Hello everyone! 🙂
Welcome to ‘Making ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ – Part One’.
This trilogy of blog posts focuses on the behind-the-scenes making of the first trilogy of stories featuring the Fifth Doctor; Nyssa and Billy in ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ series. The first blog post looks into the making and writing of the first story in the series, ‘The Railway of Time’.
WARNING: If you haven’t read ‘The Railway of Time’ yet, check it out now by clicking the link. Read further on in this post and you do so at your own risk. This blog post contains SPOILERS!
It started in the summer of 2009. I was on holiday in Monmouth with my parents and I wanted to write a four-part story with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in it. I enjoyed the TV and Big Finish audio adventures with the Doctor and Nyssa so much, that I wanted to write for that specific TARDIS duo.
But what story could I write about? I was struggling for ideas, until I visited a steam railway museum on a day-trip with my parents whilst on holiday. It then occurred to me that I could do a story about steam trains and travelling through time with the Doctor and Nyssa. That day, I had my inspiration!
I formed the story-outline that became ‘The Railway of Time’ whilst on holiday in Monmouth. I did a brief synopsis and a rough plan on what the four episodes were about. It gradually developed later on, but it was a very interesting process as I was learning for myself how to tell a ‘Doctor Who’ story.
I started writing ‘The Railway of Time’ with ‘Part One’ during the autumn/winter months of 2009. I made the decision to write it as a script rather than in prose. This is because I prefer dialogue compared to writing descriptive text as it’s easier to follow the character’s speech than the exposition.
My love for railways and steam trains comes from my love of watching ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ on VHS in the 1990s when I was a kid. Although I’ve grown out of ‘Thomas’ these days, my knowledge of steam trains helped to understand where the story was growing and how to progress near the end.
I decided to set the story in 1963. This was because it was around that time that steam railways were being axed by Dr. Richard Beeching according to the BBC sitcom ‘Oh Doctor Beeching!’ Also, I wanted a familiar Earth-type setting to start the story before the story progressed into the future.
I’d seen and heard plenty of Fifth Doctor and Nyssa stories on TV and audio to help me know who the characters were. I was initially concerned that I wouldn’t find them easy to write for. But thankfully I could hear the Doctor and Nyssa’s voices in my heard as I was writing for the characters.
Also Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton deliver superb performances as their characters in the TV stories and audios. In a way, I wanted to write for Peter and Sarah as much as I wanted to write for the Doctor and Nyssa. This was in the hope ‘The Railway of Time’ would become a Big Finish audio.
For ‘The Railway of Time’, I invented the character of Billy Walker. Billy was written as a companion-type character to be with the Doctor and Nyssa in this story. But I didn’t make him a companion by the end of the story, as I initially wrote this as a one-off story and I didn’t think Billy would carry on.
Billy’s character is based on me. But I also wanted to have other influences in Billy’s character. Mainly Billy’s character is influenced by Peter Parker from ‘Spider-Man’. This accounts for Billy’s mild-manner and the fact he is a freelance photographer which is similar to Peter Parker’s character.
I also wanted Billy to act as a potential love interest for Nyssa during the story. I didn’t want the romance aspects to be instant for Nyssa as they were in ‘Circular Time: Autumn’. But I wanted to have Billy to take an interest in Nyssa and have him ask her and take her out on a date by the end.
I also created the character of Mr. Adams in the story. Mr. Adams was inspired by actor Richard Briers from ‘The Good Life’; ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’. It was whilst I was writing this story that I discovered how Adams’ voice sounded when I had Briers’ voice in my head.
Adams’ character is that of a typical English gentleman. He seems volatile and opinionated in his ways. But I wanted to make Adams likeable, which is why he joins the Doctor; Nyssa and Billy on their adventure. Adams wants to get back home in 1963 and return to his wife Alice, who he loves.
Richard Briers appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ in the TV story ‘Paradise Towers’. The Chief Caretaker wasn’t written for Briers, whereas Adams is written for him by me. I wish that ‘The Railway of Time’ was made into a Big Finish audio, as Briers would have enjoyed playing Adams as it suits the type of characters he plays.
As I said before, I wrote ‘Part One’ of ‘The Railway of Time’ in late 2009. I had to stop writing the story as I had to take time to study my IT degree at Cardiff University. It was after studying that I decided to continue writing the story as a reward for all the hard work that I put into my IT degree.
Before I could write the rest of ‘The Railway of Time’, I had to re-read and re-write ‘Part One’ to refresh my memory of the story. This was worthwhile as I discovered things I didn’t like about the story and re-wrote and re-worked some scenes to make them better for the story to work later on.
I wrote ‘Parts Two; Three and Four’ of the story in the summer of 2010, whilst I was watching Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor. It was an enjoyable; happy time for me as I found the character journeys of the Doctor; Nyssa; Billy and Adams invigorating and engrossing to explore throughout.
My aim for ‘The Railway of Time’ was to write it in the style of a Graham Williams era story in the Peter Davison era of ‘Doctor Who’. I was able to do this by re-watching ‘The Stones of Blood’ from ‘The Key to Time’ series and ‘City of Death’, which is one of my favourite stories with Tom Baker in it.
Whilst I was re-watching ‘City of Death’, I worked out who the villain was. The female character of Sinclair was developed as a cover for the alien that she was inside her called Sinroth of the Macorinroth. It was a challenge to develop Sinclair’s character before she was revealed as the villain.
As you discovered Sinroth looks like Scaroth from ‘City of Death’, except she’s blue-skinned. Also Sinroth is of the Macorinroth, sister-species of the Jagoroth. Developing Sinroth’s motives as a character was a challenge, as was trying to figure out how and why she was carrying out these plans.
The creation of the Vegrons as lizard-like aliens was appealing for me. Lizards are terrifying creatures and they’re utilised well in ‘Doctor Who’. So it felt natural to have the alien foes in ‘The Railway of Time’ as lizard-like. I also wanted them to be militaristic and ferocious by wearing Nazi-like armour.
It was easy to make comparisons between the Vegrons and the Terileptils from ‘The Visitation’ in this story. It was also a challenge to avoid making the Vegrons similar to Terileptils. So I had them wear battle armour and to be feral and agile. The Vegrons would work well on audio compared to TV.
Setting the story in three time-zones was a challenge. I structured the story by having ‘Part One’ mostly set in 1963; ‘Part Two’ in 2063 and ‘Part Three’ in 2163. ‘Part Four’ is the episode where all the loose ends get tied together by having all three time zones featured in it, making it so timey-wimey.
Before I wrote the story, I planned out a flow-chart to understand where everything goes and how the characters get from 1963 to 2063 to 2163 before going back to 2063 and 1963. Adding the TARDIS from ‘Part Three’ to ‘Part Four’ was equally more challenging and made things more confusing too.
But it was an enjoyable experience, as I relished the opportunity of doing a timey-wimey story in styles by Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. I was also inspired by Jonathan Morris who wrote some amazing timey-wimey stories in ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’ and ‘The Eternal Summer’.
During the period I wrote ‘The Railway of Time’ from 2009 to 2010, I met Sarah Sutton, my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion in February 2010. Having enjoyed meeting Sarah for the first time, I was determined to complete ‘The Railway of Time’ before I could see her again at the next convention.
TO BE CONTINUED…