We continue our weekly creator spotlight with Episode Eleven: The Promise of a Soldier, written by Kevin Burnard and illustrated by the awesome Mogamoka.
Writer: Kevin Burnard
How did you come to Doctor Who? What’s your journey with the show?
My dad grew up on Doctor Who, really, among other things. Blake’s 7 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, too; he’s of that era of fiction and culture, and that made a big impact on me. I always heard anecdotes as a kid about him pretending to be a Yeti to scare his grandmother at an old exhibit In the 60s. But I didn’t really start hearing about the show in any way I could remember until 2006, when the scifi channel here in the states started airing all the Rose episodes as reruns. One day, after school, I can nearly pinpoint it to the date early in November 2006, he convinced us to sit for the last few minutes of an episode. It involved a very strange Doctor and an even stranger monster, and to be honest, I wasn’t sold. But, you know, it was the closing minutes of Love and Monsters, paving slab and all. So that’s where everything began. With his encouragement, we went on to see most of the first two series via DVR.
By 2007, I was hooked. I refused to wait a week for the delay between UK and US broadcast of Smith and Jones, and was probably something of a jerk about it! I know I was when I made us stop in the middle of a vacation to Catalina island to watch The Lazarus Experiment when it went out live. I forced friends on a sleepover to watch Daleks in Manhattan because I didn’t want to wait. Strangely, they’ve never wanted to see another episode. By 2008, finally, friends in the states were starting to hear about the show, which was wonderful. With another friend, I vividly remember watching the Series 4 finale on a different sleepover. Again, social life happens, but I’ll be damned if I’m missing my Doctor Who. I even met Russell T Davies at Comic Con in 2009. I was eleven, I think, not feeling like going back to count. I told him Torchwood was brilliant. He was horrified someone so young was watching it. I quoted my favorite line to him: “We want a pony.”
It’s when Matt Smith took over that everything really changed, though. I remember being on a middle school trip to New York City and seeing an ad with Eleven and Amy on a bus in Time’s Square! That was amazing. I wasn’t sure about the new Doctor, but by the time the bow tie was on his neck, I was already humming “I am the Doctor”. No exaggeration, it was stuck in my head all week after that episode. Still is, and I love it for it. The show took off here. There were clubs that would enthuse about geeky properties like that (and, sigh, Supernatural) at Comic Con. I gave a friend of my sister’s grief via Rose-bashing in class (I swear, I’m not that person anymore; also, I think that may have been my idea of flirting). I caught Asylum of the Daleks at a friend’s house, because people were all actually watching now and liking it (no headway yet with that friend who I forced to see Daleks in Manhattan, mind).
That’s the era where my identity started to become a part of it. In tenth grade, I had a humanities class where we had to write an essay on any media object. Because I was so excited by Series 6 of Who (still my favorite to this day), I decided to write my essay on Steven Moffat. I was the only person in the class who chose to analyze TV, and to be honest, I don’t want to see what I said now, it was probably terrible. But it got the ball rolling. I realized that analyzing TV was something that could be a lifestyle. And more than that, that it’s someone’s job to write these stories I love. Why not me?
Everything that’s come after has come from that for me. I became a feminist through engaging what I loved about the Moffat era in the face of overwhelming criticism of a show I never saw in it, and through that, became more comfortable with my queer identity. I became a film student, because I wanted the chance to give back to those stories, and, selfishly, write myself into a part of that amazing show’s history. And that fuels so much of my decision-making now: it’s all done with an eye on how I can touch the heavens of Doctor Who.
What is your favourite thing about the show?
So much. I love how it always changes. I love the characters and the emotion. I love the mythology getting dripped out from time to time. I love the monsters, terrifying me every time. I love Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat so, so much. But I think on one level, and I need to say that, what I love about it is that it’s something my dad shared with me, and it makes me feel a bit more connected to him and to a heritage I otherwise don’t really have defined, as a descendant of eastern Europeans who sliced away their identities and even surnames to escape xenophobia. Doctor Who is my culture, and I adore it.
So, what’s it like writing for TUA? What are you most excited for?
It’s hard, first of all, but there’s a story I always wanted to see, and nobody else was likely to ever tell it. So in that way, it’s a labor of love. Prose isn’t my natural format, scripts are, so there’s a lot of playing with the boundaries of what I can get away with in the format going on, which I hope will look clever rather than desperate! At the end of the day, I’m writing for TUA because there’s a specific story I desperately feel needs to exist, and Ruth has been very supportive in giving me the space to tell it.
How did your episode come to be? Where did you look for inspiration: Doctor Who itself, other places, bit of both?
For me, it all came from one relationship at the heart, one which I always felt kinda strongly about. It’ll be obvious what when you see it. But it also came, weirdly, from one of my least favorite episodes of the show, Before the Flood. I think there’s a massive missed opportunity in the basic premise, and that fit very nicely into the concepts and emotions I wanted to explore. So those are the two main sources of inspiration: love for the show, and bitterness at the show. Both work quite well.
Sum up your episode in 3 words!
Ghosts Come Home.
What’s your journey with Doctor Who? Did it inspire your art?
I started watching Doctor Who 6 years ago and I love everything about it. In my country, Doctor Who isn't really popular. That's sad, but it makes a small but strong group of fans. My Whovian friends had always supported me, and I think they're the main motivation for my arts.
What are you most excited about when it comes to doing art for this series? What do you think are/will be the greatest challenges?
I'm excited to work on the with many talented artists and writers! The plot and the setting of each episode are as intense as canon ones, which means you have to design something new under Doctor Who theme. As a fan who only draws character fanarts and minimum-details backgrounds, I find this series really challenging.
Can you give us some non-spoilery teases about the look of the episode and the art you’re going to provide for it?
This is the "character fanart with minimum-details background" I'd mentioned earlier. But don't worry, I'm working on "the more challenging", "Doctor Who-themed" arts, which are spoilery!