Memories of Doctors
With the sad news that BBC's Doctors is ending, I mentioned recently that not only did it give so many writers a start in their TV careers, it also allowed you to write an amazing variety of stories. Over the years, the writers have pushed the boundaries of the format. I really enjoyed that aspect of the show - and my own stories tackled everything from screwball comedy, horror, science fiction and metatextual drama. The bottom line was that you were effectively writing a fifteen minute play, featuring your own characters and ideas - and it just had to involve one of the regulars in some significant way.
If you're interested, grab a cuppa. Here are a few memories about some of the episodes that I wrote for BBC Doctors...
NO MORE PAIN
This was my first one. It concerned an elderly woman who had given her bed-ridden husband an overdose. She claimed it was an accident, but the doctors were suspicious. At the filming, Christopher Timothy took me to one side and I thought he was going to say he hated it. But instead he complimented me for the ending (in which – spoiler – the doctors fail to realise that an old woman has got away with attempted murder).
A MOST UNUSUAL ITEM
I was thrilled to write an episode with a Twilight Zone feel – in which an elderly salesman, on the verge of retirement, had to make one final pitch of a – well – very unusual item. I was even more thrilled that we had the great Roy Hudd to play the salesman.
It's very sad that Roy passed away recently. As with all the things he did, he was fabulous in this – in a performance that had sadness and loss, but also a stoic twinkle of defiance.
THE FINAL CURTAIN
This had the wonderful Melvyn Hayes starring in it, and it was also the only time I ever wrote a guest character that didn't have a name. Well, she did have one, but I wanted her identity to be a surprise until the end - but for most of the script she was called 'The Woman in Black'. The episode was also called THE WAXWORKS until the final draft – when everyone figured the reference was too obscure (coming as it did from Sunset Boulevard where it was the term for the old stars who play Bridge with Norma Desmond).
A NIGHT LIKE THIS
With most episodes having serial story, this was a rare time in which all the serial strands seemed to reach some sort of ending by the end of the episode. As such, it had a pleasing closure to it. It also had a nice nod to The Twilight Zone with a Rod Serling style voiceover intro for one of the characters. I was chuffed that the production team managed to use The Cure song (of the same name). It also featured Rob Hollins naked in a hotel corridor.
A QUESTION OF TIME
The backwards episode. I was really proud of the achievement of reverse plotting something. It made my head – and the head of script editor, Terry Barker – hurt but we got there in the end. It has a nice twist at the end (beginning) too - so I was pleased how it turned out.
Satisfying my need to write a drama set across two time periods, this featured a storyline in the present day and another one in the 1970s, running in parallel. Again, it was the mark of a production team that are up for any challenge (not least in kitting actors out in Seventies flares and leather-elbowed jackets!)
One of the darker episodes I wrote for the series, this one concerned a terminally-ill woman being duped by a crooked faith healer. As always, Stephen Moore, the casting director, found some amazing actors - not least TIlly Vosborough, who was heart-breaking in the central role.
SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK
A woman is found dead at the sight of a hit and run. She is identified as the mother of one of Zara's patients – so Zara sets out to break the awful news to the teen. But the teenager is adamant that her mum can't be dead. I enjoyed the misdirection of this one; leaving out one simple fact and letting the audience make an assumption.
The title may be a play on an old Star Trek episode, but this had Julia coping with a woman who claimed to be pregnant with Mac's child. A bit of a shock for Julia. It also features the first appearance of Karen Hollins. I was chuffed that I got to write her introduction. At that point, Karen is a temp who turns up to cover some reception shifts.
Horror rose its head for this one – in which a drifter claims to have the power to kill with one touch of his hands. It was a lot of fun. And it featured a star turn from Gwilym Lee who later played Reverend Henry in Land Girls (he didn't kill anyone with his hands in that show though…)
THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS
I love dramas that are set in a single location and this one took place in a dining room – as Julia hosted supper for some old friends. But during the meal, the past is uncovered and they all realise that one of them committed a crime. It also featured the only one of my guest characters ('Maurice') who came back for another one of my episodes.
So that's a few of my memories of the show. Hope you found it interesting!
(All photographs copyright BBC).