Doctor Who thing of the day: schoolkids write an episode for Matt Smith and a secret monster

I received this delightful press release from the BBC yesterday:

A special, one-off mini-episode of Doctor Who starring Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith will be shown on BBC Three this Autumn.

The bonus episode, Death Is The Only Answer, has been confirmed as fans of the show eagerly await the start of the new Doctor Who series. The three-minute spin off has been specially written by children from a school in Basingstoke after they entered a BBC Learning and Doctor Who Confidential competition earlier this year.

The journey of how their mini-adventure goes from script to screen will be documented on Doctor Who Confidential, BBC Three, from Saturday 27 August at 8pm with the winning episode shown on Saturday 1 October. Details of the script, are a closely guarded secret but it includes a well known historical figure and a fez!

The pupils, from Oakley CE Junior School, travelled to the BBC Studios in Cardiff for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their script brought to life by the Doctor Who team and cast. The ultimate prize was getting to meet the Doctor himself, Matt Smith.

After meeting the pupils and filming the episode Matt Smith said: “It was so clever, we were all just bowled over, it was a brilliant script.”

Doctor Who Confidential was there to record the meeting and show how Oakley Junior School’s script was developed from paper to television screen – from the first script meeting, a cast read-through, on-set filming all the way to the final edit.

They entered the BBC Learning and Doctor Who Confidential Script to Screen competition launched in April. It was aimed at Upper Primary school pupils (1) and involved them writing a three-minute script that takes the resident Time Lord on a new quest travelling through space and time inside the TARDIS.

The competition encouraged children to be as creative and imaginative as possible, to put together a story filled with all the excitement and adventure of the popular BBC One sci-fi drama. The action-packed script had to feature Matt Smith and could include one of four fearsome monsters from the show: Ood, Judoon, Cyberman or Weeping Angel, as well as a brand-new human character to test the wits of the Doctor.

Viewers will have to wait and see which monster and human the pupils chose to include.

Year Six teacher Kevin Downing, from Oakley Junior School, said the pupils involved in the project were over the moon at winning: “Getting the call to say the pupils were on the shortlist of ten was an unbelievable moment – the thought that Steven Moffat himself would be reading their script! As for winning, it was the experience of a lifetime and one we’ll never forget.”

BBC Learning and Doctor Who Confidential were overwhelmed by the response to the competition with 290,000 downloads of the online teaching resources. Teachers reported that the competition proved a very good tool for teaching literacy and writing skills.

Steven Moffat, Head Writer at Doctor Who, said: “I loved the shortlisted scripts, there was so much skill and enthusiasm on display that it was actually genuinely, very, very difficult to judge. There was some really, really skilled writing, it was very exciting how they caught the voice of the Doctor and how they used the always stringent limitations of Doctor Who to their advantage.

Aww. Doctor Who was originally intended as an educational show, to teach kids about history. So this is a nice return to its roots.

As reader Karl wrote in an email to me about this news:

It’s not unlike the design of the Absorbaloff from the second season or the makeshift TARDIS console from “Doctor’s Wife” a few months ago. Neat way to interact with young fans, in schools no less, wouldn’t you say? Wonder if my head would’ve stayed in one piece if this kind of thing had happened in Creative Writing back in grade school? Can’t imagine any American network legal department allowing this sort of thing, can you? MUCH too awesome.

I would have loved to be involved with something like this at school. Hell, I’d love to be involved with something like this now.

And no, it’s impossible to see anything like this happening with a top-rated show in the U.S. There isn’t anything like Doctor Who in the U.S., for starters…

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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