“Neil Gaiman Would Be Showrunner for Doctor Who, if Asked!” (No I wouldn’t.)
I interviewed Neil Gaiman for Triple J Magazine recently, and asked him about Doctor Who. My editors said the Who stuff wasn’t relevant to the interview, but I think it’s VERY relevant for Doctor Who fans. So here it is!
Paul: …But what about television, which you write for?
Neil: Well… it’s harder. And sometimes, you fail. Sometimes, I overwrite, and sometimes iu underwrite. I’m also now aware that while I might describe something, the set designer may have other ideas. I mean, there’s a sequence in my upcoming Doctor Who episode where I wrote… a bunch of stuff, and then got a message from them saying, we can’t actually even find the location we’re looking for, but we can give you this instead.
Paul: It wasn’t a quarry, was it?
Neil: No! Though I did get to use a quarry in The Doctor’s Wife! Which made me so happy. I got a quarry, and I got running down corridors. I felt like, look! A proper Doctor Who episode! The new one? No corridor running. No quarry. But, there’s lots of strange locations, and I got to rewrite the sequence to take into account the new location. With TV, if it works, it’s like a game of ping pong. And occasionally, you do get really sad. And the hardest thing with Who is writing a script - a great one, with lots of funny moments, great lines - and they’ll give you back a forty three minute cut. And now, your job - because everything is brutally trimmed down and some scenes don’t even exist anymore - is to work out the dialogue that gives it a throughline. It’s like a kind of mad chess game, really.
Paul: If something, god forbid, made Moffat leave as showrunner, would you step up?
Neil: Well… the tragedy is that ten years ago, before Russel T. Davies brought it back, I was trying to get all the people at the BBC circa 2001, just to say, what are you doing with this show? Can I bring it back? And I never actually got a call returned. I sort of got bounced around, and it died, then Russell did it. And I love that he did, because he did it better than I ever could! I… these days, I don’t have the mad drive that I had ten years ago. I like hanging around with my wife! I like having this peculiar lifestyle! I have watched Stephen Moffat for five years now, helming Who and Sherlock, but there was a point where he’d go off on family holidays and spend the whole time indoors, working. I was the same on Sandman! Every month, artists, writers, inkers, readers, all riding on my back. My family would be on the beach and I’d have the curtains drawn. I’ve done that! Now, I love coming in and writing one episode once in a while. And people I know think I’m mad for even doing it, because the amount an episode costs me… I lose a ridiculous amount of money for the time it takes! But I don’t care, I love it! I get to write Doctor Who! But if Stephen showed up and asked me, I’d say yes. Because it’s an addiction for me.
I know it’s not very clear at the end, but I’m actually saying I would say yes to writing an episode once in a while, if Steven Moffat asked me to, not yes to becoming showrunner. (Which I’d say no to.)
chained-prometheus asked: Hi Neil! I was wondering if you could give us Whovians any hints as to how your upcoming Cybermen episode will differ from The Doctor's Wife? Would it be safe to assume that it might be more focused on the horror side of DW? Also did writing for Clara differ much than for how you wrote Amy and Rory in TDW?
It was meant to be scary when I started writing it. I’m not sure that’s entirely how it ended up, though — I got a bit sidetracked on the way by odd things that turned up on the page. So there are scary bits. But then there’s… Oh, you’ll see.
It’s weird, writing companions. They are all SO different. But then, there are things that they have in common. I suppose they have to be smart and resourceful otherwise a) they probably wouldn’t have been companions in the first place or b) they would be very dead companions very quickly.
Clara’s really fun to write. (Amy was also enormously fun to write. Rory, bless him, was also fun to write.) She seems able to keep up with the Doctor. I can imagine Amy — or Sarah Jane, or Rose, or Jamie or pick your companion of choice — doing all the things that I have Clara do in the episode I wrote: but I can’t imagine any of them saying the things she says, in the way that she says them, or dealing with things in the way that she deals.
From The Doctor’ Wife. An out-take…
We’re about ten days away from the Doctor Who table reading. I spoke to the Director for the first time yesterday. And the script is pretty much the script. (ie, I’m about to send off a script to the Script Editor that I hope will be, if not the last draft, then the one that we go into the table read with). Technically it’s probably the tenth draft, but I’m not really counting any more. (The “Cut ten pages” draft of the trip to Australia was the last one that felt like major surgery.) Steven Moffat came to my rescue when I felt like I couldn’t even pick it up again, and for that, he is a hero.
Anything that wasn’t moving the plot forward has gone. Lots of interesting chatty background conversations in the TARDIS, gone. Lines of dialogue that were fun in themselves but weren’t really needed? Gone. And the food scene? Very gone indeed. It’s been gone since draft six. Given that it’s not there any longer, and that that tells you absolutely nothing about the story except that it now doesn’t have a scene with a bowl of food in it, I thought I’d borrow it back from Lucien’s library.
The Companion Conundrum: Now rebloggable
You haven’t even met her as a companion, yet. Why would you be fully sold?
You know, the glory and the greatness of Doctor Who is that the companions die or leave, and the Doctors regenerate. It’s a feature, not a bug. It’s kept the show fresh and exciting for almost fifty years.
You’re always suspicious, distrustful, unimpressed when they turn up. Then one day you realise that this person you weren’t sure of really is the Doctor, or that the person who looked awkward in the newspaper pictures really is a real companion.
And, if you’re lucky, they leave before you’re finished with them, when you still want to know more about them, still love them, still want to go on adventuring with them.
I’m telling you nothing about Jenna. Other than I loved writing dialogue for her, and I loved hearing her say the words I’d written for her at the table read.
Wow Gaiman and Pratchett predicted all my fandoms back in 1990
“‘I wrote a book once. It was a triffic book. It was nearly eight pages long. It was about this pirate who was a famous detective.
And I drew pictures.’ And then in a flash of largess, he added, ‘If you like I’ll let you read it. I bet it was a lot more exciting than any book you’ve lost. ‘Specially the bit in the spaceship where the dinosaur comes out
and fights with the cowboys…”
SHERLOCK…..AND DOCTOR WHO…. IN ONE PARAGRAPH… IN A BOOK FROM 1990….
They must have received an omen or something….
Guys it’s time to get off tumblr
Hope you think this is as awesome as I do
OH JESUS THERES ANOTHER REFERENCE A FEW PARAGRAPHS LATER
“You haven’t seen two men in a big black car?”
HOW THE HELL DID THEY GET SUPERNATURAL IN THERE TOO?!??!
Dinosaurs on a spaceship. Hell yeah. Remember where you saw it first.
Eleven Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Corsair
As divulged by Mr. Neil Gaiman (from The Brilliant Book 2012)
- His TARDIS looked like a sailing ship whenever it was practical – and sometimes even when it wasn’t – because small, piratical sailing ships are cool.
- The Ouroboros tattoo, showing a snake eating its own tail and symbolising Eternity, moved around the Corsair’s body with each regeneration. The largest version was huge and multi-colored and covered the Corsair’s entire back. The smallest version was the size of a ten pence piece and was discreetly inked upon the Fifth Corsair’s upper thigh.
- The Corsair met his doom while working for the Time Lords on the Fourth Universal Survey Expedition. They were surveying the whole universe. It’s a big place. Somebody has to keep track of it.
- Most Time Lords disapproved of the Corsair. The Doctor, on the other hand, got drink with him (in the Corsair’s Fourth and Eighth incarnations) and with her (in her Fifth). Each time, the Doctor swore he would never do it again. Twice, they woke up in jail. Once, they woke up in the Bank of England vaults.
- The Corsair took his name from a term for ‘privateer’ – a sort of legitimate pirate. Some people assumed that this was because the Corsair did things for the Time Lords that they could deny responsibility for – such as stealing the secret of the Callisto Pulse from the Callistan Kleptocracy. The Corsair denied having stolen the Callisto Pulse. The Time Lords denied having asked him to steal it. The Callistans would like their pulse back.
- The Corsair never actually fought the Daleks. But her seventh incarnation was definitely spotted on Clarkor Nine the night the Dalek Scout Ship landed. On the following day the nine Daleks on the saucer discovered that their weapon arms and their suction cup arms had somehow been removed in the night, rendered inoperable, and fused together into a shape that means something very rude in Skarosian. They left immediately and did not return. The Corsair’s role in this is unclear.
- The Corsair visited Earth a number of times in its history. He was worshipped as a god by the ancient Assyrians until he got bored after a week and went off with the sacred temple cat.
- In ever incarnation the Corsair had an amazing smile. It was variously described as ‘reckless” ‘roguish’, or ‘very bad girl’. Whatever race or gender the Corsair was, he or she smiled the kind of smile that made the person being smiled at want to trust the person who was smiling, run of with him or her, and get into all manner of trouble. Sometimes people did.
- The Corsair liked having a cat and, sometimes, a parrot aboard his TARDIS. He never had a companion, however, preferring to travel alone. (Having said that, the Corsair took enormous pleasure in Rescuing Good Looking People from Dangerous Situations, but rarely stuck around long enough to be properly thanked.)
- The Time Lord High Council formally censured the Corsair following the disappearance of the mysterious Portrait of Rassilon in Lord President Borusa’s time. The Censure was later formally revoked by President Flavia, for reasons she declined to go into, although she was once heard to say that the Corsair had an extremely attractive smile.
- By the time the Ninth Corsair (a strapping big bloke, he was) realised he had been trapped on the intelligent asteroid that called itself House, his TARDIS had already been killed and eaten. He recorded a distress message, but before he could send it there was a tap on his shoulder and he felt and thought nothing more, not ever again.
Headcanon: the guy with the parrot from he last series of SJA was the Corsair.
Oddly enough, this was Russell T. Davies’ reaction to reading the eleven Corsair facts. He didn’t quite use the word headcanon, but he came close.