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Friday, 13 May 2011

Neil Gaiman: Doctor Who Writing Future

Hello again. Neil Gaiman was recently interviewed by Den of Geek, including questions about writing future episodes and the episode which is broadcast tomorrow: the Doctor's Wife. Take a look at the interview below and follow the link at the bottom of the page to view the entire blog.

When asked about the future of writing Doctor Who scripts:
So the person before you, who was from the Radio Times, said are you going to do it again? And I said well, I would love to write another episode of Doctor Who. I loved writing it. And I can think of nothing more fun than doing another 45 minute episode of Doctor Who, that’d be great.
Then I found myself saying something, and realising it was true as I said it. Which was I think I’ll only do it if I come up with an idea that’s better than this one. It’s not like… do I want to become a regular Who writer? No, I don’t want to become a regular Who writer. What I’d love to do is every now and then go oh my God, I’ve got this amazing idea for Doctor Who.
And what’s interesting is, having done this episode, I can now look at some of the ideas I’ve had throughout the course of my life since the age of, ooh, four, for Doctor Who episodes.

When asked about the idea behind the Doctor's Wife:
This one fed off stuff I’ve been thinking about since I was kid. And doing [some of] that wouldn’t make a good episode, or it would make a good episode, but it wouldn’t throw enough of a weird spanner into things.
There’s stuff where the mystery drives the engine. And the problem with the stuff where the mystery drives the engine sometimes is that every fannish impulse is immediately to go woah, what we want to know is X, Y and Z. So why not do a story with X, Y and Z in? And for me I actually got to do one of those. My episode really is one of those ones where it actually does give you more of stuff than you’ve ever asked, or sometimes wondered.
But in doing that I realised what an incredibly fragile thing that is. Because if you actually answered all the questions… well, think of one. Was William Hartnell’s Doctor actually Susan’s grandfather? So what happened to their family, and what was going on back there on Gallifrey that they would have fled, and that you would have had a grandfather and a granddaughter? Which is an absolutely fascinating question, which I can guarantee is not answered in my episode. But it’s also one of those weird little engines that possibly if it were answered, things would be less interesting, rather than more.

When asked about writing the Doctor's dialogue:
I was writing the first draft before even Matt had auditioned. So I was doing what Moffat did in his first draft of The Eleventh Hour, which a lot of people did during season five, which is that you’re really writing for a hypothetical Doctor. And you kind of had David Tennant’s voice in your head, but you know it’s not going to be that, so it’s getting a bit bland.
What was great for me was, having already written my version, the first draft, the point where my episode got bounced from episode 11 of last season to episode four of this season, I had the luxury that nobody else had of, at that point, I got to watch Matt. I got to rewrite all of Matt’s dialogue, going, I know what he sounds like now. I got to go in and un-Tennant any lines of dialogue that were Tennant-y. Even though they were good Tennant-y things.
And oddly enough, the couple of lines that remained weren’t the best. I thought I should have lost them too. Yes, it was a great line, but it’s not quite Matt. And that for me was the fun of getting to do my draft. It really was for Matt.
But no, I didn’t have any trouble writing the dialogue for the Doctor. I think my favourite moment of pure Doctor, and here I will actually give something away, there is a moment in the episode where everything has gone as wrong as it can possibly go, and the Doctor is talking to himself, and says “I don’t actually know what to do now”. And he says “That’s a new feeling”.
And I thought, what I liked best about that line was that I could have given it to any of the 11 people who have played the Doctor. You can see Christopher Eccleston delivering that. You can see Patrick Troughton. Tom Baker. And they all would have delivered it differently, and it’s a line that’s pure Doctor.

When asked about writing for Doctor Who:
There’s a point where you’re so much more vulnerable… if I’d written an episode of something I hadn’t grown up with, House or something like that, and scenes had been lost, just the normal give and take creative arguments with producers that I’ve had on making movies and things… you’d come away and go, that’s part of what you’re doing.
With Doctor Who, something’s changing that you didn’t want changed, and it feels like you were just punched in the balls by Santa Claus [with due credit to Paul Cornell for the analogy!] It’s like no, arrgh. And you have to take a deep breath and say, that’s okay. But it’s because you love the thing so much that you can care about it.

Finally, when asked about the difference between the end of Series Five and the beginning of Series Six:
When it was episode eleven of the last season, I talked to him and said, what do you want me to do. And the hardest thing with that is when I did it as episode 11, I knew that we were going into that final two-parter, and that everything was going bad. So it was downbeat, and had a very sad ending. And it was the Doctor and Amy, because Rory didn’t exist.
Except there’s a point where she’s going through his jacket pockets in that version, and found her engagement ring, and couldn’t figure out what it was. That all had to go, and suddenly I’m episode three or four of the new series, and we’re starting the series. So we’re very upbeat, and we needed to change the minor key of the end of the last one.
There was a heartbreaking monologue in my first draft by Amy, towards the end, where you get to see what it’s like to be the companion from the companion’s point of view, and she got to talk about essentially in that version how sad it is, in some ways. One day something will happen to her, she’ll get married, she’ll get eaten by monsters, she’ll die, she’ll get sick of this, but he’ll go on forever. And it was heartbreaking, which now, I didn’t want to lose that, but I had to go, how can I make this upbeat? Because it’s not in the right place now.
And for that matter, she’s no longer missing an engagement ring and a Rory from her life, and slightly out of things, and worried, and missing this thing in her head. It’s now her and Rory, so I had to reshape all of the things that happened in the last half of the adventure, when they’re inside the Tardis and stuff is happening. It’s now no longer one person. It’s now two of them.
And it gives you a different dynamic. So yeah, there was that stuff. But that’s the nature of the game. And the truth is, the reason I got moved from episode eleven… from the last block of the last season to the first block of the new season was, they ran out of money! And my episode is expensive. It’s not that I sit down to write an expensive episode. There were these ways to make it cheap when I started out, like having a cast of essentially three guest stars…

The link for the full interview is below:

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