Sunday, July 18, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Ellen Montgomery

Image (c) 2021 BBC.

Altrix Books talks to Ellen Montgomery, whose Master Switches story 'The Genoai Tango' introduces us to a whole new incarnation of the Master...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Ellen Montgomery and I'm a Dutch/Scottish American from Detroit, Michigan, USA. I write a lot of fan fiction for varying age groups and plan on releasing my own original fiction series in the future. I'm a trained screenwriter and have been writing short/long-form fiction stories for longer than I care to admit. After a couple of aborted attempts to get into the show, I first got into Doctor Who in 2010, as I didn't have reruns of the Classic seasons on television growing up and my interest didn't fully catch until series five. Since then I've done a lot of backlog bingeing, timeline sussing, and fic concocting.

What made you want to write for Master Switches?

Not only is the book for a good cause, I'm a bit self-conscious (or self-aware? Both? Neither? Who knows) that the only way I'll likely get to write for Doctor Who as an American is via fan projects including, but not limited to, ones such as this. An international cluster of fans pooling their talents to raise money for charity just checks solidly. As an added bonus, it was a very fun and interesting exercise, thinking about the Doctor needing to team up with the Master on something, and it's one of those sorts of things that when executed correctly, it works really, reallyreally well.

How did you decide which Doctor and Master combination to go with?

It was natural for me to write the Twelfth Doctor - I tend to write him a lot in other works. Peter Capaldi's acting chops are heavy-duty and he brings so much depth to the character that he essentially is the Doctor. The Master in question is a little more complicated: born of my like of alternate universe interpretations and the desire to see how an alternate Master – who has none of the history with our Doctor that we've seen from Delgado to Dhawan – would react to someone like Twelve who is not having any of the haughty-god-like disregard for life. A decent Master is the opposite of the Doctor they play against, but a great Master-Doctor combo is one being the antithesis of the other, and sometimes that involves some disturbing similarities. It's the "how did you and I have the same upbringing but we're so different" idea, though showing that these differences are often just on the surface. Deep down, these characters are brothers to the end, no matter what they look like or how they present themselves or what's happened in the meantime. Plus, this Master is a bit more hard-nosed and practical than we're used to seeing, and how interesting a flip is that for a character who is increasingly unhinged with each consecutive casting? Very, to me at least.

In a nutshell, what is your story about?

An alternate-universe version of the Master running into a mainline Doctor, finding that the universe doesn't always churn the same person out… well... the same.

How did you find the writing process?

In this particular story? A little more difficult than normal. I signed on just before the COVID-19 pandemic kicked into high gear and let me tell you that I'm pretty envious of people who were able to start a ton of pandemic projects and finish them all. There was a lot of staring and typing two words and trying to distract myself from overthinking and brain-stalling. Most of the time I sit down and just write until it's done if it's a short story (not a method I generally recommend), but not this time. I never stopped working my job(s) in-person, so it's safe to say that the stress was taking its toll. I'm so glad I put in with this project though--it served as a good distraction in of itself.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

That I finished. Ha! But in all seriousness, I am proud of the fact I was able to get in an original Master and still have a Master-y feel. I'm used to the Master being absolutely bonkers and wacky and positively mental that getting to pare the character down to some form of semi-calm only possible pre-Delgado is kind of neat. It also suggests that in many instances, the roles of the Master and the Doctor can be reversed, with the latter being the loose cannon of ambiguous morality instead while still not making it to Valeyard stage; the fact the Doctor is always roughly two shades from Master and five shades from Valeyard at all times is something that can never be reiterated enough.

What's your favourite line from your story?

‘He is sickly,’ the Master interrupted. ‘My brother’s pallor has long been an issue since we were small.’

‘Koschei,’ the Doctor hissed. His ire made the Master smirk thinly.

These two lines right here radiate such strong Sibling Energy that... well... I can see this exchange happening between almost any Doctor-Master team. Plus it gives nothing about the story away.


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