We continue our weekly creator spotlight with Episode Ten: Heroes for Ghosts, written by Alex King and co-project lead Ruth Long, and illustrated by the wonderful Rosie Vernon.
Writer: Alex King
How did you come to Doctor Who? What’s your journey with the show?
I was very lucky to be born into a Doctor Who-loving family, so the show has pretty-much been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child I would enjoy watching VHS tapes and DVDs of the classic series, becoming a big fan of Peter Davison’s Doctor and the Cybermen in particular. I remember starting to love the show though, instead of just really liking it, when it came back in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, and have just adored it ever since. It’s been a massive part of my life, from playing Daleks on the school playground, to giving me hope when I needed it, to finding me some wonderful friends. It’s something I always have and always will love dearly.
What is your favourite thing about the show?
I’ve always liked how creative the show is, how it can be pretty-much everything it wants while still remaining under the bracket of 'Doctor Who'. No other series on TV can go from having a dark, base-under-siege monster story one week to a light, comedic, but thematically rich romp with Robin Hood the next. It’s so wonderfully quirky, different, mad, and special compared to lots of other shows on TV, and that’s something that really appeals. I’m also a big fan of how deep it is; the warmth at the heart of it, what it teaches, and what it means to so many people - myself included. At face value, Doctor Who is about someone who travels around inside a police box, fighting weird-looking monsters with all of these unusual gadgets while wearing a daft costume, but below the surface it’s something much more profound than that. It’s a show about tolerance, acceptance and hope; even in the lowest moments.
So, what’s it like writing for TUA? What are you most excited for?
It’s amazing. It’s such a wonderful project to be involved in, there are so many talented writers, artists, and people working behind the scenes, and it’s an honour to work with everyone involved. It’s always fantastic seeing how the series and everyone’s episodes are progressing during each team meeting. There are some very exciting things in store, I’m very lucky to be a part of the team telling stories about my favourite Doctor Who character, and I cannot wait to see how the project continues to grow, develop, and inspire over the next few months.
How did your episode come to be? Where did you look for inspiration: Doctor Who itself, other places, bit of both?
The actual idea originated on a bus, when I was listening to the song Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. I really like the lyrics of that song, and the story they tell, and tried to put that to a Doctor Who context. After a bit of thought, I decided I wanted to explore the premise of Clara returning to an Earth where she’d only recently died, and what effect that would have on her and the people she knew best during her life there. This then developed into being mostly a two-hander, telling the story of Clara and a student from Coal Hill School who she was especially close with: how she inspired him and gave him something to hold onto during a tough time, what happened to him after her death, and how in returning she helps him to face his monsters. It’s a somewhat meta episode in that it reflects the way Clara Oswald gave a lot of her fans - myself included - hope through difficult times in our lives, our reactions after Face the Raven, and the triumph at Hell Bent's hopeful, subversive ending for Clara and how it went on to inspire so many wonderful things, such as this project.
Sum up your episode in 3 words!
There’s Always Light.
Artist: Rosie Vernon
What’s your journey with Doctor Who? Did it inspire your art?
I’ve been watching Doctor Who since it came back in 2005, when I was 4 years old, so it’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember! I’ve watched every New Who episode countless times, as well as all the spin-offs, and I’m very slowly making my way through Classic Who and some of the Big Finish audios. It’s impacted my life in so many ways, I’ve made so many friends through it and was even part of the reason why I developed an interest in science and STEM subjects - I will (hopefully) be starting a maths degree next year.
As for art, Doctor Who has definitely inspired it! Go through any of my childhood sketchbooks and you’ll easily find a fair few TARDISes and Daleks, and now it’s the majority of what I draw. My love for the characters of course has inspired me to draw them an awful lot, but I’ve also been inspired by many of the creative people involved with the show, such as Michael Pickwoad, the production designer who designed Twelve’s amazing TARDIS (and who very sadly passed away a few days ago) and Rachael Stott, who works on the comics and whose art style I absolutely adore. There are also so many amazing fan artists that I have been inspired by, some of which are working on this series!
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?
All the writers and artists working on this project are brilliant so I feel very honoured to be featured alongside them. Of course, getting to draw Clara Oswald multiple times is great, and I’m also looking forward to designing the various side characters in this episode. As one of the few people who is a big fan of Class, I’m looking forward to Coal Hill’s involvement as well! I’ve never really worked on a project like this before, so I’ve never done full illustrations with multiple characters and backgrounds - I tend to stick to one or two characters and very basic backgrounds - so that will be challenging, but hopefully that will be a chance to help my art improve!
Can you give us some non-spoilery teases about the look of the episode and the art you’re going to provide for it?
A key theme of this episode is finding hope amongst the darkness – so I imagine I’ll use a lot of dark colours that will gradually get brighter as the story progresses.