TWENTY-eight years ago last Saturday, November 15, Rutherglen man Andrew Smith was glued to his television.
Andy, was watching Doctor Who, like 5.5million others across Britain that night.
But the big difference was that he was the writer of the episode, the final part of a four part story, Full Circle, which starred Tom Baker in his final season in the TARDIS.
Having been born in Johnstone, his family moved around during his younger years, living in Ibrox and Blackpool for a couple of years, before finally settling in Rutherglen in Eskdale Drive.
He attended Calderwood Primary School, then Stonelaw High, and it was during his schooldays he discovered a love of writing.
Andy explained: “I’d always enjoyed writing, just doing things for myself.
“I was given my first typewriter when I was about seven, and wrote down my stories, even when I was the only one reading them.”
He then sent off scripts speculatively, and was regularly having material broadcast on BBC radio and television, having had sketches broadcast as part of Not The 9 O’Clock News, Week Ending and Radio Scotland’s Naked Radio. He also sent off ideas for detective show Shoestring.
Andy said: “Some of the other material I wrote included plays for television and radio, including an STV play called Thieves which starred, to my great delight, Michael Sheard (Mr Bronson in Grange Hill). Great man, he did a top job.”
But Andy had been submitting script ideas to the Doctor Who production office since the late 1970s, and had had correspondence with several of the series’ script editors, including Robert Holmes, Anthony Read, and latterly Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams.
Andy had been a long-term fan of the series, as he recalled: “We’d been on a family holiday to Blackpool and visited the Doctor Who exhibition there, and I remember buying up lots of books and things.
“I’d been a fan for years, and can remember back to Patrick Troughton’s time as the Doctor, and was a member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.
“I’d been sending in ideas for scripts over the years, and had encouraging notes back. Apparently I’d been noted as ‘one to watch’.
“I’d receive letters back, and I remember Anthony Read writing back with pencil-written notes.”
He also had a meeting with the legendary Douglas Adams, and Andy recalled: “Douglas Adams bought me my first alcoholic drink, in the BBC Club at TV Centre when I was 16.
“I don’t think he was used to accompany a would-be writer who didn’t drink... I had a lager, couldn’t finish it!”
However, it was Christopher Bidmead who commissioned Andy to develop his submission The Planet That Slept.
“Being a Doctor Who fan, it was a bit of an advantage, as it meant there was no way I was going to duplicate a story that had been done before, and it meant I was familiar with the structure of the stories, what worked and what didn’t.
“Chris Bidmead would send me mail addressed Ruther Glen. I remember joking with him that he though I lived in a croft in a valley.
“Chris Bidmead is one of my favourite people of all time. I still can’t believe he committed to me, and at no point during the production did he patronise me or treat me as anything other than a fellow writer. An exceptional person and a good writer.”
At the time, Andy - who has a twin brother Ken - was studying law, and knew that the contact he had signed wasn’t strictly legal as he to be 18 for it to be valid!
Over the coming months, working with Bidmead, Andy developed his scripts into a workable form.
The story featured the TARDIS falling through a space-time phenomenon that landed it in an alternative universe, E-Space.
Landing on the planet Alzarius, the Doctor, with his friends Romana and K9, encounter the survivors of a crashed Starliner.
Alzarius had descended into the time of Mistfall, signalled by spiders emerging from riverfruits, and soon followed by the emergence of Marshmen, who rose from the planet’s swamps.
It transpires that the Starliner inhabitants were not originally from the planet Terradon, but were in fact evolved Marshmen. The Doctor and his friends help the survivors to pilot the Starliner off Alzarius and on their way to find a new home.
Doctor Who was revived for a new series in 2005, and the following year, the show’s head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies told the Reformer: “I love Full Circle! I remember hearing about Andrew Smith being commissioned to write it, and being very jealous as I was older than him!
“He was 18, and I just remember thinking what an impossible thing to do - and damn his eyes!
“I really like that story as it’s one of the few Doctor Whos that has a genuine science fiction twist at the heart of it, with evolution showing the monsters eventually become their own victims.
“And it’s also so beautifully made - yes, I really like it.”
When the story was being made, Andy recalled: “I went along to watch the location filming in Black Park, and was there in the studio for the recording sessions.
“It was a tremendous experience, seeing everything that went on and how it all worked.
“I was sick on the first day of filming, but contrary to accounts I’ve read, I didn’t throw up over a Mashman costume or actors or anyone else. And it wasn’t nerves, it was a virus.
“I came in handy at one point in the studio when it was getting late in the day, and they were running out of time.
“There was one scene featuring Romana, that I suggested we could cut as it didn’t add anything to the story and omitting it wouldn’t have made any difference.
“The producer John Nathan-Turner was really pleased about that, as there was someone there who could knew how the story worked, and could help cut something that would get everything recorded on time without having to remount it another day.
”I really enjoyed being there, as it was a fantastic experience, seeing how everybody worked. It looked fantastic on film, and the director Peter Grimwade did a great job with it.
“One of the things I remember was them having some birds under a cover, and when they flew out they were covered in red and blue dust. I don’t think they’d get away with that today!”
Andy said: “I was able to see people like Tom Baker in the studio.
“I tended to hang about with some of the young actors who were playing the Outlers, like Matthew Waterhouse, Richard Willis and Bernard Padden, as they were closer to my own age.
“It was really interesting to be there, and a good experience.”
Having written the television scripts, at a time when few people had video recorders, Doctor Who fans snapped up novelisations of the story, and Andy took the opportunity to write it himself.
He said: “At the time, most of the novelisations were being done by Terrance Dicks, who was virtually churning them out at the rate of one a month.
“I wanted to do it myself, as it gave me a chance to add a bit of back story to Full Circle, and try to flesh it out, rather than just being a simple adaptation of the script with nothing much more to it.
”It was a good bit of work, and I enjoyed doing it.
Looking back, Andy ‘s still pleased with the story. He said: “Full Circle went out at a time when Doctor Who was having a tough time with ITV, as they were showing Buck Rogers in the 25th Century against it.
”But really, I think it works well. The story still works, the sets and the costumes are fine - and the hairstyles aren’t too bad - although maybe the Marshmen still aren’t quite what I imagined they’d be.“
After writing Full Circle, Andy continued to submit ideas to the Doctor Who office, although none of them were made.
One of his ideas featured the cloned race of Sontarans, who featured in the most recent series of Doctor Who with David Tennant, as he explored their origins.
Andy said: “I had a look in my loft recently, and was having a look at the outlines.
“The next script editor, Eric Saward, commissioned The First Sontarans. We had a script meeting and it got to the story breakdown stage, but wasn’t taken further.
“It was set on the planet Sontara, with the Sontarans being created as a race of warriors to fight the Rutans. At the end, the Sontarans took over the planet for themselves.
“But maybe he wanted to bring in his own writers and work with them, so that was it with Doctor Who.”
Andy was concerned that his time as a writer could have a limited shelf life, so started to look elsewhere for a career.
Andy said: “It was always at the back of my mind that it was a very difficult way to make a living.
“When I started writing, I was in my teens, and it was quite a solitary thing to do, so in the end I decided that I’d join the police.”
In 1984, Andy left Rutherglen to move to England, where he attended Hendon Police College, and has pursued a successful career with the police ever since.
“The first question I was asked by my first Chief Superintendent in the Met was ‘Are you here to write a book, or are you here for a career?”. I heard that question many times during my first two years. 24 years later I don’t get asked quite so often…
“I was threatened with the sack after writing a sketch for the Hendon Christmas concert in 1984 that wasn’t too well received by the senior officers. I didn't offer my writing services voluntarily after that.
“Within 30 seconds of walking down a street, Bedford Road, Brixton, on my own in uniform for the first time in early 1985, I came across a fracas where a man was standing outside a house shouting up at a window as various household items were thrown out at him.
“I was just about to get on my radio and pitch in when I saw a film camera in the upstairs window. They were filming a scene for the film ‘My Beautiful Launderette’.
“If you see the film, when the man in the garden is hit in the leg by a toaster or some such and starts hopping around, he’s not acting, and it drew real blood. Also, I’m standing just behind and to the right of the camera!”
However, any Rutherglen or Cambuslang fans hoping to follow in Andy’s footsteps aren’t likely to succeed if they send in their own stories for the new series.
He explained: “Russell T Davies mentioned in a radio show, Project: Who, that if you send in a story to the BBC, they’ll return it unopened, as they just can’t afford to take the risk that someone’s idea could be similar to someting used on TV as there could be legal action.
“It’s a shame, but I suppose that’s the litigious society we now live in.”
Doctor Who - Full Circle will be released on DVD in January 2009.