My love of classic ‘Doctor Who’–especially the 70s Gothic horror styled stories–were a big influence on my series ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’. I have been reminded of this recently through reading ‘The Doctor Who Handbook’ by David J Howe, Stephen James Walker and Mark Stammers, which delves deep into the background of the production of the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’ with a fascinating amount of detail–collected interviews, production notes and even quotes from memos I’m amazed are still about. Reading all the mixed messages and confusion and opposed departments it’s crazy how the series ever got made. For me, my interest in ‘Doctor Who’ has always been the stories and characters, but also the production and the history around it, and I had always intended to reflect this in ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ by the conceit of rooting it in the real world…
Terrance Dicks, script editor and writer from 70s Doctor Who died this month. Dicks was part of Doctor Who at a pivotal time–the transition from the second actor to play the part to the third, and at a time of massive change for the show. No longer an eccentric time traveller, Doctor Who was to become a man of action grounded and attached to a military organisation in UNIT, defending the earth from alien invaders and mad scientists. It was like nothing which had come before, or would come again, and brought us so many characters Doctor Who fans have come to love–Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, the Brigadier and the ‘UNIT family’ and of course, the Doctors very own Moriarty–the Master.
As a Doctor Who fan finding the series in its final three seasons in the late 80s, there were 23 years of Doctor Who I hadn’t seen, aside from the odd story here and there. Yes, was captivated by the series when it was in what many consider to be its ‘low point’ and final death throes–and still loved it. It’s a solid reminder that while many a fan will bemoan a Doctor or a period of Doctor Who, they will be the hook into Doctor Who for others. I was able to enjoy these unseen stories through the novelisations made by Target. Each one of these books was a gem to me as I read of Doctors and companions and monsters I had never seen or heard of before and wouldn’t see again until Doctor Who crept out on home video release. Terrance Dicks wrote a number of the novelisations, and so, feeling a bit of nostalgia from losing another piece of Doctor Who history, I revisited one of his titles ‘The Web of Fear’.
The story itself was actually one of the ‘lost’ series–episodes which the BBC wiped from its own archives, and was only found again a few years ago (minus 1 episode which went missing after being found–drama). The novel is an exercise in editing–condensing 6 episodes of a TV serial into a 160 page novel. It’s for kids, so it breaks the writing convention of having just one view point in a scene, happily jumping from one person to another to convey the story. Something I took into my early writing until I was told that this was ‘not the way to do it’ unless you are doing something experimental. But it works well here.