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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Downstairs by the PC

    Default Script Doctor (Andrew Cartmel)

    I couldn't see a thread for this already, so I thought I'd start one!!

    This is the recent Mikw reprint, not the original, although I'm not sure if there's any real difference other than an additional introduction by Mr Moffat and an additional 'final word' by Mr Cartmel - obviously when it was first published the new series hadn't launched, so 10 or so years on things are a bit different.

    As a big fan of the McCoy era, I've greatly enjoyed what I've read so far (it's sorted in story order and I'm as far as Battlefield already). If nothing else, it has reminded me of how exciting and fresh the late 80s Who felt at the time, and makes me want to go off and watch them all again.

    Style-wise, I guess it's a little pretentious in places, but in context that's maybe no bad thing - there's a real sense of Cartmel & co believing they were really reinvigorating the show, reviving it even, and although in terms of its continuation after 1989 you could argue that they failed, in terms of what they actually achieved at the time, I'd say they did rather a good job. It's hard to imagine any other era producing Remembrance and Happiness Patrol back to back, and if nothing else it ensured the show went out on an imaginative high, if not a ratings one.

    I'm of course very fond of Time and the Rani, but despite that I rather enjoyed Cartmel's recounting of his struggles with Pip & Jane; and regardless of rights & wrongs, they are clearly a different sort of writer to those he was looking for. What I've found most interesting so far, and which I'd perhaps not really considered before, is that one of his drives was to get some 'real' science-fiction thinking into the show; but constantly comes up against the unresponsive BBC staff - maybe unresponsive is the wrong word, but certainly it's a BBC that is largely ignorant of 'good' science-fiction.

    What really comes across is a 'collaborative' sense to the whole process - much like the RTD days, there's a real feeling that not one of the scripts arrived at the studio without a good deal of 'to & fro' and collaboration between Cartmel and the credited writer; and there are endless references to the various writers dropping in to the office at various times. It somehow 'feels' exciting and invigorating. (Of course, there are two sides to every story - it could be that JN-T was actually forever moaning that Cartmel was chatting to visitors!!)

    As for JN-T, he comes across well - not perfect, very much prone to moods, but he is as much praised for his skill and his friendliness, as he is criticised for his sulks and failings. There is almost a 'old guard meets new wave' unlikely friendship to the two of them in places.

    The biggest problem the book has is actually nothing to do with the content, but rather the design - it's laid out in a dreadfully 'ugly' way. Enormous tab spacing at the start of paragraphs, no thought to clarifying which writing comes from Cartmel's diaries of the time and which is done 'now' to form the book. It sadly lets down a good read, making it look cheap & nasty. (Although I do like the Radio Times listings.)

    So, anybody else read this? And if so, what did you think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006


    I tracked down a copy of the original print a couple of years ago. Despite not being a fan of the McCoy era or of Cartmel, I came away with great sympathy for the production team who had to cope with not only the usual problems with making the series, but with being somewhat ignored by their employers at the time.

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