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  • Interview With Joe Lidster

    We take a bit of a departure from our usual subjects in the Hotseat this time. We turn our attention to joe Lidster, a proffessional writer and old school buddy of mine. Joe is best known for his work writing for Dr Who and Torchwood.
    (see for more details)

    Tell us about yourself?
    My nameís Joe and Iím a writer. Iíve written prose and for audio, radio and television.

    Is writing what you what you always wanted to do?
    I originally wanted to be an actor. I was in lots of plays at school and was a member of a couple of drama clubs. As I got older, though, I found myself more interested in the scripts.

    Your best known for sci-fi writing. Do the requirements differ from other genres?

    With sci-fi you can do anything and thatís both a good and a bad thing. Itís great because if you want an alien to turn up, an alien can turn up. But, as with any piece of writing, you have to take it seriously. You have to believe in it. There needs to be a logic as to why an alien would turn up at that point.

    Is Sci-fi your favorite genre?
    Not particularly. I love Doctor Who but more because itís an adventure series and it can go anywhere and do anything. Generally, Iím a fan of drama Ė it doesnít matter what the genre is.

    You have done a lot of writing in various guises for Dr Who - were you excited to get the job?
    Excited is an understatement. My first commissioned, official piece of work was a Doctor Who audio play, back in 2002. I genuinely couldnít believe that someone was employing me to a) write and b) write Doctor Who. Itís a clichť but it really was a dream come true.

    Did you find writing for such an iconic show restrictive at all?
    Every show has its restrictions. With The Sarah Jane Adventures, for example, we have a tiny budget compared to Doctor Who. Itís not a question of whether we can afford a huge CGI monster or explosion Ė itís whether we can afford to paint something green. The great thing though, about all three of the Doctor Who shows, is that everyone on them is incredibly dedicated. We might not be able to afford to paint something green but weíll find a way to do it.

    Generally, you have to forget that itís such a huge iconic show though. You have to concentrate on the story youíre writing at that time and make it the best it can be.
    Sci-fi fans are notoriously fussy over details and references from past episodes - did you do much research to cover these things?

    I tend to try and not go overboard on references to the past but if the story requires it then yes. What I always try to do (and this applies to any programme Iím working on) is watch the show. I need to know it and understand it. This is quite easy when itís something like Torchwood because I love it anyway, but even if itís something Iím not particularly a fan of, I need to get into it and understand it.
    The great thing about Doctor Who is that Iím a fan of it so I tend to know about its past. Thereís also hundreds of fan websites that can confirm everything for you.

    As a writer working within a set 'climate' such as Dr Who or Torchwood how many of the ideas are your own?
    Iím usually given a set brief such as ĎOwen is dead and has to get used to ití or ĎClydeís dad comes back and they go on a road tripí or even something as simple as ĎItís about Rani and itís set in a theme parkí. Iíll then go away and think of a few ideas and then Iíll go back to the production team with a storyline treatment Ė basically a two page document saying what will happen. Weíll discuss that and Iíll do more drafts of it and then, eventually and hopefully, Iíll get to go to script. Each draft of the script is discussed and pulled apart and this will go on until we reach a version weíre all happy with.

    Is the torchwood episode you wrote a career highlight?
    Definitely. It was my first script for television and it was such hard work but I think the finished episode is amazing. The production design, the acting, everything.

    Were you on set to give further input?
    I went on set a couple of times Ė one of the nights on the roof with Owen and Maggie and one night in the studio where they were doing the boardroom scenes. I tried to stay out of the way though. By that point, my job is over. Itís up to the actors and director to do what they want with the script.

    If so did you bag any props?!!
    Haha!! No!! Although I do have a copy of the art departmentís design for the Pulse device that features in the episode. Thatís hanging on my wall.

    Sci-fi has been so well catered for - how do you keep the writing fresh?
    For me, as with any genre, it all boils down to the characters. If the characters are good and interesting then you can do anything. No matter how clever your plot, if the people in the adventure are dull stereotypes then itís just not going to hold the audienceís interest.

    Who inspires you?
    I hate saying it, because heís my boss, but Russell T Davies. Heís a genius. Heís so passionate about writing. You leave a meeting with him just desperate to write something brilliant. Steven Moffatís amazing as well. His new Sherlock series is just one of the best things Iíve ever seen. Tina Fey as well. Again, 30 Rock is just awe-inspiringly brilliant. Itís so clever but also so funny and itís got such brilliant characters.

    Basically, if Iím watching a programme and thinking that I could never in a million years write something that good, then Iím inspired.

    What are you working on now?
    A couple of things that I canít really talk about, sorry! The problem is that so many things donít get made or whatever so you end up having to try and list things vaguely and then you end up having to explain why that particular programme never got made so itís just easier to say you canít talk about any of it.
    Iíve a new Sarah Jane Adventure called ĎThe Nightmare Maní being broadcast later this year. Thatís been announced, so I can say that!

    Who's your favorite Doctor?

    Itís difficult to answer that. I grew up with Sylvester McCoy so heíll always be Ďmyí Doctor. But I love Patrick Troughton and Chris Eccleston. And I adore Matt Smith, I think heís brilliant. So yeah, basically I love them all.

    What advice would you give to any budding writers out there?
    I hate giving advice because Iím still learning myself every day. The main thing is to always have a notepad with you so you can jot down ideas etc. You never know where youíre going to get inspired or where you might overhear a conversation that just has to go into a script Ė so always have something you can write things down on. Talking of which be nosy. Watch people. Observe them. And engage with them. Go to parties. Go to the pub. Iím not just saying that because I like a drink but successful writers arenít undiscovered geniuses hiding away in their bedrooms. You need to know how people behave.

    Who would win - Dr Who or Dr Doom?
    I donít really read comics so I had to google him. He looks like a big bloke and heís got all that armour so I wouldnít mess with him. Doctor Who would find a way though. He always does.

    Your top 5 sci-fi films or TV shows

    • Doctor Who
    • Torchwood
    • Sarah Jane Adventures
    • Metropolis
    • Independence Day

    A massive thanks to Joe for taking the time to answer our questions and hopefully we will be seeeing more of his work on TV soon

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. shanerozzell's Avatar
      shanerozzell -
      Thanks Joe. Really interesting although I think your top 5 is a bit biased
    1. Ulfgrimr's Avatar
      Ulfgrimr -
      What a great interview, thanks Joe. Interesting that several answers about the creative process ring true for mini painting as well (well at least for me).
    1. Hinton's Avatar
      Hinton -
      Very cool interview. Thanks for arranging it, DL!
    1. Boris's Avatar
      Boris -
      i don't watch any of the shows, but it was an interesting read. Cheers!
    1. Hinton's Avatar
      Hinton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boris View Post
      i don't watch any of the shows, but it was an interesting read. Cheers!
      Dont..??? Don't watch any of the....???? No Doctor Who? No Torchwood? No Sarah Jane?

      Let me see your geek credentials, citizen!

    1. Darklord's Avatar
      Darklord -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hinton View Post
      Very cool interview. Thanks for arranging it, DL!
      no problem mate. As I said I went to school with Joe so wasnt too difficult.
    1. Boris's Avatar
      Boris -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hinton View Post
      Dont..??? Don't watch any of the....???? No Doctor Who? No Torchwood? No Sarah Jane?

      Let me see your geek credentials, citizen!

      We don't have a tv! We have seen the first episode of torchwood, but it didn't really grab me. Wasn't allowed to watch Dr Who as a kid, so don't really have the heritage with it.
    1. Darklord's Avatar
      Darklord -
      watch children of the earth - very good