XI. Night of the Stormcrow
Behind the Scenes
The following comes from excerpts of Vortex #46, which can be downloaded HERE.
Some thoughts from the dark hours by Marc Platt on the subject of new subscriber special Night of the Stormcrow
I’d been waiting a long time to write a Fourth Doctor story. Admittedly, I’d sent several Tom Baker storylines to the Who production office at the BBC in the late Seventies/early Eighties. But Fires of the Starmind and The Drennorye Thesis are not going to see the light of day – if they ever actually counted as Lost Stories, which I suspect they do not, they would still be better off staying lost... In book and short story form, I’ve never actually touched on the Fourth Doctor. I might even have been a bit scared of him.
Then Tom Baker was suddenly and wonderfully available again. And [producer] David Richardson, the most patient person in the charted universe, emailed with some very specific requests for a story, which I entirely failed to meet. David wanted something dark and small scale, but the story I had in mind refused to resolve out of being a vast epic.
So we shelved that idea and went for another small scale story, and it’s that reliable old chestnut a Base Under Siege story, with a small band of guest characters and a very big monster indeed.
Stormcrow didn’t start out as the 2012 Christmas story. It doesn’t feature turkeys, tinsel or reindeer at all, although it does have something that lands on the roof. The story was originally meant as part of the main run of the Fourth Doctor and Leela series. It’s also a standalone story, not connected to any ongoing story arc, and so it got moved out on its own. As befitting Christmas, it’s a sort of creepy ghost story with ghosts who maybe don’t exist at all. And the almost obligatory great cast too – thanks Nick!
The classic Fourth Doctor story that's closest to Stormcrow is Image of the Fendahl, and I'd also been re-watching Nigel Kneale's 1972 TV ghost story The Stone Tape, both with a feeling of supernatural darkness in a "real" setting. But in the latter, I found myself reacting against its predominantly male cast, who are deeply misogynist in a very Seventies way. I'm sure that's deliberate on Nigel Kneale's part, but as a result, it's why the staff at the besieged observatory in Stormcrow are mainly women.
The telescope station at Mount McKerry is like a miniature version of the Mauna Kea observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s deliberately an optical not a radio telescope, and the mountaintop has that sense of isolation that comes when the clouds are below you.
Stormcrow is one of those stories about what scares me – they always say write about what you know about, which isn’t always helpful with science fantasy. But in this case…
I spent some time trying to work out how to write for the Fourth Doctor. What is it that’s different? He’s still the Doctor – they all are – but Tom’s Doctor is somehow more all-encompassing and expansive, almost carefree, even in adversity. Yes, we all remember him having doubts about committing genocide on the Dalek race, but that uncertainty doesn’t happen very often. Maybe that’s why I wanted him to suffer a sense of crisis in this story and that doubt puts poor Leela in great danger too. Louise Jameson plays Leela with such a brilliant sense of wonder. She’s both naïve and wise – a complete joy to write as a character.
But in the end, it was pointless trying to analyse the Fourth Doctor/Tom. Once his voice is in your head, the Fourth Doctor writes himself.
Tom and Louise
Tom Baker, Chase Masterson and Louise Jameson