Thursday, May 23, 2024

Doctor Who Magazine #604

Out today, the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine includes "Babies on Board", my set report from Space Babies, having spent the day with the team at Bad Wolf Studios on 23 March 2023.

That's followed by "Baby Love", in which I talk to the team about realising the episode's diminutive guest stars. There will be more from me about Space Babies later in the year...

And then, in "Music's Gonna Flood Back In!" - a line cut from towards the end of the final version of The Devil's Chord, fact fans - I interview Sam Dinley, music assistant to Doctor Who composer Murray Gold.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Doctor Who Production Diary - 1. The Hartnell Years, by David Brunt

"The number of nude photos needed for the Guardroom set has increased from three to six." (p. 647)

This massive, detailed day-by-day history of the making of Doctor Who is a great nerdy joy. The first volume covers the period from Monday, 2 November 1936 (the start of the BBC's regular Television service) to Friday, 4 November 1966 (the day before Patrick Troughton made his full debut as the Second Doctor, having been glimpsed in the closing moments of the episode broadcast the previous week). 

In effect, it's a much expanded version of the 164-page production diary featured in Doctor Who: The Handbook - The First Doctor (1994) by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker. Indeed, Walker is the editor of this new volume, which is published by Howe's company, Telos. David Brunt looked again at the production files held at the BBC's Written Archives Centre used in that earlier version, and also looked more widely - there's an exhaustive list at the end of this volume of the files consulted for individual writers, actors and other personnel, as well as BBC departments.

I should probably declare an interest in that David's research at WAC overlapped my own for the biography of David Whitaker. We liaised a bit, compared notes and shared ideas, and I read a fairly early draft version of this book containing much less detail. There's plenty in the published volume that is new to me. In some instances, we looked at the same evidence and came to different conclusions. 

For example, the book says that David Whitaker "has most likely been appointed as Doctor Who's story editor" by the time of his wedding on 8 June 1963 (p. 49). My guess is that if this were case he'd have been copied into the memo dated Monday, 10 June from head of serials Donald Wilson to everyone else involved at a senior level: assistant head of drama Norman Rutherford (head of drama Sydney Newman being away), drama department organiser Ayton Whitaker (no relation), associate producer Mervyn Pinfield, acting producer Rex Tucker and incoming producer Verity Lambert (who didn't start for another week). Maybe the story editor wasn't considered sufficiently senior for inclusion in this august company, but I make the case in my book for David Whitaker being assigned to Doctor Who on Monday, 17 June.

I'm especially impressed by pp. 104-105, where the weekly cycle of rehearsals, read-throughs and technical runs is spelled out. As far as I'm aware, there's no single document detailing this sequence and it's been deduced from scattered references in myriad different sources. Understanding that schedule illuminates much that follows. We can appreciate the frustration of actor William Russell being given a new six-page scene to learn on Thursday, 20 February 1964, the day before The Wall of Lies was recorded; it's additionally frustrating when we know that after a Thursday morning run-through of an episode for the producer and senior technical crew,

"the cast will normally be free to ... leave early that day." (p. 105)

The other thing that this book illuminates is the frantic spinning of multiple plates at any one moment. Most histories of Doctor Who - in Doctor Who Magazine or the Complete History, or on the DVDs and Blu-rays - scrutinise one story at a time. The Production History lays out how studio production on one story overlapped with filming for the next, the writing and editing of the story after that and planning and budgeting for stories months ahead. At the same time, there was press and publicity, and responses to enquiries about the episodes just aired. 

Detailing the treadmill of production demonstrates, time and again, the problems caused by anyone holding things up, whether late scripts or delivery of props, or the repeated machinations of the Design Department to kill Doctor Who before it even started. It's dizzyingly, exhaustingly fraught. It's all the more impressive that Doctor Who was often so compelling and easy to see why working on this series burned through talent so quickly.

This day-by-day approach is very revealing and has made me make a whole tonne of connections. I'll give the example of one story, to show how it is in fact lots of stories and things happening at once.

On Thursday 26 May 1966, William Hartnell (Doctor Who), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly) and members of the guest cast were in Cromwell Gardens in Kensington for location filming on The War Machines. We're told that this included a high-shot filmed from upstairs at no. 50F (by arrangement with a Mrs Lessing there), and that,

"The location in Cornwall Gardens is diametrically opposite the property where Peter Purves is living at this time." (p. 603)

Hartnell spent that same morning in rehearsals on the preceding serial with Purves (Steven Taylor) and Jackie Lane (Dodo Chaplet). The Savages Episode 3 was then recorded in studio the following day. Both co-stars were being rather abruptly written out of the series, Purves the following week and Lane two weeks later in the middle of The War Machines. The prevailing atmosphere was not great, as Purves told me in 2013:

"I was very disappointed [to leave]. Later, I knew [producer] Innes [Lloyd] quite well and there was no animosity. But I didn't want to go. Bill [Hartnell] was furious. I remember him saying he'd make them change their minds. A few months later, he was gone, too." (Me, interview with Peter Purves for Doctor Who 50 Years - The Companions)

Given this, it's all the more astonishing that the production were there on Purves' doorstep, filming with his replacements.

Also present at the location filming that afternoon were William Mervyn (Sir Charles Summer), whose son Michael Pickwoad later designed more than one TARDIS and Mike Reid (uncredited soldier), later a comedian, host of Runaround and Frank Butcher in EastEnders and Dimensions in Time. There was more notable casting on this story. When the first episode of The War Machines was recorded in studio on 10 June, one of the extras in the Inferno nightclub was Alan Cassell, later the star of Australian TV's The Drifter, written by David Whitaker. Two weeks later, another extra left production during the lunch break to go for an X-ray and then didn't return for that evening's recording of Episode 3; Mike Yarwood is,

"now better known for his later TV career as an impressionist." (p. 620)

That week had been a little fraught anyway. On Monday, 20 June, the first day of rehearsals on the episode were disrupted by Hartnell "still feeling the after-effects" of filming in Cornwall the previous day for next story The Smugglers. Having completed work, he'd had a long trek back to London by train. His second-class ticket from Penzance (p. 606) seems extraordinary treatment for a veteran star of a series and came at a cost: his "travel fatigue" (as the Production Guide puts it) led to a delay in the usual schedule. On 6 July, William Mervyn wrote a letter to Lloyd suggesting that Hartnell should henceforth be transported by helicopter - for all the joking tone, it implies there had been a real problem.

Reading events day by day, I think it might have been the final straw for Lloyd. On 24 June, the day that The War Machines Episode 3 was in studio, the producer notified story editor Gerry Davis that, by arrangement with Hartnell's agent, the star would be absent from whatever episode was to be recorded on 11 February 1967 - in the event, The Moonbase Episode 2. But the problems caused to the schedule following filming in Cornwall surely affected the decision Lloyd was then involved in. On 15 July 1966, three weeks after that memo to Davis, Lloyd seems to have broken the news to Hartnell that his contract would not be extended beyond the next four-part story, The Tenth Planet. Hartnell told his wife the following day that he would be leaving Doctor Who.

I've pored over much of the original paperwork used here and thought I knew this stuff. This exhaustive diary tells a whole new story. Let's have volume 2 sharpish, please and thank you.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Holy Disorders, by Edmund Crispin

First published in 1945, this is the second of the detective novels starring Oxford don and amateur sleuth Gervase Fen. Following the events of The Case of the Gilded Fly, we rejoin composer and church organist Geoffrey Vintner, now in a London cab with a loaded revolver. He also has a telegram from Fen:


We learn that a local organist has been attacked and knocked unconscious, and that Vintner has also received an anonymous letter threatening that he will "regret" any trip to Tolnbridge. So, gun in hand, he heads to Tolnbridge (in Devon), stopping first at a London department store to acquire a butterfly net. There, he is set-upon by a would-be assassin in the midst of the sports equipment. In the ensuing battle, runaway footballs cause chaos on the lower floors of the store.

All this is within the first 10 pages, a mini-adventure like something from a silent comedy setting us up for the main event. As before, this is an arch and witty detective story, but much more in the John Buchan mould than its predecessor. One element of the plot involves a teenage girl drugged with marijuana to do the bidding of the villains, while another involves witch trials from 1705 and a modern-day coven led by a villainous priest, but really this is a shocker about Nazi spies working undercover in England. Oh, and Vintner meets a young woman in Tolnbridge and immediately falls in love.

For all it's fun, and peppered with literary allusions and jokes, the last few chapters are really suspenseful - Fen is kidnapped, badly beaten by the villains and there's added resonance here in the fact that these Nazis ruthlessly use gas to dispose of their victims. Rather than ill-fitting the light comedy / cost detective story stuff, this real-world horror works extremely well. The eccentric, idiosyncratic Fen is nonetheless a hero, still cracking jokes as the villains rough him up, in a manner that reminded me of James Bond in Casino Royale. There's something, too, of the plucky spirit of Went The Day Well? (1942).

 "'Do talk English,' said Fen, with a touch of acerbity. 'And try to stop imagining you're in a book.'" (p. 218) 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Annie Bot, by Sierra Greer

Gosh, this is good — and thrilling, disturbing and difficult to put down. Annie Bot is all told from the perspective of a robot owned by 34 year-old Doug Richards. She’s a “Cuddle Bunny”, mentally and physically programmed to please him. Sensors score his displeasure our of 10, and we get a constant running total. The same is true of Annie’s own libido. Keep Doug happy and she will be happy, too… but he keeps giving out mixed signals. 

Slowly, Annie learns to understand him — and herself.

“It occurs to her, eventually, that Doug and all the other humans talk about their lives with a myopic intensity, sharing singular, subjective opinions as if they are each the protagonist of their own novel. They take turns listening to each other without ever yielding their own certainty of their star status, and they treat their fellow humans as guest protagonists visiting from their own respective books. None of the humans are satellites the way she is, in her orbit around Doug.” (p. 215)

Effectively, the book picks up where The Stepford Wives ends, told from the perspective of one of the robots. We’re often ahead of Annie in noting and processing things. For example, there are Doug's bookshelves: 
“For fiction, he is long on Poe, Grisham, Wolfe, L'Amour, Hemmingway, Nabokov. There's a paucity of female writers and writers of color.” (p. 152)

Or there's a character they meet and seem to get on with, until Doug and Annie discuss the conversation later.

“'Could you tell she was trans?' he asks ... She waits, expecting him to explain why this is relevant, but he doesn't add anything more.” (p. 164)

Some things are innocuous, some feel more like red flags. The effect is that we're on the watch-out, too, for warning signs of his anger. One key, early clue to put us on our guard is that we learn Doug had Annie built to resemble his ex, only that Annie is less black. He’s also controlling (something his ex seems to have noted, too) and when Annie doesn’t please him there are punishments.

But Doug has also allowed Annie to be ‘autodidactic’, and the more she experiences and reads, and the more that Doug treats her unfairly — or even with cruelty — the more she comes to question the strictures of her existence…

Fast-moving and suspenseful, this is also a novel of big ideas. Annie is just one of a whole world of robot slaves, including ‘Stellas’ for domestic housework, ‘Hunks’, ‘Nannies’, ‘Abigails’ and ‘Zeniths’. Then there’s the industry to support these machines: commercial interests, scientific research and even a robo-psychologist who helps humans and their robot partners — Dr Monica VanTyne is more counsellor to them both than engineer fixing robots in the style of Asimov’s Dr Susan Calvin.

We cover a lot of ground, touching on the ways different people are affected by or implicated in this system. I’ve just read Alex Renton’s Blood Legacy so was very conscious of the parallels with slavery. But I think this is also a novel in a particular tradition of sci-fi.

Earlier this year, I went to an event where Jared Shurin talked about his new Big Book of Cyberpunk. That includes a long and insightful introduction in which he grapples with what cyberpunk actually is, but at the event itself he suggests that the US and UK tended to have their own distinctive kinds of stories. In the UK, those stories were often railing against Thatcher - the punk attitude to the fore. In the US, a lot of stories tended to focus on the knotty philosophical question of “Can I fuck my robot?”

See also:

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Doctor Who: Deathworld

Artwork for Doctor Who - Deathworld, showing the first three Doctors Who plus companions Jo Grant, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Jamie McCrimmon
Big Finish have shared details and Sean Longmore's lovely cover artwork for Deathworld, a very special Doctor Who audio adventure that will be out in July. It's adapted by John Dorney from the original story by Bob Baker and Dave Martin that was later reworked for TV as The Three Doctors (1972-73). 

"The First, Second and Third Doctors become caught in a temporal game of chess played between the President of Gallifrey and Death itself," says the blurb.

The cast includes Stephen Noonan as Doctor Who, Michael Troughton as Doctor Who and Tim Treloar as Doctor Who, with Katy Manning as Jo Grant, Jon Culshaw as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon. 

Doctor Who - Deathworld is directed and produced by David O'Mahony. I was script editor on this lost story, having previously adapted Prison in Space and The Mega, and produced last year's The Ark and Daleks! Genesis of Terror.

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Doctor Who - The Unfolding Text, by John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado

There’s a fun moment in the Doctor Who story Dragonfire when the Seventh Doctor is required to distract a guard. Some other adventuring hero might cosh the guard on the head but the Doctor instead politely asks him about the nature of existence. 

The guard turns out to have strong opinions on the matter and the Doctor is soon out of his depth:


You've no idea what a relief it is for me to have such a stimulating philosophical discussion — there are so few intellectuals about these days. Tell me, what do you think of the assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes? 



Doctor Who and the Dragonfire by Ian Briggs (1987)

The question is drawn directly from an academic book on Doctor Who, in a section applying some ideas originated by Keir Elam — now professor of English literature at the University of Bologna.

“What Elam calls the semiotic ‘thickness’ (multiple codes) of a performed text varies according to the ‘redundancy’ (high predictability) of ‘auxiliary’ performance codes.”

While this might at first seem impenetrable, authors John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado immediately unpick its meaning.

“Thus, for instance, if the sets, music and so on were simply to reinforce the actors’ performance without adding to it or inflecting it in the direction of new associations, but simply overlaid the acted ‘pace’ and ‘drama’ with their own, they would be relatively redundant, serving only to bind together the text’s temporal unfolding. On the other hand, in the Williams/Adams story, City of Death, the use of music and sets in the scenes featuring the Count and Countess was more entropic, drawing on motifs which some audience members recognised as ‘very forties’, and therefore potentially relocating the stolen art theme in terms of, say, The Maltese Falcon.” (The Unfolding Text, p. 249)

In fact, the production of Dragonfire might have learned something from this and benefited from the same kind of added richness.

I’ve been busy over the past fortnight researching and writing a bunch of things and The Unfolding Text has been useful on more than one. First published in 1983 to coincide with Doctor Who’s 20th anniversary (so covering what’s now one-third of Doctor Who’s history), it was part of a “communications and culture” range published by Macmillan and executive edited by Stuart Hall and Paul Walton. Alongside The Unfolding Text were an academic study of James Bond and titles such as The Politics of Information, Culture and Control and Reproduction Ideologies.

My memory of the book, having read it while doing English Literary Studies at UCLAN in the last millennium, was that it’s heavy going, that sentence spoofed in Dragonfire representative of the whole. There’s certainly a lot of technical language but this time I found it all enjoyably gossipy.

The authors spoke to cast and crew from the past and then-present of Doctor Who, and attended rehearsals and recording of the 1982 story Kinda. Their media studies approach is quite different from the interviews published in fanzines, Doctor Who Magazine and other sources from the time, which tended to focus on what happened when, building up a timeline of production. Here, we get deeper insights into the thinking behind creative choices and a sense of what these mean. That’s especially revealing when people involved in making Doctor Who talk about stories they didn’t work on.

How fascinating, for example, to hear Douglas Adams — script editor on Doctor Who 1978-79 before becoming the best-selling author of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — explain why he didn’t like Logopolis (1981), written by his successor.

“In comparison to what we were doing, the new ones [episodes] are terribly, terribly slow. We seem to have endless, endless wanderings round and round the same point. I think that, in the time we were there, there was this sheer weight of ideas we managed to pack in — the sheer number of events and things going on … In contrast, in Logopolis we … did seem to spend ages and ages wandering around and around and around the interior of the TARDIS.” (pp. 219-220)

Then there’s where all this wandering led. Adams says he'd expended considerable energy in clarifying the “final threat” of any given story and “what the villain actually wants” (p. 170). He could see that reintroducing the Master — in the story preceding Logopolis — made plotting much simpler because he’s effectively the “guy in the black hat” and we can take for granted that he’s up to something bad.

“But to my mind that in the end means ‘boring’ because why does a guy want to take over the universe? … At the end of Logopolis suddenly you had the Master broadcasting a message to the entire universe, which to me just doesn’t mean anything. There’s nothing you can visualise there, and there’s nothing that actually has any meaning in any real world.” (p. 171)

Logopolis still haunts my imagination but it’s fascinating to hear Adams explain what he saw as fundamental shortcomings, the issue of tangibility illuminating his time on the series and the stories that followed. The sense is that, had he stayed in post, he wouldn’t have commissioned Logopolis. And he could critique the story because, even after leaving Doctor Who, he kept on watching and puzzling over how to make it work.

So, these interviews offer us authoritative insight into Doctor Who. Yet there’s something odd about the authority of this book. I’m especially conscious of this as the author of books and magazine articles about Doctor Who, and rereading The Unfolding Text has sparked a whole load of thoughts about my approach to authority.

For example, in citing Adams, the authors of The Unfolding Text repeatedly refer to him as “Doug”. How we refer to people has an impact on the way we perceive what they say. “Doug” is not Adams’s name professionally — he was always credited as “Douglas” — and I’d never heard him referred to “Doug” elsewhere. That suggested that the authors were on particularly close terms with Adams, which might then explain why he’d been so candid. My sense of the authors’ authority was coloured by the way they used his name. 

But I checked with Kevin Davies, editor of last year’s best-selling 42: The Wildly Improbably Ideas of Douglas Adams, who’d known Adams very well. And he told me that, no, Douglas wasn’t “Doug":

“I think it’s safe to assume the Unfolding Text guys didn’t really know him.”

And that recolours my sense of authority here: if the authors got that wrong, what else might not be right?

While the authors clearly had access to production and many members of the cast and crew, they lacked access to archive materials more readily available now. That leads to some errors of fact.

“Though Donald Wilson, head of series/serials, also hated the [first] Dalek story, Lambert went ahead on the grounds that the next planned story, Marco Polo, was not ready.” (p. 42)

For one thing, Wilson was head of serials — there was a separate head of series at the time. For another, Lambert wouldn’t have considered replacing Marco Polo with the Dalek story. When it began, Doctor Who alternated historical stories with sci-fi, so you couldn’t swap one for the other. In fact, the first Dalek story was brought forward to replace a serial then called The Robots

Besides, I think the above is cribbing from a mistaken belief among fans that two-part The Edge of Destruction was commissioned at late notice to fit between the Dalek story and Marco Polo because of delays on the latter. We now know from contemporary paperwork held in the BBC Written Archives Centre that that isn’t what happened at all — which I go into at inordinate length in my recent book for the Black Archive

The most striking issue of access in The Unfolding Text is how little the authors have been able to see of old episodes on which to base their judgements. Chapter 1 devotes a lot of time to the very first 25-minute episode, An Unearthly Child (1963), and a similar level of depth is given in Chapter 6 to the Fifth Doctor story Kinda (1982). Coverage of the Fourth and Fifth Doctor’s eras is pretty wide-ranging, I suspect because it’s a recent memory for the authors and those they spoke to rather than that they went back and watched episodes anew. Discussion of the Second and Third Doctors’ eras is predominately focused on one story each, neither of them particularly representative of that period of Doctor Who. From the index:

‘Krotons, The’  61, 69, 74-81, 91-7

‘Monster of Peladon, The’ 9, 52-4, 86-91, 106, 114, 182-3, 188, 224, 280

How different things are today, with almost all of Doctor Who up on iPlayer for researchers to research and for readers to check. It's also easier to check the correct titles of stories — The Unfolding Text refers to Masque of Mandragola and Castravalva on occasion, but also spells them correctly on others. And it attributes a line of dialogue to the wrong production team:

“With the exception of the Troughton era, Doctor Who has fundamentally adhered to the original brief of Verity Lambert and David Whittaker (sic) that the Doctor should appear as a ‘citizen of the universe and a gentleman to boot’.” (p. 100)

I don’t mean to nit-pick: it’s more that these things all illuminate something I’m very aware of at the moment — how access to old episodes is changing the ways that fans can and do engage with Doctor Who’s rich history. In what I write now, I can direct readers to watch episodes for themselves rather than spelling out what happens, and I can leave them to judge for themselves rather than offering an opinion. It’s a surrender or sharing of authority. But that also makes me realise how seldom The Unfolding Text provides synopses of the stories it mentions, given readers at the time were generally unable to see them again. We must take these authors on trust.

Some of the people interviewed hold pretty sexist views, not least on the role of the Doctor’s companions. This can be very revealing about what made it to the screen. Sometimes the authors also challenge the people interviewed but I think there’s a danger that things said by cast and crew then inform or even dictate the analysis.

For example, producer John Nathan Turner explains how the regular characters in the 1982 series were designed to appeal to a broad audience:

“We’ve got the young heroic Doctor who hopefully appeals to everyone, especially the ladies. We have a female companion called Tegan, who is 24, nice figure, nice legs who appeals to the men. And we have two young companions, Adric and Nyssa, who are both 18-19 and are there for audience identification — the younger audience.” (p. 207)

This is very different to what he inherited a year before from Douglas Adams and producer Graham Williams. Indeed, Nathan Turner thought that the mature, knowledgeable line-up of the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9 was “ludicrous”.

“There was no reason for the Doctor ever to have to explain anything to Romana. So that all conversation between them either became very bitchy to impart the plot, or else it was an unreasonable scene where the Doctor has to say, ‘Well, there’s part of your education that you don’t know about, and here it is…’” (p. 217)

When, exactly, is Romana “bitchy”? With episodes now readily available, we can go look for ourselves. Without them, we can only go on Nathan Turner’s say-so.

To be fair, the authors dig into these claims a bit, citing his “nice figure, nice legs” comment twice on the same page before asking him if there had been only tokenistic development of female companions.

“I don’t think it’s tokenism. Certainly the feminists would like Tegan. It just makes for greater drama between your regulars if you’ve got an aggressive girl who tends to think she knows best. It’s not tokenism in any way. It just makes for a better line-up if there is friction.” (p. 218)

But that doesn’t really square with what he said before, which the authors don't really address. Worse, I think, is that The Unfolding Text pursues a line of analysis directed by what they’ve been told and the terminology used.

“In … his second season, Nathan-Turner also reintroduced the 1963 element of Doctor and companions who don’t always ‘get on with one another’ but — very consciously — for ‘character’ rather than ‘bitchy’ reasons. … As with Barbara and Ian [in the 1960s], Tegan’s ‘bitching’ relationship with the Doctor was generated by his inability to return her [home].” (p. 217)

Even in quotations, it’s deploying “bitchy” as objective rather than objectionable. Do Barbara and Ian have a “bitching” relationship with the Doctor? How does the “friction” generated by “aggressive” Tegan differ from the “bitchy” Romana? Is that really the word to use? Go watch those episodes again and I think the answers are no, no and no.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Doctor Who Magazine - 50 Years of the Fourth Doctor

Just over 50 years ago, on 2 April 1974, actor Tom Baker was in Studio 1 at BBC Television Centre to record his brief appearance in the final shot of Planet of the Spiders - and his first as Doctor Who. The episode was shown on 8 June. The official Doctor Who Magazine marks this anniversary with a special edition out today, 50 Years of the Fourth Doctor.

There are new interviews including Richard Unwin's chat with Louise Jameson and Matthew Waterhouse, Robbie Dunlop's chat with Janet Ellis and Graham Kibble-White's chat with Dave Gibbons. Robbie also met with June Hudson, the costume designer of the burgundy version of the Fourth Doctor's costume seen in his final year in the programme, and with Mark Barton Hill who now owns that coat. How lovely to see a photo of the label, with Tom Baker's name written in under the address of Morris Angel & Son Ltd, the costume house Hudson employed to cut the coat.

It's prompted me to post on the Koquillion site the article I wrote about the Fourth Doctor's Season 18 costume and my chat with Ron Davies who cut the coat

I've also got two pieces in the new special edition:

pp. 22-25 The Doctor Who Wasn't
A very different version of the Fourth Doctor can be glimpsed in surviving draft scripts and other evidence.

p. 82 Many Happy Returns
He left our screens after 1981's Logopolis - or did he? The Fourth Doctor was never far away.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Refracted Lives - Bernice Summerfield fanzine

I've been sent printed versions of the extraordinary Bernice Summerfield fanzine Refracted Lives which is otherwise available for free online as a PDF. It's a beautiful thing, made to an extremely high standard and everyone involved should be justly proud. Ivq, who kindly sent me this package, also included various other bits of fan-made merchandise including art cards and key rings, which my daughter has already nicked.

The fanzine was produced to mark 25 years since space archaeologist Bernice Summerfield began her adventures on audio, and in so doing created the multi tentacular monster that is Big Finish.

In the late 1990s, I contributed to the first ever Benny fanzine, Oh Yes It Is! and in 2003 got to write for a Benny in a short story anthology edited by her creator, Paul Cornell. The following year I was commissioned for an audio play, to edit an anthology of my own (the first time my name appeared on the cover of a book) and ended up being script editor and producer. It still seems completely nuts and impossible, and I'll always be grateful to star Lisa Bowerman, creator Paul Cornell, big bosses Gary Russell and Jason Haigh-Ellery, and all the other brilliant people I worked with.

Also, it is somehow coming up 15 years since the Inside Story. I need a small lie down.