Q: Why has there been such a long delay between Ferril’s Folly being announced and actually released?
A: I forget when it was first mentioned in DWM, but I seem to recall that Big Finish originally approached me at end of 2007. They liked my proposal, which was set slap bang in the middle of the Key to Time season. Then they asked me to write the conclusion to their “Key 2 Time” trilogy [The Chaos Pool], plus I was already busy with my Torchwood novel “Pack Animals”. So I asked them which they wanted more, and they chose The Chaos Pool, and I ended up writing for the other Romana.
I think doing a Key to Time story so close to their sequel trilogy would have been a bit too similar anyway, and as a result they commissioned Nigel Robinson to do Mary Tamm’s first Romana Companion Chronicle, and set it between Seasons 16 and 17.
Q: Did the story change significantly in the years between the original commission and the final recording?
I’m one of those writers who will cheerfully reuse or cannibalise stuff rather than waste it. I suggested the story as part of something else Big Finish were doing, and I also pitched it as an idea when I was one of the authors BBC Audio was considering for the Hornet’s Nest Tom Baker audios (then rather splendidly codenamed “Felt Hat”, I seem to recall). That was reworked to foreground the Doctor, of course.
But BBC Audio went a different way on that, and the other thing with Big Finish didn’t happen. I asked them if they still wanted it as a Companion Chronicle, and they said “yes” in a tone that suggested they’d never doubted it. The only significant change over three years was that I removed a chase sequence where pylons stalked the Doctor across the landscape, because in the meantime Steve Cole had also thought of that and used it in his BBC Audio Ring of Steel.
Q: Anything you’re willing to say about the character of Lady Ferril herself?
I thought it would be good to have a strong female villain, like Vivien Fey from that era of the programme. And to more strongly differentiate her from Romana’s cut-glass English accent, I made her American. I’m not always convinced by some of the “American” accents we’ve heard on Doctor Who over the years, but Madeleine Potter is the genuine article in Ferril’s Folly. She’s brilliant.