Doctor Who: Steve Thompson series 8 episode confirmed

News Louisa Mellor 7 Mar 2014 - 08:07

Steve Thompson is confirmed to be returning as a writer on Doctor Who series eight...

Steve Thompson is the elusive third ingredient in the Sherlock pudding, writer of superb series two finale, The Reichenbach Fall, and the Doctor Who scribe behind Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS and The Curse Of The Black Spot

According to Doctor Who Magazine, he will be penning episode five of Doctor Who series 8.

Also, Steven Moffat is now confirmed as the writer of episodes one and four in the forthcoming eighth series, Peter Capaldi's first stretch in the TARDIS.

The series eight episode titles are yet to be officially announced, but we know the first was directed by Ben Wheatley. Douglas Mackinnon, who's been behind the camera recently on the superlative Line Of Duty, is thought to be directing the block two episodes, potentially including Thompson's number four.

Thompson, who's written for Who series six and seven, was rumoured to be returning for the next run, but this is the first official confirmation of the news.

Doctor Who Magazine

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Moffat is writing episodes 1 and 4. Thompson is down for Episode 5, with Phil Ford previously confirmed for Episode 2.

His "Who" record is a bit hit and miss (I think you'd struggle to find anyone who'd put TCOTBS at the top of their best episodes list), but his form with Sherlock is enough to give the guy a decent chance. Would be nice to see him come up with a new monster though.

Black Spot wasn't too bad. It's lightweight and a bit forgettable but it was fun enough and there's nothing especially wrong with it.

JttCotT was a huge let down. The title promised so much and the story delivered so little. Indeed, by the end it delivered less than little, given how it's all resolved. Not necessarily the worst Eleven story but definitely the biggest disappointment.

Can RTD write one please. He must be tempted.

How many chances does he need though? He's written 2 utterly forgettable episodes. When we only get 13/14 episodes a year (if we're lucky), it annoys me that Moffat sticks with his clique. I mean, if the clique contained Paul Cornell or a guest writer of the calibre of the Moff like it did in RTD's day then fair enough. Thompson and Gatiss? Not so much.

I hate this news. His Who record is not good.

JTTCOTT began well and had lots of promise. It didn't really deliver on that in my eyes, but I like to see this as a progression. With any luck the trend will continue to climb.
I do miss Cornell's writing though.
Gatiss has been likewise hit and miss for me in Doctor Who. Thoroughly enjoyed (and was spooked by) The Idiot's Lantern, and many aspects of Night Terrors, but the WWII stuff has left me cold.

I guess it's a safe bet that Moffat will pen the finale as well.

My dream writer would, of course, be Whedon.
Having recently watched Buffy, the two shows share remarkable characteristics.
This isn't so ridiculous as it sounds: Peter Jackson said he'd like to direct an episode, so who's to say another, high profile writer/director could step in.
I would simply love to hear the Doctor speak some Whedon dialogue...!

Stories that promised more than they delivered.

Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS was great in that it finally showed us something more of the TARDIS than only corridors. I'd really like another episode like that.

AndyM, I know what you mean to an extent, though I don't think "Journey..." was utterly forgettable. It didn't deliver on the premise but still had some interesting moments ("What are you? A trick? A trap?" and The Eye of Harmony spring to mind) and, personally, I rather liked the "creatures". Besides, given the quality of "Reichenbach Falls", the man is clearly has a great episode in him, so I'm willing to give him another shot.

Toby Whithouse wrote the mediocre "Vampires in Venice" episode, but went on to write the fantastic "The God Complex", whilst Tom MacRae's first two were the underwhelming 10th Doctor Cybermen parallel universe episodes, which he followed up with the fantastic "Girl Who Waited." I didn't like Paul Cornell's debut "Father's Day" either, but he ended up doing the Family of Blood episodes.

TLDR: Poor early episodes do not guarantee poor subsequent episodes.

Well, I think 'Vampires in Venice' is a solid 7/10'er but Whithouse's first episode was actually 'School Reunion', which was pretty pedestrian, so I guess I agree with your point by a different route :)

When asked about this on his reddit ama in 2012, Whedon said that while he was a fan of the series he is really looking at making time to write his own original characters when possible (rather than taking on any other existing Universe's outside of Marvel.)

I wouldn't call School Reunion anything close to pedestrian, The Doctor/ Sarah moments and the confrontation with Mr. Finch more than make up for any short comings in other parts of the script (the Rose/ Sarah 'cat-fight' being the episodes main fault.)

I'd love if Nicholas Briggs wrote for TV Who. Most of his audios (those I've listened to at least) are excellent. A while ago I sort of wondered aloud on Twitter why he hasn't written for New Who yet & unexpectedly got a reply from him along the lines he thinks "they" think he doesn't have enough TV writing credentials. Yeah, I do get that writing for audio & writing for visual is different but maybe he could co-author with someone or something? I don't think they ever even considered him, let alone asked him.
I think he's a very busy man with BF but don't think he'd turn this sort of job down. Oh well. Maybe one day...

I do hope not. I've always found his stuff average at very best, with most of his stories being pretty bland and generic. Even at a time when Who is being written by fans of the show, Briggs; stuff really does feel like the most basic of fan fiction.

Well considering Dark Eyes is critically acclaimed at this point, I'd say not everyone shares your opinion. But of course you're entitled to it & I respect it. I disagree, however.

I think JttCotT is one of several Season 7 stories that would've benefited from being a two-parter. That being said the charisma vacuum of an "actor" that was the main villain (I forget the his name) was a major problem that Thompson could do very little about.

I really liked Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS but more for the fact that you see more of the TARDIS then the story. Curse of the Black Spot was better.

I am just hoping for a decrease in Time Travel saves the say stories.

It dosen't matter who's writing which episodes. Stephen Moffat is a bad writer, a bad showrunner, and Doctor Who is better off without him!

Total bollocks.

Vampires in Venice. One of the worst episodes ever. Period.

Doctor Who is unique in many ways. One of them is how writers can write such poor scripts and be invited back more than once....

I'm sure Stephen Moffat is a terrible writer...lucky then that the head writer and show-runner for Doctor Who is 'Steven' Moffat!

you mean the guy responsible for 2 of the 5 worst episodes since 2005? JttCotT and CotBS..

Reichenbach Fall was excellent, but as many has noted, his 'Who' record is one decent episode and one terrible episode (though many of us seem to disagree about which one was which - I put Black Spot in the 'godawful' camp). Nonetheless, it's not really enough to get upset over either - it's not unusual for good authors to take a few attempts to find the right mark when called upon to write for a show that isn't their usual style. Mark Gattis was another example of a good writer with an excellent history writing for other shows, who nonetheless bombed at several attempts at Who before finding the right tone for the show and penning the excellent 'Cold War'.

Both of Thompson's efforts to date were also hampered by Moffatt being a substantially weaker showrunner than a writer. Moffat's best works are shows where he's written the entire series and hasn't had to really worry about coordinating different episodes by different authors - e.g. Jekyll. Similarly, season 5 benefited greatly from Moffat having written roughly half the season himself. When Moffat's role is more show-runner than writer, there doesn't seem to be any coordination regarding characterisation (see last season, where the companion's personality would change completely each episode). He seems to just let the various episode writers do their own thing, with the exception of 1-2 lines referring to (but not advancing) the main through-plot, which is only advanced in the episodes that Moffat writes. That worked in s5 when Moffat wrote 5 episodes, but it became exceptionally weak last season when Moffat wrote only the first and last episodes.

Black Spot suffers greatly from coming straight after Day of the Moon. The prior (Moffat-penned, and hence character/plot-advancing) double-episode had established a new set of character dynamics - Rory's 2000 years as 'the last centurion' were confirmed to still be in play, resulting in a slightly more cynical and much more capable Rory that isn't in the slightest bit deferential to the doctor (Doctor: 'It's like kicking the Romans out of Rome'. Rory: 'Rome fell.' Doctor [doing his 'don't question me, I'm an immortal timetraveller' voice]: 'I know, I was there.'. Rory: 'So was I'), and the Doctor is acting particularly dark and trying to stamp his authority on a set of friends who are clearly hiding something big from him [Amy advanced as well, but her character is one thing that Black Spot got right]. Black Spot jarringly ignores all this and goes to a story (and depiction of the Doctor) that would have fitted far better in a lighter time for the Doctor, while making Rory the 'comic klutz' that he spent the previous season growing out of (and I don't mean post-curse Rory - I mean the way the character acts before then).

Actually Rory's another example of Moffat serving far better as a key writer than as a showrunner. The character, as Moffat writes him, has a great self-depreciating humour that the actor nailed. But a lot of the other writers didn't seem to be on the same page, and had little idea of how to use Rory for comic relief outside of pratfall jokes. This is actually Moffat's fault - he's the showrunner, and it's his job to coordinate the writers to get the illusion of consistent characters despite different authors writing different episodes. Being a good writer in his own episodes isn't enough. Note the similarity between the lack of coordination with Rory, and that with the show's current companion which marred the last season.

One of the best bits of news I've heard for this season was Moffat commenting in an interview that he'd put more work into coordinating the writers this season, including getting all of the writers to a series of sitdowns where they'd try to tell orally the overarching story and character arcs. It seems to speak to his main weakness as showrunner (I wonder if his own writing background actually hinders Moffat here - he's used to showrunners respecting his work to the point where they trust him enough to let him go without much interference...which might not be the best attitude to take in when taking over the showrunning duties himself) - his era's problems with sexism have themselves arisen mostly from this lack of coordination resulting in 'blank slate' female companions who just don't have enough of a defined character to meaningfully challenge the doctor.

Gatiss found form with 'Cold War'. Would be silly not to reuse a writer with an excellent overall record (despite bombing repeatedly at Dr Who) when he's just found form in the show's format.

Moffat has commented (indirectly) on this. After Gaiman's successful go at 'The Doctor's Wife', Moffat was asked whether they'd hire more non-television writers. Moffat's response was that he'd continue to consider occasionally commission scripts from non-television authors on a case-by-case basis, but that such episodes are very difficult to produce. Even with an excellent script, the showrunner inevitably has to rewrite it before it has the right pacing for a tv episode, for it hit the right length for a 45min episode (Gaiman's script for TDW was closer to film-length), to manage production costs (non-tv authors don't usually think about whether something can be written in a way that allows sets from prior episodes to be recycled, and when they do they aren't experienced at judging whether a particular recycling of a past set will actually work - conversely, it's also common to have to do rewrites because you have a higher budget than their script envisages and you're worried the excellent story will get lost if the visuals look bland compared to other episodes).

Basically, it means hiring and paying for an experienced writer, but then having to devote the amount of extra resources that you'd budget for a junior writer - it can certainly be worthwhile, but there's just not enough time for the showrunner to have more than one such episode per season, and even then it's enough of a hassle that you've really got to be expecting something brilliant from the writer.

That would seem to apply to Briggs as well. Too much of a 'standard doctor who' writer - it isn't that he couldn't write a good script, it's that his work really isn't distinct enough to make it worthwhile. Gaiman, by comparison, has a very distinctive style, to the point where there aren't many tv writers you could call upon to say 'write me a Gaiman-style story'.

I find with a lot of series 7 episodes that they could have benefited from being an hour... There wasn't enough story for a two-parter, but definitely too much for 45 minutes. I would also add that there are some good scripts that were poorly realised. As you quite rightly said, Ashley Walters was rubbish. He is in most things I've seen him. But Crimson Horror suffered from similar problems, as did Rings of Akhaten. Name of the Doctor was good until you start watching Day of the Doctor and realise that they are going to leave the cliffhanger unresolved. How did they escape without dying?

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