Ex-Doctor Who script editor and serial antagonizer, Christoper H Bidmead claims he ‘made up stories’ as he went along in a process known as ‘writing’.
Okay, it’s not quite that. He says he didn’t have time to scope out Season 18, the only series with Bidmead at the helm. “You didn’t sit down and plan a season,” says Chris. “You had to write the next script!”
So, CHB’s notes for the series didn’t look something like this:
- First story: Start with a stunning re-imagining of Doctor Who with fresh music, effects, and costumes (except the monster that should look like it’s from an old dress-up-box).
- Second story: Allow the quality control to drop back to rock bottom with a bunch of B-list old queens playing space mercenaries, and top it off with a daft cactus monster.
- Third story: Back to brilliance, atmospheric and intelligent – maybe something written by a gifted young Doctor Who fan (NB not Douglas ‘talentless’ Adams). Plus: bring in a companion that no one likes.
- Fourth story: See if there’s any old scripts lying about that I can re-write and try to make the original author cry.
- Fifth story: Let’s go bonkers!
- Sixth story: Bring the Master back by taking over a character called TREMAS (get it!). Ah, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho. Ho. You have been naive.
- Seventh story: I must have an A-Level maths textbook somewhere I can make a story around. Hard science, that’s what the kids want. Also: flood the TARDIS with Thames river water? Oh, and kill off the Doctor.
THIS NEVER HAPPENED!
In the modern era we’re used to complicated plot arcs like um, Bad Wolf? Not really. Harold Saxon? Sort of. The Irritating Girl? Don’t remind me. The Hybrid? What exactly was that again…?
Not so for Mr Bidmead. “We were writing this stuff as it came,” he explained at a BFI event (which makes a change from writing stuff BEFORE it came). “There was no serious planning of how the whole thing would be shaped,” says the script editor charged with planning how the whole series would be shaped.
“It’s not how you’d do the thing today, with a writers’ room and proper planning of how the different stories were going to interweave with each other, and the through-line*. We were really making it up as we went along!”
And making up stuff is a skill he continues to the present day. For example, claiming he made Terrance Dicks cry (see Uncle Tel’s rebuff in this month’s Doctor Who Magazine letters pages).
Any apparent linking themes are down to the ingenuity of fans, apparently. “The fans come along and they put the structure in for you!” he said. “That’s so exciting, that’s wonderful.” So, presumably, Christopher is planning to share residual royalties with the whole of fandom, instead of creaming it off for himself. I expect a cheque for £0.0003 in the post, Prof Bidman.
Doctor Who – The Collection: Season 18 is out now on Blu-ray. Buy it now cos otherwise you will have to fork out £500 when the limited edition unnecessarily runs out in a week or so. What’s that, it’s not a limited edition? Pfft, not with that attitude, it isn’t.
* I’m guessing from this that he hasn’t actually seen the latest series of Doctor Who…