Interview: Toby Whithouse on Cast Changes for ‘Being Human,’ ‘Doctor Who’

Arthur Darvill, Matt Smith, and Karen Gillan on-set. Filming is underway on the new series of Doctor Who and the last for the Ponds!

ANGLO: Doctor Who is also bracing for some cast departures, with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill leaving next season. How much will you miss writing for them?

WHITHOUSE: I’ve written three episodes for Amy and Rory now. I’ll really miss both people because they’re fantastic characters. [Doctor Who lead writer/executive producer] Steven [Moffat] created two really brilliant companions, and they counterbalance the Doctor beautifully. Amy’s gung-ho recklessness works so nicely with Rory’s more cautious and tentative approach, but also [with] Rory’s innate heroism, which I think Arthur plays absolutely beautifully. But it’s like the cast of Being Human — you move forward and just as there are going to be fantastic roles for [the departing] actors, there are fantastic new characters [for us] to write as well.

ANGLO: How much can you tell us about the episode you’ve written for the upcoming season of Who?

WHITHOUSE: Well, certainly on this series, the episodes are much more stand-alone and, in a way, more distinct from each other. You’ll have episodes, but they’ll be much more of a specific genre. And the next week will be a different genre. My episode is in a genre I’ve never written before — frankly, no one has written in that genre for quite a while now. But I absolutely love it. Steven gives me a one-line pitch, and then I’ll go away and put together a story and so on. And he gave me a great one-line pitch for this, so I’m really excited about it. Doctor Who is always a joy to write. It never gets boring, it never gets dull, it never gets routine. It’s an incredibly difficult show to write because it’s remarkably complex, but it also has to have such momentum and pace. And within that there has to be room for character and humor and so on. It’s always a huge challenge but always extraordinary fun. That’s why I keep going back.

ANGLO: One last question. With Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary coming in 2013, who is your favorite classic companion?

WHITHOUSE: Oh I’d have to say Elisabeth Sladen [as Sarah Jane Smith]. Because she was a comic companion, and I think that she, more than any other before her, redefined the role of the companion. And there are elements of Sarah Jane Smith that you can see in every companion afterward down to Amy. She changed the companion from being a rather helpless hysteric to being a feisty, opinionated, strong equal to the Doctor. And, at the time, you know that was quite an extraordinary thing to do. That was not the role the companion, or women, were meant to be playing. They were meant to be playing the victim, they were meant to be decoration. I think what Lis Sladen did with that character is quite extraordinary. We forget how revolutionary she was at the time.

What are your thoughts on the changes in the upcoming seasons of Being Human and Doctor Who?

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Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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