Frank Cottrell-Boyce is used to bringing national institutions into the modern era. The opening ceremony he wrote for the London Olympics featured everything from Maypole dancing to the Queen skydiving. But this weekend’s Doctor Who episode, In the Forest of the Night, presented a unique problem to the celebrated children’s author.
By now we’re all used to Peter Capaldi’s cantankerous and cutting version of the Doctor (even if Clara hasn’t quite adjusted) but when Cottrell-Boyce was writing his script he was still an unknown quantity.
“Obviously we wrote all of our scripts before we saw him,” he told RadioTimes.com. “We knew the story and this guy was going to be older, a bit grumpier, a bit sharper. The minute they had any footage of him they showed, but there’s an interplay between the writing and what he’s trying to bring to it.”
With that in mind, what tips and directions did Steven Moffat give about writing for Capaldi? “Well, I’ve had his voice in my head since Local Hero came out in 1980-whatever-it-was. I think the key note Steven gave was that whereas the other Doctors tell you what they’re doing, he’ll keep things to himself for a while. Matt would tell you everything, but [Capaldi’s Doctor] keeps the process to himself until he acts on it.”
It’s an approach that Boyce believes echoes another of Moffat’s hyperintelligent leading men. “I guess that’s more like Sherlock Holmes,” Cottrell-Boyce notes, “you know the wheels are turning in his head, but he’s not really letting you in on the process.”
So the question is: can you tell the Doctor and Sherlock apart?