Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guess Who I've been chatting to?

No names. No packdrill. But I was invited to come in and talk about possibly writing some stuff for the BBC. No, it's not Dr Who. Not yet anyway (hope springs eternal). Contracts to write for that show are as rare as elephants' eggs and result from commissions only. The problem is that the Doctor is so damned popular that the Beeb receives hundreds (if not thousands) of scripts per year. The sheer size of the mailbag means reading every script submission is impossible. Secondly, there's the issue of originality. As I wrote back in September last year in my post Story of my life:

'They say that there's no such thing as a truly original idea ... and there is some truth to that. The reason that you can't copyright an idea - only the application of an idea - is because no copyrighter can guarantee that the idea has never been thought of before. Just recently I was discussing this very issue with BBC Wales as they have had to invoke a policy of strict non-reading for submitted Dr Who scripts. Being such a popular show, the Beeb gets hundreds of submissions from would-be screenwriters. Problem is ... there are only so many ideas out there so if they turn a script down and then commission a script with a similar idea, the first author starts screaming 'Infamy! They've nicked my idea!' All of which means that none of the hundreds of packages recieved at BBC Wales gets opened any more - they just get returned to sender. It's all very sad as the greatest Dr Who story of all time may well be sitting, unread, in some mail out-tray in Cardiff even as I write this. But that's the way it is.'

The way that you get to write for Who is to have a good CV. It doesn't matter whether your work has been used in TV, film, comics, novels ... as long as you have a proven track record of ability. Keep sending the stuff off and get some commissions under your belt. So, paradoxically, the rule is:

If you want to write for Dr Who, write something else.

Trust me ... I have this absolutely from the horse's mouth. All of which brings me back to the curiously plunger-less Dalek in the photo above. The poor mutilated alien beastie stands in the foyer of television centre in Wood Lane, London. I asked what had happened to the plunger expecting to hear that a bunch of hoodie-clad schoolkids on a visit had made off with it. Instead, I was told that there'd been a blocked sink in one of the tea rooms ...

It may be that I was being had over. It may be a future urban myth. But I can't help but hope that when a BBC employee was in serious need of some plumbing aid, a Dalek - and its uniquely equipped right arm - came to their rescue.


Jon M said...

Never a blocked sink on Skaro! The Daleks declared war on potato peelings and old teabags long before the Thals.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Much as I love the Daleks (what red-blooded British citizen does not?), I will confess to some confusion over their design. If I'd wanted to build the ultimate fighting machine ... Would I (a) have given it just one eye and therefore no depth perception, (b) equipped it with a sink plunger and a whisk, and (c) put its balls on the outside and at kicking height? I don't think so. Davros was obviously barking mad.

Cheers Jon!

Blog Princess G said...

I remember playing daleks at school in Cornwall when I was about 9 years old.

Those rolling dustbins still give me chills.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Blimey ... I'm a Cornishman myself. It's a small world, isn't it? Although, if that's true, why does it take so long to get anywhere?

John Soanes said...

Yeah, and how are they going to conquer the universe if they can't even get upstairs, eh ? Eh?
(The above ill-informed remark is TM and (c) many stand-up comedians late into the 1990s, and is still in various stand-up acts to this very day. Sigh.)

Blog Princess G said...

I wasn't born there but lived there as a nipper - Truro. Where were you?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Jon - They can hover now of course(what a cop out, eh?). When Terry Nation invented them, they could only move around on flat metal surfaces charged with static electricity. Hence, their dreams of universal conquest were limited to Skaro and fairground dodgems.

Your Majestic Princessness - it was Helston actually, not far down the road. One of my brothers now lives in Truro. Nice city.