As Al is at the helm of a website entirely dedicated to Doctor Who novels, we couldn’t help but wonder where his interest in Whovian literature began.
“I couldnâ€™t tell you exactly which book I read first as I devoured my first five in quick succession. They were The Face of Evil, Time and the Rani, Logopolis, The Brain of Morbius and The Arc of Infinity from the Target range. Having exhausted the Who books in my school library in 1988 I started raiding the local library and found Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen and The Three Doctors amongst many others.
“Theyâ€™re all out of print, but are fairly easily found on the second hand market. I would love to see some of these Targets reprinted in collected editions, but I believe in one impossible task at a time.”
His favourite Doctor Who book:
“Cold Fusion. Iâ€™ve just finished it for the first time. Lance Parkin has woven the mystery of the Other into the Doctorâ€™s past by having the Fifth Doctor meet with the Seventh and a walking part of the Otherâ€™s past. Iâ€™ve always loved multiple Doctor stories and this one has two and a bit.
“Itâ€™s not your standard multiple Doctor story and it works all the better for that.
“This novel isnâ€™t scheduled for reprinting at this time. The BBC are publishing Lance Parkinâ€™s collection of BBC books next year, but sadly Cold Fusion was published by Virgin Books.”
Naturally, Cold Fusion, among others, is at the top of his list of desired reprints.
“The reprints Iâ€™d most like to see are the ones in ‘The Other Doctor’ collection; Remembrance of the Daleks, Cold Fusion and Lungbarrow.
“Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor and I loved the dark direction he was starting to take just before Doctor Who was cancelled. These books in particular expanded on the mystery of the Doctor and I loved the suggestion of the connection between the Doctor and the Other. I especially loved how Lance Parkin in particular tied the Other into previous Doctor Who history. Suddenly it all made sense and the Doctor was larger than life again, just as he should be.”
Long before this interview, when we first spoke with Al, he told us that one of the goals of the DWRS is not only to have Who novels reprinted, but to make sure Who fans are aware of those that are already being reprinted. Thus, as part of this conversation we asked him what he could tell us about the recently-announced 2011 line of reprints, which includes Kate Orman and the ever-brilliant Lance Parkin.
“Any reprint from Lance Parkin would be a dream come true for a collector; to be getting four at once is beyond our wildest expectations. The Infinity Doctors was first released as a celebration of Whoâ€™s 35th anniversary and The Gallifrey Chronicles brought the Eighth Doctorâ€™s line of books to a close. Both these books are a celebration of what the books did for the Doctor. Not that Father Time and Trading Futures are substandard, not by any measure, but those two books just stand out as highlights of the Eighth Doctorâ€™s adventures.
“Kate Ormanâ€™s books are currently listed on Amazon for pre-order although no official statement has come from anywhere about them as yet. Although Kate Orman has suggested, through Gallifrey Base, that you should feel free to pre-order as the worst that can happen is you get a refund. When her books were first listed I was very excited to see The Room With No Doors amongst them and although itâ€™s since disappeared from the pre-order listings I console myself with the fact that So Vile a Sin is still listed. Seeing as it was originally published by Virgin it would set a healthy precedent if it were to be reprinted.”
However, as some books prepare for republication, others are pulled, including the recent shutdown of BBC’s line of free Doctor Who eBooks, which during its time was the modern home of Marc Platt’s Lungbarrow and Lance Parkin’s The Dying Days.
“This is probably good news in the long term; if more reprints are in fact coming it wouldn’t make sense to offer the most sought-after for nothing.”
That doesn’t mean we need to remain quiet about the eBook removal. Alasdair suggests dropping the BBC a line to request either the return of the eBooks or, better yet, the reprinting of the physical ones.
“If the BBC know that lots of people miss these books, it’ll help convince them of the books’ popularity.”
EBooks aside, Al also provided some ways you can help with the reprinting cause as a whole.
“Spread the word. Weâ€™re the voice of the Whovians that want these books reprinted, but weâ€™re only as strong as our membership. At this point in time we number over a hundred, but if we want to be able to produce affordable omnibuses then we need at least five times that number. So, tell everyone you can about us. Every new member makes our voice that little bit louder, so get out there on Facebook and Twitter and join our pages. Stick a link to us into your signatures in your forums and your emails.
“If by some chance you have the ear of any high profile member of the Doctor Who community then let them know.
“You can join [the DWRS] by logging in at our ‘Join us‘ page and filling in your details. You can also join our Facebook and Twitter pages, but itâ€™s the main webpage that determines our true numbers.
“Everyone you talk to about the books that has read them is passionate about them. We need to translate that passion into noise and let people hear us.
“Got a friend thatâ€™s only just found Who? Pre-order them a few for Christmas! Did they love the idea of Jenny? Give them Father Time. Did they enjoy glimpsing Gallifrey at The End of Time? Theyâ€™ll love The Gallifrey Chronicles.
“And if anyone knows how to get hold of Sylvester McCoy or Paul McGann thatâ€™d be good too, we could always do with a couple of patrons.”
If you’ve never read any of the classic novels before, it’s never too late to try something new.
“You could start with one of the Missing or Past Adventures as they tended to be standalone novels. Pick one based on who you preferred as the Doctor.
“Of course the other option is to pick up a copy of The Eight Doctors. It touches on all eight of the then-current Doctors. The Eight Doctors reads like a collection of short stories held together by the Eighth Doctorâ€™s first adventure since the TV movie. Thereâ€™s very little baggage and it serves as an introduction to the Doctor in general and the Eighth in particular. It also has a nice send off for the Seventh.”
“…once you travel with the Doctor you never go back.”
As we all know, nearly every Whovian is able or would like to be able to fondly recall his or her first memories of the Doctor. As such, we were curious about this particular Whovian, and how he became a Doctor devotee.
“One of my first ever memories was my mother sitting me down in front of Star Trek. I can even remember the exact episode, it was the one with the shape shifting salt sucker. I can remember asking why I was watching it and my mother telling me that I always asked to watch Star Trek. Of course it helped that she was a fan of the original series as well, although sheâ€™s never seen anything past the first film. She was also a fan of Doctor Who. The Second Doctor was her Doctor, although she was watching from the First. So, Iâ€™ve always been exposed to the Doctor. I couldnâ€™t tell you the first episode I watched although I have memories of the Fifth Doctorâ€™s start credits. I do remember the Sixth Doctor investigating an old folks’ home in the first episode I can actually remember. But while my interest in the television show ebbed slightly I discovered the Target books in my school library. I devoured various Doctors at speed; what I loved about these books was I wasnâ€™t always entirely sure what Doctor I was reading about, but he was always the Doctor.
“But when I started following the Doctor properly was when the Seventh appeared on the scene.
“I initially discovered the Seventh Doctor through the Target novelisation of Time and the Rani, but I quickly began following his exploits on screen as well.
“Suddenly here was this little odd ball of a Gallifreyan, and one who spoke like me [Al's a Scotsman] to boot. Suddenly a depth was there that was a little lacking in his immediate predecessors. Mystery began to build again regarding just how the Doctor was and right as I was getting seriously hooked they brought him off the air!
“Not that it mattered, I was already hooked and once you travel with the Doctor you never go back. Not really.”