What can you tell us about your episode?
"It's at the crux of the series. It's the middle episode and Amy's at the middle of this odyssey of getting to know The Doctor and the universe and the excitement of being where she is. She's still got this lingering problem that she's supposed to be getting married the next day. This is her choosing between The Doctor and Rory, her imminent husband. The choice is made more acute by the fact that the episode features a split reality - one of which they have to decide is a dream and one which isn't. One of these realities is five years ahead, in which Amy is pregnant and settled down with Rory. She's torn between wondering which is the real reality and wondering which reality she wants; to carry on exploring the universe with The Doctor or a lovely settled existence in the future."
Are events following directly on from 'The Vampires Of Venice'?
"Well, that's the thing they have to work out. There's the Dream Lord, this lord of misrule who taunts them with these two versions of the future. One is the next day and one is in five years. The reality that follows on from the Venice episode is as mad or madder than the one in the future, so they can't work out which is the real world. In one of the realities they're stuck in the TARDIS and drifting towards a cold, burning star."
Tell us about this Dream Lord...
"The Dream Lord tortures The Doctor, in a rather cruel way, for his foibles and his weaknesses. He really probes away and needles him about his relationship with Amy and the history of his relationships with his companions - the fact that he always chooses a pretty young thing, rather than a middle aged bloke."
There are some classic sci-fi themes in the episode. Did you have any particular influences when writing it?
"It was more influenced by my own dreams, which aren't too frequent and sadly aren't normally very helpful in my creative work! In my mundane sitcom life, the last thing you want is completely surreal moments. But we've all had those moments, especially on waking, when you think 'Was that real, was that a dream?'. Doctor Who plays with levels of reality and alternative universes, and the dream world is an alternative universe of sorts and all the more interesting for being a distortion or embellishment of our own waking lives. And The Doctor, being so mercurial and full of thoughts and intelligence, his dream life is particularly interesting and rich. He's particularly freaked out by the idea that he should sleep at all - he sort of denies that that's the sort of thing he does - he's got too much to do and he's too wired. He's unnerved by the idea of dreaming himself."
Did you worry that some of the ideas were too complex for the target audiences?
"I'm a very mainstream, dumbing-down kind of writer and I wouldn't inflict anything too intellectual on the audience! It's a mixture. There are monsters in this episode, there are creepy old people. There are chases. There's a world which is freezing. I think the thrust of the episode is quite visual and quite accessible. But Doctor Who's just great at being very teasing about interesting concepts - in this case the subconscious, alter-ego, a little bit about ageing, the answer to fear and nightmares about old age and things - but at its heart it's a scary romp."
Would you agree with Steven that it's essentially a kids show?
"I think it's a kids comedy show - I don't want to reduce it because I've obviously just wittered on about it being richer than that. But I like the idea that in the end it does something that adult programmes are sometimes nervous about, in that it puts fun or thrills at the top of the agenda. In the adult TV world we think it's not enough, but actually it is."
There's quite an arc running through this series, so did Steven have a lot of input to your episode?
"He initially told me the premise and my brief, which was to dig deeper into The Doctor and Amy's relationship. I also wanted to bring out that she really does love Rory - he's not just a cypher boyfriend or fiancé. Steven runs his computer over what we do and there's a little bit of bringing it back into line. Inevitably there's some drift and some things that he wants to have in all the episodes. Mine is more of a standalone episode, but they all have to be enjoyed without reference to the previous episodes to some extent."
Is Rory going to be much more integrated into the show from now?
"That's up to Steven really, but I personally think that he's a great character. He's soft, stupid and he loves Amy, and he's something of a baffled onlooker and therefore represents us, but he's also funny. Although The Doctor wants Amy to have a happy relationship, he certainly feels protective of her and wants her for himself to some extent. So it's a great relationship and Rory's made it an interesting triangle."
Was it hard to write dialogues for characters you hadn't seen but would already exist for people watching the series?
"It was tricky, but I wrote mine rather late, not because I'm a lazy writer - though that is true - but because it was filmed last. I had the luxury of seeing the readthrough of the first two episodes. So although I hadn't seen anything on screen, I had seen Matt and Karen going through their paces and they're very vibrant performers - so certainly their voice was quite strong in my ear as I wrote it."
How different is writing sci-fi to doing sitcoms?
"I was guilty, as all writers who are new to this area are, of thinking in a restrained way and not casting my imagination loose. Steven Moffat was great for suggesting the idea of the dream split in the first place. It was great fun and it's hugely liberating. I can see now why lots of writers have their bash at doing the sci-fi and futuristic novel, because it gets you on a different track."
Have you always been a fan of the show?
"I have. I'm 51 - I felt in my 30s and 40s that it was unseemly to be watching more of a kids programme then. But I've got four kids of my own now and it's a perfect bonding exercise. It's what TV should be. It's literally the only thing which we really all sit round and enjoy. Doctor Who is almost unique among programmes in that it does fire stuff at audiences in a way that everyone gets something. That was one of my worries actually writing it - I was particularly nervous about how it will be received by my family. I've been on enough message boards to see that you can't satisfy Doctor Who fans!"
Will you write another episode in the future?
"I think Steven probably won't touch me with a bargepole after this episode! I think probably once is enough. Apart from the fact that writers are queueing up around several blocks to write episodes, I couldn't stand the strain of wondering if my kids would approve of the episode or not. It does open up certain vistas and you think, 'I don't need to have a character come through a plywood wall and say something supposedly amusing and have audiences laugh in television studios'. I should probably go and write something else and leave Doctor Who in peace."
Are you looking forward to Simon's episode? What do you think of the premise? Add your comments to this entry below!