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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 542 > THE MY TH MA KERS

THE MY TH MA KERS

Is Doctor Who the same show it was in 1963, or 1977, or 1989? How did the way it was made, back in the day, affect the way it was written? A galaxy of recent Doctor Who storytellers share their thoughts.

Ask Terry Nation for his advice on being a writer, and he’d invariably say the same thing: “Take the money and fly like a thief.”

Terrance Dicks, meanwhile, insists to this day that his only ambition as script editor of Doctor Who was “not to have to show the test card at 6.00pm on a Saturday night.”

Which is all very amusing. But there’s a potential problem with these oftrepeated witticisms: at some point, we might actually start believing them.

“The way we think about some of the old Doctor Who writers is partly down to the fact we’ve been listening to the same stories for years,” says Peter Harness, one of the dramatists who followed in the two Terrys’ slipstream. “We’ve got a tendency to take writers’ assessments of themselves on face value, when, in reality, they’re the people we should probably trust the least.

“When Terry Nation talks about taking the money and flying like a thief, or Terrance Dicks talks about the test card, that’s them being modest,” he adds. “They’re both immensely popular, successful writers. And you don’t get that success by being a hack, or by taking the money and running. You get it by being extremely skilled.”

So if Doctor Who’s early script visionaries aren’t best placed to evaluate their own work, perhaps we should look instead to those, like Peter, who grew up in the cathode glow of their work: those thrilling tales of metal men and mad scientists, abominable snowmen and obscene vegetable matter.

And who, when they were all grown up, found themselves tasked with continuing the Doctor’s adventures in a new millennium.

“There’s really no feeling in the world like writing INTERIOR: TARDIS,” says Toby Whithouse, one of many later Doctor Who writers who describes the show as being “woven into the fabric” of his childhood. “It’s a very specific joy. And a real privilege to have, in some tiny way, contributed to the canon.”

Ah, canon – a word sure to quicken the pulse of any true Doctor Who fan. But while there’s no doubt that the series represents a single, evolving narrative, to what extent, from a writer’s point of view, is 20thand 21stcentury Doctor Who the same show – in its anatomy, its DNA, its bones?

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About Doctor Who Magazine

In DWM 542, today's Doctor Who writers pay tribute to the series' pioneers. Featuring exclusive contributions from: Paul Cornell, Sarah Dollard, Matthew Graham, Peter Harness, Pete McTighe, Steven Moffat, James Moran, Rona Munro, Robert Shearman and Toby Whithouse. This issue also includes: • Exclusive interviews with Billie Piper and Camille Coduri ahead of Big Finish’s new audio series Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon. • The Robots of Ravolox – investigating Robert Holmes final mystery. • Bonnie Langford answers questions from the TARDIS tin. • 1980s script editor Eric Saward reflects on the troubled production of The Trial of a Time Lord. • The Trial of a Time Lord on trial: could it be Doctor Who’s most underrated story? • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2008 Tenth Doctor story Planet of the Ood. • An exclusive preview of Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23. • Part Three of Power of the Mobox, a new comic-strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!