The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

All Over The World

A new issue of Doctor Who magazine is out on Thursday, so this is my last chance to plug the current issue, for which I wrote a feature about the last ten years of the series called Ten Years At The Top, which contained the happy news that they are only the ‘last’ in the sense of being ‘most recent’, because there are probably another five years to come at least.

One of the most exciting things about doing the feature was that it contains quotes from new interviews with the great Steven Moffat and current BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning Ben Stephenson. I wanted to put together the best-possible feature to commemorate the show’s success, so I cast my net wide. Getting Ben Stephenson was a bit of a coup, but just reflects how warmly-regarded the show is amongst the upper echelons of the BBC. It’s hard to imagine Ben’s predecessors in the 1980s giving the magazine similar interviews.

The news that Doctor Who will be around for another five years or so got picked up by all sorts of news outlets, including BBC News itself. I found this a trifle unnerving, to be honest. I was worried that I might’ve misquoted someone or that I would somehow jinx things. Fortunately the article had been read, checked and approved by Steven, so it wouldn’t contain anything to upset the apple cart, but nevertheless, seeing something that means so much to so many people go so big was a bit scary. As I tweeted at the time, they didn’t make this much fuss over my Paradise Towers Fact of Fiction. I imagine it’s just me making up this stuff to amuse Tom and Peter at the magazine, I don’t imagine it actually being read by 30,000 strangers.

The brief for the article was a bit tricky, as it had to celebrate the last ten years, but not cover the same ground as Cav Scott’s feature from last year about how the show came back, and not to repeat my own feature on Doctor Who’s appeal, The Wonder of Who. So I concentrated on two things; trying to understand and explain why the show was such a success when it returned – all those things that it got right which seem obvious in retrospect – and what has kept it a success. One interesting thing was trying to nail down the difference between Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat’s writing styles; the thing is, they’re not that different at all, they both can (and do) write scripts which are unlike what might be considered their normal style, they can write in each others’ styles, there is a definite overlap. I know some fans find their approaches to be radically different, but I think that while they bring different things to do show, they are pretty much on the same page in terms of what makes good Doctor Who.

As part of my net-casting I got in touch with as many of the writers who worked on the show as possible, those who were part of bringing in back, those who have made the greatest contribution over the last decade, and those who are currently working on it. I couldn’t include all of them, with these things you always have to draw the line somewhere. But I am immensely grateful to all of the writers who were so kind as to take the time to respond – I mean, Mark Gatiss, Chris Chibnall, Toby Whithouse, they are huge names in television.

Alongside the article was a potted history of the last decade of Doctor Who, concentrating on the various ‘firsts’. For the chronology I also researched real life events, but there was no room for them (and who cares about real life?). So here they are instead:

Tony Blair wins third term as Prime Minister; Live 8 concerts held; YouTube launched.
Pluto re-designated a dwarf planet; Daniel Craig debuts as James Bond; Twitter launched.
Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister; BBC ‘Crowngate’ scandal; global financial crisis begins. 
Boris Johnson elected Mayor of London; ‘Sachsgate’ scandal; Barack Obama elected US president.
MP expenses scandal; Avatar released; Michael Jackson dies.
Chilean miners rescued; David Cameron becomes Prime Minister; Eyjafjallajökull erupts.
 “Arab Spring” uprisings; Prince William marries Kate Middleton; London riots.
London Olympics and Queen’s 60th birthday; Shard completed; Barack Obama re-elected.
Meteorite crashes into Russia; Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela die; Prince George born.
Flooding in West Country; Scottish independence referendum; Philae probe lands on comet.

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