Tag Archives: The Dying Days

The Dying Days notes, Chapter Two

Chapter 2 –  Foreign Soil

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 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.

 

[Chapter One notes]

The Dying Days notes, Chapter One

OK … so following a request on Gallifrey Base, I’m going to reprint my author’s notes from the ebook version of my Doctor Who novel The Dying Days. These originally appeared alongside the BBCi version of the book, and I’ll put them up over the next few days, a chapter at a time. 

 

Chapter 1 – 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.

[Chapter Two notes]