Friday, 18 December 2009

Doctor Who and the Interpersonal Dynamics Part Two.

So first off an apology for not updating this blog anywhere near as often as I had intended. As most of you reading this will know I knocked out a rough outline for a first series of a hypothetical Doctor Who series when I was unemployed and when I was travelling I really fleshed out a lot of my ideas in a dirty old notepad. When I returned to Blighty's fair shores I decided to cast these into the ether to see what other basement dwelling internet scum thought about them. But real life as it does got in the way, not that life has been exactly hectic but with a thousand distractions and calls on my time varying from the pleasurable to the tedious I've not had too much time to ramble incoherently on the internet about an imaginary television series.

But with Christmas around the corner I think I should at least do a brief update. 

Now one of the most successful things about RTD's first crack at Doctor Who was -as already mentioned - the relationship between Rose and Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. It's difficult to imagine a series of Doctor Who ever going back to that utterly emotionless, asexual Doctor Who that only creepy repressed fanboys could ever really love.  

Partly at least because that period of Doctor Who never really existed.*  

Despite what you'd think if you read any interview with Russel "T" Dog (as he has recently rebranded himself for that difficult transatlantic transition) The Doctor and Rose wasn't the first romance in Who history. It was the most explicit one obviously and the first one that was more important to the series than the monster of the week but it wasn't the first one.

It wasn't even the first romance between Doctor and Companion, Tom Baker and Romana, Jon Pertwee and Jo, Patrick Troughton and Jamie - all of these romances were subtly hinted at but clearly there for those that cared to look. 

So props to RTD for doing the best Who Romance ever but he wasn't the first one to do Who Romance and when I ascend to glory (when the wiseheads and greybeards of the BBC beat a path to my door to ask, nay beg, that I take over Doctor Who) I will be following the example of the previous writers and having a romantic relationship be one of the important cores of the series.

"But Jim, you've already said you'd cast the companion and the Doctor in a brother/sister relationship. We know you're from Shropshire but don't you think that's a bit much?"

To which I would smile knowingly and say... "Ah hah."

Because as well as the Doctor/Companion romance there is another tradition in Who that has been neglected in recent years but will be making a comeback in my Brave New World: The Companion/Companion relationship. 

The first companions; Ian and Barbara, were clearly at it like knives, as were Harry and Sarah Jane, Tegan and Nyssa (a sort of Dom/Sub relationship that no doubt), Jamie and Victoria, Jamie and Zoe, Jamie and the Tardis console... But I digress.

This post could ramble on incoherently for another seventy paragraphs but I shall cut it short and give you the gist: We can keep the Romance element that has been key to the renewed shows wide appeal and often gave the old show an emotional core that gubbins like Stargate or that thing with Kevin Sorbo on a spaceship lack by having our companions in the romance-ey state.

The most successful male companions have served to fill in the gaps where the Doctor fails to live up to the traditional hero mould (in fact for much of his tenure Ian was the hero and the Doctor was an anti-hero at best)  so why not have him step up to the plate to take over the romance part? 

*Well ok... long stretches of the eighties had the emotional reality of porridge soup. But it's my blog and I can stretch the truth if I want to. 

Friday, 4 September 2009

Doctor Who and the interpersonal dynamics.

One of the things RTD really got right when he brought back Doctor Who in 2005-ish -and the realisation that I was at university when 'new' Who started makes me feel really old. The fact that I am writing a blog on Doctor Who on a friday night should also make me feel old, but I prefer to chalk this one up to the fact that my hometown is a depressing place to be on a Friday night. It usually ends up with an angry mob bearing down on me with pitchforks and flaming torches. But I digress...

One of the things RTD really got right when he brought back Doctor Who was that the relationships between the recurring characters were absolutely crucial to the show's success. If the first TARDIS crew (Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor) hadn't been so brilliantly set up - I don't think any companions since have ever had the same depth as Ian and Barbara - it's unlikely the series would have lasted a year, let alone twenty plus.

The show has had different dynamics between the Tardis crew over the years, some of which have worked better than others. I spend a lot of time bitching about what's wrong with Doctor Who over on Gallifrey Base so I don't want to go into which I felt didn't work - especially as most of the bad dynamics are ones that were so bland it isn't really even worth attempting withering scorn - but here is a very shortlist of the Doctor/Companion dynamics that really worked:

1. Ian, Barbara and The First Doctor.

The ruthless, amoral git who would quite happily cave a bloke's head in with a rock is gradually warmed up and taught humanity and heroism by a pair of intelligent grown-ups who are almost certainly shagging.

2. The Second Doctor and Jamie.

The warm hearted, child like genius with occasional flashes of a more sinister side loves hanging out with his equally childlike and endlessly admiring best friend.

3. The Third Doctor and the Brigadier.

A difficult one to sum up in a pithy sentence this; Two heroes, one a maverick genius with contempt for any authority but his own, the other an establishement man with a staunch military mindset are constantly frustrated by each other but mostly understand and even come to love each other.

4.The Ninth Doctor and Rose.

Awkward, driven lug who's lost everything in a terrible offscreen war falls in love with a human girl and recovers his love of life. Then dies.

5. The Tenth Doctor and Donna.

[strike]Shrill, annoying manchild[/strike] Lonely, hubristic hero with an ego the size of a planet is best friends with a bolshy harridian who will not put up with any of his shit.

I'm sure I've forgotten some, and before people start jumping on my head because I've forgotten their favourite companion I'd just like to point out that this is about the relationships between the characters rather than which companion is bestest. Tom Baker for example was very well served by some extremely well developed and acted companions but aside from Harry there isn't very much difference between the way he interacts with say... Leela and Romana. Probably down to Tom's belief that the role of companion could be well filled by a talking cabbage that sat on the Doctor's shoulder and had the plot explained to them.

So that little paragraph and a bit meandered around the point that the show has encompassed an enormous range of dynamics (and I am getting as pissed off with typing that word as you are with reading it) and if you've got any comments on your favourite set ups from the show's history then I'd be interested to hear them.

So the challenge when doing your fantasy series is to come up with a dynamic that won't be tediously familiar to the fans or boring to the casual watchers and to do your best to keep it in keeping with the show's history: a companion/doctor relationship based on their passionate sado-masochistic love affair and interest in nazi memrobillia for example would not sit right with me.

Lacking any capability for original thought I was stumped. Then a while ago I was watching another tv series that featured a brilliant hero who has a couple of close friends that help him in his adventures and I realised that the dynamic between this hero and one of his assistants would translate pretty well to Doctor Who.

That show is Monk. Think about it for a second - the Doctor is brilliant, several rungs of intelligence smarter than even the smartest human being and he's unarguably a good person - having dedicated his life to battling evil wherever he finds it rather than shrugging and pissing off back to the TARDIS - but you can bet your life that if you knew any of him in real life there would be moments when you'd find him bloody irritating. All of his personalities - even the ones generally remembered as the 'Nice Ones' - can be selfish, rude and self absorbed. Just like Monk.

Now Sharona recognises that Monk is several galaxies smarter than she is, but she does not let him get away with bad behaviour and frequently bullies, cajoles and browbeats him. Monk isn't a show that's really big on character development but certain episodes do show the real affection between the two characters as well so we're never left wondering why Sharona doesn't just piss off if she finds her boss so annoying. Ok, I know that's eventually exactly what she did but that was more down to Bitty Schram's contract dispute than anything else. In short Sharona and Monk have a relationship not a million miles from annoying younger brother and irritated older sister.

And I think that if any sane woman travelled with the Doctor for any length of time that's probably how things would end up.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Frequently Asked Questions .

Or more realistically seldom to never asked questions. I suppose one could say they are questions I have asked myself but if that were the case then strictly speaking the list would look like this:

1. How did it come to this?
2. I wonder if they will have forgotten yet?
3. Is it time to go and root through the bins outside the kebab shop yet?

But I digress.


1. Isn't starting a blog on how you would run Doctor Who massively arrogant?

Why yes it is. In fact I would go so far as to describe it as a monstrous act of hubris on a par with anything from classical mythology.

2. So do you actually expect anything to come from this?

I'm not deluded. The best I hope for from this is that it will amuse some other Doctor Who fans, I may get a few tips and I may get a better understanding of the difficulties of running a tv show.

I expect that were anyone associated with the production ever to see this they would piss themselves laughing, pour themselves a stiff drink and forward the link to everyone else on the team. Who would also piss themselves laughing. It's only fair.

3. Why do you hate black people?

I do not hate black people.

4. So what format will Doctor Who take?

The current format, with a mixture of standalone and two parters in a series works. The old serial format was a dinosaur by the time Tom Baker was eying up the new bird playing Romana. I'd expand the episode length to an hour and cut the season length down to ten.

5. Um... Why?

An hour seems like a comfier length for advert free British tv than the current 'well it'll make it easier to sell to Johnny Foreigner' 45 minutes and making less stories a year will save time and money.

6. Ok, seems reasonable. Will the show keep the same time slot in the year?

Absolutely not. Doctor Who should be shown as the nights draw in, not in the height of summer when most sensible people are out having barbecues or drinking cider with sexually liberated girls named Rosie in nearby fields. The first episode of Doctor Who will be shown towards the end of September.

7. Where does this leave the Christmas Specials?

I'm not sure, it would be pretty weak to have only a few weeks break between the end of season episode and the 'Special' so I'm afraid I may have to ditch them. Maybe an Easter special instead?
8. So I have a long list of technical questions involving film stock and the like.

I leave that stuff to the techies - or 'serfs' as we shall now be calling them. We'll be shooting on film though because it looks better.

9. So do you think Doctor Who is a children's show, a family sho...

A children's show.

10. But its made by the drama department not CBBC...

Don't care. It's a children's show. Any episode of Doctor Who that isn't giving eight year olds nightmares isn't doing its job properly. Everyone else is along for the ride.

11. So what do you think Doctor Who should be?

The wonder of Doctor Who is that it can be different things at different times. Just because I would make the show one way doesn't mean I think any other styles are less valid. Except for the New Adventures obviously. They were just shit.

At its core Who should be simple stories about a smart bloke who turns up in various times and places in his malfunctioning time machine, finds something nasty and beats it. Not because he has to, or because it's his job or anything but because it's the right thing to do.

The Who universe is a dangerous, terrifying place where nearly everything wants to do something horrible to you and the Doctor can barely step out of the Tardis without good people dropping like flies all about him yet he never loses his sense of humour or belief that the little people matter.

12. So seriously, why do you hate black people?

Look what the hell is this all about?

So what's going on here then Jim?

What ho,

I suppose you're asking yourself what this blog is for. Well I suppose you could say its a place where I will put down my thoughts on my favourite television series; Doctor Who, and more specifically why everything about it is terrible.

Ok, that is a joke. It will be more dedicated to the television series I would make were the BBC to suddenly go insane and give the reins of the show to someone whose sole brush with producing a piece of film was helping my mate Tom out with his short piece 'Frankenhitler' in university.

I played the role of "Black Ops" and put the alka-seltzer in the bath. Happy days.