Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Doctor Who: The Alternative War

Art by @VIIIJohannes

About a year ago, I connected with Alia E. Torrie (@TheWeegieDoctor) on Twitter and was was quite blown away by what I found on her YouTube channel: musical compositions, acting, narration, singing, you name it. There’s more about Alia on her Spotlight page. Among many other things, she has voiced characters in assorted Doctor Who fan audios released by TT Productions 23. That being the case, I thought it would be quite something to write a Doctor Who script for her. I had a couple of story suggestions but she countered with the concept of playing an alternative version of the Doctor during the Time War. Oh yes, I thought, I can work with that…. The result was Doctor Who: The Alternative War, release date August 17, 2022. Here’s the trailer, and I’ll provide an update when the full release is … released. And here it is.

I finished the first draft of the script near the end of November 2021 and, with Alia’s help, assembled the rest of the cast. Companion to Alia’s Doctor, the multi-talented Abi Louise (@AbiLouise230) plays a young Time Lord, Aliana, who’s destiny collides with the Doctor on Karn, shortly after her regeneration. Jack Reeves (@JackReevesDW), well known in the Doctor Who fan community, plays Mattlin, a human who is trying to rally his people to unite in the face of an imminent threat. Jack also plays one of the soldiers. The cast is rounded out by Zak Rosenfeld (@ZakR1998), who plays some of the soldiers, and Marcus Cotton (@SirJediSentinel), who plays another Time Lord. And I have a line! My acting debut! A blink-and-you’ll miss it line!

I love to hear Alia sing, and thought that it was time we all heard at least one incarnation of the Doctor break into song. I left a placeholder in the script and basically said, “The Doctor sings here.” Alia took the challenge to heart and composed and performed a beautiful, heartbreaking lament that you won’t be able to stop replaying.

The second and final version of the script was finished on December 1. The actors did the recording early in 2022. I found myself facing quite a learning curve as I needed to select takes from the actors and stitch them together. I’ve learned a lot about Audacity this year. Finally, the sound design was provided curtesy of the amazing Jaspreet Singh. I really think sound designers don’t get nearly enough credit, the way they magically place the actors performances in the world. I’d worked with Jaspreet previously on the fan audio, Doctor Who: The Eighth Day.

This script effectively marks my first full-cast audio play. Even my stories for Big Finish were in short story format, not script form. Writing it was a very enjoyable experience, and yes, it’s very different from writing prose, but I think it turned out pretty well. I hope all of you who listen agree. The best part of writing a script, of course, is hearing a cast of very talented actors bring your words to life, wringing emotions out of phrases that you hadn’t realized were buried in there.

In this story, the TV Doctor Who universe and this universe diverge at the moment when Paul McGann regenerates into Alia E. Torrie rather than John Hurt. Alia’s Doctor is very much a Doctor, though is wrestling with a newfound darkness which she is afraid might overtake her. After meeting Aliana, they begin their first mission, encountering unexpected obstacles along the way. As one does.

I can’t wait for you to hear The Alternative War, and if the band is willing to get back together in the future, I’d like to write a sequel.

Mirror Mirror

Following the passing of beloved Big Finish colleague Paul Spragg in 2014, the company initiated the annual Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trip competition. Like many Big Finish listeners, I entered the first competition in 2016.

I lost.

After listening to the winning entry by the great Joshua Wanisko, I immediately understood why. Aside from any other deficiencies, the tone of my story, a light-hearted tale in which the Fourth Doctor encounters Alice Liddell, wasn’t appropriate.

My entry was a story called Mirror Mirror. As per the rules, I provided a one-page summary and a one-page excerpt from the story. While awaiting the results, I completed the story. After Forever Fallen was selected, I posted Mirror Mirror on FanFiction.net.

Time passed, and I recently re-read the story and found I quite liked it. Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the Lewis Carol stories, finds herself in a pocket universe after crawling through the looking glass in her parlor at home. The Doctor’s TARDIS is apparently dragged along by the temporal undertow of Alice’s journey. To escape, they must foil the Red Queen, who is determined that Alice should stay.

Having recently dabbled in audio editing, I thought it would be interesting to narrate the story myself, bringing it to life so to speak. I removed Mirror Mirror from FanFiction.net and installed it in the fanfiction section of my blog. The spoken version is available on my YouTube channel.

Some notes about the narration: Mirror Mirror is very much a Doctor Who children’s story and is narrated as such. Also, I made no attempt whatsoever to “do” Tom Baker. That is beyond me.

As for the art, it clearly makes use of the classic Through the Looking Glass artwork by John Tenniel. I’ve added to it to convey some of the elements that appear in Mirror Mirror.

Having said all that, do please give it a listen. I hope you enjoy it.

Putting Yourself Out There

It can be scary, putting yourself out there. Sharing with the world something you created. Because when you do that, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. Open to criticism. To ridicule, even. No one likes to be embarrassed.

But if you’re of a creative bent, there’s little choice. Yes, you can create things just for yourself. Horde them like Scrooge McDuck, and open the vault once in a while to play with your darlings. That’s a lot safer. But not very satisfying.

We create is for ourselves, but we also create to communicate with others. That communication goes both ways. We communicate with the world via our art, be it writing, illustration, sculpture, acting, sound design, or what have you. And the world communicates with us in the form of criticism, praise (if you’re lucky), or indifference. To say nothing is to speak volumes.

For those of us who write, many began their journeys in one fandom or another. Yes, I’m talking about fan fiction. It’s an attractive place to start because the characters and setting are already established, leaving you free to focus on story. You might also find yourself cultivating a number of friends in the community who support you while you support them. But to make that first step, to post your first fanfic, that’s a hard thing to do. After all, not everyone online is supportive. In fact, there are plenty out there who seem to thrive on spreading misery. They are to be ignored. For what it’s worth, in my fan fiction experience, I never had haters, just supporters, and I count myself very fortunate .

As you grow as a writer, with practice and with the support of your writing community, you might find yourself branching out to original fiction. Or not. We write, after all, for the love of it. There are, at the time of writing, about 76 thousand Doctor Who fan fics posted on FanFiction.net. Several tens of thousands more are posted on archiveofourown.org. There are sites where you can post original fiction and interact with community members of similar interests. Examples include Wattpad and Inkitt. You can also go the self-publishing route if you’re so inclined. I happen to know at least one pretty good self-published book …

This is truly the golden age of creative output. With the tools we have readily available at home, we can easily create all manner of works and make them available to others. And you never know what will come of it. Anyone remember this tweet from Emily Cook?

After organizing this event, plus a number of others, as well as producing outstanding extra content from Doctor Who alumni, Ms. Cook is now a Big Finish producer. Jonathan Carley, who put himself out there as, among other things, an interpreter of the War Doctor, now has two Big Finish box sets in which he has starred. Jaspreet Singh, who has produced, edited, and sound designed a number of Doctor Who fan productions (including my personal favourite, Doctor Who: The Eighth Day), has been doing editing and sound design work for Big Finish. (He also does a pretty mean Third Doctor.)

Let’s be honest. Commercial success in the arts is hard to come by. So while it’s fine to hope for that, don’t make it the sole driver for your output. Create what you create for the love and fun of it, and if nothing else, you’ll be making the lives of those around you a little bit brighter, which is perhaps the greatest success of all.

Just Another Day

I was in the mood for some multi-Doctor silliness. This bit of fanfic is the result.

This is a work of fan fiction. No copyright infringement is intended.

From redmangoreviews.com/

“What?” said Ten through clenched teeth.

“Oh, this isn’t good,” said Eleven.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Twelve, taking in the twelve figures gathered with him on the grassy hilltop. “We’re all here. Same place, same time. Even Not The Doctor over there.”

The Warrior swiveled his head. “Are you referring to me?” he growled. Then, with a haunted look on his face, he added “It’s true. I’m the Doctor—“

“No more!” Nine through Twelve chorused together.

“Well I for one think it’s smashing that we’re all here,” said Thirteen, who had suddenly appeared. “I mean, dangerous and potentially universe-ending, but totally smashing.”

“Now see here, young lady, ” said One. “This matter is extremely serious. It’s no time for feminine frivolity.”

Doctors Two through Twelve whistled silently, shook their heads, and stepped back a couple of paces. After a moment of speechless silence, Thirteen said, “I … I don’t even know where to start with you. Okay, first off — young lady? Seriously? Next to me you’re a babe in arms. I’m thousands of years older than you, so a bit of respect? Or you might find yourself on Skaro without a TARDIS.”

“Skaro?” said One, gripping his lapels. Her words appeared to have had as little impact as rainwater on a duck. “What’s Skaro, then, hmm?”

“Spoilers,” said Eleven as he adjusted his bow tie.

“Look, enough of all that,” said Three. “We need to address the situation. Might I suggest we begin by attempting to reverse the —”

“No!” chorused Four through Thirteen.

Nonplussed, Three glanced at the other Doctors and shrugged his shoulders.

Two retrieved a recorder from his coat pocket and had just put it to his lips when Six snatched it away. “Don’t. Even. Think about it,” said Six.

As he observed Four playing with a yo-yo, Eight cast his eyes outward. The grassy hill upon which he and his other selves stood rose some 50 meters above the surrounding flatlands. And the horizon ….

Nine noticed the same thing. After making eye contact with Eight he said, “Oi! You lot. Care to guess how far it is to the horizon?”

“That must be about seven kilometers,” said Seven.

“Yes,” said Eight. “But have you noticed the gravity? The horizon suggests a small world and yet the gravity suggests a much larger one.”

“Perhaps this is simply a very dense small planet,” said Two.

“The little fellow may be right,” said One, “but I suspect that something else is happening here.”

Two’s eyes widened. “Oh dear,” he said. “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”

“What?” said Three. “Confound it man, just say it.”

“This may not be a planet at all,” said Two. “This might be a pocket universe. Look above us. There’s no sun, so where’s the illumination coming from?”

Eleven turned pale. “I’ve just had a thought.”

“Oh really?” said Twelve. “Well, don’t worry, it’ll die of loneliness in there.”

“Funny,” said Eleven, not smiling. Turning his back on Twelve and addressing the others, he added, “This might not be a pocket universe. This might be a simulation.”

Two’s shoulders slumped. “And here I was having a perfectly splendid nap.”

Five’s eyes widened. “Having a nap you say?” Puff. “Odd.” Puff. “I was napping as well.”

“Look,” said Six, “Why are you always so short of breath?” Shaking his head, he added, “As it happens, the last thing I recall is laying down for a nap.”

It was true of all of them, the Doctors confirmed.

“We really need to put our heads together for this one. Agreed?” Noting the nods from her other selves, Thirteen said, “Contact.”

“Contact,” mirrored the others.

With their thoughts connected, the collected minds of the Doctors reviewed the facts and analyzed countless paths of possibilities, dismissing some, examining others more closely until a thought intruded upon them that was not theirs.

“Oh good, you’re here.”

Releasing themselves from their mental connection, the Doctors gaped at the newcomer. It was a woman, her hair arranged in dreadlocks, dressed in a blue frock coat and waistcoat, kente shirt, with dark trousers and shoes.

Thirteen’s face fell. “Oh no,” she said. The new arrival gave her a wink.

“Do you know this young lady?” queried One. “Is she another one of us?”

“You can just call me … Ruth for now. Thank you all for coming. With your help, I’ll be able to escape this place. We all will.”

“Where are we?” said Ten.

“Who brought us here?” said Eleven.

“And why?” said Twelve.

“The purple man over there was right. We are within a simulated environment. It’s generated by a dying TARDIS trapped within the Vortex. Like a drowning swimmer, it was grabbing for a life buoy, anything to help it. It needed a Time Lord. At last, it detected me, but didn’t have enough energy reserves to transmat me here physically. Instead, it uploaded my consciousness while I slept. The TARDIS created this simulation for me to interact with it. I haven’t been able to help it by myself. Not enough psychic energy. So I suggested that it seek out another Time Lord that I’d met recently.“

At this, Ruth cast her eyes at Thirteen.

“So you are a Time Lord,” said Four.

“That’s not possible,” said Eleven.

“And yet here we all are,” said Ruth with a patient smile. “The thing is, I hadn’t counted on also uploading some of her other selves. So I’m sorry I dragged you away from your sleeping bodies, but when we’ve finished, all of this will seem like an odd dream.”

“Of course, if we fail, if the TARDIS dies while we’re still trapped in this simulation, then we die as well,” said Nine.

“That won’t happen,” said Thirteen. “We won’t let it.”

“The answer seems obvious to me,” said the Warrior. “Set a delayed self-destruct and send our consciousness back to our respective bodies.”

There was silence. “That’s cold,” said Twelve. “Even for you, that’s cold.”

“Is there an alternative?” said the Warrior. “I’d be happy to hear it.”

“We need facts,” said Seven. “How can we access the TARDIS systems?”

“We simply ask,” said Ruth. “Like this.” Looking up and spreading her arms, Ruth said, “TARDIS, please show us your control console.”

A familiar octagonal shape started to appear, but it was blurry, streaked with jagged black and white lines like a CRT display in need of adjustment.

“It can’t stabilize the simulation,” said Ten. “We need to help it. We need to focus all of our concentration on that console.”

The Doctors closed their eyes, faced furrowed with effort, until finally the simulated console solidified on the hilltop.

“Excellent,” said Ruth. “Well done. And now—”

But before she could finish, thirteen Doctors were in a scramble for the console. A shrill whistle from Twelve stopped them in their tracks. “Older and wiser heads, perhaps, eh?” said Twelve, casting a glance at Thirteen.

“Sure,” said Thirteen. “Thanks.” Thirteen and Ruth proceeded to examine the settings and readouts upon the console for several minutes. When they were done, they stopped, made eye contact, and nodded.

“What have you learned?” said One.

“It is possible to save this TARDIS,” said Thirteen. “It needs to regenerate, but can’t. The systems to trigger a regeneration have been damaged. However, with our combined psyches, we could bypass those systems. We just need to pre-program the instructions to first transmit our consciousness back to our bodies.”

“Perfect,” said Five. Puff. “An excellent solution.”

“Are we all agreed?” asked Thirteen. All the Doctors nodded. Glancing at Ruth, Thirteen said, “Good. Now let’s get to work.”

Ruth and Thirteen spent some time programming the TARDIS to return them to themselves just prior prior to regenerating. When it was done, Thirteen addressed the other Doctors.

“Okay, this is the crucial bit. We need to join again and use the console’s telepathic circuit to trigger a regeneration.” Thirteen placed her hands upon the circuit and said, “Contact.”

“Contact,” the others chorused. “Contact,” echoed Ruth.

Opening her eyes, Thirteen sat up. She wasn’t in the simulation any more. It must have worked! Well done us, she thought. She was back in her TARDIS, though the room didn’t look immediately familiar.

Wait a minute. What was this around her neck? A scarf? A very long scarf, in fact. Oh no.

Getting to her feet, the Doctor looked at her reflection in a nearby mirror. She saw a familiar face. Just not the right face. Long curly hair, bright eyes, tweed coat, and, um, she was male again. A female mind in a male body. Well, she wouldn’t be the first. Her eyes opening wide, she realized that meant that he was …. And Yaz was due for a bit of a shock.

Dropping into a chair, she rested her head in her hands and thought, Right. Just another day in the life of the Doctor.

21st Century Who

Spoilers for Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon

Doctor Who, the BBC show that first aired in 1963, defines its own genre rather than fitting into a pre-existing category. It’s not purely science fiction, fantasy, historical, or mystery, though a given episode might have elements from one or more of those genres. Mostly, it’s just … Doctor Who. Which is fine, and we love it for being itself.

Yet as much as I love Doctor Who, there are things that gnaw away at me. Particularly the limited technology the Doctor has at their fingertips. Technology that’s not too far beyond what came with the show in 1963. Let’s assume that the following are canonical facts and go from there.

  1. Gallifrey is among the most ancient, the most advanced planets in the universe (when it isn’t busy being destroyed).
  2. From “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”, we know that the Doctor’s ship can manufacture pretty much anything. Plus, given (1) it stands to reason that this would be the case.
  3. The TARDIS is not only intelligent, we know from various episodes, particularly “The Doctor’s Wife”, that it is sentient.

Given all this, I think it’s fair to ask why the Doctor doesn’t make use of, say, drones. Weren’t they invented on Gallifrey? Suppose we materialize on a planet whose identity, time-period, and politics is unknown. What would you do? Stroll merrily out the door, or perhaps deploy some insect-sized drones to scout out the vicinity and get the lay of the land? I know what I would do.

For another thing, why, oh why, can the Doctor not radio the TARDIS to come fetch them? How many times have we seen the TARDIS materialize, the Doctor & companions go wandering out, only to find that some insurmountable obstacle has separated them from their ticket to ride. If not radio, pick a Time Lordy technology that, say, channels thought waves through the Vortex or some such thing.

Here’s another scenario. Let’s say the Doctor and their companions have run into trouble of the deadly sort. They’re captured and scheduled for execution. Why can’t the Doctor ask the TARDIS to manufacture a platoon of robots to free them? They wouldn’t be allowed to kill anyone, of course. After springing our heroes, the robots would dutifully march back to the TARDIS where they would be disassembled and reabsorbed into the manufacturing apparatus.

Did you notice, in Fugitive of the Judoon, that the Ruth Doctor transmats back into her buried TARDIS? A very useful feature, and it certainly saved a lot of digging. Has a post-Hartnell Doctor ever done that? And by done that, I mean use their own transmat, not something conveniently available on a planet, or a companion’s vortex manipulator.

The Doctor has to push a lot of buttons and pull a lot of levers on the TARDIS console to make anything happen. Wouldn’t a voice interface be simpler? “Hey TARDIS, take me to London, England on November 23, 1963.” They could give the TARDIS voice interface a different personality with every control room revamp. I’d love it to have some snark, and make cutting comments when the Doctor is about to do something dangerous or just silly. In fact, why not give it holographic form and have an actor play the holographic interface. They’ve already done this in the episode, “Hide.” (In that case, the interface took the form of Clara.) They could literally make the TARDIS a character in the show.

The one bit of technology that the Doctor does employ regularly is the fabled sonic screwdriver, which, let’s be honest, bears more resemblance to a magic wand than a technologically advanced device. After all, it can do everything from picking locks, to reprogramming computers, to dropping forcefields. Mind you, to be fair, Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote may be applicable here: “Any sufficiently advance technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But this begs the question, why the screwdriver and nothing else?

If Doctor Who were to bring truly advanced technology to bear, would that damage the kind of stories it could tell? I don’t think so. I think it would open the door to some very interesting story possibilities. Besides, the best stories have always been about how people are affected by their encounters with the Doctor.

Doctor Who: The Eighth Day

Earlier in the lockdown, a few of us collaborated on a Doctor Who fanfic. We call it “Doctor Who: The Eighth Day” and it features the Eighth Doctor and Charley. If you’ve listened to Big Finish audios, the authors might be familiar: 

Joshua Winisko (@CBoogerjuice)

Selim Ulug (@SelimPensFctn)

Harry Draper (@bowtieanimation)

Ben Tedds (@BenTedds42)

Sophie Iles (@sophilestweets)

Max Curtis (@MaxCurtis)

Lizbeth Myles (@LMMyles)

It came about after Lily May Sherratt (@IreneWildthyme) brought together the authors of the Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips for a listen-along. The hashtag we used was #CelebratingPaulSpragg. To keep the momentum going, we came up with the idea of collaborating on a story on Twitter. We’d do it one tweet at a time, with no planning, no clue as to what was coming. We tagged the tweets (when we remembered) with #WhoFicTweets. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, one of the challenges was the 280 character limit. You had that many characters to move the story forward. 

The process became very organic, and additional writers were brought on board. Sophie, then Max and finally Liz. One writer for each day of the week. Josh had Monday, I had Tuesday, and so on. It was a blast. 

Illustration by Sophie Iles

About 2,000 words later, it was done. With the kind assistance of Kenny Smith (@FinishedZine), of Vortex magazine fame, we connected with Conrad Westmaas who would provide the audio narration. Conrad has performed on several of the Big Finish Eighth Doctor adventures, and what a performance he gave here! We were fortunate enough to have Jaspreet Singh (@TheJazNetwork) come on board to work on sound design and to set up the audio production for YouTube. 

If you managed to follow along on Twitter with us, well done! But whether you did or not, do check out the audio. We’re very pleased with it and I think you’re in for quite a treat. Just follow the link at the bottom of the post. We’re also providing a written version of the story. Again, you’ll find a link at the bottom. We hope you enjoy it. 

Aside from the group project, there are individual projects coming up which may interest you. Sophie has a Big Finish Short Tip, part of the prestigious Time Lord Victorious series, and the first to feature the Roger Delgado Master. It’s called Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: Short Trips: Master Thief / Lesser Evils. Liz has a Big Finish Seventh Doctor story, “Doctor Who: The Grey Man of the Mountain”. As for me, look out for a self-published collection of original short stories later this year. 

You’ll find a written version of Doctor Who: The Eighth Day here and an audio version here. The audio version will go live sometime on September 8, 2020. If you enjoy the audio, please consider giving what you can to https://www.mindout.org.uk.

Online Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic affects all of us. Physical distancing guidelines mean we stay at home except for runs to the grocery and drug store. Physical distancing doesn’t necessarily mean social distancing, however. Not completely.

Software such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and others, allow you to interact visually with people from, well, anywhere. Emails, messaging apps, and social media such as Facebook and Instagram also allow us to keep in touch.

It’s not the same, though, is it? Of course, it can’t be, not even if we had Star Trek-like holographic communicators. It’s no substitute for being in the same space with someone. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and we’re lucky that we live in an age where so many means of communication are open to us.

It fascinates me how Twitter has come into its own during this crisis, and has allowed communities to interact with one another in real time. By community, I mean groups of people with shared interests, no matter where they are in the world.

I often write about Doctor Who, and those who enjoy the show and its spin-off media are certainly a kind of community, one which has been very active these past weeks. Emily Cook (@Emily_Rosina), of Doctor Who Magazine fame, has organized several global Doctor Who watch-alongs. She selects an episode, sets up a time, and everyone starts watching at the same time and can contribute to a Twitter dialog. She’s managed to snag previous showrunners Stephen Moffat and Russell T. Davies, and many cast members, including David Tennant and Matt Smith. TardisMonkey (@tardis_monkey) has done the same with some notable “classic” Doctor Who episodes, including “The Five Doctors” and the upcoming watch-along, “The Three Doctors”.

Lily May Sherratt (@IreneWildthyme) has organized some listen-alongs with content from Big Finish Productions. Among these were the four Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips, including “Forever Fallen”, “Landbound”, “Last Day at Work”, and “The Best-Laid Plans”, with live Twitter commentary from the authors, including yours truly. Big Finish themselves recently organized a global listen-along to the Eighth Doctor story, “The Chimes of Midnight”.

There are other types of community projects. For example, for the past few weeks, seven authors of Big Finish Short Trips have collaborated on a Doctor Who fan fiction story, one tweet at a time. With a couple of weeks to go, we’ve just topped 1,000 words. Almost surprisingly, the story is working out pretty well. I say “almost surprisingly” because there’s been no coordinated plotting, and none of us has any idea what will come from a given day’s tweet. It’s been a fascinating experiment in minimalistic writing, because you need to keep your word count down while moving the story forward in some way. All in 280 characters. Look out for the hashtag, #WhoFicTweets.

Aside from being an interesting exercise in collaboration, particularly as I’ve never collaborated with other writers before, I find it’s given me a nice feeling of connection with the other writers. And in these times, we can use all the connections that we can get.

I would urge you, if you’re at wits end during this extended period of lockdown, to seek out community members with similar interests and engage in some activity, be it a creative endeavour or not. Don’t disparage the notion of online friends and colleagues. There are a bunch of people that I’ve “met” online, through writing fan fiction or in the world of Doctor Who, and I’ve enjoyed these relationships very much.

There’s many rewards to be had in the social media space. Just, you know, stay away from the trolls.

The Timeless Children

This (rambling exercise that bears little resemblance to an) essay is about Doctor Who and, in particular, the revelations in the final episode of Season 12. So,

  1. SPOILERS
  2. If you’re not interested in Doctor Who, then I’d suggest waiting until my next post.

So, in no particular order, here are some thoughts and questions.

First, overall impressions. I’m glad they’ve removed the twelve regeneration limit. Given the potential longevity of the show, future writers will be thanking Chris Chibnall. As long time viewers of the show will know, the fact that the Doctor had many lives prior to William Hartnell’s incarnation was first put out there in The Brain of Morbius. But the fact that the Doctor is as old as Time Lord society, older in fact, means that there’s all sorts of room for new kinds of stories in the future, and this is a good thing.

Are you concerned about continuity and canon? Don’t be. Given that we’re dealing with a time traveller, and that within the show time can be rewritten, I share the view of the TARDIS Wikia that there is, in fact, no canon.

This is such a major change for the Doctor Who universe that it surprises me they didn’t save it for the 60th anniversary. Unless they’re going to use that occasion to change everything (again) and bring back Gallifrey (again). How might they do that? I can think of a simple way. But let’s leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Is Tecteun still alive? If so, what’s he/she up to? No one said that she/he limited herself/himself to 12 regenerations.

We all know that the Time Lords are Gallifreyan, but I’ve wondered whether all Gallifreyans are also Time Lords. Now we’ve learned that they are not, and that the ability to regenerate was restricted to those who lived in the Citadel. That seems pretty elitist and it’s hard to imagine how witholding this from the general population wouldn’t have resulted in revolution.

I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of the Sasha Dhawan Master. But, then, this is the Master we’re talking about. Certain death is never all that certain with him/her. Besides, after re-watching his last scene with subtitles on, it sounds like he had a contingency in case the Doctor (or Ko Sharmus as it turned out) actually used the death particle.

We’d previously understood that the ability to regenerate came from the Time Lords prolonged exposure to the vortex over millennia. Now we know it’s actually due to genetic manipulation. That means, possibly, that the race that spawned the Doctor came to be able to regenerate after their long term exposure to the vortex.

What’s next? If I were the Doctor, I’d be headed for the planet where Tecteun found me. If they don’t pursue that angle on the show, it would be nice to have the Doctor to visit places where she’s remembered but she has no memory of having been there.

I love Jodi Whittaker’s Doctor, but we really really need to see more of the Jo Martin Doctor.

The only thing that bothered me about the episode is the scene with the death particle where the Doctor is seemingly faced with two untenable alternatives. She faced the same dilemma on the last day of the Time War: Destroy Gallifrey or let the universe burn. But this time, she can’t do it, presumably to avoid sinking to the level of the Master. So why does she agree to hand it off to Ko Sharmus then leap for the nearest TARDIS? Why is that okay?

A Conventional Weekend

Thanksgiving. A time for family, turkey, and… Doctor Who? Well, yes if you’re in the Chicago area. Last weekend was the American Thanksgiving weekend, and concurrent with those celebrations, Chicago TARDIS led a celebration of all things Doctor Who.

The convention was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and that is oddly appropriate as this was also the 20th anniversary of the first Doctor Who audio from Big Finish.

Big Finish was present in a big way. They had a large booth in the centre of the vendors’ area, with an uncountable number of CDs and box sets. Executive Producer Jason Haigh-Ellery was present at the booth, as was Sue Cowley, whose role, if I recall correctly, is digital asset manager at Big Finish. Jason also ran a daily Big Finish session. The first featured Rhianne Starbuck, who had worked with Tom Baker on a fourth Doctor adventure, Doctor Who: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 01. The second session included Paul McGann, the eighth Doctor, and the third brought in just about everyone associated with Big Finish.

I enjoyed many of the sessions and panels. Of particular interest, I found, was a session in which Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy interviewed each other, then took questions from the audience. Another was where Arthur Darvill provided live commentary on the episode, “The Angels Take Manhattan”. This was apparently the first time he’d seen the episode since working on it. Asked who was his favourite character in Doctor Who, he said “River Song. She gets all the best lines.” He also said that he didn’t wish to resume playing Rory as he and Amy had had a perfect ending, and to add to that would, in his view, diminish that ending. Personally, I think there’s room for many more Amy and Rory stories, but that’s certainly a fair point of view.

The knowledge and love of the fans for Doctor Who was quite extraordinary. I freely confess that, compared to the average attendee, my knowledge of Doctor Who falls into the category of rank amateur. For not only is the TV version of Who 56 years old (minus a few years of hiatus), but there are innumerable books, comics and audios, and somehow, attendees seemed to have more than a passing familiarity with many of them. I still don’t know how they do it.

There was a wedding at the convention, on the Saturday night, I think. And then, to my surprise, the happy couple showed up for work the following day. In another case, a woman thanked the organizers because she’d met her husband of four years at this convention. It also seemed that many friendships had been struck here, and that people come year after year in part to renew those acquaintances. Nice to see how a convention like this can bring people together.

The convention is held in a hotel, with various meeting rooms used for panels, vendors, and artists. It’s oddly informal, as you might find Arthur Darvill waiting for an elevator, or catch one of the guests chatting in the lobby. I ran into Rhianne Starbuck in the corridor and we had a short but nice chat, comparing notes about the north of England. Still, I had to wonder what the regular hotel guests made of the whole thing, with cosplayers, Daleks and K-9 roaming the halls.

Of course, there’s time for a chat with the guests at their autograph sessions. I met Paul McGann and Katy Manning this way. Paul McGann was fully engaged with his fans, and seemed genuinely pleased to have the chance to meet them. And as for Katy Manning, well, there are no words. She was sweet as can be, giving everyone hugs and taking a real interest in everyone. I might have let slip to both of them that I’d written a couple of Short Trips for Big Finish, and this sparked a lovely conversation with them.

This was my first Chicago TARDIS and I wasn’t disappointed. There was so much going on that you had to be choosy, so actually, my only disappointment was that I couldn’t be in two places at once. It’s quite a testament to the history of Doctor Who that so many activities can be set up over three days, and that so many fans would congregate here to compare notes and express their love of the show. You can’t help but leave exhilarated. I don’t expect that this will be my last visit to Chicago TARDIS.

On the Release of Battle Scars

My second short story for Big Finish, Doctor Who – Short Trips: Battle Scars, has been released.

To be completely honest, I’m still high as a kite.

The whole thing started very shortly after Alfie Shaw took over as producer of the Short Trips range. I believe this was in April of 2018. In fact, I had just finished listening to an interview with him on the podcast when he contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in doing another story for Big Finish.

I didn’t have to think about this for very long.

He gave me a one or two sentence “brief”. The story would cover a famous gap in Doctor Who history, revealed in the first Ninth Doctor episode, “Rose”. Clive shows Rose a photo of the Daniels family of Southampton plus “friend”. The friend is obviously the Doctor. The family was meant to have sailed on the Titanic but didn’t. Alfie left the whys and wherefores, and basically the entirety of the story, up to me.

As usual, the first step was to write a one page synopsis and seek the approval of the BBC. This took a while, longer than it did for Landbound, but then this was during the transition between Steven Moffat’s team and Chris Chibnall’s. To my surprise, the BBC rejected the original title, which I won’t reveal. We had to come up with a new one. To be honest, I really liked the original title and my attempts to come up with an alternative were probably half-hearted. I had nothing. Finally, Alfie saved the day and suggested “Battle Scars” which fit perfectly.

At first I was going to make Arthur (the father) the Doctor’s main companion. Then I decided it would be more interesting to tell the story from Connie’s point of view. I love Connie. She reminds me of the precocious boy in the movie, Mr. Holmes, who basically rules the roost. In order to better explore the after-effects of war, Arthur is a veteran of the Second Boer War. Later in development, I made William Spence a veteran as well. Two life-long friends driven apart by the war.

Arthur is in the shipping industry to reinforce the theme of the Titanic lurking ominously just out of sight. And, I reasoned, Arthur’s contacts would have helped him score tickets to the Titanic, which must have been in high demand. The Doctor’s driving his fist through the hull of Arthur’s ship is meant to conjure in your mind what the iceberg did to the Titanic.

After three or four drafts, the story was done. Nicholas Briggs recorded the narration in November. From his comments on the podcast, I believe he recorded Harry Draper’s The Last Day at Work on the same day. And, as also mentioned on the podcast, he was just back from last year’s Chicago TARDIS and was still quite jet lagged. Mr. Briggs, it seems, has far more energy than do I.

On August 30th, as I was getting ready for bed, I thought I would check, just in case Battle Scars was available. And to my delight it was! I sat down to listen to it for the first time. Nicholas Briggs is an amazing actor. For a short story, Battle Scars has a lot of characters. He brought each one to life beautifully. I’m so lucky that he was able to narrate both of my Big Finish stories. The production focusses on the narration, providing thoughtful music in between scenes and sound effects that support the story. I loved it. It was everything I’d hoped for and more.

Once again, working with an editor was marvellous. Alfie was a great sounding board and he wisely warned me away from some wrong turns. With his guidance and helpful suggestions, the story ended up much stronger than it would have been.

You have to hand it to the Doctor Who fandom. There’s nothing like it. In any other genre, publishing a story might result in the odd tweet, a handful of reviews, and that would be it. But when Big Finish publishes your Doctor Who story, the Internet lights up with congratulations and thoughtful reviews. I couldn’t be more grateful for the support from the community.

And now, it’s time for me to start working through my queue of great Big Finish releases.