Andrew Cartmel (2010)

Out of the blue, a little bit of a fuss has been kicked up by the suggestion that ‘Doctor Who’ may have included a few anti-Thatcher characters during the Sylvester McCoy era. Scandal! Anyway, here’s Andrew Cartmel – script-editor during the McCoy days – on ‘Newsnight’ discussing the claims:

Q: Was ‘Doctor Who’ really a satire on Thatcherism in the 80’s?

Andrew Cartmel: Well, I didn’t see the stories as a satire on Thatcherism, but the character (Helen A) was a take on Mrs. Thatcher, absolutely.

Q: You were quoted as saying, when you joined the BBC, that you wanted to overthrow the government. Is that an accurate quote?

A: Well, it is, but I’m a beneficiary of the art of selective quotation, which is the cornerstone of journalism. John (Nathan-Turner) asked me, if there was one thing – this was towards the end of the interview, when it was obvious I was going to get the job – he asked me, ‘If there’s one thing you could do with the show, what would it be?’, and I said ‘Overthrow the government’, because I was young and I didn’t like the way things were going at the time. John said ‘Well you can’t do that, the most you can do on Doctor Who is say that people with purple and green skin are all equal’, which we then proceeded to do.

Q: Is it true to say that British sci-fi tends to be left-wing and American sci-fi tends to be right-wing?

A: The notion that we promoted Marxism is wonderful, but it’s not true. One of the writers had a father who was a Marxist (Ben Aaronovitch), but that’s about as close as we got. And all the writers were chosen because, not only were they good writers, but they could do ‘Doctor Who’, which was a very strange show. If my criteria to get writers for ‘Doctor Who’ had been to get good writers who could do ‘Doctor Who’ who were at any particular point on the political spectrum, it would have been much too much like hard work.

Q: Michael Grade, at time, said that ‘Doctor Who’ had no redeeming features.

A: ‘Doctor Who’ at the time had gone into a real trough, and it’s true that there were some very, very bad episodes, so I can understand that. But I do feel that we were pulling out of it, so it’s a great shame that we never got a chance to continue.

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