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. Catherine 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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