Stephen King, in the introduction to the 2005 re-issue of ‘Salem’s Lot wrote, ‘Writing controlled fiction is called “plotting”. Buckling your seatbelt and letting the story take over, however… that is called “storytelling”. Storytelling is as natural as breathing; plotting is the literary version of artificial respiration’, and that pretty much sums up Andy’s own brand of writing. His stories have plots, but they are plots that evolve from the characters, plots that develop as the characters do once a key idea is conceived.
He has written several novels in the Space: 1889 & Beyond series, and short stories for Big Finish’s official Doctor Who anthologies, as well as many short stories published by Untreed Reads and was editor of Pantechnicon eZine which he co-founded with Trudi Topham in 2007. In 2013 he wrote the ultimate guide to the Companions of Doctor Who for Candy Jar Books, which won rave reviews from Doctor Who Magazine (“Frankham-Allen’s style is engaging and enthusiastic, maintaining a pacey discourse throughout when it would have been easy to just provide a droning list… As the role of the companion continues to grow and develop within Doctor Who, on screen and off, there’s a sense that this is just the beginning of a work that is ripe for updating in a few year’s time. Let’s hope that Andy Frankham-allen is already working on volume two.”) and other science fiction magazines. His magnum opus, The Garden, remains incomplete with only the first of four books released. However, until vampires become in vogue again and a mainstream publisher wishes to pick it up, he feels that Seeker will remain an orphan.
His favourite contemporary authors are John Connolly, Karin Slaughter and John Ajvide Lindqvist, and his favourite genre authors are HG Wells, John Wyndham and Stephen King. His favourite television shows are Supernatural and Doctor Who (1963-1989) with various other shows vying for third place, including The 4400, Battlestar Galactica (remake), Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and countless others. His musical tastes vary a lot, and he enjoys everything from metal to classical. He’s a bit of a comic fan, or was when younger, and loves almost every single Marvel film made, and a few DC (but can’t stand the work of Christopher Nolan). But most of all he loves with a passion The Transformers (although he always stresses at this point that he’s referring to the original comics that began in 1984 and not the modern iterations thereof).
When asked why he became a writer, he explains, ‘I was always going to become one of three things. Either a singer, a dancer or a writer. I can only sing well when in the shower, or drunk, a serious ankle injury in 1996 put paid to any serious dreams of dancing (although I can still move on a dance floor, don’t you worry), and so I was left with writing.’
Some time ago I revised my novel, Seeker, for publication by Candy Jar Books. (It will be released in a new paperback format soon – just working out the details.) And after seeing the way people are struggling with the isolation brought on by the Coronavirus outbreak, I made the decision to release the book digitally in the meantime. And completely free!
So, one chapter at time, I’m giving you all access to the book. For a limited time. It won’t be here forever, but it will be here for a short while. Thus far chapters one to five have been released, and they’re all collected below.
Like really long. Nigh on five years since I posted anything on this blog. A lot has happened since then. Back then it hadn’t even been a year since the Lethbridge-Stewart range was launched – indeed, it had only been just over three months. Wow! And now it’s been over five years. Fives years, twenty-five novels, seven short story collections, four novellas, and a spin-off series for young adults, later. That’s an insane amount of work in five years.
I didn’t write all of it. Indeed, I can count the novels I wrote on one hand. It’d take a couple more hands to add the short stories, and a country of hands if I included the rewritten and brand new scenes I wrote in every single release.
Fact is, I couldn’t do it alone. And that’s my whole point. A point even more important today, in a time when the entire world is threatened by the expansion of the Coronavirus. Things have escalated in an exponential way – people are dying. All over the world, in their thousands. The expected death toll before a vaccine is found is estimated to be in the millions – all over the world. So, don’t fret too much by that estimate. It’s high – shockingly so, but that’s a worldwide estimate.
But, please, continue to be cautious. The government (certainly in the UK) has made it plain as day. DO NOT GO OUT unless absolutely necessary. It’s difficult, especially with the weather turning out as well as it has. We are, generally, social creatures. We’re solar powered! We love to be out in the sun. We love to interact with each other – but right now the risk isn’t worth it. Every time you go out, every time you interact with someone new, you risk either contracting the virus or spreading it. Nobody is 100% safe. Nobody.
We are all in this together. Now more than ever. We can’t survive this without everybody obeying the simple rules put in place.
Possibly the best season of the 1970s, which tells you that I clearly loved season thirteen. It’s the second year of Hinchcliffe/Holmes, no longer in the shadow of the successful team of Letts/Dicks. (With one exception, but that’s Hinchcliffe’s fault for asking Letts to direct and Nation to write a script.) But I digress…READ MORE!
A brand new era begins with the arrival of Tom Baker and it is, in my view, one that out stayed its welcome. Even today, ask almost anybody to describe the Doctor and it’s Tom Baker they describe… despite the popularity and presence of David Tennant and Matt Smith, Tom Baker is still widely regarded as the Doctor. I’m not sure if I’d agree, but I do feel that Baker owned the role for so long that he had something of a schizophrenic time, many eras within his era. For me, the best three years of Doctor Who are those produced by Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, and they start with season twelve.
Season eleven… Such a breath of fresh air. And just in time, too. It’s the end of an era – an era that had two beginnings, and quickly settled into something very cosy and safe. Yet, back in the early ‘70s, an era that was incredibly popular. Alas, all good things come to an end, and now Jon Pertwee plays his final game… MORE
Which may seem an odd thing to say, as I’m obviously typing this, but honestly, I’m finally at a point in Doctor Who where I am a living person. Only two months old, mind, when episode one of The Three Doctors was transmitted, but alive nonetheless! Woo! So, onto the review… Um. First of all, despite all protestations to the contrary, The Three Doctors is not the tenth anniversary story. For one thing it began transmission just under a year before the tenth anniversary, and season ten itself finished transmitting a good five months before the anniversary. If anything, it’s a celebration of nine years. Sorry, but it is. Who celebrates a birthday eleven months early?
Season nine, it starts of very well. And, for the first time since the Third Doctor appeared, it feels like a follow on from the previous season, instead of another slight reboot. Although this feeling doesn’t last very long… see more
Guys and gals, we need your help! We, at Candy Jar Books, are in the process of putting together a brand new website for Lethbridge-Stewart. One section will be a memorial where fans and professionals can share their memories and pictures of the late, great Nicholas Courtney, the man behind the Brigadier.
If you have a story, or a picture, to share, then please email them to me on email@example.com (subject: Nick Courtney Memories). Look forward to hearing from you. 🙂
I have much to say about season eight, say you may want to grab a cuppa and get comfortable. For a start, it almost feels like a completely different show. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though, since Doctor Who has survived for so long because of its ability to renew itself from time to time. But this is a different kind of reshaping.
Most of the elements that made the previous season such a success are still here, only the tone of the show is so different that it feels like everything has completely changed. The Doctor is still working alongside UNIT, only now he seems quite comfortable in his position. He says he’s trying to repair his TARDIS, and we do see him working on it, but there’s no sense of urgency to his desire to leave Earth – even though he does take a couple of opportunities to escape the planet as soon they present themselves. Each time he ends up back on Earth, and despite his words, his tone and smile implies that he’s really not bothered. If the Doctor’s attitude has changed since we last saw him, then so has UNIT’s. They seem much more relaxed as an organisation – cosy, to use a word that’s bandied about a lot when talking about the Pertwee era. And it’s true. The Brigadier is no longer the only regular officer; he now has Captain Yates as his second, and Sergeant Benton truly becomes a series regular this season. There’s an attempt to extend the ‘UNIT family’ a little further with the introduction of Corporal Bell in The Mind of Evil, but alas she only appears in one more story. Which is a shame. We don’t see much of her character, but it stands to reason that the HQ staff would be the same story by story, and so having familiar faces around makes sense. Alas, beyond the Brigadier, Yates and Benton all we have is the Doctor and Jo. Oh yes, Jo.
Now, I like Jo. Always have. It’s very easy to develop a soft spot for her. She’s so sweet, initially quite naïve, but over time she wins you over with her honesty and obviously love for the Doctor. But her introduction helps to soften up the whole UNIT scenario, adding a very human face to the organisation and serves to anchor the Doctor to Earth even more (curiously doing the exact opposite to what the production team wanted – they were very keen on getting the Doctor off Earth again!). But she’s no Liz. Which is a shame, as I mentioned in the previous season review. I liked the new dynamic, of the Doctor actually having a companion (or assistant, really, in Liz’s case) who was an adult, someone with their own mind and own objectives. Our first bona fide adult companion since Ian & Barbara left. Yes, I know Steven was an adult, but he wasn’t really written in any way equal to the Doctor, whereas Ian & Barbara were never second fiddle to the Doctor, and likewise neither was Liz. But Jo… For all her loveliness, she’s not an adult, but a girl in her late teens with an awful lot to learn. And so we’re brought back to the dynamic of Doctor/Companion we’ve seen time and time again. Luckily the chemistry behind Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning is such that this never becomes an issue, and they sell her completely. Initially he’s frustrated by her, as she does her best to prove herself as a valid UNIT agent, but he slowly softens up and warms to her.
The Brigadier has also changed since we last saw him. As I pointed out, in season seven he very clearly kept the Doctor around for his own purposes. There was no actual friendship between them. But from the outset of this season you can see a friendship there. Sure, it’s still charged at times, a mutual frustration between the two men, both of whom think they’re in charge, but there’s a nice sense of familiarity that wasn’t really there before. Again, this rather suggest a lot transpired between seasons. Another thing I’ve realised about the Brigadier – he really doesn’t believe a word the Doctor has said about the TARDIS or his travels through time. At this point he just accepts what the Doctor says, but really thinks the man is just an eccentric alien, a brilliant one at that, who happens to own a police box. The first time the Brigadier actually sees the TARDIS is in the lab in Spearhead from Space, and he doesn’t even witness it materialise (with a pop! for some reason) until Colony in Space (which is, in narrative terms, at least six years after he first learned of the TARDIS in The Web of Fear). And the Doctor’s line to Jo just after returning from the future says it all; the Brigadier would never believe where they’ve been. As we later learn, the Brigadier really has little idea of what really exist inside the box. I suspect the Brigadier even believes the Doctor built the console while at UNIT.
This season is also notable for introducing the Master to the series. Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks decided the Doctor needed his own Moriarty – a mirror opposite. And so the Master was created, another Time Lord in a similar mould to the War Chief from The War Games. (It’s of no surprise that a large section of fandom believe them to the be the same character – they certainly share a lot of similarities, alas the War Chief may be aware of the Doctor, but it’s very clear from their initial dialogue that the two men have never actually met before The War Games.) The Master is an old friend of the Doctor who is out for universal domination and to just generally cause problems for the Doctor. The only downside with the Master as a recurring villain in season eight is the ease with which he has always beaten, and how often he had to team up with the Doctor to defeat the aliens he brings to Earth. This does somewhat weaken him, and suggests, as many commentators have said over the years, that it’s just some game between the Doctor and the Master. With hindsight, Dicks and Letts have gone on record to say they believe having the Master in every story of season eight was a mistake. There was a time I agreed with them, until this rewatch. I’ve found, to my surprise, that it actually works and creates the first proper season arc since the first season (in which the arc was the Doctor trying to return Ian & Barbara home). The ongoing story of UNIT being on the watch-out for the Master adds a nice layer to the season, creating nice sense of continuity between the stories, given it an almost Nu Who feel. Unfortunately, Colony in Space rather spoils that, other than the bookend scenes with the Brigadier in which he mentions they’re following up reports on Master sightings. Taking the Doctor from UNIT at that point, in the middle of such an arc, only succeeds in damaging the pace of the ongoing story, and when the Master happens to turn up on the same planet… Well, it makes no logical sense at all, and just feels so contrived. With the Master being captured by UNIT at the end of The Dæmons they create a sense of completion, leaving the viewers feeling that that we really have followed a season long story. One with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Just a pity Colony in Space exists in the season, really.
A word on the ratings. They were high! Better than Doctor Who has had in a very long time, and by far the most consistently rated series in about four years. Whether you like the ‘dumbing down’ of UNIT and the softening of the tone, and I’m still in two minds about it since I adore season seven’s tone, there’s no doubt that what Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks did was create a very successful formula that secured Doctor Who as a real hit once again.
A quick mention of links to the Lethbridge-Stewart series of books (because, you know, it’s how I make my living)… In The Daemons the Doctor points out the Brigadier would have made a good accountant, and later the Brig says he should have run a bank instead. All this suggests the Brigadier is very good with numbers, which makes perfect sense as the Lethbridge-Stewart books reveal he did originally train to be a maths teacher. Another subtle link is the final scene of season eight, reportedly written by Richard Franklin and Nicholas Courtney themselves, in which Yates jokingly asks the Brig if he wants a dance, to which the Brigadier says he’d rather a pint. And thus why, when he arrives in Bledoe in The Forgotten Son, the first thing he does is say he could do with a pint. And, of course, the Brigadier’s lack of belief in half of what the Doctor says is echoed in the Lethbridge-Stewart books: ‘Really, Miss Travers, next thing you know you’ll be expecting a police box to turn up, too.’ Lethbridge-Stewart could tell Miss Travers was disappointed with his response, but he still wasn’t convinced by the idea of time travel, regardless of what Professor Travers had once told him.
And so to the countdown. Well, to be honest choosing a worst and best is incredibly easy. I have a little more trouble with the middle stories (well, second and third best), and they may well change next time I watch it. From worst (and, I’m sorry, but I can’t say least favourite as Colony in Space is just a very dull story, with very little to recommend it) to best, then:
This season, more than any other, is very important to me at the moment. Along with season six’s The Invasion and season five’s The Web of Fear, season seven is the template for the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels – in tone and style. When Doctor Who felt properly adult, a serious Earth-based science fiction series. It has all the best elements of shows like Adam Adamant Lives!, Department S, Danger Man, The Avengers… And season seven is one of my all-time favourites of Doctor Who. Which makes selecting a favourite story very difficult indeed!
After season six, this season is something of a shock to the system. It almost feels like an entirely new series, more so than ever before. The first use of colour helps to set it apart, but it’s also the aforementioned style and tone of the series. Granted, much of the style seen this season is evident in The Invasion, but the tone of that serial matched the rest of season six. Here though, the tone is mature, serious science fiction, dealing with the world of the now (even though the UNIT-era was supposedly a ‘near future’ version of Earth). The Doctor here is so very different from how he’ll be in the following four seasons — and it’s not just because of character development. It’s how he’s written, how he’s performed. There is a serious, almost snobbish, side to this Doctor that is a far cry from the… I want to say caricature… of himself he becomes later. All the elements that form that caricature are here, but they’re subtle, not played for laughs. There no sense of the ‘homely’ about this season of UNIT stories. There’s no friendship or sparring between the Doctor and the Brigadier, just a grudging acceptance of the situation they are in. That they are both stuck with each other, because they both know they can be a good deal of use to the other. The Doctor needs the Brigadier and UNIT because he has nowhere else to go, and can use their facilities to help repair the TARDIS. The Brigadier needs the Doctor because of his experience and scientific know-how, and besides, rather the Doctor assist him and UNIT then assist somebody else.
Plus, this season has Liz. Easily the most grown up companion since Ian & Barbara left back in ’65. From the moment she walks through the doors of the Brigadier’s office, Caroline John convinces as a very intelligent woman who knows she is better than UNIT. Her relationship with the Doctor is very sound, too. Clearly she knows the Doctor’s knowledge of science far exceeds her own, but they treat each other as equals, typified in the scene in Doctor Who and the Silurians where they work together to find a cure for the plague — no words are needed, they work in silence, both fully aware of the ability of the other. It is a great shame Liz is only in this season, that incoming producer Barry Letts decided he wanted someone less intelligent as a companion. As great as Jo proves to be in the following years, the dynamic between the Doctor and Liz deserved further exploration. I’d argue, the greater challenge would be to find stories that served these characters, instead of getting rid of Liz and lowering the tone to something a bit more homely. But then, I suppose, it was partly that cosy family feel of the UNIT era that made the Third Doctor’s time such a huge success. And it was. The most successful period of Doctor Who since Dalekmania in the mid-’60s.
As for the stories. Only four are on offer, alas. Three of which are seven-part stories to spread the budget and because, as proven, the ratings almost always seem to go down after the first episode of any given story. Thus it was reasoned less episode ones, less chance of the ratings dipping. They were right. Even at its weakest, season seven out-performed season six. So, although we only get four stories, we can four very strong stories. There really isn’t a dud between them. Autons, Silurians, radioactive aliens who are actually friendly, and a parallel Earth where the danger is found to be the planet itself. And man’s arrogance. A common theme this season. Indeed, other than Spearhead from Space, every story this season is a result of ego, avarice — the evil of men.
So, how do I pick a favourite? The only way I can, by picking the very first Jon Pertwee story I saw. Way back in 1988 on VHS…