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Somewhere There’s Danger…

Andrew Cartmel script-edited the final three seasons of 1980s Doctor Who, opposite a producer who was, he says, “always willing to give me enough rope”…

By Christmas 1986, Doctor Who’s producer, John Nathan-Turner, had been persuaded to stay for an unprecedented seventh season. But the show was in urgent need of a script editor – the ‘story showrunner’ to JNT’s ‘production showrunner’.

John’s agent, Richard Wakely, recommended one of his newest clients, the 28-year-old Andrew Cartmel, an aspiring writer who had attended workshops at the BBC’s Script Unit, which had been impressed by unsolicited scripts that he’d sent in.

“I read an awful lot of his stuff, which I thought was smashing”, Nathan-Turner told Doctor Who Magazine in 1987. “We met to find out whether he’d be interested in finding out more about television as a script editor, and he leapt at it.” At the job interview: “We sat and chatted about Doctor Who and a sparky conversation happened. There were things we agreed on, things we disagreed on, and things that sent us offon tangents, and really that’s the best kind of environment for a producer to work in.

If he has a script editor who totally agrees with everything he says, or totally disagrees with everything, it becomes a stifling of everyone’s talent. Andrew and I very definitely sparked, and so we went through some ideas for the new season.”

Andrew’s predecessor, Eric Saward, had made a tumultuous exit a few months earlier. (See DWM’s interview with Eric last issue.) “The gossip was that John and Eric had had a falling out”, recalls Andrew, when we meet in a Notting Hill café one sun-drenched lunchtime in May. “I did ask John about it, and I remember he grew very serious and peered at me and said, ‘Why do you ask?’ I think I said something like, ‘Well, I want to avoid anything similar happening between you and me.’ The general impression I got was that it had been a real pressure cooker of a situation, in a high-stress environment, and I’d heard that Eric had taken [Doctor Who writer] Robert Holmes’ death [in May 1986] very hard.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

THE JOHN NATHAN-TURNER LEGACY A new perspective on Doctor Who’s longest-serving producer, featuring previously unseen images from his own scrapbooks! Highlights of this issue include: • Former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel describes working with John Nathan-Turner. • Sophie Aldred explains how JNT changed her life. • Stephen Cranford on what it was like to know JNT as a friend. • Writer Philip Martin and actor Nabil Shaban reveal Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor. • Composer Richard Hartley on recreating his score for 1986’s ‘Mindwarp’. • An investigation into the deepest mysteries of regeneration. • Your at-a-glance guide to Doctor Who’s post-regeneration stories. • An interview with the creators of the new VR game The Edge of Time. • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2017 story Knock Knock. • DWM’s verdict on Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23. • Part One of Mistress of Chaos, 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!