The Man Who Could (Possibly) Be King (Maybe): Howard Overman
Continuing the theme of the title, my king-making choice (a man to take over from Steven Moffat as showrunner of the good ship TARDIS) is a bit like the guy who in 1714 suggested putting George I on the throne of England: “Yeah – Hanover. Never been here, doesn’t speak English- worth a punt?”
Howard Overman, ladies and gentlemen. Creator of the wonderfully wrong Misfits for E4, and soon starting a second series of the far-more-family-friendly Atlantis in the BBC1 slot vacated by – wait for it – Doctor Who. Chuck in Merlin and Vexed and you have quite a CV of popular TV of the last decade. True, he also wrote Dirk Gently for BBC4 but let’s not hold that against him.
Seriously though, Overman could be a worthy contender – granted, he hasn’t actually penned any Who, though he has expressed his admiration for the series in interviews in GQ and The Guardian. What he has got is pedigree. He has created two polar opposite fantasy series and found success with both. Maybe it’s time to look outside the proverbial tent for the next showrunner: after all, if the series had only looked at the usual BBC types in the ’70s, we’d never have had young buck producer Philip Hinchcliffe or an idiosyncratic script editor by the name of Douglas Adams…
Like Adams, Overman has imagination. One episode of Misfits featured a bloke who has learned to control dairy products. What sort of fevered imagination dreamt that up? A regular character who turns out to be someone’s imaginary childhood friend. A prophetic knitted jumper. Accidentally getting yourself pregnant by means I won’t go into on a family website. All these things were the products of Overman’s imagination over five series.
He can ‘do’ strong characters, too. The big strength of Merlin was its relationships: Merlin and the young Arthur and his mentor Gaius. Misfits, for all its coarseness, sex and drug-taking, had some quite touching moments: the abortive tryst between Nathan and Kelly in the first series, the doomed affair between Alicia and the future Simon, and the dynamic between Rudy and, well, himself all showed a writer who knew his characters inside out, made us care for them and, in the case of – SPOILERS! – Alicia’s death, could wring every last drop of dramatic potential out of them. If there’s a series that really needs some convincing central relationships at the moment, it’s Doctor Who.
So there we are: the case for Howard Overman, a man with no previous Who connections. However, if the powers that be were prepared to give him a chance, I think the gamble could pay off. Hands up who remembers seeing Matt Smith’s unveiling and thinking ‘Eh?’ Look how that worked out…