Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adventures in the Screen Trade

It’s a beautiful spring day: the cherry trees and the plum trees are covered with white blossom, and the apple trees are in scarlet bud; the bees are finally out and exploring; the trees have their spring leaves on, translucent green; the sky is as blue as it has been this year; the grass is no longer a sad wintry brown, but is now green, dotted with yellow dandelions and purple violets and pink and white wildflowers, and I’m down at the bottom of the garden writing. Birds are singing outside, Jason Webley and T.V Smith are playing on the ancient gazebo CD player.

I’m writing, but I thought I’d stop writing what I'm meant to be writing to put my thoughts down on paper (which is silly expression, as they are going to go from keyboard to computer to Blogger. But put my thoughts down on screen just looks wrong).

It’s been a strange few days. Not a bad strange.

My episode of Doctor Who (it’s called “The Doctor’s Wife”, and the title really isn’t a cheat, although it may not mean what you think it means) went out in the UK and in the US on Saturday. I stayed away from the Internet as much as I could, for my sanity, not knowing what people would think and not really wanting to know.

I checked in on Twitter while the BBC Broadcast was going out, though, and was amazed to see thousands of unread messages, and to see that Neil Gaiman was a trending topic in the UK, along with Suranne Jones and TARDIS, and that we were, at that point in the evening, out-trending the Eurovision Song Contest. (Briefly and oddly, enough people were arguing on Twitter about whether or not Suranne Jones reminded them of Helena Bonham Carter, that somehowHelena Bonham Carter was a trending topic on Twitter as well.) And later that evening I went back to see that TARDIS was trending in the US and Canada, and that over about eight hours I'd received or been mentioned in about 20,000 Twitter messages.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen that amount of concentrated enthusiasm for something I'd done. It felt like “The Doctor’s Wife” had touched some kind of nerve. Er, in a good way. A happy nerve. Not everybody loved it, and not everybody liked it, but it seemed that the overwhelming majority of people did. (I think it is a good thing that all people do not like all things equally, by the way. There is, as the Romans pointed out, no arguing with taste, and trying to convince someone that they should like something they don’t or not like something they do is pointless and foolish. We like different things, and it’s part of the joy of being human, and part of the reason that I can make a living making art.)

And then I spent the next 48 hours feeling like I was coming back from very far away. The nervousness didn’t evaporate when the episode had been broadcast, as I'd expected it to. It slowly ebbed as the messages came in from friends who’d seen it and liked it, and as I showed the finished episode (and the full Doctor Who Confidential, which is called “Bigger on the Inside” which was the episode’s original title, not to mention the label I’ve put on the blog for anything with a mention of my episode of Doctor Who in it since that first dinner with Steven Moffat) to Maddy and her friend Anna-Rose, and they liked it.

I answered a lot of questions on Monday morning on the Guardian Website (click on the shortened answers to see the full answers, or read the comments, and there's one at the end that isn't in the shortened list) and marveled as I answered the questions at how much of TV is a response to the limitations of budget and time – both time to shoot, and time to tell your tale. (The response to most questions of “Why didn’t we see…?” or “Why didn’t we learn why…?” is that, well, we did once, in one draft of the script or another, but either I cut it for pacing, or it was left on the cutting room floor after it was shot.)

And another day along and I got my equilibrium back, and the odd mood faded, and now the world feels normal again, and the thing that I’ve spent an astonishing amount of the last two years working on is done and out in the world, and it doesn’t only belong to me any longer.

And if you liked it (and yes, I liked it, very much) the credit goes to the amazing cast – Matt Smith, Suranne Jones, Arthur Darvill, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Berrington (who I never met) and Adrian Schiller, Paul Kasey and the wonderful voice of Michael Sheen; to the director Richard Clark, the designer Michael Pickwoad, the script supervisors, first Brian Minchin and then Lindsey Alford, the W Producers, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis and Sanne Wohlenberg (it’s amazing how many of the most memorable lines in the script came out of Beth saying “Yes, but I don’t get it, WHY don’t they…?” and me realising I needed actually to say something I’d just assumed everybody would follow); and most of all to the Oodfather, Steven Moffatt, who encouraged me in my madness, rescued me when I told him I’d written too many drafts and couldn’t do it again, gave the script several of its best lines, and who even rapidly rewrote a couple of scenes at the last minute when locations vanished due to budget.

Thank you as well to Steven Manfred, who for years has been my personal mysterious Doctor Who Dealer, and who, when I embarked on this madness, also became my personal Doctor Who Encyclopedia.

(And thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you, to Russell T. Davies, who brought Doctor Who back from the void and put it back together and sent it back into the future with its mission in place: to entertain, amaze and induce wonder in its audience while sending a certain number of them to watch from the relative safety of behind the sofa.)

The episode still hasn’t made it to Australia yet, so I’m not going to try not put up any real spoilers here on the blog, but I may link to places that will spoil it for you, so you click on anything at your own risk.

If you’re in the UK, the episode's up on iPlayer for the next five days. Here's the link:

If you’re in the US, BBC America are repeating it on Saturdays, along with an awful lot of Doctor Who episodes. Check out their schedules or their Doctor Who pages.

If you're in Canada, it's streaming at

The BBC Doctor Who pages have an interview with me up where I talk about two of the cut scenes from the episode (one that didn’t make it to shooting, one that was shot but then excised) and where I talk about writing short stories, and Doctor Who, for the competition the BBC is running for young writers.


And if you liked the episode, the full BBC Confidential is up on iPlayer for the next 3 weeks. I was thrilled by it – the Hot Chocolate “You Sexy Thing” montage made me nostalgic and delighted. It's a wonderful 45 minute documentary (and you get a crash course in film-set catering in the middle of it).

BBC America now has a cut-down 15 minute version of Doctor Who Confidential up on their website.

The only thing that made me a bit wistful is that Amanda wasn’t around for either the nervousness or the subsequent relief – she’s with her sister, at a Yoga retreat in Europe, off the web, phone and email, and getting all stretchy while, I hope, recovering from being arrested for playing the ukulele in public in Amsterdam.

Lots and lots of fanmail on the episode coming in. Thank you all. This is my favourite, from Michelle Springer:

Hello Mr. Gaiman! On behalf of the "Doctor Who" fans of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, I wanted to thank you for your amazing episode this past weekend! Of the 151 people wintering in isolation here, we have a small but very devoted group of "Who" fans, and your episode was definitely the best we've seen so far this season... in fact, it kept some of us up late, standing out in the cold and talking about what had happened, because we were too excited to go into our warm dorms! Thank you for such a fun episode, from the bottom of the world!

I think I loved that so much because 150 people in the Antarctic feels like the setting for a Doctor Who episode in its own right.


My weight and shape seem to have settled down, so I now need to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes that fit me. Also, I got my blood tested this morning, and my cholesterol numbers have dropped from 221 in October (and, I expect, at the end of January, when I started taking care of myself) to 151 this morning. It's remarkable what eating vegetables and exercising will do when you get serious about it. Hurrah for vegetables.

I haven't actually settled on the Next Audio Book While Exercising yet, though. I've auditioned a couple of books so far, but not found one I like. I have learned that I don't like "rereading" - listening to books I've already read - while exercising. I definitely need an element of What Happens Next? to make myself want to go and exercise for 40 minutes.

Nicole Quinn won the American Gods Full Cast Audiobook contest -- she was the favourite voice of all three judges, and recorded her parts on Monday.

I loved the 20 finalists, and I've listened to a bunch of the other 1300 contestants now, and was so impressed at the quality of entries.

I talked before about the cool secret thing that I was planning concerning Audiobooks.

It's not secret any longer. The Audiobook Creation Exchange. I'm going to put together a line of audiobooks -- books I'd like to hear that do not exist as audiobooks yet -- using Audible's ACX system. I think it's going to be fun. If you're an author, an agent, a studio producer/engineer or an actor you should definitely check out the website.

I'm not down the bottom of the garden writing any longer. It's much later, I'm in bed, and I really ought to finish this blog entry and go to sleep.


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