The Knight, the Fool and the Dead – Interview with Author Steve Cole

The Time Lord Victorious project is well underway with a Doctor Who escape room, several short stories and comics already setting the stage. The Knight, the Fool and the Dead by Steve Cole – out today from BBC Books and Penguin RH – is the first TLV novel and promises to take the Tenth Doctor through some Dark Times.

We live forever, barring accidents. Just like everyone else in the universe.

The Doctor travels back to the Dark Times, an era where life flourishes and death is barely known…

Then come the Kotturuh – creatures who spread through the cosmos dispensing mortality. They judge each and every species and decree its allotted time to live. For the first time, living things know the fear of ending. And they will go to any lengths to escape this grim new spectre, death.

The Doctor is an old hand at cheating death. Now, at last, he can stop it at source. He is coming for the Kotturuh, ready to change everything so that life wins from the start.

Not just the last of the Time Lords. The Time Lord Victorious.

Synopsis

Interview with Steve Cole

I’ll be talking about The Knight, the Fool and the Dead in more detail ‘very soon‘. But I was lucky enough to chat with author Steve Cole about his work on the novel and Time Lord Victorious in general. First, I asked how he got involved with the project.

I heard about it first from James Goss, the ‘showrunner’ for TLV, and my initial thoughts were, ‘This sounds really cool!’ I’ve worked with James on various Who projects now – I first met him towards the end of my time as BBC Books’ in-house project editor over 20 years ago, and my first job back on the team was editing his Krikkitmen novel. He’s always bursting with quirky ideas and TLV was no different. Albert DePetrillo, the Publishing Director, then told me he wanted to do two novels under the TLV umbrella and as consultant editor for the BBC Books’ Doctor Who list it became my responsibility to work with James to get the agreed two titles out there.

Steve Cole
The Knight, the Fool and the Dead by Steve Cole
The Knight, the Fool and the Dead by Steve Cole; Cover Artwork: Lee Binding

James Goss

James Goss, for those unaware, has been a prominent influence in Doctor Who tie-in media for nearly two decades. As well as writing and producing countless Big Finish audios, he’s penned original stories, adapted some of Douglas Adams’ serials into novels and commissioned animations for both new adventures and missing episodes. But what was it like for Steve collaborating on the novel with the guy in charge of the whole show?

James had brief synopses for what had to happen and what the big cliffhanger would be at the end of book one, so it was a case of working out how to get to that point in mine, and what would follow in the book I gave to Una McCormack. James fed back on what he wanted in the books too and helped bridge between licensees. Like, BBC Audio wanted to do a story with Ten and Brian so we put space into Una’s novel where other adventures could conceivably happen.

Steve Cole

Una McCormack

Dr Una McCormack is an academic and fellow author with an equally impressive bibliography in the worlds of Doctor Who. Earlier this year she penned The Last Best Hope, a tie-in novel for Star Trek: Picard. McCormack’s Doctor Who novel – All Flesh is Grass – will follow on from Cole’s story and complete the Time Lord Victorious book series. This is not the first time Steve and Una have worked together so I asked if that made it easier to hash out the storyline…

Una is always lovely to work with, a solid professional and able to retain calm and a sense of humour in the snarling face of deadline and editorial intrusion. We just swapped [notes] and asked questions of each other a little more as we worked.

Steve Cole

Brian the Ood

Both novels feature some brand new characters, the villainous Kotturuh – who have already been name-dropped in audios and a couple of short stories – and Brian the Ood. He’s an Ood called Brian. Also he’s a gun-for-hire. Not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d write when referring to an Ood. The Knight, the Fool and the Dead is the audience’s first encounter with Brian the Ood. So did Steve feel any pressure in introducing such an unusual character?

The character of Brian the Ood comes from James, who presented him very clearly in the TLV Bible. Brian is such a James character. He sort of IS James! I didn’t feel any pressure as such because I’ve introduced a lot of characters in a lot of series over the years. It wasn’t like bringing Young Bond back for Ian Fleming publications, for example! But I wanted to get him right. Brian is one of those characters who sort of write themselves and get the best lines and steal the show, I know that Una very much enjoyed writing him too, and I’m sure all the other authors have.

Steve Cole

Brian is next scheduled to appear opposite the Eighth Doctor in the first Big Finish audio for Time Lord Victorious – He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not by Carrie Thompson – later this month with Silas Carson reprising his voice role from the TV series. (I’ll be talking to Thompson about the story very soon so watch this space!). But with the character being depicted in other formats, was it difficult for Steve to keep Brian (and other aspects of the narrative) consistent across mediums?

I imagine so but it wasn’t my problem! Haha! For me, it was just making sure the two novels worked well and satisfyingly. So of course I had a lot of input into book two to make sure everything set up is resolved

Steve Cole

The Tenth Doctor

By contrast, the Tenth Doctor is very different in this novel from how he’s portrayed on television and even in Steve Cole’s previous Tenth Doctor stories. Was this a difficult change to write?

Well, he’s a bit more damaged than when I last wrote for him in Martha’s time. He’s been through the mill. But that means it’s easier to push him into a dangerous space, which is kind of the point of this series. It’s named Time Lord Victorious for good reason.

Steve Cole

World Burn Down

Away from Doctor Who, Steve Cole has another book out this month – World Burn Down – illustrated by Oriol Vidal. Steve reassures me that, despite the destruction of the Doctor’s home planet, his new novel…

…ISN’T about Gallifrey, but a thriller for middle-grade children set against the Amazon forest fires. I love collaborating and have a very exciting collaboration coming up, but it’s also nice to do something all my own. I generally look for that mix in life!

Steve Cole

World Burn Down is out on the 15th October and is available to pre-order now.

With thanks to Steve Cole for taking the time to talk to me and the good folks at Penguin Random House for their help in providing resources.

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