it's tricky to avoid tokenism and cliché, to make him a character rather than a label or manifesto. You kindly praise my efforts in Oliver's previous two stories. Thank you.
But you don't like The First Wave specifically because I “stereotypically, pointlessly, offensively” killed off Oliver, who is gay. I'm sorry for causing any offence. You direct me to the TV tropes page on the “bury your gays” cliché. It's a good, fun piece that makes important points. But look again at what that page says:
“Please note that sometimes gay characters die in fiction because in fiction sometimes people die (this is particularly true of soldiers at war, where Sitch Sexuality and Anyone Can Die are both common tropes); this isn't an if-then correlation, and it's not always meant to "teach us something" or indicative of some prejudice on the part of the creator - particularly if it was written after 1960. The problem isn't when gay characters are killed off: the problem is when gay characters are killed off far more often than straight characters, or when they're killed off because they are gay. This trope therefore won't apply to a series where anyone can die (and does).”“Anyone can die (and does)” is a good summary of the era of Doctor Who in which The First Wave is set. By “era”, I mean Season Three – not, as you argue, the First Doctor's adventures as a whole. In that season, Katarina and Sara die, Anne Chaplet (a sort-of companion in The Massacre) is apparently killed, Vicki is written out during a bloody battle that leaves Steven badly wounded, and Dodo vanishes off-screen having had her brain scrambled.
Actor Peter Purves discusses how abruptly the cast were let go in this period on DVD documentaries on The Ark and The Gunfighters – both of which I worked on. The production team even tried to write out William Hartnell as the Doctor in The Celestial Toymaker, before doing so a few months later in The Tenth Planet. There's a sense in this season that no one is safe and no one gets a happy ending. Steven's own exit from the series in The Savages could have been happy – he goes off to be a king – but that's not how it's played. So what happens to Oliver is perfectly in keeping with the series at the time (something the terms of our licence with the BBC requires).
What's more, a new companion gives us a lot of freedom. Not only can I make him a stockbroker and gay, but I also don't have to return him safely at the end of a story to where he was at the start. That's something we have to do with the TV characters under the terms of our licence. So part of the appeal of creating a new companion is that the listener doesn't know how things will end – or if he will survive.
That's the central point of the three plays featuring Oliver: anyone can die, and the longer they stay with the Doctor, the more they're on borrowed time. The phrase “borrowed time” appears in all the stories, and The First Wave would have been called Borrowed Time had there not already been an Eleventh Doctor novel called that. From that starting point, I tried to write an adventure that was exciting and also moving. You're meant to like Oliver, and not like him dying.
You object to Oliver's “noble self-sacrificing death to save the main [i.e., heterosexual] characters”*. I don't think you're arguing that he should have died ignobly – perhaps screaming for mercy or siding with the villains. And I don't think you're arguing that I've killed him off because he's gay. I think you're arguing that because he's gay I should treat him differently from any other character. You want me to discriminate.
You praise my previous story, The Cold Equations, because Oliver's “sexuality wasn’t constantly brought up, it was just a fact about him.” But I'd argue that you've made his death – and the scene where he helps Steven dress up in The Perpetual Bond – all about his being gay.
I don't expect any of this to change your mind. But remember that I brought Sara Kingdom back from the dead. The return of Oliver Harper would be a cinch.
All the best,
(* I could also point out, pedantically, that the show offers little evidence that the Doctor or Steven are specially heterosexual. But anyway.)