Ahead of tonight's episode of Doctor Who, DWO interviewed Writer, Peter Harness, who penned this season's Zygon two-parter: 9.7: The Zygon Invasion & 9.8: The Zygon Inversion.
What was your earliest memory of Doctor Who?
My earliest memory of Doctor Who is “Destiny of the Daleks”, when I would’ve been three years old - which, in retrospect, strikes me as being a bit young for it! I remember a lot about the opening episode of that series, so it must’ve had quite an effect on me. The slaves, the rockfalls, Davros coming back to life. I still find it all a bit scary now. And I remember bits and pieces from every Doctor Who story since.
Do you have a particular favourite episode from the Classic Series and the New Series?
It’s very hard to say, really. I think we all have personal favourites which we turn to, for various reasons, ahead of the real classics. And for me, they can vary depending on which mood I’m in. Having said that, I love “State of Decay” pretty faithfully. “Seeds of Doom”, maybe. “Kinda”. Don’t get me started, basically. We could be here all day. …As far as the new series goes, um - I’m a sucker for the Eccleston series, and I love Peter Capaldi’s first series, so take your pick from in amongst those.
Your Series 9 two-parter was quite epic in terms of story, setting and pace. It has arguably one of the best cliffhangers we’ve had to date for Capaldi’s Doctor, and we once again have another example of just how successful the Zygons are as a Doctor Who villain. As a writer, how difficult was it to get the right balance, and what was the hardest part to write of the entire story?
Well, it was a tough one to write. But they all are, usually for completely different reasons. I think the hardest part of the Zygon story was working out how to present the world of it in a coherent and interesting way. There were so many different ways for the story to go, and such a lot of backstory that I came up with and is never shown on screen (like how the Zygons were resettled, why Bonnie is called Bonnie, what really happened with the murders in Truth or Consequences, and - here’s one out of left field - how Courtney from “Kill The Moon” ends up as President of the USA), that it was hard to sift through all of that and streamline it into the narrative that you see on screen. But that’s how I like to do things - I like to play around, and explore the world and the characters, and their various possibilities, before I settle on what I think’s the best way of getting them through the plot. I think the hardest part to write was the concluding part, mainly, again, because there were so many different ways the story could have gone. I like what we settled on, though, although it hasn’t come out yet, and I’m still very nervous.
Can we expect to see you writing for Series 10, and if so, can you give us any (spoiler-free) teasers as to what we might expect? Do you have any upcoming TV projects we can look forward to?
Hah! Well, I would love to write for series 10. And they know I’ll always do a Doctor Who, whether I have the time for it or not. So we’ll see. …As far as upcoming projects, there’s the final series of Wallander coming up, which I wrote and showran. I think there’s some lovely, sad stuff in there. But otherwise, I’m just going to get my head down and crack on with a couple of different things I’ve got in the pipeline. An adaptation or two, maybe, and a bit of original stuff at last. But as usual with these things, I’m not allowed to say very much.
If you could take a round trip in the TARDIS, anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?
I think I’d be rather afraid to go into the future, because I’m a bit of a pessimist. But I’d probably get drunk one evening and decide to go and look at how things turned out, in the hope that things work out okay.
+ 9.8: The Zygon Inversion airs Tonight at 8:00pm on BBC One.