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back to article Doctor Who nicked my plot and all I got was a mention in this lousy feature

There’s no question: blocked Doctor Who writers and Script Editors - or Story Editors as they were in the very early days - frequently turned to movies and books for inspiration. They regularly resorted to, ahem, "borrowing" plots and ideas from famous flicks and notorious novels for the basis for their Doctor Who stories. …

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Li-Hsen Chang and his gang of Chinese martian artist henchmench

Oh no! they're going to paint me to death!

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... using red Chniese characters, presumably

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There's a healthy interest and then...

I'm beginning to think that Tony Smith ought to get out more.

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Anonymous Coward

pss there are no more original stories, just good characters and settings, and taking something an hour and a half long or a whole novel and compressing it down into a single (or a handful) of 25 minute episodes is a skill in itself.

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Indeed. I think the sinking of the Belgrano was the underpin for one of the more recent stories

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Stolen Ideas

Yeah! And this whole article is stolen from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine.

Forbidden Planet: Stolen from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'. And Morbuis wasn't a mad scientist he was a mad linguist. (I often wonder why a 'master of languages and their meanings' [thanks wikipedia] is on the crew to colonise a planet.)

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Coat

Re: was he a mad linguist?

or was he just a cunning linguist?

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Re: Stolen Ideas

Forbidden Planet didn't have http://nerdalicious.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/leela-louise-jameson-2.jpg either....

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Re: was he a mad linguist?

or was he just a cunning linguist?

You Sir have just won the Internet!

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Re: Stolen Ideas

Forbidden Planet: Stolen from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'.

And The Tempest draws heavily on Ovid's Metamorphoses and other works. Yes, we all know about influence studies (one hopes). Structural narratologists, such as the Russian Formalists (e.g. Propp) or Northrop Frye, did this whole "there are no new stories" bit to death in the early 20th century.1 It's really not necessary to rehash it all now, is it?

1Which doesn't mean there isn't room for new work along these lines, of course. Recent years have seen a number of interesting computational approaches to structuralist narratology, for example in applying automated narratological analysis to large corpora of stories, or creating computational models of narrative structures. But bare observations like "all stories borrow from other stories" are a tad sophomoric.

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Re: was he a mad linguist?

"cunning linguist?" - Which is a ripped off quote from a James Bond movie (Moneypenny yanking Bond's chain with a double meaning pun).

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They do say

that there are only seven stories:

- overcoming the monster;

- rags to riches;

- the quest;

- voyage and return;

- comedy;

- tragedy;

- rebirth.

Dr Who certainly seems to hit four or five of those.

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Re: They do say

there's only one missing and that's the one that's playing out in real life:

- surrender to apathy

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Trollface

Re: They do say

Sir,

people don't want to watch that avant-garde shit,

faithfully, cyborg

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Original stories

If you can name six original stories published in the time that Dr Who has been on the air I'll be amazed! It is an oft quoted maxim, and a reasonably accurate one, that there are only seven plots for stories:- rags to riches, there and back, a quest, comedy, tragedy, monster and rebirth, a Dr Who story is probably not going to include rags to riches so if you want true originality you have a maximum of 6 episodes!

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Coat

Re: Original stories

I think you just "re-imagined" Neil Barnes' earlier post there!

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Re: Original stories

Oh noes! Tragedy!

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Re: Original stories

Donna Noble did win the lottery in Tennant's (and her) last episode, so I suppose you could say "rags to riches" has been touched upon, even if very vaguely...

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Dunno about six

Melody Pond went back in time as a little girl to grow up alongside her parents, probably making sure that they got together, then she murdered her future husband, twice, and... well, yes, but it's not -exactly- the same as [Back to the Future], is it? Also, two of them were ectoplasmic duplicates for part of the time, the other was an Auton, and the Doctor who was shot at Lake Silencio had come there from the future with... ah, that's a spoiler.

But will you let me claim "Let's Kill Hitler" as original?

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Anonymous Coward

Let's Kill Hitler

..was a shockingly blatant series opening McGuffin!

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IT Angle

Who's Doc Who ?

I have the greatest trouble understanding the hype on elreg for the doc ... I remember back in my early teens being invited round to a mate to "watch THE sci-fi series" ... this was some 30 years ago ... and what I saw was poor excuse for drama, as in, the special effects looked like a rippoff of poor Ed Wood's - as in: "worse than star treck from 1960's".

I know it is both the crown jewel of British sci-fi and the mock of world ;-) Are you really so excited or is this all "piss-take of epic proportions" ? Where is the it angle to this ?

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Re: Who's Doc Who ?

I smell a Tenant Fanboy in here... Not that he was a Bad Doctor Hardly, but hes hardly on par with Peter Davidson or, a Colin Baker. (of roughly Thirty Years ago).

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Coat

Re: Who's Doc Who ?

Peter Davidson? Oh, yes, from All Doctors Great and Small. No thanks.

I'll just get my coat because I'm already wearing my scarf.

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Re: Who's Doc Who ?

The quality of science fiction drama isn't in the special effects, it's in the speculation. Apparently you don't think much of "Star Treck" either.

For instance: putting human brains in machine bodies and programming them to believe that this is an "upgrade" is a terrible idea. Mind you, so is making them shout "Delete! Delete!" as they, um, delete anybody who refuses their upgrade.

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Re: Who's Doc Who ?

It's because people who watched original Dr Who had a imagination, they filled BBC props Dept black hole, it was the story, the situation ...

I see these days if Speilberg/Lucas etc hasn't layed out the story in "Glorious 3d", to the point where the young these days don't have their own imagination, they use the movie/games built in "Imagination", to fill in their blanks ...

1 of my favourite episodes is Pirate Planet (Douglas Adams) part 1 Key to Time, Sometimes I think the Doctor was the muse for "Jack O'Neill / Stargate", Contempt for the opposition, and in this episode he serves a bit of lip, didn't see it mentioned, I think it is a funny one ....

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Re: Who's Doc Who ?

I can only assume that you grew up during that dreadful period when Doctor Who only existed as repeats on UK Gold. Kindly direct your anger at your parents, not The Doctor.

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@JamesTQuirk

Stargate Jack O'Neill was a hardnosed military man. Stargate SG1 Jack O'Neill was just a rehash of MacGuyver, Richard Dean Anderson's biggest role prior to SG1. It would be easier to tie MacGuyver to Doctor Who, as he was relatively brainy and resourceful whereas O'Neill was just an overpromoted grunt, but even then, you'd be pushing it.

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Re: @JamesTQuirk

@ The Indomitable Gall

Yeah, all true, I just was referring to "lip" that Doctors gives out, Very cheeky to the opposition, and yes O'Neill would just shoot them, but not all, and the Doctor KILLS only some, if they are very bad, usually by being hoisted by their own "petard", but If u don't think the doctors a killer ask a dalek or cyberman, or any number of other baddies that needed to go away.

I think it's in the "style of delivery", that I find similarities between Doctor & and other scifi characters ......

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Seems everyone agrees..

I know a big Who anniversary is coming up, and it's gong to be in the "news" a bit. But isn't this stretching a point to fill a few column inches?

Doctor who plots not all 100% original.

The horror.

What's next.. The surprising commonality between Eastenders and Coronation street? Oh.. I know.. The Oriental characters in 70s American cop shows that were inexplicably almost all ninjas...

Original plots stopped existing before Plato was a lad. Every book, every movie, even every kids TV series watched by a large number of adults is derivative. What changes is the storytelling, the scripting, the atmosphere.

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Gav
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Re: Seems everyone agrees..

You needn't even bother comparing Eastenders to Coronation Street. They can be compared with themselves, as they are never-end roundabout of the same plots, different characters. Couple meet, couple fall in love, couple have fairy tale wedding and will be together forever, couple hit hard times, oh the tragedy, couple fight, couple separate, one character leaves soap, remaining character meets someone else... rinse and repeat. All within a 3 year cycle.

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Re: Seems everyone agrees.. @gav

You seem to have missed out the 'actor arrested for kiddi fiddling' plot.

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Thumb Up

However ... "Logopolis"

still stands as one of the most haunting and elegaic pieces of television science fiction ever.

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Re: However ... "Logopolis"

Ah, Bidmead's got a new pseudonym, I see

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Re: However ... "Logopolis"

Tom Baker Era.... BEST ERA! /.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: However ... "Logopolis"

at least Bidmead tried to have episodes which had some grounding in sciencey ideas

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TRT
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Re: However ... "Logopolis"

Meh.

Best 5 episodes in order:

Genesis of the Daleks, Midnight, Blink, Talons of Weng Chiang, Horror of Fang Rock.

Now, they all have elements borrowed from other stories and writers, but a lot of that is the cliche of story telling - fog bound London with dirty backstreets and murderers, lonely storm ravaged lighthouses, the real monster is mankind itself, etc etc, but those, in my mind, are all the most original stories.

I'm surprised the author didn't go back to 1st and 2nd Doctor stories which were heavily historical. The Romans, Marco Polo, The Aztecs etc.

And Black Orchid = The Ghoul...

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" Loiuse Jameson is far more fetching in her savage leathers than Raquel Welch in rubber scuba gear."

I respectively disagree.

But since it gave me and excuse to Google both(in the interest of research you understand) I am willing to concede the point.

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Anonymous Coward

Not mentioned in this article

The hand of the producer. Philip Hinchcliffe was producer in the period of the Universal Horror and British horror borrowings. Though Robot and other scripts up to Planet of Evil had been commissioned by the departing team of Dicks and Letts.

I'll also point out that the rewrite of Brain of Morbius (due to the inability for the production team to realize the robot) didn't involve Dicks because - it being pre-internet and mobile phone - the two were not in communication at the critical time. I seem to recall reading (4th Doctor Handbook?) that Dicks acknowledged Holmes approach was only sensible one, and that he did appreciate the "Bland" joke.

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if every film & TV programme & book had to be completely original then they'd be very few books or films & TV would only be on for an hour or two a night & half of that would be repeats

Police & hospital dramas fill the airwaves but there's only a limited number of plots, how many modern medical drama plots were done in Dr Finlay's Casebook first & how many modern police story plots were done in Z cars first & somewhere else before that.

There are really only three Doctor Who plots, the mad scientist/meglomanic, the alien invasion & the oppressed people led to liberty, (& combinations of these), its just a case of how you dress the plot up, it's not made any great secret of borrowing classic stories for the dressing.

(- Someone mentioned Quests but quests just use a sequence of one or more of the plot lines above loosely held together by the idea of a search for whatever)

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Not forgetting the imortal line...

"The Simpsons already did it"

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Top marks for referencing Marcus L. Rowland

Who wrote Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail, and also did a lot of work on Space 1889, which had Victorian adventurers on Mars in airships..errm he may have got some of his ideas from elsewhere too...

Only 7 plots...probably only 6.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Top marks for referencing Marcus L. Rowland

He happily references the works of Griffiths as being his inspiration.

Mine's the one with the tickets for the Astronef service to Jupiter in the pocket

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'The Seeds of Doom' not only cribbed gleefully from 'The Thing from Another Planet' but then went and lifted chunks of the classic 'Avengers' story: 'The Man Eater of Surrey Green' including a carnivorous plant on the loose in suburbia, a slightly mad old lady and a killer chauffeur.

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Nigel Kneale and Malcolm Hulke

In such a comprehensive collection of instances where "Doctor Who" - now, what's the phrase - "paid homage to" its influences, I'm surprised there wasn't a mention of Nigel Kneale. All three of his "Quatermass" BBC serials of the 50s were "homage-d" in three of the finer stories from the Pertwee era:

- "The Quatermass Experiment" > "The Ambassadors Of Death"

- "Quatermass II" > "Spearhead From Space"

- "Quatermass And The Pit" > "The Daemons"

Despite being invited to write for "Who", Kneale apparently wasn't at all flattered by the "tributes" (or at least, wouldn't admit to it), and made no secret of his belief that "Who" was a silly children's show that trivialised SF and ripped off his work (you judge).

Also: no mention of Terrance Dicks' relating of one of fellow "Who"-scribe Malcolm Hulke's favourite aphorisms?

"What you need in television, is a good original idea. It needn't, however, be YOUR good original idea." (followed by one of Terrance's famous explosive chuckles)

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Robots of Death

Is of course entirely brilliant and it uses several Agatha Christie novels as its basis - Murder on the Orient Express, The Naked Sun and most obviously, Ten Little Indians.

There are also nods to Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson and Karel Capeck - and somehow it all still works.

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TRT
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Re: Robots of Death

And then there's the Unicorn and the Wasp... ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

On the other side of the coin, of course, are the writers who were themselves influenced by Doctor Who. Its good to see a couple of heavy hitters (Baxter, Reynolds) writing books as part of the current whogasm - admittedly alongside a lot of less-than-heavy hitters.

Personally I'd love to see a China Mieville variant, but I suspect its not something he would do - pity, because I reckon the prospect would really worry the 'keepers of the canon' .

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Anonymous Coward

Repeat after me - "there is no canon". This is not Star Trek with a precisely defined selection that constitutes the canonical tale. Each person constructs their own Doctor Who canon around what they have seen and like and how they can fit the contradictory bits together

Eg for me there is no episode called "End of Time" - because its (IMO) rubbish. And while the 8th Doctor audio adventures that I have heard are generally in - Lucie Miller/To the Death isn't - because I fell asleep during the second part ad wasn't really enjoying it anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

I think you'll find that the existence of a canon is not a prerequisite to the existence of 'keepers' of said canon.

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I think you'll find that the writers long ago resigned themselves to the fact that there are so many internal contradictions in any plausible "canonical subset" that we have to resort to waving of hands and references to crossed time-lines.

That's one problem with the current fashio for story arcs -- it encourages the audience to think about how the episodes all fit together into a coherent whole ... and for the most part they don't.

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How about the The Wachowski Brothers "The Matrix" borrowing heavily from "The Deadly Assassin", where the Doctor and Master did battle in a virtual world while hooked up to a machine called... the matrix!

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