Meet the Authors: Stuart Ian Burns



About The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m easily pleased. Waive something colourful and shiny or even your hand in front in my face and you’re sure to get a giggle. That’s photographic evidence to the right, the baby version of me and my Nin in our old back yard. I’d call it a skill and it’s been a blessing across the years as it’s also meant that something has to be really, really dull for me to be bored. Despite being an only child, I’ve always managed to find something to keep myself occupied. I tend to be able to talk to anyone about anything and always seem to know the right questions to ask to perpetuate the conversation, perhaps because I also seem to intensely interested in everything (see my own blog). Except country and western music. And football. When I’m at home, Radio Four argues against the silences and I can’t leave the house without a book.

Paradoxically, despite enjoying the simple things, I love Shakespeare -- because of the language, the poetry, the theatrical history. There’s nothing more exciting than watching an actor achieving perfection as one his characters. That’s probably why some of the best productions I’ve seen have been with college kids or amateurs, were passion hasn’t yet given way to the employment motive. My favourite play is Measure for Measure because it’s a bit of a rough diamond but I’m devoted to Hamlet – of all of His plays it’s the most flexible, potentially telling a different story with the same words depending on whether the director and actor playing him decide whether the dane is mad or just faking it (as so many men do).

I also like film. A bit. Actually, I worked in call centres for five years in order to save enough money to return to university and study the subject postgraduately. When I began my course and had to describe the kinds of films I like, I said I could forgive anything if its visually interesting which I think was just a more complex way of capturing what’s happening in the above photo. Being as I am then, easily pleased, work which some reject out of hand I’ll cherish and champion and something has to be truly awful and perhaps star the likes of Adam Sandler or Martin Lawrence or directed by Uwe Boll for me to be unimpressed. My favourite film is usually When Harry Met Sally. It’s perfectly structured and funnier than ever, particularly since I’m the same age as the characters now.

But I’m here to write about Doctor Who. As with everyone else on this fair-isle I watched Doctor Who as a child, beginning somewhere with Tom Baker and watching right through to McCoy’s desolate walk into the distance. I became interested again after a visit to the old exhibition in Llangollen and but my fan gene was really roasted when the series returned, at least for me, in Storm Warning, Paul McGann’s first audio adventure in early 2001. That did everything I’d want a Doctor Who story to do – witty, exciting, historical in a way, had a lovely companion in Charley and an incarnation of the timelord I wouldn’t mind sharing a cup of earl grey with should he stop off my way.

I gorged on the UK Gold repeats and novels and decided that actually it would be alright if the series never returned to television because there were so many other wonderful stories being written in other media, decades worth of tales to catch up with. I still haven’t seen or heard them all. That’s what I probably love most about the franchise – there’s so much of it, so my collector mentality is well served. I even wrote a partial film adaptation at university about Lance Parkin’s novel The Dying Days, perhaps the greatest story of them all. As with Shakespeare, I’m fascinated by the history of the production of the programme, what went wrong or right and the bruised egos, the rush to beat evening lights out, the drunken trips to Paris, the rewrites. Doctor Who is never less than entertaining even when we’re laughing at rather than along with it. When the programme’s good, it’s very, very good and when it’s bad it’s script edited by Eric Saward.

Then, against the odds, Doctor Who returned to television, and was fantastic. I began writing for and from Behind The Sofa then and I’m still here.

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