Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Kevin Rhodes Q & A

Kevin Rhodes has very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about Doctor Who and writing in general, and here's what he had to say:


In this series you've written for the 1st Doctor (sort of), and your depiction of the era is uncannily accurate. Do you have a particular affection for his era, or was it more a challenge that you felt like undertaking?
I definitely have a huge affection for this era. Although Sylvester McCoy was (and still is) my Doctor, I see Hartnell's tenure as being the best period of Doctor Who. Yes, there a few turkeys along the way, as with every era of the show, but the vast majority are just exemplary pieces of television – the scripts, the actors (William Hartnell is, quite simply, the greatest Doctor of them all; the original and the best!), the production values… If it hadn't been for this extraordinary start to the series, there's no way it would still be going so strongly today.

Do you think any Doctors pose any particular challenges when writing for them? If so, why?
This may be a huge cliché but it's also true РTroughton. So much of his performances were based on his physical presence, I really struggle to translate this into prose. And, to a somewhat lesser extent, the same has to be said of Matt Smith, with all the energetic madness he's managed to bring to the role. In saying that, I love all incarnations of the Doctor, so I'm more than happy to write for any of them!

How important is the role of the companion? What is your preferred amount? Are two just right? Are three too many?
I think this depends greatly on the format… In general, I'm a fan of having two companions – the first pairings that spring to mind are the wonderful Rose & Jack and Amy & Rory. But, in saying that, let's flash back to the 60s and have a look at my favourite TARDIS crew of all time: the 1st Doctor, Ian Barbara & Susan. The combination of these four characters was brilliant and, at the time, just right. But back in those days, stories were told at a far slower pace which is why, in today's world, I think two companions is pretty much the limit. But if Mr Moffat suddenly decides to bring back a four-person TARDIS crew, I'm more than happy to be proven wrong!

From my own point of view, I think writing a short story can make it tricky to include too many companions. I found it fairly easily to write for two companions in The Destiny of Doctor Who but the main reason for this is the lack of many other supporting characters. As a contrast, my series 3 story only features one companion and yet I'm finding it a bit trickier, due to a slightly larger supporting cast.

So, to conclude: it's a bit of a balancing act. But at the end of the day, the companion plays a vital role in any medium of Doctor Who, otherwise you're just going to end up either with the Doctor talking to himself (which is never ideal) or having one of your supporting characters taking on a surrogate companion role anyway, such as with Peth in Voyage of the Damned or Jackson Lake in The Next Doctor.

What do you think is the most important thing you can do to grab the reader's attention? Is there ever a danger of alienating them or worse, causing them to become uninterested in the story? What can a writer do to prevent this from happening?

Three main things spring to mind: strong, well-defined characters; an intriguing storyline, which unfolds at a gradual but steady pace; and enough action set-pieces to get the adrenaline pumping!


What's your first memory of Doctor Who? What was it about the programme that made you want to keep watching? Was there anything that nearly put you off?
I vividly remember watching Remembrance of the Daleks as a 4 year old. The one image that sticks in my mind from this is the scene where Ratcliffe is killed and collapses onto the metal staircase. On the back of this I remember me and my brother, both playing at being the Doctor, whilst my dad played the part of the Dalek. I was channelling Sylvester McCoy, prodding the evil Dalek with an umbrella and having a great time!

But it wasn't until the repeat season from the 1990s that I properly discovered Doctor Who and became a true fan. I remember being absolutely terrified by The Sea Devils and that was me hooked for life! The show is just so unique and diverse, there really is nothing else like it. I don't think anything could ever put me off!

Have you always been a writer? What draws you to want to write and what's the interest in writing fan fiction in particular?
Like many fans, Doctor Who has always been a fantastic outlet for my creative side. From a very young age I was always scribbling away in notebooks and coming up with various adventures for the Doctor. As I mentioned in my previous answer, I think a big part of that is due to the unique nature of Doctor Who; you really can tell absolutely any story you want within the medium. I just don't see the same being true for fans of other shows.

What would you say would be the biggest interest for you in writing Who fiction? Why do you do it? Is the writing itself a big enough reward or is it the possibility of adulation from others that pushes you on?
I write for myself, first and foremost. I think it's very important for everyone to express their creative side and, for me that takes the form of Doctor Who fan fiction. I have a lot of stories bustling around in my head that I want to tell. Of course, receiving adulation from fellow fans is always lovely but is not the most important thing for me.

And a few final questions to finish:
Favourite Doctor? Why?

While I think William Hartnell is the best Doctor, Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor and will always be my favourite. But, at the end of the day, I need to quote the Brigadier here and say: "Splendid chaps. All of them."

Favourite companion? Why?
Captain Jack because he's just so fun and likeable. And you can just tell that John Barrowman's having a complete blast, which translates brilliantly onto the screen.

Top 5 Doctor Who stories? Why do you like them?
Now, this is tricky! Picking only 5!?! Right, well, here we go:

1) The Curse of Fenric. The best of the best, for me - a brilliant script, fantastic production values and a phenomenal cast. And it's quite possibly the pinnacle of the Sylvester McCoy/Sophie Aldred partnership. It just doesn't get any better than this.

2) The Evil of the Daleks. Epic. The ambition of this could so easily have caused it to fall flat on its face but instead, everyone involved just upped their game that little bit more, to produce something extraordinary.

3) Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways. I don't think I've ever been as excited by Doctor Who as when I first watched this. Armies of Daleks flying through space, the spectacular return of the Emperor, the culmination of the Bad Wolf mystery, a regeneration... The week's wait between the two episodes was simply excruciating.

4) Turn Left. At its heart, this is a very simple story: what would the world be like without the Doctor? So simple and yet so effective... I can't believe it took 45 years for this story to be told! Oh, and it has one of the best episode endings ever!

5) The Daleks' Master Plan. The show's first (successful) attempt at a true epic, featuring chases through time & space, planet-hopping, Daleks... and the Monk! What more could you want?

Favourite author/s? Book/s?
I am a huge fan of Conan-Doyle's entire Sherlock Holmes canon: ingenious story-telling, where he manages to make the writing of his intricate plots look simple.

From a Doctor Who perspective, I love Nightshade - a true masterpiece. I honestly believe that Mark Gatiss is one of the most talented men in the country. Is there anything that he can't do?

What do you like about Who? What keeps you hooked?
As I said earlier, it's just so unique. There's nothing else like it in the world - it can be funny, clever, exciting, sad, happy, serious, silly... Anything goes! With most other shows, you have to be in a certain mood to watch it but that just isn't the case with Doctor Who, as there's something for every occasion.

What would be your top writing tip?
If you write stories that you would enjoy reading, everything else will fall into place.


Kevin Rhodes, thank you very much.

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