The Red Lines Page

May 22, 2016

Frontier Worlds: Reviews

Filed under: drwho,Frontier Worlds,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 4:21 pm

A big hand for this bookThis page is one of several on this site about my novel Frontier Worlds. They are all linked from this main blog post here.

These reviews of my second Doctor Who novel are from newsstand publications, online bookstores, and the web — including various online fan sites. Since I first collated these some years ago, several of these review sites may have gone offline.


Reviews

Newsstand

Doctor Who Magazine

TVZone

DreamWatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online bookstores

alphabetstreet

amazon.com

amazon.co.uk

barnesandnoble.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web

Ratings Guide

“Thomas Jefferson”

Robert Thomas

Robert Smith

Jason Miller

Graeme Burk

Dan Perry

Eva Palmerton

Andrew McCaffrey

Mike Morris

GallifreyOne

Edward Funnell

Lea Ann Hays

Brian Copeland

Ultimate Eighth

Happy Guy

Jagaroth

The Cosmic Cafe

 

Newsstand

Doctor Who Magazine

“Exhilarating,” wrote Vanessa Bishop. “Had the Fox network continued to produce Doctor Who movies, fare such as this would have suited them well […] Like the Movie, Frontier Worlds cuts through all of Doctor Who’s pretensions, returning it to being designed to frighten.” She commented on the book’s “slick, cheeky and unbearably tense action, paced with espionage, chase sequences and seductive interludes [… a skilful] fusing of Doctor Who and 007-style exuberance […] The pace is maintained even when dealing with the Doctor’s terminally dysfunctional companions.”

“On the other hand,” she observed, “Frontier Worlds isn’t so fast that it forgets its heart. It soberingly explores both senility and suicide, but—as is the novel’s rule of thumb—also finds action with which to illustrate these ideas.” In sum: “Anghelides writes a roller-coaster.”

Frontier Worlds was voted best Eighth Doctor novel of 1999 by the readers of Doctor Who Magazine. Of 486 people who voted for any book, 336 rated the novel and it achieved an average score of 73%. “Hoorah!” said reader Colin Francis. “This is real TV Movie material. I can easily imagine Paul McGann in this. More importantly, this book was fun!” Paul Laville added: “The best thing I’ve read in ages. The plot was slightly contrived in places, but there was an action-packed storyline that gripped from the first page to the last. No recurring Doctor Who monster or villain, and no cod characterisation.”

“I thought I was done with the Eighth Doctor books for good,” explained DWM reader Tom O’Leary. “But Frontier Worlds saved the day. Can you tell the new books editor that we want more stories like Anghelides’, and less like Miles’, Magrs’and their ilk?”

TVZone

“Traditional Doctor Who, somewhat incongruously placed within a radical story arc [that] adds depth and style to the usual formulas.” John Binns gave Frontier Worlds 8/10 in TV Zone, though “readers who are whole-heartedly enjoying the Arc, I suppose, can add a point or two to the above score”. John wrote that “Anghelides’s take on Fitz is perhaps the best of the range so far and easily the novel’s best asset”. He felt there were echoes of the TV serials “The Caves of Androzani” and “The Seeds of Doom”.

Not an enthusiast for the continuing story arc, John observed that the book contained “plot details the size of France [that] are simply irritating, no matter how skilfully acknowledged they are.” Nevertheless, he thought the book had “a generally high standard of writing and certain passages—such as a blinding ‘Doctor versus villain’ dialogue scene—an absolute joy to read.”

DreamWatch

“The plot […] is well told, and starts with a fabulous ‘pre-credits’ sequence that wouldn’t disgrace an Indiana Jones movie,” wrote Paul Simpson. “Although it becomes a little preachy in places, this is an enjoyable novel.” Paul disliked the “annoying” first-person narration by Fitz: “while Peter captures some of his nuances, he becomes a little too two-dimensional. Compassion, on the other hand […] is starting to become the most intriguing figure of the series.” He rated the book 8/10.

Online bookstores

alphabetstreet

“A fairly traditional story, which is no bad thing when handled this well,” wrote Paul Reeve on the alphabetstreet site (now defunct), rating the book 8/10. He thought the first-person narration “initially a little OTT but quickly settles down into an interesting character examination.” And he thought the book featured “a fantastic robot, which was a lot of fun”.

Paul Holgate rated the book 9/10, describing it as “a heady mix of James Bond style action, laced with the classic Who style of the Hinchcliffe era.” He thought the book could almost be a contemporary version of TV serial “The Seeds of Doom”: “It would be quite easy to imagine this as a glossy TV movie, had the original McGann film been successful, firmly bringing the series into the new millennium with a fast paced, visually stylish production, whilst maintaining the classic shock value and horror that Doctor Who provided so well in the early 70’s.” While acknowledging that it is not “a thinking man’s science fiction story”, he concluded that it was “a fast paced adventure you will find this exhilarating […] Excellent stuff.”

Tim Phipps thought the book more traditional and “far less oppressive and depressive than the last three books in the series”. He preferred it to Kursaal, and it reminded him both of a Justin Richards-style novel and “the days of Ace being frosty in the [Virgin Publishing] New Adventures”. Tim was one of the earliest reviewers to observe that “the arc has less to do with the Time Lords, Faction Paradox, the nature of the universe and everything as it has to do with Compassion.” He rated it 8/10.

The reviewer wawan garenk also rated it 8/10, describing it as “a fairly traditional story, which is no bad thing when handled this well: corporate espionage meets genetic engineering and the traditional men with deadly secrets. Parts of the book are written in the first person, which is initially a little OTT but quickly settles down into an interesting character examination, and there are just enough twists and turns to easily keep the reader’s interest (and a fantastic robot, which was a lot of fun).”

amazon.com

“The universe is not enough!” was Kevin Patrick Mahoney’s punning reference to the contemporary Bond film in his review, which rated the book 4/5. Kevin (one of amazon.com’s Top 500 Reviewers) spotted “daredevil stunts”, “hired grunts on skis” and “even blood-red fisheyes. The only thing missing is the theme music, although the adrenaline of the prose more than makes up for it.” He noted that it was “another very topical Doctor Who novel [though possibly] the author has revealed a great lack of imagination by not bothering to provide much of an alien environment.”

Kevin also notes a previous-story connection, both in the monsters and the Doctor’s violent behaviour, but “to his credit, Anghelides makes no reference to ‘The Seeds of Doom’, and instead concentrates on telling his own story, which is highly compelling and very witty.” He thought the book “a joy to read”, and the characterisation “superb”, particularly Fitz: “What Anghelides has managed to do seems impossible: he has breathed life into Fitz, given him new vibrancy [by] having much of the novel narrated by Fitz in the first person, and in doing so performs miracles. It’s a device that works incredibly well here, and harks back to the very first Doctor Who book, when David Whitaker presented the Doctor’s exciting adventure with the Daleks through the eyes of Ian Chesterton.” All in all, he decided a considerable improvement on Kursaal.

An unnamed British TV Fan from United States also thought the book much better than Kursaal. “The only problem I had was the fact that the TARDIS crew was in the middle of a mêlée at the start of the book, but things did catch up about 40 pages later. After that moment, things did pick up to where the story wrapped up nicely.” He rated it 4/5. (This review seems to have vanished from the site subsequently.)

Andrew McCaffrey lists the novel on amazon.com as one of his Top 12 BBC Doctor Who novels (see also Andrew’s review below), and Jason Miller puts it in his Top 10, commenting “Doctor Who” returns to clever storytelling” (Jason also has a review below). djperry also puts it in his Top 10, and if this is the same as Dan Perry you can read a review of his below too.

amazon.co.uk

“If only the more recent TV outings of Doctor Who were as consistently inventive and exciting as this BBC series of novels!” exclaimed Barry Forshaw in the first of two main reviews for the novel on amazon.co.uk. “With Peter Anghelides’ Frontier Worlds, we have another adventure of the eighth Doctor written with wonderfully created new locales, plotting that fires on all cylinders and a characterisation of the Time Lord that is richer and quirkier than anything we’ve seen in TV Doctors in years.” Barry liked the book’s “rich atmosphere and menace, and the extra attention given to the TARDIS crew pays off in dividends.” He was reminded of Ridley Scott’s movie Alien. “Another winner in an ambitious and arresting series.

David Howe agreed: “A magnificent adventure yarn. Engrossing and very, very enjoyable.” The novel’s “nail-biting start” reminded him of a James Bond film. In addition, “Anghelides has managed to do what none of the previous authors have managed and this is to make Fitz and Compassion come startlingly to life” and the Doctor “is also extremely well-written and defined”. He expressed the view that the regulars’ interactions were “so well drawn that it’s a pity that Anghelides is not writing the next few books.”

A highpoint for David was the emotional aspect to Fitz’s attachment to Alura: “the eventual outcome will leave you reeling with surprise and horror.” He also suggests there are similarities with a previous TV Doctor Who serial though “handled here in a somewhat different manner.” In sum: “A fine return to form for the range.”

In another customer review, an unnamed reader from the UK rated it 5/5 and said the book “should be up there with the Doctor Who classics” as it was “one of the best of the BBC book range. It is gripping throughout.”

Another unnamed London, UK reviewer gave it 3/5, rating it “Disappointing–too slow and uncertain […] All the ingredients were there for an exciting story but somehow they never managed to make up a satisfying whole for me. The characterisations were strong and memorable but the plot less so, a bit too much intrigue and espionage and not enough solid action.”

Reviewer “dirk” thought it was an “entertaining mix of killer vegetables and office politics”, a great book which “reads terribly easily, dragging the reader through a plot that blends genetic experimentation and sinister corporations in a style that owes an awful lot to a Bond movie.” He thought the books greatest success was the portrayal of Compassion, “the Doctor’s superbly amoral new companion. It’s worth reading just for the scenes with her in as she plots, schemes, kills and scowls her way through with all the grumpy charm of a hungover Emma Peel.”   He rated it 4/5.

From Lisbon in Portugal, reviewer “jvalmeida” thought “the strange narrator changes, the atmosphere, the coluors and the sound he shows to the reader are on the verge of a big novel, whatever the genre or time”. He picked out the depth of characterisation in the Doctor, and the “beautiful puzzle” of the story, and gave it 5/5: “decent, professional and creative writing that is offered. Not some lunch-time-writing so often published in this kind of spin-off books. Thanks Mr Anghelides.” (Thank you, jvalmeida.)

barnesandnoble.com

John Montz added: “I really enjoyed reading this fast-paced and exciting book. Fitz and Compassion come alive in this book. A must read.” He rated it four stars out of five on barnesandnoble.

Web

Ratings Guide

As with Kursaal, original reviews at Robert Smith’s Ratings Guide site were less enthusiastic.

Ratings Guide: “Thomas Jefferson”

“Dumb and dumber” was the assessment of pseudonymous reviewer “Thomas Jefferson”, whose abiding memory of the book is one sequence where Fitz breaks into Sempiter’s office: “to accomplish this, Fitz has to do at least 20 utterly, painfully stupid things in the space of about 30 pages […] I never thought we’d see this sort of lazy writing in a Doctor Who book.” He adds: “Peter Anghelides fancies himself as a bit of a humorist [but] he seems to have a problem with transferring this to his novels. His previous book Kursaal was a bog-standard Doctor Who tale with a few jokes here and there. Frontier Worlds is a bog-standard Doctor Who tale with a companion who seems to have had a lobotomy.”

“Thomas” sometimes missed the point (for example, he misreads the American slang “I almost fell off my chair and really bruised my buns” as an “utterly stupid copy mistake”), but anyway he was thoroughly unimpressed with the style: “ambition not matched by capability [and] bad plotting […] There is also a lot of padding”. He disliked the first-person narration (“wanders around all over the place”) and spotted everything in the book before it happened (internal logic, credence and occasionally surprising your reader really is a must if you want to be a good Doctor Who writer”). In sum: “His plotting’s atrocious and he just can’t deliver the wit to compensate.”

Ratings Guide: Robert Thomas

Robert Thomas said he didn’t expect to like it from the moment he looked at the cover. “Then along came a poll in a magazine proclaiming it as the best EDA of the year. I purchased the book out of curiosity, looked up the previous reviews and started reading with optimism.” He was to be sorely disappointed: “I thought it was all a joke nobody had told me about. Be warned the beginning is dreadful, one of the worst starts to a book ever.” And although he thought the book picked up in the middle, “towards the end though things rapidly sink to average bearing on mediocre. Fitz and Compassion take centre stage and nearly [ruin] the Doctor’s plan. Don’t ask how, I’d given up paying attention at this stage.”

Ratings Guide: Robert Smith

“Surprisingly good,” wrote the site’s editor-in-chief Robert Smith, though “it falls apart a bit at the end […] the book peaks at the moment Reddenblak turns up […] the rest of it runs fairly predictably” with one twist at the end “painfully clear”. In addition “the jokes are either very old, very lame or both […] the novel equivalent of everybody’s father with a collection of jokes that were never particularly funny in the first place, recycling them with comfortable regularity every birthday party.”

Robert thought the Doctor had his moments, “especially his interactions with the robot […] but he still doesn’t seem to be able to sustain an interesting character.” All too often the Doctor was “commonplace. I can’t figure out how you can take a truly complex and fascinating literary character like the Doctor and make him average […] It’s tough to see the authors almost visibly struggling to give the Doctor things to do.”

Nevertheless, these gripes aside, Robert concedes that “Frontier Worlds is very good indeed. It’s no world-shaker, true, but at the moment I think that’s very useful.” It was “a novel that’s traditional in all the best ways […] The entire thing feels very much like a Doctor Who book should, which is every bit a compliment”. It had “all the right ingredients for a good Doctor Who story. I should probably include a naff monster in that.”

He particularly picked out the characterisation of the companions: “I honestly can’t remember the last time we got characterisation this good or rewarding.” The Compassion material “works nicely. It’s good to get more of a sense of her, as she’s a bit of an odd character, almost unintentionally complex. I liked all the references to Interference here, which really helped establish a lot of perspectives on the aftermath of that juggernaut.”

As for Fitz: “It’s about six months late, but we’ve finally got the Fitz novel we always knew the line was capable of […] I can’t believe it’s taken this long: honestly, Fitz isn’t a tricky character, he really isn’t.” He bemoaned the absence of a physical description for Fitz, though “this allows for shock tactics like the one seen in this book: we find out that Fitz is ugly.” That said, “The first person narrative is wonderful and I’m really sorry we didn’t get the whole book like this [and] I’m a bit disappointed that we needed to have this explained within the text itself.”

Top marks from Robert for the Fitz/Alura romance, a “heartbreaking love story […] Peter Anghelides cleverly recognised that not only do we not need to see the cheesy pick-up lines and all the getting-to-know-her scenes, but the book becomes far stronger for not seeing them. Alura’s importance was astonishing, since we saw her through Fitz’s eyes.” Thumbs up for the book’s portrayal of Fitz, then: “Frontier Worlds puts a lot of the other EDAs to shame: I’d honestly forgotten about Fitz’s tendencies to imaginative impersonations and the like, since we haven’t seen hide nor hair of it since his second book. It did make for a nice effect here, though, probably far more than the author had any right to expect.”

So “despite some complaints, Frontier Worlds is a very good book. It’s frustrating because you can see how it could very easily have been so much better.” Robert’s conclusion: “A little unfocussed in places and the ending really hurts the book, but it still comes recommended.”

Ratings Guide: Jason Miller

Jason Miller also hadn’t expected to like the book so much. It “really is the surprise hit of the year […] I went into this book with low expectations.” This was because of his suspicion that the book’s cover was a Vervoid hand [from TV story “Trial of a Time Lord”] and the book’s blurb summarised TV story “The Seeds of Doom”, combined with his belief in Kursaal as “poor (if harmless)” and in its author’s “inability to write anything longer than a thirty-word rec.arts.drwho Season 18 continuity pun.”

“So, all over the place, Frontier Worlds defied my every conception […] this a new story, contemporary and fresh, examining an alien race and its invasion of a planet without ever showing that alien!” Jason also liked the handling of the companions: “Compassion has become quite my favourite BBC companion […] Her scenes here are marvellous bits of storytelling—her fight scenes, her seduction scene, her quiet pep talks with Fitz.”

Fitz too impressed Jason, especially his relationship with Alura, “the best romance DW has seen since Love and War […] The writing of this is restrained, and marvellous.” Indeed, this was a good conclusion to the decade: “We leave 1999 with one of the finest bits of sheer storytelling in the range since Seeing I. Read out of sequence, Frontier Worlds may be more banal than other books. But it is part of a chronology of books, and coming when it did, it’s with great regret that I finally had to set [it] aside.”

Ratings Guide: Graeme Burk

Graeme Burk also saw the novel as “a delightful improvement” on some other 1999 books. In another of the reviews written for this site, Graeme said: “1999 must go down as the worst year ever for Doctor Who prose fiction […] Frontier Worlds is by no means a perfect book. It takes only a few risks, but takes them in a calculated fashion [and] most of the time it plays it safe as an action-thriller.”

Although he thought the Doctor was absent for much of the novel, “those scenes he’s in, he’s unmistakable as a character. We finally, after almost seven months worth of books where the Doctor is completely impotent and incompetent, get a Doctor who is in control of the situation […] The Doctor positively shines in Frontier Worlds. He is everything the Eighth Doctor should be: Quick witted, physical, funny, sweet, caring, whimsical, working a few steps ahead and a few steps behind simultaneously.”

Frontier Worlds restored Graeme’s faith in the companions, too. He liked the view of Fitz’s “outsider and pretender qualities [and] the first person narration is very effective to get into Fitz’s head.” Graeme is one of the few reviewers to comment on the slow change in Fitz’s narration from shallow impersonation to deeper insight. “It works brilliantly.” He also thought the narration “gives us a staggering insight into [Compassion]. It’s shocking what she’s actually capable of doing and being.”

So Graeme enjoyed it as an action-thriller with “clear, crisp prose that, a lot of in-jokes aside (the exchange between the Doctor and the robot on page 228 is very droll), isn’t written to show how much cleverer than the material the author is”. It had “an engaging story which is surprisingly ambitious in its scope”. He rated it 8.5/10: “One hopes that the books for 2000 will take the lead more from Frontier Worlds than from other, perhaps more ambitious but much less satisfying books published this year.”

Ratings Guide: Dan Perry

Dan Perry wrote for the site as yet another person who “had some severe reservations about Frontier Worlds.” But “so much for expectations. I loved this book.” He liked it as “an intelligent ‘trad’ book” with no “bizarre narrative tricks [..] no deep allegories on the human condition, nor are there petty swipes towards the ideas of other authors.” He enjoyed it for its “solid plot, engaging characters, whirlwind action, regrets and repercussions, and some of the coolest genetic mutations this side of the Marvel universe.”

He especially liked Compassion’s character (“she rocks to the extreme”), and was fascinated that Fitz was becoming a doting companion. And “the entire situation with Alura highlights how torn he is between doing what the Doctor wants and forging off to create his own life.” Was the Doctor credible? “He’s the Doctor. What more can I say, really?” Plus the villains were “fantastic, from the hovering menace of the alien to the more-palpable menace of the corporation heads”.

Dan also commented that the novel “should be mandatory reading for all authors who want to work references to past stories into their story. It even sustains the arc story without explicitly referring to the arc!”

Ratings Guide: Eva Palmerton

Eva Palmerton summarised the novel as “temporary relief for insomnia […] I can’t say it was better than average”, and scored it 5/10. “It took me far too long to plod my way through this book […] I was happy with the plot and overall storyline. It just took forever to actually get into the story. All the answers are revealed far too quickly […] nothing exciting happens until Chapter 15! Thankfully, I can say that from that point on it was considerably harder to put the book down.”

Highlights for Eva included the characterisation of the regular cast which “allowed me to really get a much better grasp on their personalities”. She also liked “the present tense dream sequences involving the cosmic dance imagery”.

She was less enthusiastic about the other characters and surroundings, who were either confusing or “throwaway characters”. “Anghelides uses very broad brushstrokes in his writing. All the details go into the personalities of the people, while the physical detail of the people and scenery is a bit like a fuzzy photograph.” She didn’t like the point of view changes either, which was “overly ambitious”, especially the disorienting opening to Chapter 7. And although Eva enjoyed the Sinatra gag, she could have lived without “all the toilet humour” and the use of “the same one-liner […]   as a plot device”.

Ratings Guide: Andrew McCaffrey

Andrew McCaffrey wrote that “Frontier Worlds is one of the most entertaining EDAs that I’ve read.” Despite its “relatively unambitious plot” it was “so well written that we can forgive it that”. He commented favourably on Compassion (“more like a companion than a grumpy, faceless, arc-related plot-device”) and Fitz, saying “Peter Anghelides has really brought to life two companions who had started to slip into blandness in the preceding books.”

He liked the first-person narration, which “raised the book from a fairly standard runaround to an interesting story told with a lot of wit.” As for the Doctor, it was “a refreshing change” to have him know what’s going on, and to see him being “charming, witty, easily distracted, intelligent and resourceful – everything that the Eighth Doctor has the potential to be.”

Ratings Guide: Mike Morris

Mike Morris, reviewing the ‘Compassion Arc’ on the Ratings Guide, had this to say about Frontier Worlds: “A fine book, very Who-ish, that manages to be a rather exhilarating adventure even as it sticks to the themes of the arc itself. Quite an achievement.”

GallifreyOne

GallifreyOne: Edward Funnell

Edward Funnell enjoyed Frontier Worlds more than he’d enjoyed Kursaal. It was “very traditional Who”, and he also seems to have read reviews that I haven’t which refer to Hitchcock, Alistair McLean, and Frederick Forsyth. “But what it also has more than any other book this year is a feel for a good Who story.”

Writing on GallifreyOne, Edward noted the topical issues of genetically-modified food and a link to the Krynoid of “The Seeds of Doom”. “ The concepts are dealt with efficiently, and the broader implications of the exploitation are rendered intelligently. However, a degree of sophistication might have been useful in truly examining the ethics of characters directly involved in exploitation.” As for the people involved in the book, “morally they are redundant”, though he likes the dilemma faced by Fitz and Compassion: “Can you destroy what should never have existed is an interesting point for confrontation.”

Edward thought that the author created “a real world,” recognisable in the everyday aspects of the Frontier Worlds Corporation. There is a “good plot” with a number of intriguing mysteries, but “the prosaic prose takes a little while to define them” Like a couple of other reviewers, Edward is also disappointed that the reason for the TARDIS arriving on the planet is not made clear (it’s in the book but obviously not clear enough!). At least he enjoys the action scenes, where the book “succeeds in not alienating the reader by making each incident intelligent”.

As to the regular characters, Edward ilkes the fact that “the Eighth Doctor is not a superhero [and] Anghelides is the first to get this across convincingly.” He also note the Doctor’s reliance on his companions to be “part of a team to effect whatever result he has in mind”. And in particular, “Fitz has never been better than he is in this book. Anghelides provides emotional depth which elevates him from cheeky chappy.” (Edward particularly praised the Alura story.) And the scenes with Compassion were “the most sensible portrayal of the character thus far.”

“In the end,” he concludes. “Frontier Worlds is a surprise. There is no doubt about it. […] Anghelides has matured and has produced one of the best traditional books in the range.”

GallifreyOne: Lea Ann Hays

Frontier Worlds fleshes out the characters of Compassion and of Fitz especially with considerable skill, while being a classically-themed science fiction tale,” wrote Lea Ann Hays. She thought Fitz’s masquerading as “Frank Sinatra” was “ a wonderful delusion of grandeur “. She recognised his “wounded pride” and was “a character to empathize with in first-person narration.” And she recognised that Compassion “wants to be that same cold and unfeeling person.”

Lea Ann comments on the environmental aspects of the story, as well as a “seeming soapbox about personal responsibility for that corporation’s hypocrisy in professing to produce more food while destroying the environment.” She mentions similarities between the story and TV’s “The Seeds of Doom”, picking out Sempiter’s character as “ever-so-closely resembling that of Harrison Chase”.

For Lea Ann, the book succeeds “in focusing on genetic experiments and their implications.” She noticed a walk-on role called Rhadoon Haroon, whose name was inspired by the Venusian lullaby lyrics in the TV story “The Curse of Peladon” (in the absence of anything better coming to mind when   wrote I that character). And she is the only reviewer I’ve read who noticed that the chapter titles are all “named after Sinatra songs, but still tried to capture the essence of the chapter, which I found entertaining.”

GallifreyOne: Brian Copeland

“I can’t honestly rave enough about this book,” said Brian Copeland, “from front to back, it’s a treasure.” Fitz and Compassion’s disguise was “absolutely hilarious”, with scenes of them together “really wonderful”. He liked the Doctor’s arguments with the robot. Indeed he seemed to particularly enjoy the regular cast: “It is humorous, has some great dialogue, we finally get to see into Fitz’s thoughts again, and get to understand Compassion a little more. The Doctor is very Doctor-ish.”

The way the TARDIS crew are discovered already in action was a bonus: “very reminiscent of the Seventh Doctor stories from the Virgin line […] quite refreshing and a nice change of pace.” Brian was definitely a satisfied customer, and enjoyed the whole book: “From its amazing front cover to the epilogue.”

Ultimate Eighth

Frontier Worlds didn’t strike me as significantly unlike Kursaal,” wrote Finn Clark on the Ultimate Eighth site, “for the most part they’re similar stories told in similar ways. Both have unscrupulous corporations, all-threatening monsters, good wallopings of gore and a straightforward approach to storytelling. There’s nothing self-consciously radical about Frontier Worlds.”

He thought the companions “rather take over the book” and sideline the Doctor so that he is confined to impersonating “James Bond in big action set pieces that actually drive most of the plot but feel like asides”. Finn would have preferred a more rounded characterisation of the Eighth Doctor, and was confused by some of writing in the action scenes which he thought should have been smoother. He was, however, intrigued by Compassion, at whose antics he would “gawp in alarm […] She may be travelling with the Doctor and working on the side of the angels, but she feels more like an ongoing villain than a companion. […] It’s hard to call her likeable, but she certainly holds your attention.”

Finn really liked Fitz’s romance, even if the ending was “a little convenient;   but it’s still the standout no-contest best bit of the book.” He also enjoyed the humour: “Fitz also unleashes the famous Anghelides wit, sadly missed in Kursaal. The flippancies initially struck me as forced, as if the author was trying too hard, but eventually I laughed.”

The absence of overt links to other parts of the story arc was noted, with the exception of Fitz’s introspective moments that were “terrific stuff.” In summary: “I thought it was okay. It didn’t really grip me […] but it passed the time pleasantly enough.”

Happy Guy

“This book doesn’t start off slow and build to an electric climax” wrote Sean Gaffney on his Happy Guy review page, “it starts with the electric climax and then gives you about eleven more.”

Sean liked the style of the book: “There’s a reason so many people suggest this book should be the Doctor Who movie […] the most compelling, of course, being the dialogue. This book has so many great lines that it needs an appendix to list them all.”

There were some bits that Sean disliked: the “angsty bits” where Fitz recalls the events of Interference, and Alura “who comes across as rather flat, so her fate and Fitz’s reaction don’t resonate as they should.” But the other characters made up for this. Compassion: “Wonderfully droll, dry, angry, irritable.” Ellis and Sempiter: “Wonderfully done.” And “the robot is someone I’d like to see more of.”

Another highlight for him was the Doctor. In previous books, Sean couldn’t determine whether the Doctor was Paul McGann or not. “This is not a problem here. Besides the callbacks to the TV-movie helping, the entire attitude is so 8th Doctor it sings.”

In summary: “This is a fun book, hilarious, yet still gripping […] Audio, video, big-budget blockbuster, anything would do, I just want this dialogue converted to sound so it can melt in my ears.” So he gave it 10/10.

Jagaroth

Don’t be put off by the “pulpy” blurb on the back cover, was the message on the (now defunct) Jagaroth site’s review. “It is, in fact, a great horror/thriller, breathing fresh air into the series of books with its breakneck storytelling and impressive twists […] The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Like the Doctor Who Magazine assessment, this review said: “Think Bond done by Cronenburg, and you’ve basically got it.” However, the reviewer suggested it was more The Thing than “The Seeds of Doom”, because it had “some quite horrific imagery”.

The Fitz and Compassion stuff was praised (“it is nice to actually see some character development”), but the Doctor’s violence was not. And the conclusion was “rather low-key”.

The Cosmic Café

“A wealth of interesting ideas and characterizations [yet] something seems missing,” was Dominick Cericola’s view on the (now defunct) Cosmic Café site. “Perhaps after I have read Paul Cornell’s Shadows of Avalon, it will all come together.” Dominick recognises environmental issues from Kursaal, but “ here, it seems to work better […] the story is far more interesting, and better executed.”

He felt that the eighth Doctor was closer here to Virgin Publishing’s seventh Doctor. Fitz, on the other hand, was “one of the book’s strongest suits, and one of the main reasons I hung on until the end. Anghelides does an extraordinary job of peeling back the layers of Fitz’s sub-conscious in an effort to show how he is dealing with his post-Interference life […] A lot of Inner Doubts, which I am hoping the other writers will pick up and use.” Compassion struck Dominick as being “bland”, and the villains “weren’t much more memorable.”

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Frontier Worlds: Interview

Filed under: drwho,Frontier Worlds,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 4:21 pm

A big hand for this bookThis page is one of several on this site about my novel Frontier Worlds. They are all linked from this main blog post here.

This is a contemporary interview with Doctor Who Magazine to accompany the publication of my second novel.

There is another interview on this site here.


Talking Books

Conducted by Vanessa Bishop

Vanessa Bishop: Are you obsessed with body horror?

Peter Anghelides: The inexorable personal mutation into decay, madness and despair—critic Pete Boss calls it “the intimate apocalypse”.  But I’ve cheered up enormously since I stopped looking in the bathroom mirror.

As a writer, what is, for you, the most influential period of Doctor Who?

It’s what Philip Hinchcliffe told me: Bob Holmes’ scare-the-buggers devilment plus Barry Letts’ popular ecological seriousness. (Did I mention that Nelson Mandela told me never to drop names?)

How did you chance upon the idea of the new mechanical companion?

 My joke on an internet group has spawned a canary-sized monster I cannot control. With luck, subsequent writers will forget all about it. That worked for Kamelion, didn’t it?

How do you find writing for Compassion, a companion who’s completely emotionless?

Compassion’s emotions aren’t expressed conventionally. I disliked her initially, but decided against reinventing her. Eventually I warmed to her—though she’s not a warm person.

Your creation of Temm Sempiter indicates a love of the larger-than-life villain. What were your inspirations?

Big villains make the Doctor more impressive when he defeats them. I imagine commissioning editor Steve Cole glaring at me and demanding my overdue manuscript. My nightmare is being trapped in a lift with him and former Doctor Who Magazine columnist Jackie Jenkins.

Do you prefer ‘stand alone’ stories rather than developing old ideas from the series’ past? If so, why?

Writing a genre novel isn’t terribly original of me, so I try to innovate within the constraints of the existing franchise. I prefer Eighth Doctor stuff—developing him, his companions, and other new elements. Frontier Worlds is part of a developing story, but you can read it as a one-off.

April 10, 2016

Logopolis novelisation

Filed under: drwho,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 5:51 pm

 

Title sequenceTom Baker’s final series of Doctor Who episodes stories were first broadcast from August 1981. Much as I loved the traditional opening, I was greatly impressed with the novelty of the new “starfield” titles that new producer John Nathan-Turner introduced for Season 18. I got to watch it on my parents’ colour TV, and from the comfort of their  cosy sofa, in a warm living room in which all other family members had been ruthlessly drilled not to interrupt during first transmission.

This was so I could enjoy the show and also make an audio recording from the TV speaker. Yes, speaker, singular. None of your fancy stereo telly back them. I had it tough. Although, on reflection, my mute family probably had it tougher.

Listen up

Beach snoozeMy pal Tony, a fellow fanzine editor, somehow contrived to miss episode one of “The Leisure Hive,” and so the audio recording was my invaluable soundtrack for explaining to him what he’d missed. Tony hadn’t enjoyed Season 17 of Doctor Who much, and listened patiently to me extolling of the virtues of the opening episode. Those of you who remember “The Leisure Hive” story will recall that almost the first two thirds of episode one seem to be a tracking shot on Brighton Beach to the sound of Tom Baker snoring, so Tony’s patience was sorely tested.

My other fanzine pal, Peter, agreed with me that this series of Doctor Who stories was terrific. Peter was also a dedicated off-air audio recorder of the show. In the days before TV scripts were available to fans, he would painstaking transcribe the dialogue from audio recordings and type it up. This meant we had a written record of a story even before the Target novelisation was published. There is a generation of Doctor Who fans for whom the Target books were the primary way to relive stories post-transmission.

By October 1981, however, I was hundreds of miles away at university, where I lived on the eighth floor of a student hall of residence. Although in the 1980s student facilities had advanced  beyond the chalk slates and quill pens that younger readers of this blog may be imagining, it wasn’t anywhere near the always-connected multi-device environment that my own children take for granted these days. Eighth floor roomMy choices for television at university, for example, were: (a) watch a portable black and white device in the room or (b) get a seat in the hall’s communal TV lounge and hope the majority wanted to watch what I wanted to watch. I suppose there was also (c) the TV lounge in the Students’ Union, though that was an impossibly long distance to get to from my accommodation at short notice.

Because, needless to say, making sure I didn’t miss an episode of Doctor Who was a Saturday ritual. Sometimes there wasn’t a student consensus to watch BBC 1 that week; irrationally, there were people who preferred to watch Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, scheduled by ITV directly opposite Doctor Who.

In which case, I had to make a dash for the lift and go up eight floors back to my room in the hope I didn’t miss anything. Obviously, I would have left my black and white TV switched on in anticipation of such a calamity – no faffing around getting it tuned in and warmed up, plus I could have the audio recording happening in my room if and when I was in the communal lounge. Well, I could hardly do an audio recording in the student TV lounge and expect my fellow students to be as amenable as my family, could I? No, of course I didn’t ask them. And on mature reflection, this tells you volumes about my wonderfully tolerant family back at home.

Speaking of whom… in the middle of Season 18, my parents bought a VHS video recorder.

Get it taped

E180 tapeMy parents patiently agreed to record Doctor Who for me each week. Occasionally, this was delegated to my younger brother, so some element of risk was involved every Saturday. Crucially, they agreed to keep the episodes and not record Match of the Day over them, on condition that I furnished a sufficient number of E120 or E180 video cassette tapes. This was no minor concession, because in the early 1980s an E180 blank tape cost £9.99 (including VAT at 15%).

The availability of videos started to transform the experience for fans. Some other DW enthusiasts had been recording the show on tape since about 1977 (or Season 15, as DW fans know it). So it was possible to relive the stories in exactly the way they had been transmitted, rather than through the medium of a novelisation. Many of the books were published shortly after the TV transmission, and tended towards a perfunctory recollection of the programme – or even, a literal translation of the original scripts (rather than what was recorded and broadcast) because they were written so close to transmission.

Subsequent novelisations were a bit more imaginative, expanding on the original stories in a way that anticipated the brand new, original novels that Virgin Books would publish after the BBC put the original Doctor Who series on ice. And indeed that BBC Books would publish, and where I launched my own professional novel writing career.

Godel-Escher-BachDoctor Who fans are collectors and completists, and so obviously we kept buying the novelisations. Peter and I were very enthusiastic about the concluding story in Season 18 (and Tom Baker’s finale) “Logopolis.” This was also the time of Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 “metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll” called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which particularly captured Peter’s interest.

A novel idea

Peter and I thus concluded that “Logopolis” might not be well-served by the kind of Target novelisation then being written. Because we were publishing our fanzine Frontier Worlds around this time, we ambitiously decided that we’d do our own novelisation. Peter had written up a dialogue transcript from the TV. And I had my video recording. So I used those to write a novelisation under our Frontier Worlds imprint as a not-for-profit fanzine.

This was before we knew that Christopher H Bidmead was writing the Target novelisation. He is the author of “Logopolis,” and the Season 18 script editor to boot. He very graciously agreed we could publish our version. Through a contact in the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, we also wangled to talk with John Nathan-Turner backstage at a London convention, and he said he was OK with us publishing our version as long as it did not appear before the official Target version.

So that’s what we did. Tony Clark drew the cover. In those days, desktop publishing and typesetting would have been ruinously expensive for students, so I typed up the text and did all the wonky letter transfers (the back cover features some especially wobbly Letraset).

I notice, now that I look at my copy of it, that we conspicuously didn’t thank either CHB or JNT in the published version – for which, 34 years later, I apologise, as they were both very accommodating with their permission at the time. And with the benefit of over three decades’ hindsight, my po-faced “Authors’ Note” (page 8) makes a somewhat implausible claim that the novel isn’t just a transcription of the TV show – an unsubtle comment that we thought it was better than the contemporary Target books.

Target novelisation of "Logopolis"As it is, the Target novelisation by Christopher H Bidmead is far superior to ours. We knew that, because we kept our promise to JNT, and had therefore read his excellent Target version shortly before we printed and published ours. Christopher’s book is a much better written expansion of his very enjoyable TV story.

Peter and I had also really liked “Castrovalva” (Christopher Bidmead’s script to follow “Logopolis” and the debut for the Fifth Doctor). On this occasion, we’d somehow got hold of the actual camera scripts for the episodes, and were laying plans for a novelisation of that, too. We got as far as having a cover drawn up by Andrew Martin. But we recognised, based on “Logopolis,”  that we couldn’t do as good a job as the Bidmead book for “Castrovalva” would be, so we shelved our plans.

Indeed, there was something of a renaissance for the Target novelisations – especially those adapted by the original script writers themselves, such as Andrew Smith (“Full Circle”) and Stephen Gallagher (“Warriors’ Gate” under the pseudonym John Lydecker). And I really enjoyed David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive,” which did not cause any snoring.

Free novelisation 

I’ve seen a few copies of my Logopolis novelisation turning up on eBay, and even Amazon sold a few at some point. Back in the 1980s, the only money I took off readers was to cover printing, postage and packing, so I can’t really approve of people making money from it. You can download a completely free copy of the Logopolis novelisation here.

If you enjoy it, feel free to add a review at that Amazon site. And perhaps consider purchasing one of my officially licensed books.

Frontier Worlds

June 1, 2014

Hursley FM competition

Filed under: Audios,Blake's 7,drwho,Torchwood,Warship,writing — Peter A @ 8:41 pm

Script for WarshipAfter months of negotiation with my agent, I agreed terms with http://hursleyfm.com for a podcast interview. Oh, all right then, they e-mailed me at work last Wednesday, and I said yes straight away.

On Friday, I made my way to their studio (spoilers: an office in Hursley D Block) and had a lovely chat with Dr Adrian, Jonny Mac, and Mr Jezzalinko. We discussed technology, my work at IBM, and my various bits of genre writing over the years. And, yes, they really are called that.

Hursley FM microphoneHursley FM is a podcast and community about technology, inspired by the people at the biggest software development laboratory in Europe. By a happy coincidence, it’s somewhere I’ve worked for nearly twenty years.

As you can see from my photo, the studio looks exactly like the podcast illustration.

It’s rare that my various worlds coincide like this. So to acknowledge that, and also encourage people to tune in to the Hursley FM podcasts, here’s a competition. With a modest prize.

The prize is: a copy of the studio script for my audio drama Blake’s 7: Warship, signed by me. And maybe also signed by Dr Adrian, Jonny Mac, and Mr Jezzalinko, too.

The question is: in the podcast, we talk about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, about how Tom Baker is one of my favourite Doctors, and also about the future of technical writing. What word (that I use in the podcast) connects those three things?

How to enter: e-mail me at the contact address on this website. At the end of this month, I’ll pick a winner from all correct entries. Tie-breaker, in the event I decide one’s needed, is that you complete the following sentence: Mr Jezzalinko could be a Doctor Who villain because…”

March 9, 2014

I feel like a Newman

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Torchwood,writing — Peter A @ 2:02 pm

Big Finish has a customer survey running at the moment. It solicits opinions about all sorts of things, including which other spinoff series they could make. Participants get the chance to win a prize worth £250.

I like the idea of Torchwood audios, obviously. As I have prior history with that franchise, I would hope to be early in the queue for writing those – alphabetically speaking. Unless Dan Abnett isn’t busy at the time.

Mind you, it’s an outrage that Big Finish aren’t considering a spinoff series for An Adventure in Space and Time. I demand to hear further thrilling stories featuring Verity and Sydney (pictured here from their recent personal appearance at GallifreyOne). Steve Cole even photographed me discussing things with Sydney by the hotel pool.

20140309-140124.jpg
Everyone should write in to Big Finish! Pop pop pop over to their website immediately.

February 3, 2014

GallifreyOne 2014

Filed under: Audios,Blake's 7,drwho,Novels,Sarah Jane Smith,Short fiction,writing — Peter A @ 12:42 am

GallifreyOne 2014I am delighted to have been invited once again to the fantastic GallifreyOne, the world’s largest and longest-running Doctor Who convention. There’s a sparkling array of major guests attending:

  • Doctors Colin Baker and Paul McGann
  • Companions Arthur Darvill, Billie Piper, Katy Manning, Nicola Bryant, Jean Marsh, Matthew Waterhouse, Deborah Watling, Velile Tshabalala and Frazer Hines
  • Writers Terrance Dicks, Paul Cornell, Jane Espenson, Phil Ford and Rob Shearman.
  • Guest stars  Tom Price, Gareth Thomas, Annette Badland, Tracey Childs and Stuart Milligan.
  • Production team members Derek Ritchie, Gary Russell and Dominic Glynn.
  • And loads more – check out the full list on the convention website

Quarter century

This is the silver nemesis anniversary of the convention. It with be my seventh visit to the event, so compared with many regular attendees I’m a bit of a dilettante.

I first went to The Eleventh Hour of GallifreyOne – which feels so long ago that it must predate the Time Lords mastering transmat technology, the universe was half its present size, and the GallifreyOne attendee count was only in the hundreds rather than the thousands who will turn up this year. Back then, the convention took place in a much smaller airport hotel, in Van Nuys. The BBC was unthinkably not making any new episodes of Doctor Who.

From gallifreyone.com

Nevertheless, there was still much to discuss about the 27 years of already-broadcast TV stories. It was a rare year that one of the Doctors did not turn up as a headline guest at the convention. But the only new Doctor Who being produced in those days was for the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, the Big Finish audio plays, and the Virgin (subsequently BBC Books) novels.

As a result, guests from the writing and production teams of those tie-in productions were invited to attend the convention. I was very pleased to go along to my first GallifreyOne convention in 2000. There were two Doctors in attendance (Peter Davison and Colin Baker) and along with me the tie-in guests included Justin Richards, Gary Russell, Jason Haigh-Ellery, Steve Cole, Paul Cornell, Dave Stone, Kate Orman, Jonathan Blum, Mike Tucker, Keith Topping, Bill Baggs and Gary Gillatt.

In subsequent years, I was at events at the Van Nuys hotel with David Howe, Stephen James Walker, Clayton Hickman, Lance Parkin, Lisa BowermanNev Fountain, Caroline Symcox, Lloyd Rose, David McIntee, Dale Smith, Paul Ebbs, Mark Wright, Jon de Burgh MillerNigel Fairs, Simon Bucher-Jones, Craig Hinton, Steve Lyons, Dave Owen and Nick Walters.

This first photo (above) from the 2000 event is from Alden Bates’s website, and shows Gary Gillatt, Steve Cole, Terrance Dicks, Gary Russell, Justin Richards, me, Mike Tucker and Paul Cornell.

Edit: Remote linking denied from tetrap.com for that photo, so I’ve replaced it with an alternative from the GallifreyOne website that shows the 2001 convention  (L-R, back:) Craig Hinton, unknown, unknown, Keith Topping, Paul Cornell, Shaun Lyon (Program Director), Nick Walters, Andrew Beech, and me; (L-R, front): Peter Lovelady and Justin Richards.

Past present

From gallifreyone.comThe turn-out at my first GallifreyOne fourteen years ago was just under 750 people. Whereas last year, just over 3,500 attended – and I suspect even more will be there this year. Like Doctor Who, the convention has grown hugely until it’s become something of a global phenomenon – I sometimes think I meet my UK friends at GallifreyOne more often than I do back home. And just like the TV series that it celebrates, the convention has not lost the charm and affection of its origins.

Of course, there’s a big focus on the current TV series. But the event still celebrates the whole fifty years of the series, and much more besides. So it’s especially nice in this celebratory year that some of the convention’s program of events remembers those tie-in productions that provided “new Who” in the years that the TV series was off-air, and when the GallifreyOne convention first welcomed us as guests. And indeed, once again welcomes some of us to be guests.

The second picture (right) from the 2001 event, The Twelfth Regeneration of GallifreyOne, shows Justin Richards, Steve Cole, Dave Owen, Keith Topping and me. This year is the first GallifreyOne for well over a decade that I have attended at the same time as Steve and Keith. I may still have that shirt. (I may even wear it.)

My schedule

I’m involved in a range of panels and signings this year. Here’s what I am signed up for at the moment:

Friday

  • 1:30 p.m. Kaffeeklatch. A discussion group, accompanied by Steve Cole. They may be taking a risk with this, because Steve and I aren’t particularly well-known for taking care of Gallifrey.
  • 2:30 p.m. Autograph alley, with Steve Cole, Paul Cornell and Keith Topping.

Saturday

  • 11 a.m.The Ancestor Cell Writing for characters you didn’t create. A panel with Deric Hughes, Christine Boylan, Tony Lee, Barbara Hambly and Jordan Rosenberg. A mix of TV writers, novelists, comics writers, and me.
  • 1 p.m. Autograph alley, with Steve Cole, Dominic Glynn, Rob Shearman, Tobe Hadoke and Keith Topping.
  • 3 p.m. Doctor Who – The Wilderness Years. Panel with Steve Cole, Terrance Dicks, Paul Cornell, Gary Russell, Keith Topping and Rob Shearman. Moderator Felicity Kusinitz will try to ensure we are well-behaved and say something interesting about the books and audios that made up the “new Who” between 1990 and 2004. Penalty points for anyone who uses the word “hiatus.”

Sunday

  • 11 a.m. Autograph alley, with Steve Cole, Richard Dinnick, Phil Ford, Gary Russell and Keith Topping.

All weekend

If you’re going to the convention, do drop by and say hello. I’m happy to talk about the Doctor Who things I’ve done, or Torchwood, Blake’s 7, Sarah Jane Adventures, Bernice Summerfield… audios, novels, short stories, talking books… or anything else.

My previous experience of the wireless connections at the convention hotel is that it was either (a) sporadic when free or (b) ruinously expensive otherwise. I’ll try to tweet occasionally, and maybe post some photos. The convention hashtag is #gally1 if you’re following along.

If you haven’t yet signed up to attend the convention, alas, it sold out long ago. But do try to get tickets for next year’s event. It is such a wonderful, warm, welcoming convention that you will have a fabulous time, no matter who the guests are that year. (PS: they’re always great.)

January 17, 2014

Talking to Big Finish

Big Finish Day 4Big Finish kindly invited me to participate in their event this weekend, Saturday 18th January, at the Copthorne Hotel Slough-Windsor. Guests include Paul McGann, Tom Chadbon, Simon Fisher-Becker, Pamela Salem, Andrew Smith, Michael Troughton, Peter Wyngarde, Julian Glover… ooh, there are lots of others, so check out the information about the event via this link.

The range discussions are about Counter Measures, The Avengers, and Sherlock Holmes, with other main discussions about acting for audio, sound design, and a main interview with Paul McGann and his son Jake.

I will be around with some of the other Big Finish writers to sign things, and talk to anyone who wants to ask questions or have a chat. So if you’re attending, I’ll be glad to say hello — and discuss any of the audios, short stories, or novels I’ve written for Big Finish. I’m not sure what, if anything, we’ll be saying on the day about the new full-cast Blake’s 7 audios.

All this reminds me that a while ago I did an interview with Kenny Smith as a contribution to his book The Big Finish Companion Volume 2. That was published in time for last year’s Big Finish Day, so now seems like a nice time to publish my version of the interview here — and encourage you to buy the book. Kenny was asking me about my audio The Four Doctors.

What was your original brief for The Four Doctors?

Big Finish originally asked me about doing a Doctor Who version of A Christmas Carol. The CD was coming out as a festive special for subscribers, and that was therefore quite a good proposal.

They were also quite keen that I kept the Doctors apart, and do something less obviously like previous multi-Doctor stories.

The other part of the brief was about a limit to the number of guest characters, and the amount of air time that we could afford for each of the four Doctors.

I enjoy a challenging brief, and sometimes what appear to be constraints actually turn out to inspire good ideas as you try to solve them.

Did the story have any working titles?

I liked the title “Reverse Engineering”. Looking back, I must have been bonkers to want to call it anything other than The Four Doctors, because that’s unambiguously what it’s about! Plus, it’s what will best advertise the audio. Plus, no-one had used the title before. So, what was I thinking?

Until quite late on, it was in four separate episodes. In fact, it was originally edited as four episodes, with each Doctor taking more of a lead in each. They combined it into one continuous narrative pretty much at the last minute. The episode titles were “Analysis, “Disassembly”, “Decompilation”, and “Reverse Engineering”.

What’s your first reaction when you’re given more than one Doctor to write about – delight, then horror?!

Definitely delight. I’d written an audio for Peter Davison (Key 2 Time 2: The Chaos Pool), but not for any of the other three Doctors. I’d done three novels for the Eighth Doctor, and short fiction featuring the Seventh. But this was my first chance to write anything for the Sixth.

How difficult was it to come up with a new spin on an old idea, by having a story with more than one Doctor, and also have to add in the Daleks?

Part of the brief was to keep them apart, for two reasons. One reason was the availability of the principal actors – you can record stuff separately and combine them later, but that’s a post-production complexity you may prefer to avoid. Another more important reason was to avoid retreading some of the sorts of “dandy/ clown/ fancypants/ scarecrow” dialogue. That’s quite amusing stuff, but it’s much more interesting to explore other things.The Four Doctors

My take on that was: don’t treat them as four separate people (who are really the same person) who interact with each other. Instead, treat them as the same person who interacts with another man, who has to work out that these four people are the same person. And then the fun for the audience is: we already know these four characters as the same person, and we can listen to the newcomer as he works that out.

In my script, the four Doctors work together over an extended period of time (from their perspective) because they are the same person, not because they happen to be in the same place at the same time. I had a variety of excuses about why the Doctor couldn’t meet himself in the story, with the crux being that distanced Fifth/Eighth conversation.

Having the Daleks is great. You can have lots of additional speaking parts for no extra cost, because the director is doing all the voices! I wanted the Daleks at the battle of Bajorika to have “old” voices, and my script suggested something closer to the voices from “Day of the Daleks”, albeit this ran the risk of giving Nick Briggs (a bit of a Dalek expert and purist) having an embolism.

Did you have any abortive ideas before settling on the final one?

After the Christmas Carol suggestion, I’d pondered doing something with the Doctor as Past, Present, and Future. And then I wondered about having the Doctor witness (but not interact with) the actions of his own past, present, and future – having a third party make the Doctor (as “Scrooge”) learning the error of his ways by witnessing his own actions. I also thought that was a bit Trial of a Time Lord.

But all that seemed a rather better fit for three rather than four Doctors. And so I chose the much better idea of having someone else travel through the Doctor’s time line… but in the reverse order to the way that he experienced it, because it’s a story about a Time Lord after all.

All of which turned out to be just as well because, subsequently, we learned that Steven Moffat’s first Christmas special for Matt Smith was inspired by A Christmas Carol. If we’d gone anywhere near that, the BBC would (quite understandably) have rejected the proposal.

I had a number of other ideas, especially for elements of the third section. But I’m going to keep those to myself, in case I can find a use for them in some other audio or novel!

How much fun did you have writing for each incarnation, and was it difficult to write the distinctive nuances for each incarnation?

I had the best time ever. Though it wasn’t straightforward.

I’d written for the Eighth Doctor before in three novels, and even provided a script for an audio story (Earth & Beyond: Bounty) that was Paul McGann’s first new performance as the Doctor after the TV Movie. So I thought I’d find his character would be easier to write for than he was.

Earth & BeyondThe novelists were able augment the TV Movie character through the BBC Books – at that stage, there was only that one story to go on. We had to think our way into how the character would have developed, without losing what made him recognisable from the TV Movie. And while the TV series was off the air, we could “steer” him a little ourselves. One of my favourite, albeit trivial, editorial notes when I wrote the novel Kursaal was from a copy editor asking whether the BBC was prepared to “commit to the idea” that the Doctor lost a tooth in the previous story and that it was slowly growing back.

Over a decade later, by the time I was writing The Four Doctors, the authentic voice of the Eighth Doctor was unambiguously the Big Finish version – honed through all of those other audios they’d done for him, plus Paul McGann’s performance of course.

As it was my first chance to write for Colin Baker, I think he was the most fun to do in The Four Doctors. Colin is a lovely chap – I’ve met him at a couple of conventions as a guest. He’s finally been done justice by the Big Finish audios, so I was especially pleased to be the latest contributor to that.

Fan geek question time. The Dalek Prime appeared in the John Peel novelisations and novels – is that the Black Dalek’s official designation in your mind?

I should hand in my Geek Card, I’m afraid. I had forgotten that Dalek Prime was in John’s books. I’d read them, of course, so perhaps it stuck in my mind. I’d intended it as a new designation, because the story is about the developmental stages of both the Daleks and the Jariden – and I’d incorporated the Special Weapons Dalek as an example of how the classic series had already done that. I couldn’t use something like the Supreme Dalek from the post-2005 series, because Big Finish doesn’t have a license for stuff from the post-2005 TV show. We even had a slightly surreal debate about whether we were allowed to have a Dalek saying “Elevate!” as it went up the stairs after the Doctor and Faraday, because that phrase was first used in Rob Shearman’s new series Dalek story.

And I admit that when Victory of the Daleks was broadcast, and featured the new Dalek Paradigm, I was a bit nervous that my story would be seen as too close to some of the elements of that.

Which one was the Black Dalek again? No here, look, I’ve torn my Geek Card in two. Take it.

The scene at the end is a nice touch – just when I thought we weren’t going to get them meeting up. Was this always planned, or did you ever consider not doing it, just to be different?

Vortex 57Thank you very much. I agree, it’s a nice touch, but it’s also a scene that I didn’t write. Either Nick Briggs or Alan Barnes inserted that  because they decided they wanted to have a “meet and greet” with the four Doctors after all. My version had some “across-the-timelines” parallel dialogue instead. I especially like the gag about the TARDIS decor, so perhaps I should pretend I wrote it after all. Yeah, I planned it all along! 

[Subsequently, Big Finish revealed in issue 57 of BF magazine “Vortex” that it was Nick. I think they lost confidence at the eleventh hour in their original idea that the Doctors should never meet.]

Any thoughts on the final play itself?

It sounds a bit immodest when you say how much you like stuff you’ve written. With an audio, the script is just the starting point – the foundations of the production. No matter how good an actor’s performance is, or how fine the music and sound effects, or how well it’s edited together by the director, a bad script will sink an audio. Yet without all those additional things, even a great script just remains text on a page – so I was really pleased with the end result.

I was a bit sorry that the final version wasn’t in four 15-minute episodes, as we’d originally planned. I’d quite like to have had the different theme tunes crashing in. And as a subscriber-only audio with short episodes it wouldn’t have needed cliffhanger reprises – instead, I had some cunning “Part One” reprises in “Part Four”. Nevertheless, you get well over an hour of adventure. Even those short episodes would have been about twenty minutes long, which is longer than some episodes of The Mind Robber.

There were sundry other changes that Big Finish made for the final version. For example, the Jariden were renamed – I’d called them the Jai-Gerbar, which I thought was a bit more unusual without being too hard to say. And Ulrik was originally called Vaterlaus, a name I thought would sound brutally good when the Daleks were shouting at him. But the Big Finish team are smart folk who know what will and won’t work on audio, so I am entirely phlegmatic about the changes, which were all in the service of a better audio play.

And that’s the nature of a collaborative project like this. For example, in the third section it was originally a Dalek that escorted Ulrik to his cell, and who was subsequently overpowered by him and escorted to the roof to meet the Doctor. Script editor Alan Barnes didn’t like that, because he thought it implausible that Daleks would set up a base where they had to go up-and-down stairs and open cellar doors. He thought I should set those scenes in a Dalek ship near the battle of Bajorika. I said I preferred the different “soundscape” of a mansion, and liked the literal encroachment of the Daleks onto Jariden property. Plus it meant I could place the Doctor up on the mansion roof observing the battle, which would be less plausible if he was sitting atop a Dalek saucer. So Alan said “why not change the Dalek into a Roboman escort”, and then developed that into “why not say the Roboman is Ulrik’s grandfather” (whose mansion I had already decided it was, and whose relationship I’d already established in “Part One”).

That was great, because then I could make the Roboman part of the Jariden’s reverse engineering of the Special Weapons Dalek technology – so that back on the Vault of Stellar Curios in “Part Four”, Ulrik realises that what he was pursuing back in “Part One” is actually the grandfather he was also disparaging in “Part One” but who he set free from the Daleks in “Part Three”. Plus, in “Part Four” after the Roboman says “Awaiting Orders, Colonel Ulrik”, there’s a very straightforward line of dialogue that David Bamber delivers beautifully as he sets the creature on his enemies: “Kill the Daleks, Grandfather. Kill them all.” And that all started from a discussion about whether Daleks could plausibly unbolt a cellar door.

When it comes down to it, how many people get a chance to write a Big Finish audio, let alone one with the Daleks in it, let alone one with four Doctors? It was a wonderful experience, and I’m very proud of the final version.

December 20, 2013

The Ancestor Cell

Filed under: Ancestor Cell,drwho,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 12:55 am

My first (and so far only) co-authored novel was published by BBC Worldwide in July 2000 (delayed until April 2001 in US), ISBN: 0-563-53809-0

Cover: The Ancestor CellWhen BBC Books editor Steve Cole left BBC Worldwide, he had felt that there were a variety of “loose ends” in the continuing Eighth Doctor stories that could be tied up. Steve and I had both written novels as part of the recent story arc featuring Compassion (I wrote Frontier Worlds and Steve wrote Parallel 59 with Natalie Dallaire—and I did the structural edit on Steve’s novel).

We had both just started new full-time day jobs, and Steve was writing several Doctor Who audio stories for Big Finish Productions, so we agreed to work on a book proposal together – almost entirely by e-mail! New BBC Books range consultant Justin Richards also had clear ideas about how he wanted the series to develop in the second half of 2000, and briefed us on some things he wanted resolved in the book. We pitched our revised proposal to Justin and BBC Worldwide’s Ben Dunn, and it was accepted.

The book was published in July 2000 in the UK, though some US distribution was delayed until mid-2001. Nevertheless, The Ancestor Cell was one of the fastest-selling BBC Doctor Who books on amazon.co.uk, and to date is my biggest-selling Doctor Who novel by some margin.It features in the Top 20 sales ranking on Amazon, and in the SFX magazine readers’ poll it was in the top ten of the category “Best SF/Fantasy novelisation or TV tie-in novel 2000.”

You can read an article from the BBC’s Monthly Telepress. That newsletter also published “tasters” in the form of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. I’ve also provided an unpublished scene from the novel.

When the book was published, reviews ranged from wild enthusiasm to total outrage. You can also read my summary of several dozen original reviews from the time of publication.

Steve Cole and I took part in a unique Q&A about The Ancestor Cell at the GallifreyOne convention in Los Angeles, February 2001. If you couldn’t attend that, you can instead read the Top Ten questions that people ask me via e-mail, and a short interview I did with Doctor Who Magazine.

The Ancestor Cell: interview

Filed under: Ancestor Cell,drwho,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 12:55 am

Cover: The Ancestor CellThis page is one of several on this site about my novel The Ancestor Cell. They are all linked from this main blog post here.

Steve Cole and I answered a number of questions for Doctor Who Magazine. Vanessa Bishop then wrote these up into the “Talking Books” item that accompanied her review of The Ancestor Cell. Here are my answers to the original questions.

Talking Books

Vanessa Bishop: Was there always a plan for one final book that would ‘tidy up’ the loose ends of the story arc?

Peter Anghelides: “Final” is a bit of a worrying word, isn’t it? We want people to see each book as a “stepping on” rather than a “getting off” point. Doctor Who is constantly developing, so I’m not sure I’d want to tidy everything up. Even shows like “Genesis of the Daleks”, which purport to provide answers and closure, actually open things up more because fans love to speculate—no doubt they’ll spot more dangly bits in The Ancestor Cell. At least we haven’t sunk Atlantis again.

What difficulties did you encounter in having so many unfinished plotlines to explain?

I didn’t think there were all that many. Each time Steve and I bounced e-mail at each other when working on the outline, we japingly added another thing we wanted to get out of the book. We quickly ran into essential items such as “kitchen sink”, “huge advance on royalties”, and “world peace”. Sadly, we only got the first of those, I think. In the end, it’s more important to tell a compelling story that will grip a casual reader than pedantically to dot every i and cross every t.

Did you feel at all intimidated by the baggage that Time Lords and Gallifrey always bring?

We adopted a pick’n’mix approach. Obviously we have a movie-scale location and effects budget, so why be restricted by TV Gallifrey two pastel corridors and a polystyrene fountain? Likewise, we weren’t obliged to reference every Gallifrey story ever told. We ended up removing far more dull, gratuitous continuity references than we left in. And we added some more of our own, because it was more fun to develop Gallifrey. (No doubt, some people will say we bulldozed it instead.)

Of which aspects of The Ancestor Cell are you most proud?

It’s the first thing I’ve co-authored, and it was great fun to do. I can exclusively reveal to you our approach for dividing the writing chores: I wrote all the odd pages. And Steve wrote all the very odd pages.

What drove you to such extreme measures at the end of the book?

Steve made me do it. He kidnapped my children, and threatened to make them watch “The Happiness Patrol”. Besides, as the book series is undergoing some exciting changes later this year, we wanted to do something memorable in this one.

As a story arc contributor, do you feel, in retrospect, that The Ancestor Cell’s explanations should have been given within the arc itself?

That would have baffled those readers who don’t collect the whole series. Most of the explanations are derived from clues in the other books, but we wanted there to be some surprises too.

What do you feel are the successes of the story arc?

People are talking about the book series again, not just individual books. Yet you can read most of the books as an independent novel. Regular readers get a bonus for their loyalty, more satisfying than “buy six get one free”. Highlights of the last year’s books for me are the regular cast: the Doctor coming back to centre stage; Fitz finding his voice; a dangerous new companion in Compassion; and the clockwork canary, of course, which makes a startling reappearance in The Ancestor Cell.

The Ancestor Cell: top ten

Filed under: Ancestor Cell,drwho,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 12:54 am

Cover: The Ancestor CellThis page is one of several on this site about my novel The Ancestor Cell. They are all linked from this main blog post here.

I wrote this short article for the Online Ratings Guide, where it was first published in November 2000. You may even find answers to some of the questions elsewhere on my web site.

Top Ten Questions about The Ancestor Cell that people sent me

I have received more e-mail correspondence about The Ancestor Cell than about all the other Doctor Who stuff I’ve written combined. Most of the e-mail is very positive, and most notes also contain questions about the contents of the book, its writing, and the reaction to it since publication

Because I feel that my books should stand or fall on the published version, I’ve been reluctant to provide a kind of Cole’s Notes (aha… do you see what I did there?) for the book by answering specific questions. However, for your delectation and delight, and allowing for some conflation of similar ones, here is my list of “Top Ten Questions about The Ancestor Cell that people send to Peter Anghelides”.

10. When are you going to update your web site to include the book?

9. Who was the Enemy/Grandfather Paradox/Romana/Father Kreiner originally?

8. What do you think of Lawrence Miles’s review/interview/Interference/Alien Bodies/writing, and what has he told you personally about the book?

7. Where was K-9/ Leela/ Andred/ Rassilon/ Engin/ Eye of Harmony/ BabyDoc/ Looms/ Master/ Dark Tower/ Rassilon/ …?

6. Is the book’s plot impossible because it’s based on a paradox?

5. Your book’s wonderful/terrible/mediocre—how did it get commissioned?

4. Why did/didn’t you use/ripoff/avoid/traduce/obliterate Miles’s/ Platt’s/ Cornell’s/ Russell’s/ Parkin’s/ MIB’s/ CE3K’s/ STNG’s/ B5’s ideas for closing/ opening/ resolving/ avoiding/ confusing/ ignoring the arc instead of devising your own?

3. Which parts did Steve Cole write and which did you write?

2. I’ve written a Doctor Who novel—will you read it and tell me how to get it published?

And the number one question that I am asked about The Ancestor Cell…

1.    Who survives?

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