The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Perfect World

Another voyage down the yesteryear ship canal, this time Doctor Who: A Perfect World. It’s a one-episode story that was released with Time Reef by Marc Platt back in September 2008 and was written in January of that year. As usual, if you haven't heard it, buy it now.


It was a very quick turnaround, for some reason, going from synopsis to finished script in about two weeks. Looking at the synopsis, the big difference was that originally the aliens were multi-dimensional beings called Zinebil; Nicholas Briggs suggested making them more mundane and functional which is how they ended up being dimensional plumbers, which is far more interesting. Amazingly, one of them was played by Nicholas Farrell, a great actor who has been in everything, and who was happy to ‘muck in’ in the studio after being cast for Time Reef.

The brief for this episode was to write out the character of Thomas Brewster, created and introduced in The Haunting of Thomas Brewster. It must have been a verbal brief because I can’t find any emails about it. Anyway, I decided, or it was suggested to me, to write out Brewster by having him fall in love. The story was written partially from personal experience based on a relationship from several years earlier and mostly from wish-fulfilment. At the time I’d written a few romantic comedy sitcom scripts and so a love story came very easily (I think, though to be honest this was all so long ago I’m guessing).

Looking at the script, I think it holds up okay, it’s very sweet and the characterisation is good, but I’m not sure it works as a Doctor Who story. Maybe that doesn’t matter, maybe it’s good to occasionally subvert the format, but I can’t help feeling it would’ve been better if the story had been told in a more Doctor Who-ey way. But I love this bit, it's both heartfelt and deeply silly:

DOCTOR
Because… life isn’t perfect. Take away the opportunity to get things wrong and you take away the reason for getting things right. Being human is all about the mistakes, the imperfections, the failures! Burning the toast! Losing your keys! Getting off at the wrong stop! For some people, small, pointless blunders are what life is all about!

What is quite nice is the way the script echoes elements of The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, for instance by having Brewster meet Connie on Southwark bridge. Which leads us to the only cut bit (this is cut by me, from the first draft, before anyone else saw it), where they go to a cafe and chat over coffee:

BREWSTER
Yeah. And you know what the best thing is? Men have stopped going around with big, bushy beards.

CONNIE LAUGHS. SHE LIKES THIS GUY. HE LIKES HER.

BREWSTER (CONT'D)
But think about it. This world, right, people have spent hundreds of years working to make it better, fighting wars for a better future, suffering (from) –

CONNIE
Look, I know what you're going to say, and you're right, but... I don't know... It just doesn't make facing tomorrow any easier.

And, er... that’s it. Apart from odd lines here and there, I didn’t cut much from the script before I handed it in as a first draft, and then – after script editor Alan Barnes had added a few bits, such as Connie’s phone call to her mother in the penultimate scene – that was it!

Oh, and a reference to Heat magazine became Celeb Goss, because references to real-life brands are problematic, and the following bit got changed, a pity because it was one of my favourite lines:

NEW CONNIE
What could be wrong with that?
 
OUR CONNIE
I've gotta go - you're all... 'pod people' from the planet Benetton!

Of course, Thomas Brewster would later return in The Crimes of Thomas Brewster, in which we learn that Connie, the love of Brewster’s life, has met an arbitrarily tragic fate. But that’s another story...

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