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Eric and I

eric_sawardI live on the same street as Eric Saward.

Yes.

‘Doctor Who’ writer and script editor for a large chunk of the 80s, during the Davison (Peter) (Father-in-Law of Tennant D.) and Baker (Colin) eras.

That’s not why I moved to the street I currently reside in though, that would be creepy. I’m not saying I’m not creepy, but on this occasion I’m innocent.

Honest.

‘So Matthew, when did you realise you had moved just doors away from the controversial 80s script editor, who quit the show in fury?’ Good question, me. ‘Thanks, you look handsome today. George Clooney handsome.’ Aw, schucks. But yes, yes I do.

Well, to answer my question, I first realised I lived near the writer of ‘Earthshock’ when I knocked on his door and he answered. I’m not in the habit of knocking on strangers doors, there was a reason; I’d arrived home to find one of those ‘we missed you’ cards the postman drops through your letter box. This one indicated that they’d left my package at an address a few doors away, so off I toddled, hair looking just terrific, to retrieve it. Eric 2

I knocked at the door in front of me, as is the custom, little suspecting the man who penned all four episodes of ‘The Visitation’ lurked within. And so, after an acceptable amount of time post-knock, the door opened and there he was. I blinked once or twice (both lids) as I realised I recognised the gent before me. At first my mind-grapes crossed as the words ‘Chubby Doctor Who Writer’ popped in and it came up with ‘Terrence Dicks’. A moment later, perhaps two moments (but NOT three), I realised this wasn’t Dicks at all, it was that softly spoken man from all those DVD documentaries that graced Davison and Baker C stories, Eric ‘Resurrection’ Saward.

‘Yes?’ He asked, classic Saward, he hadn’t lost it.

I held up the postal card. ‘I think you have a package for me.’ Cool as ice, this guy had no idea that I knew. BUT I DID.

‘Oh yes.’ Spake one of the minds that brought us ‘Trial of a Timelord’. He reached out of view, and came back with a DVD shaped box from Amazon. It was a DVD. And oh, not just any DVD, it was a Doctor Who DVD. To be more precise, it was ‘Attack of The Cybermen’. He had no bloody idea at this amazing coincidence, that fate was leading the pair of us a merry dance.

eric 3‘Thanks.’ I said, all casual like, as though I wasn’t saying things at a man who had probably touched an in-his-prime Peter Davison. I took my post from his hands, our thumbs mere inches from touching. The air was crackling, electric. ‘I was worried for a moment that this package may have been lost in E-Space.’ I grinned like a tit as my piercing eyes scoured his face for a sign of recognition. Eric smiled. A gentle smile. The sort of smile a grandfather offers up to his grandchildren. He knew. He knew I knew, and I DID KNOW.

‘Would you like to come in for a chat? I’ve got lots of stuff on JNT that I’ve never told a single soul. Stuff to turn your downstairs hair white.’ Saward stepped aside; I took a deep breath, joy bubbling in my heart like a pan full of water on the hob, just waiting for that rice. And in I went.

Well.

Some of that didn’t actually happen. But most of it did. Eric still lives a few doors away, and he STILL has no idea that I know. But I do.

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE ERIC.

I KNOW

Okay, now that’s a bit creepy.


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Interview: Andrew Ellard

Andrew Ellard has never beaten a dog to death with a tire iron in the woods. He was quite insistent that I pointed this out up top. I’m not sure why, but who am I to question the methods of such a man as Ellard? Hm? Exactly. It’s my intention on this site to not only interview people directly involved in Who in some way, but to also toss questions at notable fans. Andrew Ellard is an in demand script editor, having worked on such shows at ‘The IT Crowd’, ‘Red Dwarf’ and ‘Count Arthur Strong’. He’s also a writer, and his first movie, ‘After Death’, should emerge blinking into the light at some point in the near future. If you stumble upon the interview in 2016, it’s probably already out there. If not, something went horribly wrong and Andrew would rather you didn’t ask him about it.

Okay, questions Andrew, ANSWER THEM:

 ELLARD

Okay, let’s get right into the meat of this interview straight away: Adric and Mel are locked in a room together, it’s a bare-knuckle fight and only one is getting out of that place alive- who do you slide the gun to?

Adric. His timeline is headed to doom anyway – he’s the companion so bad they had to drive a planet into him – but Mel…if you don’t finish her off there’s a risk she could come back.

Nah, look. I rarely hate characters entirely. Adric had redeeming qualities – not the least of which was lending a fatherly air to his Doctors. I was going to say something positive about Mel here, but…nope. Nothing. adric2

My first clear memory of Doctor Who is Peter Davison running down a corridor; amazing, hey? What’s your earliest Who related memory?

I have a vivid memory of something alien bleeding green on a field-like location somewhere. It’s taken the purchase of the entire DVD catalogue to track that down to a Sontaran in The Two Doctors. It looked so little like my memory that I kept looking for the scene in other episodes for a long time after.

Judging by the broadcast date, I was nine. I hid when I saw it, I know that much. (The first time. Not when I got the DVD. I don’t hide any more. Except from Warriors of the Deep.)

Who is ‘your’ Doctor? Or is there room in your heart for more than one?

Doctor Who Christmas SpecialTechnically it’s McCoy. He was the one on TV when I started getting into stuff that wasn’t He-Man and Transformers. But really, I never understood the show at a gut level until the 2005 relaunch, and Matt Smith is my Doctor, despite – or perhaps because of – holding the curious honour of being in both the best and worst series of the revived show. (Five and Seven.)

Your Tweetnotes on Who episodes have become rather popular on Twitter (an Internet Website Page), now you don’t seem to do them for just any old TV show or film, so why Who? Hm?

Because it’s event TV. A lot of people have seen it and want to debate it, and want to do so soon after broadcast. (I rarely do American shows because “brand new for me” usually means “shown a year ago”.)

But also because it varies so wildly. It’s an action show, a horror show, sci-fi, fantasy, drama, sitcom, historical, detective…the way it gets to bend and vary is rare, and it lends itself to being examined every week in a way that most shows don’t.

I do cover Sherlock as well, because again each episode is such an event. I think I’d cover Red Dwarf and The IT Crowd, too – those shows vary a lot – but I work on them! I do try to do movies when I get the chance, since cinema release gives us a reasonably common timeframe.

That script editing brain of yours, is it ever a curse when it comes to wanting to just sit back and enjoy something? Is it always probing for faults?

Nah. I watch with my viewer brain on. You don’t go looking for trouble. Someone once said of a project we were working on “We have to assume they want to hate us”. But I don’t agree with that. If someone wants to hate your show, they will. You’ve already lost them.

But the people who want to like your show – they’re worth fighting for, worth making the best show you can for. So I script edit and watch TV from the same perspective – wanting to like, but when a bump comes, instead of bemoaning, you look at why it jolted you. It’s retrospective, not anticipatory.

Part of that is acknowledging taste versus intent. A joke may work technically, yet be to everyone’s taste but mine. I try not to blame the show for my baggage. You’ll rarely see me say “The Doctor wouldn’t do x”. The writer says what he’d do…so have they established his capability and desire to do what he did? Is that what’s missing, or is it just me thinking “I didn’t want him to do that”?

TIRAL Doctor Who fans hate a lot of things with a fiery passion about the show they love; what’s a generally derided element (story, Doctor, monster, outfit, WHATEVS) that you actually think is ace, skill and super nifty?

The entire script of Love & Monsters. Sylvester McCoy’s performance. The Trial of a Timelord concept.

Favourite modern Who episode/episodes, and why?

Rose and The Eleventh Hour are both extraordinary restatements/relaunches of the show. Incredible jobs, both. I could cite Human Nature, Parting of the Ways, Big Bang, Blink, but series finales and atypical stories feel easier to make knockout, somehow. Starts are harder.

PompeiiYou know what doesn’t get enough love? Fires of Pompeii. It does everything we think Doctor Who does, but it does it ALL AT ONCE. Body horror, human history, alien invasion, character drama, action-adventure, monster movie, creepy people, knockabout comedy, notable guest star. It even digs into the Doctor – cursed to see fixed events, unable to change them. Most eps do some of those, it’s rare one does them all.

It’s fantasy-land time; pretend there’s no one out of the show’s reach – who would you get to write a Doctor Who story for the next series?

Jane Espenson. With a bullet. Portrait_of_Jane_Espenson

It’d be easy to say Joss Whedon or the Jackson/Walsh/Boyens team or Pegg/Wright/Stevenson, and I’d love to see those happen too. But Jane’s one of those writers whose episodes ‘fit’, she subsumes ego while quietly telling stories that interrogate core show concepts and pulling off lovely character/dialogue pyrotechnics.

Favourite cliffhanger from all 50 years?

I’m not actually a huge fan of them. Often they come out of nowhere to end the episode, or they don’t resolve in a satisfying way, or they’re really just the reveal of the thing we need to actually get the plot started. Too few take the story in a brand new, unanticipated direction you can’t wait to come back for.

But there are good ones, obviously – and my utter favourite is the Monoid statue in The Ark.

Is there anything from Classic Who that the modern series has yet to bring back that you’d like to see it tackle..?

Monsters seem born for their time, and the show needs to keep innovating, so I’m not fussed to see revived Sea Devils or Yeti. I kinda feel like the Sontarans, Silurians, Great Intelligence and Ice Warriors have all struggled to come back well – story-wise, not design-wise. And part of that feels conceptual, about them not being born out of modern concerns.

The concept of a stranded Doctor feels like it could be revisited. Though doing that via UNIT doesn’t interest me.

Favourite classic era Who eps, and why?

ghost-light-doctor-who-1Robots of Death is a quality whodunit with something to say and terrific design. Ghost Light has amazing atmosphere and wit. The Brain of Morbius gets more entertaining every time I watch it. The Mind Robber and War Games are really rich and imaginative. The Ark is maybe as dynamic as Hartnell-era storytelling has ever felt. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is so propulsive and exciting that even the troubled effects can’t hurt it.

Team Dalek or Team Cybermen?

Tenth-Planet-CybermanCybermen. Despite two separate origin stories and umpteen episodes they’re still, weirdly, waiting for their definitive tale. They keep evolving, too, which makes their reappearance more exciting.

Congratulations, you’ve just been put in charge of Doctor Who and can make whatever changes you want to it; so what’s your big move? Strand the Doctor on Earth again? Cast a Woman in the title role? Bring back K9, but also add his nephew, Scrappy-K9? Or something else..?

I’d like to get back into the companion’s eyes, seeing things from their perspective really helped audiences stay emotionally connected, I think. Get away from the Doctor as centre of stories – I like the swaggering space detective who works into the centre rather than out from it.

I’d love to do a stranded season – but maybe not on Earth. A thing where working out the secrets of the planet provide an arc but we still change setting every week – a planet doesn’t have just one culture, species, climate, technology. So you’d still have that variety, and episodic adventures, but with a single bigger arc that joins them.

It’s silly, but I don’t think Who is a time travel show. It mostly uses the TARDIS just to get to a time/place, then starts there. I like that. Time travel is making companions more distant (they go home, pop back, rather than being our solid fixed point) and stories harder to buy into (how can we worry about a ticking clock if we can go back and start the adventure sooner?).

Plus it seems to require everyone else to have time travel tech just to keep up with the Doctor. Which makes his doing it feel less special.

PLUG SOMETHING YOU SHAMELESS HUSSY:

Follow me on Twitter: @ellardent

Read my Tweetnotes archive: http://storify.com/ellardent#stories

Watch the short I wrote: http://vimeo.com/40513691

And this trailer for a film I wrote: http://youtu.be/-1pQScWzN_U

Then go back to @ellardent and tell me what you thought. Nicely.


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My Doctor

Okay, time to ‘fess up who my Doctor is:

McCoy

McCoy is the man. I love that question mark handle umbrella of his and he rocks a terrible jumper like a God damn boss.

Yes, yes, yes; Seven is MY Doctor.

Don’t you dare look at me like that, Judgey McGee.

Seven Ace Actually, I’ll be a bit more specific- I’m a Seventh Doctor and Ace man. Season 24? Seven and Mel? Nyehhhh, not so much. He’s not yet quite the Doctor I recognise as Seven, and the stories are not amongst the shows finest achievements (*Cough* Time & The Stinking Rani) . And Mel? Good Christ on a cracker; Mel. I’m still baffled as to quite what the train of thought was with that one. I don’t actively despise season 24 as some Who fans do, you know the type, the ones who generally get a joy boner over hating stuff, but sure, that first McCoy year is not a patch on his second two. Or just about any season of Who. But then out went Mel, and in came Ace with a rucksack full of Nitro9, and we said a warm hello to season 25 with ‘Remembrance of the Mother-Flipping Daleks, yo!’ (it’s pre-production working title). Ace

I was a weeny teeny child, so although I was watching I have no clear memory of if I even registered what a jump in feel and quality that was. But good gosh, that change is immediate; that new confidence, as though everyone had now had the time to fully grasp what it is they wanted to do with this era, what they wanted the show to be, and were now able to properly get on with it. New Script editor Andrew Cartmel was broken in to his role, Pip & Jane Baker no more than a distant, troubling dream, and was now  fully in control of shaping the show to his vision.  McCoy had found his sea legs as the Doctor and knew where he wanted to take his characterisation. Less clownish, more subtle. Mysterious. Shifty. Up to more than he’ll ever let on. Eyes full of ancient sorrow and regret. Sexy Jazz like that.

This is not to say there weren’t bumps ahead in the road, I’m not going to argue too heavily in favour of ‘Silver Nemesis’ for example (even if I loved the very balls of that story as a child) (And that American making of documentary that was on the VHS release but NOT the DVD release. GAH!?!). But any run that includes Remembrance, Ghost Light, Fenric, Happiness, Greatest Show, and so on cannot seriously be considered the embarrassment some fans will insist it is. And at the centre of it all, the Who-namic duo (I’m so sorry), the Doctor and Ace.

7th-doctor-and-ace Greatest Show There are several justly celebrated double acts in the shows long history; Troughton and Jamie, Baker and Sarah Jane, Pertwee and Jo Grant, Davison and Kamelion, and right up there with them, McCoy and Ace. They just FIT. You can see how well they complement each other, how much they enjoy being in the same scene together, it just rolls off screen. And for one of the very few times in the classic run, Cartmel and his writers attempt to do something interesting with the companion, with the Doctor’s relationship with her. It’s like the Doctor wants to ‘cure’ her, he wants to make her face her fears, her dark memories, and overcome them. I’m not sure how much Ace actually appreciated the Doctor forcing her into these sort of situations, but it was great to watch, and was something we hadn’t seen on the show before. All too often whatever idea they had for a companion is pushed aside within a few stories, but not with Ace; right up to her final on screen story, ‘Survival’, Ace is pushed, prodded and examined by the writers. Putting the companion under the spotlight in this way is something we take for granted now, something viewers expect, but back then it seemed fresh. Doc and ACE

And then the BBC went and ruined it all. The big meanies.

Had McCoy been allowed a fourth season, and had then moved on as he has suggested elsewhere that he probably would have, perhaps the next man in the door would have grabbed me even more. I would have been at an age where I was old enough to grasp and enjoy the show on another level than I had been during the McCoy years; would Seven have been usurped in my affections? Or had he caught me at the right age regardless and he would always by MY Doctor? Well, it’s all speculative at this point; McCoy was not replaced, there was no new Doctor, instead the show was cancelled and McCoy continued to be the Doctor in my mind. This was only bolstered as the years progressed and the show remained off air, partly by his continued appearances in the comic strip inside the pages of DWM, but mostly by the emergence of the Virgin New Adventure series of original Doctor Who novels. In these, Seven and Ace continued to thrive and I read each hungrily, even if the way they eventually took Ace was not to my liking. This cold, rubber-clad thing who seemed to basically hate the Doctor wasn’t the Ace I loved, who knows what on Earth they were thinking going down that path. But I digress, by not being replaced as the Doctor, even if he was now only in print, McCoy was cemented forever as my Doctor, despite the fact he would never appear on screen again.

mccoy-mcgann-movie And then he appeared on screen again! Albeit briefly for the McGann TV Movie. Yes, that was a mistake looking back, they should have started the way RTD did in Rose, have McGann as the Doctor from the very start, not chuck all this gibberish at brand new viewers right from the word go. But that doesn’t matter now; looking back from the position of a now thriving TV show, I’m so glad they gave McCoy his final wave goodbye, he deserved it.

In many ways, the fact McCoy’s version of the Doctor is one that is often attacked makes me love him all the more. Because we McCoy fans know that they’re wrong. Big up the ‘Dark’ Doctor.

Survival

There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea is asleep and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.


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Interview: Eddie Robson

EddieI like to laud the good work and achievements of others, really give them a mental high-five; that’s just me, okay? But let me say this nice and clear: Eddie Robson is one flukey son-of-a-bitch who’s clearly got where he is by putting out for fancy men in suits who smell like yesterdays cigars.

*cough*

I mean, Eddie Robson is a writer going places. (Not to self, delete first paragraph) He’s written for a pile of different radio sketch shows, and last year graduated to his own BBC Radio sitcom, ‘Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully’.

In the world of ‘Doctor Who’, he’s written comic strips for ‘Doctor Who Adventures’ magazine, and has been responsible for numerous ‘Doctor Who’ audio plays for Big Finish; below he submits to some fairly brutal and personal questioning:

When did ‘Doctor Who’ first wrap its rough hands around your tender throat and refuse to let go?

DeltaI came to it a bit late – I didn’t start watching until I was almost nine. I’d caught a couple of bits before then and found them too scary – although I remember watching the end of Trial Of A Time Lord part ten and being terrified, and then tuning in next week to watch it again so I could be scared again, so clearly there was some fascination there. But I turned off immediately. The first full episode I watched was Delta And The Bannermen Part Two, and within two years I was reading the novelisations and buying DWM.

Was there ever a time that you wandered from the one true path? I know when I went to Uni suddenly I was more interested in things like beer, sleeping as late as possible and watching Neighbours twice a day than buying every copy of DWM, or completing my VHS collection.

For me that happened towards the end of university. Early on in my student days I’d loaf around watching Who videos quite often. I once tried to watch all of The Key To Time in one sitting, but I foolishly started at about 6pm and dozed off during The Power Of Kroll. But yeah, towards the end of university I felt a bit Whoed out and stopped buying the videos, to the extent that although missing episode recoveries always get me very excited, I didn’t see the newly found episode of The Crusade for five years. And I had a new girlfriend who wasn’t a fan, which probably had something to do with it (we’re married now and she knows exactly how tragically obsessed with the show I am, so it’s no longer an issue). So there was a period where I was hardly watching any – I remember getting the Tomb DVD for Christmas and my attention sliding off the screen, I just felt I’d seen this stuff too many times.

But all that changed when the show came back, and my friend Jim Smith suggested we pitch a new programme guide to Virgin Books, and to write that I went on a vast Who binge – I didn’t watch all of them again, but I did rewatch all the ones I was writing about, and the handful I’d never seen before, and a load more I just fancied rewatching, so over six months or whatever it was, I probably watched more than half the show, and that got me excited about it all over again.

Viki Doctor Who fans hate a lot of things with a firey passion about the show they love; what’s a generally derided element (story, Doctor, monster, outfit, WHATEVS) that you actually think is ace, skill and super nifty?

I love a lot of the more derided Hartnell stories. Although I lose track of what’s been rehabilitated and what hasn’t. Do people generally think The Gunfighters is good now? That was a treat when I finally saw it, because it was so widely slated and I enjoyed it hugely. I think The Sensorites is underrated, The Rescue is hugely underrated. I remember being baffled in 1992 when BBC2 repeated The Time Meddler and the response was so flat, I thought it was wonderful. Steven and Vicki – they’re fantastic. The characters are a bit thinly sketched, but Purves and O’Brien are always brilliant. O’Brien has this sly way of playing against the dialogue and making the character more interesting for herself.

As a fan in the 1990s, it seemed a lot of people saw Doctor Who as this gradual journey where it starts off a bit crap and boring, then starts to get better with Troughton, eventually becomes the ideal version of itself in the early Tom years, then goes into decline. I never saw it like that. At the other end of the original run, I think the last couple of McCoy seasons contain some of the best Doctor Who ever. Remembrance, Greatest Show, Ghost Light have some of the show’s richest, most multi-layered scripts. For a series facing the axe to put out a serial like Greatest Show is extraordinary. Of course, all that went over my head when I was ten years old, I just enjoyed it as a creepy story.

Human_Nature_(Doctor_Who) Best non-TV episode bit of Who ‘stuff’?

Human Nature. I was reading The New Adventures when you’re supposed to be reading all those seminal novels like The Catcher In The Rye and On The Road, which is why I hardly ever read Doctor Who books any more – I devoted my teenage years to them. But Human Nature sticks in my mind as the peak of that range.

What did it feel like the first time you were paid to write Doctor Who fiction?

I can’t really remember. My first paid Who fiction was a Short Trip that I’d pitched to the BBC, and then they stopped doing the books, but the editor was Jac Rayner who remembered it when she started editing the Big Finish Short Trips, but it didn’t make it into the first volume and got knocked back to the second one. By this stage, it had been rewritten to fit in with three different umbrella themes from the three books it had been slated for inclusion in. So when it finally got accepted, I think I was just relieved.

 humanresources1_coverWhich piece of Who fiction that you’ve penned are you proudest of?

Human Resources, probably, one of my first plays for Big Finish. That’s the one that came out more or less how it was meant to. Either that or Urgent Calls, which was doing the rounds as a free download for a while. Don’t know if it still is.

Who’s your Doctor and companion? You can choose more than one, if you’re weak.

I find it hard to separate Hartnell, Davison and Tennant. At first I thought Smith was even better than Tennant, but now I look back and it’s easy to take for granted how great Tennant was in the part. As for companions – Ian and Barbara are still my favourites.

HIDE Favourite stories in the modern TV show?

Lots. Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways, The Girl In The Fireplace, Gridlock, Human Nature, Silence In The Library, Midnight, Amy’s Choice, The Lodger, A Christmas Carol, The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited, Hide. I expect I’ve forgotten some.

You’ve written extensively for Big Finish, do you hold any ideas back in case the TV show comes a-calling one dark, troubled evening?

No, I generally don’t hold ideas back because you never know when you’ll get the chance to use them, so you may as well use them at the first opportunity. They seem to brief the TV Who writers anyway, so there’s no point keeping an idea in the locker because it might not fit what they want. And also, you can use ideas again. There’s precedent for that in the TV show, reworking ideas from spin-off fiction, but it’s true outside Doctor Who as well. Plenty of great writers have done different spins on the same idea. Literary novelists often get away with writing more or less the same novel six times and the critics call it ‘thematic development’. So don’t hoard your ideas! Use them. Ideas are cheap.

Occasionally I’ll come up with an idea for a project and realise that the idea isn’t right for the medium, or needs more space to do it justice – I was recently trying to come up with a non-Who idea for a fifteen-page comic strip and realised I could get a six-part TV show out of it, so I put it aside and came up with something else. But generally, if you want to impress people, send out your best ideas. Who knows, you may never get to write anything else ever again. And your best chance of getting to write something again is to write the best thing you can write now, so use your best ideas.

welcome You shimmy and dance between comedy writing and what I’m going to call ‘Non-comedy writing’; is there a side you feel more at home, or do you enjoy being able to dash back and forth like a talented sod?

I like being able to move between the two. I’m more comfortable doing comedy writing at the moment but that’s mainly because I’ve been more successful at it thus far, hence I’m more confident. Which isn’t so say I don’t frequently stare at my comedy scripts with hollow eyes thinking ‘Dear god this is DREADFUL’, but I can drag myself through those crises by remembering that I’ve got through them before and handed in something that was thought acceptable for broadcast.

I admire eclecticism, that’s what I want to achieve in my own work, and I think it’s very much connected to my love of Doctor Who, which is of course the most eclectic of TV dramas. I don’t know whether I love Doctor Who for its eclecticism or whether I’m drawn to eclecticism because of Doctor Who, but it’s definitely connected. My favourite musicians are the same – the Beatles, Bowie, Damon Albarn, Gruff Rhys. Which isn’t to say there aren’t lots of creative people I love who have mostly spent their careers getting deeper and deeper into one idea, but I never find them quite as interesting as people who experiment with genre and style and medium.

Sometimes I do look at other writers who’ve got ahead in their careers faster than I have and wonder if I shoot myself in the foot by trying to do too many things. Anything I love, I can’t help wanting to write something like it myself, so I write drama and comedy, radio, TV, film, comics, prose, various different genres. If I’d decided when I was 16 that I wanted to be a comedy writer, and just focused on that, maybe I’d have got more done by now. But maybe I wouldn’t have focused on that, maybe I’d have focused on the wrong thing. And I like to think they all feed into each other, and hopefully make my work more interesting.

Neil Gaiman would have been a writer on many Who fans fantasy wish list; is there anyone (apart from me) you’d be interested to see tackle an episode?

I thought Abi Morgan’s work on The Hour was excellent, my favourite British drama in years, and I’d love to see her do a period thriller in Doctor Who.

Let’s drop kick Doctor Who into the Sun for a moment; now ignore its screams and tell me what your other favourite telly box shows are:

To name a few: Six Feet Under, Nightingales, Mad Men, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, The Prisoner, Seinfeld, The Second Coming, The Hour, Alexei Sayle’s Stuff, Game Of Thrones, Sarah & Duck. I’m working my way through A Very Peculiar Practice at the moment, which is wonderful, and I’m catching up with Girls.

The_Meddling_Monk What baddie that has yet to be featured in the modern series would you like to see back? No, you can’t go the easy option and say The Kandyman, pick something else.

If he does find the Time Lords, let’s have The Meddling Monk back. It’s a great part for someone. Imagine Roger Allam playing the Monk. He wouldn’t have to be a Monk, he could be pretending to be something else. Failing that, the Eternals – they’re great villains. Enlightenment is possibly my favourite story ever.

Do you have a favourite Who era, or do you love it all as though it was the very flesh that was given life from your sex junk? hartnell08

I think I’m fondest of the 1960s stuff, especially Hartnell, and the beginning and end of the 1980s (there’s a terrible dip in the middle, which isn’t Colin’s fault but relates to some horrendous misjudgements behind the scenes). But I’ve got a lot of time for Pertwee too, I have an odd nostalgia for it because it was so celebrated when I first became a fan.

I’d like to go back and rewatch some more post-2005 episodes, as the majority I enjoy more than I did on broadcast. Not that I don’t enjoy them on broadcast, I just feel slightly tense when watching a brand new episode because I really, really want it to be great. There are episodes I still don’t know what I feel about.

PLUG SOMETHING, YOU SHAMELESS SWINE:

I’m working on the second series of Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully at the moment – that’ll be airing in the summer on Radio 4 and tickets for the recordings will be available before long. 2525, a sci-fi-based sketch show which I wrote for, is airing on Radio 4 at the moment, 11pm on Tuesdays until 11th March. I’ve got more strips coming up in 2000AD this year, and my book The Art Of Sean Phillips is out now. Also, later this year an updated edition of ‘Who’s Past’, a guide to 20th-century ‘Doctor Who’ by me, Jim Smith and Mark Clapham, will be published by Obverse Books.

Thanks Eddie!

Download a copy of Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully’ 

Or browse through all his other stuff and see what tickles your fancy!


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Who’s Next?

steven-mofattSteven Moffat has now been in charge for three full seasons of ‘Doctor Who’, which have been amazing/the worst ever, depending on who you let scream at you over the internet until they froth at the mouth, twitch and fall over. Capaldi’s debut year will therefore be his fourth full season in charge, and you have to assume he’ll soon be handing over the TARDIS key to some other writer. But who? Well, you can bet that whoever it is will have written for the show before, I can’t see them handing such an important show over to someone who hasn’t proven their affinity for Who scribbling. This means that, more likely than not, we’ve already enjoyed an episode or two from the next person to shoulder the white hot ire of fan-hate. Let’s take a look at a few of the most likely suspects.

Mark Gatiss markgatiss

A lifelong Who fan, he’s been with the shows revival from the start and written numerous episodes. He seems like the obvious candidate; he’s a fan, he’s written for the show extensively, and is also Moffat’s partner on that other BBC mega-hit, ‘Sherlock’. So it’s a done deal, right? I’m not so sure. Running a show like Who is a huge undertaking, and Gatiss likes to have his fingers in numerous pies, both as a writer and actor; will he really be willing to dramatically scale back his work to take on the heavy load? He’s already an established writer for the show, he could continue to write an episode here or there for the show he loves, and then carry on with all his other interests. But, as I just mentioned, this is a show he LOVES. He’s a lifelong fan; back in the 90’s, before he found fame with ‘The League of Gentlemen’, Gatiss was writing Who novels for the Virgin New Adventures series. Who is in his very DNA, perhaps sacrificing his other work to take on the show he’s been obsessed with since a child for three or four years is worth it? It’s possible, but I think he’s more than happy with the way things are now, and would probably not be willing to take the Who behemoth solely onto his own distinguished shoulders.

neil-gaiman-weeping-angelNeil Gaiman

A lot of people would love this idea; I myself am a big Gaiman fan, so certainly the idea intrigues; but let’s get real, this one is not going to happen.  Nope. On you go.

 

 

tobywhithouse_610

Toby Whithouse

Written for ‘Doctor Who’? Oh yes; ‘School Reunion’ and ‘The God Complex’ in particular are looked upon rather fondly.  Has he ran his own successful shows? Yup, he created ‘Being Human’, a big hit and highly regarded. With that show now having ended, it would seem that Whithouse could be potentially available to take the reins. I think Whithouse is a definite possibility, he seems like the cap fits and I would not be at all surprised to hear his name announced; but at the same time, something stops me making him the clear favourite.

Chris ChibnallChris Chibnall

He’s written several Who and  ‘Torchwood‘ stories, and has emerged as a major showrunner in his own right with the surprise success of his ITV Detective series, ‘Broadchurch’ (which co-starred David Tennant, who some readers may remember played The Doctor some years ago). I would imagine he seems an attractive proposition to many at the BBC now, everyone wants to be associated with someone producing hits, but is it really likely? I don’t think so. Chibnall not only has more ‘Broadchurch’ to focus on, but there’s also the forthcoming American version, ‘Gracepoint’. I think Chibnall is too embroiled in his own self-created shows right now to be willing to put things on hold to take over Who.

gareth robGareth Roberts

Gareth Roberts has enjoyed a long history with ‘Doctor Who’, which continues with the announcement that, after giving Douglas Adams ‘Shada’ the novelisation treatment, he’s now doing the same for Adams classic Tom Baker story ‘City of Death’. Like Gatiss, he wrote several novels in the 90s for the Virgin New Adventure range, and has penned several episodes of the modern series. Between Who assignments, he’s also been heavily involved in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ and ‘Wizards Vs Aliens’. I think Roberts must be an option that’s been discussed, everything about him seems to make sense as a potential showrunner; everything except the fact he has yet to actually run a show himself. So, a distinct possibility, but does his lack of show running experience count against him?

Howard OvermanHoward Overman

Overman is a name I’ve heard bandied about a fair bit in relation to the Who showrunner role, and on the face of it, it certainly seems to make a lot of sense. He’s a high-profile showrunner in his own right, and has both written for and created shows with fantasy and sci-fi elements. His most acclaimed show is the now defunct ‘Misfits’, and his most recent creation, ‘Atlantis’, was broadcast last year in the traditional ‘Doctor Who’ slot on BBC 1. So, a good bet? Nah. He has yet to write an episode for Who, and until that happens I don’t see him as a serious contender. If his name is suddenly announced for season eight, however, then that changes everything and he would immediately be flagged as a front-runner.

phil_fordPhil Ford

Now then, Phil Ford; this is an interesting one… It was the announcement of Ford’s return to the show, writing an episode for Capaldi’s first year, that really put his name in my thoughts again. He’s previously only written one Who episode, the highly regarded ‘The Waters of Mars’, and was not involved at all in the Matt Smith era. Instead he’s been writing for, and co-producing, two big hits for Children’s TV; ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’, and ‘Wizards Vs Aliens’. Both of these he ran with one Russell T Davies. So, he’s a highly regarded writer with a lot of Sci-fi/fantasy writing experience, and he’s a proven showrunner; is his return to the fold, this late in Moffat’s era, evidence that he’s being re-versed in Who in preparation for taking control in season ten..? I think he just may be. Currently he doesn’t seem to have been mentioned as a possibility, but if I were you, I’d keep an eye on him, he just may be the man steering ‘Doctor Who’ in the not too distant future…

So what do YOU think, hm? Have I picked the right person? Have I missed someone obvious?