James Goss on Doctor Who, Douglas Adams and What's Not Krikkit
15 January 2018
We've invited author James Goss to the Forbidden Planet blog - to tell us all about Douglas Adams, Doctor Who, and when it's really not Krikkit...
Would you please tell us a bit about yourself? Have you always been a storyteller?
Never intentionally. I only really took up writing by accident. Just when I was leaving the BBC after a fun decade in lower-middle-middle management, I won an award for Best Adaptation at the LA Weekly Theatre Awards.
This was a bit of a surprise. The play was an adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently, which I’d actually co-written when I was 17 with Arvind David (He’s now the exec producer of the Dirk Gently TV series).
But anyway, I was leaving a rather lovely job, and it turned out my teenage self suddenly had a better career than me. So I decided I had a bit of catching up to do. And I’d do that for a bit and then go and get another proper job. And that was 10 years ago and I’m extremely lucky that I still don’t have another proper job.
What was it that first drew you to Doctor Who? Was it a childhood thing?
I think Doctor Who was compulsory in the 1970s, along with free school milk and chilblains. I enjoyed it far more than the other two, and luckily, have never questioned that decision.
In your opinion, what’s hardest about recreating television characters in book format?
So much groundwork has been done already in the hundreds of Doctor Who books already written. A generation grew up spellbound, discovering Doctor Who through the words of Terrance Dicks, a novelist who taught us that everything about Doctor Who was magnificently, complicatedly simple. He told us that the TARDIS had a 'wheezing-groaning sound', that its owner was 'a mysterious traveler in time and space known only as The Doctor', that his hair came in 'shocks' and that the throne rooms of 'once proud races' inevitably contained a 'raised dais'. He took the most magical idea in the universe and made it a page-turner.
We all remember Douglas Adams with great fondness. Is it daunting, taking on such a incredible literary mantle?
Obviously, but once I’d realized that whatever I was going to do would be 'wrong', I could press on and enjoy myself. If you’re going to be wrong, you may as well be wrong laughing.
How does your own work entwine with the words that Adams wrote? Do you find yourself interpreting his words, or re-creating them?
The Krikkitmen is a very odd quilt, as it’s based on a very, very long film treatment by Adams that contained scene breakdowns and dialogue. Quite a few pages are written by Adams, coming from other sources (notably an abandoned draft of 'Life, The Universe and Everything'), and then bits of his notes slide in from elsewhere to help fill in the gaps. Some of this is more invented than others – his treatment suggests long periods of flashback (which would have suited a film), but I’ve inserted the Doctor and Romana more actively throughout.
Are there any more of these wonderful adaptations, lurking in the wings?
If you could ask Adams to write for any Doctor, which Doctor would you recommend?
He’d undoubtedly have been superb writing for the new series, but we got a series of golden scripts overseen by him for Tom Baker and that’s always going to make us smile
Thank you for your insights, James! And you can meet James Goss, and pick up a signed copy of Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, on Thursday 18th January at our London Megastore.