Elliott Serrano, for Redeye
September 20, 2013
If you've never met Alan Kistler before, I think the best way to describe him is as "The Ron Burgandy of Geekdom." Which is my way of telling non-geeks/nerds you may not know it, but he's kind of a big deal.
While I don't really believe in "geek cred", if you ask Kistler for his you'll get an impressive resume: columnist and contributor for Comic Book Resources; super hero fashion commentator; co-host of "Crazy Sexy Geeks" with Jill Pantozzi; and one of the Hottest Geek Guys of 2012 (click HERE for the photo gallery).
When I last spoke with Kistler, he was promoting his culinary collection of geeky recipes in the "Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook." This time he has a new book coming out in October - on the history of everyone's favorite Timelord - called "Doctor Who: A History."
Kistler took a few minutes to answer some questions for Geek To Me about writing the book; why Whovians are increasing in ranks; and what adventures would Kistler like to write featuring the characters of the "Whoniverse":
Geek To Me: For those who have read other books on Doctor Who, what is it about your book - Doctor Who: A History - that makes it unique?
Alan Kistler: A lot of books on the history of Doctor Who focus on a particular era or side of things. It's either about the classic years or the new version or the wilderness years (the time in-between when it was cancelled and when it came back). I basically cover it all and also include how the novels and audio dramas, such as the great stories produced by Big Finish, fit into it all.
I also include quite a lot of interviews in it and, as much as I could, quotes from creators and actors on what they thought of the other eras. What do the First Doctor's companions think of the new show? Which Doctor do they think has been closest to the original? What do the new era folk think of the classic era? What does Sylvester McCoy think of Matt Smith? What does Tom Baker think of David Tennant? I had a great time putting it together, so I hope people will enjoy it.
Geek To Me: I've been a fan of your Who episode analysis. Will we see much of that in the book?
Alan Kistler: If I could have my way, there would have been at least 100 pages dedicated only to analysis and commentary on TV adventures. But this is about the history of the franchise rather than the history of the fictional universe, so that's the focus. So I analyze seasons and eras under certain writers and producers. A few certain individual adventures will be analyzed still, those that introduced new Doctors or major villains and those that wound up having a major historical impact. If enough people like this book and ask, maybe we can do an expanded edition later on.
Geek To Me: Why do you think Doctor Who has been really catching on with American audiences as of late?
Alan Kistler: For decades, there's been an attitude among US networks and producers that however successful Doctor Who is in the UK, it wouldn't really suit what Americans expect from science fiction. And I can sometimes see the logic in that when I hear many people telling me that they just can't get into the program because they grew up on Star Trek or other franchises that have a more serious attitude maybe and so Doctor Who seems silly to them. Even the modern-day program, US networks thought, "Well, he doesn't have a ray gun, he doesn't get romantic with these women he adventures with, his plans screw up half the time, and he doesn't use force fields or weapons made of light, so what's so cool about him?"
I'm not even exaggerating. When FOX was making the 1996 Doctor Who TV-movie, they conceded that the Doctor had to be British but then said the Master had to be American, thinking US audiences wouldn't care about a conflict if the hero AND villain both had accents. Genius logic when you consider Americans have never liked Sherlock Holmes stories, James Bond stories or anything involving King Arthur.
But this time, fans can go online to squee with each other and it became very obvious very quickly just how many Americans WERE interested, sometimes precisely because it is so different than what they were used to. And in the past few years, there's been a much stronger push from BBC America to not just welcome American audiences but actively invite them, with advanced screenings, more convention appearances and the like. It feels like a worldwide show now rather than a UK show of which only the nerdy community of the US is aware.
Geek To Me: Which of the current Doctors do you relate to best?
Alan Kistler: I enjoy each of the different Doctors for different reasons. Each one works wonderfully for different kinds of stories. Matt Smith's incarnation appeals to me quite a bit, I think he's stuck an uncanny balance between being of the modern day and yet also seeming like one of the classic series Doctors.
But after rewatching all the episodes, I think Christopher Eccleston is my favorite Doctor of the current crop. He was so different to me at first, I was so used to the classic incarnations, but now I think he was the perfect modern-day version of the hero. Eccleston had a brilliant understanding of the character, his hopes and self-conscious fears. He loved his world but was uncomfortable about his place in it, suspicious of becoming too at ease or happy because something terrible might happen. So many of us feel like that today, we're so unsure of ourselves; even when we're successful at what we do, we sometimes look back and think, "Could I have done that better?"
He was this Post-Traumatic Stress Doctor, this injured angel and that's a beautiful reflection of our world today, where Superman's idealism is considered less realistic than his impossible powers. I hope one day we can convince Eccleston to do a "Lost Episodes" mini-series or audio dramas.
Geek To Me: You've written a Doctor Who history, but do you have a TV episode/comic/novel that you'd like to write?
Alan Kistler: Oh, of course. I want to write all the things! I used to write quite a bit of fan-fiction and I definitely have stories I want to tell about the Doctor, the Master, and many others in the Whoniverse. I'd like to see a real confrontation between UNIT and Torchwood, perhaps they've had many over the decades. In the classic series, it was said that the Great Vampires were the "Ancient Enemies" of the Time Lords and that they fought a war spanning centuries. I'd love to see some survivors of that war fight the current Doctors; REAL vampires, not sparkling teenagers or sexy fish. And let's face it; at some point Captain Jack must have met Lady Vastra. In my head, that led to a pretty insane adventure.
Geek To Me: And finally, where would you recommend folks pick up your book?
Alan Kistler: It's available for pre-order on Amazon and the Barnes & Noble web-site. It comes out October 1st, so you can also ask your local book store to order a copy from Lyons Press. The audio book will be available the same day, read by me.
FOLLOW ALAN KISTLER ON TWITTER @SizzlerKistler
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