Interview with Martin Day


This interview was conducted on the 12 December 1996.
As it appeared in Broadsword issue eleven

Back in March of 1995 Paul Cornell had revealed this idea for a Missing Adventure:

"I'm also writing a Missing of course, hopefully, with my Discontinuity Guide partners Keith Topping and Martin Day. Its called Doctor Who and the Goblins from Neptune. Its a season seven adventure. We have a big Kung Fu battle, with Pertwee holding off thousands of assassins, we have an alien race which are just deeply misunderstood. We have Dr Traitor, a very fine chap, who's working for the British, we have the Unit equivalent in Russia, the Soviet version of Unit."

Now you're writing Devil Goblins from Neptune without Paul, What happened to him? How much of a difference would there be if Paul was also part of writing the book?

The three of us started pooling ideas for the plot of Devil Goblins from Neptune soon after finishing work on our Trek book, if I recall correctly. I think we presented Virgin with a page or so of ideas (similar to Paul's description above, though I don't know where he got the alien race who were deeply misunderstood from!), but I don't suppose there was enough there to commission, and anyway we were all busy with different things. We had a hard time working on the second edition of our general TV book, Classic British TV, with tempers getting frayed and so on. It was at this stage that Paul suggested that Keith and I plug on with Devil Goblins from Neptune on our own - maybe this suggestion was a peace offering or something, I don't know! Anyway, that's what Keith and I did (although I'm pleased to report that we're all mates again now, though our book on The X-Files is almost certainly our last factual book written as a threesome).

Difficult to say how different the book would have been if Paul had been involved right to the end, though obviously there would have been another 'voice' in the mix. I love Paul's seemingly-effortless prose in particular (odd for a guy who's written a fair bit of TV stuff!), and that would have worked well in this, but I suppose 'very different' is the only honest answer I can give. Not necessarily better, certainly not worse - but 'different', yes.

Just where did the idea of this story get conceived, should I make a guess and say a lot of alcohol was involved?

I don't remember a vast amount of alcohol being consumed..! I suppose we just started from the idea of doing a very 1970s Doctor Who story, with kung- fu fight sequences, pre-title sequences, outrageous hippies and Jason King-like dandies, etc. We wanted to do a homage to the early Target books - with illustrations, footnotes, a map. That's where the title Dr Who and the Devil Goblins from Neptune came from, of course.

What can you tell us about what to expect from Devil Goblins from Neptune? What can we expect of the writing style, themes, etc, in comparison to The Menagerie. I think it has been noted somewhere that you thought The Menagerie was a traditionally straightforward type story.

Yes. The Menagerie was an adventure, first and foremost. I think there's room for all sorts of things in the Doctor Who universe - and, oddly, I tend to prefer the NAs to the MAs - but I don't think that you can escape from the conclusion that Doctor Who is, at heart, an exciting adventure show. I was also trying to do other - more 'intellectual' - things with The Menagerie, which may or may not have worked, but I tried not to lose the excitement and the adventure.

In that sense, Devil Goblins from Neptune is similar. As it's a third Doctor story, it's full of tanks, battles, and daring escapes. But, again, there are certain themes we're trying to explore. Of course, the themes are quite diferent from The Menagerie - not surprising, as it's a two-hander, and thus a less personal work. And I'd like to think the writing style is as different from The Menagerie as possible: again, partly because it isn't just me this time, but also because it's good to try something different. (And I'm just hoping, for Keith's sake, that those who didn't like The Menagerie might still give Devil Goblins from Neptune a look. I'm sure if it went out under a pseudonym, nobody would realise I was the co-author. For a start, Devil Goblins from Neptune is supposed to be funny!)

As the writing process is that of two people can we expect something a lot more complex?

Yes and no. I think the plot is bigger and more complex. The writing style is a tad more experimental at points, but actually the underlying ideas are, if anything, simpler than those of The Menagerie.

What is the writing process when two people are involved?

Interesting.

How a like are you and Keith?

Not very, and that's why it works. Let me put it this way: Keith is a big working class bachelor Geordie; I'm a 'soft, southern woman', as Keith would doubtless put it, with a degree in English, a wife, a kid and another on the way. I'm slippers and roaring fire; Keith is vodka and rock'n'roll. He supports Newcastle United, I support Manchester United. Enough said!

How do you work together? When Andy Lane and Jim Mortimore wrote Lucifer Rising they each wrote the consecutive chapters and then rewrote the other person's chapters, is this the approach you have taken?

Similar. We've got the plot sorted out in mind-numbing detail. We split each chapter up into sections. We write our own sections, then re-write each other's material. Sometimes one of us will follow one plot strand through; other times we'll mix it up a bit. Sometimes we've even split sections up, and there are one or two bits we've written with us both huddled round the same keyboard. It's got to the stage where it's difficult to remember who wrote what and, like Straub and King, we're often writing in the style of the other. We're hoping that we can achieve a unified 'voice' through this level of interraction!

In TM you've looked at scinece/madness/religion etc, science is evil, but the Doctor's approach isn't to put science and religion on an equal level, in the same way the philosopher Feyerabead wrote. The Doctor's approach is to reverse the view of science, even re-establishing science as the main system of knowledge. If you are looking at an equal level approach to knowledge why doesn't the Doctor exemplify this?

The simple answer is that I don't think he does, on TV in any case. I wouldn't go as far as have the Doctor as an atheist, as Andy Lane does, but he's clearly not really very interested in any one religious (or even philosophical) idea. The Doctor is a scientist: whatever else he is, follows from that. Obviously, this changes a little with each incarnation, but I don't think that any of the Doctors are entirely happy with religious belief. Having said that, his conflict with religion in The Menagerie is purely scientific: he doesn't tread on other beliefs. Anything beyond that, I felt, would be to change his character beyond all recognition.

I suppose I'd have had similar problems (only more so) if I were, say, writing a Trek book, where some of the ethos of the programme stands in even starker contrast to what I believe. It's a difficult balancing act: one's own vision juxtaposed with the style of the 'source material', so I'm sure your criticism is a valid one.

Why did you pick the second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe for The Menagerie?

The second Doctor was picked for me, when the plot was still at an early stage. I was quite pleased with this, as I felt the Doctor of Gentle Anarchy would work quite well in the society I wanted to create (if that doesn't sound too pompous). Jamie goes hand in hand with Doctor, which I thought would be quite fun, because for once he's not so out of his depth. It's not so high-tech, and he feels reasonably confident during most of the book (and, of course, he's been with the Doctor quite a while now, learning all the time). I've never seen Jamie as thick, so much as poorly educated. Victoria wouldn't have worked - I wanted a contrast with Jamie, somebody who feels absolutely lost in this world - so Zoe was thrown into the deep end.

The imagery of the town in The Menagerie is fairly bleak. We're confronted with the freaks, we're constantly reminded of the dirt and filth, and exposed to decrepid decaying smells. The world is corrupt, justice is absent, the people are cruel. Into this you place a TARDIS crew, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe however as many reviewers noted they had felt that what you wrote was not the TARDIS crew. Is TM a story with the second Doctor?

Hopefully. As I noted above, I was trying to do things with the TARDIS crew that might to some seem like I've got the characters 'wrong'. But I felt that something like The Menagerie could have been transmitted in 1969. It's not a million miles away from The Krotons, I would suggest. Just the budget is a bit bigger!

What is the role of the Missing Adventure? Consider these two examples. Andy Lane who I consider to be an excellent writer comes out with the very silly Empire of Glass because it fits into the Hartnell era; Man in the Velvet Mask on the other hand is something that expands upon the Hartnell era. Is what you wrote a story of that era or a product of a Nineties perspective of that era?

That's very difficult to answer, and to me is at the heart of the troubling dichotomy of the MAs. They need to remind one of a particular era and have that 'feel', while hopefully being modern novels in their own right. You can't have running down corridors, bad CSO or a traditional base-under-siege story, because none of these things work in a novel. On the other hand, a lot of the NAs clearly wouldn't work as Hartnell or Troughton stories, for instance. It's a difficult balancing act: Craig Hinton said I didn't succeed on either point, but I'm hoping that people will find The Devil Goblins from Neptune more satisfactory from that perspective: recognisably of its era, but also an expansion of it.

A lot of us loyal Virgin books readers are greatly sceptical about the direction the BBC may take in their handling of the books. Firstly their guidelines are looking for plot driven stories - most likely at the loss of decent characters. The other day an add appeared in the paper for the role of editor in the childrens publishing, that role included Doctor Who books, basically we're fearing the BBC are going to fuck everything Virgin had established as intelligent adult oriented DOCTOR WHO novels. You and Keith are writing the first BBC 3rd doctor book. From what they have said to you is there anything to for us fear?

No - not yet, in any case. I can't say that The Devil Goblins from Neptune as published will be adult and Virgin-like, but the delivered typescript will be! I'm as concerned as anyone as to whether the BBC understands the Doctor Who readership, and advertising the editor's job at this stage of the day is a bit unsettling. (Apparently the children's publishing thing is a bit of a red herring, as all BBC novelisations have technically been produced under the auspices of the children's department, because there isn't (yet?) another fiction department in BBC Worldwide.) But, to be honest, we've had very little contact with the BBC since getting commissioned, so Keith and I are just concentrating on beavering away with the book, writing it as per our original ('adult') proposal. If Worldwide request changes later - well, we'll just have to see what they are...

Bits that weren't in the interview

Anyway I'm trying to prepare some questions for an interview I wanted to do with you, but there are somethings I sort of thought was what you wrote in The Menagerie, but it may just be something I interpreted was in The Menagerie. There's a distinction between science and magic, there's also this stuff about madness being a perspective thing. Now in the area of the Philosophy of Science and Psychology there's this stuff about whether science and madness is objective as people think it is. Where you writing anything like this in The Menagerie? Or am I way off?

Not at all, I hope. For me, science is or can be as much a leap of faith as religion. And I don't see them as incompatible, either (which is why my 'baddies' do!). And I'm very interested in changing attitudes to madness: that what one culture would lock people up for might be no more than harmless eccentricities in the modern world, and that strongly-held religious belief will almost always be perceived as a form of madness by those who don't share that belief.

I was reading an article about alternate psychologies, such as Eastern Psychology. In this article this person looked at Buddhism (of which I know so little of) but he mentioned that Buddhism merges both science and religion which ideals with the same stuff as The Menagerie science/magic, and then the guy wrote: that this philosophy is espoused by traditional psychology such as behaviourism, to quote, "which abhors homunculi." So am I way off?

Nope. I had Buddhism at the back of my mind, esp. for the Kuabris approach to time (although you do find elements of this in other eastern religions, North American aboriginal belief, etc.). When I was younger I briefly 'flirted' with Buddhism, although I ultimately rejected it. I still find it interesting, however.

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