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The writer of this year’s acclaimed Zygon two-parter discusses blobby monsters, moon-shaped eggs and nineteenth-century magicians...


Peter Harness is a writer in between.

By the time you read this, Peter’s latest episodes of Doctor Who, The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion (the latter co-written with Steven Moffat) will have been broadcast to great acclaim.

“ You’ve got to reach the younger audience on a level of excitement and imagination. Then you’ve got to give the grown-ups something to think about.”

But when DWM Skypes Peter at his home in Sweden, it’s the day before the broadcast of The Zygon Inversion. It gives us a rare chance to see witness first hand the worries and concerns a TV scriptwriter endures at such a critical point in the life of one of their creations.

“It’s odd when something’s on because your work is done and you moved on to something else and stopped thinking about that script a long time ago,” Peter explains. “Then all of a sudden there it is. It’s weird, a bit like sending your kid away to university, and then it comes back and becomes quite consuming. It’s on your mind the whole time it’s being broadcast. If it’s something like Invasion and Inversion over two weeks, or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which was over seven weeks, it’s quite hard to think about anything else! It’s not necessarily that you’re bothered about the press or people’s reactions to it, but it’s a big thing that’s very close to you that you can’t affect in any way now. It’s a very odd thing to describe. It’s usually quite a relief when it’s been on and you can start thinking about something else again. This is worse in a way, because I’m a bit more nervous about the second episode...”

Nervous? How so?

“The first episode seems to have gone down well, and I find the second riskier because it’s got those surreal sequences with Clara and it all hinges on a long dialogue scene. I like that, but it’s an unusual direction to take the story. People are probably expecting bombs and guns and massacres rather than a conversation in a room.”

As we know, Peter had absolutely nothing to worry about. The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion received near-universal praise from audience and press alike, with that final confrontation marked out as a defining moment for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. We’ll come back to that brilliant, pivotal scene later. Is it difficult not to get swept along on a wave of praise when something strikes such a positive chord?

Peter Harness answers the call to write two new episodes...

“It’s nice, but you can’t pay too much attention to it,” Peter considers. “If that’s possible! It gets in the way. You’ve got to be confident enough in your own tastes and your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer to judge it yourself. If you take too much notice of what other people say, then there’s a danger you’re writing to repeat that or to secondguess something. I don’t think that’s a good way to work in the long run.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

The 2015 Christmas issue! Contents include: Preview of The Husbands of River Song; Peter Capaldi interview; Interviews with Greg Davies, Sarah Dollard, Peter Harness, Rachel Talalay and Donald Sumpter; Review of 2015; the Watcher's Christmas Quiz; Strip – The Dragon Lord part 1.