Fourteen months ago I was in Florida, on the eve of the penultimate flight of the space shuttle Atlantis. On my way to KSC to collect tickets for the next day's launch, I checked my email to find some brilliant news regarding the possibility of a future project. But, I couldn't tell anyone about it. What followed was a year of batting ideas back and forth, until all parties were satisfied. Throughout that process I remained enormously excited: this was a chance to be part of something that had always been very special to me. But - I still couldn't tell anyone.
Today I've just watched Atlantis land for the final time. And I'm now pleased to announce that in 2013, in the fiftieth anniversary year of Doctor Who, BBC Books/Ebury will be publishing HARVEST OF TIME, an original science fiction novel featuring the Third Doctor, his companion Jo Grant, and arch-enemy The Master.
I've never had much interest in spinoffery - the idea of writing in someone else's universe generally leaves me cold - but Doctor Who is different. I've grown up with it. It's been part of my life since I was tiny, watching Jon Pertwee on a grainy black and white television in Cornwall, and being terrified out of my mind. All of the usual cliches apply - I was the boy behind the settee, too afraid to look at the screen, but somehow unable to leave the room. Daleks scared the hell out of me, to the point where I wouldn't go round to another boy's house because he had Dalek wallpaper in his bedroom. Above all else, Doctor Who still seems to me to offer near infinite scope for the writer. It must be the least constraining of televisual properties.
I don't remember the very early Pertwee era, but I have very clear memories of the last two seasons, including the introduction of the brilliant and now much missed Liz Sladen. My love of Who transitioned seamlessly through to the Tom Baker period - as a child I accepted unquestioningly that this alien being was capable of regeneration, and I think my "loyalty" had transferred to Baker by about the middle of the first episode of "Robot". I continued watching Who throughout the seventies and eighties, into the Davison and Colin Baker eras. I lost touch with it when I left for university, but never lost my basic affection (albeit tempered with occasional frustration) for the series.
When I was offered the chance to pick a Doctor, it seemed natural to "do" Pertwee. He was the first, for me, and while I have equal admiration for the Baker era, I've always been attracted to Pertwee's portrayal of the Doctor as dashing man-of-science, charming, skeptical and rational. More than that, I felt that I had a better handle on Pertwee's mannerisms and modes of speech than I do on any other Doctor. I also loved the atmosphere of the UNIT era adventures - all that driving around in Land Rovers, crashing through checkpoints, sinister factories and bosses - and, of course, the looming threat of The Master, simply my favorite fictional villain in any medium.
I'll be blogging more about HARVEST OF TIME over the coming year - without giving too much away - but for now I'm as excited as when I got that first email. I hope that the book does justice to the characters and the actors who portrayed them.