Kiwi writes Doctor Who episodes

02:02, Feb 25 2013
Neil Cross

Chris Gardner catches up with Wellington-based screenwriter Neil Cross, whose Doctor Who stories are about to air on the BBC in Britain.

Doctor Who's producer liked a Kiwi writer's first script for the show so much, he's been asked to crank out another.

Steven Moffat told Doctor Who Magazine that New Zealand writer Neil Cross, who is backing leading actor Matt Smith's campaign to film the show in New Zealand, penned episode four of the coming series before being asked to write episode two as well.

"You won't be in any doubt why we rugby tackled him on the way out the door, and why we cranked another story out of him. Spooky and clever and even a little bit romantic . . . " Moffat said of the first script Cross turned in.

Cross, last year nominated for an Emmy for screenwriting on his BBC-produced police drama Luther, said that for his first Doctor Who script he had written "the kind of Doctor Who episode that would have terrified me when I was 9 years old."

Of his second script Moffat said: "You'll laugh and cry and airpunch. Glorious. The brief, for Neil, was this: You know how the Doctor always promises amazing, awesome wonders to his companions, then gets them stuck down a tunnel being attacked by mutant slugs? Let's deliver some awesome and amazing."

Cross said he found it challenging.

"When he asked me, I went 'absolutely', then put down the phone and said, Holy shit. The challenge was to do something that has never been done before in 50 years of the show.

"Doctor Who is a show made by people who love Doctor Who. To be asked back to write more is as much a recognition of my love of Doctor Who as my ability."

Alongside Cross, this season includes stories from Moffat, his Sherlock co- writers Mark Gattis and Stephen Thompson and Neil Gaiman. The eight episodes will reveal more about the Doctor's mysterious new companion, Clara (Jenna- Louise Coleman).

"Jenna has everything that's needed to be an A1 classic Doctor Who companion . . . It looks like it's going to be, if not the best yet, certainly among the best Doctor Who seasons yet, " Cross said.

Cross, who recently topped the US box office with Mama, has turned in a script for a movie version of John Wyndham's classic science fiction novel Day of the Triffids, being directed by Sam Raimi (Oz: The Great and Powerful). He is also working on a New Zealand film adaptation of his novel Always the Sun, long-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize. It will be directed by Cliff Curtis.

Production has just finished on the third season of Luther, but Cross said most of this year would be taken up with his new series, Crossbones.

"It's a high adventure story set in the Bermudas - an 18th-century Spooks."

Unusually, the series has been picked up by NBC without a pilot episode being made.

"We have bought an ex-US naval base in Puerto Rico of nine square miles to film that, " Cross says casually.

"The story is based on a historical nugget around Blackbeard starting the world's first democracy . . . Our main character is going to be Blackbeard."

Filming is due to begin in May.

Doctor Who season 7.2 begins in the UK on March 30 and will follow on Prime.