Phil Ford (‘Doctor Who: The Adventure Games’) interview

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The first of four new Doctor Who adventures, which take the form of downloadable computer games available for PC and Mac, is available free from on 5th June 2010.

Players will help the Doctor and Amy in an epic original story which forms part of the current series, featuring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan recreating their roles as the Doctor and Amy.

CultBox caught up with writer Phil Ford to find our more…

How did you get involved with Doctor Who: The Adventure Games?

“I was asked to work on The Adventure Games after writing ‘Dreamland’ and co-writing ‘The Waters Of Mars’ with Russell T Davies. Not entirely sure if my animation experience – both with ‘Dreamland’ and as lead writer on Gerry Anderson’s CGI re-make of Captain Scarlet – had any bearing on that, but its certainly territory that I’m familiar with.”

How did writing the story for a game differ from writing for TV?

“In the first instance, writing for the games is no different from writing for the TV show. Especially as The Adventure Games have been conceived as a part of the series. The stories that the audience will interact with when they play should feel and unfold just as the Doctor’s adventures on TV develop. So both have to start with a great story. Then come characters that you’re either going to root for, or are going to scare you. You then develop an outllne in tandem with the show’s producers and script editor and ultimately write the script.

“The big difference, of course, is that this isn’t just an armchair experience. It is a game and the audience has to get involved in the story-telling, in as much as that there are various gameplay situations that have to be negotiated in order to move the story on.

“I didn’t write the outline or script thinking “oh, this would be a good place for a game” – that was all up to the games people who know what they are doing. But in scripting I did have to find a way for the characters to tell the player their game objectives without it being too on the nose. That could be quite a challenge at times.

“The great thing about the gameplay element of these stories from a writer’s perspective, however, is that in some ways the games make the story-telling easier. In a TV adventure I have to come up with obstacles for the Doctor and devise a way for him to solve them – in The Adventure Games solving those situations is really up to the player.”

Can you tell us anything about the story and how the Doctor and Amy end up in Kaalann, the Dalek capital city?

“The most exciting thing about The Adventure Games for me is that they give us an opportunity to go to places we wouldn’t be able to realise in live-action. Each episode is set in such a location. ‘The City Of The Daleks’ opens in a London of 1963 that’s in ruins. And then takes us to Skaro, the planet of the Daleks. We’ve been there before, of course, but never seen it in the way that we do now. And we have never seen Kaalann before, the brutal poisonous heart of the Dalek empire. But that’s where the Doctor and Amy have to go in order to save time, save the human race – and save Amy.”

Have you played the game yet?

“I’ve seen the game, but not played it. It looks fabulous and I think people are going to be blown away by it.”

You co-wrote one of last year’s specials,’The Waters Of Mars’, with Russell T Davies last year – how did you find the experience of working with another writer?

“It was the first time I’d co-written anything, and the prospect of working with another writer in that way was something that had never really appealed. But this was Russell and I jumped at the chance immediately. I’ve known Russell for a fair while and worked with him as my exec obviously before. The man isn’t just a genius, he’s also one of the nicest human beings you could want to meet. You’d have to be mad not to grab that kind of opportunity.

“I wrote four drafts of the script, after we’d talked through the story. And much of the process was identical to writing any other script with Russell as executive producer. Then Russell took over to write the last couple of drafts. That was where he worked his magic and made a story that I already thought was truly thrilling and actually quite frightening into a work of twisted darkness.”

What do you think of Series 5 so far and Matt Smith’s Doctor?

“Matt Smith is a brilliant Doctor. He has already made it totally his own. I love him and I love what Steven has done with the show – and yes, that is me creeping shamelessly for a chance to write on Series 6.”

What do you think of the new multi-coloured breed of Daleks, first revealed to audiences in ‘Victory Of The Daleks’?

“The new Daleks – love ‘em. Big, muscular scary bastards.”

Are you writing any episodes for the new series of The Sarah Jane Adventures?

“Yes, still working on The Sarah Jane Adventures. Just one story in Series 4, but of course we’re heading straight into production on Series 5 this year as well so I’m already head and shoulders into stories for that. All I can promise you right now are a couple of familiar faces, and some surprising twists.”

How did you make the transition from writing drama like Coronation Street, The Bill and Bad Girls to the predominantly sci-fi TV that you’ve been writing in recent years?

“When I came into the business these were the kind of shows I wanted to write. I’ve always been a big fan of sci-fi, horror, fantasy – anything but reality, to be honest. The first idea I ever sold was a Victorian paranormal investigative series – kind of The X-Files meets Sherlock Holmes, although the idea first came about even before The X Files which shows how long these things gestate. The idea was optioned and I wrote a script, but it never got made. In those days British broadcasters just didn’t seem to understand genre. They didn’t think there was an audience for it. So I wrote Taggart, Corrie, Bad Girls

Doctor Who changed the commissioning landscape, though. I’d been working with Gerry Anderson on the CG remake of Captain Scarlet, but Russell developing the comeback of Doctor Who, that was my first real opportunity to write sci-fi for British telly. Russell and Julie Gardner both loved Scarlet and, to cut a long story short, that’s how they invited me on board.”

What tips would you give to any of our readers who are aspiring TV writers?

“For anyone who wants to write for TV now – what can I say? First, get a really good stand-out idea. And work it hard. Never be satisfied with what you’re writing because whatever you write, if you write well, you’ll always come back to it a while later and see how you could improve it. But the main thing, the golden, golden rule is to write, write, re-write, re-write, write some more and write still more. And while you’re doing that watch TV, watch movies and read. And don’t just watch the kind of movies and shows that you enjoy. Watch stuff that you wouldn’t normally choose to. Stretch yourself. That’s the Fountain of Inspiration.”

Watch the trailer…