And a grizzled detective walk into a writer on how she casts a wide net
Strikes from the cobbles of Edinburgh to the sands of Cephalonia
Doctor Who was one of the first programmes that 59-year-old Rona can remember watching while growing up in Aberdeenshire, and the experience stayed with her.
“I was only about three years old and William Hartnell was the Doctor – it was the first series,” she said.
“A scene terrified me and I can remember watching it from behind the sofa. I shouldn’t have been viewing it at all but my brother had it on.
“Of course, you don’t think you will ever have the chance to write for Doctor Who but when I was at the start of my TV career, I went along to a BBC workshop, and Andrew Cartmel (script editor) was there.
“I approached him and asked what I needed to do to write for the show. We got talking and he invited me on board.
“The BBC at the time wasn’t in love with Doctor Who and it was only being kept alive by the hardcore fans, so the makers were being left to their own devices and there wasn’t much scrutiny.
“The BBC didn’t have any objections that a baby writer was working on it.
“I would always like to write for it again but it’s about having the right idea at the right time.”
It was a different process entirely with Rebus: Long Shadows, an original story not based on any of Rankin’s previous tales about his Edinburgh detective.
“It was a good collaboration – I said I can do character and dialogue while Ian is very good with the plot.
“I read and re-read the books so I had a sense of the character. It’s written primarily for Rebus fans but works as a standalone for broader audiences.”
Rona went to Birmingham, where the show opened, to see it but admits that watching it in Edinburgh, where actor Charles Lawson took ill on opening night, was a different proposition.
“I was frightened and terrified in equal measure,” she laughed. “That’s the audience that knows. We can’t get anything past them there.”
Sofie Grabol and Jamie Sives in Rona’s James III