So, what is
Doctor Who, the television series
Return to site index
Bullseye Books is a series of novel-length fan fiction, recounting the adventures of a fictitious eighth Doctor. The Bullseye series was devised in 1993, partly in response to Virgin's New Adventures books. Contrary to popular belief, I've nothing against the Virgin books. I've even read most of them - although I hadn't read many at that time. I felt they had their own agenda to pursue, and I was interested in going somewhere different. Whereas their avowed aim was to push Doctor Who into defiantly new territory, I wanted to write what might be termed "traditional" Doctor Who stories - not that there's any such thing! (But look, I was a bit of a fanboy in those days - I've grown up since then...) So, the idea was to write stories that could have worked on the television, budget not withstanding. I used to joke that if the Virgin Books were too broad and too deep for the small screen, then Bullseye Books were going to be narrow enough and shallow enough!
When I started writing, I had no idea that I was devising a series. Originally, I just set out to write a single piece of fan fiction. This was eventually to become The Michaelmas Phantoms, now the third novel in the Bullseye series. At the time, I never thought of it as anything more than a one-off. The first thing I had to decide was which Doctor to write for. I attempted a fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) story for a while, since he was my favourite - but somehow it never seemed to be working. What I really wanted to do was to create something new, something looking ahead - that meant it had to be a continuation of the tv series, rather than a retread of a previous era. Since I was never a particular fan of the seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace, I didn't really want to write a story for them. This rather dictated that I create a new Doctor and companion, which is exactly what I did.
After The Michaelmas Phantoms was first published, I found myself thinking more about the Doctor and Rhonwen. Who were they, and where had they come from? Obviously, the only thing to do was to write a prequel. This became The Belphegor Inheritance, and so a series was born.
The next important development was the arrival of Martin Proctor on the scene. He had acquired copies of the two fanzines, and asked if he could contribute artwork to future issues. Martin is an exceptionally talented artist, and as I can't draw for toffee, I was hardly likely to say no. We decided to re-issue the first two novels with illustrations, and produce future issues in the same style. I owe a great deal to Martin. For one thing, he devised the name Bullseye Books - I'd wanted the cover illustrations to emulate those of the Target Books, and he stuck a throwaway logo in one corner, spoofing the old Target symbol. I adopted the idea immediately.
Martin also gave the Doctor a face. Though I had a fair idea of what the Doctor was like in terms of character, I couldn't really picture him in my mind's eye. With his very first letter, Martin sent me a sketch in which he'd based the Doctor's features on Robert Hardy. As soon as I saw that picture, I knew it was just right, and Robert Hardy became the eighth Doctor from that moment. Once I had that image in mind, it's fair to say that it informed my subsequent writing somewhat, and the Doctor became much more like my perception of Robert Hardy - and especially his performance as Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small.
Doctor Who, the television series
Return to site index
THE PHILOSOPHY OF BULLSEYE
Once the basic details of Bullseye Books had started to take shape, the main task became to write the stories. The challenge was to develop Doctor Who in new directions, within the "traditional" story-telling framework on which I had decided. So, for the most part, I was eschewing the experimental writing techniques that the New Adventures would flirt with. I also wanted to avoid the main fan fiction trap of over-dependence on continuity. That said, the first six books, of which four were eventually written - the other two might see the light of day eventually, but don't hold your breath - featured old enemies in three of them. The trick was to use these adversaries in new and unexpected ways. I felt it was important that continuity references should be comprehensible to any reader, even someone who had never watched Doctor Who before. So, I set out to ensure that anything necessary to follow the plot was explained within the text. But I have to say that, as time went on, I became less and less bothered about trying to fit into Doctor Who continuity. It shouldn't be allowed to strait-jacket new and original story-telling. The television series at its height never cared much about what had gone before, and that's the way it should be.
And so, despite the avowed traditionalist stance, I found myself trying to do new things, to move Doctor Who off in a new direction. That was part of the reason I ended up writing all the early issues myself - it was part of a long process to reconstruct the Doctor Who universe according to my own design. I wanted to introduce a lot more danger and mystery. This was attempted during the Sylvester McCoy era, of course, with the so-called "Cartmel Masterplan". I was never very impressed with this - it darkened the Doctor's characterization unacceptably in my opinion, turning him into a heartless arch-manipulator. It also saw him transform into something of a superhero - a theme developed even further in the New Adventures as he became Time's Champion. To my mind, giving the Doctor a quasi-mystical role completely negates the wonderful and impetuous altruism of the character. He's prepared to put his life on the line to oppose evil and oppression - not because it's his role or his duty, but just because he thinks it's right. The Sylvester McCoy interpretation had ceased to be the hero of my childhood.
So, in The Belphegor Inheritance, I set out to deconstruct the "Cartmel Masterplan" and restore the Doctor to his true heroic self. The Belphegor Inheritance also delves hugely into Gallifreyan history, and the Doctor's own back-story, hopefully tying all those loose ends into a seamless whole. One criticism that has been levelled at the novel is that it completely destroys any remaining sense of mystery. That's probably true, but I had a very definite reason for doing it. I wanted a sense of closure to the whole Gallifrey story arc, because The Belphegor Inheritance is intended to be the last time the Doctor ever visits his home planet. This was part of the process of reconstructing the Doctor Who universe that I talked about earlier. In order to bring back the mystery and danger, what I wanted to do was remove all of the Doctor's support systems. Over the course of the stories, we would have seen the TARDIS guidance system completely wrecked, thus making his journey erratic and unpredictable. We'd have seen him become an exile once more, unable to return to Gallifrey on pain of death. In fact, his links with Gallifrey would have be so firmly severed that he would have needed to find a new power source for the TARDIS - and might even have lost the power of regeneration completely...
During the period I produced Bullseye Books, real world events did somewhat overtake me - namely, the Doctor Who movie with Paul McGann. Needless to say, the movie didn't fit in with Bullseye continuity at all. There couldn't be two "eighth" Doctors, and in The Belphegor Inheritance, Sylvester McCoy's Doctor was clearly depicted regenerating into Robert Hardy. When Bullseye started, I decreed that the cut-off point for Doctor Who continuity would be the end of the 26th season, so I wasn't unduly bothered. However, there could always have been a place for the Paul McGann Doctor in the Bullseye universe. A couple of ideas were suggested to me by potential authors to resolve the apparent discontinuity - and had Bullseye continued, we might well have seen one of them.
Doctor Who, the television series
Return to site index
Three issues of Bullseye Books are currently available, with a fourth to be produced later this year:
No. 1 - The Belphegor Inheritance
1967 - A sphere of glowing energy attacks the London School of Economics. Its target is an absent minded history professor, who in reality is the next manifestation of the Doctor. Meanwhile, Gallifrey faces imminent destruction from powerful forces. Responsible is Belphegor - an evil tyrant from the darkest depths of Gallifreyan history. The struggle becomes personal as the Doctor discovers that Belphegor has possessed the body of his previous incarnation. To save Gallifrey, the Doctor must save himself... (98 000 words.)
No. 2 - Warcry of Hallatern
By the thirty fifth century, the world of Hallatern is no more than a half remembered legend - the home of a powerful and ruthless interstellar empire that crumbled to dust millennia ago. But Hallatern is not quite dead and buried. An unexpected archaeological discovery revives its ancient terror after nine thousand years. Drawn by a telepathic signal, the Doctor boards the space freighter Greyshadow, and begins a search for the deadly killer that stalks the lower decks. Unbeknown to him, the ship has been infiltrated by a group of hijackers, driven by a fanatical desire to gain justice for their homeworld, and free it from the clutches of corrupt big business... (115 000 words.)
No. 3 - The Michaelmas Phantoms
Oxford, 1997 - A new scientific research project could hold the solution to the energy crisis. But the results have not lived up to expectations, and sabotage is suspected. The Doctor is summoned by UNIT to investigate. Meanwhile, two mysterious men in black are roaming the city in an old fashioned car, seeking an elusive fugitive. And a series of grisly deaths is baffling the local police. The Doctor pieces together the mystery and discovers the connection between these events. Then the race is on to prevent the manifestation of an evil alien force.... (62 000 words.)
No. 4 - The Legacy of Sion
Rome, 2015 - The Federal European state is falling apart at the seams. Crime is out of control, extremist political groups attract growing support, terrorism and assassination are commonplace. What has gone wrong with the Federal dream? The European President hopes to restore unity by installing the heir of the Hapsburgs on a new "Imperial" throne. The Doctor arrives in the Vatican city, and finds himself mixed up with Mafiosi, corrupt churchmen, and the political machinations of a sinister society, the guardians of an ancient and terrible secret - a secret that could change the whole course of human history. And behind it all, the Doctor discovers a very old enemy indeed... (127 000 words)
See the Insider's Guide for more information on these novels. But beware of the spoilers!
Return to Bullseye Books contents page