Series 11 of Doctor Who sees the debut of an almost entirely new team of writers and directors. This week Blogtor Who takes a look at the life and career of Kerblam! writer Pete McTighe

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Pete McTighe is responsible for the critically acclaimed Australian prison drama Wentworth

Doctor Who isn’t the only long-running 20th century TV show to be revived to much acclaim in the 21st. Prisoner: Cell Block H ran for a mammoth 692 episodes – just three short of equalling Doctor Who’s original run – was an Australian prison drama which haunted the late night schedule of British ITV regions in the mid-eighties. When it was reborn as Wentworth in 2013 it needed its very own version of a Russell T Davies. A writer to take the helm and refine a show infamous for its wobbly sets into a high-quality drama. All while preserving the madness and intensity that people had loved in the original. The writer tasked with that challenge was Pete McTighe.

With a seventh season just finished filming McTighe’s vision for the series has proven a fantastic success. Among frequent comparisons to the quality and drama of the likes of Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black, it’s been nominated for Best Television Series at the AACTAs (the Australian equivalent of the BAFTAs) four times and won twice. It also saw McTighe nominated by the Australian Writers’ Guild as Best Script for a Television Series. Not just once, but three years in a row. And with its ensemble cast of complicated, powerful women, the prison drama has dominated the Best Actress categories of numerous Australian awards for the best part of a decade.

McTighe loves Doctor Who “at a molecular level”

It’s a testament to British born but Australian based McTighe’s Doctor Who love that he made the transcontinental commute to work. In fairness, there were already signs. The third episode of Wentworth is called The Girl Who Waited. The season two finale, in which protagonist Bea finally becomes top dog among her fellow prisoners is called Fear Her. Later Wentworth episodes include The Long Game, Eleventh Hour, and Hell Bent.

Clearly, if the fans had taken over the asylum in Cardiff, then in Australia’s Newport, the fans had taken over the prison.

In fact, McTighe has described his entire writing career as an improbable scheme to get to write for the show. In a 2015 interview with NoWhiteNoise.com he said Doctor Who “is incredibly important to me on, like, a molecular level. It’s the show that made me fall in love with TV, and the show that gave me incentive to read and write and create. The very first story I wrote was a Doctor Who story when I was a kid.”

Ryan (TOSIN COLE), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Yaz (MANDIP GILL) - (C) BBC / BBC Studios - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
In Series 11’s Kerblam!, McTighe has crafted a new, yet old school, adventure for Ryan (TOSIN COLE), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH) and Yaz (MANDIP GILL) – (C) BBC / BBC Studios – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

Beyond the gates of Wentworth Prison

Prior to Wentworth McTighe did a stint on popular daytime soap opera Neighbours. You may have been struck by moments where the Ramsay Street community would suddenly stop to discuss Doctor Who. Toady once listed his favourite Doctors in order. Another time someone bound for the UK was asked to bring back a Character Options Flight Control TARDIS toy. It’s easy to speculate McTighe was in the writers’ room for those episodes. As part of his time on Neighbours, he was even entrusted with its prestigious 6000th episode as part of its 25th Anniversary celebrations.

McTighe also contributed some excellent episodes to the series The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Set in 1950s Australia it follows police surgeon, Dr Lucien Blake. Never cruel or cowardly, Blake was forged in the fires of things he saw and did during a devastating war. He’s a sometimes infuriatingly eccentric doctor who eschews weapons and violence in favour of not just his huge intellect, but his ability to find compassion for even the most monstrous human beings. Shown at 8.30pm in Australia but a mainstay of Alibi’s daytime schedule in the UK, writers of The Doctor Blake Mysteries often walk the same line as those on Doctor Who. It covers dark subject murder but with enough lightness of style and character to make it accessible to a family audience.

On Twitter, McTighe described joining the Doctor Who writing team as a dream he’d had since he was a little boy that had finally come true, posting a picture of himself as a child alongside a TARDIS at the famous Longleat convention in 1983.

Fasten your seat belts

If anyone was doubting McTighe’s credentials, he’s even written material for next month’s Doctor Who Collection:The Complete Season 19 Blu-Ray set. Including this frankly perfect promotional video starring Janet Fielding, Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton.

 

 

Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) in Kerblam! (c) BBC Studios
Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) in Kerblam! (c) BBC Studios

The Doctor Who adventure continues…

Doctor Who continues this Sunday at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with Kerblam! by Pete McTighe. For further broadcast times in your region, check local listings. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien) and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).

Kerblam! guest stars Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack and is directed by Jennifer Perrott.

“Delivery for the Doctor!”

A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!

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