BBC Audio have started a new audio range of Doctor Who adventures. Called Beyond the Doctor, this range will detail some of the adventures for the Doctor’s companions and friends, after they have left. Kicking off the range is The Kairos Ring, written by Stephen Gallagher.
Gallagher has made quite the name for himself as a sci-fi writer over his writing career. He penned the 1981 story, Warriors’ Gate, which saw Romana and K9 bow out of the series, when Romana decides to stay behind in E-Space and help rescue the enslaved Tharil race.
In a recent interview with Sci-Fi Bulletin, Gallagher spoke about how The Karios Ring came about. It was the germ of two ideas: one he had was about an American Civil War story, the other about what Romana and Laszlo got up to after the Doctor had left. The result is The Kairos Ring.
When tackling the character of Romana, Gallagher said it was easy because he treated her like the Doctor. In fact, he uses Romana as an example to people who are reluctant to the idea of a woman in the title role, as he said in the character of Romana, we had already a female Doctor. Indeed, if you get the chance to listen to this story, she does feel very Doctor-ish.
Warriors’ Gate and Terminus were Gallagher’s only on-screen credits for Doctor Who, despite submitting a script called Nightmare Country a few years later for the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough, that that story felt like a movie and it wasn’t made because the budget needed would have never been granted. But Gallagher eventually adapted the television script to work for audio and Big Finish added it to their Lost Stories range in 2019.
“In a way [doing Nightmare Country for Big Finish] was like a return home. It was extremely liberating because as I’ve often quoted, ‘Nightmare Country was a million dollar movie that the BBC just couldn’t do’ but in audio I had all the resources that I could possibly ask for.”
Warriors’ Gate and Romana’s legacy never really left Gallagher’s mind either and after his original Target novelisation was toned down in terms of the heavy sci-fi elements, in recent years, when that story was given the audiobook treatment, Gallagher was asked to return to the original Target book he had written. Once work on the audiobook version of Warriors’ Gate had been completed, Gallagher was approached by the producer of Doctor Who material at BBC Audio.
He explains how he was asked if he would be interested in submitting an idea for a 10,000-word novella, and although his first reaction was no, he quickly thought about Romana’s unfinished business and combining that with his idea of an American Civil War story, he set to work.
“I always reckon that every piece of work becomes viable the moment you take two separate ideas, put them together and see them cross fertilise each other. And sure enough, that’s what happened, because Romana and Laszlo on their own with nothing to do wouldn’t have been a story and the Joshua story on its own with no wider context wouldn’t have been a story. But if you insert one into the other or blend one with the other or breed one with the other or whatever you want to call it, you’ve got something.”
I know exactly what Gallagher is talking about here: a recent short story I wrote for an upcoming Master anthology to raise money for charity came about from a Fourth Doctor and Leela story that I had in mind and a story about what happened to the Master after Survival; in merging the two, the resulting story was born.
Gallagher also seemed pleased that his original script ran to exactly 10,000 words. But looking to the future, he seems a little on the fence.
“Mike said, ‘Would you be willing to do another 10,000 word story?’ and I said, ‘Well, never say never’ but to move forward what I’d need is those two ideas. OK, Romana and Laszlo are a continuing idea, but the other one? Have I got the other one? Not at the moment – but as I say, never say never. Sometimes you need a kick up the arse too to make you focus and sometimes you need a carrot dangled in front of you to have the same effect – but basically. focusing is not that easy under the current circumstances!”
Whether Gallagher carries on writing for this range we’ll have to see, but a few details have emerged for upcoming releases in the range. Bessie Come Home will see what the Doctor’s roadster, of all things, gets up to, with Paul Magrs penning that story. Then we’ve got London 1965 and Sleeper Agents, stories focusing on presumably Ian and Barbara, and Ben and Polly coming next year.
The Kairos Ring is available now, and we’ve got a review coming up on the DWC!