Thursday, April 7, 2011

WonderCon 2011 Exclusive: Neil Gaiman on Writing 'Doctor Who'

by Joseph McCabe for Neil Gaiman

As genre fans, we pride ourselves on knowing as many different creators as possible. But there are only a handful of names that span the media. That are as recognizable to movie geeks as they are to, say, book or comic geeks. Neil Gaiman is one of those names. Since the start of his career, Gaiman has demonstrated an uncanny passion for all genres, particularly those closest to the hearts of nerds like us: horror, fantasy, sci-fi -- Gaiman's done them all, and in all manner of media. From poetry to music to comics to film to theater to children's books to adult literature to probably half a dozen other forms of storytelling that haven't been invented yet. In just a matter of weeks, fans can witness Gaiman's return to the medium of television (he's worked there before, on such projects as the BBC's Neverwhere miniseries and his episode of Babyon Five). That he's returned to write an episode of the wildly popular Doctor Who is major cause for celebration. Gaiman grew up with the long-running British TV series, and has credited it numerous times with offering the kind of mind-expanding entertainment that's helped fuel his own fiction. Very little, however, has been revealed thus far about Gaiman's story (the fifth episode of the show's sixth season, which will debut on BBC America on April 23). So I made sure to ask the acclaimed scribe what he has planned when I caught up with him at this weekend's WonderCon 2011 in San Francisco. Watch what Gaiman had to say in an exclusive video interview after the jump.

Gaiman's episode, entitled "The Doctor's Wife", has fans across the globe speculating. Will we finally learn that the Doctor was once married to his on-again off-again companion River Song (played by the sly Alex Kingston), and, if so, will we learn what ended their marriage? Will we learn of Song's fate? Or did the Doctor have another wife? One thing's for certain -- this episode has a BIG budget, even by the standards of the lush-looking new Who. In fact, Gaiman told a packed crowd at WonderCon that his episode had to beat up the season's other episode and steal their lunch money in order to accommodate his spectacular visual imaginings. So expect the scares, the humor, and the bittersweet emotions to look better than ever.

In a new press release, Who's lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat remarked of the new season, "Oh, there's a big story being told this year, and major mysteries from the very off. As ever, in this show, the stories all stand alone, and every episode is a perfect jumping-on point for a new viewer. But at the same time the over-arching plot will be a bigger player this year. More than hints and whispers – we're barely ten minutes into episode one before our heroes face a dilemma that they'll be staring at months from now. And there will be no easy answers." So just how much will Gaiman's tale factor into the season-long storyline?

As Gaiman told me on Sunday, "In my story you're gonna see a little bit of everything. There's definitely that feeling of being able to hit the salad bar in Doctor Who and go, 'Okay, I can do funny in this and I can do scary in this and I can do really sad in this. And I can do something that goes deeply into cool Doctor Who backstory and I can do just plain weird...'"

For the rest of what Gaiman revealed, check out the complete video interview below.
Photo by Sophia Quach

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