|Sarah Dollard (courtesy of BBC Worldwide)
At the weekend during the Doctor Who Festival, Blogtor had the pleasure of sitting down with Australian writer, Sarah Dollard – who has penned the Doctor Who Series 9 episode, Face The Raven
After discovering our mutual love for ’80s companion Tegan over a couple of hot beverages in the middle of London’s ExCel centre, we chatted about her episode whilst also trying not spoil the story for Who fans at nearby tables… (those spoilers will be revealed after the episode in the second part of this interview on Saturday).
When did your journey with Doctor Who begin and when did you become a fan?
“I think I become a fan, like a nutty fan, with the reboot but I watched it all the time as a kid. I watched it in the 80s but I was really young. It was on ABC in Australia I had no idea how lucky we were, I was just a kid watching this awesome show on every afternoon when I got home from school.
On ABC, everything was shown out of order. I mean, they would show a whole serial in a row but then they would jump somewhere else. So I would have seen loads of different Doctors but my prevailing memories are of Tom Baker and Peter Davison.”
How did you feel when it came back in 2005?
“I was hugely excited. In my shared house we had a viewing party for episode one.”
The emotional resonance of Doctor Who has been a big shift since the classic era, do you think it’s now integral?
“I do but that’s not to say you can’t have an incredibly fun episode that has no emotional feels
in it, or a really scary or dark story without any soft bits in it.
But I think if you had a whole season without that heart, it would feel lacking.”
|Jenna Coleman in Face The Raven
Your episode was going to be earlier in the series, how did those plans change?
“When I started writing it, I didn’t even know I had a place in the season! [Laughs] Everything I was handing in, I was kind of dancing for my life. I sort of felt like every word I was writing was auditioning, doing jazz hands! [Laughs] My usual layer of anxiety is pretty high but there was an additional layer with this one. [Laughs]
I’d done a complete first draught and that was read by everybody. I came in for second draft meeting and sat there at the table and Steven [Moffat] said, ‘Good news is, we really love it. We love it so much, we’d like to talk about putting at this point in the season where it can form the part of an arc.’
He said I made him emotional on the train when he read it. He’s a very emotional man. Nobody could write the way he writes and not be an emotional person.”
Face The Raven features the return of Rigsy from last year’s Flatline, was he in it from the start?
“Yeah, he was there in discussion pre-script. Right from the get-go there was a guest character, and it had to be someone that the Doctor and Clara knew and trusted. It had to be somebody that turned up and said, ‘I didn’t do this,’ that we believed them straight away. Not just the Doctor and Clara but the audience believed it as well. The moment someone suggested Rigsy, I was like, ‘Yes! Yes, that’s it! Lock it down. Definitely Rigsy!’
I like the fact he’s Clara’s friend, not The Doctor’s.
“That’s why I leapt at it straight away. In Flatline
, she was his ‘Doctor.’ All the great and good things that a companion gets from being with the Doctor, Rigsy got that from Clara. So, in an episode where she is super Doctor-y, and where it is her episode in a lot of ways, bringing Rigsy in with her position in her world was perfect.”
|Face The Raven
After seeing the Face The Raven trailers, a few people have already made the Trap Street comparison with Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series.
“Do you know what? I am a really big Harry Potter fan and it never once occurred to me when writing it that a hidden street, a Trap Street was like Diagon Alley because I imagined it looking completely different.
The description in the script is quite different and it just happened to be the way that Michael [Pickwoad, designer] went with his design for it.
I think what it is is that era. The way the mythology of a Trap Street works is that the era that the Trap street was created, as in when it was hidden from the world, is probably about the same era that Diagon Alley was built. But I imagined ever since that time, when it was blocked off to humans and just exclusively an alien place, there would have been alien renovations, I guess.”
Last weekend during the Doctor Who Festival, Blogtor had the pleasure of sitting down with Australian writer, Sarah Dollard – who has penned the Doctor Who Series 9 episode, Face The Raven
After discovering our mutual love for ’80s companion Tegan over a couple of hot beverages in the middle of London’s ExCel centre, we chatted about her episode whilst also trying not spoil the story for Who fans at nearby tables….
Sarah continues to tell me about how she originally envisioned the Trap Street in Face The Raven.
“In the script I describe that it was hodge-podge of alien spaceship parts, little cubby houses built on top of the era of British architecture. You actually see it in the scenes where the body is preserved. To me the whole street was going to look like that, a mixture of alien tech and old British architecture.”
The Doctor is filled with anger, quite unlike any other time in the show’s history. Was that moment always part of the plan?
“Capaldi’s really good at that. It definitely came through in the very last draft. Because for a long time I think it was she [Clara] went out more quickly but that countdown of two minutes and the Raven taking from its perch, they had less time together.
I think that idea is really important because, to me as a viewer, Peter’s Doctor is uncomfortable with being vulnerable in a way where Ten or Eleven wore their hearts on their sleeves. Capaldi’s Doctor plays it much closer to his chest.
Some people have commented that he’s a Doctor who’s on the spectrum. I think that’s an interesting reading of it – I don’t think that’s the case. I think he doesn’t have much time for other people’s emotions.”
I think these days the term “spectrum” is often overused.
“Yeah, I think it’s a shorthand, an unfair shorthand often. They use it because he’s uncomfortable addressing other people’s emotions, that doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a broiling sea going on under the surface and usually it’s covered with this grim, grumpy bluster [laughs].
In that moment where he has to say goodbye, there’s a moment where he can’t look at her, his eyes are darting around the room. And she is so centred and so present, she makes him stop and look at her again to face up to it. I think that moment where he doesn’t even know where to look, to me is scarier than when is raging at Ashildr.”
At what point did you find out Clara was going to die?
“I’d done a complete first draught and that was read by everybody. I came in for second draft meeting and sat there at the table and Steven [Moffat] said, ’Good news is, we really love it. We love it so much, we’d like to talk about putting at this point in the season where it can form the part of an arc.
They told me about Ashildr – I was like, ‘Awesome’ – Ashildr is played by Maisie Williams – and I spilt my water all over the table! [Laughs] We then talked about Clara and at that point I don’t think he [Steven Moffat] knew for absolute certain exactly what he going to do with her end. Certainly death was being talked about but he wasn’t sure if it was going to be in [episode] ten or in twelve.
We definitely, definitely knew that he wanted eleven [Heaven Sent] to be The Doctor by himself with no hope, no TARDIS, and no friends.
In talking about it, it didn’t make sense that Clara would be left behind because if Clara is left behind, when you see The Doctor alone in eleven there’s a possibility that she could rock up in the TARDIS or whatever.
|Dollard with Peter Harness & Steven Moffat at the Doctor Who Festival (BBC Worldwide)
So in that meeting it was decided I would be given the chance to write that script. Things weren’t completely nailed down but we knew we needed The Doctor to have the teleportation bracelet on and then taken away. Ashildr had to have good intentions and have a go at the death! Even though I was definitely in the season by that point, that was in motion as well. I think that was putting a lot trust in a writer they didn’t completely know. It was still in a state of flux until they read what I’d done but they liked it so it was fine.
I felt like, ‘He’s putting a lot of trust in me, so that’s great!’ [Laughs]” (Blogtor Who)