We return to 2005 once more for an episode that might have sat alongside Absence Of The Daleks. Almost as soon as he got the call to say that the Doctor Who revival was under way, Russell T Davies pencilled in his former colleague & close friend Paul Abbott to write The New Team/Pompeii (Episode Eleven of Series One- the slot that was eventually filled by Boom Town). Of course by then Captain Jack Harkness would have joined the Ninth Doctor & Rose aboard ' Sexy'. But Abbott perhaps intended a radically different ' volcano day'...........
Arriving in 79AD & finding themselves in Pompeii, Ms Tyler would begin to feel left out now that she has to share the Doctor with someone else. But why have they shared such a close bond up to this point? Abbott's story would have revealed that Rose's entire life up to her first journey with the leather jacketed Northerner was manipulated by that very same leather jacketed Northerner as an experiment in a bid to create the perfect companion!
Anyone who remembers the ITV series Children's Ward might know that Abbott & Davies both worked on the programme. Paul was co-creator alongside Kay Mellor in 1988 as well as writing scripts until 1992, with Davies coming aboard as a writer/producer from 1992-95. It lasted until the middle of 2000 after a run of 143 episodes over twelve series, launching the careers of the likes of Will Mellor, Samia Ghadie, Nikki Sanderson & Chris Bisson- all of whom would go on to have roles in Coronation Street, for which Abbot & Mellor had also been writers in the mid/late Eighties.
Ultimately Abbott's Doctor Who script never happened as Shameless & other projects had to take priority, but Davies never lost respect for the man who appears to have been something of a mentor, telling The Guardian ( in 2011) that:
"I noticed his name before I knew him. Because if you watched a Coronation Street that was really good, where Deidre suddenly had a sex life or Liz had a party at the back of the Rovers, that was Paul Abbott. He put that salt into Coronation Street. Something real comes out of his characters.Little wonder then that Davies is said to have made a personal approach to the man he respected so much! While he accepted the offer, his prior commitments meant he couldn't complete the script. Overtures towards JK Rowling met with a similar lack of success, & so he wrote eight of the thirteen episodes which made up the first series ( Rose, The End Of The World, Aliens Of London/World War Three, The Long Game, Boom Town, Bad Wolf & The Parting Of The Ways) himself. Mark Gatiss got The Unquiet Dead, Robert Shearman tackled Dalek, Father's Day was the work of Paul Cornell & Steven Moffat terrified us with The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.
I met him on my first day at Granada, on a show called Children's Ward that was created by him and Kay Mellor. I was the luckiest man on earth. You'd pay about £1,000 an hour now to walk into a room with them and have that kind of tutelage.
So I sat at the great man's knee. He's got an absolute selflessness and dedication to other people's scripts, and he believes anyone can be a writer; that everyone's got a script, a story, in them. And he proves that. There are so many people writing for television now whom he's taken under his wing and cultivated and made prosper.
I think he's simply the best writer in the world. He never sat down and taught me formally – he doesn't do that with anyone; you learn by reading and watching. If Paul writes a scene in an office and if a secretary walks in, or someone with two lines, he makes that person cross, or angry and you realise that even the smallest character has so much going on.
The last few years have been glorious because I've seen a lot of him. He kind of inspires you personally because his standards are so high, and he has such a massive work ethos. You have a cup of tea with him and come out with five insights into people. You will find yourself writing at 2am and remember something he said to you.
If you were starting out as a writer today, I'd say just get his entire body of work. I've read his scripts and I've watched his shows and I do hope to emulate it – but, really, it's beyond emulation.
Something happens when he's typing that means whatever gets put on the page is so real, so that even if it's utterly fantastical, the stark reality just sizzles out of him."
Phil Ford ( co-writer of The Waters Of Mars, writer of Into The Dalek) would later note in an interview with Den Of Geek that:
"I’ve always felt there’s a big Shameless/Paul Abbott influence in those first few episodes ( of 2005's Series One of Doctor Who). It’s very domestically focused and as a dyed-in-the-wool sci-fi fan I reacted against that to begin with. It wasn’t until we got to Dalek that I started to think, ‘Wow, this IS science fiction’. And then by the end of the season it was full on! Which is a roundabout way of saying: Russell knew exactly what he was doing. He was slowly dealing in the cards he wanted, so that by the time people realized they were watching a sci-fi show they were hooked."Davies was said to be impressed with most details of Abbott's story if a little disappointed at the final resolution. Relatively few details survive, though the basics are succinctly put here:
The TARDIS arrives in Pompeii 79 AD. Rose feels intimidated by Jack, who gets on very well with the Doctor and can share interstellar information with him and knows stories about the Time Lords. As the Doctor struggles to regain the TARDIS before the volcano erupts, Jack uncovers information that Rose is, in fact, a secret experiment by the Doctor to psychically breed the perfect companion. Jack is left with a dilemma of whether or not to tell Rose the truth.It's possible the ending would've conflicted with Davies' own planned ' Bad Wolf' story arc, which of course led to this-
Before that in the Doctor's personal time line she had also served another important purpose as a form chosen by the Moment in its bid to stop the War Doctor committing double genocide against both the Time Lords & the Daleks.
Of course Pompeii would return later, too.....
Previous Stories From The Scrapheap
The Red Fort
The Son of Doctor Who
The Final Game
Doctor Who Meets Scratchman
The proposed Eighth Doctor series
The one written by Stephen Fry
Christopher Eccleston and the Absence of the Daleks