Interview: Nick Harkaway on writing the 10th Doctor

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull interviews the author of Time Trips story, Keeping Up With The Joneses.

david-tennant-2006After Jenny Colgan’s likeable Eleventh Doctor yarn Into the Nowhere last month, the Time Trips series ambles along into February. This time round it’s Nick Harkaway (Angelmaker) and I was thrilled to have the chance to put a few questions to the author on the Harkaway Puppy Dance of Joy, breaking continuity and hotwiring your transversal abnegational matrix to your stereo to listen in on an alien spaceship.

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?

I was torn between Tom Baker, who was my Doctor when I was a kid, and David Tennant, whose tenure, for me, was just a thing of beauty and a joy forever. In the end I wasn’t as comfy with the Tom Baker era. It had flavours of Tales of the Unexpected, even The Prisoner, and the Doctor was a wandering godling trickster who felt less engaged to me, yet occasionally found his sense of humour evaporating in the face of something more serious than he’d had in mind. The Tenth Doctor, on the other hand, is almost too prone to attachments, and is the most fond of language, words, and wordgames. He has a playfulness I understand, even if he’s also, occasionally, a really dangerous man. He was just my guy.

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.

Doctor-Who-Keeping-Up-with-the-Joneses-300I probably shouldn’t, because that’s part of the fun of my story. I could, however, point out that in general I like partnerships to be more equal than otherwise, and that there should be – must be – people in the universe who can match the Doctor. It’s something I like about Martha Jones – whatever the romance between them, take the Doctor away, and you’ve still got Martha Jones, who absolutely rocks. Give Martha ten minutes and a toolkit and she’ll hotwire your transversal abnegational matrix to your stereo to listen in on an alien spaceship, because she keeps her eyes open and she learns. The Doctor’s companion should be someone who given time (ho-ho-ho) could bring a Time Lord to a party as their plus one rather than the other way around.

I want the Doctor’s universe to get bigger! And I think the Doctor does, too.

(It’s not Martha Jones.)

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.


(I also did the Harkaway Puppy Dance Of Joy. No, I will not be putting it on Vine. It is a sacred thing to my people.)

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

I didn’t really need to do much research. Um. Because of being a huge geeky fan. I re-watched a few episodes, and when we were editing the BBC team pulled me up short on a couple of really minor things and said “dude, no” and I said “awww, please,” and they said “Nick, the Universe would explode, we’ve established that in episode blah,” and I said “oh, because I thought that meant it would possibly explode and maybe not” and they gave me a stern face and I said “okgoingtomyroomnow”.

No, seriously, I don’t think there was anything substantive that was an issue. I had one side-gag they thought wasn’t in line with the established reality of the Doctor’s world, and I cut it, and that was about it.

Favourite Tenth Doctor episode… no. There are SO MANY THAT ARE AWESOME.

Nick, can you roughly guesstimate how many times the Tenth Doctor says “well” in Keeping up with the Joneses? It’s an essential question, naturally. 

I had to go through and cut a few, I know that. But the real question is whether his random digressive whiffling in this story is authentic Tennantable Tenth Doctor whiffling. Are you going to read this and go: “I can hear him saying that! I can see this whole thing happening!”? Is it going to give you massive Tenth Doctor nostalgia? Because that’s what I want…

Nick Harkaway’s Keeping Up With The Joneses is released on the 6th of February 2014.