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Author Notes - Lance Parkin's guide to The Dying Days
What We Saw From the Ruined House
Benny. The Dying Days wasn’t just the first eighth Doctor book, it marked the point where Benny spun off into her own series (technically, she stayed where she was, in the New Adventures, and the Doctor spun off, but you know what I mean). Bernice Summerfield had been introduced in Love and War, by Paul Cornell, and her adventures continue to this day in Big Finish audios. She was hugely popular, both with the writers and the readers. Up until this point, she’d been the sarky human counterpoint to a rather dark and distant seventh Doctor. She was the voice of his conscience, as well as being the sort of person he was making the galaxy safe for.
While she quickly developed a life of her own, Paul originally based her, in part, on Emma Thompson’s character in the film The Tall Guy, and that’s still the best place to look if you want to see Benny Summerfield walking and talking right there on your telly. I mention this now only because there’s an in-joke in chapter three which no-one will get otherwise.
The Doctor’s house was introduced by Andrew Cartmel in his novel Warhead and his DWM comic strip Fellow Travellers. Over the course of the books, the Doctor popped back to it from time to time. This is the first time we saw it in the ‘present day’.
I never got round to explaining how Benny got the letter, by the way. The book originally ended with her dropping it off for herself. But I came up with a much better ending than that...
The book contains a number of New Adventures cliches, most of them put there deliberately, some by force of habit. The first of these is the gratuitous nudity. At the time, we’d heard that the BBC Books were going to cut down on the ‘adult’ stuff (laughable as that seems, now that recent EDAs have featured tantric sex and a man in a romantic relationship with a poodle). So Benny gets her kit off here, for no reason whatsoever. Anime fans call this ‘fifteening’.
The Doctor. It was very weird writing for a character who was exactly the same but completely different. All the time, I was very conscious that everyone reading would be directly comparing my version with the one in the TV Movie. I cheated, really – we see the Doctor’s early scenes from Benny’s point of view, and she spends her time going ‘gosh, he’s exactly the same but completely different’. But that’s exactly what the audience do with a new Doctor. The Doctor refers back to Love and War, his first meeting with Benny. Again, it’s a dual purpose – reminding people that this was a book with a heritage, but making something new out of that.
As Benny notes in chapter one, I couldn’t pin down the name of the President of the United States or the Prime Minister, because there was going to be an election in both countries between me finishing the book and its publication. The Tories should have bribed me to say the PM was Tony Blair, simply because sod’s law would almost certainly have guaranteed a landslide for John Major. But they didn’t, and the rest is history. One of the amusing things, though, was that Staines could comfortably be either a Conservative or a New Labour Home Secretary.
Lex Christian is the first character who’s an homage to an existing one. This time, it’s Dan Dare, who hopefully British readers will have heard of. For the others, Dan was the hero of The Eagle, the 50s (and 80s!) comic, a square-jawed, stiff upper-lipped space pilot, and absolutely one of the forerunners of Doctor Who – the influence it had, particularly on Terry Nation’s stuff, was immense. The reason he’s in The Dying Days is a vaguely obscure one – the first Dan Dare story in The Eagle is set in 1996 and 1997, so it ‘took place’ at the same time as the book. Reality had caught up with fiction. The irony now, of course, in this age of digital cameras, mobile phones and cloned sheep is that we’re beyond Dan Dare technology – except they have better space travel. The name was Dan Dare’s original name when the strip was being developed.
Everyone reading knew the ‘real’ reason this was the last Virgin book, and all the way through, I play with that. One of the themes of the book is the interplay between ‘real life’ stuff and fiction. I hesitate to say this, but the book has two levels – the narrative, about the Doctor and Benny fighting monsters and also a knowing commentary on the situation. One of the more blatant examples is the Who Killed Kennedy sequence, where a fictional reason is given for Virgin losing their licence.
Veronica Halliwell first appeared (and died) in the Missing Adventure System Shock.
Staines is an idiot. Anyone who’d actually read Who Killed Kennedy couldn’t possibly think it was called I Killed Kennedy. The title is a statement, not a question.
Benny, an expert on Mars, finally gets to use her knowledge. She’d visited Mars in Transit, but been possessed at the time. Legacy had Ice Warriors, but was set on Peladon, and she left the Doctor the book before he visited Mars again in GodEngine.
Patrick Moore, a real astronomer, and Bernard Quatermass, from the 50s serials (or, more correctly, the John Mills version from the last serial – the one set around 1997) argue about Martians. In our universe, Patrick Moore would be right. But this is the Who universe, and Bernard’s fears are proved correct.
The Brigadier. I wasn’t sure about using the Brigadier at first, it felt a bit like tokenism (‘he’s worked alongside every Doctor!’), but Bex pointed out that, perhaps more than any other character, the Brigadier had developed over the course of the New Adventures. We found out about Kadiatu, his descendant, but more importantly, we saw him in action in books like Blood Heat, No Future and Happy Endings, and he had come on to be... well, the Doctor’s oldest friend. And as I wrote the book, the Brig became more and more central to it. Without giving anything away, he gets the last word of the book, which is usually a sign of someone’s importance to the story.
The astronaut’s survival kit is straight out of a nineteen seventies Doctor Who annual – every year, breaking up the stories about people who sometimes vaguely looked like the Doctor and Sarah, there would be a feature about real astronauts.
The Party. Oh boy. Allan Bednar, the illustrator of the BBCi version of this book, has hidden in a cupboard and won’t come out until I assure him he doesn’t have to draw the party. This, of course, is a theme party, and the theme is ‘lame in-jokes’. Where to start? Well... the guest list includes Emma Peel from The Avengers and Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds. Lalla Ward makes the first of two appearances in the book. The rest... well, I’ll let you work them out. Once you spot the Old Woman from the Saturday Night Armistice, then you’ll be heading for a high score. Apparently, if you write a Star Wars novel (which I’d love to do, by the way, if any Star Wars novel people are reading this), then you have to supply footnotes explaining all the references to existing Star Wars characters, for copyright reasons – so you have to say ‘he first appeared in the comics’, or ‘he’s from such and such a novel’. If I’d done that for TDD, or was doing it for this annotated version, then the footnotes would be longer than the book.
Greyhaven is my Ian Richardson character. There’s always someone in my books ‘played’ by Ian Richardson. I’m sure there was a very good reason for that at one point, but if there is, I’ve forgotten it.Anyway, this is the only ‘Ian Richardson’ specifically based on a character Richardson played – you might very well think that he’s based on Francis Urquhart from House of Cards, but I couldn’t possibly comment. The character was originally named Lord Winchester, but the Virgin legal people thought that the Marquis of Winchester would sue, so it got changed.
"Afro-Saxon" was a bizarre proofreading change, one that makes no sense at all. So I let it stay in, on the grounds it would give me an amusing anecdote if the book ever appeared online in annotated form.
Another New Adventure cliché was a token gay character, usually a young man who smiles winsomely, then dies a horrible, gory death two chapters later. Not that I want to give away what happens. I also out Ralph Cornish from The Ambassadors of Death, for no other reason than that’s the sort of thing we used to do in the Virgin books.
The reference to IIF building a nuclear waste dump on the Moon is me, very cheekily, linking perhaps the best television series of all time, Edge of Darkness, with perhaps the worst television series of all time, Space:1999.
The reference to Donnebys must rank as one of the more obscure in the book, but it harks back to the very first Who novel – it’s the rocket company that Ian has applied to work for.
One of my better chapter titles.
I like the stuff on Mars, with the human astronauts. It’s something I perhaps should have developed more. On the other hand, it isn’t their story. They’re there as a pretext.
Chesterton Road is real, it’s by Ladbroke Grove tube station, and you went past it to get to the Virgin offices. Again, it’s an in-joke. Because, even if I’m the only one who admits it, every single Who author thought about Ian Chesterton when they saw the sign.
Note that Benny really fancies this new Doctor, but won’t admit it.
The John Smith and the Common Men album. They’re the pop combo that Susan’s listening to in the first ever episode on TV. I loved the idea that they were still going. The Who universe probably has tribute bands to them, and Britpop there was very subtly different because of their influence. Again, I’m bringing Doctor Who full circle – or at least referring back to its beginnings.
Storms Over Avallion (or some minor variation of it) was the provisional title of Battlefield, a TV story that is set a few months before The Dying Days. The joke (first introduced in Kate Orman’s books, shamelessly ripped off by me here and in Father Time) is that in the Doctor Who universe, there are just as many Doctor Who fanzines, novels and internet discussion groups, but they’re all discussing real alien invasions that the government wants covering up.
Lex Christian upholds another New Adventures tradition – retconning a sex life for a television companion. I think, in the course of sixty books, that we managed to deflower every regular character from the TV series. Apart from K9 – and I once proposed a book where K9 got a robot dog girlfriend. Ironic for a company called Virgin, I know, but their ‘erotic fiction’ line was edited in the same room, and something clearly rubbed off. So to speak. Bizarrely, there were plenty of Who references in the mucky books, too... or so I’m told.
The Drahvins and Bandrils were among the more rubbish of the Doctor Who monsters. The joke here, not that the Brigadier realises, is that some alien invasions were beneath the Doctor’s dignity to deal with.
Benny changes into the outfit she was wearing on the cover of her first novel, Love and War.
The description of Twelve Monkeys could equally well apply to the TV Movie.
Ha! I was right. I was right about Star Trek X. Five years before it was written, I guessed right! The line ‘they knew it was the last one, so they could get away with all sorts of stuff’ could be the tagline for The Dying Days.
It’s unclear what the men are doing putting that thing on the roof , because I never explain it. They are setting up a homing beacon for the Martian ship, the same sort of beacon that the Martians need in The Seeds of Death. It’s why the ship ends up over Trafalgar Square. But I never explain that properly. Sorry.
Note that Bessie’s registration number has changed.
Until Mariner, most scientists thought Mars had primitive life, and none doubted that it could support life, at least in the sense that the top of Everest or Antarctica could ‘support life’. Even as late as Viking, some people still held out hope. By then, it had been clearly established that Mars in the Who universe had a breathable atmosphere. So here, they’re only discovering what anyone who’d seen Pyramids of Mars already knew.
One prediction I got wrong – I thought Mary Robinson would be the new Secretary General of the UN, but Kofi Annan got the job.
I love the end of this chapter – there’s a real sense of pace. It breaks the rules, too, of course. This was the era of the X-Files. Bex was a huge fan, and joked that she really wanted to see an episode which ended with Mulder and Scully saying all that usual guff about how there probably were aliens, but they’d never have any concrete evidence... just as one of the flying saucers from Independence Day flew overhead and the caption ‘to be continued’ comes up. That scene doesn’t quite make it into The Dying Days, but the sentiment behind it – that Doctor Who could do the ‘foreplay’ that the X-files does (conspiracies, government cover-ups, aliens) but, unlike the X-files it could then go onto the ‘orgasm’ of full scale alien invasion – informs the whole book. But TDD still breaks the rules – alien invasions aren’t allowed to be public. I only got away with it because it was the last book.
Hmmmm... Independence Day. The film hadn’t come out in May 1996 when I was commissioned, although I’d seen the trailer. The book was finished by the time I heard Independence Day UK, the radio story that’s even more like The Dying Days. There was something in the air, that year – Mars Attacks! also came out.
I know how I’d like to bring Doctor Who back to television. I’ve had the scene perfectly mapped out in my mind for years. No adverts, no pre-publicity, just an plain, ordinary night of television – there’s a new medical drama on BBC1 at eight that looks OK. Eight o’clock, the announcer solemnly tells the audience that they’re going to the newsroom for a newsflash. Then a real BBC newsreader tells us that there’s an alien spacecraft over London. We cut to a confused OB reporter – what’s going on. Then a electronic voice from the ship – ‘Surrender humans, or we will exterminate you’. Then the reporter panics, and starts to run away, and bumps into a very famous actor in a frock coat, with a gorgeous young woman just behind him. ‘Don’t worry,’ the stranger says, ‘You’re safe. I’ll see to that’. The reporter goes ‘Who are you?’. And the Doctor turns to camera and smiles and goes. ‘Me? I’m back!". Cue opening credits, cue that theme tune, cue the phone network melting down as everyone in the country is either phoning each other to tell them to watch BBC1 or shouting that they know, they’re trying to damn well watch it. I just love the idea of some ordinary piece of television suddenly becoming Doctor Who, because... well, it’s either that or just plain, ordinary television.
Another good chapter title, if a little lateral.
Originally, the scene with the President and his aide featured a flat-voiced FBI agent and his winsome ginger partner. Even though they weren’t named, this was dropped because the legal people got nervous. Bizarrely, I thought, given the number of ‘homages’ in the book. I have to note that this was the only book I ever got legal advice from Virgin on, and I got a lot. Perhaps, as it was the last Who book, the lawyers hadn’t got any other books to read that month.
I did wonder about the Queen evacuating the country. I suspect, in the unlikely event of alien invasion, that she’d want to stand her ground, in the same way the royal family stayed in the country during WW2. That would clash with what happens later in the book, though. This year, I’ve read a book called The Secret State, by Peter Hennessy, which says that in the event of nuclear war, the plan in the sixties was to get the Queen onto the royal yacht and off to Canada (‘if it still exists’ – not the yacht, Canada). I was also really nervous about involving ‘real people’ in the invasion section. You’ll note that, after six chapters chock full of real people, from now on it’s just fictional characters. As well as legal nervousness (not wanting to paint real people as collaborators or as accepting Martian rule) there would have been something irredeemably camp about having Gazza or Scary Spice joining the fight. Watching LA destroyed in Independence Day, though, I did find myself wondering how many movie stars survived.
With the Ice Warrior, I wanted to get across that it wasn’t just some tall extra in a costume with a head that didn’t fit properly. This was a monster, and it looked like a monster. The idea was that it was an Ice Warrior done on a Hollywood budget. Another little touch – the reason the TV Movie people gave for not using monsters was that they were too expensive – Phillip Segal said something like ‘the budget would run to about two monster costumes, and you can’t tell a story about the invasion of Earth with two monsters’. As a bifurcated handed salute to that sentiment, and sentiments like it, in The Dying Days there are never more than two Martians in the same scene. You could make this story for television on about the same budget as a couple of episodes of Born and Bred.
Finally, someone explains the plot! All this exposition, of course, is just a way of getting all that ‘plot’ stuff out of the way so we can get down to having monsters chasing our heroes and going ‘grrrr’ alot.
Greyhaven’s plan, while basically undemocratic, isn’t actually an evil one. He wants to reopen all the closed factories, shipyards and mines. I’m sure someone, somewhere could write an essay on how The Dying Days – the first Who story set in the Blair era, as Tim Collins could tell you - was a metaphor for how New Labour courted big business and encouraged globalisation to get unemployment down.
Fans have often asked how The Dying Days ‘fits’, given that everyone on Earth should know about the Martians afterwards. Here, Benny asks the same question. The Doctor doesn’t answer. Note that the eighth Doctor speaks of the seventh Doctor in the third person.
The Brigadier knows that only the Doctor can get them out of this situation – he doesn’t know what’s about to happen to his old friend.
New Adventures cliché piles on New Adventures cliché as a prostitute eats in a greasy café, smokes, quotes from Round the Horne, then makes a reference to a recent film. In my defence, she at no point drops a lyric from a pop song into the conversation, inverts the ‘end my life’ scene from The Happiness Patrol by shooting the Doctor, turns out to be related to a character from the UNIT era, notes that there was a lot less air pollution before the invention of the motor car or quotes from The Second Coming.
I like the fact the baddy keeps his evil plan in a Wallace and Gromit ringbinder.
We see the Martians alone for the first time, and – surprise, surprise – they’ve got an evil plan that Greyhaven doesn’t know about.
The original idea of the book was that it would be the human characters who ascribed nobility and culture to the Ice Warriors, but the Martians would really be just nasty, snarling, spitting slabs of hate. Monsters, in other words. So the humans would keep going on about how they came from a noble culture, and had a code of honour, but everything the Martians actually did was just sadistic and nasty. After the book was finished, I saw Mars Attacks! where the Pierce Brosnan scientist character does that joke. But by then, the Martians, particularly Xznaal, had developed into pretty rounded characters. This chapter contrasts Xznaal and the Brigadier – both warriors, both having seen better days, both full of regrets, both thirsting for one last battle.
While, over the years, the odd ‘influence’ from Grant Morrison’s work has been felt in my books, the coronation of an alien as king of England predates the same scene in The Invisibles by a couple of years. It is, as Greyhaven is at pains to note, a fairly accurate depiction of a real coronation ceremony.
Christmas on a Rational Planet, Lawrence Miles’s 1996 debut novel, had a throwaway reference to the ‘recoronation’ of Queen Elizabeth II. I thought I was being very clever by tying up a loose end by showing why she needed a second coronation. But Lawrence was tying up a loose end himself – how there could be a ‘King’ in Battlefield (set in the mid to late nineties, and a couple of months before TDD) but the Queen could celebrate her Golden Jubilee in Head Games (a sequence of which was set in 2001). As is often the way, two people trying to solve a continuity error have left a much bigger one in its place.
The Brigadier and Eve joke about UNIT being a top secret organisation. In the TV series, while UNIT’s meant to be one of the most covert organisations on the planet, they also drive around in big lorries marked ‘UNIT’, and the (local!) reporters in Spearhead from Space know who the Brigadier is, which organisation he runs and that he investigates ‘little green men’. It’s clearly one of the worst-kept secrets in the world.
The chapter title was the provisional title of the novel The Also People. The provisional title of this chapter was ‘The Yeti on the Loo’, and you all know why, so I don’t need to explain.
We never see the Martian hang-gliders in action, which is a bit of a shame. Note that the Martians also have ‘tripods’ (as the Martians in The War of the Worlds did), and machines that look like the Martian war machines in the fifties film version of War of the Worlds.
Benny comes into her own here. This was inspired by something Mark Clapham told me – Morrisons supermarket’s own brand vodka was, and maybe still is, called Morrotov. Well, Mark was a university student at the time, he’d know. Benny said in Love and War that there’s not a problem in the world that can’t be solved with vodka. Here she demonstrates this by making a Morrotov cocktail.
And the Doctor dies. SFX had already reported that the Doctor died halfway through the book, so everyone knew it was coming. It was the last book, I could do it. Every other book, you know for a fact that he’s going to come bouncing back. Not here. Some people objected that BBC were doing Eighth Doctor books, so he couldn’t die. Look again – the Doctor says he’s twelve hundred years old. This book clearly happens after the BBC Eighth Doctor books (and still, even after the Earth arc, in the future of the current EDAs – although the Doctor remembers The Dying Days in The Scarlet Empress). You can have your EDAs, but it’ll end like this. I realised afterwards that this is exactly what happens in the last episode of Star Cops, where Nathan dies. The title of that episode? Little Green Men – there’s this discovery on Mars, you see, and it’s uncovered this conspiracy to keep the existence of Martians secret...
...and it was all a horrible dream, and the Doctor was alive after all. The seventh Doctor had dominated the New Adventures, and it would have been odd for him not to show up in the last book.
The narrative switches so that Benny is the main character, and we switch to diary entries – technically, extracts from her memoirs. We knew Benny was going to survive this book, because Virgin had announced she was spinning off. Her memoirs are, it seems, written when she’s an old woman. Phyllida Law, perhaps, instead of Emma Thompson.
One theory I’ve always had, one you see in all my Who books, is that the Doctor emits a sort of shield that protects his companions when he’s around. Not a real shield, but the narrative rules twist around him to his advantage. In Just War, for example, when a squad of Nazis fire machine guns at him and Chris, they all miss. But Benny, separated from the Doctor, is easily captured and tortured. The Doctor can just get away with things that ordinary people can’t. But with the Doctor dead, we’re back in the realm of ordinary things – people have to eat and wash. They need to look out for themselves.
Staines is a loyal servant of the crown, even if a Martian is wearing it.
Bernice’s lecture refers to what we know about the Martians from the books and TV episodes featuring the Ice Warriors. By the time of Transit, the human race is as technically advanced as the Martians, and wins a ruthless, genocidal war against them on Mars.
The BBC often cancel programmes that have a vague passing resemblance to contemporary tragic news stories. The Fugitive, for example, always gets postponed when there’s a train crash, because there’s a train crash in it. So they’ve cancelled the X Files the week of the Martian invasion.
Lex resurfaces after vanishing from UNIT HQ shortly after the Martian invasion. See? I hadn’t forgotten him.
The chapter title, obviously, is a reference to Mars Attacks!
The fact the tape is NTSC is a clue to its origin.
‘From the streets of ancient Uruk to the common room of a twenty-sixth century university’ is another meta reference – the very first New Adventure, Timewyrm:Genesys was set in ancient Uruk, the last one ends... well, we’re not there yet, so I’d better not say.
The history book with the scary eye is, of course, A History of the Universe, another one of my books, which was written before The Dying Days, so doesn’t refer to it. I seem to set the date of my death here – but we don’t know what year Benny is writing from. As the current Big Finish audios are set in 2601, and Benny’s not written her memoirs yet, it looks like I’m going to make it to at least ninety-nine years old.
I quite like the idea that the book starts with humans talking about terraforming Mars, and ends with the Martians attempting to aresform Earth. This section, in retrospect, draws from Quatermass II, with its secret silos full of alien nasty stuff.
The ‘perhaps I’ll just be retconned’ line proved to be a firm favourite in internet discussion of the book. It’s another meta reference – ‘retconning’ is short for ‘retroactive continuity’, briefly ‘going back and changing things so they all fit together better or make more sense’. It’s a term originally used in comics fandom, and Doctor Who fans retcon, for example, how the Brigadier retires from UNIT in 1976 according to one story, but was only made head of UNIT in 1979 according to another. Benny muses (not for the first time in the book) how The Dying Days fits into Doctor Who continuity.
One of the running themes of the book is how thin the line between a functioning society and social chaos is. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but there are a number of reminders throughout the book that what we think of as a stable, secure society relies a lot on goodwill and the trust in the people that lead us. Since the book was written we’ve had the death of Princess Diana and the fuel protests, both of which, very briefly, really seemed to destabilise British society. In this scene, the bulletproof glass has become a symbol of Greyhaven’s weakness, not his strength.
Note the contrast between the Doctor and Benny when dealing with the Ice Warriors – earlier, the Doctor just strolled into the mothership and Xznaal didn’t kill him. Here, Benny’s sneaking around a shuttlecraft, and despite her cunning plan, she’s caught. When the plans for the Benny books were drawn up, Virgin gathered about half a dozen writers together to come up with ideas – one thing we were all adamant shouldn’t happen (but weren’t quite sure how to do it) was that Benny couldn’t be ‘a Doctor substitute’. The dynamic of the books had to be different – here we start to see a hint of the difference. Benny can’t just say ‘take me to your leader’, she has to worry about basic things like money and speaking the native language.
Ogilvy notes how scientifically implausible the Ice Warriors are.
The crown falls off Xznaal’s head – symbolic, but also a way of making sure the crown isn’t on the mothership in the last chapter.
The Hay Wain has appeared a few times throughout the book – the first time as a design on a tray owned by the Doctor. Here Xznaal uses the real thing as a tray.
Benny is giving as good as she gets here, but note that all her banter isn’t actually changing anything. She’s not talking Xznaal out of his plan, as the Doctor might, just making him more resolute.
‘It’s bows and arrows against the lightning’ is a quote from War of the Worlds – a soldier commenting on the futility of fighting the Martians. The line about only two Martians and one human being left is a paraphrase of an American general in the sixties discussing the Cold War and Communists. The image of the Ice Warrior Benny has was a description of the cover of the original Virgin edition of the book.
The reason for the giant hologram is a convoluted one. Originally, I asked for the cover to be a mirror image of the first New Adventure, Genesys. That had four elements – a monster in the foreground, a full-length image of a man, with a temple wall in the background... and a ghostly floating face of the Doctor. The book covers had moved towards a literal depiction of a scene from the book since then. So I had to have a specific scene with a monster confronting a full length Benny in front of a castle wall, with a giant floating ghostly Doctor head in at some point! In the end, the idea of mirroring the original cover was dropped, because it didn’t fit the new cover format. But the version that was used still has echoes of the Genesys cover.
Benny’s ‘last words’ are actually taken from an unpublished fan story I wrote with Mark Clapham, where they were given to the Doctor’s companion there, Iffy.
The last scene of this chapter has divided people. Grown men have admitted to crying, others think it’s bombastic and utterly out of character. Remember that at the time, most people reading the book knew the Doctor died in it. The guy’s just come back from the dead, so I think he’s allowed a big entrance. If it had been a TV story, it’s the bit that would get the biggest cheer at conventions.
The Doctor’s descriptions of himself come from various books including, for the first time, the forthcoming BBC ones. ‘The man that gives monsters nightmares’ was coined by Paul Cornell; the ‘Bringer of Darkness’ is from the Remembrance of the Daleks novelisation by Ben Aaronovitch, more than any other book the harbinger of the New Adventures era; ‘Eighth Man Bound’ is from Christmas on a Rational Planet; the Doctor had been ‘Time’s Champion’ throughout the NAs, and became ‘Life’s Champion’ in Vampire Science; ‘the guy with two hearts’ is from the TV Movie and ‘I make history better’ is from the short story ‘Continuity Errors’ by Steven Moffat. ‘I... am... the Doctor!’ was from the TV Movie – more specifically, the adverts for the TV Movie.
I had really wanted to have a symbolic handover from the Virgin books to the BBC books – the Doctor literally having something in his hand at the end of this book that he still had in his hand at the beginning of the first EDA. But my book was finished before The Eight Doctors was commissioned, so that proved impossible. The short lead times for to the BBC books meant that a number of things I wish I could have done couldn’t happen. The original plan for the EDAs was that Grace would be the companion – that changed very late in the day, so late that Kate and Jon wrote sections of Vampire Science with Grace. The Dying Days would have had Grace in if I’d have known the BBC books couldn’t. I’d have mentioned Sam, the new BBC companion, if I’d had the chance.
My favourite line in the book is probably ‘And it was’. Virgin were constantly being accused from some quarters of ‘betraying Doctor Who’, ‘pursuing their own agenda’, ‘change for change’s sake’ and having ‘an ego that wants to see Doctor Who destroyed’. As, of course, have the EDAs, Dan Freedman, Big Finish, Phillip Segal, ‘Curse of Fatal Death’, JNT, Robert Holmes, Patrick Troughton and, if you go back far enough, Nigel Kneale, HG Wells, and the first caveman to daub paint on a wall. Anyone making Doctor Who that doesn’t get that reaction is almost certainly doing something monumentally wrong. The Doctor’s not back, he never went away and he never will.
He’s back and it’s about time... in the space of three words, the Doctor’s alive, and the tables have completely turned.
I wasn’t going to explain how the Doctor survived at first – who cares, now he’s back? But everyone that read the first draft wanted an explanation, so I put one in. Re-reading the book, you’ll see that the Doctor’s been very busy, working with Lex Christian and Eve (which is why we’ve not seen them, either).
When the Doctor confronts Xznaal, the description of him is an inversion of the first description of Xznaal back in chapter seven. He won’t admit it, but Xznaal’s scared.
The ‘gazing into the abyss’ quote is, of course, an inversion of the Nietzsche quote. Along with quoting from ‘Things Fall Apart’, it was the favourite quote of the New Adventures, popping up all over the place to encapsulate how the ‘dark’ seventh Doctor was becoming as much of a monster as his adversaries. The eighth Doctor is different – and he’s conquered the Red Death once, so it’s not going to frighten him now.
I wanted people to think that I’d brought the Doctor back to kill him, and that he would die falling out of the ship. It’s meant to evoke a Reichenbach Falls / Logopolis moment... but I don’t think it works – he’s such an irresistible force in this last chapter, that you don’t wonder if he’ll survive, you only wonder how he’ll manage to. In the end, I wanted to end the book with a memorable image – and, in those terms, it works. By quoting from Logopolis, I perhaps fooled people for ten seconds into thinking he was going to regenerate.
The chapter title is a play on Phillip Segal’s comment that the TV Movie has ‘kisses to the past’, like the Doctor finding a long woollen scarf.
I’m biased, I know, but I love this last chapter, I think absolutely every word falls in the right place and has exactly the right weight. I’m very self-critical – there’s one whole Who book of mine that I wouldn’t have published, if I’d had the choice. But I think this chapter’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
The first section of the book is meant to be a pastiche of Paul Cornell’s writing style, as a lead in to the next New Adventure, written by him, Oh No It Isn’t. It’s meant to quickly sketch in the set up of the Benny books for people, so, hopefully, they’d buy next month’s book, not just leave with the Doctor. In the end, though, if I could write like Paul Cornell, I’d write like Paul Cornell, and saying ‘wonderful’ a lot isn’t the same thing.
I’d first used the ‘robarman’ joke in Cold Fusion.
Benny’s bicycle was, at one point, meant to be something she used in all her books – possibly a nod to Emma Thompson’s character in the Arnie film Junior, a professor who got around campus on a bike. In the event, I think it was only mentioned in Oh No It Isn’t.
‘She used the F-word because she could’. The BBC wouldn’t let the New Adventures use swear words, as there had been complaints after a few early books had done so (most memorably Iceberg, which began with the memorable phrase ‘ "F- you, mate! Just f- you you f-ing w-ker". There was no doubting the strength of feeling in the biker. He was angry.’, the sheer gratuitous nature and psychological insight of which caused much merriment among the NA writers). I had, of course, wanted Benny to use the F-word, not merely allude to it, but even three pages from the end, no swearing was allowed.
In the TV Movie, the Doctor had kissed Grace, and some of the fanboys weren’t happy about that at all. The Doctor doesn’t kiss girls. Note that he doesn’t in this scene, either. Exactly what Benny and the Doctor do or don’t get up to must remain a mystery (and BBCi have decided against letting Allan Bednar draw a picture of it!).
There was originally a middle section to this chapter, that went through four versions, three of which are available elsewhere online, if you look hard enough, the fourth of which was so awful I deleted it, and I don’t have a copy of. The basic plot was ‘the last Dalek story’ – a future Doctor giving a eulogy for the Daleks, who he’d just utterly defeated. The idea was to produce a real capstone for the Doctor Who legend – once the Daleks were beaten, the Doctor announced his retirement. Two versions had a Doctor played by Ian Richardson, a third had an ancient, wizened Paul McGann, the fourth had Chris Cwej doing the honours. Rebecca Levene didn’t like any of the versions, and insisted the scene got cut, leading to the only real argument we ever had in the five books and two years on Emmerdale we’ve worked together. Five years on, the most annoying thing is admitting that Bex was right.
And so it ends... fully aware that people would be flicking to the end to see if the Doctor was alive, the last section is a memorial service in Westminster Abbey with no Doctor to be seen. Lethbridge-Stewart’s musings on his career are the last meta reference of the book, representing the thoughts of the people at Virgin. The last line’s nicely understated, I think – you have to re-read it before you spot that a piece of the Doctor Who universe has changed.