Dune & Doctor Who

Two interesting projects have come to light today, both on the Bleeding Cool news website. They are both ideas I have talked about several times in the past: “someone should do this,” I have said. Now someone is.

The first is a documentary about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted 1970s film adaptation of Dune. I learned about this film through my interest in the making of the 1979 film Alien, which was in many ways born out of the ashes of the failed Dune project. The designs I’ve seen for the film are fascinating, and the weird visionary style of Jodorowsky would have been a fascinating match for Frank Herbert’s dense science fiction epic. The sheer talent involved alone makes this one of the great untold stories of filmmaking, and one I’ve long thought demanded a telling; but now that I’ve seen this first clip, I realize Dune could have been even more of a game changer, perhaps the only real followup to Kubrick’s 2001. This one promises to far exceed my hopes. I’m very excited about this.

The second one has not been confirmed, but strongly hinted: Mark Gatiss is apparently working on a TV drama about the creation of Doctor Who in the early 60s. I am a lot more cautious about this project. While Gatiss is a huge fan of the show and a highly successful TV creative (best known at the moment for Sherlock), he is… not at his strongest working with female characters. (At least, so argues Andrew(Bartok), quite convincingly.)

This matters because the version of this story I have always wanted to see (and have wanted to write, had I the time and airfare budget to research it properly) isn’t about the origins of Doctor Who at all, but instead about the early careers of two remarkable women: Verity Lambert and Delia Derbyshire. Both of them were pioneers (in television production and electronic music, respectively, although that undersells their impact) and both of them were young women in overwhelmingly male work environments. DW was where their trajectories crossed, and they both had a huge part to play in making the show an icon of British culture. There is plenty of other fascinating incident in the origin of DW, and of course the men involved were all quite singular, but to me the Lambert/Derbyshire parallel story has a potential that the rest doesn’t match.

So I’ll watch for more news of this one with caution.

(The first scene of my version of the Lambert/Derbyshire story pretty much writes itself.)

5 thoughts on “Dune & Doctor Who”

  1. Wow, fascinating! I would love to see this documentary on Jodorowsky’s aborted film and had no idea he had attempted this project! Thanks for the heads up 🙂

  2. Thanks for the mention! Agreed that the story of Delia & Verity is *THE* story of Who. Luckily I can’t think of another person from it’s beginning who would make a better central character than Verity. Hartnell is too unlikeable and Sydney Newman wasn’t really involved much beyond adding in the margins of a memo “Needs young girl to get into trouble”.

    I’d like to see Jaqueline Hill get recognised for her efforts in front of the camera. I’d argue that she’s equal to Hartnell in setting the standard for how actors *should* perform in *Who*, being the believable every-person taken out of time. William Russell was too stuck in his 1950s leading-man mode and Carole Ann Ford was too…Carole Ann Ford. Meanwhile Hill (especially in the 2nd season) set the bar for keeping the fantastic believable in the show.

    But yeah, I don’t have much faith with Gatiss in charge. Since I read Nightshade we’ve had “Night Terrors”, which hasn’t helped his case considering it was 1. One of the weakest entries of the year (and considering my noted low opinion of the 2011 series that’s saying something) 2. Amy’s weakest hour into being a Jo Grant-style peril-monkey who ends up being transformed into a giant doll.

    The man’s a step away from tying a companion to a rail-way as The Master stands above her chuckling.

  3. Jaq Hill would be a very strong supporting character in my version, no question. I agree with you – she was absolutely crucial, a huge presence and to this day underappreciated.

  4. What about Waris Hussein? A young, gay Asian working in TV at the same time as a young, female producer? Surely any clashes with Newman (or hartnell?) woud offer the required drama?

    But yeah, Gattis. Paul Cornell might have been a better bet.

    I also wasn’t taken by Gattis’ last pass at ‘the genesis of Doctor Who’. The Who Night skit was funny at the time and of course outrageous, but…

  5. Waris Hussein is interesting – I didn’t know he was gay – in fact I know crap all about him so he doesn’t figure much in my personal thinking! How heavily involved was he in the early days?

    *goes off to google*

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