A very long time ago, I was writing a very quick, for-fun, Doctor Who script, and sharing it on my blog just to give a little insight into how my writing developed as I went.
I never finished that script, but had a few hours spare recently and thought ‘why not?’. So here it is.
So this was an exercise.
It’s not meant to be a broadcastable thing, I’m not saying ‘look at me, I’m better than X’. I certainly don’t want you to compare this thing I knocked out in about ten hours at the keyboard with something that’s been edited, redrafted, refined and so on, because that comparison won’t work out well for me.
Hell, I’ve not even timed it. It’s probably an hour and a half long.
I can see many, many faults and problems with it. I am not saying ‘they should have made this instead’.
Clear on that? Agree? Then … read on.
I wanted to write something quickly; I wanted to articulate some thoughts I’d had about Doctor Who on the telly recently. This was a good way to kill two birds with one stone.
It’s a technical exercise. There are things I’m not keen on or sure about with the current version of the show. More importantly, there are things unique to this era that I like that I wish they’d do more of.
I really wanted to get a feel for the regular characters.
The thirteenth Doctor. I found myself writing the Doctor, not a woman Doctor. I set out to do something clever about patriarchal power, or whatever, but it never showed up, not explicitly.
I was very keen to dial down the ‘zany’ – I hate it generally, I utterly despise it when it’s attempted in Doctor Who. I think the problem in Doctor Who is that ‘oh, I once took the Mona Lisa up Mount Everest on a mule’ or whatever might actually be literally true. Anything’s possible in Doctor Who, and you do need it to be a bit mad, but that means you have to ground it somewhere. The thirteenth Doctor done wrong has consistently been a ‘hey, I’m right mad, me’ version. But she’s clearly not some vampiric player on a thousand chessboards or whatever, either. So what is this Doctor?
What I found myself doing was writing an incarnation who dials up ‘impish’. This is a trickster god Doctor. But not a plotter, not a planner, not even a judger. A Doctor who’s a down the line chaotic good. What I found quite interesting is that it’s not whimsy, it’s genuine capriciousness. This isn’t a Doctor who is playing the fool, a steel fist in a velvet glove, cunning, or whatever, not one who’s holding it all in and you don’t want to see the Doctor angry … this is a version who may or may not swat you over, depends how she feels. May or may not intervene. Might mention you’re standing on a trapdoor, if there’s a lull in the conversation. Will poke the thing with a stick.
She was actually quite easy, and I was a little surprised how distinctive she was.
The companions …
I found that it was staggeringly easy to walk into the trap of writing a line of companion type dialogue and then randomly assigning it to one of the three, adding ‘isn’t that right, Doc?’ for Graham, ‘mate’ for Ryan and some police jargon for Yaz.
Now I’ve seen that, well, um, I can see it happening more than once on the show itself.
Three companions is a doddle *if* you approach each situation with an eye to making sure four people will have different things to do, that they’re all different people with slightly different agendas.
The complete cheat, of course, is just split them off into pairs. You get all the advantages of a Doctor and companion (you can cover twice as much ground, see the situation from two vantage points), while also instantly giving the familiar character someone to talk to.
So I did that, mixing and matching to see how they work together.
The interesting combination for me is one (I don’t think) that we’ve seen that often on screen: Graham/Yaz.
GRAHAM is way too easy to write for. Whatever happens, he’s at the side with a quip. If you’re not careful, every single line becomes ‘blimey, is that all?’.
All three of them suffer from backstory that’s the exact opposite of the character. Graham is a quip machine who’s a recent widower and he might still have cancer. Good luck writing that.
RYAN is a series of minefields to avoid, too. It’s very easy to define him by what he’s not. He’s surprisingly similar to Graham, which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise.
YAZ is, as presented on screen, utterly impossible to write for. Graham does the jokes, Ryan does the endearing physical stuff. Yaz is a lukewarm substitute for both.
So, I did what you’re not meant to do – an on the fly rejig of the character. She’s the sensible one, in mine. The one who approaches the situation carefully, professionally. She’s reliable, and usually right. The one you’d actually want on your team, as your first pick. Over the Doctor, if we’re being honest.
And most of all … I wanted to write for the Daleks. I did that very, very briefly for a John Hurt story in a charity anthology. I tried to do it for the EDAs, but the editor was not in any way interested in it. Just wanted to have Daleks shooting at people shouting ‘exterminate’. That’s basically 80% of the reason I actually did this.