mark morris - news & views

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Big Finish & Torchwood

For the past few months I've been working on a couple of projects which I've had to keep under my hat until now. However they've finally both been officially announced, which means that I need keep silent no longer.

First up is my Doctor Who script for Big Finish Productions. As some of you will know (and some of you won't), Big Finish have been producing monthly Doctor Who audio adventures for almost ten years now, utilising past Doctors and companions, and even coming up with a few new companions of their own. They've also branched out into other areas - Sapphire & Steel, Dark Shadows, The Tomorrow People, various Doctor Who spin-offs, the full details of which are available on their website - but their main staple has been their excellent range of monthly, very successful Doctor Who adventures.

And now, finally, I've written one myself, and very proud I am too! A few months ago Big Finish invited me to pitch an idea for a one episode (25-minute) stand alone adventure for the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) & his companions Ace (Sophie Aldred) & Hex (Philip Olivier), based around the number forty-five. As November 23rd will be Doctor Who's 45th anniversary, the idea was that a CD would be released under the blanket title 'Forty Five', containing four separate 25-minute stories by writers new to the range.

In my two decades as a professional writer, I had never written a script before, but after a few days of prevaricating I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. To cut a long story short, my idea was accepted, I was duly commissioned, and suddenly I found myself working (with a very tight deadline) on my first script, in the full knowledge that it would ultimately be performed by professional actors, recorded in a proper recording studio and released on CD for public consumption.


As it turned out, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the script-writing process. Once I got into the swing of it, I loved the challenge of trying to tell a story purely via dialogue and sound effects, and by the end (though I say so myself) I was pretty damn proud of what I managed to produce.

Script editor Alan Barnes was a great help, offering advice & encouragement along the way, and beautifully ironing out a few of the script's rough edges. My old mate, Paul Magrs, was brilliant too. He's done quite a bit of work with Big Finish, & he kindly sent me a couple of his scripts to read, just so that I could see what they looked like on the page and get the hang of exactly what was required.

Eventually, after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing for rewrites, my script ('False Gods') was accepted, and the Friday before last I found myself in the Big Finish studios in London to listen in on the recording.

I must say, it was fantastic to hear actors - to hear an actual Doctor, no less - speaking words that I'd written for them. What really made my day, though, was that the excellent director, Ken Bentley, had successfully managed to secure the services of Benedict Cumberbatch to play the main supporting role of Egyptologist Howard Carter. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favourite young actors (he played Stephen Hawking in the award-winning BBC2 drama a few years back, and was the lead in a recent BBC1 thriller series called The Last Enemy; he's also been in the movies Atonement & Starter For Ten) and he was brilliant in the role. What made it even better, though, was that he was also a really nice bloke, warm and friendly and happy to hang around all day, eating trifle and chatting.

All in all, it was a really positive experience, and I can't wait to hear the finished audio, with sound effects and music. The cover is at the bottom of this blog entry, if you want to have a butcher's. Having now lost my scripting virginity, I'm now eager to do more work for Big Finish, and in fact - though I can't say too much at the moment - I am currently talking to them about future watch this space.

My second big announcement is that I'm writing a Torchwood novel. It's called Bay of the Dead, and is an all-out, no-holds-barred zombie-fest, set in Cardiff. I love the TV series and am thoroughly enjoying writing for Captain Jack & co. The book - along with two others: Into the Silence & The House That Jack Built by friends & fellow horror writers, Sarah Pinborough and Guy Adams - will be out in May next year.

It's late notice, I know, but Tim Lebbon and I will be doing a talk/reading/signing in Sandwell Central Library, near Birmingham, tomorrow at 2:30pm. It should be a fun afternoon, so if any of you can make it along, it would be great to see you there.

Cheers for now.