It's 2003, and Time Lad Dr U Who finds himself exiled on Hiatus, a desolate realm somewhere between reality and fantasy. With no clear future ahead of him, he is slowly fading, quite literally. Several of his most fearsome foes are looking to take advantage of his current weakness, creating a temporal virus which will eventually erase him from existence entirely.
Only one power can save him; the mighty media matriarch Auntie Beeb. But she stopped believing in Dr U Who a long time ago, even if she's not entirely sure why herself. And she is going to take quite a bit of convincing if she is to start believing in him again, let alone entertain the idea of restoring him to prime time.
One night, while planning the forthcoming festive season schedules, she is visited, Christmas Carol-style, by the spirits of Dr U Who past, present and future, although not necessary in that order, and these spirits guide Auntie Beeb through time and space, where she gets to meet the many manifestations of the titular Time Lad, and his many sidekicks.
This affectionate parody, then, ultimately is the 'real' untold story behind the Time Lad's triumphant return to prime-time television in 2005; the story of what really made the BBC finally decide to return one of the world's longest-running science fiction serials back to our screens, after some 17 years away, (aside from a few teasing glimpses.)
First things first, I am a huge Doctor Who fan; not a fanatic - I couldn’t make it my specialist subject on Mastermind, because I don’t memorise the most minute detail - but I do love the show. Many years ago, I came across a book called Star Wreck by Leah Rewolinski, which parodied Star Trek, and that fuelled my idea of doing a parody of Dr Who. And way back then, it was a lot easier to parody Dr Who, because it was off-air, and the last time it had been on, we had been subject to wobbly walls, dodgy acting, horrendous (not in the behind-the-sofa sense, but more the "wtf!" sense) monsters and so on.
Star Wreck had been published by Boxtree in the UK, and I contacted them, telling them I was thinking of giving Dr Who the same treatment. I was stunned when I got a letter back saying they had been thinking the same thing, and would love to see my ideas. Unfortunately, my ideas weren’t very good at all - starting with the fact that my main character was going to be a woman - she started off as "Nurse What" and then "Dr Pru". Boxtree politely told me to go and have a re-think. (As if anyone would consider making Doctor Who a woman!!!! Perhaps - as I write this additional note in November 2017, I was simply ahead of my time, and in true wibbly wobbly timey wimey fashion, offering a premature glimpse into the future!)
Although, in the late 1990s, I wrote quite a bit of material, and plenty of notes, I never did complete a finished version. And then it fell onto the back burner, as real life got in the way.
I did eventually finish a version in 2006 (by which time my hero was a Time Lad called Dr U Who), inspired by the show’s return to television the year before, but I still wasn’t happy with what I’d produced. I needed to re-write it. And then I simply got overtaken by events. Just as I found some time to make some progress, something fundamentally changed in the ‘real’ Dr Who world, like a regeneration or something, and I was struggling to keep up.
Of course, the other thing that has happened in that time has been the advent of digital publishing, Kindle and the like, to make it far easier for people to make their work accessible, without paying a fortune for the privilege by going down the vanity publishing route.
When news emerged that there would be a spectacular 50th anniversary in November 2013, I thought I would try to get something out before the anniversary episode. But the end of the preceding series, and the introduction of John Hurt through a huge spanner in those works (my idea had Paul McGann’s Doctor regenerating into Chris Ecclestone at the end). So it was back to the drawing board. And all the time, with new ideas, I was getting tangled in more and more knots, not being able to totally leave behind the 2006 version.
Finally, in July 2014, with piles and piles of Post-It notes beside me, I had a week off work; the boy was still at school, Mrs B was happy to potter in the garden, so I started on a Monday morning, and the following Monday lunchtime, I had written, from start to finish. There’s about a quarter of the 2006 version buried within it; but I was delighted to discover brand new things occurring to me as I was writing.
Between July and October 2014, it was exclusively available on Kindle; I had 203 downloads, and the book attracted six reviews on Amazon, all of which were positive, and are on the left. However, in October 2014, I removed it from Kindle, having discovered www.lulu.com, which provided me with the means to make hard copies available, without me having to spend a fortune doing it, and also copies available much more widely than just through Amazon.
Although it was not the first complete book I wrote, it was the first I had published on Kindle, and the first I ended up publishing in paperback; my thinking was that there might be a captive audience out there, because there’s a devoted fandom who will be tempted to buy anything and everything linked to Doctor Who; The Furgle And The Frimp was the first book I actually wrote, followed by the first draft of The Big One, so this was actually the third I wrote, but the first I published. In any event, finally, I fulfilled my dream, and held, in my hand, a paperback book that had been written by me, and that other people could buy! I was finally living the dream!
In the course of formatting the book for Lulu, what started off as a detailed proof-reading exercise ended as a bit of a re-write, with 18,000 words being added to the original version published on Kindle. Finally, in January 2015, my "definitive" version was finished, and is out there in both hard copy and digital version, through www.lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBookstore, Waterstones, etc.
Most of the reviews have been good. There was a guy in America not overly impressed (although he still gave it three stars), and the most recent Amazon review was a damning one, but that’s OK, and you’ll notice in the column on the left I’ve reproduced ALL the reviews, good and bad, because it’s very rare someone is going to write something that is universally liked.
I am not writing to make a living from it (worse luck!!!) I am writing because I enjoy it, I am writing for me. If other people do like it, then that’s great. That is what I hope for. If they don’t like it, there isn’t much I can do except thank them for their interest and at least for taking the time to read.
I write for me, and I’ve lived with this particular book for a long time now. I am finally as happy as I’m ever going to be with the finished product. And I think, as a gentle comedy (it was never going to be an out-and-out rib-tickler) and an affectionate parody, I am happy with the final result.