The Red Lines Page

February 2, 2021

Interview: Starburst

Filed under: Audios,Blake's 7,drwho,interview,Novels,Short fiction,Torchwood,writing — Peter A @ 6:00 pm

Occasionally I do press interviews. This is the text of one I sent off to Starburst magazine (interviewer Tony Jones) in 2014.

It’s from around the time that Big Finish had released my Blake’s 7 audio play Mirror, but covered lots of stuff about other writing.

Starburst: Peter, thank you for sparing the time to answer a few questions.

Peter: You’re welcome. Thanks for asking them.

Starting back in the 1990s: your first novel was pitched when you heard that the BBC was re-launching the Doctor Who novels and was accepted. What had you done before that? Had you always written but never been published?

I was involved with fan publications in my teens, and put out a Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 fanzine called “Frontier Worlds.” Through that, I made a lot of friends, including people like Craig Hinton, Paul Cornell, Justin Richards, Gary Russell and Andy Lane.

They all subsequently wrote novels for Virgin Publishing. Indeed, as far as Virgin was concerned, Paul pretty much established the credentials and credibility of writers who came from a background in fandom. I suppose Virgin was an appropriate name for such a group of talented but previously-unpublished authors.

As it happened, in the early 90s, I also worked in the same office as Justin and Craig. I was very admiring of how they and had got their Doctor Who novels published by Virgin. Probably quite jealous, too. When Andy and Justin edited a couple of the Decalog short story anthologies, they asked me to pitch ideas. I wrote “Moving On” for them, and then a non-Who story called “C9H13NO3 .”

Kursaal was pitched before you knew that the Eighth Doctor would have a companion called Sam Jones. How hard was it to adapt your pitch and were you happy with the end product?

My original proposal was written for the Eighth Doctor, and used the same approach as the TV Movie in that the Doctor arrived alone and left alone. I knew BBC Books planned to continue Virgin’s approach, which was to publish two novels per month – one Eighth Doctor and one Past Doctor. And I was pitching to them before any of the BBC novels had been announced.

I hoped to write for the Eighth Doctor, though I’d have been happy to have done one of their Past Doctor series instead. To maximise my chance of getting commissioned, I explained that my story would also suit any “Doctor-plus-single-companion” combination.

Mind you, if they’d said “the Doctor’s going to be travelling with three companions and a talking cabbage,” I’d have replied instantly, “You know, I think that would also work brilliantly for my story, and here’s how…”

Anyway, I told them that I could place the story in periods of  the TV series when the Doctor was not accompanied by two or more fellow travelers. I didn’t suggest any feeble excuse that one or more “missing” companion had been unfortunately locked in the TARDIS throughout.

So I suggested:  First Doctor plus Dodo; Second Doctor plus Jamie; Third Doctor plus Jo or Sarah;  Fourth Doctor plus Sarah, Leela, Romana or Adric; Fifth Doctor plus Nyssa or Peri; Sixth Doctor plus Peri or Mel; Seventh Doctor plus Mel or Ace; Eighth Doctor plus any new BBC Books companion.

As well as trying to offer lots of options, I suppose I was showing off a bit to people at BBC Books who I suspected may not have known a lot about Doctor Who. (Little did I know that one of them was Steve Cole. Whatever happened to him, eh?)

I’d therefore already considered how I could adapt my outline to accommodate a completely new companion, and it wasn’t too much of a chore to incorporate Sam Jones. I quite like writing things where I’m asked to incorporate specific things, anyway. It’s a writing challenge.

In your blog, The Red Lines Page [anagram!]…

Yes, there are others. Possibly not suitable to mention in a family magazine!

…the blog has your original query pitch and then various other items such as scene by scene breakdowns, all of which is of interest to any author. Do you put these posts up for posterity, as a monument to your own production process or to help others? Do they reflect the way you still write today?

“Web logs” started to become popular in the late 90s, and I don’t recall there being a lot of them when I started writing. This was the decade before Facebook and Twitter. (Gasps of horror and disbelief from your younger readers. Some of whom probably think Facebook is already a bit old hat.)

Nevertheless, those days weren’t all writing by candlelight on a wax tablet. We had newsgroups in which people like Paul Cornell and Jon Blum and Kate Orman and Steven Moffat would discuss writing. Some people even had their own websites, lovingly hand crafted in HTML. Gary Russell had an interesting site that contained helpful advice and information.

I’d found all that free stuff useful for my writing. And I’m vain enough that I like talking about myself and what I do. So I thought, why not try “paying it forward” and publish stuff about my own experience of writing? If it’s helpful, that’s OK. And if it’s not, well, I enjoyed writing it anyway. Sometimes you write stuff just because it’s fun, and not because you get paid for it. (Who do I invoice for this by the way?)

Anyway, I set up a web site where I published all my original proposals for novels and audios and short stories, plus information about the writing process, and summaries of all the reviews I’d read of my stuff – good, bad, or indifferent, it didn’t matter.  One or two reviewers e-mailed to say they were a bit cross about having rude parts of their reviews quoted, which just made me laugh.

When my web host changed, I decided it was easier to start again on a new blog and move stuff across when I had time. I picked WordPress as the least painful popular free platform. I’ve started to republish some of the web site stuff again at  Though I am a lazy blogger, and I don’t do it as much as I used to. Never mind, there are plenty of bright young things doing new and interesting stuff instead of me.

You’ve written a number of books and several short stories for Doctor Who and other ranges, amongst which is Torchwood. How did that come about?

It turns out that “paying it forward” wasn’t just a help to other people, it was a help to me, too! BBC Books needed to find me when they were launching the Torchwood novels to accompany the new TV series, and they found my contact details (like you did!) on my website. I think I have Gary Russell to thank, too, because he was working on the TV series and had suggested a number of plausible candidates to BBC Books for the new novels.

That whole experience was brilliant. I’ve had the great good fortune that people have asked me to do a number of “firsts” in my writing… the first Eighth Doctor audio book for BBC Audio, the first Tenth Doctor audio story read by David Tennant, the first full-cast Blake’s 7 audio…

It’s a privilege, and also very flattering, to be entrusted with such things. How fantastic was that, then – to be writing the first Torchwood novel, and working with Andy Lane and Dan Abnett before Torchwood had even aired on TV? We were writing them as they were making that first series. The novel has been released as an audio book, skilfully adapted by Joe Lidster and read by John Barrowman. And translated into German by Susanne Döpke. There’s even a Hungarian version.

You’ve also written several audio scripts, not just Doctor Who and Torchwood but also Sarah-Jane and Blake’s 7. How do you find writing for audio compared to novels and short stories?

Audio scripts are a lot shorter, for one thing, so it’s possible to draft them faster, then iterate more frequently and extensively if necessary. With a novel or short story you have an editor providing input, whereas audio continues to be a varied collaborative effort all the way through the process – producer, script editor, director, the performances in the studio, and finally the edit with the sound effects and score.

Novel writing is painting pictures in words for your readers, whereas audio scripts are providing the guidance for a performance. And while characters do talk to each other at times in a novel, an audio script is principally dialogue.

Now those are wild generalisations, of course. You can incorporate interior dialogue and narration into an audio, and you can have conventional dialogue sequences in a novel – especially one that is inspired by a TV series.

But the common element of both is having a compelling story, interesting characters, and staying true to the spirit of the franchise without slavishly copying it.

In 2013 Big Finish released Warship which was the first full cast adventure for the original Blake’s 7 cast. If that weren’t enough of a challenge it also plugged a massive gap in the show’s canon. Did you approach this differently from other stories and was this part of the show’s history you always wanted to tackle?

I’ve loved Blake’s 7 since it was first broadcast – round about the same time that I was also a huge, huge fan of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. I watched Blake’s 7 from the opening episode, and celebrated it in that fanzine I mentioned earlier.

When Big Finish asked me to write Warship, I suppose I was a bit conflicted at first. On the one hand,  like any contemporary fan, I always wanted to know what happened at the end of the second series that meant Blake and Jenna were no longer in the third. On the other hand, some of the magic of any series lies within those gaps that fans like to fill for themselves with personal theories they don’t want contradicted.

And on the third, Andromedan hand, how could I possibly resist the opportunity to write the first full-cast audio for the actors I’d loved in the original series?

Even so, despite my geekish continuity credentials as a longstanding fan, I researched the gap by rewatching the entire series. I did a load of research to remind myself and confirm my thoughts. Plus, it was a great excuse to watch those original stories again. I sheepishly confess that I watched several sequences where I could spout the dialogue in synch with the actors.

In the end, I devised an exciting story in the style of the TV series that fits the continuity. Most listeners seemed to agree. Except for those whose pet theories I contradicted, obviously.

(Yes, I know we didn’t see any Blake’s 7 Andromedans with three hands. And they weren’t named as Andromedans, either.)

Of all the ranges you’ve written for so far do you have a favourite and how do you as a writer view their differences?

That’s like asking parent which child they love best!  (If my children are reading this, then obviously I love you best. Yes, you. Don’t tell the other one.)

I have honestly loved writing all of them – whether Doctor Who audios for Big Finish, or Torchwood novels for the BBC, or Sarah Jane Adventures for AudioGo, or original fiction for Virgin. I seize opportunities I’m offered by people who I enjoy working with, to write about characters I love, for people who enjoy those TV series as much as I do.

Without breaking any confidences can you let us know what you’re working on at the moment or at least give us some clues?

It’s bad luck to discuss stuff that hasn’t actually been commissioned, and it’s bad manners to mention anything that has been commissioned but not announced.

I once made the mistake of telling people that I was writing a Big Finish script for the first series of Tom Baker Doctor Who audios – the opening one (another first!) set on Nerva Station. They kindly invited me to pitch. I did several detailed drafts and revisions, including a four-part version and a two-part alternative. But in the end they weren’t happy enough to commission it.

I’d already pitched things for some of the earlier attempts by BBC Audio and Big Finish to bring Tom Baker stories to audio. This time I really thought it was going to happen, and I felt utterly wretched to miss out. Well, “miss out” is probably a bit misleading – nothing is ever a done deal until the contract is signed, and the recording is complete.

That’s why Big Finish – quite rightly – don’t tend to announce anything until the studio work is complete. I’ve had other things turned down, of course – that’s not unusual for writers, and you need to be resilient. But I’ve never felt as devastated as on that occasion.

So I’m not going to tempt fate, or upset anyone, by saying or hinting anything. Sorry!

Is there a show you’d like to write for but haven’t?

Each new incarnation of the Doctor is like a new show, and so I would relish the chance to write something for the Twelfth Doctor. I’d quite fancy writing a novel about a pre-Jack Torchwood. I enjoyed Firefly and a lot of Fringe, so those would have been fun.

I persevered with the recent revamped version of The Tomorrow People, and thought that had potential before they humanely destroyed it after one series. I liked some of its set-up, but kept thinking that I could write better dialogue. Which is a very different motivation to, say, writing for Blake’s 7, where we all aspire to write dialogue as characteristic and compelling as original TV writers Terry Nation and Chris Boucher.

I feel I’ve got it right if I sit in the recording studio chuckling as Michael Keating (Vila) is performing my dialogue. Yes, I’m afraid I do that.

Beyond writing you have a day-job: how do you juggle your time and do you keep the two worlds separate?

Writing is a hobby I get paid for – and one should always make time for the things one loves. But I can’t compromise my day job, because I really enjoy that, too.

In the past, I’ve made time in a variety of ways. It may involve booking holiday from work. Sometimes it’s writing during early mornings and or evenings or weekends. Other occasions I’ve been able to write when on a plane to a business meeting, or in the hotel.

I treat every writing commission with the seriousness of my regular job, of course – because publishers, distributors, directors, directors and so on all rely on a professional text being delivered on time and to specification.

Hmm… that perhaps makes it sound rather dry and dull. Whereas, of course, it is a fabulous and privileged opportunity to add to the franchises that inspired me to write in the first place.

And, finally, if you had the chance to travel on the Liberator or work at Torchwood which would you choose and why?

Both have a pretty high mortality rate, don’t they? I think I’d take a risk on Torchwood, because the adventure tends to come to Cardiff and I could still pop home occasionally on Bank Holidays to see friends and family. Because Weevils obviously like a long weekend as much as anyone.

Peter, thank you again for taking the time to answer a few questions, I really appreciate it.

It has been my pleasure.

November 5, 2020

New book! I Am the Master

Filed under: drwho,Short fiction,writing — Peter A @ 6:20 pm

Today, BBC Books publishes Doctor Who: I Am the Master, a short story collection.

My story “Anger Management” opens the book, which also contains stories by Mark Wright, Jacqueline Rayner, Mike Tucker, Beverly Sanford, and Matthew Sweet. The collection is edited by Steve Cole.

You can even get a sneak preview of my story at this page.

It was a delight to write for… which Master? Read the extract and you’ll see. Then buy the book to see what happens next!

It’s available from the usual online retailers. Or try an independent bookshop via Bookshop.

July 1, 2018

Just In Time

Filed under: Bernice Summerfield,Short fiction,Uncategorized,writing — Peter A @ 11:23 pm

In Time

Big Finish have announced a piece of work I’ve completed for them. I’m one of seven authors in the anthology Bernice Summerfield: In Time, edited by Xanna Eve Chown.

It’s published later this year – just In Time for Christmas, in fact. You’ll find it available for pre-order in printed and eBook formats.


Other lives

The book celebrates two decades of Bernice Summerfield at Big Finish. She was the character who launched their original audio range.

Benny had a life in the Doctor Who New Adventures at Virgin Publishing before that, as well as appearances in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip. But it was her arrival in the audios, and especially the lively performance of Lisa Bowerman (pictured on the cover), that paved the way for everything else to follow.

Here’s what the book blurb says:

From a rocky start at military academy to her sudden immersion in an alternative universe – via a variety of jobs and adventures on Dellah, at the Braxiatel Collection, and in the murky world of Legion – Bernice Summerfield is a woman who can be said to have lived more than one life. But one thing’s for certain: wherever she is, Benny can always be counted on to right wrongs, get the job done and, sometimes, even have a good time along the way!

To celebrate 20 years of Benny at Big Finish, each of the brand-new stories in this collection focuses on a different time in Benny’s life. There’s an adventure at St Oscar’s, a mystery at the White Rabbit, and even a surprising glimpse into the far future. Will Benny still be digging for artefacts at 80? You bet she will!


Voice of experience

loifeI’ve written for her before, in  Life During Wartime, still available from Big Finish at a bargain price.

Prior to that I wrote something for A Life of Surprises – no longer available from Big Finish, and selling for a price on Amazon so ridiculous that I refuse to provide a link to it.

Life of Surprises coverUnlike those occasions, however, I’ve had the chance now to meet and work with Lisa Bowerman.

For example, she directed my play story Ferril’s Folly. Big Finish have a sale on for their Companion Chronicles series at the moment, and that’s available at a discount.

So, I had her voice in mind as I was writing. Better still, they’ve also announced an audio book version, also available for digital pre-order.

InTimeAudio.pngI think Lisa will have fun with it, and I’m looking forward to hearing my words receive her Benny diction.

Will I be delighted to see my take on Benny published in the book? You bet I will!

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.


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 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:


  • 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.


  • 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.”


  • 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.)

May 1, 2011

Moving On

Filed under: drwho,Short fiction,writing — Peter A @ 5:23 pm

My first professionally-published short story, “Moving On”, appeared in Virgin Publishing’s 1996 book Decalog 3: Consequences (ISBN: 0-426-20478-6).

Commissioned by editors Justin Richards and Andy Lane, this story was designed to tie in with the stories “… and Eternity in an Hour” by Steve Bowkett and “Tarnished Image” by Guy Clapperton. In the end, instead of writing 10,000 words as contracted I wrote 17,000 words (which is very bad behaviour and poor planning by any writer). Ordinarily, this would be a problem. As it was, some of the other stories ran short, and so I was allowed to cut it to only 15,000 words (with much frowning by the editors).

My original proposal, submitted before the story was commissioned, was rather lengthy for a short story proposal, but it was the first one I’d written.

By an interesting coincidence, there are similarities between some small elements of this short story and a few minor scenes in Lawrence Miles’s book Interference. You know what they say: “Brilliant minds think alike. And fools seldom differ.”

In a subsequent interview, I talked a bit about the way the story was commissioned and edited.

The online excerpt from the published story is from the middle of the story. It contains a joke that I stole from editor Andy Lane. It subsequently appeared, in a different form, in the movie Men in Black—brilliant minds again, eh?

Reviews were generally kind, though some people thought it wasn’t funny enough. Funnily enough (or not), I hadn’t written it to be funny.

I have also blogged three unused scenes that I deleted before publication.

Here’s the blurb from the book’s back cover:

Ten stories – Seven Doctors – One Chain of Events

“The consequences of having the Doctor crashing around our universe can be colossal… The Doctor is a time traveller. Never forget that, because it is central to an understanding of what makes him so terribly dangerous. Most of us, in our tiny, individual ways are involved in the writing of history. Only the Doctor is out there rewriting it.”

But even then the Doctor may not see the threads that bind the universe together. Perhaps, instead, he cuts right through them. Who knows what events he sets in motion without even realizing? Who knows what consequences may come back – or forward – to haunt him?

Ten completely new tales from the universe of Doctor Who. Seven Doctors’ lives, inexorably linked in a breathtaking chain of consequences.

As always, the editors have assembled a dazzling array of writing talent, from award-winning TV script writers to acclaimed New Adventures authors. And, as before, there are the usual contributions from talented new writers.

Moving On: Proposal

Filed under: Decalog 3,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 5:23 pm

This is the original outline for the short story “Moving On” that I submitted to the editors at Virgin.

I have also blogged a particular excerpt and an unused section. 

YESTERDAY: “She hated Scott Wojzek. She hated his mean self interest, his Lotus Esprit, his easy familiarity with the secretarial staff. She hated his phoney sincerity and long lunches. She hated his male pattern baldness. And she had no guilt when she felt the same after he’d died in a traffic accident. So when she saw him walking towards her across Kensington High Street, she knew at once what had been happening to her for the past eight weeks.”

TWO MONTHS AGO: Sarah Jane Smith is sitting in her study at home, staring gloomily into a drawer which contains her unfinished novel. She has been features editor on Metropolitan now for a few years, having re-established herself on the magazine Metropolitan since she left the TARDIS. (She tells her colleagues that she went away to research her novel – she is always evasive about what she was actually doing over the missing time, though she jokes that returning to work has “brought her down to Earth with a bump”. )

Sarah’s day doesn’t start well. She sees that she’s getting grey hairs, and remembers some things her Aunt Lavinia said about middle-aged women. She discusses some of these on the phone with her oldest girlfriend, college contemporary Katy Pickering, as they are planning a lunch date. Talking to Katy always makes her feel guilty that her house is such a mess, so afterwards she tidies up – finding a toy dinosaur left by her editor’s toddler son the previous day. She puts it in her handbag, so that she can return it.

K-9’s has become increasingly erratic lately. Never very adept technically, Sarah feels even more lost than before she went away – electronic gadgets seem to have sprung up for everything, and she has barely mastered the microwave, let alone robot diagnostics. She struggles to replace K-9’s tickertape, and doesn’t understand the “on-line documentation” that K-9 displays on his monitor, and is starting to realise that K-9 is slowly falling to pieces. (Brendan is no help – he’s at University.)

Meantime at work, her editor has asked her to write an article on new technologies, and their effect on traditional working life. Rather than struggle with concepts like e-mail, desktop publishing, and office software suites, Sarah has turned the idea around and is going to write about the work and family lives of new technologists in Britain. She has identified three people: a typesetter, coming to terms with changes in his industry; the international sales manager of a plush toy company, who talks to her clients and her family with a videoconferencing system; and Scott Wojzek, the young director of an IT company called Tonska, which is developing new communications technologies.

After only one brief telephone conversation with Wojzek, Sarah decides she dislikes him. She arranges an interview with him in his London offices, and suffers several indignities with video cameras and badge-locked doors before getting to Wojzek’s office. There, he doesn’t endear himself to her any further: “Inside every thin woman journalist, there’s a fat book struggling to get out” he declares at one stage. “Invariably, that’s where it should stay.” Does he enjoy his position of control and autonomy in the business? “Do bears shit in the woods?” he retorts.

However, he gives her a demonstration of some of Tonska’s technology, including desktop conferencing, video telephony, three-dimensional imaging, and remote control of robots with virtual reality technology. Sarah tries the robot controller, and is impressed technically – but she can’t help feeling that everything is designed to eliminate human contact rather than facilitate real communication. She declines Wojzek’s lunch invitation, but he insists on showing her out of the offices and to her car in the company car park (also deserted). He helps her into her car, guiding the back of her head patronisingly so that she doesn’t bump it on the door. Sarah reacts as though stung. Wojzek meanders off at once, Sarah assuming he can’t believe that his clumsy pass failed.
Sarah gets into her car, and drives around the block. Everywhere seems deserted. She drives around the city for a while, and sees no traffic, no people… Eventually, she drives back towards Tonska’s offices, and parks on a double yellow line in Tottenham Court Road, looking around in disbelief. A shattering roar from above one of the buildings makes her look up – it’s a tyrannosaurus rex. She freezes as it sniffs the air. A voice behind Sarah says: “Oi lady, you can’t leave it there.” She turns her head and sees a traffic warden pointing at her car. Tottenham Court Road is full of people and noise again.

Sarah promises to move her car at once. There is a commotion at the end of the street, and she sees that someone has been run over by a bus. She investigates, and sees it is Wojzek, who is plainly dead. It seems that he just threw himself out of an office window into the street.

Sarah takes her keys from her handbag to get back into her untidy car – and finds the toy dinosaur she put there earlier. She sits there, shaken, for a long time.

LAST MONTH: Sarah is struggling with the fuse box in her house. She also worries about her cordless kettle, pre-fitted plugs, her grotty old toaster. Her vacuum cleaner is so old, they’ve stopped making parts for it. She realises that the problem with K-9, however, is that they haven’t started making parts for him. Her laptop seem to be on the blink – she thinks it may be a computer virus, though it could also be that she accidentally trashed her system files last week (she leaves all the system stuff to the tech boys in the office). When she switches on her TV, though, the same pattern of interference appears there too.

She feels absolutely exhausted, despite a week of early nights. Nevertheless, she goes to lunch with Katy Pickering, who has started working for breakfast television and now has a fund of irreverent stories about her more famous colleagues. Katy’s life has changed around – she has put off having children, she has broken up with her trade press boyfriend, and is starting to question whether she’s given up too much for her career. The two women rate the men in the restaurant, as they used to when they were cub reporters. “What a dire bunch,” says Katy, just a bit too loudly for Sarah’s comfort. “Not one of them above a 7.” They discuss their ideal men, and Katy teases her that Sarah’s dream man – intelligent, mature, someone she could learn from and talk with – might as well be her father. Or her college tutor.

Katy is still as obsessive about tidiness as ever, to Sarah’s amusement. Sarah goes round to her flat, and threatens to rearrange everything in her cupboards while she is out of the room. “I know you’re joking, Sarah. And I’d laugh myself if I didn’t know that, this evening, I won’t be able to stop myself checking every cupboard – just in case…” Sarah realises that she’s obsessive about some things, as Katy points out – “you never talk much about your time away, Sarah.”

Sarah talks instead about the article she has just published about IT, and the mystery of Wojzek’s sudden death. Through press contacts, she has spoken with the dead man’s brother and widowed mother. They explain that Wojzek’s business partner, Kendrick, died in similarly bizarre circumstances, and that Wojzek hadn’t been the same person some months after that. The business partner was the one who had brought him some of his leading technological innovations – including the robotics and imaging technology. Wojzek had, unexpectedly, cut off all contact with his family and friends a year ago; they had only learned about the death of this once-popular and gregarious young man through the police or the press. “Work changes you,” Katy suggests.

Back at home, Sarah walks into her living room and sees Brendan opening a box – it is the box that K-9 was delivered in. Sarah relives the experience of seeing K-9 for the first time again, and also the mixed emotions – the Doctor did remember, but this is a parting gift with all that such a present entails. She asks Brendan a question, but only K-9 answers – and she realises that she has been daydreaming.

LAST WEEK: Sarah has just returned from a business trip abroad, feeling greatly refreshed . Things have changed almost imperceptibly since she went away – the temperature, the latest silly season story in the papers, the Top Ten. Her editor, Jane Highsmith, has dropped in to see her at home in the evening. Sarah is fascinated by her editor’s flexible working pattern – working from the office, or from her car, or from home. Sarah ponders how people’s attitudes and behaviours changed while she was away – whether it’s their work patterns, or their dress sense, or their personal aspirations, or their views on the weather. How did she change? Other people had moved on, but had she? She had tried to slot back into her old life, but her old life no longer existed. Others had changed slowly, even if they hadn’t wanted too – or even realising that they didn’t want to.

Jane and Sarah discuss personnel changes at Metropolitan. Sarah says that she has been thinking about her own future. Jane asks her about her novel – telling Sarah the sort of bonkbuster she should be writing, and how Metropolitan could serialise it.

Jane connects her laptop to her mobile phone, and tries to link through to the office. She and Sarah see the sort of interference that Sarah saw previously. Sarah also remembers that her neighbours were complaining about their TV reception. Sarah asks K-9 whether he can account for the problem, but he is strangely evasive. The interference seems to have cleared, however, so Jane connects to the office, and has a video conference with Scott Wojzek. Sarah doesn’t want to be involved, so she goes out into the garden…

…but instead of stepping onto her back lawn, she is on a suburban high street. She turns to look at her back door, and sees instead the TARDIS fading away. The Doctor has just left her on Earth before returning to Gallifrey – and has not even got her back to South Croydon. All the old feelings of abandonment and loss well up in her. It starts to rain, and she is completely lost. She meets a stranger in the street, who guides her to a bus stop where she can catch the right bus home. She hasn’t got the money, but he gives her some change.
Sarah goes upstairs on the bus, but realises that it isn’t raining on the top deck – even though it is raining on the bottom deck. She rushes downstairs to check – yes, water is pouring down the windows. She goes to the driver – it is the same person who guided her to the bus. A woman behind her says “Hello?” as though she wants to step past. Sarah turns to see Jane Highsmith looking at her strangely from her own back doorstep. She is back in her own garden.

LAST WEDNESDAY: Sarah has been taking a few days off work, at Jane’s suggestion. She has started to file tired and wretched again. She tries to write some of her novel, scanning through it. Then she throws it in the bin – it’s the kind of book her editor wants her to write, not the kind of book she wants to write herself.

She starts to delete files on her computer, but it switches off. A house fuse has blown, so she takes a torch and goes down into the cellar with a torch to fix it. She gets to the bottom of the cellar steps and hears a hoarse breathing sound behind her. She whirls around, but drops the torch which switches off. In the darkness, she realises that…
…she is blind, and back on Karn. Sarah is terrified and alone in her worst memory. She stumbles across her nightmare landscape to the Sisterhood, where she asks them where the Doctor is. They tell her that the Doctor has already left the planet. She realises something is amiss when one of the sisterhood uses an Earth colloquialism: “Does the Pope wear a pointy hat?”. At this point, whatever Sarah has been holding in her hands turns out to be a torch, which snaps on to reveal she is back in her cellar.

YESTERDAY: Sarah recognises the electrical interference is coming from K-9 intermittently. She discusses problems with him – he confesses that he is suffering irreparable damage. She challenges K-9 about the problems. And the signal he’s emitting. K-9 won’t tell her, and only says that off-world technology can save him.

She meets Wojzek in the street (as at the start of the story), and she recognises his involvement in her recent dreams. Is this a dream? She reluctantly goes with him to a coffee shop. She notices that the same people appear to be wandering past the shop window, as though on a loop of film.

The creature talking to her now is an alien from a race called the Tonska. He knows that she is a friend of the Doctor, whose technological intervention in the previous Decalog story caused the Wojzek creature to be trapped on Earth. Wojzek has been trying to escape, using what little technology was available on Earth today. By adapting leading edge technology, he was able to attract the brightest and best minds to come to him. He scanned their minds with the virtual reality machinery, and then used their knowledge to develop further technologies. When by chance Sarah came to him, he discovered to his great surprise that she knew the Doctor, and owned some advanced technology in the form of K-9. The computer could help him escape from Earth.

The alien wants Sarah to get K-9 to help him, but Sarah is suspicious. Wojzek is dead – and what happened to the real Wojzek that his family described to her? What happened to his former partner, Kendrick? At which point, Sarah gets up and leaves the restaurant.

Wojzek trails behind Sarah, taunting her. He says that she needs his help, just as she needed the Doctor’s help. She has never escaped the Doctor, and never will. He used her, as he uses all his companions, because he knows no better. She is still waiting for him to return, and she knows that he never will. Out of sight, out of mind. Frustratingly, every time Sarah turns a corner in the street, it seems that she has turned back onto the street with the coffee shop (which is impossible).

Wojzek says: “Come on, you know that K-9 will deteriorate until he’s a write-off. And he’s already told you that no human technology can repair him…” Sarah realises with a jolt that there’s no way Wojzek could know what K-9 told her earlier, unless Wojzek is somehow in her mind – like a virus that can spring up at any time. Sarah awakes at home with a shriek.

Out of sight, out of mind, she ponders.

TODAY: Sarah has been considering Wojzek’s words all night, aware that there is no-one she can discuss this with without going back to a life she has tried to leave behind – Harry, UNIT, etc. She challenges K-9 again, pointing out that she is acting in loco parentis. K-9 is happy to explain that she herself forbade him to tell her what was happening, which puzzles Sarah. K-9 explains that the Doctor programmed into him a sub-space transmission for when he couldn’t self-repair, or when replacement parts were unavailable. (“Lucky that didn’t break down first then, eh?”) Sarah gets K-9 to play her the transmission – it is a hologram of her, stooped over as though talking to the robot. “Terrific,” snorts Sarah. “Help us Obi Wan, you are our only hope. Well not this time, Doctor. Stop transmitting, K-9.”

Sarah asks when this was recorded. K-9 gives her a date and a time – the middle of the night several weeks ago. She asks more, and K-9 explains that she has been trying to repair him throughout several nights, without success, finally stumbling upon the Doctor’s communications program. Repairs in her sleep – no wonder she has been so tired. But how did she manage when she can barely program her video. K-9 is explaining about alien symbiosis, that Sarah is currently the host for the Tonska’s physical form, when the TARDIS arrives in her home.

The Doctor has returned for her after all, having received K-9’s emergency signal. He asks her to join him again back in the TARDIS. She goes into the TARDIS with him, and is puzzled by his attitude – he doesn’t start the TARDIS, he asks her questions – does she remember how it felt to be in the TARDIS, to experience the Space-Time Vortex, etc. Then Sarah recognises that one of the Doctor’s gestures is familiar, but not for the Doctor – pushing invisible glasses up his nose with his middle finger. She realises that this is also a dream, and “the Doctor” is really the Wojzek-alien. Through controlling Sarah’s mind, strongest when she is sleeping, he introduced the virus into K-9 which has been destroying the robot dog. His intention is to get the Doctor to return to Earth, but now Sarah has stopped the emergency transmission which would make this happen.

The alien has been growing within her since the day she first met him – it left the husk of its parent form in Wojzek’s body which, suddenly released from any higher-brain control, had blundered to its death – like Kendrick’s before it. The alien’s struggle to establish control over Sarah means she has been experiencing very vivid flashback dreams. Although these flashbacks of her most vivid memories are a side effect of the Tomska’s parasitic invasion, the alien has been able to begin manipulating her dreams as it has grown in size and strength. Sarah recognises that the alien has not been able to disguise all its involvement in her dreams, and that she must have some control of the dreams herself. So she concentrates, trying to make the TARDIS vanish; suddenly, she is back in her own kitchen with K-9 and the alien (still looking like the Doctor).

The Doctor-alien tells her that she can achieve so much more with her life if she allows it to develop this symbiotic relationship – it knows what she thinks of herself, because it’s been living in her mind for long enough. She doesn’t fit into her old life – having experienced other worlds and times, she knows that she needs more. And she deserves better than the Doctor gave her: “The Doctor dumped you when he tired of you. You could expect no better. What had you hoped for, what could you really expect? What can any companion of the Doctor expect? The nagging knowledge that you led a second-hand life, that’s what. Shadowing someone else’s needs and desires. Just another time groupie with a hole in your life, looking for an easy escape from the trap you yourself created. And after all that, no thank yous. No rewards. Except maybe an unheroic farewell, or a grave too far from home.”

Sarah retorts that it is an unequal relationship, not a symbiotic one; power and control, not a partnership. The alien cannot survive without controlling her completely, and when it has no further need for her it will drop her without caring what happens. She realises that this sounds familiar… She takes her pent-up feelings of dependence and betrayal by the Doctor, and focuses it on “the Doctor”. She blasts him into nothingness, and the real alien appears at the last minute as a starfish-shaped parasite, surrounded by a series of electrical flashes – like a spoon left in a microwaved coffee. This is her visualisation of the creature inside her. Sarah feels a searing pain at the back of her neck, where Wojzek implanted the alien’s spoor months ago. The image of the starfish-creature sparkles into nothingness. Sarah looks round her boring old kitchen – it’s like seeing somewhere you know really well but haven’t been for ages.

Can she be sure the alien is gone? Only by taking control of her own mind. She asks K-9 to show her the message again. K-9 skips through several hologrammatic projections, a mixture of Sarah’s recorded plea and a variety of events he has scanned from commercial and private satellite communications traffic. Sarah tells K-9 to erase the recordings, and to delete the program which broadcasts the signal. She also asks K-9 whether she is free of the Tonska; he explains that the creature inside her is dead, and that her body will eventually break down the remains (ugh!). Then K-9 says: “Program erased, mistress.”

Sarah starts to plan ways of repairing K-9: she caused the problem in the first place, so she should be able to fix it.

TEN YEARS FROM NOW: Sarah is on television, reading from a novel. The lines are the same as this short story begins with: “She hated Scott Wojzek. She hated his mean self interest, his Lotus Esprit, his easy familiarity with the secretarial staff…” She is reading from her final “Doctor” novel. The programme’s interviewer asks her about the character who has made her an international bestseller over the past decade. Sarah talks about “the Doctor”, and how she has used his unspecified alien background to allow her to explore what it means for other characters to be human. Aren’t some of the Doctor’s assistants rather feeble caricatures of helpless women, asks the interviewer. Sarah explains that they can allow themselves to be led, or choose to use the Doctor’s strengths and weaknesses with their own initiative – and offers a few examples from her books and short stories.

So why bring the series to a close now, when it has been such a great success – and with Amblin expressing interest in developing a TV series? Sarah explains that, while it’s good to allow your characters a life of their own in your writing, it’s also important to retain some control over them. It’s like a job, or a house, or a hobby, Sarah says: no matter how fond you are of them, you should make your own choice when you realise that it’s time to move on.

Last page: publisher’s list of novels and short stories by Sarah Jane Smith.

The End

© Peter Anghelides 1996

Moving On: Excerpt

Filed under: Decalog 3,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 5:22 pm

This section is from the middle of the short story “Moving On”, published in Decalog 3: Consequences. You can see where it fits in the rest of the original proposal here.

LAST WEEK, Sarah sat on an airport courtesy bus as it jostled its way through the early afternoon traffic to the long stay car park. She stared into space, wondering whether the herbs she had planted in the back garden two weeks previously would still be alive when she got home. What had the British weather been like while she was in Switzerland?

On the seat opposite, rocking back and forth with the motion of the vehicle, a woman in late middle age and a heavy green plaid coat squinted back at her through heavy lenses.

“We’ll see how things have changed since we’ve been away,” averred the woman, poking a frizzy piece of wispy grey hair back under the control of her knitted hat. “Just been away for a few days?”

“Sorry?” said Sarah.

“You don’t have much luggage.” The woman nodded towards Sarah’s small travel bag, and then to her own two large trunks. “I’ve been away for three weeks. Oh, Mrs Goodson,” she explained, offering a hand in a fingerless glove.

Sarah shook it, and said “I’ve been away for ten days. But I got used to travelling light.? The woman looked puzzled. “In my… previous job,” Sarah added lamely.

Mrs Goodson nodded as though she understood. “When travelling in foreign climes, I like to take lots of items which remind me of home. One feels so alienated, otherwise.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “Even then, there are so many familiar things that seem wrong when you return, don’t you find?” She sneezed into a grubby paper tissue. “Driving on the left. No mountains in the distance. Policemen in tall helmets. Red telephone boxes…”

The colour of the sky, thought Sarah. The number of moons.

Mrs Goodson chattered on, seemingly unworried that the conversation became increasingly one-sided. Sarah allowed her attention to wander, the other woman’s cheerful flow becoming a burr in the background. Just when Mrs Goodson was pulling family snapshots out of her handbag, the bus slowed as it approached Bus Point Blue 3. Sarah checked her parking ticket, quietly relieved to see her scrawled annotation confirming this as her stop. She stepped down into the aisle and picked her bag off the seat beside her, swaying as the bus came to a halt.

The exit door sighed open. Clasping the travel bag in front of her, Sarah stepped down from the bus.
But instead of stepping out to a row of parked cars, she was on a suburban high street. Momentarily thrown into confusion, she turned back to look through the bus doors. Instead, she saw the outline of a tall blue box shimmering away to nothing. And she recognised the fading sound of the TARDIS engine noise.

She could feel the knot in her stomach again, the familiar hunger-pain of abandonment and loss. Her mind was a whirl. She hadn’t wanted to leave, only wanted some attention. Ignored by the Doctor once too often she had, in a moment of adolescent pique which had surprised her even as it happened, gathered up a random handful of belongings from her room and stood in the console room, explaining that she was leaving right there, right then. She had peered accusingly at him over her hastily assembled box of books, clothes, a toy owl, working herself into a convincing lather of indignation, to which the Doctor appeared to be only half listening. And then, with a suddenness that had knocked all argument from her, he had practically bundled her out of the doors.

The TARDIS was gone, leaving Sarah staring at the tall, untidy privet hedge. She looked around, disconsolate, her feelings disjointed. The roads seemed empty, apart from a golden labrador dog which trotted incuriously across the road towards her, sniffing at spots on the low curve of redbrick wall.

“This isn’t Hillview Road,” she said to herself. Then she dropped to her haunches, and placed her battered box of sad belongings on the patched pavement so that she could fondle the dog’s ears. “I bet this isn’t South Croydon, either.”

The dog’s muzzle wrinkled into infeasible shapes. “Lady, this isn’t even Earth,” it said.

Sarah leapt to her feet, knocking over her box. The owl sprawled, its large cotton eyes staring blindly skywards. Sarah was still staring at the dog. “No,” she said.

The dog blinked once. “If you don’t believe me, ask her,” it said, tossing its head in Sarah’s direction.

“Hello?” said a woman’s voice behind her. For a crazy moment, Sarah stared at her feet, thinking that she must be blocking the pavement with the spilled box contents. She turned with an apology on her lips; but she half stepped, half stumbled backwards as she recognised the woman. It was Mrs Goodson, standing by Bus Point Blue 3, her puzzled face peering at Sarah from beneath her woollen hat. “Oh, here you are dear. For a moment, I thought you’d disappeared on me.”

© Peter Anghelides 1996

Moving On: Unused

Filed under: Decalog 3,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 5:22 pm

My short story in Decalog 3: Consequences, “Moving On”, was supposed to be 10,000 words long. Unfortunately, my first draft came to over 17,000, which was a pretty poor miscalculation. Fortunately, some of the other stories in Decalog 3 ran under their word count, so I was allowed an extra 5,000 words. As well as deletions and revisions elsewhere in the story, I chopped the following three extracts from my submission draft in order to reduce the word count:

  1. Delayed on her way to Tonska
  2. Sarah’s editor meets her at home
  3. Karn flashback


Delayed on her way to Tonska

This sequence gave some further indication of how, despite herself, Sarah is still thinking about the Doctor; there is a section that  explains how she is having to use coping strategies to handle her “missing years” away from Earth; and, alas, it contains one of my favourite gags, about how K-9 cheated at ‘I-Spy’.

Marylebone Roadwas jammed solid, as usual. Sarah switched away from Talk Radio before she got too angry, and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as the Today programme muttered at her. In the days when she used to ferry K-9 around in the back of her old Fiat, she had rarely listened to the car radio, preferring to take advantage of their enforced time together to elicit information about what happened to the Doctor since she knew him.

It had soon became evident however that, much to her journalistic chagrin,  no amount of ingenious interviewing, strategic questioning, or painstaking unearthing of clues by Sarah would produce fascinating new insights. It transpired that the reason for K-9’s initial reluctance to furnish information was that, after his construction and programming, he had hardly known the Doctor at all. He had been boxed up and packed off before he knew where he was, a feeling that Sarah recognised only too well.

So eventually she fell  to playing “I-Spy” with the robot dog, before realising that K-9 was either too literal or too inventive to play fair, the culmination of which was an argument when Brendan  had been informed after 30 minutes guesswork that “something beginning with T” was actually “traffic”.

The cars in front of her sped up to a crawl. Sarah glanced indignantly at her car phone for the seventeenth time. This was too ironic, she thought. The interview with Wojzek was one of three she had undertaken for an article that Andrea wanted on new technologies. The advantage of long friendship was that Sarah had been able to persuade Andrea that she didn’t want a piece on the liberating effects on Modern Woman of e-mail, desktop publishing, and office software suites. No, what she really wanted was a people piece.  Much more interesting for the readers. And by an amazing coincidence, much less of a struggle for Sarah, who had at first thought e-mail was a division of the GPO.

So, Sarah had turned the idea around and explained she would write about the work and family lives of new technologists in Britain. She had identified three people. One was a typesetter, coming to terms with the changes in his industry as in-house newspaper work produced on hugely expensive Linotronic machines changed into ad hoc services on an Apple Mac for one-stop print shops. Another was the international sales manager of a plush toy company, who had found it easier and more efficient to do business with her worldwide clients using a videoconferencing system on her laptop computer, and who had now decided the same was true when she wanted to talk to her husband and children (Natasha, six and Oliver, four). The third was Scott Wojzek, the young director of an IT company called Tonska, which developed new communications technologies.

After just her first, brief telephone conversation with Wojzek, Sarah decided she disliked him. He had swiftly established that his primary interest in talking with her was to obtain as much free advertising in Metropolitan as possible for the minimum expense to him or his company. Sarah had listened patiently without interrupting to a full five minutes of his pre-canned sales pitch before explaining politely that she preferred to speak to her interviewees in person. At this point, his tone had become brusque, though at least the rattling background noise on the phone stopped at the same time – and Sarah realised that Wojzek had been typing at his computer keyboard throughout their conversation.

He had then palmed her off onto his secretary (“can you deal with this journo for me, darling?”), who made it clear that Mr. Wojzek’s busy schedule of seven-to-seven days made it impossible for him to speak to her until the end of the week. She had a tone like the faceless telephone computer voice, Sarah now realised.  And the voice made it plain that Metropolitan  was being favoured with “a full thirty minute window in Mr. Wojzek’s early morning diary, which should on no account overrun its endstop”. Sarah groaned as Yesterday in Parliament began.

Sarah’s editor meets her at home

I chopped this sequence because we didn’t really need to see Andrea, a subsidiary character. I had to retain the ‘interference’ elements (the signal disruption to the laptop computer and the damage to K-9) by rewriting a bit of this for the final version. In this missing sequence, there’s further indication of how out-of-touch Sarah feels since she’s been away in the TARDIS. And there’s also evidence that this is a pretty raw first-draft, containing as it does a number of clichés that I wouldn’t have allowed in the submitted version—for example, the tired old ‘ran her fingers through her hair’ routine. I also note that I was still using “double-quotes” for speech, when the typographical convention at most publishers is ‘single-quotes’. That said, how often do you see the word “dibber” in published fiction?

Andrea Highsmith dropped in to see her at home that evening. “You seem a lot better, Sarah,” she observed after her second cup of Lapsang souchong.

Sarah breathed in the smoky aroma. “I feel like I slept more soundly. The air there is cleaner, too.”

Andrea ran her fingers through her fringe in an absentminded gesture. “I used to think that working abroad was just working in a foreign office. I soon learned. Even inAmerica, where you can discount the language differences, you have to think and react and work differently. It’s a refreshing change. It challenges all your expectations, your baseline assumptions.”

Sarah smiled. “Have you been listening to those motivational tapes again?” They laughed together.

Andrea lifted her palmtop computer, and placed it on top of a pile of Metropolitan magazines on Sarah’s coffee table. “This is changing all that, though. This is my office now.”

Sarah watched, fascinated, as Andrea connected her portable phone to her palmtop via a thin wire. Something else that Andrea took for granted seemed suddenly more alien to Sarah than any of the things the Doctor had shown her. The world had changed utterly in her absence – personal communications, attitudes to work, privatised utilities, the ozone layer, the new world order,  toilet ducks. For a while, she had felt like an old woman trapped in the unreliable past of her own memories and unable to name the Prime Minister, while her friends had altered slowly, imperceptibly,  without realising. “You haven’t changed a bit,” they would say to each other; lies as social niceties.

“How’s the book?” said Andrea as she tapped away at her keyboard. “How many don’t-hold-your-breath scenes of willfully abandoned rumpo have you finished?”

Sarah stared moodily into her tea. “I’m not sure I’m going to get very far.”

“Nonsense,” snapped back Andrea. “I’m depending on you  to give me first refusal on the serialisation rights. Can’t have a Metro serialisation without some steamy sex. Sauna scene? Bondage on Bondai? Ah… shit.” Her computer screen had lit up, and Sarah could see it was strobing with the familiar broken lines.

“I’ll just clear these away,” said Sarah, picking up the mugs and moving into the kitchen. K-9 was lurking quietly beside the sink.

“What is that interference pattern, K-9?”

“Unknown origin-igin,” said K-9. “Origin unknown, mistress.”

Sarah put the mugs down on the work surface, and sat down on her haunches in front of K-9. “Jenny next door said they were getting intermittent picture problems on their TV, even when playing videos. Are you sure you can’t trace it?”

K-9 whirred, a falling note in the quiet of the kitchen. “Cannot compute.”

“Gotcha! At last.” Andrea’s delighted voice floated through from the other room. Sarah stood up and, with a retreating glance at K-9, returned to where her editor was busy at the coffee table. “I’m just linking through to the office for that international call. Want to take part?”

“Circulation discussions make my feet go numb,” chided Sarah. “I’ll check on my herbs instead.”

By the kitchen door, she picked up a little bag of potting compost and a green plastic dibber. She hugged them to her body with her left hand as she unhooked a Chubb key and unlocked the back door with her right. She pulled back the door and stepped through, looking just outside for the plant pots in which some weeks previously she had started to grow lemon mint, thyme and rosemary.

Karn flashback

This was another ‘fake flashback’ sequence, to one of my favourite TV stories, The Brain of Morbius. As you can see, this is still in outline stage, and never reached a full first draft – it is exactly as it appears in the proposal. I quite liked the whole Sarah-being-blind metaphor in the story, but the final version works well without it. Though I slightly regret not having Ohica get her chance to do the Pope gag.

She starts to delete files on her computer, but it switches off. A house fuse has blown, so she takes a torch and goes down into the cellar with a torch to fix it. She gets to the bottom of the cellar steps and hears a hoarse breathing sound behind her. She whirls around, but drops the torch which switches off. In the darkness, she realises that…

…she is blind, and back on Karn. Sarah is terrified and alone in her worst memory. She stumbles across her nightmare landscape to the Sisterhood, where she asks them where the Doctor is. They tell her that the Doctor has already left the planet. She realises something is amiss when one of the sisterhood uses an Earth colloquialism: “Does the Pope wear a pointy hat?”. At this point, whatever Sarah has been holding in her hands turns out to be a torch, which snaps on to reveal she is back in her cellar.

© Peter Anghelides 1996, 2002, 2011

Moving On: Interview

Filed under: Decalog 3,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 5:22 pm

Shortly after Decalog 3 was published (in which my short story “Moving On” appeared), Tim Archer interviewed six of the ten authors. Here are my answers.

Decalog 3 interview

Conducted by Tim Archer

Tim Archer: How did you become involved with Doctor Who?

Peter Anghelides: I’ve watched the show since I was at primary school (back in Ye Blacke and White Transmission Yeares). At secondary school and university, my pals and I produced a fanzine, “Frontier Worlds”, which published reviews, humour, and fiction (including stuff by Paul Cornell, what a scoop, eh?) And I wrote a novelisation of “Logopolis” and the last ever Blake’s 7 story, “Blake”, as well as some short fiction.

The Decalog series provides fans with the opportunity to harness their literary talents by printing their work. How did you become involved in the Decalog series?

Two of my colleagues at work were Justin Richards and Craig Hinton; I’d seen their Virgin work (and commented on some early drafts). Andy Lane had published some of my short fiction in one of his fanzines. Justin and I used to edit the CMS reference series “Doctor Who IN-VISION”. Justin and Andy invited me to submit an outline for Decalog 3, which they considered and which Virgin accepted. (Sounds a bit “in”, I suppose, but they were quite prepared to reject my stuff if they thought it was not very good-and besides, a lot of commissioned publishing is done through “networking” (whether who you know, or meet, or e-mail, or BBS, or rec.arts.drwho, or whatever!)

Fans have welcomed the Decalog concept over the years very positively. But, what do the authors involved think of it?

An ideal testing ground for new authors, as well as a sound marketing device for Virgin to try out short s.f. There’s a real variety of material in each, some of which is brilliant (and a small amount of which is pretty dreadful).

Tell us about your story.

I wanted to write a short story-rather than the sort of “short story” previously published in the Decalogs  (you know, the “shortened novels” sort of thing). So I concentrated on (a) the “consequences” theme of the book (but not in an entirely literal sense), (b) a couple of central characters, and (c) a central scene around which these pivot. I’ve resisted the temptation to say more, because it’s more fun for readers to work stuff out for themselves. I haven’t said who appears in it, for example. Mind you, I haven’t seen many reviews of the story, so I can’t really judge how successful people think I’ve been. (Have you seen any?) What I can tell you is that I wildly overshot the word-limit, and had to do some judicious editing-which I think has benefited the story.

Several authors who have contributed to Decalog in the past have gone on to write more Doctor Who fiction in the style of full-length novels. Will you?

Yes (watch this space).

2011 update: Find out more than that last answer tells you by reading this blog post.

Moving On: Reviews

Filed under: Decalog 3,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 5:21 pm

There are not many published reviews of Decalog 3: Consequences. Nevertheless, the reviewers in the newsstand press picked out “Moving On” as one of the highlights of the collection.

Similarly, there are few reviews on the online bookstores. On, Keith Fletcher from AB,Canada rated the collection 4/5: “‘Moving On’ is a great story […] and it ends in a surprise […]  All in all, this is a great book.”

Jill Sherwin (GallifreyOne reviews) said: “The stories that stood out to me were first, “Moving On” by Peter Anghelides, a modern-day Sarah Jane/K9 & Company story told in leaps and bounds of time… dark and actually quite as depressing as its title, a passage from the innocence of the time Sarah Jane shared with the Doctor(s) to life after him.”

Also on GallifreyOne, Lawrence Conquest observed: “a fun story and effective on its own terms”, but thought that the link to an element of the preceding story (one of the themes of the book) was “the one weak element […] a poor adversary.”

Sean Gaffney disagreed. On his own Happy Guy review page, he said: “Great Sarah… I loved the villain, and the bibliography is, of course, wonderful”. Despite also describing it as “really downbeat”, he rated it 8/10.

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