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Author, Author

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In 1980 Northern Ireland's premier punk/new wave band The Undertones released their single "My Perfect Cousin". The first line of this excellent song was: "Now, I've got a cousin called Kevin." This was bad news for anyone called Kevin who happened to have cousins. To be honest, even if the Kevin in question didn't have any cousins, the Undertones' anthem would still be chanted in his direction whenever he strolled into view. To this day if I am introduced to a Kevin I have to swallow hard and move away to stop myself doing the pogo and launching into the first verse.

Happy days until my own cousin called Kevin (honest to Jaysus, no word of a lie), visited from Liverpool and ruined it for me. Unfortunately my cousin Kevin was cool. I didn't want to sing anything derogatory in his direction. I wanted to be like him. Kevin brought many things with him from bustling Liverpool that we didn't have in rural Ireland. Nowadays there is no such thing as not having access to media. If you want it, go on the internet and get it. But in the 70s/80s things were different.

We had one TV channel, which was in black and white. If we really scrimped and saved we could afford a 45 every month or so, and the books in our local library were based in, and had probably been around since, the 19th century. Kevin arrived every summer from Liverpool with his suitcase stuffed to bursting with a treasure trove of tapes, records, posters and books. It was Kevin who introduced me to Black Sabbath. It was Kevin who taught me the dance moves for "Stayin' Alive". And who do you think arrived in Wexford with the Undertones' single "My Perfect Cousin"?

That's right. Kevin.

Over the years he augmented my life with Batman, Blake's Seven, UFO, Space 1999 and Planet of the Apes, not to mention all the covers of the Top of the Pops albums. Then one fateful Summer, Kevin brought the Doctor to County Wexford.

I remember the initial conversation well:

Me: "What's that book?"

Kevin: "Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' aliiiiiiiiive."

Me: "Kevin. Give the Bee Gees a rest. What's that book?"

Kevin: (stroking the book as though it were Blofeld's cat) "This is the Doctor."

Me: "Doctor who?"

Kevin: "Exactly."

Me: "Doctor Exactly?"

Kevin: "No, dipstick. Doctor Who."

Me: "That's what I said. Doctor who?"

Kevin: "Exactly."

So I am perhaps unusual in that I came to Doctor Who through the numerous novelisations and not through the television show. I remember that glorious August. Kevin, my big brother and I spent many happy hours lying on the flat rocks appreciating not the crashing majesty of the Irish Sea, but instead the interstellar sonic-screwdriver swashbuckling of the Doctor and his companion. I was instantly hooked on Doctor Who. There was a mountain of books to plough through. The stories were fast-paced but had a bit of science in them. There was time travel, which is to young boys as gilded stuff is to magpies. In fact, time travel is fascinating to men in general, who all nurture daydreams of flashing back to our younger selves and doling out some of our hard-earned wisdom. I have become so obsessed with time travel that to date four of my books have featured it and my new series WARP revolves around a wormhole from the present to Victorian London.

In my opinion there were two elements of Doctor Who that distinguished the series from a plethora of sci-fi shows.

The first was the Doctor's regeneration. I don't know if this was invented through necessity or if it was a brainwave of the show's writers, but I bet every other TV producer in London who had lost their star kicked a random assistant in the back seat for not thinking of this genius way of flipping a series's potential extinction event into something for which the show's fans actually clamoured. And with each regeneration a new Doctor emerged from his cocoon of light full of new quirks for the next generation to adore. This show can potentially run forever.

The second thing that has helped the show to survive and thrive is the Doctor's companion. Because the companion is usually an Earthling, he/she represents humanity in space. The companion could be any one of us, or as I thought reading by torchlight in a sleeping bag that long ago August: the companion could be me. Of course Kylie was in an episode. Which didn't hurt.

So when I was asked to write one of the 11 e-shorts for the Doctor's 50th anniversary it was like being whisked away by my own Tardis back to the 1970s when Kevin, my brother Paul and I were three science-fictioneers immersing ourselves in the lore of Doctor Who in the sunny south-east of Ireland. I chose the First Doctor because I always imagined him to be a crank who was jaded by the Universe's cruelty rather than amazed by its wonders. There was no naivety about him whatsoever. He had seen far more in his life than he ever wanted to, and his fight against evil-doers was dogged and not punctuated by repartee. The First Doctor's companion was his granddaughter Susan and her love for her granddad was perhaps the purest thing in his world, and something he was prepared to protect fiercely.

When I got around to watching the TV show years later, I was surprised to find that of all the images my imagination had cultivated, it was the First Doctor who came closest to my picture of him, so if there was ever going to be a Doctor Who in my writing career, he was the version for me. I have always found grumpy characters more interesting than chirpy ones. Also the First Doctor played out on TV before much of the mythology evolved so I had a little leeway with the story. My tale actually takes place before the first TV episode when the Doctor and Susan travel to Victorian times hot on the trail of a band of Soul Pirates who are harvesting human body parts to prolong their own lives.

I know that there are legions of Whovians who will pore over every sentence, alert for any quantum balls-up on my part. I know that's what I'll be doing with the other stories. In my defence, I would argue that my Doctor is the Doctor of novels and sunset-tinted nostalgia spectacles, so be gentle. As for the other writers, they have no defence so be as rough on them as you like.

And what of Kevin, the sci-fi sage and music aficionado? Sadly we haven't seen each other for 25 years, but I will never forget those days when sitting on a rock reading a Doctor Who book was about the best thing in the world.

The e-short A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer is published on 23 January at £1.99 (

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  • APA 6th ed.: Colfer, Eoin (2013-01-12). Author, Author. The Guardian p. 15.
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  • Turabian: Colfer, Eoin. "Author, Author." The Guardian, 2013-01-12, section, 15 edition.
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