Doctor Who - Documentary s10e18 Episode Script

Dr. Forever! - The Unquiet Dead

I have to say, I never thought it was coming back.
I always thought it was a very good thing to pitch for and I really thought it was dead.
It was like everything we did was the antithesis of cool.
We're going to bring back Doctor Who, and everyone was kind of (SNIGGERS) And we're going to do it in Wales, and everyone (SNIGGERS) But, you know, it just worked.
NARRATOR: Many people assumed Doctor Who had died forever in 1996.
But two years later, a show called Queer as Folk brought its writer to the attention of the BBC's Controller of Drama.
Mal Young always wanted Doctor Who to come back.
He was one of its greatest champions.
And this was just before Queer as Folk came out, so there was a buzz.
So he must have got in touch with my agent or something.
He said, "Do you want to talk about stuff?" And I said, "Well, let's talk about Doctor Who.
" I remember, actually, someone in the room said, "Why don't we bring Tom Baker back?" And everybody else went, "Yes.
" At the time I sort of went I was kind of sitting there going with anything.
I was like, "Yeah, that'd be great.
" And it was quite a good, concrete conversation but I sat there and I said, "Do you know" 'Cause I'm an old Doctor Who fan, so I knew some of the details and stuff, so I said, "Do you know there might be a problem "with the rights with Universal?" I wasn't sure what it was, but I said, "I think there's a problem with the rights.
" "No," they went.
"We're the BBC.
We can do anything.
" So, I left that meeting.
That meeting actually came to a very abrupt end because the man who'd sent me in there for the meeting, Tony Wood, resigned that day and turned up at the meeting drunk and said, "Let's go out drinking.
" (LAUGHS) So, literally, I was in there about 20 minutes, and then he pulled me out of the meeting and I went.
So I thought, "Well, that wasn't very good.
" So I really cocked that up and then about two weeks later, my agent got a phone call from the BBC saying, "Oh, we've just discovered that the rights aren't available.
" And I'm suddenly going, "I told you so.
" NARRATOR: In 2001, Russell was invited for a second meeting.
He brought with him some dinosaurs.
'Cause I'd had a series out called Bob & Rose that was very much liked by a lot of people.
So, again, the BBC wanted to meet me.
I think they got in touch with me about doing a science-fiction version of A Tale of Two Cities with the author China I don't know how to say his surname, China MiƩville.
I should never have turned that down.
I should have worked with him, 'cause he's brilliant.
But I said no, 'cause I said, "If I'm going to do science fiction with the BBC, "then I want to do Doctor Who.
" So then they summoned another meeting.
That's when I went on about the dinosaur software.
Walking with Dinosaurs came along and I remember thinking, "Look, dinosaur, software, Doctor Who, pterodactyls.
" And it's funny, the sequence that always went into an episode called It was "Partners In Crime".
"Partners In Crime", where the Doctor's trapped on a window-cleaner's cradle, being attacked.
There was a pterodactyl in that episode, and there's a pterodactyl flying around the building because you've got the software.
I was pitching all that sort of stuff.
And I also sort of said Wait, I remember, in that meeting, I also went on The Weakest Link was very big at the time, as well, I think, and I went on about how they should have like a robot Anne Robinson, which I did end up using in an episode called "Parting of the Ways".
So, I'm sort of throwing stuff out.
Now I look back, it was probably a mad meeting.
I was probably rambling.
In hindsight, I think that was one of those meetings where they actually said, "We want to work with you, "and we'll listen to your Doctor Who nonsense.
" So, that was the second meeting.
NARRATOR: Shortly afterwards, Jane Tranter arrived as the BBC's new Head of Drama, and Doctor Who's biggest champion.
Jane Tranter, who loves that show and loves it, and her kids love it now and it's really close to her heart.
She used to be floor manager for John Nathan-Turner.
Late 1980s, I was a secretary in the BBC in what was then called the Series and Serials Department.
There were all sorts of amazing things happening.
And the only thing I could really, really get excited about was the fact that I was working in the same building that Doctor Who was being made in.
Doctor Who wasn't regarded by everybody in the same way that I saw it, which was really the most glamorous show that the BBC could be making and what seemed to me like the most exciting one.
But it wasn't a piece that anyone particularly wanted to work on.
The memories I have of John Nathan-Turner was of a man who would whirl through the BBC canteen followed by an entourage.
All the rest of us looked a bit sort of dowdy and a bit earnest, or we looked like bag ladies.
John Nathan-Turner and his posse just looked to me impossibly glamorous.
And I would just hang around until some assistant floor manager who was working on Doctor Who would let me go in and do their job for a weekend.
And so what I did do on Doctor Who, and I will never forget doing this, I spent several weekends in Acton rehearsal rooms doing what was called a mark-up.
Some poor new person spends hours on their hands and knees on a really dirty studio floor with what looks like a big architect's plan, which is the production designer's studio plan, and you have to measure it all out.
Then you get these strips of marking tape, and I had done many of these for police precincts and Casualty sets and they were really quite straightforward.
And then I sat down one Saturday afternoon with the Tardis set, and you can imagine, it was so complicated.
I kept thinking, "Bloody hell, this is really, really annoying," versus "I'm marking up the Tardis.
"This is unbelievable!" And spent ages doing it, and got to the end, grubby, covered in dust, muck, everything, and I had done them all upside down.
I had to pull the whole thing up and do it all over again.
So, in fact, when I say I worked on Doctor Who, I got to mark the Tardis set-up twice.
It went very unnoticed.
She said, "I want to bring back Doctor Who "with Judi Dench as the Doctor.
" Do you remember that? It was tucked away.
It was a tiny little thing.
You thought, "That was all was her ambition.
" It was always there.
People don't realise how much Jane loves Doctor Who.
The programme had just travelled with me for so long, it was such a formative piece of television drama for me.
And I think it was never a question of thinking, "I realise now I want to bring Doctor Who back" as much as "I realise now that this is the moment to bring it back.
" NARRATOR: Jane's moment came when Lorraine Heggessey, the Controller of BBC1, asked her to help revitalise Saturday nights.
In a way, we were going on two beautifully level twin tracks, with Lorraine thinking, "Okay, I've got Casualty going really well on Saturday night.
"What else can I do to add audience magnetism around it?" At the same time as I was coming up the other track with Doctor Who, and it just meshed.
And they were rebuilding their Saturday nights and working out that they didn't want an entertainment show on a Saturday night, they wanted drama.
It was Jane and Lorraine Heggessey together building their strategy.
I began to raise the idea of it with Lorraine just gently, and said, "I think that we're coming to the point "where it would be a good idea to make Doctor Who.
" NARRATOR: Doctor Who owed its rebirth to a chance meeting at a party.
During that time, I went to the press launch of Linda Green in Manchester.
I wrote one of those.
It was a Paul Abbott series.
And there was a big launch here in Manchester.
It was in the days when the BBC had money to do stuff.
And so Jane Tranter was there.
Now, she was Head of Drama or Controller of Drama.
That was the most important person I'd got to meet, really.
And I had never met Russell before.
I was a huge fan, obviously.
DAVIES: When you write an episode of someone else's series, you're kind of in a lesser status as a writer.
So, I was really pissed off.
Am I allowed to say "pissed off"? (CHUCKLES) I was really annoyed.
I was really annoyed that I was meeting Jane Tranter in a lesser status, just when I wanted to talk about Doctor Who and things like that.
So, I almost didn't bother.
There was this big launch party and Nicola Shindler It was Nicola Shindler who went, "Go and talk to her.
Go and talk to Jane Tranter.
"Go and say that you want to do Doctor Who.
" I remember Nicola coming up and seeing me at the press launch and she said, "Russell's over there and he'd love to meet you, "and by the way, he's got something he wants to talk to you about.
" And I thought that was fantastic, Russell T Davies has got something he wants to talk to me about.
Ooh! And, uh Nicky said, "He wants to talk to you about Doctor Who, "but I think he's a bit shy.
" And I was quite heavily pregnant at the time with twins, so I was kind of like out here, and ludicrously, like a lot of women who have children slightly later, believe that you somehow have to sort of try not to look pregnant while you're pregnant, which is just crazy, particularly with twins.
So I was trying to take away attention to this enormous bump that I had with really high wedges.
And I saw Russell over the other side, and two things occurred, one, I nearly gave birth on the spot with the words "Russell would like to talk to you about Doctor Who" and secondly, "He's shy.
" And I was thinking no one can be shy about this.
This is really important.
And I ran, pregnant and on wedges, across the room to get to Russell.
Arriving going (PANTING) I could hardly breathe 'cause of these things, and having got across the room.
And it was almost like, um you know, wanting to ask someone on a date and not quite being able to ask them on a date.
I literally thought I'd bored her, I'd annoyed her.
We obviously, you know, said something about my bump, in the way that you do.
He said something about Linda Green, in the way that you do, and I was just looking at him, thinking, "Doctor Who.
This is it.
Doctor Who.
This is it.
Doctor This is it.
" I went up to Jane Tranter and went, "Hello, it's nice to meet you properly, "and don't you think we should do Doctor Who? "We should do it properly and make it marvellous and blah, blah, blah.
" And I went, "That's great.
That's fine.
" And she said, "Oh, yes, that's a nice idea.
" Like they do.
He actually didn't have to tell me anything.
I knew it would be impossible for Russell not to have done Doctor Who.
And I remember thinking, "Oh, that's" I was really sort of kicking myself, and do you know what? The funny thing is, I wouldn't have done it again after that meeting 'cause I sort of walked away from that thinking, "This is getting embarrassing now.
" That was it, and I remember taking the train back to London thinking, "Okay, this is it.
" It was literally that Linda Green press launch in the Lowry Hotel that forged the entire creation of Doctor Who.
I don't know, if I'm really honest, that I would ever necessarily have put two and two together and found Russell for Doctor Who myself.
The moral is just keep nagging.
NARRATOR: Reaching the next step took time.
It was about a year before a phone call came from the BBC.
That's why I thought nothing came of it.
There was some stuff that needed sorting in terms of how we were going to fund the show and ironing out a few bits and pieces on the rights and stuff, but I told Lorraine, I went off, I had the children.
And I came back from maternity leave and we started.
But about, I think, a year later, or a year and a half, that's when the phone call came, saying, "Would you like to do it?" NARRATOR: Jane's task wasn't helped by being almost the show's only supporter in the BBC at the time.
TRANTER: Well, Lorraine Heggessey was completely brilliant.
Unmoving in her championship that, yes, Doctor Who was the right thing to do.
Around and about everyone else, I think, to say that people rolled their eyes was an understatement.
And the number of times I had people make comments about wobbly sets and aliens made out of egg cartons.
As if anyone Does anyone remember anyone ever making an alien costume out of egg cartons on Doctor Who? I don't remember that.
And why would anyone think that we were going to build sets that were wobbly? NARRATOR: Even Russell doubted the BBC could make the show properly.
Tell you what I thought, I thought, "Right.
Fine.
They're saying they want to do Doctor Who, "but they won't have the money for it "and I bet it's going to be on BBC Three.
" I literally had this, "I bet it's going to be BBC Three at 9:00 "on a Monday night, or something like a retro "Or not retro, punky sort of modern deconstructed version of Doctor Who.
"They don't mean Saturday night Doctor Who with a proper budget.
" That was impossible back then.
So they phoned me about it and I didn't follow it up, 'cause I thought, "That's just going to be trouble.
" NARRATOR: Russell instead decided to write Casanova for ITV.
In 2003, when the drama was turned down, its producer went for a job interview at the BBC.
Her name was Julie Gardner.
Julie went for an interview to be head of BBC Wales, so she met Jane Tranter for the first time.
And she's so cheeky, she literally walked through the door with these Casanova scripts, saying, "Yes, I would love to take the job, thank you very much, "and please can we make these?" And then in return Jane Tranter sort of went, "Right, yes, good, so we want you to be head of BBC Wales "and we want you to get Russell and make Doctor Who.
" And I thought, well, there's Julie and there's Russell and there's Doctor Who and we need to make Doctor Who somewhere and there's really no drama coming from Wales at all.
So what if they go to Wales to make this, and would this be the worst idea in the world or the best idea in the world? It was the first time anyone ever mentioned Doctor Who to Julie.
I was on holiday in France at the time and she phoned me up, saying, "Right, I'm taking the job.
" We talked about Casanova for half an hour.
It was all Casanova, blah, blah, blah.
We're going to make that, it'll be marvellous, etcetera, etcetera.
At the end of that it was like, "By the way, they're serious about Doctor Who.
" I said, "Really?" Julie hadn't seen a lot of Doctor Who.
Julie Gardner is the most brilliant enthusiast in the entire world and would love anything before she's seen it.
But even Julie Gardner said, "I'm just going to watch some DVDs.
"I'm just," only in a broad Welsh accent, "I'm just going to catch up with you on all of this.
" And she watched it and I remember her ringing me up and she was just kind of like (IMITATES VOMITING) She was just this kind of like, you know, volcano of excitement and enthusiasm.
NARRATOR: Russell and Julie went in to see Jane Tranter, who told them to go and make six episodes of Doctor Who.
Six or eight episodes, go and see how much money you can raise.
I used to think, well, this might be the last season of Doctor Who ever.
If this doesn't work, that's it.
So, we might as well try for 13.
So you can get as many different stories as you can out of it, and it'll really be remembered, instead of just six and gone.
And very quickly, when you went to Worldwide, that's when all that started to snowball, 'cause Worldwide Um, they weren't exactly leaping up and down at Worldwide.
It was like everything we did was the antithesis of cool.
We're going to bring back Doctor Who, and everyone was kind of (SNIGGERS) And we're going to do it in Wales, everyone (SNIGGERS) But, you know, it just worked.
I often read it in Doctor Who Magazine and stuff like that, saying that there was a piece of research done for the BBC, saying that Doctor Who wouldn't be successful because children would associate it with their parents in a bad way.
That's not true.
That research was done by BBC Worldwide.
It was never mentioned at the BBC.
And the marketing research had not been done to tell us whether or not we should commission Doctor Who.
The marketing research had been done to tell us how to market Doctor Who, which always strikes me as the best use of marketing research.
If it was mentioned in Drama, it was ignored.
People just went, "We don't believe that.
" And the marketing research came back really quite clearly saying, "There is great awareness of Doctor Who and very little desire to see it.
" The funding and the merchandising and the marketing side, they did that research, which turned out to be completely wrong.
Ha-ha! They would literally stop you in meetings with this research.
You just have to carry on.
NARRATOR: Faced with a sceptical Worldwide, it was an uphill struggle to raise the money.
I think people think the BBC writes a cheque and says, "That's for Doctor Who.
"Off you go and make it.
" And funding that show is immensely complicated.
You start filming and you haven't got a guarantee of all the money.
You start filming the second year and you don't have a guarantee of all the money This is always happening.
The funding shifts, there's money coming in from Canada.
You know, the first two years of Doctor Who, that mysterious credit at the end saying, "Thank you to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
" They wanted to dub Chris Eccleston with a Canadian actor.
We had to say, "No, you can't do that.
"You're not doing that.
"You're not doing that to our lead actor.
" Can you imagine? NARRATOR: The show's executives then tried to sell it to America.
Would the country go for a series about a doctor not set in a hospital? I mean, it must have been quite fun, I think, to have been a fly on the wall, to have been with Russell pitching "Doctor Who has a Tardis, "Time and Relative Dimension in Space, "that's embodied in a blue police box.
" That would have been quite funny.
BBC Worldwide said to us, "Don't pitch the historical ones.
" American networks just wouldn't be interested in stuff set in history.
I thought that was rubbish, but we did that.
We didn't mention the World War II story, we didn't mention Dickens.
That was the only thing we played down.
Everything else was played up to the hilt.
I mean, now it's a different matter when you talk about Doctor Who in Los Angeles.
They've heard about Doctor Who and it's phenomenally successful and they've got a completely different attitude towards it.
We were in America sitting in a Starbucks there when we decided Chris was absolutely the man.
We'd always known that, but that's when we absolutely nailed our colours to the mast together.
So, anyway, we went to just about every single channel pitching Doctor Who, and again, that was good for us, for everyone to hear my pitch of what Doctor Who would be, pitching it to raise money, but it was never going to happen.
NARRATOR: Worse was to happen inside the BBC, where an old enemy had returned.
The person who was completely opposed to bringing Doctor Who back was Michael Grade.
He arrived at the BBC and he heard that we were doing it and he thought this was a really bad idea.
I kept on waiting for it to fall through.
If you'd have met me then, I'd have said, "Yeah, I'm doing Doctor Who.
For as long as it lasts.
" And Mark Thompson had just come back from Channel 4, where he'd briefly been chief executive and became Director General of the BBC.
I remember sitting in Mark Thompson's office and Mark Thompson asked me if we could stop making it.
Clearly, Lorraine and myself had gone absolutely Tonto and had slipped on a great big banana skin and decided to make Doctor Who.
And he said could we not do it? Were we able to stop? And I said, "Well, no.
" NARRATOR: It was increasingly important that Russell was protected from the politics as much as possible while he developed the show.
My job was to clear the space for Russell to do what he needed to do in.
The show that Jane Tranter and Lorraine Heggessey used to talk about, what they used to talk about as fantasy drama on a Saturday night was Lois & Clark.
That's very much what they wanted.
That was great for me to hear 'cause I was trying to get the tone of it.
Not that I was going to copy that or something.
But that warmth and the colours and the wit of that show.
It was a very, very clever show that respected its own its own mythology.
TRANTER: It's very easy.
I don't know if it's now part of my folk memory that I could say, and Russell did exactly what I thought he would, because Russell didn't do exactly what I thought he would.
Initially, they thought we'd start with the Daleks.
Episode one would be the Daleks, and that you'd have cliffhangers.
I think she thought there'd be two-part stories every time or something.
That's when I just went, "No.
" It wasn't that I didn't have views or that I wouldn't chat to him about it, but it really was that I was nearly always wrong and he was always right.
It takes a long time for you to get a working relationship with anyone, you know, or to settle into rhythms with each other.
It was right about that season I realised they were listening to me.
I assumed there'd be Daleks.
I mean, it didn't It just didn't really occur to me.
Russell said on the telephone I said something about it and he said, "Oh, no.
"I don't know about there being Daleks.
" And I was kind of, "Oh.
"Well, you know, won't the audience be expecting Daleks?" And he said, "You know, we'll talk about it.
" I remember going to the meeting thinking, "Oh, I've got a mountain to climb now.
" I had to take a deep breath and say, "No, it shouldn't be the Daleks.
"It shouldn't be a two-parter.
" And they go, "Okay.
" And he was right.
He was absolutely 100% right.
Doctor Who isn't about the Daleks, Doctor Who is about the Doctor.
'Cause I'd always pitched to Jane Tranter and everyone the fact that the Dalek story halfway through the season, we give you a second launch.
'Cause then you don't know, maybe the series would have been dying by that stage.
Maybe we would have been down to two million viewers and saying, "If we can get to the sixth week, "we can do a big launch saying the Daleks are back, "come to rescue the series.
" Ha-ha.
Of course, that's just a lesson in drama.
You don't put all your cards on the table first.
Russell was right.
NARRATOR: For a while it looked as though Doctor Who really wasn't going to be about the Daleks at all.
The Hancocks, who handle Terry Nation's estate, never had a single issue with the BBC or BBC Drama.
They had an issue I don't want to put words in their mouth, but I think they're on record as saying they have an issue with BBC Worldwide.
I think the Daleks in the past had been licensed out for the things that the Nation estate didn't agree with.
Julie used to handle that sort of stuff.
She said, "No, the negotiations have broken down.
"We can't have them," and it was just terrible.
I never thought that we would never have the Daleks.
I was resigned to us not having the Daleks for season one of Doctor Who.
And I just thought, well, if it's successful, we'll find a way of clearing this all up.
I was gutted, actually.
But we worked on a version of Rob Shearman's scripts without that.
We kind of brought forward an idea that I used in Series 3 near the end, of the Toclafane, those silver spheres with human heads in them, that were like an advanced version of the human race.
I brought that forward.
We would have done that instead of the Daleks.
And then it got That's where Julie is truly the most magnificent producer.
She just wouldn't let it lie.
Behind the scenes, I don't know what she did, but she literally beat people up and persuaded them and did whatever it took to do to swing the deal back round again.
And we got them.
It's only really when you approach casting, when we put someone like Chris, as well, of that stature, someone that the BBC wouldn't embarrass themselves to do that.
Once that started happening, it was like, "That's locked down now.
" NARRATOR: In late 2003, the new series was announced and suddenly viewers fell in love with Doctor Who all over again.
When it was announced it was coming back, a friend of mine texted me saying, "Oh, I love 'The Pyramids of Mars'.
" I was like, "How do you know the title of that?" But he loved it, that's why.
People love the Doctor and Doctor Who in a way that goes way beyond the boundaries of the square box.
I think it took them by surprise, when it came back, that there was such a bedrock.
Way beyond exclusive fandom, but a bedrock of love in a whole generation that liked it.
Doctor Who had re-entered the national conversation.
People were lining up to ask me, "Why are you doing that?" Other producers, independent producers and people I knew, literally people Nicola Shindler read it, going, "You're mad.
" They were just going, "You're mad to be doing this.
" I remember she said to me, "No matter how much you love it, "it's never going to be the success that you want it to be.
" (LAUGHING) TRANTER: I remember once saying to David, "You are going to be the next James Bond, " in a complete fangirl kind of way.
And David just looked at me and he said, "Why on Earth "would I want to play James Bond, having played the Doctor?" I'd forgotten all that.
It's funny when you look back, isn't it? God! It's a miracle it ever got made.