Monday, May 04, 2009

Short Trips recollections

Doctor Who: Short Trips - Re:CollectionsBoo! the range of Doctor Who short-story anthologies, Short Trips, comes to an end this month. Yay! it ends with a MASSIVE BIG SALE and new best-of volume, Re:Collections, featuring one story from each of the 28 volumes published in the last six-and-a-half years. I’ve chosen and written introductions for stories from the three Short Trips books I edited. Excitingly, another editor chose one of my stories as one of his favourites.

I owe Short Trips a lot. My first professionally published (i.e. paid for) work of fiction appeared in the very first volume and I got to contribute 16 more stories to the range – I think that’s more Doctor Who short stories than anyone else has had published. Woo me!

In an effort to get you to try the MASSIVE BIG SALE, here’s the ones I wrote plus some exciting top facts:

1. “The Switching” in 1. Zodiac (December 2002), edited by Jacqueline Rayner
  • An adventure of the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, with the Brigadier, Captain Yates, Sergeant Benton and the Master
  • Body-swap stories are a bit of a cliché in sci-fi shows, but I stole this from the Buffy episode “Who are you” (February 2000), in which Buffy swaps bodies with bad, bad girl Faith, and none of Buffy’s friends notice
  • My other pitches included a first Doctor story where he met his evil son, and a third Doctor, aliens-invading-Earth story, because they’re cross the Beatles split up
  • I had a lot of help from writer Jonathan Morris – which I rewarded in my next story
2. “Curriculum Vitae” in 2. Companions (March 2003), ed. Jacqueline Rayner
  • An adventure of Polly, with a reference to the seventh Doctor and Ace, and a cameo from someone who might be Tegan
  • A story in Julian Barnes’ “The History of the World in 10½ Chapters” (1989) about a former astronaut made me wonder if the Doctor’s former companions had trouble with booze and religion and relationships
  • Music industry supremo John Eliot Maurice is a tribute to Jonny Morris, who used to work for Mute
  • Companions also features “A Long Night” by Alison Lawson, a lovely story about Barbara Wright’s mum Joan, who I borrowed for my first Doctor Who novel, The Time Travellers (November 2005)
3. “An Overture Too Early” in 4. The Muses (September 2003), ed. Jacqueline Rayner
  • An adventure of the third Doctor and Sarah-Jane Smith, with the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton and another of the Doctor’s companions but it is a surprise
  • This was a late replacement for someone else’s story falling through (no, I don’t know who)
  • I had just a week to think up, have approved and then write a 7,000 word story about the third Doctor and music
  • The idea came while shuttling between two freelance jobs on the Tube, and recognising a tune on another passenger’s Walkman, but not being able to place it
  • This story led to two further commissions: my writing of the Brigadier got me The Coup (December 2004); and the story itself led to editing 18. Time Signature (below)
4. “A Good Life” in 5. Steel Skies (December 2003), ed. John Binns
  • An adventure of the eighth Doctor and Charlotte Pollard
  • This reused elements of my first pitch to Big Finish when they invited unsolicited submissions, for a Doctor Who audio called “Killing Demons”
  • I wanted to show a side of Charley we wouldn’t glean from her audio adventures – hence she’s not nearly as chirpy as usual
5. “The Immortals” in 6. Past Tense (April 2004), ed. Ian Farrington
  • An adventure of the fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan
  • I originally pitched this as a first Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki story – and it would have included elements I later used in The Time Travellers
  • I came up with the story after reading “Longbow” by Robert Hardy – who, of course, played Peter Davison’s elder brother in All Creatures Great and Small
  • Mang is my favourite name from Kipling’s Jungle Book – it’s the name of the bat
6. “Categorical Imperative” in 9. Monsters (August 2004), ed. Ian Farrington
  • An adventure of the fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, with the first Doctor and Susan Foreman, the second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon (we don’t see the second Doctor but I assume he’s there, too), the third Doctor and Jo Grant, the fifth Doctor and Tegan, the sixth Doctor and Peri, the seventh Doctor and Ace, and the eighth Doctor and Charlotte Pollard
  • This story was inspired by a line from the Doctor’s line in Genesis of the Daleks (March-April 1975): “If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you it would grow up evil, to be a dictator who would destroy millions of lives – could you kill that child?”
  • The version I originally submitted included a brief cameo by the newly cast ninth Doctor. I took my cue from Jonny Morris, who snuck a glimpse of Christopher Eccleston into The Tomorrow Windows. But Big Finish aren’t allowed to make even oblique reference to the New Series, so my effort had to be cut. Here’s what I originally wrote:

    “Sarah sighed. He was being difficult again. Who else could she have meant, anyway? That little guy in the straw hat? Actually, she thought, he could be a Doctor too. She looked up and down the queue again. Quite a lot of them weren’t dressed like royalty. Every five or six places in the line was some dandy or eccentric. A young man in a beige coat, a sprig of greenery in the lapel. A Byronic sort with a flashy silver cravat. A wiry man with a gaunt, hawk-like face. They all had that same steely look about them, that righteous determination.”

    Later, it’s Rose who offers Ann a top-up of coffee.
  • The Doctor Who – the complete adventures website makes a bold stab at identifying where the different Doctors are in their lives in this story
  • If I’d been clever, I’d have had the eighth Doctor and Charley’s bit lead directly into “A Good Life” (above), but I only thought of that after the story was published
7. “Last Christmas” in 11. A Christmas Treasury (December 2004), ed. Paul Cornell
  • An adventure of the seventh Doctor
  • I pitched three stories to Paul for this anthology – this one, one that I wrote up a year later as “Christmas on the Moon” (below) and one about a cleaner in a hospital on Christmas Eve, who helps the seventh Doctor and Ace
  • All three ideas, I think, aimed to emulate the New Adventures Doctor Who books of the 1990s – the first time I’d try to write in that style since my teens
  • In my head, it takes place in the Richard I on Royal Hill, Greenwich – my favourite pub when I lived round the corner
8. “How You Get There” in 13. A Day in the Life (June 2005), ed. Ian Farrington
  • An adventure of the seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield
  • I used to get the 185 bus which features in this story; It goes through Camberwell, near the housing estate which doubled as Rose Tyler’s home
  • Endwell is named after the road that the Big Finish production office used to be on
  • The climax takes place in the tower at Millbank, also used as Tobias Vaughn’s base in The Invasion (November-December 1968)
  • Excitingly, Ian Farrington chose this as his favourite of the book for Re:Collections
9. “Christmas on the Moon” in 15. History of Christmas (December 2005), ed. me
  • An adventure of the sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe
  • I originally pitched the idea for this story to Paul Cornell for A Christmas Treasury (above)
  • I didn’t pay myself for this story, but I liked the idea so much I wrote it as a free bonus
  • Astronauts Gire and Jackson are named after mates from university
  • This is the first Doctor Who I wrote after seeing the New Series (I was already well into The Time Travellers when the series began, and had to deliver it before the broadcast of Dalek)
  • Hoping the book might be picked up by new fans who only knew the ninth Doctor, I wrote the back-flap biog of the previous Doctors – which was then used on all the other Short Trips books (Gary Russell added it to the previous Short Trips book, 14. Solar System, and came up with the “An Adventure of…” tag under each story title)
10. “Incongruous Details” in 17. Centenarian (July 2006), ed. Ian Farrington
  • An adventure of the sixth Doctor with Emily Chaudry and Will Hoffman
  • Ian Farrington asked me to write this story, picking up from the cliffhanger at the end of Joe Lidster’s story in 13. A Day in the Life; it features two of the characters we created for the UNIT series
  • This story is set in May 1940, though the blitzing of London didn’t happen until much later (this was a set-up for the third instalment of the story)
  • It also sees the debut of the Mim, the sponge-like shape-changing creatures I created for the Bernice Summerfield range (and which were inspired by a thing on QI about how you can liquidise a living sponge and it will put itself back together)
11. “DS al Fine” in 18. Time Signature (October 2006), ed. me
  • An adventure of the eighth Doctor with the sixth Doctor and Sergeant Benton
  • This story ties up all the threads running through Time Signature – which are all a follow-up to “An Overture Too Early” (above)
  • Inspired by Russell T Davies’ brief for the first series of the new Doctor Who, I provided all the authors with a one-paragraph brief which they could then build their stories around
  • The story changed at the last minute when one of the other authors dropped out of writing a fourth Doctor story; I brought back the character Eddie Robson created for his story to bridge the gap
  • The one-paragraph brief for the missing story was:

    “The fourth Doctor hears the tune again, and runs in to Black Rose and White Tulip. He still doesn't know who they are, or what the tune is that they're after. But for them, this is before they've recovered the tune, so in effect the Doctor has told them where to find Isaac.”
12. “The Best Joke I Ever Told” in 19. Dalek Empire (December 2006), ed. Nicholas Briggs with me
  • An adventure of the sixth Doctor with Melanie Bush
  • This story features the planet Guria, created by Nick Briggs for his Dalek Empire series – he says the name is a coincidence
  • It was inspired after I nattered to Nev Fountain about his putting Doctor Who in-jokes into his scripts for Dead Ringers
13. “The Eighth Wonder of the World” – available as a free PDF – in 19. Dalek Empire (December 2006), ed. Nicholas Briggs with me
  • An adventure of the sixth Doctor with Evelyn Smythe
  • This story is full of classical references and in-jokes nicked from the Dr’s research; I’ve done the same thing with The Slitheen Excursion
  • The book Evelyn has just read about the discovery of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is probably From The Harpy Tomb to the Wonders of Ephesus
14. “There’s Something About Mary” in 21. Snapshots (June 2007) ed. Joseph Lidster
  • An adventure of the fifth Doctor, the sixth Doctor and the seventh Doctor, with UNIT
  • This story is set in Preston and Reading – I was a student at both
  • The music video Mary is entranced by as a child is Little Wonder by David Bowie; the fantasto-brilliant bass player with the horns and hoof-boots is Gail Ann Dorsey
15. “The Great Escapes” in 23. Defining Patterns (March 2008), ed. Ian Farrington
  • An adventure of Lucie Miller (with the eighth Doctor somewhere in the wings)
  • The original idea for this was a way of doing a two-hander Bernice Summerfield play; I almost used the same idea as the opening bit of The Pirate Loop
  • Joe Lidster’s comment on the first draft: “Not much to say really - it's lovely. I was hoping Dr Who was going to be hiding inside one of the robots!”
(I briefly considered trying to abide by my own rules for 26. How the Doctor Changed my Life (September 2008), ed. me, but decided instead to include the original competition rules and my feedback to entrants.)

16. “Do You Smell Carrots?” in 27. Christmas Around the World (December 2008), ed. Xanna Eve Chown
  • An adventure of the first Doctor and Steven Taylor and the fifth Doctor
  • This story is set in Reading, and follows much of my route into town when I lived there
  • I originally pitched it as being set in late 1999 – when I left to move to London
  • Originally, the snowmen would have sheltered in the almost finished Oracle shopping centre; being set in 1982 I had to ask a couple of Reading residents for their memories of what was different
  • Steven Taylor’s piloting skills also get a mention in The Drowned World
17. “Pass It On” in 28. Indefinable Magic (March 2009), ed. Neil Corry
  • An adventure of the second Doctor and the sixth Doctor
  • I sent Neil four ideas, and he asked for either this one or “the son of Doctor Who” – which I originally pitched for 1. Zodiac (above)
  • I also didn’t specify which Doctor it was in the pitch; Neil chose the second Doctor, who I’d always avoided before because I find him difficult (this is something I discuss in my introductions for Re:Collections)
I also pitched for 7. Life Science and 25. Transmissions, but not well enough to get in. You can learn a whole devil more about the Short Trips range on Wikipedia. And get bargains galore in the MASSIVE BIG SALE.

1 comment:

Le Mc said...

WOW. Sadly I have this list on my wall that grows ever longer with things I cannot afford to buy. I will save up. I will find the money. Aaaargh.