For the third of their Doctor Who short stories celebrating the 50th anniversary, Puffin turned to Marcus Sedgwick, the award-winning writer of Floodland, My Swordhand is Singing, and Lunatics and Luck. Alongside his work on new original projects, Sedgwick created a battle of wits between the third Doctor and his regular nemesis, the Master and spoke to Paul Simpson about stepping back 40 years…
How were you approached for this project?
Late last year Puffin got in touch with me to see if I’d be interested in writing one of the 50th anniversary stories, and of course I jumped at the chance: who wouldn’t want to write something about one of Britain’s most significant fictional characters?
Why did you choose the Third Doctor and Jo?
I loved Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Jo makes a great companion: I really like the interplay between them: something I’ve tried to bring out in my story.
There are a lot of nice little continuity touches in the story – did you come up with these or were they suggested?
If you mean continuity with the rest of the Doctor Who world, well, I’m a reasonably big fan of the series so it wasn’t too hard to work in a few bits to make it all come together.
The Master can sometimes become a moustache-twirling caricature of a villain; how did you approach writing him?
The important thing to remember about the Master is the history he has with the Doctor: once you keep in mind that they were once boyhood friends, I think it’s not too hard to make him more three dimensional than a mere cardboard cut out of a baddie.
Was there ever a temptation to make this a full UNIT story?
I was very tempted to make this a much longer book, full stop! But it had to be a strict limit on the word length to fit in with future publication plans. Even then I had to creep over the word limit a little, because there was so much to say and more I had to let go unsaid.
Did you go back and watch/listen to stories from the period, or did you know them pretty well anyway?
As I mentioned above I knew quite a bit about the Third Doctor but I did indeed watch a bunch of classic Pertwee episodes, just to get his voice into my head, and Jo’s too.
You obviously have a love of myths and legends; what other ones would you like to involve the Doctor in?
Yes I do love myths, and to be honest I think I’d be happy bringing the Doctor into many old stories, some of which almost certainly had some basis in truth at some point: for example, all cultures around the world have some kind of Flood myth, and some people have speculated that this is because there was some kind of global flooding event in prehistory, perhaps due to changes in the world’s temperature: a familiar story to us now…
What else are you working on at the moment?
A lot! I have a new YA novel out in October, called She Is Not Invisible. I’ve got a graphic novel coming out that month too, something I’ve co-written with my brother. It’s called Dark Satanic Mills. Then I’m writing a new YA novel for 2014, another graphic novel for 2015. And I’ve got a thriller coming out in March 2014 too, called A Love Like Blood.
What do you think the secret of Doctor Who’s longevity is?
I think it’s two things, both of which are not that fashionable, but which I think we secretly admire. First, the Doctor is smart. He’s really smart. We’re not so good at admiring intellectuals these days, and yet I think we love how brainy he is! Maybe this is changing now that the word geek has become less of a term of abuse! And secondly, he’s really kind. He’s gentle, in fact. I think it’s admirable the way he always tries to get out of any situation without using violence if he can.
Thanks to Hannah McMillan for her help in arranging this interview.