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SYFY WIRE joe hill

Locke & Key's Joe Hill shares the 'smoking rejection' he got after pitching Doctor Who

By Matthew Jackson
Joe Hill

Joe Hill is a writer with a lot of genre experience under his belt. Working in the realms of prose, comics, and television, Hill has become one of the most popular and acclaimed horror and dark fantasy voices of his generation thanks to work like NOS4A2Locke & KeyHeart-Shaped Box, and more. He's a powerhouse, but regardless of his reputation and the quality of his work across various mediums, Hill still managed to land a truly "smoking rejection" from one of the great genre TV institutions: Doctor Who

Hill's been making the rounds lately to promote the new Locke & Key Netflix series and his Hill House line of horror comics for DC — check out SYFY WIRE's interview with Hill about his new comic Plunge right here — and that included a recent stop at Brian Keene's The Horror Show podcast. Near the end of the show, while talking about projects that might have been, Hill mentioned his deep love of Doctor Who and his fond memories of watching the David Tennant era of the legendary BBC series with his children. Then he revealed that he actually tried to pitch several story ideas to the show at one point, with a little help from one of Doctor Who's most famous contributors. 

"So, I spent a month and a half working on three pitches, and man, I have never imagined harder in my whole life. I mean, I just worked so hard on these things," Hill explained. "And by chance, I actually wound up spending a weekend with Neil Gaiman. We were in the same place at the same time, and hanging out a lot, and he actually edited my pitches. He actually went through the pitches and was like, ‘Yes do this. Don’t do that. This is a good idea. Hate this idea.’ You know? And I’m like, you couldn’t ask for a better editor!”

Having Gaiman in your corner when you're trying to make your way into the Doctor Who writers room is certainly an advantage, but apparently it wasn't enough to get Hill's foot in the door. He didn't elaborate on what his pitches were, or which Doctor and showrunner he was trying to write for, but in the end his Doctor Who dreams may have died because of what side of the pond he grew up on.

“And so I, you know, with trepidation and my heart in my mouth, I sent in my pitches," Hill continued, "and a couple weeks passed, and I got…the email I got back said, ‘We have never let an American write Doctor Who, and if we were going to, we wouldn’t start with you.

“Is that not the most smoking rejection of all time? I remain in awe. I remain in awe. It’s still my favorite rejection.”

American writers have certainly contributed to the overall Doctor Who franchise before, but no American writer has yet been granted the honor of scripting an episode of the TV series. Perhaps Hill could join his American colleagues in writing a Doctor Who novel or comic book at some point, but after such a scathing rejection, perhaps he'd rather just spend a little more time as a fan first. 

Locke & Key, based on Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's comic book series of the same name, hits Netflix February 7.