A Bell for Brother Michael started out at church. There is a group of Franciscan monks in residence in the old presbytery next door, and obviously the parishioners have got to know them. One of them was Brother Michael, a tall Middlesborough man, with whom I generally talked about football, but sometimes about Doctor Who. Some time ago, over coffee and bisuits after Mass, Michael mistook my classic series TARDIS key for some kind of elaborate crucifix, and I had to ‘come out’ about my interest in Doctor Who, and I later explained about writing Doctor Who fiction. One of the other Franciscans, Brother John, suggested I should write a Doctor Who story about Brother Michael.

So I did.

And he was quite happy about it, by all accounts, when I gave him a copy as a parting gift when he went off to another Franciscan house in Ireland.

Brother Michael in these stories, is much like the real Brother Michael in that he is tall, thin, and from the North-East, and a thoroughly nice man. After that, it all becomes fiction, of course. The planet, the monastery, the bell, are all made up. Although, it has to be said, as a parishioner of St. Walburges, which has the third highest spire in Britian, and is THE highest spire that doesn’t belong to a cathedral, bells and spires do tend to be something that dominates my thoughts a bit. So the idea that raising the bell into the spire of the church as a feature of the story stuck. The Doctor being a bit of a miracle worker in rescuing the man who fell was also an early idea.

I had in mind, originally, that there would be a cataclysmic occurrence on the planet, with the monastery being destroyed and the bell falling, etc. But I then had what I think is a better idea. There is nothing wrong with the planet of Assisi. But it had been wrongly designated as tectonically unstable by somebody who wanted to make money selling real estate on the planet that WAS set to blow.

I was going to get in a bishop who wanted to close down the monastery on Assisi because there were no colonists to make use of it. This was going to be a dig at the Bishop of Lancaster who wants to close our church down – art reflecting life – but the plot as it worked out didn’t really fit with that.

A Bell For Brother Michael is, unashamedly, a tame story. It was meant to be that way. We all need a respite now and again