Join Quench as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Doctor Who broadcast. We still have that but it’s quite shocking when you look back. I think, in general, 60s and 70s television was a lot more squeamish about things like sex and nudity than we are, but could be quite violent. I was hugely excited about the lost episodes, I stayed up until late to watch them straight away. It was a surreal feeling. It’s been in your head for thirty, forty years and suddenly it’s there. It’s like rediscovering something from history, like a new work of Leonardo Da Vinci turning up!
What Russell did was expand it and put in a real feeling of ‘what would this feel like and what would it be like to be travelling through time and space?’ Considering your work on the sarah Jane adventures, what do you think are the differences between writing for children and family? Writing for children can actually be a lot more serious. Children will pay much more attention to the plot and they will notice things more. A few times in Sarah Jane a scene would last about five minutes just explaining the premise of something, you wouldn’t really risk that in Doctor Who. Douglas Adams once said: ‘the jokes are there for the adults, the plot is there for the kids’. Stories are new to children and you have to respect that. It’s difficult because writing Doctor Who is so unlike writing anything else, you can’t compare it to anything else. It’s very fast moving, and the tone changes within a few seconds. It’s a very hard job and, if I may say so, a very unique skill to have! What do you think is the secret to the show’s longevity and can you see it changing over the next 50 years?
It changes all the time. If you look at the first episode of Coronation Street, for example, it’s still recognisably the same show that it is today. With Doctor Who every so often it changes. The lead actor changes, the design changes, the feel of it changes. That’s part of the reason that it has gone on for so long. Different writers, producers, doctors and companions come in and consequently every so often you are being presented with something entirely new. It wasn’t built into the format when it started, it was an accidental thing, but it has become the icing on the cake of the show. You can look at clips from 1965, 1975, 2005, or even 2015 soon enough, and they’ll all look totally different. What do you think it is about Doctor Who that attracts such devoted fans and why it appeals to both adults and children? Every episode is somebody’s first episode. One thing that’s very important is to keep a sense of wonder about the series. You have to constantly remind the viewers of how amazing it is! Say you are a five year old girl now, you are going to tune in next year to Peter Capaldi, which will be a whole new show to you. So in a way, every series is the first series. the fans really are so devoted, there are a lot of hardcore Whovians. Definitely but there are also a hell of a lot of people who aren’t that into it, yet still watch it fairly religiously. You have varying degrees of your audience and you are always trying to hold that audience and increase it. It’s a question of making it open and welcoming to anybody. So yes, there are hardcore fans who know everything that’s ever happened, and then there are those which know hardly anything at all about the show, and they are just as important. So, it’s like a balance of capturing the two types of fans? Yeah, and I think this year, particularly with the 50th anniversary, there is a lot of pay off and warmth for the whole history of it. But normally it’s more a question of moving on and finding new things to explore, reinventing the series each time.
Gareth is currently working on the new Peter Capaldi episodes for Doctor Who Series 8.