WHEN the producers of Doctor Who decided to pit their hero against a host of vampires, they knew just the man to write the episode.
Southend-born scriptwriter Toby Whithouse already had success with Doctor Who when he wrote an episode for David Tennant that brought back former companions Sarah Jane Smith and K9.
He went on to make vampires fashionable on British TV by creating hit comedy/drama series Being Human.
So the chance to combine Doctor Who and vampires was too good to pass up.
Toby said: “They asked me to write a romantic episode. And Venice is, to my mind, the most romantic city in the world. So, I immediately suggested setting it there and they went with it.
“But I never thought for a moment they would go to Croatia. I never expected them to venture outside of Cardiff. Given they’ve been able to do spaceships and alien landscapes in Cardiff, it struck me they’d be able to do Venice there as well.
“I was thrilled when they told me about filming in Croatia, and then felt rather guilty, because they went and did this ridiculously expensive foreign shoot.
“I think the city of Trogir, which we made to look live Venice, looks absolutely fabulous. I couldn’t be happier with it.
“The thing is, the Venice of 2010 looks absolutely nothing like the Venice of 1580. Now, sadly, it’s all Starbucks and mask shops.”
Toby started work in front of the camera and his roles included playing Norman, the husband of one of the downstairs staff in the House of Elliot.
He also appeared, briefly, in the hit film Bridget Jones’s Diary, but decided soon after that he’d like to try writing instead.
His first play, Jump Mr Malinoff, Jump, was about a Russian family running a cafe on Southend seafront.
He said: “Being an actor I had a lot of spare time on my hands and so I just started to write. I had an idea, literally just an idea for a gag. So I wrote it down.
“It expanded in both directions until characters started to take shape, and these two people who were talking suddenly became brothers, and they were in a cafe. It built up from there until eventually I had the first draft of a play.”
The play went on to win the Verity Bargate award for new theatre writers and was staged at the Soho Theatre, in London.
Toby, who now lives in Brighton with his wife Helen and their two children, rarely returns to Southend.
He lived in Richmond Avenue and Riviera Drive and went to Thorpe Bay High School but, although his English teacher Mr Watkins was an inspiration, Toby said he said he had “a miserable time”, partly because, as a plump schoolboy, he was an easy target for bullies.
He started on a BTec diploma in art at Southend Tech but left after a year to study A-levels in drama and art at Seevic College, in Thundersley.
A year later, he dropped out after winning a place at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, so counts only a handful of O-levels and CSEs as his academic qualifications.
He can’t even remember how many he has, but added: “It doesn’t seem to have done me any harm.”
* Toby’s episode of Doctor Who is on BBC One tonight at 6pm.