When reviving the show in 2004, showrunner Russell T Davies drew together a group of writers already well acquainted with the worlds of Doctor Who.
Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman had written novels and scripts for Big Finish, while Steven Moffat was responsible for the well received and affectionate Comic Relief parody ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’.
The regular pool expanded over the next few years, drawing in names such as Toby Whithouse (Being Human), Gareth Roberts, Matthew Graham (Life on Mars) and Chris Chibnail, now best known for Broadchurch.
Since 2010, under the stewardship of Steven Moffat, the show has attracted some high profile names too – writers already well known for their work in other genres. As well as providing a welcome publicity boost, they have taken Doctor Who’s ever flexible format in some rather interesting directions, unshackled by fan sensibilities.
Here CultBox takes a look at some of the biggest names who’ve written for the show over the past decade…
Richard Curtis – ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ (2010)
Best known for his romantic comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and About Time (you know, the ones which invariably star a bumbling Brit and an impossibly attractive American actress), Richard Curtis also penned one of the most moving Doctor Who episodes ever written.
Pairing the Doctor and Amy with Vincent Van Gogh in ‘Vincent and the Doctor’, they tackled one invisible monster while realising that Vincent was on his own dealing with another, namely the depression that caused him to take his own life.
Whereas in real life Van Gogh died before the world appreciated his talent, Doctor Who’s time travelling premise afforded a rare opportunity to imagine how the painter might have reacted to seeing his work on display and to hear himself described as the “world’s greatest artist”.
Neil Gaiman – ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ & ‘Nightmare in Silver’ (2011 & 2013)
As the creative force behind the Sandman comics, books such as The Ocean at the End of the Lane and films like Stardust and Coraline, Neil Gaiman is no stranger to television; Neverwhere began its life as an early 90’s BBC TV series and he even scripted an episode of Babylon 5.
‘The Doctor’s Wife’, his first outing with the Doctor, provided the TARDIS with a voice. Channelled into the body of Idris, the ship and her pilot Doctor were able to interact on an equal level for the first time. Clearly, it was a relationship doomed to failure but the journey was worth every moment.
For his second episode, ‘Nightmare in Silver’, he took on the challenge of making the Cybermen scary again and was successful to a degree, aided by a subtle redesign and granting them some new tricks. Unfortunately, the story seemed to get lost in the delights of a battle between duplicate Matt Smiths, as the Doctor fought an internal war with an invasive Cyber-Planner, as well as having to carry Clara’s pair of troublesome wards.
Simon Nye – ‘Amy’s Choice’ (2012)
Playing out between two alternating realities, the Men Behaving Badly creator’s ‘Amy’s Choice’ saw the Doctor moving between a world where he is visiting a pregnant Amy and ponytailed Rory, some years after they travelled with him, and a desperate situation on the TARDIS as the trio faced the danger of an impossible cold star.
Communally sharing the experience of the two worlds, the time travellers were forced to work out which was real and which was the fantasy, all the time heckled by the devious Doctor-like Dream Lord.
Frank Cottrell-Boyce – ‘In the Forest of the Night’ (2014)
Providing an ecological fairy tale, the famed children’s writer and author of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony gave us a world where the trees had taken over in ‘In the Forest of the Night’.
Centring on Clara and Danny’s students, who had woken from a sleepover at the Natural History Museum, the Doctor was forced to puzzle out a mystery and know when not to intervene.
Neil Cross – ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ & ‘Hide’ (2013)
Luther creator Cross contributed two scripts to the latter half of Matt Smith’s final season. Written first, but screened second, ‘Hide’ was an impressive haunted house story with a temporal twist and a love story to boot.
On the strength of ‘Hide’, he received a swift commission for ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, treating Clara to her first trip off-world. Coming to the aid of a scared child, the Doctor and Clara found themselves in a world where treasured objects carried emotional currency and the inhabitants were in thrall to a hungry old god.
Honourable mention: Stephen Fry – The One that Got Away?
Apparently invited to write for the 2006 run, famed comedian, writer, presenter and all around national treasure Stephen Fry was unable to make the time to complete work on his tale.
Rumoured to be set in the 1920s, and based on the legend of Gawain and the Green Knight, the script then slid to the David Tennant’s second year before Fry was forced to give it up. Could this be the ultimate missed opportunity?
Come on Stephen, it is not too late!
Which high-profile Doctor Who writer is your favourite? Let us know below…