The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Wild West Hero

Out now in shops, and popping through letterboxes in an Amazon envelope, is a new ‘classic’ Doctor Who DVD box set, Earth Story, which features the stories The Awakening and The Gunfighters, the latter of which features a 45-minute documentary written by me called End Of The Line?. The documentary is about William Hartnell’s third and final year as Doctor Who.

I was asked a few questions about it for a Doctor Who Magazine preview; most of my answers weren’t used so I might as well share them with you here.

> The Gunfighters: you've written the main supporting feature. What was the brief?

A documentary covering pretty much everything that happened behind the scenes during Doctor Who's third year, starting with John Wiles and Donald Tosh joining the show as Producer and Story Editor, and ending with William Hartnell leaving the show. With the emphasis on the different approaches taken by the Wiles/Tosh team and the Innes Lloyd/Gerry Davis team.

>What stage of the process did you come in at?

Ed Stradling had already pitched the documentary to 2Entertain, with it being written by Gareth Roberts. Gareth Roberts dropped out because he is an extremely successful and busy television writer. I was available.

> And given that the main axis upon which the piece spins is the diversity of approach to DW exhibited by Wiles-Tosh and David-Lloyd, would you express a preference for one approach over the other?

With the John Wiles and Donald Tosh, the difficulty is that so much of what they set out to achieve didn't end up on screen, either because they were saddled with a 12-part Dalek story, or because as soon as Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis came in they pretty much threw away everything the previous team had originated. I'd say it's easy to admire John Wiles and Donald Tosh's stuff, but harder to enjoy; as well-made as stories like The Myth Makers and The Massacre are, I think Lloyd and Davis's populist, sci-fi thrills approach is what secured the show's future, and which set the template for the type of stories that made me a fan.

I think the documentary has turned out extremely well, largely due to the efforts of its producer, Ed Stradling. It was a particularly challenging one to put together, because it’s an era with relatively few available interviewees and a large proportion of the stories themselves are missing from the archive; in both cases, we had to rely on forms of reconstruction. The biggest challenge, though, was fitting it all into a 45-minute documentary, as all the interviewees could warrant a documentary in their own right. So the end result is very fast-paced, as factually-accurate as it’s possible to get about an area where we’re often reliant on people’s memories, and I think, towards the end, quite moving.