Yesterday I got into an argument with two writer chums about the validity of endless Dr Who spin-off tales. I think my wariness of them derives from my own attempts to write Dr Who stories myself as a child.
‘The Tardis landed on a barren planet.’
That was how I used to write – the planet was always barren because I hadn’t thought up what was there yet.
‘Where are we, Doctor?’ asked Jo.
‘The planet Manbrad,’ replied the Doctor.
Or maybe Bropar, or Gorron or Banthranditch… as soon as I had to make up the name of the alien world my heart would sink. How did you invent such things?
I knew my names were made up, so they never sounded right. Whereas the names already in Dr Who – the planet Skaro, or Mondas, seemed believable – because they had been on TV.
‘We are on the planet Not-very-real, where the aliens are suffering from being made up by Glenn. Only I can save them.’
Just moments into my tale it already carried a sense of failure.
As I got older I noticed that writers would sometimes invent a name by borrowing from a word that already exists. For example Darth Vader. Darth is a bit like death, and Vader is a sawn-off bit of the word invader – another slightly worrying word.
In Marvel Comics the Skrulls had obviously just taken the word Skull and stuck an ‘r’ in it. Then there was the Romulans in Star Trek. That was a bit like Romans. Already, without any added back-story, their name carried a sense of formidable history.
The next time I wrote a story I called my aliens the Terrons. becasue it sounded like ‘terror’. I stared at the word on the page. It worked! My crazy theory had worked! Then I called the story ‘The Terror of the Terrons’. Ha ha! Quite laughable, but at the time, my school friends were impressed. ‘It’s like a real Dr Who title’, one said.
I should have been pleased but I felt a bit sorry. I had started to step behind the theatre curtain – was learning how to put on a show, not just sit in the audience.
Recently I had a couple of TV companies vaguely interested in a TV show I had made up with a pal of mine, Alan Cowsill, the show being called ‘Wereforce One’.
In our research we discovered that in the word ‘werewolf’, the ‘were’ part actually means ‘man’. Man-wolf – see, it makes sense. This didn’t stop us calling our werewolf superheroes Wereforce One, because we liked the name.
Occasionally know-it-alls would delight in pointing out our blunder. But it was no longer a real blunder – but a choice.
Writing my book Candle Man I invented the smoglodytes. Creatures of the unholy fog, denizens of the murk on London streets, I enjoyed the wordplay with the exisiting word ‘troglodyte’.
This time I have pretty much got away with it. Apparently in troglodyte, the ‘trog’means hole and the rest means someone that goes into it. So maybe smoglodyte could mean creatures that go around in smog.
Well I had to get one right sooner or later.
All for now – Glenn – or is it Geln? or Gleen?