The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Eight

Hello, and welcome to any new readers of this blog, specifically anyone who’s come here from reading my Christmas Doctor Who story in the Daily Telegraph. My name’s Paul, I write things: television (including three episodes of the new Doctor Who); novels and short stories; comics and audio. Also, each Christmas, I take it upon myself to produce The Twelve Blogs of Christmas, one a day, as a sort of odd connective pilgrimage. Yes, I know.

Today I want to write about how Doctor Who and Christmas connect for me, from way back. When I was a kid, I used to write Doctor Who fan fiction, involving Peter Davison’s Doctor. These earliest stories were published in a fanzine called Cygnus Alpha. I’d often write such stories in the Christmas holidays. The tales concerned the Doctor’s encounters with Saul, the sentient church who was baptised in his own font. Said church was part of the English village of Cheldon Boniface, and were often set in an idealised Christmas that nevertheless contained recognisable parts of my own countryside childhood. A longer serial on the subject got published in a fanzine called Queen Bat (there’s a whole book to write about that 1980s fanzine culture, even about fanzine titles). That story formed the basis of Revelation, my first professional Doctor Who novel for Virgin publishing. That (long out of print) book therefore also has Christmas running through it.

So why the Christmas/Who connection? I suppose it’s because I associate the series with my own family life, specifically with my Dad, who shows up in the new series in the character of Rose’s Dad, Pete Tyler. When I write Doctor Who, my family always ends up as part of it. As if the original stories and the atmosphere I saw them in were both parts of a whole. My family did Christmas really well, conjuring up the spirit of Santa to the point where I was sure I’d see him one of these nights, carefully leaving crumbs from those mince pies left out on a saucer. I got used to the mystical being provided for so domestically, like feeding a hedgehog. My Christmas stocking as a small boy always had a few Target Books novelisations of Doctor Who stories, and they were always what I spent my 50p Book Tokens on. There was often a Doctor Who annual too, although I wasn’t as keen on those, because, even to a young child, they seemed very distant from the series, with art that didn’t represent the show very well.

(That’s one of the many great things Russell’s done with the new series: there’s a lot of thought given to letting children feel they’re holding a piece of the show, and not a cheap knock off. A lot of that’s down to a chap in the brand team who for privacy’s sake I won’t name, but who does much good work, specifically, I’d guess, through what he turns down.)

Although I associated it so strongly with Christmas, it would have been somehow strange for the older form of Doctor Who to have had an actual Christmas Special. (Maybe I can just about see it with Tom Baker and K-9.) Another of the great things about Russell’s reinvention is that now it doesn’t feel odd at all. But having grown up as a bullied kid with a bullied favourite show (marginalised and scheduled out of existence) about an anti-bullying hero, it still amazes me that said show is now the mainstream, at the centre of Christmas on BBC1. Everyone is a Doctor Who fan now. Again, thanks to Russell. I think maybe he found a magic lamp and got three wishes. I wonder what the next two are going to do for British broadcasting?

Last year’s ‘Runaway Bride’ I watched with the target audience, my God-daughter and her two older brothers. She was a bit too young to be scared, her greatest enjoyment consisting of wandering in front of the television. But the older brothers had their special Doctor Who cushions for them to hide behind, while curled up on the sofa with Mum and Dad. At one point, things got so scary that they had to go out and watch around the corner from an entirely different room. But five minutes after it ended, they were pleased to have a cup of juice and a mince pie, and went to bed with no nightmares.

That safe scare is what Doctor Who came back to do. It exorcises terrors, it shines lights into the corner of little brains and says everything’s okay. Because the happy chap who tells jokes and his nice friend always beat the monsters. And that’s the real reason it’s apt that the show is on at Christmas now. It’s not just part of the British tradition of panto, that is, of our little island concerns made into the cosmic battles of fairyland or Gallifrey. (Once more, the mystic and the domestic brought together.) It’s also part of the tradition of festive ghost stories: tales that can be told in safety now we’re all warm here by the fire, that are about what’s out there in the cold and dark, about the fight for hope, on the shortest day of the year, that the sun will come back.

I’m so proud that all these threads are right in the middle of what makes me a writer, twisted in like the jam in an arctic roll. I hope you enjoyed ‘The Hopes and Fears of All the Years’. I hope you’re looking forward to ‘Voyage of the Damned’ on Christmas Day as much as I am. And I hope I’ve communicated to you my surprise and pleasure that, after all these years, I’m back to writing Doctor Who stories at Christmas.

(If you like the story, check out the Facebook contest to win the original Mike Collins art, at:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=15395870726 I promise regular readers that there’s only a few days to go before I shut up about it.) Until tomorrow, when I’ll have some more links for you, Cheerio!

18 Response to "The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Eight"

  • heatherfeather Says:

    As the year winds down and since I won't have much time before the holidays , I just want to thank you for being so public and sharing your blog. I first read it after reading your DW story in the Times last year. While I may not agree w/everything you write, I do admire your enthusiasm for writing and a peek inside the world of a "famous" writer.

    So I raise my glass of London Porter in your direction and wish you and yours a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays as we say in the States. Looking forward to 2008.


  • MJEM Says:

    Dear Paul Cornell (bit formal for a blog, but then I don't know you, so it still seems right).

    I read your story for the Telegraph and thought it was a lovely 'all-in-one' kind of story. Came full circle. It also evoked my sympathy for the Doctor, the "lonely God", whose greatest love affair is (arguably) with a blue box. Just wanna give him a hug!

    Also, I wanted to say one of my fave episodes (and I never thought I'd ever get to tell you), is Father's Day. I can watch it again and again. It's touching, and moving. It just connects with me, I'm close to my Dad and the thought of a father making that choice for their child, it's just heartbreaking. I'm even welling up now thinking about it. You hear parents say it, "I'd do anything for my child, I'd die for my child, I wish I could go through whatever is so horrible, so you don't have to". That kind of selflessness, it's so human and so beautiful. And I think that's what I love about Doctor Who the most, it's so optimistic about life. I often feel so saddened by the behaviour of our fellow human beings, but Dr Who reminds me of the best of us too.

    Also, I write for a magazine whose publisher recently said she might be interviewing you or RTD. I don't want to give names specifically, as this is a public message on a public blog. I appreciate I could be raving loony to your eyes as you do not know me, but maybe if the interview happens, it might work out that everything is clarified.

    Anyway, thanks for your good work on Doctor Who, I think it's "fantastic!" (cheese, I know, but this is all Doctor Who related, so think it's allowed!).

    x.


  • Garpu the Fork Says:

    I really wish the NA's were more available than they are. There were some really interesting story lines in them. (I had a bunch, but they got taken to Goodwill against my wishes.)

    I wonder what percentage of sci-fi fans were bullied growing up. I'd be willing to bet a fair amount. At least with being a Doctor Who fan growing up in the US, you weren't likely to get bullied for it, since the bullies wouldn't have a clue what it was back in the 80's.


  • Garpu the Fork Says:

    And just read "The Hopes and Fears of All the Years." Beautiful! Funny, and I got a few sniffles in, too.


  • RachelC Says:

    ahhh, you made me cry a little. Which is a little embarrassing sitting in an airport lounge in Newark. Thank you for a wonderful story


  • heatherfeather Says:

    Thanks for the story in the Telegraph. Had myself a laugh and a tear all in a few minutes time. Loved the "circle of life" aspect and the little moments of each era-my parents tried to dance to Duran Duran as well! And I know the Doctor doesn't do "domestic" but I think a part of him secretly wants to!

    Thanks for bringing a little warmth to my day. Have already printed out a copy for my dad who's also a fan of yours.


  • Jonathan Says:

    Well, I must say your Christmas story was quite interesting. Sometimes people need to be tricked into getting something out of Christmas. I am also reading Human Nature, so far it is quite an entertaining read.


  • Anonymous Says:

    Thanks a lot for that Paul, it was a wonderful story. Thanks also for being nice to me in Bristol last May when, drunken and covered in beer that I had just spilled on myself, I barged in on you and your mates to yammer something incoherant about the New Adventures. Have a great Christmas!


  • Michele Says:

    Please pass some tissues...

    Just read your Telegraph story and now I'm tears...


  • dalethetimelord Says:

    Brilliant story, loved it. Not just for the writing or the characters, but also for giving my Hero something nice for Christmas that doesn't involve monsters/giant spiders/killer Santas/trees.

    RTD, David T and great writing from yourself and other wordsmiths have kept me firmly in love with my Hero. So, thank you. And Merry Christmas.


  • Anonymous Says:

    Paul:

    Bravo!

    See you at Gallifrey One in February.

    Joey Reynolds
    "American Who"


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Aww! Thank you all, that really makes my day. Garpu, I think it's a great many. Anon, barge in any time! Heather, you're welcome. Mjem, thanks very much, and I look forward to that interview. Thanks again all!


  • Robert Says:

    Hey Paul,

    Rob Jones here - maybe you remember me (or maybe not) - friend of Graeme and Carrie.

    I was sent a link to your story on the Daily Telegraph - great stuff. Let me also say that I was glad to finally see 'Human Nature' on a screen that was outside of my own imagination.

    Thanks for your work so far - I'll be watching!

    Rob.


  • ruth Says:

    I don't drop in on your blog as often as I mean to, but that was a lovely entry, and a lovely story in the Telegraph too.

    I met you briefly a month or two ago in Manchester. You must have identified a lot with Toby's wonderful monologue.

    Fanfiction is alive and well and occasionally taking liberties with your characters. In the spirit of the season, I humbly offer you a little chapter of my own.

    http://catsfiction.livejournal.com/35271.html#cutid1


  • Anonymous Says:

    I just watched Jessica Stevenson's LEARNERS and found it interesting that Shaun Dingwall who played Pete Tyler playes the same type of guy who's got get-rich-quick-schemes (though this time with Owl eggs). Seems you two have the same Dad.

    And yes, my Dad used to sell Amway out of the back of his Volkswagon. Maybe we all have the same Dad.

    Hmmmm. Now I wonder if I'm like that as a Dad. Maybe my kids will start writing stories about me in a few years.

    -Erik E.


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thank you, Rob. Thanks for that, Ruth, and well done. Good luck with your work. And yes, I was very moved by Toby. Erik, Shaun can also play terrifying gangsters, and probably anything, he's just great at shifty Dads! And you went on a bit of a universal journey there!


  • SaulChurch...just for old times' sake. Says:

    Well done, Paul.

    To think that when I first hit the net I was calling myself after a character you created when you were a kid.


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thank you, Saul, and that is nice!