Home SF+ Science Fiction Being Human – Series Creator Toby Whithouse gets quintessentially British

Being Human – Series Creator Toby Whithouse gets quintessentially British

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Being Human, Season 3 - Lacey Turner with Aidan Turner
Being Human, Season 3 - Lia (Lacey Turner) with Mitchell (Aidan Turner) © 2011 BBC

In the previous installment of our conversation with Toby Whithouse, the Being Human creator discussed some of his plans for the third season, which returns to BBC 3 in January. But the versatile writer/producer also had more to say about the upcoming American spin-off of Being Human, his return to Doctor Who and a possible new science fiction series that he’s developing for the BBC…

With the third season of Being Human now finished, have you started working on ideas for season four yet?

Doctor Who 5.06 - Vampire girls
Doctor Who 5.06 Vampires of Venice – Vampire girls © BBC

I really should be, but I’m deliberately taking a bit of time away from it to recharge the batteries. In the meantime I’m working on this new sci-fi show for the BBC and I’m also doing another episode of Doctor Who. It’s not anywhere near as much fun as Being Human but it does tend to fill up my day a bit.

It’s funny, because there are a couple of writers like myself or people like Matt Graham and Chris Chibnall who have our own shows or have had them in the past, but it doesn’t make any difference: if you get the call from Doctor Who, you always go.

There’s something quintessentially British about the show that we all absolutely love, and Stephen Moffatt is a genius in every sense of the word. Working for him is always an absolute pleasure.

Is it a change of pace to write a script without having to worry about producing it as well?

I can’t tell you the relief. In a way, it’s a bit of a working holiday, because on Being Human, I’m an executive producer. I have to oversee the casting and all of the other scripts and obviously all of the storylining. I have to look at the rushes every day, as well as writing the lion’s share of the scripts.

On Doctor Who I just write the script, I give it in and they have all the headaches. There’s something very nice about that, because I get the fun bit. I don’t have to go to compliance meetings and things like.

Doctor Who 5.06 - Matt Smith
Doctor Who 5.06 Vampires of Venice – The Doctor (Matt Smith) © BBC

And you get to write for Matt Smith’s Doctor this time.

To a degree, but the thing is, obviously I read Stephen’s episodes and whatever episodes they push my way and it’s a show that never gets boring and never stands still. It’s constantly changing and evolving and is constantly surprising and exciting so it’s a delight to be involved in it.

Consequently, as a writer, your job in a way is to keep up, not to necessarily change the course of anything, because the scripts are of such an extraordinary standard, it’s a full-time job just to keep up with Stephen and the others.

How did you feel about an American version of Being Human?

To be honest, they paid for it, so it’s their dime. They can really do what they but, but they haven’t mistreated it in any way. They’ve made it their own, and what they’ve done is take bits from different episodes, episodes will be slammed up against each other and storylines will be moved around and there will be new storylines and new characters.

As a viewer, it’s really exciting. I’m now watching Being Human and for the first time I don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s actually really thrilling.

I have to say, at first I was watching it through my fingers but once I realized that this was a show made with just as much love and affection as we made our version, it was actually a really enjoyable experience.

Being Human (USA), Season 1 - Sam Huntington, Mark Pellegrino, Meaghan Rath and Sam Witwer
Being Human (USA), Season 1 – Josh (Sam Huntington), Bishop (Mark Pellegrino), Sally (Meaghan Rath) and Aidan (Sam Witwer) © 2011 SyFy

Do you have any input in it?

They’ve been very open to our responses. Certainly when we watched the first couple of episodes we had a couple of thoughts and suggestions, which they were open to them. But we were all on the same page, because the thoughts we had chimed with the thoughts the network had as well.

Again, there’s no conflict of ideologies here. We’re all pretty much in agreement.

But presumably you would want their version to look different anyway.

I’m more than happy to see that. I was watching an episode the other day and this new character appeared and I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to be that character!’  It turned out to be a completely different storyline, so that was really exciting.

The other thing is that inevitably they have to tell the stories differently because their seasons are so much longer. If they were going to slavishly adhere to the UK version, they would run out halfway through the series.

Could you franchise Being Human the way they did with The Office so there are lots of different versions out there?

Don’t think for a moment that it hasn’t crossed my mind! Anything that expands the brand is good news for me.

You’ve mentioned a new science fiction series you’ve been developing?

I’m still developing it with the BBC. It was previously with a different broadcaster, but it’s now with the BBC, probably with a new title and I’ve completely rewritten the script three or four times now. The thing is, the success of Being Human has meant that all my time gets completely swallowed up so it’s literally taken this long before I’ve had five minutes to devote to it.

I think it’s taken this long for it to finally click and for me to say, ‘Every time we get a new series of Being Human, it’s a wonderful thing, but I think, ‘Right, that’s me for the next year!’

So you’re getting all the kudos for Being Human but no chance to capitalize on them.

Exactly. Over here, we tend to do much shorter seasons, which you would imagine would mean I had more time, but I choose to write the majority of the episodes. We’ve now been commissioned for a fourth series, which is wonderful, but it means that me and my producer will literally be sitting down in a few weeks to story storylining again.

I’m incredibly proud of the show and incredibly grateful for the opportunity the BBC have given us, but as I say it tends to mean that the rest of my life goes on hold while I’m doing it.

Is your entire cast coming back for season four?

I couldn’t possibly comment on that. Let’s just say there is a press release about a certain film that will affect us soon on series four. But to be honest, Being Human is like a Mexican daytime soap: no one is ever really dead!