I always intended to revisit Maggie. Back when I wrote Episode One and John was having that conversation with his wife, I knew that Maggie’s day was a traumatic one (unfortunately for her, it gets worse).
I have to say, I had my doubts about writing her side of the conversation. Because the speech would stay the same, I was concerned it would read as stale and lazy. In fact, right before I wrote her side, I asked my other half if perhaps I should paraphrase their phone call so that it wouldn’t just be the same phone call… But of course it wasn’t the same phone call.
As I wrote it, it felt entirely different. I think the difficulty I faced was switching to Maggie’s perspective. Not only from Victor’s story, but from knowing that call from John’s perspective. Firstly, I re-read that part of John’s story. It’s horrible. In a good way. He is just such an interesting man – his reaction still makes me want to shake him and hug him all at the same time. I want him to tell her. I want him to let her in and allow her to grieve with him; to plan his last few hours and what to say to their children. He doesn’t say much. And he says so much.
It being so powerful, it took a lot out of me to forget all that and just take his speech as words without context. I had to get into Maggie’s head and give her words context. I found this difficult. But there are some wonderful moments in this small passage. I love her reaction to being alone with the body. No longer Victor, but an empty vessel. I love that it freaks her out that there are two bodies in the room but only one is breathing. I love that she wonders if it’s OK for her to open a window. I love that she hears John’s words at their face value. And I hate it.
But by far, my favourite Maggie moment is when she spies the blue police box ornament on the mantle piece and fully embraces her role as the Doctor. That wasn’t planned. I always knew that Tom had been a big Doctor Who fan, and his reasoning behind having a doctor deliver his letter to Victor was simple – he wanted Victor to have the Doctor with him when his time came. He wanted Victor’s last moments to be as epic as the departure of a companion on his favourite show. He wanted Victor to look into the eyes of the Doctor and be healed of all his worries and fears. Before the next adventure. But when Maggie takes on the role as the Doctor, my heart melted. She literally gave up herself at that moment, to ease the passing of a stranger. What a woman.
This episode was tricky. An intense bubble of strong questions, hard opinions and morally ambiguous accusations. Victor brought up some difficult emotions in Maggie; and Maggie brought out everything Victor had in him, good and bad. I like to think that Maggie has learnt a few things from Victor. Things that she will continue to think about as she moves forward through her life; questions that she takes with her, and perhaps another story…
This series of stories is keeping me on my toes as a story-teller and a writer. Avenues are opening up that I hadn’t foreseen and that is exciting. I’m trying my very best not to plan future episodes. Broad outline, yes; detailed bullet-point plan, no.
Ultimately, this series of stories is designed not only to examine this fictional idea of moments, categories and last days – all of which are very intriguing to me as a reader as well as the author – but also as writing exercises for me. I’m trying to test my ability to write myself into and out of difficult narrative situations. In short, I’m trying to make myself a better writer.