Have you seen Totally Doctor Who? It’s a children’s companion series to the drama, runs five o’clock on Fridays on BBC1 and at various times on CBBC as well. This week the guest was Helen Raynor, the writer of the current Dalek two-parter.
I’m just not used to this: you see Russell T Davies everywhere but there’s somehow a sense that he is Mr Who rather than a writer, at least in the minds of interviewers, so to get an actual episode writer front and centre seems unusual. This is the first time I’ve seen Totally, I was coughing away at home with man-flu, so perhaps they do it all the time but I hadn’t thought so.
I’ve met Helen, I like her and I like her writing – she did a grand Torchwood and I envy that she got a Friday Play on BBC Radio 4 – but more importantly, she’s a writer and she was being interviewed as one on a high-rating children’s show. Can’t you just imagine millions of kids with their faces too close to the screen, now being shown that such strange creatures as writers exist? I keep imagining some of them dreaming about become writers themselves.
Mark you, at the rate I’m going, they’ll overtake me, the little bastards.
I realise we’re in a more media-aware time than when I would’ve been their age, it’s probably not as a big a deal as it seems to me, but when I was a young lad, writing was not something a young lad like me could aspire to doing. That sounds ridiculous, even to me as I type it, but I feel it was true. I do have a certain relative who repeatedly told me then to “keep your feet on the ground” if I ever ventured a plan about writing. This person now claims responsibility for my success, such as it is, and did tell me the other day that it’d be okay if I didn’t thank her when I win some award. “That’s all right,” I said. “I won’t.”
I honestly think I became a writer because of Lou Grant, a newspaper drama from the company that would rapidly become more famous for Hill Street Blues. It was the first time I was aware of an hour drama as something crafted by people but I didn’t think I could be one of them. So I went into computers by mistake, journalism by accident, scriptwriting by, er, let me come back to that one.
Would it have helped me if there’d been a writer interviewed on Magpie? I don’t know, but I watched this Totally Doctor Who yesterday and it was invigorating. Okay, some of the show has a forced-jollity I find hard to endure, but dead centre in its everything-Who-is-fantastic approach was a writer. And, let’s face a cold fact, there are plenty of writers who should not be allowed out in public, but Helen Raynor isn’t one of them.
So a smart writer is championed on a hugely popular children’s show. I think that’s marvellous.