Peter Anghelides first came to the attention of Doctor Who fans with the release of his novel Kursaal in 2000. Since then he has destroyed Gallifrey, and worked on Big Finish productions as well as producing the Torchwood book Another Life.
He spoke to us recently about his latest release, a Doctor Who BBC Audio Book read by David Tennant – Pest Control…
How did you find your way onto the path of writing Doctor Who novels and audio adventures?
I’d done stuff for fan magazines, including DW and Blake’s 7 novelisations, as far back at the 1970s. But the chance to get involved professionally came a couple of decades later! Some of my pals were writing novels for Virgin Books, back when that company was publishing Doctor Who fiction. I got to comment on drafts of their books. Then when Andy Lane and Justin Richards were editing a DW short story collection called Decalog 2, they asked me to write one of them.
I heard from those same pals that the BBC were going to take over the DW novels from Virgin after the 1996 TV movie. So I found out who the commissioning editor was and sent her a proposal. And that’s how I got to write my Eighth Doctor novel, Kursaal. They must have liked what I did, because they asked me to write an audio story for Paul McGann to read.
As a fan of the series, you must have a favourite writer – also do you have any preference to any particular era of Doctor Who, and how would you compare your favourite modern story with your favourite old series story?
My earliest Doctor Who reading was the original Doctor Who novelisations, back when they were first published. So the earliest authors I enjoyed were David Whitaker (The Crusaders) and Terrance Dicks (The Auton Invasion). Of the more recent novels, I really enjoyed Gareth Roberts’s Only Human.
I was at primary school with Jon Pertwee (as it were), with Tom Baker at secondary school and Peter Davison at university. I find it as hard to pick favourite stories as I’d find it to chose favourite relatives! So it’s tough to choose between (say) "City of Death" and "Blink", or "Father’s Day" and "Talons of Weng Chiang".
Given the success of Paul Cornell and Stephen Moffatt’s episodes (not to mention Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts), are there any other Who writers that you’re surprised haven’t made the leap to small screen Doctor Who?
When you look the ones you’ve named, I don’t know that there are that many of the other DW book writers who have their TV track records before writing Doctor Who.
Joe Lidster is a (very splendid) exception, because he’s got a first commission on Torchwood and now Sarah Jane Adventures. But he’s probably better known for his Big Finish audios than for his short fiction. Paul Ebbs or Martin Day have been establishing their credentials with Casualty and Doctors and Family Affairs. When you look at the most successful of those who write for the novels who then went on to write for the TV series, it’s not like they’d established their credentials for writing telly Who mainly on their Who novels.
I’m more surprised that some of the best novelists haven’t established more of a career for themselves as writers of non-Who fiction – though Daniel Blythe, Justin Richards, and Steve Cole show it’s possible.
How do you feel the show in its current form has benefited from the NA’s/BBC Books and Big Finish?
The books and plays kept the franchise ticking over very nicely while it was off the air. The books were an evolution of the classic series in the same way that the Pertwee stories had moved on from the Hartnell stories – but not abandoned it or changed unrecognisably. And the new TV series is different again from those novels and the audios. The TV series has less of a dependency on them than they did on the classic series, but there are threads of continuity. Not least because people on the TV production team read them and listened to them and loved them.
One of the key elements of the current series is the Time War backstory – how close do you feel it is to the Faction Paradox/destruction of Gallifrey/Last of the Time Lords set up from Ancestor Cell?
I think it’s a happy coincidence. The TV series will have done did it for the same sorts of reasons the books did it – it provides that background for the continuing series, but doesn’t bog it down in decades of continuity.
Finally, one of the great things about being a Doctor Who fan in the old days was the Target novelisations – do you think that we will ever see modern versions of these, with illustrations of Christopher Eccleston fighting the Gelth and the Slitheen lining up on shelves alongside the standard releases?
What a lovely thought. "The cover illustration shows the Ninth incarnation of Doctor Who, whose appearance changed after an untransmitted story about the Time War."
The Target novelisations pre-dated the availability of video recorders, let alone VHS tapes and DVDs and "Doctor Who Magazine" and "Doctor Who Adventures" in WHSmith, so they were the only way to relive those classic stories. You don’t see so many novelisations (of any series) for the older reader these days.
But there does seem to be a pre-teen target market for novelisations of Sarah Jane Adventures and Robin Hood and Primeval, so never say never.
Stay tuned to Kasterborous as over the next few days we have a Pest Control-related giveaway!
Find out more about Peter Anghelides at his website, www.anghelides.org.