Friday, April 18, 2008

Doctor Who weekend, reactions, questions

What a bizarre, fab weekend. Some of my mates came over from Dublin to watch the episode with me and Jo, and we had a blast. I was incredibly busy right up until Friday evening when they arrived - in fact, I'm going to do a post detailing the previous 2 weeks, just to show how crazy things got. Spent Saturday afternoon going for a fryup, then a couple of drinks in the local, before hurrying back to the house to prepare.

And then the nerves kicked in, right on cue. 6.45pm arrived... and then that Ofcom announcement came up (a summary of a complaint some people had made about swearing in the Live 8 concert). For a split second, I panicked, because the announcer sounded like they were about to say "Due to the many lives lost in a massive volcano eruption in Croydon, tonight's episode has been cancelled forever as a mark of respect, and what's more, we'll never show anything else James Moran has written either, because we hate him." Luckily, volcanic activity in Croydon was very low during the weekend, so the episode went ahead as normal.

All my mates cheered when my name came up, and then there was a respectful silence for the next 45 minutes. This was mainly because of the 25 bricks of C4 explosive in the room, which were wired up to a noise detector, connected to the tie-clip microphones that everyone was wearing. So nobody dared to make a sound. Some people might say my behaviour was extreme. I disagree.

Anyway, fun time had by all, and so on and so forth. Stayed off the internet for 24 hours, which now seems to be the normal ritual. Had a look Sunday evening, and was really gobsmacked by the online reaction, reviews, and messages I received. There were 8.1 million viewers according to the overnight figures, will know more when they add up the repeats and stuff. Audience Appreciation Index was 87, the highest of either BBC channel for the whole day - anything over 85 is considered excellent, so I'm pretty chuffed with that.

I even braved the wilds of the OG forum again, and am really happy to see the response there - most people really liked it, and have been extremely nice about it. Thank you to everyone who emailed, commented, or sent carrier pigeons, it was much appreciated. Just a quick thing I'd like to say though: if you're emailing me or commenting on my blog, please don't slag off other writers, even if it's meant as a compliment to me, it's just not cool. Okay, I've said it, we can move on now.

Next post will be the "2 weeks of my writing life" thingy, swiftly followed by part 2 of the Torchwood writing process. And then at some point I need to post the Gallifrey reports - they're all written, just need to trim them down a bit, they're bloody huge. Huge, I tell you. And I have a big upcoming celebration, but nothing planned - on the 5th June, this blog will be 5 years old. Blimey. And I have no idea how to celebrate it, I'll be too busy in May to do anything about it. So I'm hoping to do a big post of some kind - suggestions welcome. But while I'm here, I'll quickly reply to the DW questions that came in on the last post:

miss-cellany: Got to ask, did you have the same Latin book that I did "Caecilius in hortum est.." etc?

I did Latin, but not that particular book - many of the production team did though, and loved that whole family and their adventures. They sent me a copy of the book for reference.

lizw: The choice of Latin names didn't mean anything to me because I learned from a different textbook, but I laughed when it was explained on Confidential. That said, I get the impression from reading comments elsewhere that some people whose class background doesn't include the opportunity to learn Latin felt excluded by that in-joke, which is an unfortunate result that I'm sure no-one intended - I think it would be worth watching out for that kind of class-related implication in future. It's a shame when a joke misfires and interferes with people's enjoyment of what was a great episode overall.

It doesn't exclude anyone, or misfire, they're just character names. If you get the reference, then it's an extra in-joke, if not, you're not missing out. Same with the reference to "The Romans", when the Doctor says he had nothing - okay, a little bit - to do with the great fire of Rome. Fits in as it is, but is a nice, extra little joke if you get the reference. As for class background, I grew up with bugger all money in a tiny town and went to a tiny school in the wilds of County Cork in Ireland, where I did 3 years of Latin for my Inter Cert (Irish equivalent of the O Level) - we weren't exactly swanning around in top hats. Many people did Latin, but even if they didn't, I don't see how it would have interfered with their enjoyment of the show, they're just character names. And there's always the internet, nobody's stopping anyone learning Latin if they really want to. I didn't bloody want to, but had it forced down my neck anyway, by a mad teacher who resembled a shaved gorilla, and you don't see me complaining. Apart from that previous sentence.

missylabelled said: Seriously nice work. Are you single?

Sorry girls - and boys - I'm taken, and very happy.

Matt M: Bloody loved it. (What's with the 29 minute commentary though?)

Now, the 29 minute commentary thing *was* explained to me, but... I can't remember exactly how it worked. We recorded a full episode commentary, so it exists. It was something about how they're not allowed to have a podcast unless it's been broadcast on the radio first, but they could only have a half hour thing on the radio, so the podcast was the same length. Oh, that doesn't sound right. Sorry. There were reasons, honestly. Some obscure Beeb rules and regulations involving podcasts, radios, rubber chickens, and a secret conspiracy dating back to the dawn of civilisation. Supposedly the full commentaries will be available to download later in April, but don't quote me, cause I'm probably wrong.

stabarinde: I would kill for the script. Well, not literally kill.... um, no actually, I might well do. Any chance of a glimpse?

Sorry, I don't own the copyright on the script, so I can't - they'd have me flamed to death by a Pyrovile. If I'm lucky.

And some other questions that arrived by email, or came up in reviews etc:

Many people: Are you doing more DW and/or TW?

I'd love to, and if they ask me back then I'll gladly do more. Fingers crossed...

Some others elsewhere: Were the special effects re-used from other BBC shows (Pompeii: The Last Day etc)?

No, all the CG effects in this episode were created by The Mill specifically for it. And bloody well done to them, too.

Other people: What's with the Jesus imagery in that scene near the end, with the bright light behind the Doctor and all that? Hmmm?

It's not meant to be Jesus-like, honestly. The room is really, really dark, it looks like the family are doomed, then suddenly he appears again - and because it's so dark, and they're so scared, the light looks unnaturally bright to them. It's also intended to play up the surreal aspect of the scene, and be a bit scary for them too. They probably think the Doctor and Donna are gods, but that's hardly surprising, given the power on display. But it's not meant to paint the Doctor as a Messiah figure. He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty Time Lord.

More various people: How come they didn't burst into flames inside the volcano, you stupid bastard? Wouldn't it have been *slightly* warm??

Well, normally yes. But the Pyrovile had sucked all the energy out of it, and hence most of the heat. Otherwise the Doctor and Donna would have exploded into tiny, sputtering paint stains on the floor once they went inside. I'm no scientist, but I am aware that people can't survive inside active volcanoes, cheers.

Many various people: How could the Pyrovile take over the world if they can be killed by two buckets of water, eh?

Because this particular one had chased them far from its little hideyhole base in the volcano, and he was too far away from his energy source. They were able to quickly douse a large chunk of the flames, which tipped the scale enough to set off a chain reaction, killing it. Try the same thing on one of them inside the volcano, near their energy source, and you'd get a swift flaming - and you'd deserve it too, you cheeky scamp. And once the Pyrovile used the energy converter to boil the seas and turn the planet into a firey hell, then they'd be able to go anywhere they wanted without risk.

Some other people: Now, the thing about a Plinian eruption is that the pyroclastic cloud--

Yes, yes, I know, we all know. The volcano eruption sequence is as accurate as possible, given that we don't know absolutely everything that happened. But time has been compressed somewhat, for dramatic purposes. I know it lasted nearly 24 hours with a rain of ash and pumice, I know many died because of the toxic gases that escaped, I know many were crushed to death, I know there were 4 or 5 pyroclastic surges (we only showed 2 of them), and I know lots of people managed to get out. I also know there were other areas hit, not just Pompeii - but the Doctor landed in Pompeii, so they couldn't really do much about Herculaneum and so on. There's a lot of stuff that required lots of talky explanation, and wasn't relevant to this story, so when that happens, it's best to just leave it out. It doesn't mean it's not there, just not on screen. Basically, anything that's incorrect? It's because the Pyrovile altered things by messing around. There.


Lucy said...

"So I'm hoping to do a big post of some kind - suggestions welcome"

Nude photos please.

And while we're on the subject, people who think the Dr and Whatserface should have combusted inside the volcano are crazy (allegedly and according to me). It's The Doctor, he's indestructible, end of. He's probably got some kind of magic field around him that incorporates the companion as well and makes THEM indestructible too. And if not, he should invent one... I'm sure he's reading this right now.

What? He's not real...??? Oh shit. Guess THAT explains why he didn't combust inside the volcano!

; )

evil twinz said...

The Doctor is real, you heathen wench.

No one listen to this woman! She's insane! INSANE!

I'm a doctor myself and I know.

Lucy said...

No Evil, I've explained this to you before... You're a TRAINEE doctor.

And I'm pretty sure your uni doesn't cover fighting aliens and travelling space and time, it's more of a question of surgical & psychiatric rotations and getting chucked up on by patients. And maybe getting off with nurses.

evil twinz said...

Mmmmm. Nurses.

BaaBaaDoodle said...

Yay, you have come up for air, or gotten your feet back on the ground.

Looking forward to the next few posts, thanks for answering some FAQs. This episode is very rewatchable, and I'm catching more of the dialog each time :). You guys talk funny.

You doing any conventions, etc. on this side of the pond? East coast USA? Any time soon?

Karen Funk Blocher said...

I love your responses here, especially the Python paraphrase. If Donna has successfully led him into being "naughty", one must wonder what the punishment for a moment's compassion will be....

Oh, and by the way, I can't see anything wrong with the character name jokes. I didn't take Latin at all, unless you count my ninth grade English teacher saying "from a Latin root meaning..." every single week. But I did notice Lucius' descriptive surnames, and when I heard about the textbook family, the idea of immortalizing them here sounded like a fun and lovely thing to do.

Congrats again on an outstanding episode, whose fame has already spread across the cascade of Medusa. Or at least the Internet!

Paddy said...

I'm 18 on the 5th June! And well done on the eppy Jimmy, you iz da bomb. DA BOMB!!!

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Oh, I forgot to mention: a man recently fell into the crater at Mt. St. Helens and survived. Mind you, I don't know how hot it was or wasn't at the time. I'm reasonably sure there were no Pyroviles present.

The NPR story about this:

Mad teacher who resembles a shaved gorilla said...

You little gobshite! You were crap at Latin anyway.


Great posting yet again James.
Your excitement of these heady times for you really comes over.

I've solved your insanely busy writing schedules for you here:-

Now you don't have to sleep!

To add to multiple requests to see your excellent Dr Who script;
Couldn't the Beeb put it on "Writersroom"?

Stuart Perry said...

James, only just got a chance to come here and say Congratulations on a fantastic episode last Saturday. Great stuff!

Jonquil said...

I enjoyed the episode immensely. It had much of the spirit of classic Who. Bonus points for the Doctor explaining how a Time Lord perceives time.

It's really lovely reading how bubblingly happy you are (and funny!) Carry on.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't exclude anyone, or misfire, they're just character names. [...] Many people did Latin, but even if they didn't, I don't see how it would have interfered with their enjoyment of the show, they're just character names.

Thanks for replying! I'm just reporting the reaction I saw elsewhere - some fans did feel excluded, not during their first watching of the show itself, but when the in-joke was revealed on Confidential. I think it's important not to dismiss that kind of reaction - evidently their experience of class has been different from yours, but that doesn't invalidate it. As I said, though, great episode overall. I hope there will be many more to come!

Anonymous said...

- deborah h.

Anonymous said...

vos silicis! servo subsequens vestri somnium

Lucy said...

"some fans did feel excluded, not during their first watching of the show itself, but when the in-joke was revealed on Confidential. I think it's important not to dismiss that kind of reaction - evidently their experience of class has been different from yours, but that doesn't invalidate it"

James isn't dismissing their reaction, he's rightly saying that he wasn't out to exclude anyone. Why would he? This is a show he loves, ergo he loves by proxy the people also love it (whoa we're going touchy-feely here, you know what I mean though).

For the record, I didn't get the Caecillius thing. I didn't do Latin, I went to the crappest school in the known universe but even if I hadn't, Thatcher had already eradicated real academia by then from the syllabus. My school didn't even teach frigging ENGLISH properly, let alone do Caecillius.

However, when I saw that in-joke revealed on Confidential I chuckled and thought, "That's good" because he didn't have to put those extra layers in. It was an "added extra" if you like; bad luck if you didn't get it this time - but there will be always other times where you will get that added extra and someone else won't. And the inclusion of "behind the scenes" stuff like Confidential actually seeks to include people in this manner anyway in my opinion.

Does this mean then writers shouldn't put layers in for fear of excluding someone? To me that's a form of censorship which certainly in this case would denigrate the work.

Fat Roland said...

I've finally got round to watching the ep, courtesy of BBCi, and it was bloomin' brilliant. First episode I've properly enjoyed for a while.

Extra points for using "tarantella" and making me think back to my piano lessons when I was a kid.

James Moran said...

Thanks again for all the lovely messages, you all rock harder than the Pyrovile. But without the evil stuff.

BaaBaaDoodle: I'm not due at any US conventions, haven't been asked to do any others yet.

Karen: Blimey, that's mad. There's no *way* I'm ever going near a volcano, dormant or otherwise.

Sheikspear: Add a booze dispenser and snack bucket, and I'm all over it. Don't know how the writersroom decides what to put up, though, you'd have to ask them.

Lizw: I'm not dismissing them, I just don't think it's valid for them to bring class into it, as if I was some public school ponce - I know we all have different backgrounds, some did Latin, some didn't, some did but not that particular course. The whole point of in-jokes - like the "City of Death" and "The Romans" references - is that not everyone will get them. As long as they're invisible and don't get in the way of the story, they're not excluding anyone - especially not when the thing is then explained in detail in the making-of!

Amanda said...

I grew up on a crappy estate and had the crappiest of educations... I don't feel 'exluded' when elements of something I love come to light. If anything I have an 'Oh cool!' moment and see it as an opportunity to add a little something to my (now) considerable knowledge.

See, I take responsibilty for my own learning now I'm a big girl (uh, and I mean that in the sense of age, not size. Just sayin').

Could we consider the people who cry 'exclusion!' as an extension of the ever increasing blame society and political correctness gone absolutely barrrrrmy that pervades these days? I think so.

I also say it's perfectly their right to cry so, but I feel it would be a creative disaster for writers to bring forth their babies with these people in at the fore of their mind.

Just my opinion, of course.

Verityb said...

I missed the Pompeii Confidential. There seems to be only about 10 mins of it online. Can I see it somehow - wanted to see something about the script which I loved, especailly yhe Caecilius bits!

Jason Arnopp said...

I grew up in a septic tank, which was inside another septic tank, and didn't know where Pompeii was. Or Rome. I'd also never heard of Pyroviles before, so felt terribly excluded. Please Mr Moran - set your next Doctor Who story in a white void, so there can be no unfamiliar concepts to make me feel bad about myself. Yes.

Bozzball said...

Are you the James Moran who played Edward, Prince of Wales in Act I Scene II of Richard III in the School of Pythagoras in November 1998?

Amanda said...

A septic tank, you say Mr. Arnopp? Now *that* explains a LOT. Not least the odd odour one can discern in your presence.


Jason Arnopp said...

Presumably, Amanda, you mean the wonderfully fresh and gorgeous odour which I exude, thanks to my sewage-filled childhood spawning an obsessive regime of 24-7 personal hygiene and grooming?

Amanda said...

Yes! That's it! OCD's a bitch, huh?

Uh... speaking of OCD, I feel compelled to say: Sorry James! We appear to have highjacked your blog comments.

Next stop, Cuba!

miss-cellany said...

Aww, thanks for that.

Apologies if the original question sparked some sort of class war. My latin came via a very normal, pretty scuzzy comp, so no trace of cultural snobbery was ever intended.

I'd agree that the more multi layered writing is, the more it's enjoyed. Doesn't this actually just give it a wider appeal rather than being in anyway exclusive or divisive? My son certainly didn't feel excluded or even notice that I enjoyed a whole other dimension of (personal) time travel whilst watching.

If it was all 2d, writers would get bored and the audience would switch off...

Bozzball said...

My input to the class debate is mixed. I actually went to a high-falutin' household-name public school, but did not learn Latin or Greek. However, then I went to Cambridge, where I went to scores of cocktail parties at which people were snorting martinis and screaming 'Cecilius in horto est' so often that I discovered about it. So, my point is made.

James Moran said...

Verityb: Don't know if it's repeated in full, but there are lots of bits on the DW site if you want to have a check around.

Mr Arnopp: You were lucky! I used to dream of living in a septic tank. Etc etc

Bozzball: Nope, that wasn't me. Although I did have 2 lines as "Genie of the Ring" when I was 7 or 8 in primary school. Even though I would have been *perfect* as "Genie of the Lamp", which had far more lines, but oh no, Simon always got the lead roles, didn't he, because his voice was so *expressive*, even though he just made his voice go up and down and never did any proper acting. I could have been a *star*... Er, so no, that wasn't me playing Edward.

Miss-cellany: Wasn't your fault at all - I don't even know what the original comments were, but if anyone has a link to the place that people felt excluded, I'd be interested to see it.

Now, we've done a class war, how about a race war next? Or no, a clothes war! I'll start: My pants are cooler than yours. Your pants are rubbish. In fact - your pants are pants. There, I said it.

miss-cellany said...


(Unless you're now trying to start gender war or were born in Wyoming?)

Garpu the Fork said...

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty Time Lord.

I think I'm in love.

And, for what it's worth, I loved the Latin in-jokes, and I learned from Wheelock's. ;)

Mr.SFTV said...

Great episode, James. The US airing is coming up soon on SciFi, which reported good ratings for the airing of the Xmas special last week.

As for the Gallifrey posts, you don't have to trim it, just make a really long blog post with it. We want it all!

Paul Campbell said...

Finally got round to watching it. Bloody marvelous. My hat is doffed.

And my seven-year-old daughter, who is a fan of Romans, volcanoes and Dr Who, was in seventh heaven.

Did you actually have the bare-faced effrontery to walk into your first ever pitch meeting with the mighty Russell T and say, "I know I've never done this before, but I've got this idea. It needs a CGI volcano, and some big fire-monster things (more CGI), and really you'd need to take the entire team to Italy to shoot it. What do you think?" ?

Yours in admiration


Anonymous said...

I assumed the whole thing with Pyroviles having trouble with even small amounts of water was a subtle dig at M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. I've spent years wishing for a director's cut of that movie where Mel Gibson takes on the aliens with a water pistol. Thanks for making my wishes come partly true.

Carlie said...

That episode was fabulous - for me it beat out all of series 3 put together. [/fangirl]

Just said...

Absolutely brilliant. Can I just ask someone to let Russell know that Donna is the best who companion so far and you are all writing her the MOST amazing scripts. I love her to bits.

Thank you so much!