musings

Doctor Sherlock and Danny Watson?

Buzz about the new Doctor Who series is swirling around the internet. The fandom is divided – as usual – but I think the general consensus is positive which is lovely. For myself, I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know this new Doctor. Peter Capaldi is brilliant and Jenna Coleman is now being given a real chance to shine.

Something has really piqued my interest though. I’ve found myself contemplating the Doctor’s characterisation more closely than usual. I’m particularly interested in trying to predict the dynamic between the Doctor and his yet-to-be, kind-of-companion, Danny Pink. The conclusion that I’ve come to (and am slightly concerned by) is that the Doctor might be becoming Sherlock. And could Danny be Dr John Watson?

It started with this line:

“Top layer, if you want to say a few words.”

At the time I laughed and reveled in the delicious darkness of that line. Later I thought, “Oh, shit. Sherlock just spoke out of the Doctor’s mouth!”

A lack of empathy largely defines Sherlock’s character. He is described as a high functioning sociopath and while the Doctor is thankfully still reaching out to people for connection in his grumpy kind of way, one could argue that his dialogue at least is sounding rather devoid of empathy. In fact, his dialogue is sounding extremely Sherlock. It doesn’t take much effort to imagine Benedict Cumberbatch delivering the above line in his droll, uniquely resonating voice. Similarly, I can hear his voice in this:

“Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.”

But moving on.

There’s been a fair bit of talk about the Doctor suddenly having a disdain for soldiers. At first I didn’t want to think about it but eventually I had to admit that this doesn’t seem to make much sense. The Doctor has had many close dealings with U.N.I.T. Clearly the Doctor has never thought much of the way soldiers choose to deal with things but he’s never displayed any specific distaste for them that I can recall. If anything, he’s been more chiding. Perhaps it might be argued that this Doctor’s more bristly personality means that he is now happy to be open about his disdain. I’m not sure that I’m sold on that though.

This brings us to Danny Watson, I mean – Pink.

“I just wish you hadn’t been a soldier.”

Journey Blue was denied companion-status and the only reason this scene was written is because it sets up the relationship between the Doctor and Danny, a former soldier.

It stands to reason that Danny’s relationship with the Doctor might help him come to terms with his killing of a civilian. I expect we might see antagonism and bonding over this shared experience. One tick for character development.

But what might make Danny want to travel with the Doctor in the first place?

Danny is a soldier-turned-teacher and perhaps he simply wants to learn more about his love interest, Clara. But might we see a, “You’re not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson. You miss it,” moment? I don’t think that Danny will necessarily miss war. But I do wonder if travelling with the Doctor will reveal Danny’s need for excitement and danger in the same way that Dr Watson needs these things in his life.

In conclusion?

Well, I don’t know. I love Doctor Who. I’ll follow the journey wherever it takes me. Some things I’ll love. Other things I won’t.

Writing is hard. Writing for a successful show like Doctor Who must come with a lot of pressure. Writing for Doctor Who and Sherlock sounds… well, super hard. So I wonder whether it was inevitable that one show might bleed into the other.

 

Where are all the women?

There have been six female writers for Doctor Who in 50 years. Six. And that’s only if you count two people who may not have actually written much or any of the script.

I’ve never really thought about it before. At least, not until I glanced over the list of writers for Series 8. I was pleased to see some of the usual suspects. These are some great writers. Writers that I love. And all of them men.

Of course, the best writer should get the job. But then that would suggest that time and time again, women haven’t been up to the task. I refuse to believe that, so what is really happening here?

The truth is – I don’t know. What I do know is that networking and referrals is the way this industry works. So as a screenwriting student who is constantly thinking about how to break into the industry, it is a little daunting to see that my favourite show does not appear to employ female writers.

I’m sure this issue extends well beyond Doctor Who. I’m reluctant to look into this further though. Breaking into this industry is hard enough without having such a powerful shadow as ‘statistics’ hanging over me. Belief in failure can only have one outcome.

No, I’m just more determined. And on that note – back to writing my feature film!

 

Nooooope!

I used to be really open to all kinds of theories. Even when things sounded far-fetched I still perched on the fence, not willing to rule out any possibility. At some point though, I allowed myself to really notice what my instincts were telling me. And far more often than not they were saying, “Nooooope!”

People can and do have their own beliefs. That’s perfectly fine in many circumstances but make no mistake. These are beliefs. Far too often I see arguments formulated upon false premises. Whether it is the anti-vaxxer movement, climate change deniers, alien conspiracy theories or Facebook hoaxes, all to often the arguments for their validity are based on an incorrect proposition. Take the anti-vaxxers for example. Many of their arguments are based on the idea that vaccines cause more diseases than they prevent. That simply isn’t true and the result is that we are now seeing the return of preventable diseases. Another example can clearly be seen in the quote and screenshot from the Ancient Aliens series that I have posted below.

PumaPunkuDebunked

Generally I don’t care if people’s beliefs are harmless. What does get me angry is the spread of any misinformation that causes far-reaching adverse effects such as climate change denial or incorrect claims about vaccination. I’m also not partial to being treated as though I’m naive or ignorant simply because I don’t believe there is any merit to your particular ideology. But I’m not going to bother arguing the point with any individual if I can avoid it – because people will almost always remain unmoved in the face of evidence when it challenges their belief system. Religion is proof enough of that.

Dammit, Ben!

Of the five graded assessments that I turned in for my uni course, I have received four “High Distinctions”. I am still waiting to find out how I did on my “Assess TV” presentation. The suspense is killing me.

I can’t help but be intrigued by my attitude towards my grades. I’ve never been a high-achiever – in high school or at the two inappropriate university courses I started and never finished. For that matter, I’ve never been able to stick with anything for long. I guess it just shows that I’m never going to do well at anything when my heart isn’t in it. It is therefore a pleasant surprise to be getting good grades. Leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling ;)

Prisoners of our own device

I’m zeroing in on the theme for my feature film project. And I can tell you, it’s been a headache.

That’s what happens when you naturally gravitate towards political ideas – at least for me. It means that I often come at a story with social commentary or a moral in mind. Unfortunately, deciding upon a theme in a story isn’t always what comes first. More often than not, a theme is discovered. It kind of pops out from somewhere in between the characters, the conflict and the setting. So what starts off as a clear idea about what I want to write, morphs into something entirely new.

There is a lot of letting go in this process. It hurts to have to put aside an idea and admit that perhaps this time, the story isn’t about x, y, z.

Originally, I started out wanting to write a story that said something about class-ism. While I haven’t deviated very far, I’m realising that the theme for this story is more about prisons – those that are imposed on us and those we devise for ourselves. It is about authority and how easily we hand our power over to others – often to our own detriment. And it is also about refusing to see the truth of our prison.

All of us live in prisons. There is no such thing as true freedom. It doesn’t exist. What do your prisons look like?

Fan-Fiction vs Fantasy-Fiction

It’s funny, you know. I’ve never considered myself a fan-fiction writer and yet lately I’ve been writing a fair bit of it. I’m not a member of the fan-fic community. I literally had to Google terms like ship, het, and one-shot. Writing fan-fiction for me has been about practicing the discipline of writing.

This has really worked for me. For a long time I had resigned myself to the belief that writing fiction would never get me anywhere. Instead I focused on writing non-fiction for a number of publications. Returning to the world of fiction meant I needed to get over my self-saboteur and unfortunately that saboteur often takes the form of a little voice that tells me I can’t put pen to paper until I have absolutely everything figured out right.

Fan-fiction has helped me overcome that somewhat. Writing about characters that I already know allows me to easily pluck a story idea out of the “I wish this had happened” part of my brain and get down to writing. It has been a great way to cultivate a daily practice and also to hone my craft.

What has been extremely important to me however, has been writing stories that keep the characters in-character. I simply cannot understand why anyone would wish to write characters that behave in ways that do not fit in their respective fictional worlds. The most intriguing phenomenon for me is the prevalence of slash-fic (another term I had to Google).

I support all the ways that people express their love, gender or sexuality. What I have a problem with is what I consider to be the abomination of forcing existing characters to behave in ways they never would. I’ve certainly never been tempted to go down that road myself. Until recently.

It has always bothered me that the Doctor did not show up and save the day during the Torchwood series ‘Children of Earth’. My fantasy-world brain was very upset with the Doctor about this. And so I set about writing the most recent story in my ‘Companions Collection’ series in which this very issue is addressed.

I’m not all about fix-its. Some things should just be left alone. Sometimes bad things happen. In this particular story I wanted to explore the relationship between Captain Jack Harkness and the Doctor by using the ‘Children of Earth’ event as a catalyst.

In my mind, this would be an easy story to write. So much emotion – guilt, anger, fear. I knew how it would start and I knew how it would end. My favourite kind of story.

In reality, things turned out to be much more difficult.

First there was the challenge of writing emotional scenes for characters who have a hard time letting down their defenses.

The power relationship between the Doctor and Jack has always been in the Doctor’s favour. In his own world, Jack is the one calling the shots. He is the mysterious person with the secret of immortality. He is the person that people look to for help. Face to face with the Doctor however, Jack is reduced to playing second fiddle.

The Doctor is an alien with the power of time travel. He understands that Jack is a fixed point in time and space. Indeed, he can literally feel it in his bones when they are near one another. As such, the Doctor has always held himself aloof and separate from Jack, even when trying to work together.

Writing scenes that bring down at least some of the emotional walls between Jack and the Doctor turned out to be harder than I thought. It was also a constant battle not to slip over the line into melodrama.

But what I didn’t anticipate was the flow-on effect that I found myself dealing with. And the most challenging – Jack’s feelings for the Doctor.

No secret has been made of the fact that Jack fancied the Doctor even before the incident on Satellite 5 that resulted in Jack becoming immortal. And afterwards in Series 3, Jack laments with Martha about them both desiring the Doctor’s affections without the Doctor giving either of them a second glance.

While writing my story, I discovered that I could not avoid exploring those feelings. Besides having a physical attraction to the Doctor (something that is really not that exciting given Jack’s inclination to flirt with almost everyone) Jack’s character has evolved in such a way that those feelings may have become something much more.

Jack has looked to the Doctor for help in the past and is the only person with whom he shares any kind of intimate understanding about outliving everyone around him. The Doctor both despises what he is, while also being the only person with any insight into what he is. The Doctor was there when it happened.

This is where the challenge took an interesting turn. The desire to explore these feelings in depth showed me for the first time why fan-fiction writers often delve into slash-fic and something that I have now learned is called hurt/comfort fic.

Now kiss

It suddenly became so easy to allow the Doctor to show Jack the love and tenderness that he is likely to have been desperately needing. Having dragged Jack through the emotional equivalent of being run over by a bus, it now seemed unfair that the Doctor would still refuse him, even in his darkest hour.

Personally, this challenge has highlighted the difference between storytelling and fantasizing. While both are an element of the writing process, fantasizing is about fulfilling one’s own desires. Storytelling is about being honest about what is best for the story.

In the end, it was a very fine line. There is something that I find extremely hot about these two men finding solace in one another. And at the same time, there is something equally beautiful and heartbreaking about the reality that it would never happen.

The final curve ball for me was that I had chosen the Eleventh Doctor for this story. While the ninth and tenth incarnations have never encouraged Jack (in fact the Doctor is arguably oblivious to Jack’s affections), Eleven is much more – well, touchy-feely.

Kiss all the Ponds!

Eleven will grasp someone’s face in excitement, hug with impunity, squash his forehead against someone else’s to encourage them to think and will kiss those who inspire him. Eleven can be angry and distant and full of rage, however more than any other incarnation, he can also offer emotional and physical comfort.

All of this made writing for Eleven and Jack a huge challenge because Eleven is much more likely to express empathy towards Jack. In many ways he is not only older but wiser than his predecessors. He has a firmer grasp on the need for emotional connections. And yet paradoxically, Eleven can be completely clueless when it comes to affairs of the heart.

With these “character facts”, writing this story became as much about me as it did about the characters. Staying true to the story was a real struggle. In my personal life I desire true intimacy in my relationships and so I project this need onto the story. My heart therefore wants to see the Doctor giving Jack the emotional intimacy he needs.

I also entertain the idea of the Doctor finally being able to let down his own emotional guard– something that I think Steven Moffat succumbed to by introducing the character of River Song.

But that is not part of this story. This story is about Jack and the Doctor.

Ten and Jack
Credit: http://maxkennedy.deviantart.com/

 

 

Richard II

How long a time lies in one little word!
Four lagging winters and four wanton springs
End in a word: such is the breath of Kings.
– Bolingbroke, Richard II (I, ii, 413-415)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching a cinema screening of the RSC’s Richard II. The stage production, filmed for a one-off broadcast to a selection of cinemas, was unfortunately not shown live in Australia. Instead we were treated to an encore screening which I saw with some friends at the Nova in Carlton. I had no idea of what to expect, having only read Richard II once before – and some time ago at that.

The above quote had a powerful effect on me. Spoken by Bolingbroke in the first Act, the lines draw our attention to the whimsical nature by which someone in a position of ultimate authority can determine the fate of another. It also foreshadows the consequences that such a misuse of power can bring.

Richard II is the story of one man’s fall from grace. Believing that his divine right to rule is irrefutable, it is not until he is arrested that Richard gains a little insight into where his power lies – with those who accept his legitimacy.

So Judas did to Christ; be he, in twelve,
Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.

Richard II (IV, i, 170-171)

However, Richard never really comes to fully appreciate this. He does not question the structure that supports his authority and believes himself to be a victim. Richard came to be King at ten years of age after a succession of deaths placed him in line for the throne. Instead of musing about the true legitimacy of Kings, Richard instead laments the fate that awaits those who wear the crown. Richard swings between self-pity and righteous anger, never quite grasping the revelation that despite his so-called divine right, it is his subjects who support his station. His assertions that “Not all the water in the rough rude sea / Can wash the balm from an anointed king” reveals his steadfast belief that it is God’s will that he wear the crown.

Furthermore, upon finally accepting that he has no choice but to rescind the throne, Richard makes a mockery of the whole process. Richard invokes his coronation and turns it on its head,

Now mark me, how I will undo myself;
I give this heavy weight from off my head
And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand,
The pride of kingly sway from out my heart;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duty’s rites:
All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
My manors, rents, revenues I forego;
My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny:
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved!
Long mayst thou live in Richard’s seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit!
God save King Harry, unking’d Richard says,
And send him many years of sunshine days!
What more remains?
– Richard II (IV, i, 203-222)

I need to watch it again. I’m not entirely sure whether this means Richard is simply being sarcastic, whether he believes that only he can wash away the balm of his anointment, or most likely, whether he believes that no action of any earthly means can remove his Kingship.

Aside from the themes of authority and legitimacy, I really enjoyed the creative decisions made by both Gregory Doran and David Tennant. I can see why some of these choices might be deemed controversial. This is a rather dark and tragic play, however the Director has, on occasion, chosen to twist the text to derive comedic meaning. Some have argued that this makes light of the themes however I tend to feel that the small number of humourous moments give the audience a little room to breathe.

I’ve got so much more to say but I’ll never get this post up! I’m going to see it again on the weekend so might check back in again afterward!

Blank Canvas

Today I started off feeling rather inspired. Unfortunately as the day progressed and the pressures of my day job mounted, that inspiration simply drained away.

On one level it is fascinating how my creative mood can shift so suddenly. Just when I think I’m on a roll… BAM! …my mind is suddenly void of any exciting ideas. It’s an extremely mild form of temporary depression. For a little while, all of my ideas seem ridiculous. The colours fade. Those plot points, once so solid, now drip like water through my fingers, dissolving away to nothing.

They’ll come back. The certainty and excitement will return. But not tonight. No point in forcing it. I’m going to go to bed, pull out my iPad and watch Doctor Who.

A Giant Leap

Yesterday I participated in a brilliant workshop about alchemy facilitated by Ravyn Stanfield. Without going into a whole lot of detail, this at its most basic level was about learning some tools to help map change within our lives. Most interesting for me was discovering how I actively sabotage my own desires. Now I’m not going to pretend that I have a clear view of what I ultimately want to do with my life. I suspect that there are many threads in that particular tapestry. What I have learned however, is that I have an amazing ability to get in my own way.

Many of you will resonate with this, I’m sure. Like me, many of you will be well acquainted with that little voice in your head that tells you all the reasons why you can’t do something. For me it’s, “That idea isn’t good enough”, “You can’t write until you’ve had a shower/checked Facebook/done more research…” and most recently, “You can’t become a screen writer if you don’t even know what a Producer does.”

However I’m feeling much more open and positive about working with my inner-Saboteur since yesterday’s workshop. Among other things, I realised that it is okay to be a beginner. It is okay to be uncertain or to not always finish a project. Learning to be okay with that is going to be extremely difficult for me. But what I also have to remember is to not let those doubts and insecurities get in the way of my writing. It stifles my creativity.

So as a first step – as one way for me to get out of my own way and take a risk, I’ve enrolled myself in a one-day ‘Introduction to Television’ seminar.

And I’m thoroughly excited about it too! In some ways it might be a small step, but in others it is huge. You see, I’m sometimes afraid to start new things because I can never be sure whether it is right for me. This is made so much worse when there is a financial hurdle. Or if a course is run full time or during work hours. Some of these things simply make it impossible for me. So investing a lot of time and money in something that I can’t be sure I’ll stick with feels frightening and irresponsible. And the difficult part is distinguishing between the legitimate concerns I should have about that, and my inner-Saboteur who just leaps at the chance to stop me in my tracks.

For now I’m feeling good. It is a simple seminar that will give me the overview of the television industry that I so desperately need to understand before making any other decisions. And I’ll just keep my eye on that ten-week ‘Writing Sci-Fi for TV & Film’ course…