Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Today's episode of Doctors

Well, that was pretty painless.

Oh, alright, I enjoyed it!

I am almost ashamed to admit it, but this is the first time I have ever seen or heard my work performed. It was great!

And they hardly changed anything. In fact, they didn't alter any of the dialogue at all. They cut some of it, presumably for length, and they did a good job of intercutting the scenes a bit more than I did, but they didn't change a single word.

And I thought it got a good cast. Joe and Nick played up the comedy nicely. Some nice guests, I thought. The two women were fine, but the two men were exactly how I'd imagined them.

One interesting change - I'd written it as two prosperous middle-class couples, but the casting, locations and even the opening soundtracks being played in the homes (classical in one, and country in the other) just brought one of the couples down the social ladder a few rungs. It was a good choice - made a bit more of a contrast between the couples.

Anyway, I could go on for ages about it, but I won't bore you all.I am now a distinctly happy bunny.

And I've stopped shaking!


Dan said...

Absolutely brilliant. Best one yet. Okay, I didn't see it but I just know it was good.

Well done, Paul. I'm genuinely pleased for you and what a great buzz it must have been.

Onwards and upwards!

Danny Stack said...

I saw the first 10 mins before work dragged me away! Looked like a goody. Really liked the characterisation & humour, especially the deadpan reaction to the gag about having 'two lifes of its own'. Nice one, sir.

Jame said...

Found your blog randomly, just wanted to say I really enjoyed Parallel Lives, definatly one of the better Doctors episodes.

Paul Campbell said...

Thanks, Guys.

And thanks for dropping by, Jamie.

Optimistic_Reader said...

I'm afraid I didn't manage to figure out how to set the DVD to record it, so missed it Paul. The shame of being beaten by technology! But well done anyway, I'm sure it was great and hopefully there will be more from you to follow. If so, can you make them broadcast on Tuesdays or Fridays when I can watch it? Ta.

TonyB said...

I’ve been watching Doctors regularly for nearly a year now after taking a course given by one of the programme’s main writers.

The standard is very variable but I have to say with all sincerity that your episode was one of the best I’ve seen – very deft writing.

The idea of having two concurrent stories, one a mirror image of the other, was brilliant and certainly hasn’t been done before (at least not since I’ve been watching it). I also enjoyed the humour underpinning the piece, the pace was good and overall it just felt ‘right’.

It was also apparent that the actors enjoyed the script too – they always rise to the occasion when there’s something to get their teeth into. Otherwise they’re often in auto pilot.

It was good of you to admit that the idea of having each couple belonging to a different social class came from the production side and not from you. This was a great idea which improved the storytelling and communicated well the simple message that underneath the skin we’re all the same.

Having a script improved by a director or producer who is on your side and telling your story is how it should be – a perfect illustration of the synergy that every successful production needs.

Finally, can I ask a question about procedure? The sub plot of the two doctors Nick and Joe placing friendly bets regarding their patients stems from an ongoing storyline where there was intense rivalry and dislike between them. Your episode represented major steps in the thawing of their relationship.

How do you integrate ongoing storylines with your standalone ideas? How much information do they give you about the stories and characters up to that point and how easy is it to integrate sub plots involving the regular cast? It must be especially difficult if you don’t know the characters.

Let’s hope the Doctors team commission you again soon!

Paul Campbell said...

Thanks, Tony.

You asked about how to integrate the ongoing story into the episode.

Well, this was always going to be a slightly odd episode. If you look back at my previous posts on Doctors, you'll find a lengthy description of the whole process I went through.

A "normal" Doctors episode will have a "story of the day" invented by the writer, and a serial element, the broad outline of which is given to the writer by the Doctors team. The writer then has to find a way to bring the two elements together into one coherent episode.

But sometimes, and especially with new writers, they have standalone episodes with no serial element at all. This gives them a bit of flexibility if there's a problem in production because, within reason, they can pop them into the schedule anywhere. And, if the newbie writer totally cocks it up, then they haven't damaged the ongoing story.

Mine was a standalone episode. It started life as two separate stories, one for Greg and one for Mac. It was my script editor who suggested that, individually, they weren't big enough to fill half an hour, but that they could be combined. I didn't want to do it, but was persuaded. I then took the creative decision to restructure the two stories so that they could be told "in parallel" rather than just two stories taking up one episode.

By this stage, Mac had left the series, so I had to find a new doctor for his story. We then had to decide whether Greg was still right for the revamped version of the other story. I think that I ended up opting for Nick, and my script editor pointed out that this was a good choice because they were at a point in their relationship when a good "buddy" script would go down well and cement their new-found friendship. So, a slight "serial element" came in through the back door, and we made the most of it.

And you made an interesting comment about not knowing the characters. Joe did not appear on screen until after I had completed this script. So, I had to write it almost blind - I didn't know anything about him, his mannerisms or way of talking. But I did have the series "Bible" which includes a description of the character and his background. And I had the serial notes leading up to my episode, so I knew all about the ongoing Nick/Joe relationship. The rest was up to me and my script editor.

I assume, Tony, that you're tying to get into writing for Doctors too. So, good luck! Hope it goes well for you.

TonyB said...

Cheers! Yes, I'm very interested in writing for Doctors - an excellent introduction to the business in my opinion.

I'll dig out your earlier posts on the genesis of your episode but what an interesting process you went through!

You did very well indeed to write blind for the character of Joe - I'd never have known. The speech patterns and characterisation were spot on.

Mark said...

Great stuff, Paul. Don't normally watch Doctors as I have a 'proper job' but downloaded the episode from an undisclosed download site and was most impressed! Really interesting reading about the writing process and how the episode got put together, too.

Paul Campbell said...

Thanks, Mark.

What's this site then? I can't quite believe that there's a website out there dedicated to the re-broadcast of episodes of Doctors!

Jamie said...

I can't believe I typoed my own name!

Hope you don't mind, I plugged you in my blog.

Mark said...

Lol, not just Doctors unfortunately, it's dedicated to re-broadcasting a lot of British television - past and present. Great resource, although realised after posting last message that might not have been such a brilliant idea to mention it to a Doctors employee! It's just like setting the video though, really.

Paul Campbell said...

Mark, there's not point being coy about this !

Just give me the damn URL! ;-)

Seriously, it would be a really useful resource for me (and others) as a writer (note - a freelance writer, not an employee of the BBC!).

Mark said...
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