Neil Gaiman is all about the silver linings. The novelist and screenwriter has revealed he is actually thankful that writing for Doctor Who left him with “a bad taste in my mouth” – because that experience inspired him to take the job of showrunner on Good Omens.
After writing award-winning Doctor Who episode The Doctor’s Wife in 2011, Gaiman returned to the BBC in 2o13 with another episode, Nightmare in Silver.
Explaining the difference between serving as a screenwriter and taking control as showrunner, Gaiman told press at Amazon’s London showcase that he had no control over that second Doctor Who episode.
“Let me answer politely,” he said. “I did two episodes of Doctor Who over the last decade. One I love and it won awards, one I do not love and it is widely regarded as having some good bits in it – but being rather a curate’s egg.
“And as far as I’m concerned, both of the scripts were of equal quality. The biggest differences were having a say in what actually got to the screen. A say in what got changed, a say in what got rewritten, a say in the cast. A say in all those things.”
When it came to making Good Omens into a TV show with the BBC and Amazon, Gaiman realised that he would have to take full control over his and co-author Terry Pratchett’s brainchild.
Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens co-author Terry Pratchett (Getty)
Retaining creative control over the adaptation was particularly important in this case, as Pratchett’s dying wish was for his co-writer to bring Good Omens to life on screen.
“I’m really glad that my second Doctor Who episode left me with a bad taste in my mouth,” Gaiman said.
“When Terry said to me that you have to make this thing, and I knew that I had to make Good Omens, it also meant that I was like: OK, well if I’m going to do it then I’m going to be showrunner. Because I can’t just write the scripts, hand them over to somebody and hope that I get something fantastic back. I may or I may not.
“If this is going to be f**ked up, it’s going to be f**ked up by me personally, with love and dedication. And I will hope that it isn’t, but it needs to be done properly, and I need to care.”
Gaiman teamed up with director Douglas Mackinnon for the ambitious project, which will run to six episodes.
Mackinnon has worked with Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat on Doctor Who episodes including The Husbands of River Song and The Power of Three, as well as directing Sherlock episode The Abominable Bride and several episodes of Line of Duty.
Commenting on his experience of working with Amazon Prime Video and collaborating with Gaiman as showrunner, Mackinnon criticised the “over-manipulative way that we often do it in British television, where the writer hands over the script and is pushed aside.”
He added: “I think that’s where the trouble is sometimes with British television actually: it’s producers thinking that they can go and do the rewrite themselves. And we know that happens all the time, whereas this is a different system where they actually want the talent to flourish, which is amazing.”