• 5th March 2010 • Feature by Seb Patrick •
We’ve been lucky over the last five years that some truly excellent writers (and some dodgy ones, but let’s not concern ourselves with those right now) have been thrust in our direction by Russell T. and The Grand Moff. But Doctor Who fans are ravenous blood-sucking monsters, always wanting more . . . more . . . MORE – and so while we might be happy with the likes of Cornell and Gatiss and Shearman and Whithouse and so on, I’m sure we’ve each of us got our ideas about writers out there that we think would do a tip-top spiffing job if ever asked to come up with an episode or two. So with that in mind, HERE ARE TEN OF MINE.
The list of writers who fulfil the dual criteria of “having written one of the absolute undisputed best Doctor Who stories of all time” and “not being dead” is a short one, but it’s definitely one from which Aaronovitch’s name leaps forth. He doesn’t seem to have been hugely active in the two decades since his Who heyday, but as the writer of Remembrance of the Daleks (both the TV version and a really quite superb novelised fleshing-out), he couldn’t be ignored should he ever express an interest in writing for the new show.
Not just because he wrote most of the best of the BBC Books range – although that helps – but also because his New Adventure The Dying Days (the only one in the series to feature the Eighth Doctor AS IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW) displays, more than most Who books of its time, many of the characteristics that are innate to the current version of the show (doing so in a way that caused some controversy at the time). It’s a fast-paced, rip-roaring, witty adventure that successfully reintroduces and updates a classic villain that the fans have been yearning to see back onscreen for decades. In fact, now that I think of it, sod even asking him to do a new story – just get him to adapt this one. It’s only a shame that the late Ian Richardson won’t be around to play the villain.
There are loads of British comics writers I’d suspect would have a bloody good crack at Who – from big obvious names such as Alan Moore and Warren Ellis to more recent successes (usually brought up on the fertile breeding ground of 2000AD) like Andy Diggle. But of them all, I think Mozza has the explosive imagination and sense of inventive brilliance to take on Who, and would also get a kick out of doing so. He’s actually written DWM strips in the past, too – most notably the excellent Sixth Doctor story The World Shapers, which brought back (and – spoilers! – killed off) Jamie. While not noted for television work, meanwhile, he has dabbled, including writing pilot scripts for an eventually unmade adaptation of his signature book, The Invisibles.
Came apparently out of nowhere (by which I mean “from Corrie and Robin Hood“) to write two episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth. You know, that series that unexpectedly turned out to be Absolutely Fucking Brilliant. So, while he’s still got a touch of the unknowns about him, there’s clearly talent there – and he’s already earned his stripes in the Whoverse. Give him a mid-series filler to start with, and I bet he’d kick the shit out of the likes of The Idiot’s Lantern and 42.
Okay, you think I’m taking the piss. But no, seriously, look – if there’s one thing that Naylor’s solo Red Dwarf work was most widely criticised for, it was being too sci-fi/comedy drama, and not outright sitcommy, enough. And everything he’s written on his own – from the novel Last Human, to series VII of Dwarf (alright, let’s forget VIII ever happened, not least because it was a wilful attempt to move away from his natural style), to the recent Back to Earth special, has been driven more than anything else by clever ideas (and plotting, and character work). Who’s to say he wouldn’t absolutely thrive when asked to employ that skill in a new environment? In fact, with just a few changes, Tikka to Ride could arguably be a feasible episode of Who in and of itself. And he can still bring the laughs on occasion, so he’d bring the lightness of touch that working on the show’s current incarnation seems to require. Besides, quite aside from all of that, sitcom writers don’t have a bad record on Who, do they?
Still, if you said we could have Naylor and Rob Grant in partnership, rather than Doug alone, I wouldn’t complain about that, either.
Trying to think of novelists who might bring something new to the telly-based table, I alighted on the author of the brilliantly postmodern metafictional Thursday Next books (and in case you haven’t read The Eyre Affair… go and read The Eyre Affair and then get back to me). His mixture of wit when it comes to playing with literary history would make him a perfect fit for an author-based “celebrity historical” in the vein of The Unquiet Dead, The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp (I bet he’d do better than the last two, as well). Not that there are many hugely iconic literary figures left after those three, but he could do something good with… Chaucer, maybe. A stumbling block might be that, as someone with a determined stance on keeping control over his own characters and worlds (to the extent that a Thursday movie will apparently never happen unless he directs the thing himself), he may not be keen on suddenly working with someone else’s property (even though half the characters in his books are characters from existing novels), but he does have TV/film industry form (albeit on the production side rather than as a writer), and his sensibilities would seem to be quite in line with those of Who.
Despite the general excellence of US TV drama at the moment, there aren’t many prominent American names that jump out as people who you think would click straight away with Who. The Lost crowd, for example, while massive nerds capable of putting together an entertaining and engaging long-form drama, seem to work better as an overall hive-mind than necessarily jumping out as individuals. The likes of David Simon and Aaron Sorkin, meanwhile, for some reason I imagine as being the sort of folk who’d turn their noses up at something so genre-based (and wilfully non-“adult”). Then there’s Ronald D. Moore, but I find his past oeuvre to be generally quite po-faced. So in a bit of left-field thinking, I arrived at Charlie Kaufman – whose brilliantly offbeat ideas about narrative, metafiction and story structure would seem to square quite nicely with The Moff’s own way of thinking, and I bet he could come up with a contemporary Earth story (a Doctor-lite, perhaps?) that did something genuinely new and challenging. And despite being a film writer nowadays, he has expressed an interest in returning to television. If they could ever afford him, it might just make sense.
He’s written drama before (Dead Set). He loves Doctor Who and knows what makes it tick. He’s bloody clever. He’s bloody funny. Alright, it’d be one hell of a gamble, but… it could also be fantastic.
Oh, well. That’s alright, then.
No, wait, let’s be serious for a moment. Okay, so Miles doesn’t do himself any favours with his online persona (never having met him, I don’t know whether it’s also his real life persona). And certainly, there’s even less chance of him writing an episode for Moffat than there is of Terry Nation doing so. But. If there’s one view he’s been espousing on his bloody blog for ages, it’s that he thinks he could do the job – and so, while his The Book of the World showed little grasp of what actually makes a good television script (as opposed to a novel turned into script format), at the very least it would be intriguing to give him the opportunity to put his money where his not inconsiderable mouth is. And going by his past form writing Who novels (I haven’t read any, but enough People Whose Opinions I Respect say they’re Generally Very Good Indeed), even if it didn’t succeed on a technical level, it couldn’t fail to be interesting. Some may say that someone so obstinately unwilling to play the game of Basic Human Decency when it comes to interacting with one’s writing peers shouldn’t even deserve the opportunity, and it’s difficult to argue with; but as one of the prominent voices of Who‘s pre-RTD literary era, he’s difficult to ignore.
So that’s my picks. Who do you FANCY?