Background: "Proteus Rising"

We continue this sordid tale of scriptwriting and fanboy intrigue. Reader discretion is advised.

For the sake of context and clarity, we’ll briefly cover the history of the project. Details behind the BBC writer/producer story-protecting jump:

Okay, think you’re ready for details?
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You sure?
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O rly?!
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Detail-ready, are you?
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Determined, I see.
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I’m talking about Doctor Who story ideas now.
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You know what that means, right?
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It means I don’t want to ruin any plans for work on the official Doctor Who series.
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Or the official tie-ins.
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I’m trying to give you an out here.
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All right. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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Okay, here goes.

The origins of this story came from two separate but related projects. The first project stalled, restarted a few years later, and then revived several years after that. It was entitled “I, Proteus.”

The second project took place somewhere in between. The working title was “Eternity Calling.”

Neither one was ever completed. But Neil Marsh contacted me recently in the hope of reviving one of them. I hit on the idea of combining the two story concepts. As I wrote in the last posting here, this new effort has also collapsed. Neil was still calling it “I, Proteus.”

To distinguish the combined version from the original, I’m calling it “Proteus Rising.”

Clear as mud? About as messy? Get yer galoshes — we’re going in.

In 1999 the BBC’s clever and lovable spoof Doctor Who & The Curse of the Fatal Death reinvigorated an idea that has haunted fans for ages. What if the main character of Doctor Who was a woman? It’s been tried many times in fandom circles, notably in Ryan K Johnson’s early fan films with the late Barbara Benedetti in 1980’s.

After Curse of the Fatal Death hit the airwaves, Neil contacted me, intrigued by the concept. Neil and I had been friends for several years, meeting thanks to our respective efforts in Doctor Who fandom. But we’d never gotten around to collaborating. Maybe this was the project. We quickly worked out a personality and general tone for our female Doctor, but we needed a worthy challenge for her.

Neil turned to a professional Doctor Who novel tie-in called Seeing I, written by Kate Orman and Jon Blum. Kate and Jon were close friends of his, now among his science fiction idols. Who fans were raving about Seeing I. And so was Neil, so much that he chose to base our new project on it. I read the book at the group’s insistence, underwhelmed and full of reservations. I was gently ignored. Kate and Jon approved. Participants got excited. We were doing this.

Scary monsters are an integral part of Doctor Who. And the novel’s big bads — the I — definitely fit the bill. The I is an alien hive intelligence, non-human scavengers who raid planets for fresh new technology.

So I had to ask, where was our story in all this? That, said the collective, was my job. But they wanted a companion for the Doctor, a fresh new character that couldn’t be confused with established companions. Like a street-smart archaeologist/action hero. Or a young girl with emotional hang-ups and a knack for explosives. Other than that, make the story your own.

Okay, so the story had to have archeology, a young girl, and explosives. Anyway, we needed a working title, so I tried to have fun with that. Earlier that year, I read James Hogan’s The Proteus Operation and loved it. I thought about calling it “The Proteus Effect.” Transformation. Time. Identity. Mystery. Cool, that all fits–

Oh, and the title had to be a pun on the word “I.” Seeing I. I Scream. Something like that. Stick to formula.

Uh-huh. How about “I, Proteus?” It works in the other ideas I was playing with.

I waited a while in case more suggestions or edicts appeared in my in-box. No, that was it.

Wait.

Nope. All good.

So a group of Doctor Who fans insisted I write a Who story about an oppressive group intelligence that went around the universe stealing ideas and imposing its will on others.

Irony detection: epic fail.

That fueled my take on the material and my experience of it. Conformity. A cult of fanatics. A cult of personality. Invasion. Techno-scavengers. No, techno-parasites. They seed host worlds instead of host bodies, go dormant, and revive. A typical parasitic life cycle. Selfishness. Group-think.

Images and themes were complimenting each other. Suddenly I had a story I wanted to write. A two-page synopsis. Then a treatment, a more detailed outline of the plot. And then a few scripts.

And by the time I had something, everyone else had given up on “I, Proteus.” Then the project was revived a few years later. And everyone gave up on that too.

Next time, I’ll post the two-page synopsis of “I, Proteus.” I’d post it now, but this entry is plenty long as it is. Whew.

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