An Afternoon with the Authors: Gaiman, Colfer, Higson, & more

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Guest Contributor Connor Johnston chats to authors from the 50th Anniversary eBook collection on all things Who.

On the 12th of November I was privileged enough to tune into the Puffin hosted Live event: Doctor Who, An Afternoon with the Authors, and interview some of the greatest authors of our generation as they focused on all things Who! Hosted by Charlie Higson and Marcus Sedgwick, the live-streamed event featured special guests – Neil Gaiman, Malorie Blackman, and Eoin Colfer, who all contributed segments regarding their short stories, and how Doctor Who has affected their lives. Here’s what they had to say.

Eoin Colfer on his choice of Doctors

Eoin Colfer on his 50th Anniversary Short StoryOne of the fantastic weapons in the Doctor’s arsenal is his ability to regenerate, and as such means we’ve been blessed with 11 different versions of the Doctor. But for my story, I wanted to go back before regeneration, where there was just the First Doctor and Susan. I picked Number 1 – William Hartnell, because I found his personality to be very close to mine; he’s a little bit grumpy, I’m a little bit grumpy, he doesn’t really like running around and I don’t blame him! I chose William Hartnell, the slow and grumpy Doctor.

Charlie Higson on his inspirations for the monsters for his story “The Beast of Babylon”

Charlie Higson on The Beast of BabylonAdding to the legacy that is Doctor Who, in itself alone is amazing, and when I was writing “The Beast of Babylon” I knew that I wanted to contribute to this legacy by creating a monster of my own. I’ve always thought the signs of the Zodiac would make a sinister set of monsters. There’s something exciting about the creatures we know so well turning scary and monstrous.

Sedgwick on his 50th Anniversary Short StoryTo Marcus Sedgwick: “The Spear of Destiny” is one of the stories in the series that kept us in constant suspense as the Third Doctor tries to track down the spear of Odin. Is it difficult to keep such a constant excitement throughout a whole story?

Well this is very curious case, because you’ve been given a Doctor Who story – But you can only write 10,000 words! So I crammed as much as I could into that time, so the pacing of the story came by this desire to put so much in.

What makes a good villain?

daleks-50th-anniversaryCharlie: I think if we look at the Daleks, one of the show’s most scariest villains. What it has going for it is you can’t reason with it. They won’t listen. They’re so horrifically stubborn, and set on terrorising and taking over at all costs. The best starting point is to make your monster as inhuman as possible.

Malorie: One of the things I love about Doctor Who is the monsters. Take inspiration from the best monsters of all time – the Daleks; I love the Daleks, the Weeping Angels; goodness me they were scary, and the Vashta Nerada, the idea of villains sneaking up on you in the darkness. A great Doctor Who villain is how they have to be cleverly written.

How would you write Peter Capaldi’s Entrance into Doctor Who?

Marcus: Because he’s going to be the Twelfth Doctor, one would want to write something very dramatic. I’m sure they will pull it off.

Charlie: And it’s always a very important matter because you’re tasked with the job of convincing the whole audience – That Peter’s going to be as good or better than the previous Doctors.

Neil Gaiman on Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor.

neilgaimanWhen you’re writing for Matt Smith as the Doctor, whether it be for an episode or a short story, it’s a rather peculiar process because, in my head – There’s Matt Smith, and I try the line on him for size, and the Matt Smith in my head usually says the line in a way I didn’t expect – quite like the real Matt Smith does. And also very angular, swinging his arms about – There’s a point where I describe Matt’s Doctor as being mostly composed of elbows. It’s the joy of writing Matt Smith.


At the end of the live interview event I was left starstruck. How lucky a fandom we are to have such amazing authors such as Charlie Higson, Neil Gaiman, Marcus Sedgwick, Malorie Blackman and Eoin Colfer as well as many more, to devote the time and effort into an amazing tribute, to an amazing show. The paperback edition of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Short Story Anthology is on sale November 23rd.

Watch the entire 45 minute special On Puffin Virtually LIVE here

Want to know more about the collection of short stories? Read Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull’s brilliant monthly reviews of the short stories by clicking on the links below: