Hello everyone! 🙂
Welcome to ‘Making ‘The Tree of Riverloth’.
This is a continuation of the ‘Making ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ series.
This is a blog post focusing on the behind-the-scenes making of the fourth story in ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ series called ‘The Tree of Riverloth’. It features the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy in it.
WARNING: If you haven’t read ‘The Tree of Riverloth’ 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!
In 2016, I started my fan-fiction series of ‘Doctor Who’ stories called ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’. This featured my favourite TARDIS trio of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy and they made their first appearance as a team in ‘The Railway of Time’, ‘The Space Hotel’ and ‘Doom of the Daleks’.
Those three stories were well-received by readers to my blog and it encouraged me to continue with adding more stories to the fan-fiction series. It was while I was preparing the second season of my Fifth Doctor stories that I came to discover that was a gap still left to be filled between two stories.
I discovered that I hadn’t written the interconnecting story between ‘Doom of the Daleks’ and ‘The Austen Code’ in the series. This was because, when I was writing the stories in 2010, that I left ‘Doom of the Daleks’ open-ended regarding Billy’s fate aboard the TARDIS and whether he was to carry on.
When I finished my fan-fiction series in 2015 and started adding my Fifth Doctor fan-fiction stories to my blog in 2016, I saw an opportunity to fill in the gap between ‘Doom of the Daleks’ and ‘The Austen Code’. I decided to write the interconnecting story where Billy decides to stay in the TARDIS.
The question was…what kind of interconnecting story could I write that has Billy decide to continue travelling with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa? It had to be a story that wouldn’t disrupt the continuity of what would happen later on in my ‘Fifth Doctor’ series regarding to Billy’s time on board the TARDIS.
I did have some initial ideas for an interconnecting story before deciding to do ‘The Tree of Riverloth’. The first was a story called ‘Blue’. This was to be a Companion Chronicle style of story for Billy, where they visited a blue planet and it also reflected on Billy’s mood after ‘Doom of the Daleks’.
The second was a story called ‘Master Copy’. This was another Companion Chronicle style of story, albeit to be a four-part adventure. It was to have Nyssa and Billy with the Master, played by Anthony Ainley. Sadly, these stories were unfruitful and I couldn’t develop them beyond the initial concepts.
Despite these stories not working out, it gave me the inspiration I needed to figure out what I could do with the interconnecting story and to develop Billy’s journey in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Nyssa. The mood for Billy after ‘Doom of the Daleks’ helped me with the direction in telling the story.
It was when I was listening to ‘A Conversation with Sarah Sutton (Nyssa in ‘Doctor Who’) by Tim Bradley’ again that I got the story I wanted. From my interview with Sarah, I found that her favourite stories from ‘Doctor Who’ were ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Black Orchid’. They’re my favourites too!
I realised that I gained a lot of inspiration from ‘Black Orchid’ to write my Fifth Doctor stories. I hadn’t done anything with ‘The Keeper of Traken’. This was the opportunity for me to do a sequel of sorts to Nyssa’s debut story. I was very keen, since I loved ‘The Keeper of Traken’ when I first saw it.
I also wanted to do a story with the Melkurs in it. I found the Melkur in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ terrifying. Even my Dad found it an impressive villain. At one point, this story was called ‘The Time of the Melkurs’. But eventually the story became ‘The Tree of Riverloth’, matching the story’s context.
But there was an issue that needed to be dealt with before writing this story. In 2012, Big Finish produced a ‘Doctor Who’ audio drama called ‘The Guardians of Prophecy’. This was part of the ‘Lost Stories’ range of ‘Doctor Who’ audio dramas and it featured the Sixth Doctor and Peri with Melkurs.
I needed to be sure I could do a ‘Doctor Who’ story with Melkurs without disrupting the continuity of ‘The Guardians of Prophecy’. I re-listened to that story again and found that the Melkurs the Sixth Doctor meets were real. The Sixth Doctor stated he hadn’t met the genuine article of Melkurs then.
Therefore the Melkurs in ‘The Tree of Riverloth’ couldn’t be the ‘real ones’. This was an issue to get my head around, but I eventually solved it. I decided the Melkurs on Riverloth were actually robot servants. This wasn’t dissimilar in the Melkur in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ as it was the Master’s TARDIS.
Because the Melkurs were robots, this gave me the opportunity that they could fly in the story. I don’t think this had been done before in ‘Doctor Who’ with the Melkurs. It was fun to write in the story when the Melkurs were chasing the Doctor, Nyssa and Billy during ‘Part One’ of the adventure.
I also had the inspired idea that the Melkur robots actually had Melkur spirits inside them. This developed gradually as I wrote the story. I had it revealed that Morguth had the Melkurs spirits rescued, due to the wake of the entropy field destroyed Traken in ‘Logopolis’. This was a nice touch.
This leads me onto talking about the planet Riverloth itself. I decided to have Riverloth as a planet that had a society modelled on the Traken union. I didn’t want it to be a Traken colony world like Serenity in ‘The Guardians of Prophecy’ and it was a nice change to have a planet full of Traken fans.
I wanted to include familiar elements from Traken into Riverloth like the Consuls, the gardens and Melkurs. I had to keep in mind that Riverloth didn’t have an atmosphere that destroyed evil like Traken did. This added to the corruption and vulnerability that Riverloth had for Morguth to invade.
The main supporting character of the story is of course the Tree of Riverloth herself. I decided to go for a natural ‘keeper’ to the planet Riverloth and have nature vs. technology as a central theme to the story. It was very complex in terms of the world building and developing Riverloth for the story.
Some of these ideas were inspired from the original ideas that writer Johnny Byrne had for writing ‘The Keeper of Traken’ on TV. I enjoyed explaining the history of how the Tree became the keeper of Riverloth and how the Consuls planted technology for them to control the Tree, leading to downfall.
The Tree needed to have a voice to communicate and speak to the Doctor. The way I did it was to have the Tree use Nyssa as a medium to speak to the Doctor. This of course meant Nyssa getting possessed again, but it wasn’t an evil possession as in other stories since the Tree was a good entity.
Also with the Tree, I had the inspiration in that she was grown from the sapling of a seed from the first tree grown in the gardens of Traken. The Tree was an inspiration from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy as Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor, had the White Tree planted in the royal courtyard.
There was also the inspiration to have the Tree akin to the Keeper of Traken, played by Denis Carey in the TV story. This was demonstrated when the Tree calls out for help to Nyssa whilst in the TARDIS in ‘Part One’ and when the Tree uses Nyssa to reveal Riverloth’s history to the Doctor in ‘Part Two’.
Another key aspect to Riverloth and the Tree was the River itself. The River is the actual ‘Source’ on Riverloth. This was to add to the natural aspects of Riverloth that the Tree depended on in order to give the planet power and energy and this was something new to add in contrast to Traken’s Source.
It also added to the theme of nature vs. technology and the corruption of the people of Riverloth when using/misusing the Tree for their own purposes. The River Manipulator is akin to the Source Manipulator and it also connects to the waterfall in how Morguth and the Melkurs get to be formed.
If you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of ‘Lord of the Rings’ influences in this tale. This resonates in the character names given to the people of Riverloth. These included Rondus (Elrond); Galadio (Galadriel); Wena (Arwen); Sarumane (Sarumane); Bonncere (Cereborn) and Glorfini (Glorfindel).
The Consuls of Riverloth are very much like the ones seen on Traken both in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Primeval’. Rondus and Galadio are meant to be the naïve heads of the Riverloth Consulate, whilst Sarumane is the ‘false’ Consul working for Morguth with Bonncere being his gullible assistant.
I wanted to have the Consuls of Riverloth trying to impress Nyssa with their Traken-like society of Riverloth, since they are fans of it. This also blinds them to the real threat that goes on with Morguth and the Melkurs and it shows when the Consuls are being unfair to the Doctor and friends later on.
The inspiration for Wena, daughter of Rondus and Galadio, was to have her as another Nyssa but being against the current ways of Riverlothian society. The rebels led by Wena including Saloga and Milgi are reminiscent of rebels featured in other classic ‘Doctor Who’ tales like ‘The Space Museum’.
The main villain for ‘The Tree of Riverloth’ is of course Morguth. I developed Morguth, basing him on other Traken-like villains such as the Master, Kwundaar from ‘Primeval’ and Malador from ‘The Guardians of Prophecy’. Morguth is also derived from the name Morgoth in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
Morguth was a challenging character to write as I wanted him not to appear two-dimensional and be a shouty villain all the time. Thankfully, due to Morguth’s ability to read minds like Kwundaar, I was able to have him probe into other people’s minds like the Doctor, Nyssa and Billy and weaken them.
Writing this ‘Doctor Who’ story has been a joy for me, since it was a return to write for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy again. I didn’t think I would write for these three characters again after finishing my fan-fiction series in 2015. It was a nice challenge to write for this trio at this early stage.
This was of course a story where Billy was still getting to know Nyssa and the Doctor and vice versa. It was also a story where Billy is pretty shaken, following ‘Doom of the Daleks’. I needed to keep in mind of future stories after ‘The Tree of Riverloth’ and not to disrupt any continuity in regard to this.
This didn’t mean though that I couldn’t hint at future stories whilst writing ‘The Tree of Riverloth’. I saw an opportunity to add hints of Billy’s family and background whilst he was chatting to Nyssa and also when he, Nyssa and the Doctor faced Morguth in the final showdown in ‘Part Four’ of the story.
I also added subtle moments between Nyssa and Billy. Billy revealed he wanted to be Superman. I would actually have preferred Spider-Man, since he’s my favourite superhero. But Spider-Man wasn’t out long in 1963, so it therefore made sense for Billy to have read ‘Superman’ comics as a kid.
‘Psychodrome’ was another story that gave me inspiration to write ‘The Tree of Riverloth’. But I didn’t want to write a ‘Psychodrome 2’ story since that was done so well by Jonathan Morris. It was the emotional drama and character development I wanted for the Doctor, Nyssa and Billy in the tale.
The character development for the Doctor and Nyssa was enhanced by Billy’s presence aboard the TARDIS. Both Nyssa and the Doctor don’t want Billy to leave, but this was done in different ways. Nyssa is emotional with Billy, while the Doctor pilots the TARDIS to Riverloth so he can impress Billy.
One of my favourite scenes from the story is when Billy angrily takes it out on the Doctor and Nyssa and hastily decides he wants to go home in ‘Part Three’. This was inspired by Donna’s decision to go home in ‘Planet of the Ood’ and also emphasise Billy seeing the horrors of Morguth and the Melkurs.
Another one of my favourite scenes is when Nyssa gently encourages Billy to stay on in the TARDIS and to show how she’s clearly fond of him. The line that Nyssa says to Billy to part with them in ‘good faith’ actually came from Nyssa’s farewell scene in ‘Terminus’, and this was a nice echo for me.
My most favourite scene from ‘The Tree of Riverloth’ has to be the confrontation scene between the Doctor, Nyssa and Billy against Morguth in ‘Part Four’. It was nice to delve into the emotional drama of the story; add some continuity references and have Billy reveal his feelings for Nyssa to Morguth.
Another moment that I liked and it’s one that readers have enjoyed is the moment when Sarumane suggests using the mind-probing technology on the Doctor in ‘Part Two’. The Doctor exclaims, “Oh no! Not the mind-probing technology!” I just couldn’t resist adding that line when I was writing this.
Writing ‘The Tree of Riverloth’ was an enjoyable and exciting experience for me to write a brand-new Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy story for my ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog. I’m glad I chose ‘The Keeper of Traken’ as inspiration to write my story and have it set on this world of Traken fans with Melkurs.
The story of Billy Walker with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa continues with him staying aboard the TARDIS. I knew where Billy would go next in his TARDIS travels and it was nice to establish that in the gap between ‘Doom of the Daleks’ and ‘The Austen Code’. Where would this team go next though…?
TO BE CONTINUED…
Thanks for reading!
Bye for now!