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Making History

In 1978 John Lucarotti, the writer of Marco Polo, The Aztecs and The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, gave an interview to the Doctor Who fanzine 23/11/63. The fanzine’s co-creator revisits this and another, previously unpublished, exchange.

When I corresponded with John Lucarotti – initially in September 1978 and latterly in December 1980 – I got the impression that Doctor Who was history to him in more ways than one. Keen to discover more about the man behind some of the series’ most acclaimed historical stories, I had tracked John down to Corsica. “I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to become a TV scriptwriter,” he told me, perhaps suggesting that his new career, running a restaurant on the island with his wife, was more fulfilling.

John Lucarotti, pictured in his adopted home of Corsica.

“I don’t like the word – a writer is a writer is a writer who may work in several media possibly at the same time. Does that mean he has to change his profession from novelist to scriptwriter when he puts a page of script into his typewriter in place of the book he’s hung up on? It’s an awful job and one, if one has the wit – I didn’t – to avoid like the plague.”

Despite this cynicism, John seemed pleased to be reminded of his contributions to Doctor Who’s earliest years. For me and many of the readers of my fanzine, 23/11/63, John’s serials were remote relics from a long-distant era. The Aztecs had somehow survived the BBC’s destruction of large parts of its archive, but in 1978 we were a long way off from the easy accessibility offered by its VHS and DVD releases.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“History sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand... We’re all too small to realise its final pattern.” Doctor Who’s first journey in 1963 took viewers back to the Stone Age. Since then the TARDIS has visited many other landmarks in a unique chronicle of the Doctor’s favourite planet. Purely historical stories were once a mainstay of the series, but for more than 50 years significant periods in Earth’s past have provided evocative settings for more fantastical adventures. This unprecedented guide takes a trip back in time with the people, places and classic episodes that are essential parts of Doctor Who history.