IN A NUTSHELL: Part of the Doctor Who: Short Trips monthly series, this is a Fourth Doctor and Leela story read by Louise Jameson. To dream of the Black Dog is to die in terror within the week. The Doctor thinks it nothing but mindless superstition … but then Leela dreams the dream.
After opening the new Short Trips range back in January, Dale Smith returns with a new adventure for the Fourth Doctor and Leela.
“I think the important thing about writing Leela and the Doctor is to remember that while they are both absolutely the best of friends, they each think the other has got completely the wrong end of the stick about how the universe works,” he chuckles. “I mean laughably wrong - to the point where it’s not even worth getting annoyed about. They each think they’re there to keep the other one out of trouble, and to shrug at the bystanders and say ‘What can you do?’
“By the time of Black Dog, they’ve been together for a good while. The Doctor’s stopped seeing her as a savage to be civilised, and they’ve come to an understanding. But Leela hasn’t quite shaken off her suspicion that actually the Doctor is really a god or a magician. I think it’s when she’s stopped looking at him in awe that she’s ready to head off on her own. we’re not quite there yet, but it’s getting there.”
The eponymous hound - a godlike monster that invades dreams, spelling death for the dreamer - was an old idea of Dale’s.
“When Leela - and to an extent, the Fourth Doctor - got involved, it had to shift a little,” Dale recalls. “It became more of a hunter, more of a mad god. The Fourth Doctor seems to me to be the one who always comes up against the mad gods. In Black Dog, Leela has to decide which is stronger: her belief in the anger of dark gods, or her belief in herself. The weight of legend tells her that when she dreams the dream of the Black Dog, there is no escape for her. The Doctor tells her to question, to look for her own answers, but there is a part of her that still wants to cling to the power of belief, even if it means her inevitable death.”
Indeed, Black Dog is very much Leela’s story…
“Partly, I knew Louise Jameson would be reading it, and I’m such a massive fan of her radio work that I wanted to give her something she could enjoy,” Dale explains. “Mostly it was because Leela suited the original idea so well. The biggest advantage of her - and the most difficult thing to get right with her - is that she lets you create stories that in any other context would be supernatural, and still have them come out as Doctor Who. She can completely believe that she’s up against an all-powerful god without being stupid or gullible. And instead of being cowed by that, it just makes her seem all the more fearless when she still stands up and fights back.
“I’d like the listener to feel like they’ve huddled in a doorway to shelter from the rain with two old friends,” he sums up. “And to come away thinking how incredibly lucky we are to have Louise Jameson reading things to us.”