Interview: Joanne Harris on writing the 3rd Doctor
Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull interviews the author of the latest Time Trips story.
Returning from a spontaneous break, the Time Trips starts off again this month with Joanne Harris’ thoroughly good The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller and I met with the writer (of The Gospel of Loki and Chocolat) earlier this year at Aye Write to talk growing up with Doctor Who, one-off companions and the possibility of returning.
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 wasn’t that difficult, no, because I think that if you’ve seen pretty much all the Doctors when the show was aired and I did (it was only William Hartnell that I didn’t see live but I’ve seen all the videos and DVDs), you tend to fix on the Doctor who was current when you were nine years old. Nine years old is the time when you really start understanding what’s going on and so Jon Pertwee was the Doctor when I was nine and so, to me, he was always the one that I visualize when I think of the Doctor. As much as I like the others.
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’m using a one-off companion. She is not dissimilar to Sarah Jane Smith, in some ways, and her similarity is an element that helps to drive the plot but beyond that I’m not going to say very much because it’s quite a complex plot and I would rather let it develop as it does and not give anything away.
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 went, “hell yeah!”
How much research did you do for your story? Did you find inspiration in a specific story? And do you have a favourite episode?
I’m not sure if I have a favourite but there are many episodes that I like very much and they’re all from different Doctors. I did a fair bit of research in that I thought it was very cool to buy a load of Doctor Who DVDs, call it work and claim all the money from tax but actually, early on, I had the idea of when exactly it was going to be set. I was looking at something that would tie in logically with something that had happened before without interfering with it and it’s not, necessarily, the easiest thing to do because very often with those older adventures the end of one story became the beginning of the next and there was no opportunity to put something in the middle. I’m using a tiny little window that just, potentially, opens at the very end of Planet of the Spiders. I’m using that to slide in my very small story.
Joanne, what hallmarks of the Pertwee era appear in your story – like the Brigadier or Bessie or just the whole UNIT tribe?
Well, although this is set on Earth (or at least on a version of Earth that is recognisable) I haven’t put any of those things in there. It’s a bit sad, really.
Trudi Canavan didn’t put any of them in, either, if that’s some comfort.
That is true.
And, finally, would you write for Doctor Who again if The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller is a hit?
Joanne Harris, thank you very, very much.