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Interview: Andrew Ellard

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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:


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.


Follow me on Twitter: @ellardent

Read my Tweetnotes archive:

Watch the short I wrote:

And this trailer for a film I wrote:

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


Author: Matthew Stott


One thought on “Interview: Andrew Ellard

  1. Pingback: Not a Time-Travel Show — Andrew Ellard on Doctor Who → | - Geekdom Nation -

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