Home Interview INTERVIEW: author Richard James on Five Star Five – The Doomsday Device

INTERVIEW: author Richard James on Five Star Five – The Doomsday Device

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The Doomsday Device, the second Five Star Five novel, is now available to pre-order from the Official Gerry Anderson Store! Picking where the previous installment (John Lovell and the Zargon Threat) left off, the novel continues to explore the universe and characters first created in the late 1970s by Gerry Anderson and Tony Barwick for a feature film script that ultimately was never made – until now! We caught up with author Richard James on all the latest developments from the world of Five Star Five!

A Gerry Anderson story that has nothing to do with Gerry Anderson? Isn’t that taking a bit of a liberty? I don’t think so.

When the film version of Five Star Five collapsed due to lack of funding in 1979, the world was deprived of an epic tale of good versus evil. It was storytelling on an intergalactic scale, telling of the Zargons’ invasion of the planet Kestra and how an unlikely hero gathered together a band of misfits to fight back. Co-written with long time collaborator Tony Barwick it was, to all intents and purposes, Star Wars meets The Magnificent Seven with more than a dash of Anderson adventure. And it was never to be.

As the production sank, so the script was shelved. It became a curiosity in the career of one of the UK’s most prolific film and tv producers. And it stayed on the shelf until 2021. Over forty years later, Gerry’s son Jamie passed me the screenplay and wondered if there was life in the old dog yet. Having read it, I thought it was only right that the world should know of Five Star Five in some format. Perhaps a novelisation would be the way to go.

Luckily, a reader’s imagination has no budget. In adapting the screenplay, I was able to create the Zargon asteroid fortress and the peaceful dreaming towers of Kestra. I was able to visit strange worlds to meet even stranger characters and summon the Zargon battle fleet. Everything in that original script was faithfully preserved, scene by scene (with, it has to be said, the odd bit of Richard James thrown in too).

During the publication process, Jamie asked me to consider a subtitle, with Five Star Five becoming the umbrella. Perhaps, if there was an appetite, there might be the opportunity to tell more tales featuring Gerry and Tony’s characters? And so, Five Star Five: John Lovell And The Zargon Threat became the first chapter in an unfolding story.

Upon publication, readers asked if there might be more adventures for John Lovell and his gang. Well, now they have their answer.

I feel entirely justified in writing new stories for the Five Star Five series. It seems quite clear from the original screenplay that the inevitable sequels would follow. There are just too many threads left hanging; threads that I was able to pick up in the second book in the series, Five Star Five: The Doomsday Device.

But where to begin? I decided to offer some answers to questions posed in the first book. What happened to Lovell’s gold? Why did the Zargons attack in the first place? And just why were Lovell’s gang called the ‘Five Star Five’? That last one was especially pleasing, and it doesn’t come until near the end of this book – look out for it!

unseen gerry anderson project five star fiveI knew that the second book had to at least match the scale of the first in terms of its locations. And so, we visit a jungle moon, a space bound prison (a recurring theme in the Anderson oeuvre) and the Zargon homeworld itself. With his beloved freighter destroyed in the first thwarted invasion, John Lovell needed a new transport. With much of the Five Star Five universe inspired by George Lucas’ ‘used future’, I thought I’d break with convention and supply Lovell with the very latest Kestran tech courtesy of Colonel Zana, the sleek and beautiful Valiant. And it’s easy to image FX supremo Derek Meddings, another of Anderson’s regular collaborators, having a field day with the Doomsday Device itself.  

And then there were the characters. Luckily Anderson and Barwick had bequeathed me a fine roster of archetypes. The grumbling anti-hero (Lovell himself), the comedy sidekick (Clarence the talking chimp), the robot with a heart (Rudy), the orphaned child (Jhy) and the strong military leader (Colonel Zana). Only Sumara remained a problem. Whilst accepting his fate in the first book (no spoilers here!), I felt the character should still have a presence in the sequel. It’s up to you to decide if that was a good idea.

Revisiting the Five Star Five universe gave me the opportunity to put some bones on the Zargons’ flesh. Presented as very much the stereotypical baddies in the first book, I thought it important to give them a motivation – and a new leader. With Grand Leutna Gahn disposed of in The Zargon Threat, the way was clear for an even more formidable adversary to take centre stage; his aggrieved sister, Shavan. With Sumara indisposed (sort of), the way was clear for Colonel Zana to join Lovell’s gang proper. With her promotion and the inclusion of a female villain bent on revenge for her dead brother, the gender balance has been somewhat restored.

We also learn something of Lovell’s past. We knew already that he had lost his wife in battle, but now I was able to hint at a previous relationship; one that comes back to haunt him in The Doomsday Device, with potentially deadly consequences! Lovell and his band are always at their best when they work together. So, from the very beginning to the very end, it is their coming together that saves the day. Gerry Anderson was very fond of his family units (think the Tracy family from Thunderbirds or even Spectrum from Captain Scarlet), and so here was an opportunity to create one of my own. A dysfunctional ‘family’ for sure, but one that pulls together when it counts most.

Five Star Five: The Doomsday Device is now available to pre-order in hardback from the Official Gerry Anderson Store, while paperback and Kindle e-book editions of John Lovell and the Zargon Threat can be purchased through Amazon.

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