10 screenwriters we'd like to see Doctor Who episodes from

Feature Andrew Blair 2 Apr 2013 - 08:30

Andrew offers up ten screenwriting names on our wishlist for appearing on the front of future Doctor Who scripts...

Gone are the days where you could send a letter to Peter Darvill-Evans and write a New Adventure. Big Finish will occasionally hold a writing competition, but for most of the time your examination of what it truly means to be an Ogri will be returned unopened. Fan-fiction will never surpass the heights of Ben Chatham's adventures (apart from all the many times it will), and so it came to pass that Doctor Who writing became something of a closed world. The positives of this outweigh the negatives. 

To get a job writing for televisual Doctor Who, you have to be an experienced pro with television experience who can turn in a script on time, not minding that their work might be tampered with by a showrunner with a masterplan or vision. At least, that's the criteria at the moment, and exceptions could be made. I imagine if J.K. Rowling said she'd write an episode, her lack of TV-writing experience would be overlooked. 

Here then, in no particular order, are ten writers we'd like to see the name of at the start of the opening credits/using the pseudonym 'David Agnew', and who fit the criteria above:

1. Abi Morgan 

To be honest, with the cast and production values of The Hour the cast could just read a Tellytubbies script and it'd still be astoundingly attractive. Nonetheless, any writer who takes on the task of making Margaret Thatcher look like a human being is more than welcome to write dialogue for Davros. 

2. Jane Goldman 

Stardust. Kick Ass. X-Men. The Woman in Black: Goldman's film scripts are definitely works that have overlap with a Doctor Who audience. While tonally different from her friend Neil Gaiman's book of Stardust, the ending of the film remains much more satisfying than that of the novel. So, filmic, geeky, and able to write action, scares and comedy - just the sort of thing Steve 'I Moff My Cap To You Sirrah' Moffat's version of the show requires. 

3. Cath Tregenna 

A Torchwood alumni, but one with an impressive track record for her work on the first two series. As the first run shifted towards something more akin to its audience's preconceptions of it – characters in ethically complex Sci-Fi/Fantasy situations – she wrote Out of Time, an episode which made viewers feel sorry for Owen. 

If you're not familiar with Torchwood let me assure you that this is a very impressive achievement indeed. 

4. Debbie Moon 

If you don't watch children's television – and you should, if you're a Doctor Who fan – then you might not be familiar with recent fantasy drama Wolfblood, which came about from a BBC Writersroom open call for Children's Television scripts. Take note, aspiring writer-types, and plan your Children's Telly Odyssey in the style of Bernard and Manny in Black Books. After all, Steve Moffat and Russell T. Davies had great success with their early work with Press Gang and Dark Seasons

Maybe Doctor Who isn't going to quickly involve promising new writers, but Wizards vs Aliens might. 

5. Sally Wainwright 

Certainly Sally Wainwright is not a writer renowned for genre fiction, but then neither was Simon Nye, and Amy's Choice was one of the strongest episodes of series five. Her IMDb page is full of popular shows (At Home With the Braithwaites, Unforgiven, Last Tango in Halifax to name but a few), many of which she also created. If anything, her resume means she's unlikely to have time to write for Doctor Who, not when she can do her own thing with such success. 

6. Charlie Brooker 

It's fair to say that Brooker has proven himself as a writer of drama after the last series of Black Mirror; even if you didn't like it (and you and your subjective opinion are wrong, I say, WRONG) you can't deny that it instigated debate about its subject matter. Doctor Who has dabbled with provocative satire before, 

Having said that, as a fan he might be tempted to do something different. Neil Cross, creator of Luther, probably hasn't written a violent crime thriller for either of his episodes, it's a chance to let rip and have fun. Brooker might surprise a few people be being really good at that.  

7. Rona Munro 


That's my main argument, to be honest. Survival manages to balance the thematic weight and real-world issues the McCoy era was striving for with characters who feel like real people. She made The Master scary again, snuck in a lesbian subtext and prefigured the Russell T. Davies' era approach sixteen years early. She's now a hugely respected playwright, and a mainstay of the Scottish syllabus. Unsurprisingly, she's got better since Survival, and it's noticeable in that story how much more verisimilitude the character of Ace has.  

8. Annie Griffin 

Hands up who remembers The Book Group? It was that thing that turned the guy from the Porridge Oats ads into that guy in the wheelchair in that thing before he became The Hound in Game of Thrones. Perhaps more helpfully, it was also a comedy drama broadcast on Channel 4 across two series in 2002 – 2003. It was very good, and featured James Lance, Rory McCann, Anne Dudek, Michelle Gomez, Derek Riddell and The Descent's Saskia Mulder near the start of their TV careers. 

It was created and written by Annie Griffin, and American resident in Glasgow. As well as the film Festival, she's also contributed to the recent series of Fresh Meat and Bob Servant. So, she's funny, insightful, and has also directed. An excellent contrast to Moffat's Boys' Own Adventure sensibilities, it'd be intriguing to see what she could put the regular characters through. 

9. Sarah Phelps 

Radio. Theatre. Prime slabs of Yuletide Dickensian 'Ahoy thar casual viewer!' television. Moving from the Royal Shakespeare Company to Eastenders and writing the death of a major character. No Angels and Being Human (with a Mr Toby Whithouse). An episode of Chris Chibnall's gloriously oversexed farrago of wizards and breasts and surprisingly brilliant bits, Camelot. Her last writing credit for television was an episode of a major Sky detective show, Falcón, which had one episode directed by theoretical Dredd-helmer, Pete Travis. 

So, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, and Den of Geek writers explaining to people who Jason Statham is down the pub, she's kinda a big deal, and her writing credits show a lean towards genre fiction and contacts with Who luminaries.  

10. Warren Ellis 

Warren Ellis is surely a perfect fit for Doctor Who. His comic work is wide-ranging, he's used to writing for a younger audience with his Marvel work, and anyone who has read his run on The Authority will know he emits impressive science-fiction concepts like the rest of us emit carbon dioxide. 

Of course, it's possible that these people have already been asked by the current Production Team. It's even possible that some of these people don't want to write for Doctor Who, in which case there is nothing we can do; it's too late for them. 

Anyway, let the well-informed and reasoned debate spew forth like cold water from the well of Hvergelmir. 

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Bruce Robinson.

Nice selection of female writers- I would like to see David Renwick and Andrew Davies pen one episode.

Warren Ellis? Why not Grant Morrison, or even Alan Moore instead?

Did you read the comments of a certain article on io9 by any chance, Andrew? ;)

A fine list indeed, I couldn't agree more. Also, props for making an almost all-female list without explicitly referencing the current discussion, a very nice touch ;-)

Looking to America (and of course the world of Wheadon), how great would an episode from Jane Espenson, Tim Minear or Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain be?

Charlie Brooker? Wasn't he the bloke who used to be paid to comment about how rubbish TV was before he decided to try to become some sort of Rod Serling/Roald Dahl clone? It's almost like someone whispers "here's one I made earlier" to him so often he's believed the only things which are worthwhile aren't original thoughts.

God no not Alan Moore he would have the companion beaten up and raped.

Rona Munro? No thanks, Survival was bloody awful, so sad to see the classic series fade out on such tosh.

Joss Whedon or Jane Epenson would be AWESOME

A credible list of suggestions,i think.My favourite is Sally Wainwright as she often demonstrates an ability to write believable characters in unlikely situations and making you care about them.I've always thought that was an important ingredient of good Doctor Who.Potentially,the biggest problem for any untested writer is getting the character of The Doctor right,in a manner consistent with how he's been portrayed previously.I'm pretty certain Paul Abbot,David Renwick and Andrew Davies could all pull off Doctor Who scripts if they were up for it.Alan Moore could definitely write decent Doctor Who.

Dan Abnett. A british fiction and comic writer, does a lot of tie-in stuff, dr who included. a vastly underrated talent.

I couldn't disagree more.

I think of "Survival" as one of the better McCoy adventures. If we'd had stories like that - and "The Curse Of Fenric" from his first season, just think how much better the 7th Doctor's era would have been.

A definite yes to Rona. I'd quite like Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch back for another stab.

Then we'll disagree again :) The Curse of Fenric is also overrated rubbish. The Greatest Show In The Galaxy and Remembrance of The Daleks are the two best McCoy stories by a mile.

Brooker didn't just say how rubbish TV was just that his persona fitted writing for that more often. He was often full of praise for a lot of TV shows, in particular a certain Doctor Who

Abi Morgan is just terrible. Keep her far, far away from Who.

Russell T Davies. Just puttin' that out there...

...Joss Whedon?

as in losing a leg is better than losing an eye - yes its better but neither is desirable.

I'd also add that Charlie Brooker is a noted Doctor Who fan - even aside from the new stuff, he's namechecked the autons and the ice warriors in his columns, before now.

Can you imagine some of the amazing dialog he'd give us if he were given the chance to write the Doctor? I think were it to happen my inner geek would explode in pure happy.

My vote's another for Joss!!! Been wishing he'd write something for Who for a long while now. Along with wishing for the Dr. Horrible sequel (which already exists in my head)...
However, there are many amazing female writers, and directors too, who should be contributing to Who. Forgive me for not remembering her name, but the "Bend It Like Beckham" creator, for example, would be a breath of fresh air.

If I were to add any suggestions, I'd say J. Michael Strazcynski.

Great list! As for my blue sky thinking? Have to agree with Straczynski, but also - Tarantino. No, wait - really. His writing for ER was sharp, witty and well-paced; exactly what seems to be working with the Doctor right now!

What 'bout Peter Jackson ? :)

Eric saward, chriBoucher

Here are the five people I'd like to see write for Doctor Who:
Amber Benson
Jesse Armstrong
Debbie Moon
J K Rowling
Chloe Moss

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