Welcome to ‘Making ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ – Part Two’.
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 second blog post looks into the making and writing of the second story in the series, ‘The Space Hotel’.
If this is your first time, check out the first blog post ‘Making ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ – Part One’.
WARNING: If you haven’t read ‘The Space Hotel’ 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!
I wrote ‘The Railway of Time’ during the months of May and June 2010. Part of me wanted to have the experience of what it would be like to interact with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in ‘Doctor Who’ and have an adventure. That was partly another reason why I created the character of Billy Walker.
The character of Billy Walker had its challenges when writing. Whilst I wanted to add a male companion in the already established TARDIS with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, I wanted to avoid certain clichés regarding Billy’s role as a companion compared to what had been established before.
Specifically, I wanted to avoid making Billy like Adric and Turlough. Those two male companions were clever but didn’t have admirable traits that I found important in a companion. I wanted Billy to be likeable, so I made him straightforward; earthbound and not clever as the Doctor and Nyssa are.
Billy is a character from 1963. This gave me the advantage to make Billy down-to-earth and have him as medium for the audience to interact with when trying to understand the stories he was in. It helped when Billy tried to understand the scientific complexities explained by the Doctor and Nyssa.
It was also fun to have Billy interact with the Doctor and Nyssa in terms of the relationships he had with them. Billy is closer to Nyssa, since she is more her age and he is easily attracted to her when he’s with her. With the Doctor, it’s different as Billy finds the Doctor emotionally detached at times.
Through these stories by me, I explored different aspects of the relationships between the Doctor, Nyssa and Billy. There was tension and there also was camaraderie. It was also interesting to explore how Nyssa and Billy developed their relationship and how the Doctor was responding to them both.
The decision to carry on with Billy as a companion in the TARDIS was natural to me, since I wanted to write a series with this new TARDIS trio. But I felt it was important to develop Billy’s journey as a companion gradually, and this was apparent when I was writing the first Fifth Doctor trilogy by me.
The prologue at the beginning of ‘The Space Hotel’ was my inspired idea to establish how Billy gets to be a companion with the Doctor and Nyssa. I wanted to establish how Billy clearly wants to be with the Doctor and Nyssa, but was reluctant to as he didn’t want the cramp their style in the TARDIS.
It also helps with linking the story from ‘The Railway of Time’ into ‘The Space Hotel’. Since I ended ‘The Railway of Time’ with Billy going out on a date with Nyssa, it was good to carry on from that ending to begin ‘The Space Hotel’ when Nyssa and Billy return to the TARDIS in Huttle after their date.
The way I had the TARDIS prevent Billy leaving with the doors shutting on him was something that came to me. I wanted to find a way of keeping Billy as a companion with the Doctor and Nyssa, without making it seem like he was intruding. I’m pleased how I was able to keep Billy in the TARDIS.
The reason why the TARDIS prevents Billy leaving and took off so suddenly gradually developed, as I was writing the story. I liked how I connected it to Lady Mite who had summoned help with the ‘distress call circuit’ in her TARDIS. That was developed gradually and it avoided being a coincidence.
After ‘The Railway of Time’, I wanted to do something different with my second ‘Doctor Who’ story. ‘The Railway of Time’ was set on Earth, so it was natural to have the next story set in the future and in space. I don’t remember how and why I had the inspired idea of setting the story on a space hotel.
All I know is I wanted to do a ‘Fawlty Towers’-set in space-style of story, as I was a fan of ‘Fawlty Towers’ as well as ‘Doctor Who’. ‘Fawlty Towers’ is a BBC comedy series made in the 1970s by John Cleese and Connie Booth. It was interesting and fun to do an outer-space version of ‘Fawlty Towers’.
The characters were easy to create in ‘The Space Hotel’. But I didn’t know what the story was going to be about, as I had to think on that. One of my favourite episodes from ‘Fawlty Towers’ is ‘The Kipper and the Corpse’. In that episode, somebody dies during the night whilst staying at the hotel.
That gave me the inspired idea to do a murder mystery on the space hotel. It was by no means easy to do, especially with the additional ideas and concepts included in the story such as the androids and the holographic simi-suites. But it was fun to do when writing how the mystery gets resolved.
‘The Space Hotel’ is a bolder story compared to what ‘The Railway of Time’ was about. I found it tough when trying to write in so many elements set at the space hotel as well as on space stations and in space cars. But the challenges were rewarding, as I enjoyed doing a murder-mystery comedy story.
I wanted to adopt the style of writing by Douglas Adams when he wrote his ‘Doctor Who’ stories and ‘The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’. This explains why Bruce the android sounds so similar to Marvin from ‘Hitchhikers’ and why I added the Adams-styled humour and jokes in ‘The Space Hotel’.
Some of the characters in ‘The Space Hotel’ are similar to those in ‘Fawlty Towers’. There’s obviously Gordon Rotenhend who is like Basil Fawlty, there’s Elizabeth Rotenhend who is like Sybil Fawlty; and there’s Enuji the alien waitress who is a combination of Manuel the Spanish waiter and the Polly the waitress.
The murder mystery aspect of the story was a challenge to write. I had to know who the murderer was before writing this story and not reveal his or her identity. This was to create suspense for the reader who had to guess throughout ‘The Space Hotel’ on who the murderer was and to be surprised at the end.
Choosing Elizabeth as the murderer was no small task. I had to know who the least likely candidate of murder suspects it was and it had to be a surprise. It was challenging to find out what Elizabeth was; why she became a hologram; how she committed those murders and what her motives were.
Larry Cooper and Bob Hill are my favourite characters in ‘The Space Hotel’. I wanted a Laurel & Hardy space-type duo for my story. It didn’t turn out that way, but as I wrote Larry and Bob, I could easily hear the Chuckle Brothers’ voices in my head. So Larry and Bob became the Chuckle Brothers!
As well as having the Chuckle Brothers cast in my mind as Larry and Bob, it occurred to me that it would be inspired to have John Sessions cast as Gordon Rotenhend, should this story be made into an audio drama by Big Finish. John Sessions was in ‘Castle of Fear’ with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton.
Lady Mite was created to establish the snobbery that was the key to Gordon Rotenhend’s character. I was pleased with the inspired idea to make Lady Mite a Time Lord/Lady as the story developed. It helped to explain why and how the TARDIS was summoned to the space hotel, as I explained earlier.
If I was given the choice of who to cast the role of Lady Mite in a Big Finish audio adaptation of ‘The Space Hotel’, I would choose Elizabeth Morton. As well being married to Peter Davison, Elizabeth also starred in the Big Finish audio, ‘The Waters of Amsterdam’ which I enjoyed very much.
The ideas and concepts including identity crisis and holographic simulation were inspired from some of my favourite TV shows like ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Trek’. I didn’t want the ideas and concepts to overwhelm the story, as it was important to me that they helped in progressing the story forward.
The floor layout of ‘The Space Hotel’ was a challenge. I had to know where characters were on each floor or level; what rooms they were in; what those rooms were for and remembering what floors those rooms were on. I was able to get the scene direction right and follow the characters’ journeys.
The essential aspect of ‘The Space Hotel’ was developing Billy’s journey as a companion in ‘Doctor Who’. Billy is reluctant to continue travelling with the Doctor and Nyssa, knowing the dangers as well as the wonders of the universe. It was a matter of finding out what persuades Billy to continue on.
Throughout the story, Billy forms a close attachment to Nyssa and becomes romantically smitten with her. Nyssa also encourages Billy to continue travelling with her and the Doctor in the TARDIS. This prompts Billy to decide and stay on in the TARDIS when he is warmed by Nyssa’s encouragement.
Writing ‘The Space Hotel’ was great fun for me to do in the summer of 2010. I remember having to re-read and re-write the first two episodes of the story before I continued writing the last two. When I was at a summer drama camp in Cirencester, I took the first two episodes with me to re-read there.
After ‘The Space Hotel’, I saw Sarah Sutton for the second time at the ‘Regenerations 2010’ convention in Swansea, September 2010. I was pleased to see Sarah again and it was fitting to see her at the Village Hotel in Swansea. She hoped she’d see me again at another convention which was I was very happy about.
TO BE CONTINUED…