Oli Smith

How does it feel to be writing for the Eleventh Doctor now that his character has settled and his first season is done and dusted?

Doctor Who: Return to EarthI’ve definitely gotten better at it. Pretty much everything of mine that has come out this year was written before the series aired but, as it happened, that didn’t end up being too risky a prospect. Matt’s character in the series develops enormously over the course of the episodes- beginning quite light heartedly before gradually revealing a kind of simmering power towards the end. I was extremely lucky to get Matt as the Doctor I’ve really been able to ‘do my bit’ with as I think the Eleventh Doctor by the end of his series was really my kind of Doctor- the Doctor I’d always wanted to write.

In fact I feel that with things like The Runaway Train I was holding back because I didn’t know how far I could take the character. Nuclear Time has some darker moments for the Doctor, but what I have written subsequently pushes that even further. Not into grim territory, which is completely not the Doctor, but in the fact that he is both so focused and so absent-minded that he can lose sight of what’s developing around him until it’s not quite too late.

In Nuclear Time it’s almost as if he forgets that he has companions at moments, and I think that only the Eleventh Doctor could do that- even if they’re standing right in front of him! He keeps his emotions tightly controlled as well, and I think it’ll be fun to explore what happens when the brave face he puts on for everybody else is broken.

With Nuclear Time; did you come up with the concept first, then add the Doctor or did you always envisage a backwards time travel story for the Time Lord?

The inspiration for that idea was Twin Peaks, the unsettling movements of the dream man and they way they filmed his scenes backwards was the jumping off point. If you’re going to imagine a story where a character lives backwards through time and you’re a Doctor Who fan- it’s never not going to be the Doctor! The trouble then was the context, it’s a complicated idea to realise and my initial ideas were far too technical in how it came about and was resolved. I have a degree in Theoretical Physics, so I could fudge some the ‘rules’ on what would happen if he did so.

There are some very complicated theories hidden away in there- the Doctor ‘jumping’ between travelling forwards and backwards makes narrative sense to allow better character interaction, but it’s also a rather wild element of Quantum Mechanics, in which the result of an experiment determines what happened leading up to that- until the results are processed then anything could have happened!

I think if someone had gone to me at that stage in my life and offered me carte blanche to write a novel about anything I wanted- I couldn’t have written anything better.

There are scores of readers (and writers) on the site who would love to write for Doctor Who what tips would you give to them?

I think my story is very unique to me – in terms of general tips though I’d say, get out there – go to comics events and book fairs, meet publishers and other writers and don’t pitch to them. Show them you know about their work, and if they like you and think you know your stuff and are polite, they’ll ask about yours. I think the biggy though is not to try and write Who. Fan fiction – as fun as it may be – won’t help, but a published short story or comic strip of any sort, will – it’s about showing you can work with an editor, and if someone else has paid you for your work then you’re automatically a much stronger candidate.

Also, never use the Daleks, Cybermen, Rani, Master or Time Lords in a pitch! Doctor Who’s about new stories and adventures, and whilst all those elements can be thrilling, the core of the show is about going places that its never been to before – and that’s what makes it so special!

Return to Earth and Evacution Earth are released on the 12th November and can both can be pre-ordered now for £25.91. Also available is a Sonic Screwdriver Wii Remote for £26.85 and a Sonic Stylus Twin pack for the DS for £6.99!

Many thanks to Oli for taking the time to chat with us.

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