Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Interview - Shades of Gray (Part Four of Four)


(David Ronayne) How did you get involved with the show?
(Scott Gray) My earliest memory of watching any TV is the cliffhanger of part one of The Tenth Planet. The one where the guy gets clubbed to the ground by these big figures. He tries to shoot them but it doesn't work, and then the camera pans up and you see the Cybermen. I remember that so clearly, it just scared the hell out of me.

I've always loved the Cybermen. They are my favourite baddies from the TV show. They haven't always been used terribly well. They've had good stories and bad stories, but I still think they looked pretty nifty in that first episode.

(DR) You worked on Razor. What was that?
Razor was put out by Cornelius Stone, who designed it, edited it and published it. It was mostly written by him, too. It was basically a big fanzine. I used to draw some of the stories. When I look back at them now they are really embarrassing. It taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do, in terms of constructing a story. Cornelius sent me the first TSV, that's when I discovered Who fandom. I started sending in bits of artwork, because I was really liking the Sylvester McCoy stuff more than I had liked anything since the early Tom Baker days. There seemed to be a proper vision of how the show should be working. It was also very comic-booky. I wasn't surprised to learn that Andrew Cartmel was a comics fan. Sophie and Sylvester translated really well into the comic strip. Fast-paced stuff, lots of action.

(DR) Most people remember you, before DWM for your TSV covers (21-27), and The Dreaming Book. Do you still draw much?
I haven't drawn very much at all. I've done a few covers recently for the superhero reprints I edit. It was part of the agreement when I came on to do these titles, but as it turned out I haven't really done that many. Generally I try to avoid doing that as the artists on my books are much better than me and it seems kind of corrupt to commission myself to do them.

(Darrell Patterson) Why did you come to London?
To do comics. John Freeman bought a story off me. I did two stories for TSV and had sent them both to John. I received a reply after the first one, The Resurrection Test. It was a brilliant letter, really detailed about what I had done right and wrong. He seemed genuinely interested, and told me to send something else. I did the second one, The Dreaming Book, and he wrote back and said although he wasn't terribly keen on the art, I should send a script in on spec. So I sent him Memorial (DWM #191) and he bought it. I just couldn't believe it. At that point I decided to go to London and try and get more work. The comics industry was doing really well and there were lots of opportunities to do stuff for about a year. After that everything seemed to collapse.

(DP) How did you become assistant editor for Doctor Who Magazine?
I was just coming in to the office on a regular basis when I was writing scripts. If the artwork changed some aspect of the story I had to do on the spot rewrites and edits. Characters' expressions or emphasis may change, so you have to adjust the dialogue to suit. By this stage Gary Russell had taken over. He is a wonderful guy and I got on really well with him. He seemed to think I understood the strip, understood Who, and could spell, so maybe I could work on the magazine. When he was promoted to oversee a whole load of magazines he just offered me the job. Then, around ten months later, we had this major implosion. We were taken over by another branch of Marvel called Panini and they axed everything except DWM. It was such a terrible day. It had been a really great time. It was a shame it had to end.

(DP) What is it like working with Lee Sullivan?
Lee is great to work with. In Land Of The Blind I had a street scene set in a spaceport and just asked for 'lots of different aliens', just to see what he would come up with. When it came back, all the aliens were out of the Doctor Who Annuals. He had the Fishmen of Kandalinga, and all these other aliens just wandering around. He's a huge sci-fi fan at all levels. He worked on the Tek War comic, and got to know William Shatner pretty well. It's surreal, I know someone who has had dinner with Captain Kirk.

(DR) You used to be Warwick, why did you become Scott Gray?
The only reason I changed it was that no one could understand it through the accent. When I was on the phone I would say: 'Hi, it's Warwick Gray here from Marvel Comics ... ' Then I would have to stop and explain my name was Warwick ... W-a-r-w-i-c-k ... It was a terrible way to introduce myself. Eventually I went into Gary Russell's office and said, 'This is driving me crazy! I've got to change my name.' I was expecting him to say no, but he is an insanely nice man. He said, 'We'll do it in stages. First you will be Warwick Gray, then you will be W. Scott Gray, then Scott Gray.' So that's how it came about. I don't know where Scott came from. I was delirious with flu on the weekend when I made this decision. So now fifty percent of the people I know call me Warwick and the other fifty percent call me Scott.


(DP) Have you ever had Paul McGann or his agent react to any of this?
Paul McGann is just brilliant about this stuff. With all the other Doctors, apart from Tom I think, we have to pay them or their estates to use their likenesses, but Paul McGann doesn't even ask for money. I don't know if he has even read them. Doctor Who was just a gig for a few weeks and then he was on to the next thing, and I suspect it doesn't weigh much on his mind. The only time I bumped into him was at BAFTA after the screening and everyone was just milling about. It was surreal, because I just went to the loo, and the door opened and Paul McGann came out. Doctor Who goes to the john. He just smiled and went 'Hi.'

(DR) So, what was it like at BAFTA?
That was such a brilliant night. It was so great seeing it on a big screen, and everyone was there. There was also a big batch of fans who had won the competition, so we saw it with all the bigwigs and again with all the fans. It got such a great reaction. People were laughing and cheering. There was a really great bit at the end, where the Doctor is finally in control, and he's got Grace and Chang Lee in the TARDIS. He smiles at them and starts fiddling round with the machine and suddenly everything stops dead. There's this pause, and this guy behind me started whispering, 'Do it, do it!' And sure enough he just bangs the console and everything starts again. It just seemed so right. The bit where they're in the ambulance and the Master corrects Grace's grammar. I think Eric Roberts came up with that. It certainly wasn't in the script. When I heard he was going to be the Master, I thought it'd be great. He just looks the part, as scary as hell.

A lot of people watched the TV movie with their arms folded, saying, 'Convince me this is Doctor Who, convince me this is the show I love.' And that's probably the wrong attitude to take. I really enjoyed it.


(DR) Do you think that would work in an American 45 minute Star Trek format?
Star Trek is about dialogue and characters interacting. In a weird sort of way it's not terribly visual. I can't imagine Doctor Who like that.

(DR) Do you think they will bring it back?
Maybe with computer generated imagery. If things get cheaper to create. I kept thinking if it came back as a series you couldn't have that many men in rubber suits. There would have to be a lot of CGI aliens, and virtual sets. I want to have that feel in the strip. The Pariah couldn't be a woman in a costume, she looks totally alien. Stark in The Fallen, if he was done on TV, would clearly have to be a CGI monster. We want to up the special effects content of the comic and do some stuff that is new and strange.

TV isn't big on serials now, or cliffhangers. If you take away the cliffhangers, is it still Doctor Who? Will it still be perceived as Doctor Who if they land for fifty minutes and have quick adventures? It wouldn't feel quite right to me.


(DP) How far ahead do you plan?
Probably not as far as I should. I've got the next one forming in my head now. Alan's got a book to do on Sherlock Holmes, so I'll be writing the strip full time for now. I think the phrase I used was, 'You will have to prise it from my cold, dead fingers.' I would like a decent run on the strip, and I love working with Martin. He is just an ego-free zone. I feel privileged to have the chance to write this stuff, because comics and Doctor Who are two things I really love.

(DR) Do you ever see yourself losing interest?
Yeah, I think getting Whoed out' is a very real possibility. You tend to use up ideas at a very alarming rate. Any writer who comes into it may have four or five good ideas, but after a while you have to go, 'Okay, have I got another really good idea for Doctor Who?' I've done thirteen Doctor Who stories in the last seven years for Marvel. Of course, I started off with Sylvester and Ace, and now there is McGann and Izzy, so it does feel like a different strip now.

(DR) Any non-Who related projects?
I'm working on something with Roger Langridge at the moment. It will be done the same way as Tintin and Asterix; kids will be able to buy it and enjoy it, but adults can read it too.

It's about a young boy who lives on an island in the South Pacific and has adventures. The first one is all about an artifact that falls out of the sky and starts altering things on the island. Various parties become very interested in getting hold of it. It should be fun.

(DR) What really stands out for you most in the job?
At the last Panopticon we had a nine-year-old boy come up with his maths text book. He had drawn a complete Doctor Who story in it, which instantly brought back memories of doing the same thing. It was the Doctor and Izzy fighting the Daleks, and the Threshold appeared. It got me so chuffed, actually sparking this kid's imagination. We were encouraging him, telling him it was brilliant, to keep doing it, and thinking fifteen years from now he'll be actually writing the strip or drawing it, which would be kind of cool. These things do happen.

I always try to think of children when I'm writing the strip. You have to get the young readers excited, kids who have never had to deal with a cliffhanger because they're too young to remember the series on TV. And it's so great getting letters back from the young readers going, 'I'm dying to know what happens next.' That's Doctor Who.

No comments: