I see the end of an incarnation’s lifetime as when a writer has the most to use within the character to express full range of characteristics.
The ending of a Doctor’s tenure makes for one of the most important stories in the series. It’s the story that has the job of tying up all the loose ends of everything that’s come before. Two of the most notable examples would be The End of Time, where we finally get a glimpse of Gallifrey during the Time War after 4 seasons of buildup, and The Caves of Androzani, easily considered one of the best stories in all of Classic Who. However, not all exits are created equally. While the 3rd Doctor’s final story, Planet of the Spiders, was enjoyable in it’s own right, the original plan was a grand finale not just for Pertwee’s Doctor, but also for Roger Delgado’s Master. The 6th Doctor had it even worse, not even getting a final story for television. Thankfully, we have the talents of Chris McKeon. When Craig Hinton’s idea for a novel was rejected, McKeon completed the story based on his notes and released it as a charity publication. More recently, he’s put together a big 7-part audio drama with his take on what the finale for the original Master would’ve been. Then again, was he really the original? Let’s find out what Chris thinks.
CD: So what was your part in the creation of The Final Game?
CM: I wrote the scripts and cast the actors. Most importantly, I was able to find the help of an excellent sound designer and voice actor, Gareth Severn, to make the final version of The Final Game as people hear it now.
CD: Were there any ideas for a proposed finale for the 3rd Doctor before Delgado’s passing that you took inspiration from? Or was it more along the lines of what you would have wanted to see?
CM: There were the very basic ideas shared by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks in various interviews: How the Doctor and the Master’s true relationship would have been discussed and perhaps revealed, how some major catastrophe would have forced the two Time Lords to work together, and how at the end of the story the Master would appear to die. Beyond these simple points, the main plot and details of the story are what I imagined were the ones myself and fans would want to include in a story of this historical and narrative importance.
CD: Was it hard finding voice actors for all the characters?
CM: The difficulty varied from character to character, and the specific qualities that won people the roles changed from person to person. For some it was the closeness of their voice to the original actor, for others it was the sheer strength of their vocal acting. It was very fast to cast the Third Doctor voice actor because Marshall Tankersley, who voices the character in The Final Game, already had samples of his Pertwee impression uploaded to YouTube and was quick and enthusiastic in his response to our audition request. On the other hand, it was very hard finding someone among the many excellent actors auditioning for the Delgado Master role to find someone who sounded close to Roger Delgado, so when I discovered Terry Cooper…honestly, this was like a miracle. Big Finish Productions, if you ever recast the Delgado Master, you must at least hear Terry’s performance before making your final decision, and then you must cast Terry!
CD: Tell me about some of the work that Studio Severn has uploaded before The Final Game. Were you involved with The Dark Knight Chronicles or The New Adventures of Red Riding Hood?
CM: I was not involved with Studio Severn’s stories before The Final Game, but I recommend these adventures with every enthusiasm! Studio Severn has published the stories you mention, and also an adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, as well as contributing to the sci-fi comedy Morpheus One. Gareth has also written a 10th Doctor/Donna audio titled Re-Birth, the first part of which is available on YouTube, and will continue to help Black Glove Studio with our story releases. Black Glove Studio does not exist without Gareth’s brilliant sound design skills, and his upcoming stories, including tales with the 4th and 9th Doctors, are wonderful adventures!
CD: Have you written any Doctor Who stories before this?
CM: Yes, I wrote the 6th Doctor novel Time’s Champion, which featured this Doctor’s regeneration showdown with the Valeyard.*
CD: No way, that was you?!? That’s awesome! When did you start writing Time’s Champion?
CM: Thank you! And yes, this is me. I wrote Time’s Champion back in 2008. Goodness, this is such a while ago!
CD: I’ve heard that a lot of references were placed throughout the story. Was most of it just stuff you knew off the top of your head, or did you have to do some research?
CM: Goodness, this answer will make me sound overly confident, but most of the references were ones I already knew. I really love Doctor Who and so it’s the one sci-fi series I follow and learn constantly across all its different media: tv, audio, books, comics, etc. At the same, I like to verify my continuity, so this often involves lots of research and review of the whole series.
CD: In your opinion, what would you say is one of your most obscure references?
CM: Well, when the book released Big Finish had just announced their Lost Stories range, so unmade tv stories like The Nightmare Fair, The Ultimate Evil, The Hollows of Time, etc. were finally being recorded as audios. Time’s Champion included a reference to the story Mission to Magnus, which at the time had not yet been released, so I suppose this was then an obscure reference. Although, there was also a very oblique reference to The Next Doctor (Cybermen marching through a graveyard), which also had not yet been released, so maybe this is the most obscure of the novel? These, and the reference to the War Chief being the Master – I was very happy to include this connection (yes, I am one fan who believes the War Chief is the Master)!
CD: What would you do differently if you were in charge of Doctor Who during the 6th Doctor’s run?
CM: This question has an odd answer from me in that I really enjoy the 6th Doctor’s run, even many things various fans cite as problems: the violent content, the Doctor’s costume, the Doctor/Peri dynamic, the more nostalgic-driven stories, etc. My feeling is that many of the problems of the era were largely due to personality clashes and personal interests between the producer (John Nathan-Turner), the script editor (Eric Saward), and the then-BBC Controller Michael Grade, who was not a fan of the show. Therefore, in my opinion the series’s turmoil was avoidable, but not by ways of changing the stories and actors.
In a perfect world I would have kept all the elements of Season 22 as we know them, produced the original Season 23 stories, and still have produced the Trial series, including the casting of Bonnie Langford as Mel (a character I really enjoy and am happy to hear in any Big Finish story). The one big difference I would have changed is keep Colin Baker as the Doctor for as long as wanted, and crafted a major story arc throughout his era explaining the origins and final fate of the Valeyard. And I would have brought back the Brigadier to meet Colin’s Doctor onscreen. Honestly, the 6th Doctor is simply marvelous!
CD: What are some of your favorite Big Finish stories?
CM: I enjoy so many audios! Easily I can single out any audio with the Brigadier as a favorite (The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, Minuet in Hell, Zagreus, the early UNIT series, and including the ones with Jon Culshaw assuming the role). I count among favorites any audio with any returning monster (Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Sontarans, Zygons, Yeti, etc). I love any audio with the Master, and any audio with a returning Time Lord villain (Monk, Rani, Morbius, Omega, Rassilon, Eleven, Valeyard, Toymaker, Black Guardian, White Guardian, etc). I really enjoy any audio that references other Who media (books, comics, etc.) and ties together the continuity — The Company of Friends comes to mind. I also consider any multi-Doctor stories to be among my best loved audio stories. I have a special place for the Lost Stories ranges, and after today I feel sure that I will count the Ninth Doctor adventures among my favorites too!
CD: I noticed that both of the stories you’ve written take place at the end of the road for the 3rd and 6th Doctors. Is there something about the end of an incarnation’s lifetime that you find yourself drawn to?
CM: Absolutely! I see the end of an incarnation’s lifetime as when a writer has the most to use within the character to express full range of characteristics, and usually within the scope of a major event that demonstrates said characteristics at their fullest potency.
CD: What’s your opinion on The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure? Do you think your novel had any influence on the story?
CM: I still haven’t listened to the The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure boxset, although I plan to listen soon. I’m grateful that Big Finish have featured the Valeyard as a recurring Sixth Doctor villain, and I hope that one of the stories in this boxset, or an upcoming adventure, will finish the Valeyard’s storyline. I doubt that my novel has any direct influence upon the boxset, although from what I understand the 6th Doctor and the Valeyard have their final confrontation within the Matrix while the Valeyard is overwriting the Doctor’s history, which is something that also happens similarly in my novel, so maybe someone at Big Finish read Time’s Champion? I can hope!
CD: If you could bring any one of the missing episodes back to the BBC archives, which would you choose?
CM: A single episode I would bring back is The Web of Fear Episode 3 since it features the very first appearance of Brigadier, although since we know this one exists I have high hopes of its eventual return! For any other story, I want to have the power to being back The Daleks’ Masterplan as a complete adventure. For an already existing adventure, I would give anything to restore the original intention of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith to see the Brigadier meet the Doctor one last time.
*note: I hadn’t connected the dots with the Time’s Champion novel until that point.
The Final Game currently has 6 of its 7 episodes on the YouTube channel for Studio Severn, and I can’t recommend it enough. Chris’s writing is able to elegantly capture the scale of these adventures, while also harboring a deep understanding of every character you meet. His future projects include stories for The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the unmade 6th Doctor story Yellow Fever and How to Cure it. Keep an eye out for the work from Studio Severn and Black Glove Studio!
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