Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, as himself. Image: Getty.
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Gayness, gak and Gallifrey: Russell T Davies’ 1996 Doctor Who novel is being dramatised, and it's amazing

It has a scene in which the Doctor’s companion Chris, a muscular blond policeman from the 30th century, experimentally tries gay sex in the back of a car. Because he’s from the future, this cures Aids.

Between 1989 and 2005, Doctor Who was, mostly, off the air. But it was still surprisingly big business and, if you were the kind of geek who wanted brand new stories about everyone's favourite Time Lord, then you could choose from a dizzying array of books, comics and audio plays.

I, I'm afraid to say, was exactly that kind of geek, and spent much of my adolescence reading the New Adventures: a series of books that, from 1991 to 1997, continued the story of Sylvester McCoy's manipulative Seventh Doctor. These did loads of innovative stuff (story arcs; characters with emotional lives), that’s been a major influence on the 21st-century series. But they also did some things you won't be seeing on TV any time soon.

One of the most radical of them was 1996's Damaged Goods, which has the distinction of being the first Doctor Who story to be written by a young TV writer by the name of Russell T Davies. It’s great; it’s also surprisingly post-watershed. And today, Big Finish, a company whose business is based largely on making Doctor Who audios, announced it was turning it into an audio play starring Sylvester McCoy himself.

(Much of the stuff in the rest of this article concerns plot twists and things you don’t find out until late in the novel. From here on in it’s one big spoiler, and if you have any interest in this story and want to come to it cold, stop reading now. You have been warned.)

Here are some interesting things about the original novel.

  • It's set on a council estate in 1987, and concerns a family called Tyler.
  • Its villain is the possessed corpse of a drug dealer called the Capper, who begins the novel by burning himself to death, then later bursts from the grave.
  • One plotline involves a desperately poor single mother selling an unwanted baby to a rich family.
  • Another involves a Gallifreyan super weapon, designed to kill giant vampires, that's somehow infected some cocaine. If you take the cocaine, eventually big bits of metal weaponry burst out of your skull.
  • It has a scene in which the Doctor's companion Chris, a muscular blond policeman from the 30th century, experimentally tries gay sex in the back of a car. Because he's from the future, this act accidentally introduces HIV-resistant antibodies into the population, contributing to an eventual cure for Aids.

How much of this will make it into the audio adaptation remains to be seen.

On the whole, despite pre-dating both of them, Damaged Goods feels oddly like the bastard offspring of the new Doctor Who (2005) and Queer as Folk (1999). I’m not knocking it: it's Doctor Who as a real grown up sci-fi novel, about characters with inner lives and prejudices, all dealing with the economic and social pressure of Thatcher's Britain. If you're into this sort of thing, as my 16-year-old self was, it’s absolutely brilliant.

It just isn’t going to be turned into the Christmas special any time soon, that’s all.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.

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Listening to recordings from the Antarctic, I felt I could hear the earth groan

The Science Hour on the BBC World Service.

A weekend of listening to the radio news ­revealed nothing but sounds of the sucker-punched going through their pockets in a panic and repeating, “I thought you had the keys.” So, never was talk of “a perfectly flat area of just whiteness” more alluring. The oldest Antarctic ice yet recorded was recently found. “For millions of years,” the presenter Roland Pease assured listeners  (25 June, 9am), “snow has been falling, snow on snow, all the while trapping bubbles of air and other chemical traces of climate . . . insights into the ice ages and warm periods of the past.” How was this ice located? “The finding part is pretty easy – you just go there and start shovelling, and ice comes up,” the lead geologist, Jaakko Putkonen, said.

There it was, buried under a layer of dirt “in barren wastelands” high in the middle of Antarctica. An “incredibly mountainous and remote and . . . quite hideous region, really”, Pease said, though it was sounding pretty good to me. The world dissolved into a single, depthless tone. Then Pease mentioned the surprising fizzing of this ancient ice – trapped air bubbles whooshing as they melt. Which is perhaps the thing you least expect about ice regions and ice caps and glaciers: the cacophony. Thuds and moans. Air that folds and refolds like the waving of gigantic flags. Iced water sleeping-dragonishly slurping and turning.

On Friday Greenpeace posted a video of the pianist Ludovico Einaudi giving a haunting performance on a floating platform to mark an imminent meeting of the OSPAR Commission, as it decided on a proposal to safeguard 10 per cent of the Arctic Ocean. Einaudi looked occasionally stunned by the groaning around him. A passing glacier popped and boomed like the armies of Mordor, ice calving from its side, causing mini-tsunamis. When last year I spent some time at the remote Eqi Glacier in Greenland, close to the ice cap, local people certainly spoke of the ice as if it were living: “It’s quiet today,” delivered as though gazing at the fractious contents of a Moses basket.

“This huge cake of ice, basically flat”, Putkonen said, perhaps longing for a moment of deep-space silence, for peaceful detachment. He wasn’t the only one being forced to reappraise a landscape very differently.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 30 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit lies