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Neil Gaiman Says Doctor Who Scripts Are Better Before BBC Messes With Them

Do too many cooks spoil the broth? That seems to be the opinion of Neil Gaiman on his experience with Doctor Who. The American Gods, Sandman and Neverwhere writer was doing a talk to promote his upcoming TV adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast when he opened up on his frustrations with the changes the show makes to existing scripts. Gaiman is working with Being Human's Toby Whithouse on Gormenghast, and discussed the day when both his and Whithouse's script were having a table read:

Do too many cooks spoil the broth? That seems to be the opinion of Neil Gaiman on his experience with Doctor Who.

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The American Gods, Sandman and Neverwhere writer was doing a talk to promote his upcoming TV adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast when he opened up to Deadline on his frustrations with the changes the show makes to existing scripts.

Gaiman’s working with Being Human‘s Toby Whithouse on Gormenghast and discussed the day when both his and Whithouse’s script were having a table read, saying:

“The nearest we’d ever come to working together was when we met at a reading of Doctor Who, Toby’s episode had been read that morning and mine in the afternoon. “We definitely liked each other and we liked each other’s work. Because I was writing Doctor Who, I had the privilege of reading Toby’s script, which I felt on the whole was rather better than the episode, I got to read the raw script before people who weren’t Toby started messing with them.”

The season 7 scripts he’s talking about are his “Nightmare in Silver” (about Cybermen assaulting a medieval castle) and Whithouse’s “A Town Called Mercy” (a western themed episode about a cyborg gunslinger). Neither are particularly great Doctor Who episodes (though they’re far from terrible), but at least according to Gaiman, they were both so much more before they’d been “messed” with.

This isn’t the first time Gaiman’s thrown a little shade at working on Doctor Who, either. In an interview with The Telegraph last month, he said:

“I did two episodes of Doctor Who over the last decade, one I loved and it won awards, one I do not love and it is widely regarded as having some good bits in it but being rather a curate’s egg. As far as I’m concerned both of the scripts were of equal quality but the biggest differences were having a say in what actually got to the screen, a say in what got changed, a say in what got rewritten, a say in the colour scheme, a say in all those things.”

The award-winning episode was the excellent “The Doctor’s Wife,” in which the TARDIS is personified as a woman. It’s got Gaiman’s authorial fingerprints all over it in a way that “Nightmare in Silver” simply doesn’t. But there’s an appropriately silver lining to this tale.

Gaiman went on to explain that his experiences with getting his scripts screwed up encouraged him to take a more direct role in adaptations of his work, with his writer/producer credits on Amazon’s upcoming Terry Pratchett adaptation Good Omens enabling him to have some creative input into the finished product.

His conclusion to this whole affair was as wise as it is foul-mouthed:

“If this is going to be fucked up it’s going to be fucked up by me personally with love and dedication.”

Doctor Who continues every Sunday on BBC America.


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London-based writer of anything and everything. Willing to crawl over rusty nails to write about 'Metal Gear Solid' or 'Resident Evil.'