Twenty Years of Doctors
Happy 20th anniversary to Doctors! The fabulous half-hour medical drama has been entertaining people at lunch time for the last two decades and provided jobs and opportunities for hundreds of talented people both in front of and behind the camera.
(Diane Keen as Julia in BBC One's Award-winning Doctors. Copyright BBC)
And in that time, the changing cast of regular characters have faced every drama imaginable in the serial storylines. Sometimes these storylines have bravely pushed the very boundaries of what is permissible in daytime drama – with no topic deemed out of bounds. The series has tackled domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, murder, prostitution, child neglect, and many other topics that you'd usually expect to find in post-watershed drama. And they've got away with it because of the skill in how all these hard-hitting subjects are portrayed.
Although I wasn't there at the start, I feel privileged to have been a small part of the journey of Doctors, having received one of my first TV commissions to write on the series back in 2003. Since then I've enjoyed writing nearly 50 episodes over the years.
So I wanted to shine a spotlight on this most chameleon-like of dramas and mention what it's meant to me personally over the years.
Why do I say it's chameleon-like? Well, each episode has 'a story of the day' in which one of the regular characters will feature in a self-contained story. These stories can vary in style and genre – with screwball comedy one day and family drama the next. And these are the stories that are pitched from the writers who wish to work on the series. The production team enjoys a challenge and will encourage writers to push their ideas. Recently they brilliantly produced an episode featuring multiple Joe Pasquales (written by Steve Keyworth).
Personally I have written episodes – not just of screwball comedy and family drama – but also containing Quatermass-style sci-fi ('The Meteor'); Twilight-Zone pastiche ('A Most Unusual Item'), horror ('Sometimes They Come Back'), split timeline drama ('Across Time'), one-location drama ('The Unusual Suspects') and crime ('A Night Like This') amongst others.
They even allowed me to write a 'backwards' episode ('A Question of Time') in which each scene was set just before the proceeding one – so we got earlier in the day as the drama progressed. It even ended (started) with a twist. I'd been watching Seinfeld and been impressed with their backwards episode ('The Betrayal') and thought I could do something like that for Doctors. It turned out to be the first-ever backwards episode of a British Soap. Doctors got there first.
So thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell all these stories – and for the encouragement to push the boundaries of what could be achieved. Thanks to everyone who worked on my episodes, especially the script editors including Terry Barker, Grainne O'Boyle, Richard Kelly, Liam Stratton, Neil Irvine, Lyn Washbrook, Nell Denton, Gemma Boswell, Dawn Coulson-Beckett, Simon Curtis, Jamie Hewitt, Helen Raynor and Hannah Durham.
I owe you a lot Doctors! And here's to the next 20 years!
Click here to read more of my memories on some of my episodes.