Since Doctor Who was relaunched that fateful day in 2005, any number of ' big-name' writers have been linked to penning stories for it. Some make the final cut, & some fall by the wayside- this is what appears to have happened to a planned Stephen Fry ( who had played the Minister of Chance in the Seventh Doctor webcast Death Comes To Time as well as appearing as 'himself' in Jonathan Morris's Eighth Doctor novel The Tomorrow Windows as a guest at the grand opening of the titular Windows, which offer a literal glimpse into the future at the Tate Modern) script for Episode Eleven of Series Two, David Tennant's first as the Tenth Doctor.
For better or worse, it was replaced with Fear Her and placed in the ' maybe next series' pile on Russell T Davies's desk. The then-showrunner decided that the story might prove just that bit too expensive to shoot & required further rewrites if it were to proceed.
Ultimately of course it never saw the light of day- but the surviving details of one account would seem to place it in the same bracket as Battlefield & RobotOf Sherwood. Indeed, much like Ben Aaronovitch, Fry would have taken inspiration from Arthurian legend! He intended to have a gander at the tale of Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, & for these purposes so shall we.
Indeed it would seem fitting for the Doctor to dip into such a myth- Sir Gawain was said to be one of the Knights of the Round Table, who accepts a challenge from the Green Knight. Pitching up at the King's court during a Christmas feast, he's holding a bough of holly in one hand & an axe in the other.
He doesn't want any great war or battle, but he does issue a challenge- he'll let any man strike him once with the axe, on the condition that he's allowed to do the same to them the following year..as explained a bit long-windedly here....
'No, I seek no battle, I assure you truly:The King himself is about to take him up on his invitation when Sir Gawain takes his place & promptly lops the Knight's head off. Easy, you might think. Not quite, though. Instead of doing the done thing & dying instantly, the Knight simply picks up his head & tells Gawain they'll meet again the next year. This would seem to fit in well with Stephen's apparent teaser that a lesser known British legend would be revealed to be of alien origin!
Those about me in this hall are but beardless children.
If I were locked in my armor on a great horse,
No one here could match me with their feeble powers.
Therefore I ask of the court a Christmas game… '
Just to complicate matters, other sources seem to suggest that the story would in fact be set a lot further forward in time. The 1920s was to have been where the Doctor & first Rose, then Martha ( the change of companion necessitating one of the rewrites Davies is said to have asked of Fry) would find themselves.
Which of the two possible scripts from him was under consideration- according to David Tennant, Stephen was at the first read-through for Series Two- before being abandoned isn't known. But the man himself later confessed that he hadn't been able to find the time to make the necessary alterations, saying:
"They asked me to do a series and I tried, but I just ran out of time, and so I wrote a pathetic letter of "I'm sorry I can't do this" to ( Russell T) Davies'.He clearly stayed in touch with the programme, though! In a 2010 speech at the BAFTAS he took aim at what he called the ' infantilism' of television on this sceptred isle, saying that Doctor Who & similar programmes were not for adults- though he himself was only seven when An Unearthly Child first aired.
"If I wanted to be angry … I would say infantilism's the problem. The number of times I turn on the television and I think 'Gosh, children's television's gone on, that's a really good art documentary … Oh my God, it's nine o'clock in the evening. This is for grown-ups?' It's just shocking. The only drama the BBC will boast about are Merlin and Doctor Who, which are fine, but they're children's programmes. They're not for adults. And they're very good children's programmes, don't get me wrong, they're wonderfully written … but they are not for adults.'...was his emphatic pronouncement.
Daily Telegraph correspondent Michael Deacon agreed with him:
I know millions of grown-up Doctor Who fans will disagree violently with me here –not least our awe-inspiringly knowledgeable Doctor Who expert Gavin Fuller, who is very much an adult, and who writes a weekly review of the latest series here– but whenever I catch an episode I find myself thinking, "Hmm. Matt Smith's amusing. The girl looks good. But the plots, the villains, the deus ex machina endings… I'm sure I would find these scary and suspenseful and unpredictable if I'd just grown out of rusks." At 29, though, I'm afraid I don't get any more out of it than I would an issue of the Beano (the Beano is still going, isn't it? Isn't it? Or is it? God I'm old). Sadly I don't suppose I'll ever get to find out what so many adults see in Doctor Who unless I suffer a serious brain injury.Surely somebody had to defend the Doctor's honour? Step forward another Steven entirely ( Moffat):
No doubt if I were a grown-up Doctor Who fan I'd find these views appallingly snooty. And I'd probably also wonder why I'd never read a complaint by Stephen Fry that JK Rowling's Harry Potter stories – the audiobooks of which are narrated by Fry himself – are read by too many adults, when they are plainly for children alone.'
'It was designed specifically to be a family programme, that's what it's for. It's the junction between the children's programmes and the adults' programmes. It's the one that everybody sits and watches. So it is for adults, it is for children, it's a rather brilliant idea, why don't we make a television programme that everybody wants to watch, very, very specifically. This is a very, very high end, very high quality show. I love Stephen and Stephen loves Doctor Who.''But the question remains- could Fry be asked back to write a future story for Series Ten or beyond?