Doctor Who is a 2019 Hugo Finalist – Twice Over!

This morning, Dublin 2019 announced the 2019 Hugo Award Finalists for all things science fiction and fantasy–novels, stories, art, and media. Doctor Who has two Series 11 episodes nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category:

  • “Demons of the Punjab” – written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs.
  • “Rosa” – written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai.

The Hugo Award Ceremony will be held on August 18, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland at this year’s Dublin 2019 WorldCon.

The Doctor’s Competition

As far as this year’s competition, Doctor Who is up against THE EXPANSE, several great episodes of THE GOOD PLACE, and a Janelle Monae music video feature. (My fifteen year-old will probably root for this last one. We took her to see Janelle at Austin City Limits Music Festival last October and she’s been wearing her T-shirt ever since.)

Here are all of the nominees in the category according to Dublin 2019:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Penguin in a Parka / Alcon Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC)
  • Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (Wondaland Arts Society / Bad Boy Records / Atlantic Records)
  • The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
  • The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (NBC)
  • Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC)

Do you have a favorite here? As far as I’m concerned, both episodes were moving, insightful, and packed an emotional wallop, each in their own way. DEMONS OF THE PUNJAB had me in tears by the end and ROSA was like a splash of cold water on the face–particularly because of how it ties back into the here and now.  When I think about scenes in Series 11 that really affected me and say something about who we are right now, I think immediately of that moment between Yaz and Ryan when they talk about the so-called casual racism they encounter every day of their lives in the twenty-first century.

Hugo Awards – Previous Regenerations

The Doctor is no stranger to WorldCon voters and the Hugo Awards. In addition to receiving more nominations than I can possibly list here, Doctor Who has won the Hugo Award in this category six times in the past. The award-winning stories were: “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances” (2006), “The Girl in the Fireplace” (2007), “Blink” (2008), “The Waters of Mars” (2010), “The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang” (2011), and “The Doctor’s Wife” (2012). Even though the show continued to receive nominations every year since 2012, the Doctor hasn’t taken the award home (or rather, back to the TARDIS) in years.

The Hugo Awards – You Can Vote!

The Hugo Awards are considered to be the best in sci-fi/fantasy as determined by the fans. While the Nebula Awards are selected by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the Hugo nomination process and voting privilege is open to anyone who becomes a member of the World Science Fiction convention.

Whether or not you attend the Hugo Award ceremony in Dublin this year is up to you, but for as little as €40 (about $45) you can purchase a Supporting Membership to Dublin 2019. You’ll be allowed to vote for your favorites in all categories–and my favorite perk: as a Hugo voter, you’ll have access to the Hugo Voter’s Packet, a huge stockpile of eBooks for most of the nominated novels, novellas, comics, and short stories.

I’ve been a Hugo Awards Supporting Member and Voter about five years now and I love it! So come and join up.

On Kaffeeklatsches and Zoo Animals

Directors Ben Wheatley and Jamie Childs with panel moderator Edward Russell.

Zoo Animals

On a recent episode of the podcast, Radio Free Skaro (#676), recorded live at Gallifrey One, Doctor Who director Jamie Childs was asked how he was enjoying the convention so far. Jamie replied, “You never know what to expect with these kinds of things. Turns out it’s quite fun to be a zoo animal.” Jamie went on to explain the unsettling experience of going to a coffee meet-up and being asked to stand on display in the corner in a narrow box-like alcove when the kaffeeklatsch guests arrived. “Yeah, I’m definitely a zoo animal,” he told himself. In the end, he said, the meetup turned out to be quite fun.

I remember that initial offbeat moment because I was one of the guests—and he’s right. It was a bit strange. When we filed in the door we were all asked to squish into that narrow alcove with him. A moment later, the kaffeeklatsch attendant pulled out a camera, snapped a picture of us, then gave us the go-ahead to disperse and sit down for coffee with Jamie Childs. 

Coffee with Jamie Childs

This experience at Gallifrey One was the first time I’d ever participated in a kaffeeklatsch at a convention. If you’re not familiar with the format, it’s really just an informal coffee meet-up with a con guest and about ten or twelve other attendees held in a small conference room. If you’re intimidated by the social awkwardness or the expense of more formal evening receptions offered at a con, then this more intimate, structured gathering might be for you. Plus there’s no price tag at all. It’s totally free. But be prepared to drop everything to hit the online reservation form when it goes live a few weeks before the con; there’s a lot of competition for spots at the table. 

Yes, it’s true. When you enter the room, the folks running the kaffeeklatsch corral everyone in a corner for a quick photo with the guest. When do you see these photos? The organizers told me they would email them to us in mid-March, otherwise I’d add a photo to this post. After the photo op, you help yourself to tea or coffee at the setup in the corner, and sit down at the conference table for an informal chat with the guest. The whole session lasts just under an hour. 

Jamie Childs directed the first and last blocks of Doctor Who Series 11, including Jodie Whittaker’s debut, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” the moving historical episode, “Demons of the Punjab,” “It Takes You Away,” and the season finale, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.” 

Jamie was incredibly kind and down to earth, and conversation flowed very easily. About halfway through the meet-up, we found ourselves leaning across the table to look at photos on his phone of the construction crane set-up taken on his first day of production on “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” No easing into the shoot with a quiet dialogue scene, Jamie said, but instead, his first day was a daunting full-scale action sequence with construction cranes and The Doctor’s leap through the air from one crane to another. He explained that while they faked the set-up to some extent so that the cranes were much closer to the ground, they were real cranes, there was a gap, and Jodie made that leap herself.

We also learned a bit about Jamie’s background and how he originally trained in sound design work when he was in film school before eventually breaking into directing for television, working with legends like Brenda Blethyn on ITV’s Vera. He also shared that he was initially taken aback when he saw that Series 11 was going to center around an ensemble cast—the fam played by Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole. But he learned a lot from the challenge of blocking longer, more cinematic scenes for multiple actors, working with space and depth, so that people moved out of the background and into the foreground to pair off, deliver lines, interact with each other, and then move out again to make way for the next character and the next beat of action.

Some other details he shared:

  • Jodie Whittaker is channelling a lot of her own personality when she plays The Doctor. “That’s really her,” Jamie said. She’s a bundle of energy, loves to talk to everyone, and never gets bored. He joked that sometimes he wants to tell Jodie, “Hey, wait—save some of that energy for the take!”
  • Behind the scenes, Jodie and her co-stars really are the best of friends. They laugh a lot, play games, hang out, and keep each other company during their down time waiting for the next set-up. The on-set camaraderie was one of the things that made Jamie’s time on Doctor Who such a great experience.

As a former film school grad, I loved hearing about other geeky directing details like the experience of shooting with anamorphic lenses and the challenge of shooting on a tight budget in Wales and Sheffield. He said that the new series he’s working on (His Dark Materials, episodes 4, 5, and 6, if I’ve done my research correctly), has about ten times the budget, which is awesome, but certainly has its own share of challenges. 

Finally, Jamie shared that Jodie Whittaker and he are both huge film buffs and they had lots of conversations about what kind of tone they wanted for The Doctor and the world she inhabits, referencing directors they admired and scenes and characters from other films. He kept Jodie’s confidence, though, and wouldn’t share any specific titles they talked about. Still, it was fun to hear that they drew upon a common series of references that helped them make connections, flesh out what they wanted to do, and develop a good working relationship with each other.

Honestly, the hour flew by, and before we knew it, the kaffeeklatsch guy was knocking on our door again and telling us it was time to go.

If it’s any consolation, Jamie, you weren’t a zoo animal to us. If anything, this type of event lets you, the fan, drop all pretense and interact with directors, writers, artists, and actors as fellow people without any of the weird transactions that take place at autograph tables. It turned out to be one of the best things I did at Gallifrey One this year, and I’ll be back next year to fight over seats at the table again!