In one of those intriguing Doctor Who what-might-have-beens, former showrunner Steven Moffat has revealed that he invited Jonathan Creek and One Foot in the Grave creator David Renwick to write an episode – only to be turned down.
Moffat reports in a wide-ranging interview with Jake Godfrey for British Comedy Guide that Renwick gave a flat refusal on the grounds that he doesn’t like Doctor Who – and that was that:
“I love David Renwick and I love David Renwick’s work. It’s one of those occasions where you want to say “just let me in the room for ten minutes because I can persuade you that this is your show. A lot of people don’t think it’s their show, Doctor Who, but if you just let me in the room for ten minutes I’ll explain to you why it is”. But he was just ‘No’.”
It’s no surprise that Moffat should have approached Renwick, or that he should be an admirer of his writing. Jonathan Creek, which began on BBC1 in 1997, showcased Renwick’s gifts for intricately constructed plots and quirky humour, elements which have always been hallmarks of Moffat’s work on Doctor Who and other shows throughout his career.
Over the course of five series and numerous specials stretching up to 2016, Alan Davies starred in the title role of Creek, a creator of stage magic tricks who has a gift for solving seemingly supernatural mysteries. He was accompanied by a succession of collaborators played by Caroline Quentin, Julia Sawalha, and Sheridan Smith. Later episodes saw Creek married to Polly, played by Sarah Alexander.
Davies only secured the part after a number of actors (including Nicholas Lyndhurst and Hugh Laurie) had turned it down but went on to have considerable success, with audiences regularly exceeding 10 million viewers by the third series in the UK.
The success of Jonathan Creek would lead to Davies being strongly linked with the role of the Doctor prior to Russell T Davies’ revival of Doctor Who, even being introduced on Jonathan Ross’s chat show with an a capella version of the theme music in October 2003 (Davies joked that he hadn’t been approached, but had emailed RTD offering to fill in ‘if you can’t get who you want’). For a time, he seemed a good bet for the part (a feeling strengthened by Davies having played the male lead in RTD’s drama Bob and Rose on ITV in 2001) before Christopher Eccleston ultimately got the nod.
David Renwick is undoubtedly one of the leading television writers of his generation (check out his wonderful Mastermind sketch for The Two Ronnies below for an example of his talent for comedy) and it would have been fascinating to see what he came up with for a Doctor Who episode.
Steven Moffat persuaded a number of high-profile writers such as Richard Curtis, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Cottrell-Boyce to dip their toe into the waters on Doctor Who during his time as showrunner, but this was one that got away.
If you fancy imagining how a David Renwick episode of Doctor Who might have turned out, or if you just want an enjoyable series to binge on, you can watch Jonathan Creek on Britbox in the UK. One Foot in the Grave can be found on BBC iPlayer.