The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Love At First Sight

More deleted scenes! Hooray! And this time from The Auntie Matter, released in 2013, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor and Mary Tamm as his assistant Romana. I wrote about it at the time of release here. If you haven’t heard it, I heartily recommend you do so, the cast are fantastic and the finished product is excellent*; you should certainly do so before looking at these ‘deleted scenes’ as they constitute spoilers.


The story only went through two drafts; the first draft was written in about two weeks, which is fairly normal for me. It went through various titles; initially it was The Auntie Matter, but there was a villain in the forthcoming TV series called Auntie (this was back in 2011), so then it became The Aunt and the Time Lord, then Reginald and the Time Lady before it happily became The Auntie Matter again. It’s so hard coming up with titles when you get a good one you don’t want to let it go.

The main reason for most of these cuts is because the first draft was about 1000 words overlength. So whenever something didn’t work, or if script editor John Dorney or producer David Richardson weren’t keen, it meant I could simply cut it. For instance, originally it began with some narration:

ROMANA: (NARRATION)
It was a glorious morning, of blue skies and golden sunshine, the kind of morning that makes one glad to be alive. Insects droned in the hedgerows. Rabbits scampered in the fields. And Reginald Cummerleigh-Bassett and his fiancée Florence Wickham wove their way through the best that Hampshire had to offer in Reginald’s gleaming two-seater...

I think the opening bit was too long, so this got chopped:

REGGIE:
Oh no, queen of my heart. I’m sure she’ll consider you just the ticket. She’s always on at me to find a nice well-educated girl with which to tie the proverbial knot, a girl of wholesome stock, of indomitable spirit!

FLORENCE:
You make me sound like a thoroughbred racehorse.

REGGIE:
Merely attempting to put your mind at rest that you will fit the matrimonial bill. She is sure to adore you as I do.

Whenever a character has the same line twice in a scene, it’s often a hint that you should cut out everything in between:

AUNT:
Bring her forward, so that I might see her.

REGGIE:
Would you like me to draw the curtains? I can barely see where you are, and it’s a topper of a day out there –

AUNT:
No. The light, it hurts my eyes. Bring the girl forward!

(FX: THEY MOVE FORWARD)

REGGIE:
Here she is, Auntie, the girl who recently consented to become my wife.

The next bit was a bit too say-what-you-see:

FLORENCE:
Procedure? What procedure?

AUNT:
You may now gaze upon my face, my dear.

(FX: VEIL PULLED BACK)

FLORENCE:
(HORRIFIED) But... no...

AUNT:
Yes. To look at me, at this desiccated corpse, you would think I was a thousand years old. And this is what you shall become!

FLORENCE:
What? No... you can’t – you can’t – (SCREAMS)

And this was over-explaining stuff that was already clear:

REGGIE:
But... I don’t understand. What have you done with Florence?

FLORENCE:
Her mind no longer exists, Reginald dear. And as for her body, her body now belongs to me! (LAUGHS EVILLY)

And this was explaining stuff that would explained again later on:

FLORENCE:
I had no alternative. My old body was close to death.

REGGIE:
Your old body?

FLORENCE:
The inhabitation of another’s form has the unfortunate side-effect of accelerating the aging process. Already I can feel the advance of years on this body. I will soon need another. Each time, so much more rapid than the last...

I can’t remember why this next bit was cut. Probably because it could be, which is reason enough.

DOCTOR:
Well, no, it was a complete accident. But I don’t know what you’re complaining about. I found us a nice house, didn’t I?

ROMANA:
Yes. Though only by posing as members of the aristocracy.

DOCTOR:
I’m a Time Lord, you’re a Time Lady, it’s near enough.

As was, probably, this:

REGGIE:
You coming in here, asking about books on the photo-jiggumy effect, when that’s precisely what I was here for too!

ROMANA:
Actually, I’m interested in all fields of advanced science –

REGGIE:
Really! By jiminy, we’re as alike as two peas in a pod!

And this:

REGGIE:
... Not that I’d recommend doing that, though. Danger to traffic.

(FX: CAR SLOWS AND COMES TO A HALT UNDER FOLLOWING)

GRENVILLE:
My lord...

REGGIE:
Ah, we’re here! No place like home!

ROMANA:
So this is Bassett Hall. I’m impressed.

REGGIE:
Yes, well, it keeps the rain off. Still... the scent of honeysuckle in the air, a topping sunset on the horizon, enough to put one in a forgiving mood, what?

I think the next bit was cut because it’s very say-what-you-see and a bit standing-around-talking-when-you-should-be-running!

ROMANA:
Run!

REGGIE:
But Auntie, she’s going all crinkly –

ROMANA:
Whatever that thing is, it’s not your Auntie. Well? Are you going to come with me or are you going to stand there gawping?

REGGIE:
Come with you!

In draft two I edited the next bit down to a single sentence:

(FX: ROMANA AND REGGIE RUNNING)

REGGIE:
I say. I say! Miss Romana!

ROMANA:
What is it?

REGGIE:
When we were back there, with my Aunt and Grenville? You called me Reggie. A girl’s never called me Reggie before.

ROMANA:
This isn’t really the time. We have to keep moving.

REGGIE:
Righty-ho. Where to?

The next bit was cut because it could be, I expect:

ROMANA:
Well, I just thought it needed to be said, that’s all.

REGGIE:
No, very kind of you, to clear up any misunderstanding. I just thought, well, what with you being so dashed super, you were the one.

It’s a shame the next bit was cut, it’s rather sweet. Probably my idea to cut it too! Oh well!

REGGIE:
What about you? You out here on your merry old tod too?

MABEL:
Well, I was here with my master -

REGGIE:
Your master?

MABEL:
I work as a kitchen maid, sir.

REGGIE:
Oh. Never mind. It was either that or being a star of the silver screen, I imagine.

MABEL:
The silver screen, sir?

REGGIE:
With looks like yours, don’t tell me you never considered it? You must’ve had offers, surely?

MABEL:
No, sir.

REGGIE:
Then there is no justice in the world, because as far as I can see, Mabel, you are a complete topper.

The next bit... seems important, until you realise you can cut it:

DOCTOR:
You have to get away from here, run to the nearest village, as fast as you can.

MABEL:
But what about you, sir, and Reggie?

DOCTOR:
Reggie’s going to take me to see his Aunt. Isn’t that right, Reggie?

REGGIE:
Is it?

DOCTOR:
You said she wasn’t herself. Well, I’m a Doctor.

REGGIE:
Oh, you think you might be able to work out what’s wrong with the old bird?

DOCTOR:
Precisely. Well?

The next bit was cut down from:

REGGIE:
Bait?

FLORENCE:
My robots servants could bring me girls unwillingly, but I needed someone to go out into the world and find me new hosts. And so I found an orphaned child and brought him up as my own, until such time as he was old enough to put to work.

REGGIE:
You mean my whole life has just been a lie? I’ve just been used? To bring you new bodies?

to simply:

REGGIE:
Bait? You mean, you wanted to hook girls in – with me as the worm?

Once again, a character saying the same line twice is an invitation to cut the bit in between, as the memory wipe device had already been established elsewhere:

REGGIE:
I won’t let you do this...

FLORENCE:
Don’t worry, Reginald. When this is all over, I will wipe your memory as I have done so many times before. You won’t remember a thing.

REGGIE:
No. No! I won’t let you.

The next bit.. it must’ve been cut because of a note. I quite like it, as it suggests the Aunt had some genuine affection for Reggie, but it doesn’t quite fit, so fair enough.

FLORENCE:
Reginald... I... am close to death. Please. Forgive me.

REGGIE:
For what? Trying to kill me?

FLORENCE:
Find a good girl... a girl you love... (DIES)

REGGIE:
She’s gone.

The next bit... doesn’t quite work, which was helpfully pointed out to me so  I came up with something funnier and pithier in the finished script.

REGGIE:
From the very first moment I set eyes upon you.

MABEL:
Oh, Reggie!

REGGIE:
I thought, she’s the one for you Reggie, and no mistake. A match made in heaven. Another bull’s eye for cupid.

MABEL:
Love at first sight.

REGGIE:
Absolutely.

MABEL:
Me too. From the very first moment.

REGGIE:
So, what do you say, a spot of breakfast, and then maybe whizz into town to choose a ring?

MABEL:
I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

REGGIE:
No?

MABEL:
Let’s skip breakfast, I’d only burn it anyway

And finally – my original idea for the ending was that it would end with the Doctor and Romana talking over each other, like a Frasier/Niles argument. I think it was recorded but didn’t work in the edit, so the first draft ending of:

DOCTOR:
Romana, get the butler to make us cup of tea. I think we have a spot of explaining to do.

was used instead. But here’s what the Frasier-style ending would’ve been.

ROMANA:
Yes. You don’t mean to say you were there too?

(ROMANA AND THE DOCTOR THEN BICKER, TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

DOCTOR: (OVER ROMANA’S FOLLOWING LINE)
Yes, of course, I faced an alien Valjax that had possessed the body of a woman. There’s no way you can have been there, I feel sure I would have noticed, and even if you were, who was it who set the robot gamekeeper to explode -

ROMANA: (OVER THE DOCTOR’S PRECEDING LINE)
You faced an alien Valjax? I think you’ll find that I was the one who faced the alien Valjax, and if you were there you weren’t the one who defeated it because I was the one who set the robot butler to explode –

(AS THE BICKERING CONTINUES, WE GO INTO THE CLOSING MUSIC)

*  The only thing I’d change about it is Reggie’s speech impediment, not my idea, not the sort of thing I find funny. Sorry!

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