Before we start, a little back story for those who aren’t fans; the BBC took Doctor Who off the air in 1989, having all but strangled it with ridiculously small budgets and, according to some, deliberately poor scheduling. A few of these wilderness years passed before Virgin Books licensed the Doctor Who universe and started producing a range of books called the Doctor Who New Adventures which continued where Sylvester McCoy’s third season left off at Survival. They also took a few cues from the Cartmel Masterplan – the nickname for the road map laid out for the show had it continued with Andrew Cartmel as script editor – which included drafting in new companions.
One of these new characters was archaeologist Bernice Summerfield who was created by writer Paul Cornell and, when the BBC didn’t renew the license in 1997, Virgin dropped the “Doctor Who” from the name and continued the series with Benny front and centre. The fourth Benny NA as they were sometimes known was Ship Of Fools, a murder mystery set aboard a space-bound cruise liner called the Titanium Queen with Bernice contracted to retrieve a stolen artefact. And during said book is this scene…
‘I vonder if you can help me,’ said the woman. My name is Heidi von Lindt. I have thus far spent this delightful cruise visiting with certain gentlemen of my acquaintance, offering them companionship and, I must confess, a certain degree of succour. I have been, if you will, a kind of random companion…’
Benny wondered vaguely if this scenario was going to lead anywhere. ‘I’m really not in much of a state to help any -‘ she began.
Heidi von Lindt held a finger to her glossed lips in a small shushing gesture. ‘Vun of my gentleman friends,’ she said, ‘seems to haff had a small mishap. I left him under firm restraint, momentarily, while I went to find a pair off nipple-clamps, a bullwhip, a set of electrodes and a pint of clarified ghee, and I haff come back to find him horribly murdered. ‘ She presser her hand to her forehead in a display of abject sorrow. ‘Ach! Poor Jason is no more! Vot am I to do? I can’t help it!’
And yes, the Jason who “had not died, as was first thought, from the constriction of the ropes tying him to Frau von Lindt’s chaise longue, but by an injection of strychnine to his upper left ventricle” was indeed yours truly, with the part of Heidi von Lindt being played by my then girlfriend who went by the pseudonym Random Companion to the point where even I called her that. The book’s author Dave Stone – that’s him in the picture below circa 1997 if memory serves, standing next to a grinning idiot – had put a call out via the USENet newsgroup Rec.Arts.DrWho (which was visited by quite a few of the New Adventures writers) for people to lay down their lives in the service of literature, so there’s several R.A.DW names, pseudonyms, in-jokes and references throughout.
The book was the first in a trilogy which have recently been retooled to add a new lead character of Dave’s own creation, Pandora Delbane, and made available for Kindle owners at very reasonable rates, although my cameo and most of the R.A.DW references are gone in this new version – that makes sense since jokes like the Bekkar boys and their industrial flame won’t thrower mean anything to people who “weren’t there” and may have completely slipped the minds of many who were after two decades. I’ve got all three on my Kindle but ended up buying a second hand copy of Ship Of Fools as well to transcribe the scene above – I still have a WAV file of Random reading Heidi von Lindt’s part – and to scan the cover, because even if I could find my original copy it’s “well read” almost to the point of destruction.
Those were the Doctor Who “wilderness years” when the show wasn’t on the air, but it’s also a time I mostly remember fondly for the sense of community around the show, even if being “persuaded” to attend parties, conventions – three in the space of a month at one point – and other events wasn’t and indeed still isn’t for want of a better phrase, really my “style”. I don’t entirely know how I ended up in some of those situations, but there’s a couple of anecdotes from that time I’ve been telling for years that could stand to be written down…?