Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Secrets of China | A Writer's Insight

The Secrets of China was a script I wrote quite some time ago, and it was released on this day (28th April) last year (2012), meaning it's now a year old! Hooray! And so while you sit down and eat cake, why don't you have a watch or a rewatch?

And now, presuming you have watched or rewatched, I'll waffle on for a bit about how I wrote the episode (if I can remember). And technically, I've been meaning to make a Behind the Scenes for my writing for The Secrets of China for just over a year now - so here it is at last!

My life as a script writer for FanFilmsUK (I make it sound like a career choice, but it wasn't) began with "The Doctor and the Disappearances" for Series One. I'd been an admirer of the previous series FanFilmsUK had done under a different name, and when they rebooted, I got involved, asking if I could write a book. I was then told to hold off with the book writing, because the companions were changing - and then I asked with the arrival of the new series, and was 'commissioned' to write a script.

My two criteria were waterfall which quite possibly had the word epic before it, and witches. Oh, and broomstick scene. So, I set off, developing a plot about Cascade Veil, an epic waterfall, and there were witches. And a hut. And a broomstick scene. And then they saved the day, and woop. I've no idea how well the episode went down on YouTube, but Nathan [creator of FanFilmsUK and The Doctor]'s things tend to be well accepted so I'm hoping for that.

And then I wrote another for Series Two, enter The Secrets of China. It's not my title - because it's not my script. Nathan had written hundreds of drafts (well ish) for it wasn't getting anywhere. So as all struggling script writers probably don't do, he took to Facebook, and complained. He'd tried drafts with the Master's relatives and stuff, from what I can remember, and I'll keep the specifics secret in case he still wants to use it. But I volunteered to write it for him. And there I was, 'commissioned' once more. My criteria this time were box with DOCTOR engraved on it in Chinese and scene on boat with the Doctor and Banes. Banes was the Doctor's on/off companion at the time.

So I wrote it. And I invented Doris (seriously, if you haven't seen the episode yet, watch at least the first two minutes, purely for Doris), and she was a hit, so Nathan brought her back, hooray! But after Doris, I wrote a scene in the Chinese village (not in China, believe it or not) and it carried on, with scenes on the boat (I think that scene was copy and pasted from Nathan's latest draft) and then wrote loads of other stuff that happened. They went to the museum, which looks spectacular on the episode, and go into the TARDIS, and then stuff happens and they end up in a field.

And on watching the episode back, I've remembered the plot! I'm quite pleased with it. The whole mystery of 'what happened to the village' I considered to be quite dark at the time, but I'm pleased that I've made it a mystery that's always haunted the Doctor. I also pushed some of the 'last incarnation' stuff, which is good. And! There's the mysterious character of Saben. Originally, the companion was Banes, and it was changed to Lee last minute, so that's why Saben is called Saben, to an extra element of confusion. I'm not too fond of how he's written, but he was there more for me so I could push the story forward in my head. And it did push the story forward, adding in lots of complicated stuff like a fold in time...

But then I stopped writing. I can't remember why, school or just not bothering to finish it I suppose. But not long after stopping, I think, I got back to it and then I struggled. Who was the villain going to be? I had an idea about what they were doing, what happened to the village - but then I didn't know who. I hate it in episodes of anything where the endings aren't built in (such as Terror of the Autons or a large number of Doctor Who Series 7 episodes, most notably The Power of Three), but that was the problem here. There was no ending built in, no real purpose. And so, I found The Bumper Book of Monsters and Villains on the internet, which has been useful quite a few times, and chose VILLAIN (if you want to know who, watch the episode!).

VILLAIN had a little scene, which looking back was far too talky and explained far too much in one place. I think that's probably cos I had to explain their presence, and that in relation to the plot about the fold in time and stuff. It could have been written a lot better, and so when Nathan went out to film on a windy day on a large field (that are outtakes of the tripod/camera falling over it was so windy), having to say big speeches and lots of dialogues didn't help. So the last scene is perhaps a bit long (my fault) and a bit hard to hear (also probably my fault for not making it shorter, but I'll blame Mother Nature). But then they save the day... or do they?

The end of my script contains one last little twist, and a good bit of acting from Nathan, as he realises something's gone wrong... There are threads in that which are yet to be picked up, and I'm going back and forth to my tenth draft (yes, all different) of my latest and last script for his series (I may cry when I finish), which may or may not pick those threads up. There is a storyline to be completed, and it's wonderfully timey wimey, and hopefully pleasing to some Fourth Doctor fans out there.

I really did enjoy writing The Secrets of China, and I'm now going to go and rewatch it. I've now started rewatching it, and apologies 'cos this blog is slightly longer as I seemed to have remembered loads of other stuff to put in. But yeah, I hope that people enjoyed/enjoy/are enjoying (?) this episode, and I'm certainly proud of the timey wimey-ness, and the dialogue. Even if the dialogue does drag on sometimes (sorry, viewer!)

But anyway - who cares, I invented Doris, so all is good with the world.

Happy Birthday Secrets of China.

(PS Thank you to all who read my Broadchurch posts, it means a lot!)

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