TV Last night, Blue Peter broadcast Good as Gold, the results of this year's Doctor Who script to screen competition and you can watch it here:
Now, isn’t that fun? However entertaining the spin-off media is, particularly the audio exclusives from AudioGo or the Doctor Who Magazine comics, they’re never quite the same as the television version with its acting and music and camera whooshing around. And there they are for the first time since Christmas, The Doctor, Amy, the TARDIS console room and the chemistry we’ve enjoyed this past few years. Just three minutes including credits and whooping from the Blue Peter audience, but a magical three minutes.
Much of that has to do with the Children of Ashdene School or more precisely Rebecca, Emily and Libby from Year 6 who’ve cleverly looked at the fundamentals of what makes a Doctor Who story, as the first Doctor says, “the great spirit of adventure” and run with it, making it the Time Lord’s primary motive after some needling from Amy. None of the wanting to be left alone which has epitomised all of the Doctors at some point or other. If they’re not having an adventure at least once a week, there’s something wrong with the universe. Amen to that.
As with much of the newer series, kids entering the competition were handed a shopping list of what their script had to include. The scripts had to be no longer than three minutes when performed, have an Olympic theme, set either in the TARDIS or a new planet or world (but not both) and feature the eleventh Doctor plus Amy AND/OR Rory PLUS either a Judoon, Cyberman, Ood or Weeping Angel AND/OR a brand new human character (this can be a contemporary figure or a historical character).
None of which is quite werewolves, Shaolin monks and Queen Victoria but still has a few problems and it’s to the writer’s credit that they have managed to shoehorn all of that into three minutes. Shrewdly they’ve realised there isn’t much room in that time to give Amy and Rory something to do, especially in something this plot based, so they’ve stuck with just the former, which suggests that maybe this story happens some time in new series five, after The Time of Angels, perhaps as late as when Rory has been wiped from existence.
The Olympic theme was a big ask. This could have manifested itself in a metaphoric sense but the kids have gone with a more terrestrial theme and inevitably the result contradicts Fear Her as the athlete says he’s going to be lighting the flame. By rights this minisode should feature the tenth Doctor. But demonstrating a Dicksian understanding of the franchise, they’ve realised that “established events” should never get in the way of a good story so time’s been rewritten and here we are with a version of the London 2012 opening ceremony in which the TARDIS lands in the middle.
That’s the other interesting choice. Given the opportunity to set this particular adventure elsewhere, we have another minisode set in the console room. Perhaps that’s why it was chosen by the judges, but again in writing they’ve realised that establishing some new planet at the beginning wouldn’t have left much narrative real estate for something to actually happen. Even without an EXT, shot in the script, most people watching will know what this place looks like so it’s a perfectly reasonable shorthand. Plus there’s something seductive about only just glimpsing what’s beyond its door.
That the TARDIS has an "adventure" setting shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As we discovered in Steven Moffat’s Space/Time, it already has the capacity to enter "conceptual space", presumably an offshoot of the Land of Fiction (which was used as part of the promotion for the series). Unless the Doctor’s simply glossing the randomiser to Amy as a way of showing off and tantalising those of us who vaguely wish the TARDIS’s guidance systems would fall apart and we could return the haphazard approach to destinations of the 60s.
Another ingenious decision is in selecting the Weeping Angels. Partly that might just be ruled by taste – the Angels are the coolest of the aliens on that list – but again like the TARDIS console room, they have a shorthand. The problem with Judoons, Cybermen or Ood is that they have to have a motive, some reason to be there, they’d need some dialogue. We know the Weeping Angels simply want to make you die slowly. Plus they have a recognisable catchphrase that has an inbuilt terror. They exist therefore they’re scary.
The Doctor also gets a bit of a speech. It’s a bit Huw Edwards, and “destroy the very spirit of respect, excellence and friendship it represents" isn’t going to beat “they’re indomitable” or “do I have that right”. But it shows that Rebecca, Emily and Libby have done some research into the history of the games and what they represent. Along with Fear Her, it would be entirely appropriate to broadcast this again as part of the BBC's main coverage. Genuine thought’s gone into this script. Perhaps after this.
All in all then, an economic, neat, funny, snack of a story which can stand along side all the rest of the minisodes written by professionals which is a credit to its authors and to the production which invited them. With Confidential cancelled, competitions like this will be instrumental in inspiring the programme makers of the future and hopefully even the children who weren’t successful in the seeing their work filmed will have enjoyed the process enough to be motivated to become the production team of the future.