I recently presented a talk on Torchwood (Why Torchwood Still Matters) where I highlighted a few ways in which the show (airing from 2006 to 2011) came up with progressive and innovative ideas that are being used by other franchises today.
I always enjoy attending the SD (San Diego) WhoCon because the audiences are so well-informed on the Whoniverse and Whovians love Captain Jack and the crew that made this spinoff program so engaging.
While preparation for some lectures I was giving at the San Diego Who Con (a small and friendly, all vaxxed and masked politely convention celebrating the English sci-fi drama Doctor Who) I researched how the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, turned the 50 year old character into a female (long story unless you know the show).
That lead me to researching the writers he chose for the last two seasons to bring more diverse stories to the show.
One such story, The Haunting of the Villa Diodati, written by Maxine Alderton, involved meeting Mary Woolstencroft on the weekend of inventing Frankenstein. For that I found this post about the importance of writing soaps and how, because so many women do it, it has often been dismissed as lesser writing – but in fact, of course, it is not. I think it is yet another area of bias against female writers that needs to be quashed.
Maxie Alderton joins the world of Doctor Who this Sunday, far from her usual stomping ground of Emmerdale. But as the architect of some of the soap opera’s most innovative and exciting episodes of the past decade, she’s a name to watch
At first glance Maxine Alderton, writer of The Haunting of Villa Diodati, seems like a strange fit for Doctor Who. After all, of the new writers to join the Doctor Who team this season, she easily has the least background in science fiction and fantasy. And her main track record so far has been across the Yorkshire Dales for popular soap opera Emmerdale. But as soon as you scratch the surface she quickly emerges as an exciting and dynamic writer. One showing every sign of bringing something very special to Doctor Who indeed.
It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.
It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!
My focus was on the delicate work showrunner/writer Chris Chibnall had to do in realizing this new Doctor so it’s called “She is Wise and Unafraid” Writing the First Female Doctor and a Diverse Universe for her to Protect.
I touch on the myriad decisions a showrunner makes in creating a character from costuming to sidekicks (called companions in the Whoniverse) to dialogue. I was excited to have been invited to contribute to this collection and proud to showcase the way screenwriters work.
I know academic books can be expensive but you can always ask your local or college library to order a copy for you to read!
Doctor Who – new dawn explores the latest cultural moment in this long-running BBC TV series: the casting of a female lead. Analysing showrunner Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker’s era means considering contemporary Doctor Who as an inclusive, regendered brand. Featuring original interview material with cast members, this edited collection also includes an in-depth discussion with Segun Akinola, composer of the iconic theme tune’s current version. The book critically address the series’ representations of diversity, as well as fan responses to the thirteenth Doctor via the likes of memes, cosplay and even translation into Spanish as a grammatically gendered language. In addition, concluding essays look at how this moment of Who has been merchandised, especially via the ‘experience economy’, and how official/unofficial reactions to UK lockdown helped the show to further re-emphasise its public-service potential.
P.S. You can check out the trailer for Jodie’s upcoming 3rd season here:
I cover the ways in which I believe executive producer/showrunner Chris Chibnall used the tools of his writing trade to create the first female Doctor in the show’s over 50-year history. Those included casting and costuming, dialogue and diversity. In my opinion, Chibnall made a promise to diversify the show on all levels (not just by changing the gender of the lead character) and by hiring a diverse slate of writers who created stories under his direction I believe he kept that promise.
There are many exciting steps along the way to having a chapter you’ve written about a beloved television show accepted into a book collection.
First you see the Call for Submissions, have an idea and send in an abstract.
Then they tell you they like your idea and want to include it in their collection.
Then you write the chapter and they send back minimal notes.
Then (that’s today) they send you the artwork for the cover and you smile all over again knowing other fans of the show will be reading your ideas as they consider the importance of the show to our culture.
All those steps (except the cover page) happened recently on a couple of upcoming collections I’m contributing to but the other day this cover came along for Doctor Who: New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whitaker Era and I couldn’t be more excited that a show I originally watched on PBS back in Ohio and followed all these years then made their lead character a female and then I had the chance to write about how a writer could go about making such a culturally important change.
My essay is entitled ‘She is wise and unafraid’: writing the first female Doctor and a diverse universe for her to protect
Female producers are pretty important, too. And they HAVE been around for a while.
Over on the BBC, Verity Lambert helped invent the longest running sci-fi series IN THE WORLD. My fav: Doctor Who. And after 50 years they have a female Doctor in the person of Jodie Whittaker. Lambert would be so proud. — Rosanne
There are few people who can claim to have left as indelible a print on British television as Verity Lambert. In a career that would last over forty-five years she would play a critical role in bringing a wealth of classic British serials to the screen, and one truly global phenomenon — Doctor Who.
The daughter of a London accountant, Verity entered the world of television via one of the few routes available to women at the time, or at least to those for whom acting held no interest — secretarial work. Blessed with a good education and eighteen months of secretarial school, she was able to find work in the press office at Grenada TV in 1956. Shortly after that, she moved on to become a shorthand typist at ABC. Further secretarial moves soon followed, as Lambert tried to engineer a move away from administration towards production. Her break finally came in 1958 with that appointment as a production assistant on Armchair Theatre.
Why are the Brits so much better about creativity in challenging technological times – AND at making fun of themselves? In this short Zoom-filmed set of 15 minute shorts we find Tennant and Sheen (of Good Omens) playing exaggerated versions of themselves as two actors who are forced to rehearse an upcoming play (Pirandello’s “6 Characters in Search of an Author”) on Zoom due to the lockdown. — Rosanne
It is not, overall, a great time to be an actor. Or a director, or a musician, or a writer for the stage or indeed almost anyone involved in the creative arts. The practical effects of the pandemic – and its gross mismanagement – on planned productions (postponed indefinitely), theatre finances (which depend on packed, not socially distanced, houses) and freedom to gather, rehearse, collaborate and generate ideas are already being felt, but their ramifications have hardly begun.
Individual actors have found ways to continue to provide entertainment and add to the cultural conversation (Samuel West, for example, began a series of beautiful and restorative poetry readings requested by followers on his Twitter account, to which more and more actors have added their voices as the weeks have passed), but the brightest chink of light in the darkness so far, and reaching the widest audience, has been offered by the small screen.