Doctor Who - Documentary s03e01 Episode Script

All's Wells That Ends Wells

MATTHEW SWEET: I think that the most obvious meeting point between Doctor Who and H.
G.
Wells is the Colin Baker story "Time Lash".
-Hello.
-Hello.
But the idea that H.
G.
Wells should have been inspired by Doctor Who is kind of the wrong way round, because at the very beginning of Doctor Who, in those early '60s stories, we're looking at a kind of science fiction that had its roots emerging from the science fiction that H.
G.
Wells was writing in the last few years of the 19th century.
Herbert George Wells was born in September, 1866 in Bromley, which is just outside Southeast London.
He can from what, I suppose you would call a sort of lower-middle-class background.
His mother was a maid-servant.
And his father, rather oddly, was a professional cricketer.
When he was 14, he was apprenticed to a draper.
And I think standing behind that counter, he must have come to a lot of early conclusions about, you know, the nature of British society, the stratification of British society.
He thought he was going to die.
He, while playing football, was grievously injured, and a doctor kind of told him he probably wouldn't live much past 30.
So he got very, very busy in his 20s.
DOMINIC SANDBROOK: He published stuff in the Pall Mall Gazette.
And he was a bit like Dickens, in the sense of being a sort of aspiring popular writer, somebody who was going to write for magazines, somebody who was going to write novels that people, you know, lots of people, read.
And The Time Machine is the one that grabs, you know, public attention.
And it's the one that takes quite a young man and begins to turn him into a literary celebrity of the day.
The Time Machine is about an inventor who creates A machine that transcends time itself.
SWEET: He throws the levers and time swooshes around him, like a film being speeded up.
This is a book published in 1895, when the Lumière brothers are holding their first show.
So it's an idea of that, that's sort of in the air.
So he watches history unfold.
SANDBROOK: He finds himself in a world where the human race has effectively degenerated into two different species, the Eloi and the Morlocks.
SWEET: The idea of evolution is very much in the air.
People are asking, "Where will this process take us next?" And what Wells visualises is a world that has been transformed beyond recognition by the processes of evolution.
SANDBROOK: Then he goes on, into the far future, sees the destruction of the Earth, the last days of life on this planet.
Then he comes home and he relates the story.
He says, "Oh, I'm just going to go on one more trip.
"And this time, I'll get some real proof.
" And then he disappears, never seen again.
(WHOOSHING) Many Wells stories obviously have, you know, had their influence on "The Ark".
But the key one is The Time Machine.
And if you go through "The Ark", I mean, it's just extraordinary.
The traveller, when he first arrives, he sees this figure of the sphinx, in which his time machine is later hidden and he has to break into it to get it out.
Well, obviously in "The Ark", when the travellers first arrive, one of the first things they see is the statue that is being built.
And then when they arrive for the second time, again, it's the first thing they see.
And, as in the Wells story, there's something hidden in the statue, which becomes crucial to the resolution of the plot.
SWEET: The invisible Refusians are, I suppose, a variation upon Griffin, the invisible man from Wells' story.
Those scenes we see of objects moving around inside, you know, what might actually look rather like an Edwardian drawing room that's been created on the planet Refusis II.
SANDBROOK: The reversal.
First you think the Guardians sort of have the upper hand and then they're going to swap places with the Monoids, is the same as what happens When the traveller arrives in the future in the Wells story, he thinks, you know, the Eloi are the masters and they're the sort of bosses and then he realises actually, it's the other way around.
The Guardians and the Monoids don't have the same relationship that the Eloi and the Morlocks have because the Eloi and the Morlocks The Eloi are really the Morlocks' cattle.
And at the beginning of "The Ark", that's not the relationship between the Guardians and the Monoids.
What I think perhaps "The Ark"more resembles is Wells' later novel The Sleeper Awakes That's true.
a revolution overthrowing the upper classes who haven't been concentrating properly on looking after the welfare of the lower classes.
SWEET: We know that there are only a few million humans in those funny little drawers.
So where did the rest of them go? Well, this is an idea that Wells was very, very keen on, a special group of humans who would really rule over the rest of humanity and represent what was best about them.
It's a slightly sinister idea but it's one you can read in "The Ark" because of this idea of them being really the people who look after the human race, the guardians of the human race.
They're something separate from the rest of us.
Hey, look at him, then.
SWEET: This game park flying through space is something that Wells writes about in The Outline of History.
And he envisages a time when the massacre of animals is over.
Quite an eccentric idea for a man writing in the first 10 years of the 20th century.
(SNEEZES) Dodo's lethal cold is a nice twist on what happens at the very end ofThe War of the Worlds, when the Martian invaders are felled by this bacteria from Earth.
I've got to say, at the time "The Ark" went out, probably even I thought, "No, this is from the film The First Men in the Moon.
" Where an earthling takes a cold to another planet and all the aliens catch it and civilisation is wiped out.
And that's a kind of mutated Wellsian idea that Nigel Kneale, who's a very great influence on Doctor Who, had put into the film script of First Men in the Moon, which came out in about 1963.
That's probably where the idea filters into Doctor Who.
Wells is certainly one of the progenitors of British science fiction.
I mean, I think Wells is the father of science fiction.
I think he has a far greater claim than, say, Jules Verne has.
NEWMAN: Jules Verne was the science fiction default guy before Wells.
When Wells sent his astronauts to the Moon in a diving bell covered in anti-gravity paint, Jules Verne said, "Well, I sent my astronauts to the Moon with gunpowder.
" Yeah.
"Here is my gunpowder.
" Yeah.
"Where is Monsieur Wells' Cavarite?" And Wells sort of shrugged and said, "It's a story.
" He's a master of blending the everyday and the unusual.
So, you know, in The War of the Worlds, Martian invaders in, kind of, suburban southeastern England.
That's something that Doctor Who does, obviously, brilliantly.
And that's a very British contribution, I think, to science fiction.
I think it's something we do particularly well to sort of ground the sensational in the mundane.
And I think so much of that goes back to H.
G.
Wells.
What Wells does is take these ideas and put them into a form of fiction that is just very, very popular and very, very widely read, and has all of the attractions of late-Victorian narrative fiction.
Other people have tried to speculate about the future of humanity.
But it's rather more like a kind of treatise than it is a thumping good story.
And that's what you've got with Wells, a man who understands the dynamics of popular fiction and also can bring to it these incredibly sophisticated and forward-looking ideas.
NEWMAN: War of the Worlds, Time Machine, The Invisible Man, Doctor Moreau, they have enough content for anybody.
I mean, they're really serious books with big ideas.
But they're also just ripping yarns.
They have that Ancient Mariner grab-you-by-the-lapel- and-force-you-to-listen-to-this story.
It's clear that this kind of frame, this kind of thought experiment, gave Wells the ability to talk about ideas about society and ideas about evolution in ways that one just couldn't in a mimetic novel depicting 1890s London.
NEWMAN: A really good example of this is The World Set Free, which is the one that features atomic warfare.
Wells read a very abstruse scientific paper on the decay of radium particles and instantly made a connection, atomic bomb.
Science! But once he'd done that, he also came up with the story.
Fiction! Like all forms of fiction, science fiction is a literature of story.
And idea and story are very different things.
Thinking, "Oh, we might be invaded by creatures from another world," that's an idea.
War of the Worlds is a story.
SWEET: The documents upon which Doctor Who was founded show the people who were working in that pre-production period were researching contemporary science fiction very, very deeply.
They were reading Brian Aldiss.
They were going to, you know, have lunch with Brian Aldiss in Oxford and talk about what's great in contemporary British science fiction.
Brian Aldiss was a leading figure in British science fiction.
He was at the time the secretary of the British Science Fiction Association.
SWEET: I think it's extraordinary that so little of that fed through.
NEWMAN: I think Doctor Who does draw much more on film and TV, maybe even draws on radio, to some extent, as its precedent.
And this is partly because it's made by film and TVpeople.
And film and TVpeople you know, they look to film and TV, rather than necessarily reading the books.
Obviously, you can't talk about where Doctor Who comes from without talking about Quatermass.
Science fiction, when it was scary, was something that got people hooked.
And that even with the very limited resources of technology and visual effects, you could put something on screen whose strangeness was shocking.
That's the one thing when you watch 1960s Doctor Who, the idea of how utterly unlike anything else on television this was.
It's surprising how long it takes for Quatermass to exert an influence upon Doctor Who.
Doesn't really start, I don't think, until Patrick Troughton turns up.
And I think that's because Doctor Who more or less has its roots in the 19th century.
It's sort of H.
G.
Wells meets Conan Doyle.
The fact that we don't know what the Doctor's name is is an inheritance from The Time Machine.
We don't know what the time traveller's name is.
The reason Doctor Who has survived isn't just because it's a great concept, it's because it's a great character.
And that's the one thing they couldn't get by talking to loads of science fiction writers.
I mean, I think over the years, Doctor Who has occasionally done this, has tried to get lots of science fiction people in and thrown the ideas about.
But it's still, particularly in the new series, it comes down over and over again to character, how we feel about these people.
SANDBROOK: Doctor Who is a sort of popular adventure programme with elements of sci-fi, with a massive dose of horror, with elements of fantasy and whatnot.
But I don't think it's primarily science fiction.
KEEN: Doctor Who hooked us into science fiction.
From there we went to read other science fiction.
Has Doctor Who been a good thing for science fiction in general? Yes, I think it has.
But really, Doctor Who is melodrama.
It's not science fiction, I don't think quite.
Its science is all nonsense, isn't it? And you know, who cares? That's true! True! SWEET: I think Wells would have thought Doctor Who wasn't quite taking things seriously enough, really.
Didn't have enough despair in it.
I mean, when you think about what Wells was like at the end of his life, writing his essay Mind at the End of Its Tether, predicting nothing really but doom.
Towards the end of his life, Wells hated his own earlier books as well.
I mean, he always resented when people came up to him and said, "I really love The Time Machine.
" He'd say, "No, no, no "Haven't you read my 18-volume history?" you know or Wells is a very ambiguous figure.
He's ambiguous about his own writings, he's ambiguous about his politics, his socialism, about Britain, all sorts of things.
And I think he would have had a sort of conflicted view of Doctor Who.
He would have seen the possibilities of a vehicle to bring his interest in science, and to bring his sort of his interest in ideas to a wider public.
But I think he would also have been He would have seen it possibly as a You know, that very populism would be something that he would also despise.
SWEET: Although, in its early years, it seems absolutely loyal to many of the founding interests of his fiction.
So I think he would have seen worlds that he recognised, but I think he would have liked everybody in them to just stop being silly.
-Oh, no, don't worry about me, Doctor.
-I'm not.