Exclusive Interview: Mike Tucker, Author of Diamond Dogs

All Doctor Who fans should know the name Mike Tucker. Primarily, most will recognise him for his work on the visual effects on Doctor Who, and as the supervisor for his own company, The Model Unit.

In 2005, he became the first person to have worked on both Classic and “New” Who, and has, with Thin Ice, now worked on episodes featuring the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors; in fact, his work on the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, won the Model Unit a  BAFTA craft award!

But he’s also a writer, his books including Ace!Storm Harvest, Loving the Alien, and The Nightmare of Black Island.

His most recent novel, Diamond Dogs, features the Twelfth Doctor and Bill Potts, as played by Peter Capaldi, and Pearl Mackie respectively, and was released (with Plague City and The Shining Man) alongside Series 10’s premier. The Doctor Who Companion caught up with Mike to learn more…

DWC: Hi Mike. I loved Diamond Dogs; you really nailed the dynamic between the Doctor and Bill. Am I right in saying you read quite a few script for Series 10 to get that rapport right? Did you take inspiration from any in particular? Oxygen‘s concept of making space the “enemy” seems to tie into Diamond Dogs‘ tense atmosphere.

Mike: I’d not seen any scripts at the point that I submitted my storyline, but once things were up and running I was sent seven of the Series 10 scripts so that I could see the way that the writers were dealing with Bill. I read Oxygen quite late in the process, but the two stories were different enough that we didn’t really have a problem.

DWC: There are some great visuals in Diamond Dogs, and it’s a fantastic novel with very unusual monsters. You really capture the excitement and wonder of Series 10 too. It must’ve meant a great deal of research about the environment of Saturn. How did the setting come about? Did the conditions of the planet give you the idea, or did your idea prompt you to look into hazardous worlds close to our own?

Mike: Justin Richards (range consultant) had specifically asked for a story set in space and in the future. Given that my last story for BBC Books had been Earth-based and present day, that suited me fine. The setting of Saturn came about because I’d been involved with a pitch for an episode of Horizon dealing with extra-terrestrial weather and the concept of diamond rain seemed to good to ignore. At around the same time, I watched the movie Deepwater Horizon and it struck me that the trappings of an isolated mine could also work well so I combined those two ideas and pitched ‘roughneck diamond miners orbiting Saturn’. Then it was just a question of adding the monsters.

DWC: You’re the only author to have written for the Twelfth Doctor in two books for the New Series Adventures range; considering both novels were released during a time when there were “newcomers” on the TARDIS (the Twelfth Doctor for The Crawling Terror, and now, Bill), how do those two writing experiences compare?

Mike: Yes, I’ve had to write two lead characters virtually unseen over the last few years – a new Doctor and a new companion. Diamond Dogs was slightly easier that The Crawling Terror because I had more info to go on with Bill, and both Cavan [Scott, author of The Shining Man] and I had a chance to see a preview of episode one, The Pilot before we delivered our manuscripts, so could tweak the writing the match the performance.

For The Crawling Terror, I had to write for Capaldi without having seen anything of his performance, so it was a question of writing an almost generic Doctor, and then tweaking that as more info about him became available. At the end of the day, I went with the advice Terrance Dicks gave years ago, to just write the Doctor as the Doctor, and trust that the reader will map the characteristics of the actor onto what they are reading.

DWC: Considering that, how do you think the Twelfth Doctor has changed during his tenure so far? I found his Series 8 personality more intense and darker than his Series 10 joyfulness; do you find either more fun to write in general, or is it great exploring both these sides of him?

Mike: The Twelfth Doctor has changed quite dramatically between his first and last seasons and whilst it is fun to play with the character, I’ll admit to preferring the more ‘traditional’ Doctor that we’re being presented with this year. In fact, I had to go back to my first draft once I’d seen The Pilot and soften the character of the Doctor slightly from what I’d initially written.

DWC: As you worked on Thin Ice, did you get to attend any filming, and did that influence your novel?

Mike: Frustratingly, even though we had been involved with the effects for Thin Ice, I didn’t get to see either Peter or Pearl in action as our model shoot took place away from the main unit.

DWC: Speaking of Thin Ice, INCREDIBLE model work on that. I didn’t realise it was a model piece at all. For those who don’t know, the shot of the Doctor plummeting through the ice after Bill was actually a model, with a 1/3 scale puppet of Capaldi. What did that involve?

Mike: It was great to get a chance to work on Thin Ice – I was beginning to think that doing effects for a Twelfth Doctor episode was going to elude me!

As with all of the effects sequences that we’ve done for Doctor Who over the years, it was a challenge, but I was really pleased with the way that our model shots cut in with the live action footage – it’s pretty seamless, which is always what you’re striving to achieve.

DWC: And lastly, you’ve been a guest at the Bedford Who charity event, organised by Simon Danes, one of our contributors. Do you enjoy meeting fans at conventions? Though I’ve sadly never been to Simon’s, I gather his is a more intimate event than, say, the London Film and Comic Con; do you have any preferences?

Mike: Simon and I met by chance, and it’s been great to be able to help support such a worthwhile charity. The Bedford events have always been very low-key, and very enjoyable because of that. The large ComiCon-style events have their own appeal – I’d love to experience the big San Diego one at some point – but you don’t really get much of a chance to chat to people at those.

A big thank you to Mike, and Diamond Dogs, which comes highly recommended, is out now.