Automatic System (no human interference) (zenitt) wrote,
Automatic System (no human interference)

DW - Dalek - Shearman's comments

Amongst the rewatching and reviews, here's one analysis by arabian  of the glorious ep DALEK. This specific review had been honoured by a visit from robshearman, aka Robert Shearman, the episode's writer. Some of his comments can be found under the cut.

Re levitating daleks, pushed by the BBC as a novelty:

RS: "Well, even as far back as Revelation of the Daleks, really. Which is where we see Davros levitating. The idea of flying Daleks has, of course, been around in the comics since the 1960s.

I never claimed I wasn't cribbing from the best! (Though, typically, all the press at the time wanted to big up the Dalek conquering stairs as if it were a new achievement - I kept telling them about past adventures until the BBC publicity machine told me to shut up and stop ruining the news story...!)"

Re a bit abruptly inserted scene in the end:

RS: "I will just say though, because it's on record anyway, that I had nothing to do with the towns beginning with 'S' scene, and that was a late insert by Russell when the BBC got concerned I let Van Statten off the hook too easily. I'm not fond of the scene, but I can understand why they wanted it."

Re writing, Adam, the mystic hug:

RS: "Okay. Well, before I launch into this, I'd better explain the way the writing of these TV episodes works! Russell allows an awful lot of freedom to the freelance writers on the production, which is rare and a testament, I think, to a showrunner on a TV show who is also first and foremost a writer himself. (You'd have thought that was usually the case, but it really isn't.) You're given a certain latitude in how to interpret the broad commission brief you're given. In my case it was slightly broader than most, because I was being invited to adapt a Dalek story I'd already written for the Big Finish audio productions. The main changes were that Russell wanted the story set in the near future in an underground base in Utah run by a Bill Gates like figure (my original had been in an alternate contemporary England, where a single Dalek was wheeled out from the Tower of London every year to heckling and catcalling), that this feature the new Doctor and Rose (obviously!), and that it introduce Adam. That's what I had to play with.

Adam was always a bit of a difficulty. I knew that Russell planned on writing a story called at that point 'The Companion Who Couldn't' for the episode seven slot. It'd be a yarn which emphasised that not just *anybody* is up to the job of travelling in the TARDIS - and by showing how Adam was too frightened to cope with the experience, how remarkable Rose was in comparison. It's not a bad idea, but I think the trouble was that it's one of those concepts that quickly get out of date once the production's being made. By the time 'Dalek' was being made, it was pretty clear to all that Rose was special already, and that Billie had a terrific chemistry with Chris, without bringing someone in who hadn't and didn't to labour the point. I found Adam very hard to write, and the scene I'm least proud of is the one where Rose flirts with him in his workshop. In a story which *had* to be action based, it seemed to me there was very little time to set up an attraction credibly, and that it risked making Rose look a bit superficial.

Still, I wrote Adam the best I could. I modelled him a bit on me - I know full well that in the story situation I'd be too scared and inept to do the right thing. The stuff of real courage is down to the Roses of this world. I'm just a well-meaning bumbler. I never read the script for what became The Long Game, and the first time I watched it is the night Dalek went out. I never had picked up that Russell wanted Adam to be quite *that* unsympathetic and shallow - I'd gone for ordinary instead. So there's a bit of an imbalance there.

The hug wasn't deleted as such - it was never part of an edit. There are some difficulties with that scene, which required changes to how the Dalek died. I'd written for an explosion. Most of the recording, though, is done with Billie and Chris filmed on different days, because Chris had to take time off for a family illness. It was discovered that it was hard to replicate the rubble produced after the Dalek exploded between those separate takes, so the Dalek died much more cleanly in a video effect. And the hug no longer matched, because it's part of an edit in which there's rubble. At least, I think that's what was going on...! (It was over four years ago, and I wasn't there at the time!)"

Cntd, also re Doctor spilling the beans in the lift, writing:

RS: "It wasn't an agenda on behalf of the production team. To be honest, I far prefer it without the hug - I find the scene has such great performances from Billie and Chris in it that it's much subtler there's no physical contact between the pair at the end. But that's just my opinion! I was very keen to play up the ambiguity of the love between the Doctor and Rose at this stage. Neither of them really know where they stand with each other. The Doctor, we can imagine, has been very secluded going through his survivor guilt, and along comes this girl who opens up his heart. In a very real way, the story of what happens to the Dalek is a poisonous spin on that same story. The Dalek is a creature of lies, and we should take *anything* it says with a pinch of salt. It's only just been introduced even to the concept of love, as it understands from what it's absorbed from Rose - and it's telling that it immediately uses the very idea of it as a means of manipulation. It's a troubled scene, that one; it was originally a longer discussion, which got cut down to a single line. I once thought that worked - now I'm not so sure.

The stuff in the lift? The Doctor has met a Dalek. Everything has changed. The world could end. Even worse, from his point of view, everything he has sacrificed counts for nothing. He doesn't give a stuff about Van Statten. He's too angry for that. He'll do or say anything at this point to get that Dalek destroyed, and he couldn't care less about subtlety. I stand by the scene, actually, though I can understand your difficulties with it.

And I should add - I stand by the final Goddard scene too. I didn't write it, but it's in my script, and you have to accept full responsibility for your script. 'Dalek' changed a lot over the six months it was being written in. It underwent about twelve drafts, and by the end of the process was in response to notes from three exec producers, a script editor and a director. That's the process. There aren't that many lines that survive from draft one to the shooting script! But that's the process. It's a collaboration. There are things I like and things I don't, things that privately I know are my triumph or my fault, others I know that are out of my hands. If I tell you I'm really a comedy writer, and I conceived Dalek (like its audio play forebear) as a black comedy, you might understand!

Hope that's of some use."

Re Chris Eccleston:

RS: "I think, hand on heart, that my script benefits hugely from an impassioned performance from Chris - rather than Chris benefitting from my script! But that's kind of you to say.

I remember the first time I saw the Dalek confrontation scene, with Chris determinedly investing in the part (as he told us) the horror of a holocaust survivor meeting one of his captors. And I was stunned by how much anger and despair and honesty he was able to get out of the lines. The lines are really much simpler and balder than you'd think - it's Chris who gives them depth."

Re Van Statten's scanner:

RS: "The scanning device came in late in the day. Draft six, in fact! (See, that's the sort of drudgery I remember.) We'd lost the Daleks for a draft, so I had to write a script for a replacement monster. With the iconography of a big baddie gone, I realised I had to beef up the human villains a bit, so gave Van Statten a nasty bit of interrogation equipment, and a lot more attention to the idea he might want the Doctor as a collector's piece in his museum. Once it had been introduced, it stayed in subsequent drafts once the Dalek was back.

Besides, Julie Gardner asked if I could write a scene in which Chris took his shirt off. (This is true.)"

This made my day.
Tags: doctor who, eccleston
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