I last saw The Final Programme when it first came out in 1973: I didn’t enjoy it very much then and I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy it all that much this evening at the BFI. There were a few slow bits where I nearly dozed off, but was woken with a jump when something loud happened. Michael & Linda Moorcock were sitting behind me, but I don’t think Michael would have been offended by my doziness as he doesn’t like the film much either.
There was a Q&A session afterwards (which is what I really went for) in which his dislike of the film (and much of the film industry) became only too obvious. I was aware he had had problems in the past, with The Final Programme, scripting Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot with James Cawthorn, and from having read the excellent Letters From Hollywood, which was based on lengthy correspondence he had with J G Ballard while contracted to work on a film in California.
Suggestions he made were that The Final Programme movie could have done with more editing (down to five minutes); that it should never have been released; and the original script, which was written by someone who was incomprehensible under the influence of speed, was far better than the one that was used. It’s a shame, because as he pointed out the film had an excellent cast, I think the book is very good, but the script and direction was terrible.
Moorcock was asked about The Coming of the Terraphiles, and he reiterated that he set out to write an Arthur C Clarke-style space opera in the style of P G Wodehouse – which is quite a nice distillation of what Doctor Who at its best is like. He’s watched the programme since it began (his favourite Who was Tom Baker) but had the slight handicap of having to write the novel’s first draft without having seen Matt Smith’s Doctor; the novel had to go through editing to remove things not allowed – for example, there were some tiny lizards who smoked pipes, but smoking’s taboo in Doctor Who.
Doctor Who apparently has a couple of short walk-on parts in two of the Jerry Cornelius novels – so everyone can reread them now to try and find them. MM said, and I’ve read this before, that the beginning of the Final Programme is a reworking of the first part of Stormbringer – I can’t say I noticed at the time of reading, but I wasn’t looking, and it’s a long time ago now, particularly since I read the Elric novel.
Apparently the plans for an Elric movie, which were quite far advanced, are shelved at the moment, without much likelihood of production in the near future.
He was asked which of his novels he would most like to see turned into a film – the answer was Mother London, but only if he could write the screenplay himself, and only if it had an extremely good director.
Perhaps the most memorable thing he said was a simile for his inability to remember the details of his novels once he had finished them: writing a novel is like “having a crap – you get it out of your system, flush it away, and it’s gone”. I don’t imagine Mrs Moorcock was very impressed.
Not having seen MM in person for a number of years, it didn’t at first register that he was who he is – he’s lost some weight since 198- and he’s looking very well after his foot problems, walking with a stick now he’s off the crutches.
The event was recorded and is going to be posted online, apparently – if I can find it when it is posted (it was part of the regular strand The Flipside) I’ll put a link in here, but I find the BFI website’s navigation pretty impenetrable. The programme notes from the BFI are online here.