Last Sunday, the poll closed with an overwhelming 107 of you picking your favourite. As a thank you, we’ve selected the top three stories, and have gotten Billy Treacy, Joel H Joelson to talk about them, alongside Jon Gransden, Livvy Douglas and Richard B Brookes.
With 10% of the votes apiece, Fondness and Creatures & Dark at the Start tied for second place.
Fondness and Creatures
Billy Treacy (Sound Design, Cover Art, Producer, “Brian”): Call it a homage to one of the best Doctor Who stories of the noughties – and I say that with no degree of irony – Fondness and Creatures was a triumph on the parts of writer Joel H Joelson and our talented guest narrator Antonio Rastelli. It’s definitely one of my favourites from 2015, and it’s so enjoyable to listen to, with a huge handful of gags that vary from the juvenile to the downright profane. The reveal of our protagonist’s fate is one of the best moments of that year.
Joel H Joelson (Writer, “Andy”): Fondness and Creatures was an unusual story to write because A) I was given the title first and B) the plot had to directly parody that of Love and Monsters. Bits left on the cutting room floor include Christie exclaiming “You upset my mum!” despite being an orphan and Peter Kay eating all the aliens. One of those is a lie. I wasn’t particularly confident in the story when writing it to be honest, as it’s rather experimental (like its inspiration before it), but the overwhelmingly positive reception it received soon put me straight. I’d probably say my favourite gags are the ones right at the beginning and end, the ridiculous period detail at the start and the fourth-wall breaking ending. I ended up accidentally using the latter in The Story Teller as well, probably because both of them were written at the same time.
Jon Gransden (“The Dynamite Doctor”): Fondness and Creatures has left fondness in my creatures, I’ll tell you that for nothing! Seriously, it’s a wonderful tale and wonderfully performed, fitting like a snug glove in a wave of experiments! Keeping things fresh and different is something that is important for any story tellers and I find the approach all three writers brought to this wave resulted in a fantastic range, and I’m thrilled that Joel and Billy’s love letter to Love and Monsters has resonated with the voters.
The Dark at the Start
Billy Treacy (Co-Writer, Composer, Sound Design, Producer): The Doctor is back! Like War of the Doctors, we’d been planning this one for quite some time, or the basic ins-and-outs of it anyway: that the Doctor would be found floating through space, regenerate into Quintessential and spend the special fixing EVERYTHING her predecessors had failed to do. Finally defeat the Daleks, put a stop to the Cybermen, and generally restore harmony to the universe instead of keeping it together with paper clips. The Daleks and Davros ended up playing a larger part in this story than originally anticipated, with the following enemies taken out as part of a montage. This is all just setting the scene for her first wave though – what we’re excited about is what comes next. I really think Livvy has become comfortable in the role now, and can’t wait for us to explore this new universe her Doctor has created.
Joel H Joelson (Co-Writer, “Computer Voice”): Dark at the Start is the first time we’ve ever really given the Doctor a definitive beginning, and I think it’s fair to say we did alright. My favourite part of the the story has to be Livvy’s performance as the Quintessential Doctor. The dialogue could very easily have just been read as a slightly more contemporary Pompous, but Livvy gave it her all, giving us quite possibly the funniest Doctor of the lot. Quincy’s waves will definitely be the kind you can show to people who aren’t into Aimless Wanderings in general, even if it’s only to go “See? There can be a female Doctor Who!” Also I got to do my robot voice and it was fun but hurt my throat.
Livvy Douglas (“The Quintessential Doctor”): I recorded my lines for The Dark at the Start at Christel’s flat which I sometimes but not always leave. It mainly consisted of us laughing uncontrollably at one thing or another and then finally with our tea a little more under room temperature than we would have liked and our stomach muscles toned by all the giggling, we began. I thought the script was fantastic the first time I read it, the second time I read it I thought it was super fantastic and when I finally heard it I was well mega chuffed! All the voice actors involved really made the story come alive and it was amazing to see it form into something to be proud of. Billy and Joel did a cracking job with this one and I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it as much as we did making it.
Taking a catastrophic 46% of the votes, War of the Doctors proved the most popular release of the year.
War of the Doctors
Billy Treacy (Co-Writer, Sound Design, Cover Art, Co-Producer, “The Pompous Doctor”): We’d been working towards this one for years. It introduces a new Doctor, it features a regeneration, and follows on from our rather ambitious Darker Paths storyline. And, most importantly, it finally answers the question of why “fruit pastels” are spelt incorrectly. I think this is one of the most important stories of Aimless Wanderings. Although the series is made up of a lot of individual stories, there are a few overarching plots and character paths that develop as we go, and the Pompous Doctor’s fear of regeneration and subsequent behaviour is probably our most important. It’s worth taking note that like in the way Darker Paths led to the events of War of the Doctors, War of the Doctors will in turn create ripples. Watch this space!
Joel H Joelson (Co-Writer, “Derek Klieg”): I first became aware of War of the Doctors when Billy sent me a very early synopsis of the overarching plot during early 2014, which I will sneakily repeat here:
Fruit Pastel, Sorry and Dynamite are brought together by a mysterious woman who informs them that Pompous has gone rogue. Pompous has gotten wind of how he was meant to regenerate and has changed the events to avoid the occurrence, which has involved becoming a complete villain, committing genocide, killing his companion Wren and having a bounty put on his head by three-quarters of the civilised known universe.
It is up to the other Doctors to stop him, before he does more damage to the timelines or commits anymore evil deeds. The mysterious woman sets the Doctors missions in order to stop Pompous from taking things out of hand.
Intercut this with what the Pompous Doctor is up to. Tim has become a reluctant henchman as Pompous is bringing together an army to defend himself with. Maybe even the Daleks?
Maybe even the Daleks indeed. With nine months of on-and-off writing between the start of Part One and the last minute rewrite of Part Six (the The Dalek Invasion of Cardiff originally just sort of petered out and the Klieg Brothers didn’t return), War is definitely the biggest story we’ve ever written. My proudest moments are definitely the scene where the Doctors create a fake ghost pug and the entire Eric Klieg subplot, in which we took a joke character and arguably gave him more backstory and development than Pedler and Davis, his creators. It’s also definitely got the most revelations of any story, too. There’s a new Doctor! And she’s a Woman! And she kills Fruit Pastel! It would have been very easy to consider this our magnum opus and go back to the shorter, arc-less waves of the early years, but that isn’t the case. War of the Doctors is merely the middle of the story for all of the Doctors (apart from Fruit Pastel, rest his mad soul), and the ramifications will be felt for waves to come…
Richard B Brookes (Cover Art, Co-Producer, “The Scientist”): War of the Doctors was originally scheduled to come out in Summer 2014, and months earlier, I thought it’d be an idea to wrangle the rest of the 5WF to do a big ‘War of the 5WF’ that’d result in Jon leaving (in the end we went for OneWhoFan because a) it was easier, b) War was barely half scripted by then).
Basically, from behind the scenes, all we had were the new up-and-coming writer Joel H. Joelson (who was incredibly on exactly the same page as Billy from the word GO, it was very spooky to see them work together), and the idea that all the Doctors would have a big scuffle with each other, and that Livvy would appear as a future incarnation of the Doctor – the rest of it would be fleshed out later. Beyond that, I just did a bit of script editing (or at the very least, script wrangling), did the photography and some graphic design for the covers, helped flesh out and christen Livvy’s Doctor (who we decided would be a stark contrast to both Livvy’s off-beat personality and the preceding Doctors), and wrangled the internet at the eleventh hour to try and find someone suitable to play The American Doctor (we nearly panicked when the website Kasterborous – who’d basically ignored our existence up until that point – ran a huge article about our otherwise top secret casting call campaign).
It was fun working on the fringes of the episode with Billy and Joel, watching them fill a 20 page google document in half a night in REAL TIME, tossing ideas back and forth, and managing to sneak in a bastardisation of The American Office’s Robert California – then a huge favourite of myself and Billy – as ‘The American Doctor’. I’m pretty sure at one point his character bio read ‘would you like a nature metaphor or a sexual metaphor?’. I remember dropping a suggestion into nearly every conversation that it would ‘be funny’ if as a result of the War, Pompous would inadvertently make Dynamite into the exasperating character he is – an idea that I remember he hated at first – then after mentioning it enough times, it found its way into the script. That was probably the thing I was proud of the most.
It still doesn’t hold a candle to War’s coda, which would be the Fruit Pastel Doctor’s last scene. I think we’d planned Forbidden Fruit Pastel to have been released well before War, but with Benji’s schedule seeing the thing slip release left, right and centre, we said ‘sod it, I know he’s only had one adventure, but we might as well kill Fruit Pastel anyway’. It was a joy to read the regeneration, for ages, I was agog waiting to hear Benji’s take on saying “MY WILLY, GOOD SIR!” – What a send off though, he was supposed to improvise his last line, but it turned into a ruddy magnum opus, name dropping the Chuckle Brothers and Miranda Hart, and making me literally laugh and cry simultaneously. What a chap.
A lot has been said about how Pastel’s final moments ruined his character up until that point, but from where I was sitting – it was immaculate, a genuinely touching and heroic tribute to a character who has, so far, been an arguably psychopathic, homicidal maniac. A bit like Stalin would probably have liked/had.
The Scientist was in this one, and we finally came up with a reason why he keeps looking and sounding the same after each regeneration (which was definitely planned and was in no way a cynical attempt to bring me back from the dead in an arguably Moffatian display of contempt for the concept of death of a ‘beloved’ fictional character). I can’t really say much about this one, it wasn’t my best, my ‘improv’ lines for the last three episodes got misplaced so this is one of the few times you’re hearing a by-the-script version of the Scientist.
Before I sign off, some big love for David Boskett who did most of the music, Dimmeh who stole the show in episode 2, Shawn West who came in to do The American Doctor and was everything we could have ever hoped he’d be and Billy and Joel who endlessly endured by tirade of notes without losing their rag at me or anything.