Author interview: Nick Griffiths
Nick Griffiths is a magazine and newspaper writer, and novelist (In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose was published last April 2008), but he’s best known to SFX readers as the man behind Doctor Who memoir Dalek I Loved You, and its travel-based follow-up Who Goes There. In it, Griffiths travels England and Wales seeking locations used in the show. From Dungeness Nuclear Power Station to flooded clay pits in Cornwall, he reminisces about his favourite TV show. We caught up with him over Christmas and quizzed him about his experiences as a fan going off the beaten track…
SFX: How did you come up with the idea to do this book?
Nick Griffiths: “There have been many times, as I rewatched an old Doctor Who story that I’ve gazed at a location and thought how great it would be to go there, to stand where the Doctor stood. The two that first really captured my imagination were the railway bridge from beneath which the Daleks and Ogrons emerged in Day of the Daleks, and the perfectly English village of The Android Invasion. It usually takes a good decade for me to act upon an idea, and so it proved. But once I’d started visiting these odd corners of Great Britain, always somehow evocative – even that old railway bridge in Southall – I was gripped by a compulsion to travel further and further, see what else was out there.”
SFX: It sounds like an awful lot of research – you must have racked up a ton of miles on the road?
Nick Griffiths: “It was and I did! Usually I can’t bear driving for ages, however these Who Goes There travels took me off the usual motorways and down leafy-boughed country lanes, so even between locations there were sights to see. Southern England – where so much of the classic series was filmed – really is gorgeous. Duck ponds, roses and thatch, among the fumes of ale. South Wales, too – where most all of the new series is filmed – has its stunning vistas.”
SFX: What’s the strangest story you encountered during your travels around Britain?
Nick Griffiths: “Once you delve into the real-life stories behind the locations, few are far from fascinating. I hadn’t expected such a wealth of history to emerge. The beach where both Rose farewells were said – Southerndown in the Vale of Glamorgan – offers tales of piracy, a perfumed ghost and a severed hand; those steps below which the bobby fishes a body out of the water in The Talons of Weng-Chiang were quite possibly trod also by Dickens; the caves in which The Mutants was filmed housed refugees from air raids during World War 2, and featured an underground hospital in which a baby was born who was named Cavina…”
SFX: Have you had a chance to meet your readers and conventions and signings? Have you had good feedback to both your Who books?
Nick Griffiths: “I’ve met a fair few at signings and it just makes me very happy that people are reading the books, and frankly grateful that they’ve taken the time to turn up. And I’ve had many emails from readers, saying very kind things. At least these are tempered by the occasional honking review – in answer to the second part of your question – of Dalek I Loved You, which seems to be a bit of a Marmite book.”
SFX: What do you think is the key to writing for knowledgeable fans?
Nick Griffiths: “It’s handy to get your facts right! But really my books aren’t meant as heavy reference – there’s a ton of that out there already. With both Dalek I Loved You and Who Goes There, my primary goal was to make people laugh while bringing to life my love of the show. DILY is a memoir, a childhood lived among Sea Devils and Zygons, Steve Austin and David Bowie; WGT offers more in the way of Who fact, but again is written with a light touch. I hadn’t found such an approach in the Doctor Who library, and I believe it has a place.”
SFX: What particularly fascinates you about Doctor Who? Why do you think it created such an impression?
Nick Griffiths: “The first story I watched was Spearhead from Space, January 1970, Pertwee and Autons, when I was four years old. I challenge any boy of that age not to be blown away. They followed that with Silurians and Sea Devils and Axons and Bok and Wirrn, the Krynoid and Condo, who said, ‘We take head now?’. I mean. The imagination behind the monsters is enough, but the writing was often wonderful too. That’s why I can still watch it now with delight, and why it created such an impression.”
SFX: Any predictions about what the next Doctor Who series will be like?
Nick Griffiths: “Ha. I wish I knew. Much as I adore David Tennant as the Doc and Russell T Davies as the brains, I believe they are right to move on. They have done all they can – which has been a great deal! I can’t wait for Steven Moffat to take over: the writer of the best episodes of new Who, with all-new desire and determination. Personally, I dearly hope Moffat brings back Sally Sparrow as the new Doctor’s companion, who was wonderful in Blink. As to the lead role, Paterson Joseph would work for me. I predict it will be quite different and yet the same.”
SFX: What can we expect to see from you next – is there another project on your drawing board right now?
Nick Griffiths: “Sitting on my drawing board is the first paragraph of the sequel to my comic travelogue, In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose, titled Looking for Mrs Dextrose. I just need to write the next 79,910 words or so. Who-wise, I’m very keen on the idea of a Who Goes There sequel, as there are so many more great locations to be visited. That castle in The Time Warrior nibbled at my earlobe only recently…”
SFX: Thanks Nick!
Find out more about Who Goes There at Nick Griffiths’s official website.