Eric & I

Eric saward

I live on the same street as Eric Saward.

Yes.

‘Doctor Who’ writer and script editor for a large chunk of the 80s, during the Davison (Peter) (Father-in-Law of Tennant D.) and Baker (Colin) eras.

That’s not why I moved to the street I currently reside in though, that would be creepy. I’m not saying I’m not creepy, but on this occasion I’m innocent.

Honest.

‘So Matthew, when did you realise you had moved just doors away from the controversial 80s script editor, who quit the show in fury?’ Good question, me. ‘Thanks, you look handsome today. George Clooney handsome.’ Aw, schucks. But yes, yes I do.

Well, to answer my question, I first realised I lived near the writer of ‘Earthshock’ when I knocked on his door and he answered. I’m not in the habit of knocking on strangers doors, there was a reason; I’d arrived home to find one of those ‘we missed you’ cards the postman drops through your letter box. This one indicated that they’d left my package at an address a few doors away, so off I toddled, hair looking just terrific, to retrieve it.

I knocked at the door in front of me, as is the custom, little suspecting the man who penned all four episodes of ‘The Visitation’ lurked within. And so, after an acceptable amount of time post-knock, the door opened and there he was. I blinked once or twice (both lids) as I realised I recognised the gent before me. At first my mind-grapes crossed as the words ‘Chubby Doctor Who Writer’ popped in and it came up with ‘Terrence Dicks’. A moment later, perhaps two moments (but NOT three), I realised this wasn’t Dicks at all, it was that softly spoken man from all those DVD documentaries that graced Davison and Baker C stories, Eric ‘Resurrection’ Saward.

‘Yes?’ He asked, classic Saward, he hadn’t lost it.

I held up the postal card. ‘I think you have a package for me.’ Cool as ice, this guy had no idea that I knew. BUT I DID.

‘Oh yes.’ Spake one of the minds that brought us ‘Trial of a Timelord’. He reached out of view, and came back with a DVD shaped box from Amazon. It was a DVD. And oh, not just any DVD, it was a Doctor Who DVD. To be more precise, it was ‘Attack of The Cybermen’. He had no bloody idea at this amazing coincidence, that fate was leading the pair of us a merry dance.
‘Thanks.’ I said, all casual like, as though I wasn’t saying things at a man who had probably touched an in-his-prime Peter Davison. I took my post from his hands, our thumbs mere inches from touching. The air was crackling, electric. ‘I was worried for a moment that this package may have been lost in E-Space.’ I grinned like a tit as my piercing eyes scoured his face for a sign of recognition. Eric smiled. A gentle smile. The sort of smile a grandfather offers up to his grandchildren. He knew. He knew I knew, and I DID KNOW.

‘Would you like to come in for a chat? I’ve got lots of stuff on JNT that I’ve never told a single soul. Stuff to turn your downstairs hair white.’ Saward stepped aside; I took a deep breath, joy bubbling in my heart like a pan full of water on the hob, just waiting for that rice. And in I went.

Well.

Some of that didn’t actually happen. But most of it did. Eric still lives a few doors away, and he STILL has no idea that I know. But I do.

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE ERIC.

I KNOW

Okay, now that’s a bit creepy.

@DoctorWhoThing

Why Indie Publishing..?

indie-author So I’ve decided to become an indie author. Which is basically a nicer, cooler way to say ‘self-published’. Why go this route? It’s a good question..!

For the last few years I’ve primarily been a comedy scriptwriter; penning (or trying to pen) silly words for TV, radio, the stage, the internet; basically anywhere that will put up with me. More recently I decided I also wanted to write prose again. It’s something I used to do as a teen, before scriptwriting drew my focus (at that point I was trying to write ‘serious films’ *shudder*. It would be several years before I realised I much preferred trying to write sitcoms). So now I’m hopping back and trying to jumpstart my prose writing.

As I say, I write funny scripts, but I’m not looking to duplicate that voice in a novel, what I really want to do there is write stories with elements of horror, of fantasy, a little sci-fi even. For whatever reason, that’s what grabs me in that medium.

At the start of the year I wrote a YA novel, fully intending to polish it up and then go the traditional route, because that’s what you do, right? What other way is there? I would send out query letters to agents, hit up any and all publishers I could find; I even bought the Writers & Artists Yearbook. I was DOING this, baby!

But then things started to grind to a halt. The idea of writing these letters, of shilling myself around all the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing world, drained my enthusiasm and put me off a little. I wanted to write novels, to get my stuff out there, but the idea of playing the game, a game which could go on indefinitely, held no interest.

Now this isn’t me being lazy, I mean I AM lazy. I’m a lazy, sexy, easily distracted, sultry, ooh look-see, a dog! sod, but that’s not what was holding me back. The thing is, I already have the torture of pandering to the gatekeepers in my comedy script writing life. I’m playing that game. I’m writing scripts, trying to find a production company to land them with, then developing and developing and developing that script with them before they even think about showing a channel. And then, if they DO show a channel, guess what? More notes. More rewriting. Years can pass, and then suddenly the project is dead and there’s nothing you can do. It’s gone. You did all that work, but tough titties, bruv, ain’t gonna happen. Take that sucker out back and cover it in quicklime.

Well screw that, I had no desire to go through that dance with my prose writing too; waiting and hoping and watching the years flip by without a single word being published. That’s when a friend told me about author Hugh Howey. Now of course I knew self-publishing was a ‘thing’, but like many of you, I just thought of it as a home for those poor saps who would never actually get a ‘proper deal’ because they couldn’t really write. Yeah, I was one of those jerks. But reading about the success of Hugh Howey, about how proud and fervent an indie author he is, even turning down big money trad deals to stay indie, well that kind of turned my head. Maybe indie publishing wasn’t just the last resort of the hopeless and dreadful.

Then I found The Self-Publishing Podcast, and their indie publishing story studio, Sterling & Stone, and that made me sure that this was the way I wanted to go. They were truly inspiring; this was a legitimate and exciting publishing world. Challenging, sure, but liberating. I didn’t need to wait for someone else to pat me on the head and say ‘yes, good boy’, I could just BE an author. Write my stories and get them out there. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Now perhaps a few years down the line I’ll change my mind, I’ll want to try the trad route too, who knows, but for right now? NO THANKS. I’m going to write. I’m going to publish. I’m going to repeat. I’m going to put my stories in front of readers on my own terms.

I’m going to be an indie author.

No, I almost certainly won’t get rich, in fact I might be lucky to sell double figures a month, but I don’t care. I’m focussed on the stories. On getting them out there. On building an audience. Money can wait. My stories won’t.

@MattStottWrites

The Night of The Doctor

Night
Well, it’s now 51 years since the worlds bestest TV show ever EVAH began: ‘Doctor Who.’ Let’s take a peek at one of my fave parts of the 50th bash, the return of the 8th Doctor:

McGann Rugged

‘I’m a Doctor, but probably not the one you were expecting.’

Just look at him there, dashing and rugged enough to make a member of the Westboro Baptist Church question their sexuality. Now unfortunately, I had the surprise of Paul McGann’s return spoiled for me. The mini-episode was dropped without warning, I had no idea it was coming; only when I happened to click on Digital Spy and laid eyes upon a picture of McGann’s manly fizzog illustrating their main story, with the headline ‘Paul McGann Returns to Doctor Who’ to really spell it out for the hard of thinking (most of their readers), did I find out. So going into this episode for the first time, there was no surprise reveal, I already knew (up yours, Digital Spy!), but in the end, this affected my enjoyment of the short video not one jot.

Fans had gnashed their teeth in fury at Moffat, enraged that, apparently, it was going to be a modern Doctor’s only love-in for the 50th; and here Moffat swiped their legs from underneath them like the expert Troll prodder he is. I like to think he laughed for a full hour after it went out, picturing all those double chins dropping within the first minute.

McGann is often seen as the hard-done-by man of Doctor Who. I think most fans wanted to see him, for however long, back on screen as The Doctor. Opinions on his TV Movie tend to verge from ‘wuz alright’, to ‘WORST EPISODE EVAH’; but most seem to concede that McGann himself shone in the role immediately. With that potential series being put down before it had chance to find its legs (phew!), that seemed like it was going to be all she wrote for McGann as the 8th Doctor, Big Finish aside. But no, we wanted him back. He deserved it, we deserved it, and boy did it feel good to see him up there BEING the Doctor again! And with considerably less shit hair! And a real jazzy new set of togs, too! Loving those boots, Paul.

And McGann is so much the Doctor here, cheeky, dashing, petulant, clever, and willing to lay down his life without a moment’s hesitation to try and save the life of a complete stranger. Yes, this is The Doctor we know and love.

Mcgann wasn’t the only returnee though, as up rocked the Sisterhood of Karn, from Tom Baker classic ‘The Brain of Morbius’. I don’t think anyone was expecting that. Personally I would have preferred The Kandyman, but each to their own.

McGann Regenerates

‘Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly: Friends, companions I’ve known, I salute you.’

The amount Moffat squeezed into this short, short episode is quite something; and the amazing thing is that it doesn’t feel rushed. We’re introduced to a potential new companion in Cass, and off she and the Doctor run, hand-in-hand; what fresh adventures await? Then the whole thing turns on a dime and you realise she isn’t a potential spunky new cohort for the 8th Doctor, she’s the thing that’s going to bring about his end. And then! And then, resurrection, and the Sisterhood, and a shrugging off, finally, of the Doctor mantle as he accepts his role in the Time War; and at last – regeneration. The end of McGann, of the 8th Doctor, and a hello to the War Doctor. Six and a half minutes, people; this all happens in six and a half minutes. Moffat don’t mess about here, son.

And good golly, how can something with a sub-seven minute runtime be stuffed silly with so many quotable lines??

‘Bring me knitting!’

‘Because the front crashes first, think it through.’

‘Four minutes? That’s ages, what if I get bored?’

‘Yes, I’m a Timelord, but I’m one of the nice ones.’

‘The keepers of the flame of utter boredom.’

‘Physician, heal thyself.’

Mental. It’s up there with the likes of ‘City of Death’ for quotability.

Almost-Companion Cass makes a brief but memorable impression. She’s set up as a classic Who companion; she’s strong, sparky, willing to put others before herself. As she grabs the Doctor’s hand we want her to run with him right into that TARDIS and to go get into trouble; but then she stops. By setting her up as such a classic companion, having her then rather die than be saved by a Timelord shows us exactly how far the Doctor’s race have sunk; how despised they are. It speaks volumes for the acts they must have committed; something that is then barely touched upon in ‘The Day of The Doctor’. The Timelords shown there seem a pretty decent bunch.

Of course, this McGann niblet just made people go even more crazy, demanding a return, further web-episodes, an entire TV series even; but should that happen? Well, no, of course not. A full on return to our TV screens would probably not be advisable; though I think if Capaldi ever runs into another Doc in an episode, it should surely be McGann. Tennant’s had his return, Smith’s just gone, and there’s no way Eccleston’s slipping on the leather jacket again. No, get McGann back, let him strut his stuff in a multi-doc episode, then leave it there. Plus, for those of you desperate for more from the 8th Doctor, there’s already a lot of stuff out there. ‘The Night of The Doctor’ essentially made his Big Finish audio adventures cannon. Those audio episodes ARE the 8th Doctor series, so go pick some up and give them a whirl.

Moffat has given the world of Doctor Who many treasures over the last decade (let’s all ignore the introduction of the term ‘Timey-Wimey’, hey?), and ‘Night of the Doctor’, in my eyes, ranks way up there. It sits nestled, all short and tiny and perfectly formed, next to ‘Blink’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘The Empty Child’, ‘Listen’, and all the other classic’s he’s penned.

Now please, someone, anyone, bring me knitting!

@DoctorWhoThing

(Almost) Writing for The IT Crowd

IT CROWD
So a little while back I was one of several writers tapped up by Graham Linehan to help him tackle series five of his hit, nifty-ass sitcom ‘The IT Crowd’. Work was done, some of it even good work, but in the end Graham decided he wasn’t going to go ahead with a new run, he wanted to move on to fresh challenges. This, whilst on the one hand being a total son-of-a-bitch for a new, nobody writer like me excited to be involved in such a massive project, was also completely understandable. I suppose. I’m not ashamed to admit I sulked for almost ten minutes upon receiving the news. Anyway, it was great to work with such talented people on a show I love, and to get that nod of approval from a comedy writing hero.

And I got paid a big chunk of change, some of which I spent on the laptop I’m using right now, the rest went on prostitutes. So I win. I WIN. Plus, it really helped me get to the next stage in my career. Which, oddly, looked exactly like the previous stage in my career. DAMN.

Anyway, I thought I might share the initial very quick pitch ideas that my agent punted over to team-I.T. that got them interested in maybe using me in the first place. I look at some of them now and wonder what on Earth I was thinking, but what the hell, they obviously did the job:

10 ‘IT CROWD’ IDEAS

• Roy is mugged by Nicholas Lyndhurst.

• JEN finds herself dating an optical illusion. Sat down, he’s apparently normal sized and Clooney handsome; stood up, he barely scrapes her midriff. When Jen’s friends are bowled over by the seated man, she determines to hang on to him, if only she can make sure he’s sat down at all times.

• Moss, mocked for his head bush, becomes hopelessly addicted to ceramic hair straighteners.

• To win a gentleman’s bet Douglas must have breast implants fitted for a month; this leads to very confused feelings for Roy.

• Becky is the hot new temp in the building that Roy is immediately in lust with. Unfortunately, Becky is also the name of the new born baby one of the Reynholm employees has brought in to show off. When asked about Becky, people are understandably taken aback by Roy’s graphic response.

• Jen has gone for a brave new, on trend look, with more masculine clothes and a shorter, boyish haircut. When she is papped on her way to work, she’s flattered, assuming it’s some fashion mag; that is until the picture appears in Heat Magazines ‘Spotted’ section identifying her as Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley). She’s understandably furious, until she starts tasting the glamorous, no limits lifestyle of The Weasley.

• Moss has a secret sideline, as the author of gently erotic, Mills &
Boon-esque fiction for frustrated middle-aged housewives.

• Jen discovers she has a natural propensity for playing classic arcade game ‘Flapple’, and, with little else to fill her office hours, decides to attempt to beat the world record high score; a record held since 1993, it turns out, by one Maurice Moss. Moss may have gone soft and lost his ‘Flapple’ edge, getting by in the cut throat world of classic arcade gaming on reputation alone, but he’s not about to let his record fall without a Machiavellian plan of evil proportions.

• Roy is proudly dating a published chef; not that he’s read or even bothered to find out the title of her horrifying book, ‘Roadkill With Ramona’.

• Moss is trying to learn a foreign language, so far only mastering one phrase. This phrase unfortunately happens to be the correct reply to a code question posed to Moss when he is confronted by a shady South American gent with a gun filled briefcase.

@MattStottWrites