Interview: A.L. Kennedy on writing the 4th Doctor

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull interviews the author of Time Trips story The Death Pit.

Doctor-Who-The-Death-Pit-fullAs previously reported BBC Books are doing another series of e-books (in the ilk of the Puffin novellas) released monthly and the first bitesize instalment is out this Thursday. I had the pleasure of posing some questions to the first author, A.L. Kennedy (The Blue Book and Paradise) about the Fourth Doctor, why Tom Baker’s companions grew irritating and why Baker, Douglas Adams and the Doctor are a perfect combination.

The Time Trips venture by BBC Books asked you all to select a favourite Doctor. Was it difficult for any of you picking a Doctor? In terms of nailing their dialogue and your knowledge of that era?

It was very easy to pick a favourite Doctor – it had to be one of my childhood ones and Tom Baker was streets ahead of anyone. Not that I didn’t appreciate Patrick Troughton – he was just a bit to early for me to really have connected and although I liked Jon Pertwee, it just never really caught with him the way Baker did. Then it was a matter of reminding myself how he talked and pottering around with some 70s research. I was there at the time, though, so it wasn’t the hardest research ever.

Can you tell us which companion you used and why you used them? You are permitted to be coy and mysterious but it doesn’t make as good reading.

I haven’t used a companion. Baker had a go at carrying a story on his own [The Deadly Assassin – Patrick] and they let him to prove him wrong and I recall at the time thinking it worked wonderfully and I saw it recently and still thought so. It was one of the stories, which affected me most deeply when I was a kid. He does have people around, but no one you’ll have met before. After Elisabeth Sladen, I got increasingly irritated by Baker’s companions. They were more for the dads…

In four words describe your reaction when that email/phone call/text message/video/carrier pigeon (delete as appropriate) came through saying you were writing a Doctor Who e-book. Or if you were in a meeting.

Happy, happy, happy, happy.

How much research did you do for your story? Did you find inspiration in a specific story? And do you have a favourite Fourth Doctor episode?

I watched a lot of DVD’s, watched some of them again with my godkids to get their reaction, tried to pick out my favourite episodes to see why I still remembered bits of them and if they still worked and why. Basically, I just tried to channel myself at 9. That very first episode, he just turns up and owns it. My godkids agree and they’re a tough crowd. I probably favour the Douglas Adams episodes – Tom Baker, the Doctor and Douglas Adams, that’s a perfect storm – but there’s a lot to like. The Key to Time stuff is often strong and I recalled it all quite clearly.

A.L., what exactly is the eponymous death pit?

In the great tradition of the ‘City of Death’ – the Death Pit per se isn’t really where it’s at. There is a kind of a pit and people do die in it, but it’s more the immense monster underneath the pit that’s the problem. The novella may be allowed to grow up, become a novel and tell you more.

A.L. Kennedy’s The Death Pit is released on Thursday the 5th of December 2013.