Clara. The Impossible Girl. A mystery wrapped in an enigma. A character who pops up throughout space and time – as a Dalek, as a Victorian governess in last year's Doctor Who seasonal special, as the modern-day Ms Oswald viewers are now familiar with. The lynchpin of the revelation-filled series seven finale. But it could all have been so much more simple...
"The original companion was going to be very much the Victorian governess we saw at Christmas," Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman told Radio Times, while discussing the genesis of his most recent story, Cybermen vehicle Nightmare in Silver.
"Doctor Who has its own peculiar way of being written, so I started writing it about 14 months ago. I wrote about the first ten pages and then they said they’d changed the companion from what I was expecting to something else.
"We decided they can do more weird stuff if it’s now the contemporary third incarnation so I had to reshape it so it wasn’t the governess."
Gaiman says his original brief for the Doctor's new companion consisted simply of a mock script written by showrunner Steven Moffat, which Jenna-Louise Coleman (and the other less fortunate actresses who missed out on the part) were asked to read when going for the role.
"What I got was the scene that Steven Moffat wrote as the Clara character audition piece," said Gaiman. "He sent me that and said 'This is what she sounds like'. But from that you just make her up as you go along."
So will Gaiman's most recent experience writing for Doctor Who make the perpetually busy author and screenwriter think twice about doing it again?
"On the one hand I don’t have time to write Doctor Who," said Gaiman. "It doesn’t pay very well, but you also have to rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it and never get paid, whereas in America you get paid for every rewrite... And there are lots of things including movies, novels, an HBO series that I should be doing…
"On the other hand, I haven’t done [a Doctor Who] episode set on Earth yet, and I haven’t created a new monster. And there’s part of me that feels… I haven’t scared anybody yet... The Cybermen has a few little scary bits but it’s running at about a 5 of 6. I’d love to a 9.
"I’d love to do something that sends adults behind the sofa too and makes them wee. Pools of wee."