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Growing interest in Dereham man’s Doctor Who stories

PUBLISHED: 06:30 23 May 2011

David Fisher of Dereham who used to write TV scripts for Doctor Who, and now has had his work turned into an audio book. Picture: Denise Bradley

David Fisher of Dereham who used to write TV scripts for Doctor Who, and now has had his work turned into an audio book. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

A Dereham writer who penned a series of four-part stories for Tom Baker’s Doctor Who says interest in the classic series is increasing thanks to the show’s revivial.

Doctor Who facts

The first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on the BBC on November 23, 1963.

Called An Unearthly Child, it featured William Hartnell as the first Doctor.

Tom Baker, right, was the fourth Doctor and played him from 1974 until 1981 when Peter Davidson took over.

After 26 series and seven Doctors, the sci-fi drama disappeared from television screens in 1989.

A Doctor Who film, starring Paul McGann, came out in May 1996.

The television series was revived in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston taking on the main role.

Former UEA student Matt Smith, right, currently stars as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor.

Filmmaker Ridley Scott was the BBC designer originally allocated to design the Daleks. He never carried out the task as Raymond P Cusick, who was able to commit for a longer period, replaced him.

TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension In Space – and it’s bigger on the inside that the outside.

His imagination created the Creature in the Pit, the Androids of Tara and the Argolin.

More than 30 years ago, David Fisher was responsible for the enthralling and sometimes downright frightening escapades of Tom Baker’s Doctor Who and his very stripey scarf.

And now, as he brings the Ogri back to life with a new audio book of The Stones of Blood, the Dereham-based script writer has found interest in the classic tales is growing once again.

Mr Fisher was first asked to have a go at penning a Doctor Who adventure by the then script editor Tony Read.

A fan of the series himself, the request went down particularly well with his son and two daughters.

“My children thought it was marvellous,” he said. “The way we all watched Doctor Who was from behind the sofa.”

The 82-year-old wrote his first adventure – The Stones of Blood – for the 16th series of the drama featuring Tom Baker and went on to write two more four-part stories, The Androids of Tara and The Creature From the Pit.

He also co-wrote a fourth with Douglas Adams called City of Death, which aired as part of the 17th series.

Mr Fisher said he enjoyed his time with the show which gave his imagination free rein – to a certain extent.

“I remember being called in once,” he said. “The producer said, ‘We’ve got a major problem. We’ve had letters from 12-year-old boys saying the physics couldn’t work. In the future, can you guarantee the physics will work’?”

Mr Fisher decided to get in touch with scientists working at a Cambridge astronomy centre, near where he lived, and asked if he could talk some ideas through with them.

“It turned out they were Doctor Who mad,” he said.

The experts helped him not only come up with a way for the Creature in the Pit to threaten an entire planet with a neutron star but also a way to stop it. Mr Fisher said: “They said ‘that’s perfectly simple too. Just wrap it in tin foil’.”

The writer’s episodes aired between 1978 and 1980, with Mr Fisher joining actors and crew on set for the rehearsals and filming of each one.

But he then decided to move on and try his hand at other television series, as well as writing books and even a musical.

Mr Fisher, who moved to Dereham in 2001 with his second wife Barbara Weller, said: “Doctor Who became much more serious. They lost the comedy element which I thought was a pity. When it was light I was happy to write but it became a bit heavy – the last thing you want to do is bore yourself when you’re writing.”

Despite no longer writing for the television shows, the grandfather-of-seven has certainly not left the series behind. As well as adapting his own stories into novels, the writer has recently had the task of turning his first-ever Doctor Who tale into an audio book.

He said interest in the older stories seemed to be increasing thanks to the revival of the series, which currently features former UEA student Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor.

“Doctor Who seems to be having another lease of life. I’ve just had to do an interview for someone who’s writing for an American Doctor Who magazine.

“It seems to have taken off again.”

Mr Fisher’s other writing credits include Dixon of Dock Green, Hammer House of Horror and Crown Court for Granada Television.

But his CV could have included one or two other high profile programmes.

“I foolishly once turned down Coronation Street because it meant going up to Manchester a lot,” he said. “I was also approached very early on by Not the Nine O’Clock news. I said no, I was trying to write a sit com. Who knows what would have happened if I had said yes?”

The Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood audio book is available now as both a digital download and four-CD set.

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