“I have two grandchildren - Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”—
As usual: you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
I am Neil Gaiman. I am not Steven Moffat. Steven Moffat is on a deadline somewhere typing up a Doctor Who script which starts filming in a couple of weeks. This means he gets to send me emails pointing out that since my episode of Doctor Who is actually shooting, right now, in a quarry, I don’t have anything to do, and probably I should just write this month’s Production Notes and tell you EVERYTHING to get you all excited and bouncy about a Doctor Who episode that’s still half a year away, and by the way, Neil, don’t actually give anything away.
Which is amazingly trusting of him, considering I announced to the world that I was writing an episode of Doctor Who about nine months before I was meant to. This is my column. I have total power here. If I wanted to tell you that we only cut the scene in the TARDIS swimming pool because Karen Gillan cannot swim (“But that’s impossible!” I told them. “Her legs are as long as two fully grown men! Tell her she just has to wiggle them! She’ll whoosh through the water like a speedboat!”) nobody could stop me.
Of course, I might be lying. Nobody could stop me doing that either.
This is how it happened.
A friend (it was flame-haired writer Jane Goldman) sent me some DVDs of the Ninth Doctor when Russell T Davies brought the show back, and I fell back in love in a heartbeat. (I’m not going to tell you that one of my earliest memories is making Daleks out of milkbottles at nursery school and going “EggsTERbinATE,” or that the first time I remember hiding behind the sofa was during The Web Planet, or how angry and hurt I was when Patrick Troughton stopped being the Doctor because he was the Doctor, or any of that stuff. I’m not even going to speculate about the pointlessness of a red Dalek, because according to my Dalek World annual Daleks cannot see the color red, so to all the other Daleks a red Dalek with grey bumps is going to be a magic invisible stealth Dalek, only given away by the floating grey bumps in the air, and if I started going on like that you would stop thinking of me as a Very Important Writer with So Many Awards I Had to Buy Them Their Own House and you would instead start thinking of me as someone who actually wonders what SIDRAT stood for and lose all respect for me.) I started writing on my blog about new Doctor Who. How very godo it was, when it was good.
I had dinner with Steven Moffat. According to my blog, it was on 27 March 2007. The blog entry says, in its entirety:
‘Dinner with Steven Moffat in Bar Shu, spent mostly in enthusiastic Dr Who neepery. I love my life.’ It has the label Bigger on the Inside.
It does not mention that halfway through the dinner – our first – Mr Moffat said, “Oh, *@#! It. You know that I’m going to be running Doctor Who, and I know that you want to write an episode, so why don’t we just stop dropping mysterious hints at each other?” and I asked him what the new companion would be like, and he told me all about Amy Pond, except for her name and her legs. (They are prosthetic legs and take up much of the budget for any episode they are in. That is why they are so ungodly long, and why they cannot go into water, and is why you will never see a scene with Amy Pond in the TARDIS swimming pool and why would I make this up? It’s in writing, like the things that you read in newspapers. It must be true.)
And that was that.
Except for having the idea, and calling Mr Moffat and saying “Er, this is my idea…” and him chortling over the phone and saying “Nobody’s ever told that story. And oh, I want to see it.”
And except for the writing of it, I will not mention the feeling of mind-croggling power and joy I felt the first time I typed ‘INTERIOR. TARDIS.’ Every first time Doctor Who writer does that.
I will tell you that it is a Proper Doctor Who episode (after all, it is filming in a quarry as we speak); that it was originally meant for Episode 11 of Season Matt Starts Here, which meant that Rory was not originally in it, because He Did Not Exist That Week; and that in January of this year, a month before it was due to start shooting, Steven Moffat wrote me the letter telling me that they were out of money, and that because I’d written a Very Expensive Episode they were bouncing me to Episode 3 of the new season, and would be shooting it right at the very beginning before they had used up all the money and please do not cry and he would buy me an apologetic dinner one day and he promised never to ask anything more of me ever again especially not to ask me to write a Production Notes for him the next time he got behind.
I wrote another version of it, with Rory in, because now he existed again.
And then the writing process became a joyful, or sometimes not so joyful, dance between dreams and budget. Seductive Devil’s Advocate Beth Willis would write to me pointing out that in order to make my episode they had already started taking other episodes behind the bike sheds and beating them up and stealing their dinner money so I had to stop complaining about losing the Flying Mermaid Army (not a real example) or the Planet of the Rain Gods (I am not actually denying this one) and that the budget no longer ran to auntie’s unfortunate right arm (but they found some small change under the sofa cushions and so now it does).
There was a table read. The guest star (it is the brilliant Suranne Jones, playing someone who is beautiful, which Suranne already is, and who bites, which I do not believe she does, and who might just turn out to be an old acquaintance with a new face) was amazing. The Doctor was there too, although sometimes he pretended to be an actor named Matt Smith, who is part giraffe, just to fool us all.
The script at the table read was great. It was also one day’s shooting too long, of course, so the sequence on the Planet of the Rain Gods went away. (“Do not offend the Rain Gods,” I warned them. “The sacrifice is all that has any chance of stopping the rain. It says so in the scene you are about to cut.”) But they did not listen to me.
It no longer begins with a sacrifice to the Rain Gods. Now it all starts in void-space, with something – or someone – we have not seen since The War Games, and a knock on the TARDIS door…
Somewhere in America
PS. As I type this, they are filming in a very rainy quarry. According to director Richard Clark’s Twitter feed, Crew wet. Cast wet. More rain on its way. All I can say is, I warned them. I suspect it will rain a lot in Cardiff from now on.