One of my all-time favourite characters from DOCTOR WHO is Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, head of U.N.I.T. during the Pertwee era, as portrayed on screen by the late, great Nicholas Courtney. So it is with much excitment (and not a little bit of disbelief) that I now find myself writing the character.
In 2015, Candy Jar Books in Cardiff began its series of Lethbridge-Stewart books – mostly novels, with the occasional short story anthology. Of course, I started reading and collecting the series immediately. This series is mostly set between the Brig’s first appearance in “The Web of Fear” and the formation of U.N.I.T. In addition to the Brig, the series also features Anne Travers in a major role, as well as other characters created by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. [They wrote three serials for DOCTOR WHO: “Web of Fear”, “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Dominators”.]
In 2019 I found myself invited to write a short story for the anthology The Havoc Files: The Laughing Gnome. I pitched a couple of ideas, one focusing on the Brig and one about Anne Travers. The end result was “Pure History”, a story in which an older Anne finds herself astral projected into the past. Arriving at the University of Melbourne in 1986, she is confronted by a fanatical student group intent on maintaining the purity of history by capturing and sacrificing time travellers such as herself. The story was a joy to write, allowing me to revisit my old undergraduate stomping grounds and feature the university’s iconic underground car park.
Anne was pushed and pulled through the cavernous car park, pylons of concrete mushrooming up from the floor at regular intervals and meeting the ceiling, which arched between them. The place would have looked quite surreal if not for the mundane presence of so many cars.
The boisterous shouts of her kidnappers echoed through the underground, as they took her to a far corner. Friedrich lifted a hand to the wall. A portion of the floor by Anne’s feet shimmered and seemed to dissolve. Looking at it made her feel queasy. That is not current technology, she thought. Who are these people?
With the story completed and well received by the publisher, I was invited to pitch for a novel. Thankfully, they liked one of the two ideas I threw at them. And I am now in fan-boy heaven!
Fear Frequency is the working title and it is set in October 1970. I’m only a couple of chapters in, so there is still a long way to go… but it is SO MUCH FUN! I’ve already written the Brig’s first couple of scenes, I’ve used Anne and a few of the other characters original to this series of books, and I’ve created some of my own characters to add into the mix. It’s slow going in these early stages as I have to keep stopping to research elements of 1970 UK – like what the ITV switchboard would have looked like; and the logo for the BBC’s Nationwide current affairs program.
What’s Fear Frequency about? Well, I don’t want to say too much yet, as things often change during the writing process. But there’s a synthesised television theme that seems to be scaring a lot of people; a has-been, one-hit-wonder pop star turned entrepreneur; some shady criminal types; and an aged care facility with some nasty secrets.
The book is scheduled for a late 2020 publication.
And that’s all I’m gonna say for the time being, ‘cause the Brigadier is waiting for me.