Published on June 30th, 2013 | by Alasdair Shaw3
Lee Sullivan and the Ginger Doctor
I first encountered Lee Sullivan’s work on the covers of Transformers UK, shortly before he started contributing work to Doctor Who Magazine. More recent fans of the series will probably be more familiar with his work in the 50th Anniversary celebration Prisoners of Time from IDW.
However there is a Doctor who falls between the old and new series that most of us may not be familiar with. This Doctor can be found on Lee’s own web page and he looks distinctly ginger.
So, given my love of unconventional Doctors I simply had to get in touch and ask more about him.
Kasterborous: So, do you smile each time the Doctor complains he isn’t ginger yet?
Lee Sullivan: Never occurred to me!
K: He is ginger isn’t he? Or should I adjust the colour on my laptop?
LS: Well, I painted it as ‘sandy’, but that is just the extreme end of the ginger scale, isn’t it? Ginger-lite?
K: Was this ginger Doctor based on anyone in particular? I certainly couldn’t place him.
LS: The only person I had in mind was Alan Rickman, whom I was a great fan of and was a fan favourite to assume the role at that time, I think, but it wasn’t modelled exactly on him, just a sort of back-of-the-mind thing.
K: This was for a BBC sanctioned publication wasn’t it?
LS: It would have been, it never got beyond focus group review. It was the concept of one of my Radio Times editors, Matt Bookman, who wanted put together a dummy magazine for a projected monthly BBC magazine, initially titled ‘Sci-Files’ but by the time it was printed in a very limited run it had become Robot. It was a mix of articles about X Files, Who, the latest SF movies etc. and had strips featuring my Who; Red Dwarf drawn by David Pugh and and an original strip by Garry Leach, who also provided a fine painting of the Lost In Space movie for the primary version of the cover. The dummy mags were numbered ’0′, and sent out to focus-groups of young people to see what they made of it.
They didn’t like it much, and my memory is that the kids didn’t rate strip art much and really didn’t know much about Doctor Who. It all seems implausible now, but these were the pre-’geek-is-cool’ kids and during the Doctor’s wilderness years. The TV Movie was two years in the past and hadn’t made much of a dent in the zeitgeist. Who was probably at its lowest point then, as it looked as if it would never return.
K: I’ve read that this Doctor was to appear sometime after your Eighth Doctor strips for the Radio Times. Was he canon for a brief period of time?
LS: No. Although, if he had made it to the newsstands, the answer would perhaps be different. Doctor Who then was rudderless; no-one at the BBC seemed to care about or even control it.
LS: No, for the simple reason that it predates all of the webcasts, even Death Comes To Time, by three years and in Shalka‘s case, five years. The dummy run date is July 1998. Incidentally, Death Comes to Time was Official BBC new Doctor Who, by the way, and really did represent the show as a living concept at the time. Now of course it’s regarded as non-canon by people who would rather it didn’t exist, because it conflicts with subsequent ‘canon’.
A shame really. Especially as I drew the images used for the animated version.
I am still collaborating with its creator and writer, Dan Freeman, providing visuals for his connected Minister of Chance Internet audio adventures, currently being crowd-funded and starring many luminaries from the world of Who and Blake’s 7. It was nominated for a BBC Audio Drama Award, and I finally got to meet David Tennant at the ceremony, as well as being bought a pint by Sylvester McCoy, who also stars in Minister of Chance. Anyone who likes Who or fantasy adventure should listen to it – the downloads are available on iTunes and they are FREE!
K: So, how much free reign did you have in the design of this Doctor?
LS: As far as I can recall, I was given carte-blanche with the design of the Doctor. I wanted to make him a bit Regency and romantic looking, and the long coat lent itself to a lot of visual movement even when he’s standing still. I prefer the idea that his clothing should be from another time, but not a ‘costume’. I didn’t like the modern clothing idea for 9 & 10, although I suppose they too will look out of date eventually! Matt Smith is looking a bit retro, which is good.
Having just watched a bit of Caves of Fear it seems Gatiss had the same idea about costumes.
K: So, we’d have seen other looks develop then? Would he have kept the coat? (I rather like the coat.)
LS: He’d have kept the coat. I suppose we’d have done what they did with Doctors one to four. Of course, I changed the Sixth Doctor’s costume to shades of blue for Real Time.
K: I’d forgotten you were the first to do that. Was that your idea?
LS: I don’t think it was my idea, but I think I was the first to show it. Maybe it was in a book or maybe one of the Big Finish’s? Anyhow, they made a fine toy of it, which I was very pleased with!
K: And on a related note; are there any other Doctors you think in need of a make over?
LS: I always thought McGann’s costume was a bit feeble, not so much the design as the floppines of the jacket. And of course, ALL the bloody question marks
K: Your take on the Cybermen seems a lot more in keeping with their visual history than more recent TV designs. Did you receive any guidance on how they should look?
LS: There was no guidance from anyone as far as I can remember, but presumably either Matt or Stephen or I decided they would look like a rework of their original design and that’s how they came out.
K: Does Stephen Cole have a full script for the first full strip?
LS: I don’t know – I doubt it. The idea was that he didn’t know who he was and was on his last regeneration: I’m sure Stephen had an idea of where it would go, but I would doubt that he fleshed it out more than a pitch.
K: In a previous interview at Kasterborous you said you’d be disappointed if Davros turned up in New Who, stating that he “emasculated the Daleks as an independent force; downgraded them to Ogron status.” In light of Journey’s End would you care to comment further?
LS: My view stands. He is the creation of a writer who was either too lazy or tired of his creations to bother with the messy business of having them actually talk amongst themselves. I’ve always been exasperated at the tendency (even in the mighty Star Trek) to represent a whole planet’s civilisation with one individual. How would you do that with the Earth, for example? I would always point to David Whitaker’s Dalek Chronicles comic strip in TV21 as the model of treating the Daleks as a race, rather than boiling it all down to Davros.
Even though the Golden Emperor is the focal point and mouthpiece for the Daleks, he is still a Dalek, rather than a mad scientist. I enjoy some of the Davros episodes, but it’s a writer’s cop-out.
K: Your Unusual Suspects pieces are a personal favourite of mine and I know that some of the artists at In Print use them as reference points drawing multiple Doctors. Given that one draft included the Cushing, Shalka and Fatal Death Doctors do you think you could be tempted to issue a version with the ginger Doctor?
LS: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. The Usual Suspects piece turned out to be “The Commission That Refused To Die” as far as I’m concerned, I would be quite happy to do that . . . maybe I will add Ginger Doc to it. I have a feeling that drawing and the subsequent revisions and redrawn permutations of it will follow me around forever, now. It really has taken on a life of its own. The 11 TV Doctors version is due to be released as an A3 poster along with a lot of other disparate material from many sources as a box set during this year. I’m flattered to hear that it’s a starting point for other artists, though.
We’ll be spotlighting Lee’s work further soon in our very own Whispering Gallery. As for the Ginger Doctor? Well we’ve heard of some plans for him in the future, but we’re not quite cleared to discuss them as yet…