Published on December 11th, 2012 | by Philip Bates
Phil Ford: “I begged for Doctor Who job!”
Though he began in journalism, Ford rose through the ranks of advertising before bursting onto screens with a three-part Taggart serial. However, you’ll probably know him as the only writer other than Russell T. Davies to write Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. For the latter, he wrote Something Borrowed, a fun but blood-thirsty story that centred on Gwen and Rhys’ wedding. For Doctor Who, he wrote the animation, Dreamland; the four Adventure Games, including Blood of the Cybermen and The Gunpowder Plot; and co-wrote the exceptional The Waters of Mars. And as for The Sarah Jane Adventures… Well…
Den of Geek has a really interesting interview with Phil, in which he reflects on his considerable writing experience. After getting an early writing gig on Coronation Street, how did the transition to the Whoniverse happen…?
By that time Doctor Who had come back and the first series was airing and I got my agent to get me into the BAFTA screening of The Parting of the Ways (the season one finale) specifically to meet Russell. Actually, I’d met Russell briefly before at an ITV do around the time of Queer As Folk, but we didn’t really know each other… I introduced myself and he knew me immediately! He and Julie both loved [Phil’s other project] Captain Scarlet and I was basically there to beg him for a job on Doctor Who.
It came quite a while afterwards, however – but he did bag a job as one of the first writers on The Sarah Jane Adventures. After writing four episodes (two stories) for series one, Eye of the Gorgon and The Lost Boy, he became head writer and co-producer from series two onwards, scripting stories like The Day of the Clown, The Vault of Secrets and the last ever serial, The Man Who Never Was. He even won the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain’s Best Children’s TV Script Award for possibly the best story in the show’s five series, The Curse of Clyde Langer.
He sheds light on how the series one finale, The Lost Boy came about:
It was an absolute gift because Russell said he knew quite clearly the first ten or fifteen minutes of the episode, but beyond that didn’t have a clue what happened. So he pitched me that opening, which was amazing, and then I came up with the rest of the story. It was great to do and a really fantastic story…even if I do say so myself!
This led to his appointment as lead writer:
It’s one of those moments where you literally remember where you were and exactly what you were doing when you got the phone call. I was with my wife having lunch in a garden centre! [Laughs] And I thought for a nano-second about doing it before saying ‘yes’. And then, after I put the phone down, I remember thinking: ‘God, series one was so good and we’ve got to leap that bar again!’
Maria Jackson (Yasmin Paige) left the show in series two, just as Phil was taking over, and Anjli Mohindra’s Rani Chandra was taken on. But how different were the two characters?
I always had a good idea of who Rani was and where she was coming from. Of course there are similarities with Maria, she’s a young female in an adventure show after all, but there aren’t that many.
Phil’s most recent project has, again, been alongside Russell T. Davies on Wizards Vs Aliens, but he started out just like every other writer:
It was the only thing I ever could do. Writing was the only thing I was ever any good at. When I was a kid I remember writing my first ‘story with chapters’ when I was eight called ‘Mission to Saturn’.
Phil Ford’s got such a wealth of quality shows under his belt; I really hope he’s given the opportunity to write for everyone’s favourite sci-fi show again soon.
Den of Geek is set to conclude their interview later this week.