Apocalypse Now (and the first part’s free)

You can tell when I’m busy – the blog gets neglected! And it has certainly been a busy few months, the fruits of which will be revealed in due course…

The main purpose of this update then, is to coincide with the release of Big Finish audio drama – Survivors Series 2.

Survivors 2

Terry Nation’s original 1970s TV series told of a global flu pandemic – the Death – which wiped out 95% of the world population, and followed the trials and tribulations of those who survived. (Find out more at this excellent ‘Survivors: A World Away’ blog). With our first audio series at Big Finish, we went back to the start to retell the story of the outbreak – in the mid-1970s period setting – and introduced some of our own characters into this world, while weaving in some of the original TV series folk, so our stories ran in parallel with those seen on TV.

Big Finish Survivors Series 2 continues in this vein. We join Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour), Greg Preston (Ian McCulloch) and Jenny Richards (Lucy Fleming) right after the end of the first TV series, as Abby receives news of her missing son. She was never seen again on television, but here on audio, her search begins. At the same time we catch up with Daniel Connor (John Banks) and Jackie Burchell (Louise Jameson) from our first audio series as they are about to encounter a tricky situation of their own…

We were all very proud when the first episode of Series 1 – Revelation – was nominated for a BBC Audio Drama Award earlier this year. And now to celebrate the release of Series 2, it is available for free here at Big Finish. It’s not for children, and the series continues in a dark and unsettling vein – so if you are in the mood for some adult, challenging drama, this is a good place to start. Our aim is to remain true to Terry Nation’s original vision – the post-apocalyptic world is a bleak and difficult one, that will bring out the very best and worst in humanity.

Already, the feedback on Series 2 has been fantastic, and I am delighted to find there’s a real audience for this kind of drama. For me, it’s the chance to work with a brilliant team of friends and colleagues, and the Survivors world is one we love exploring; with Series 3, 4 and 5 all in the pipeline, there are many more stories to tell.

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Pinch Yourself

Sometimes I have to do just that.

As you can see, it’s been a little while since I updated – and that’s because it’s been a busy year.
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Let’s start with now and work back. Just out, Dark Eyes 3. the latest instalment in the award-winning series, following the further adventures of Paul McGann’s dashing Eighth Doctor. Now joined by Nicola Walker’s Liv Chenka as well as Ruth Bradley’s Molly, he goes up against the Master (before his Missy days!) as played by Alex MacQueen. I am immensely proud of this, and owe a debt to the great script editing of Jonny Morris, superb direction from Ken Bentley, magical sound design from Wilfredo Acosta, plus a wealth of ideas from creative producer David Richardson.

That’s really what prompted the title for this update: I’ve just written 4 hours of audio drama for some of the very best actors in the land, and it was huge fun and a huge privilege.

All right, so what else has been happening? July saw another instalment in the successful 1960s Counter-Measures series as Professor Jensen and her team got ever more embroiled in alien machinations at home and abroad. Talk about a cliffhanger…

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And in September I was delighted to be asked to write the finale to the Hex saga for the Seventh Doctor’s adventures in the monthly range, Signs & Wonders. I’ve made no secret of the fact that Philip Olivier’s out-of-his-depth nurse, Thomas Hector Schofield, is one of my very favourites in the roster of Big Finish characters. So it was a treat to get to tell this final (?) story, and to give it a particular flavour of the North of England.

But earlier this year was a release that broke new ground, as Big Finish took on Terry Nation’s Survivors. Remaining true to the vision of the series creator, we wanted to make this as real and dramatic as possible, with the result being somehwat more disturbing and adult than many of the fantasy and sci-fi scripts I’ve worked on before. Judging by the response, I think we succeeded.

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Indeed, one of the other reasons that prompted me to finally press ‘update’ on WordPress was the anouncement this week listing the opening episode, Revelation, among the 2015 BBC Audio Drama nominees.

Proud, honoured, and enjoying myself immensely. No… I don’t think I will pinch myself just yet – I don’t want to wake up!

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Back to Utopia

A quick reminder that I’ll be at the brilliant Fantom Films event Utopia next weekend at Eynsham Hall in Oxfordshire (not too far from home for me!)

I believe tickets are already sold out, but if you’re coming along, I’m endeavouring to bring along a few copies of the Charlotte Pollard box set fresh off the presses & at a bargain price.

So do stop me and buy one.

I’m looking forward to seeing Mark Wright’s short film Looking For Vi & catching up with lots of people. There’ll be plenty of marvellous Big Finish luminaries in attendance: some of whom I’ve written for (Anneke Wills, Lalla Ward, Tracy Childs, Sophie Aldred) and some (Lisa Bowerman & Sarah Sutton, to name but two) for whom I haven’t… yet!

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Omega Returns!

Omega Factor

So the truth is out there… A new audio series of The Omega Factor has been launched today by Big Finish.

We’ll be following up the classic 1979 BBC TV series with brand new contemporary stories in 2015. From the news release:

‘Big Finish Productions has signed a licence to make brand new audio episodes of Jack Gerson’s chilling supernatural drama The Omega Factor. The original series aired on BBC television in 1979 and starred James Hazeldine as Tom Crane, Louise Jameson as Anne Reynolds and John Carlisle as Roy Martindale, who headed up a secret government agency assigned to investigate the human psyche and paranormal events. In the course of their duties, the team uncovered the plans of the sinister Drexel and a dangerous organisation known only as Omega.

“With the blessing of Jack Gerson’s estate, we will be bringing The Omega Factor right up to date,” says producer David Richardson. “The first box set opens in 2015, a more technological – and more cynical – age for Department 7.”

For over thirty years Omega has been silent, and Department 7 – now led by Anne Reynolds – is almost without purpose. But the arrival of Adam, son of the late Tom Crane, will change all that, as a series of terrifying events suggests that perhaps Omega is returning, and that the world is in danger…

Louise Jameson reprises her role as Anne, while Natasha Gerson – daughter of creator Jack Gerson – is back as the shadowy figure Morag.’

Ahead of the series, there’ll be an audiobook of Jack Gerson’s novelisation of the series, read by Louise Jameson and out later this year.

Nefarious plans are in motion, and I look forward to scaring you all to death next year…

The audiobook reading and new series box set can be pre-ordered here

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More Dark Eyes & Catching up with Charley

I suppose that’s what happens when you’re incredibly busy – blogs get neglected. So apologies, and here are a few little snippets to get this place up to date with everything that’s been going on. (At least, some of the things I can talk about anyway…)

I’ve been delighted with the overall response to Dark Eyes 2. As the Muppets clearly sing in their latest excellent screen outing, ‘doing a sequel’ can be a little bit of risk. Especially when following up something so successful and well-made as the original, award-winning, Dark Eyes. So, the second set of stories is a very different beast to the original, largely linear tale of the Eighth Doctor, Molly O’Sullivan and Daleks. I like to think that these stories are things that people will come back to and re-listen to again. In which case, they should reward that: and I hope we’ve done something along those lines with the unusual structure of Dark Eyes 2. In fact, there are probably a number of ways of ordering these stories and still have the whole make sense! (I do sometimes like to make the listener work just a little bit too).

So. Dark Eyes 3. And it has been revealed that my name is at least on the title page for Episode 1. This box, well, it’s a different beast again. And it should be pretty epic…

(and a reminder too that Dark Eyes 2, 3 & 4 can still be purchased in a bundle together for the equivalent of £20 per boxset – just click on the red ‘Bundles’ button on any of their pages on the Big Finish site)

In the immediate future, we have this to look forward to. Charlotte Pollard!
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Hear the trailer here.
At long, long last, everybody’s favourite Edwardian Adventuress will be returning in a series of her very own. I was fortunate enough to work with Jonathan Barnes (novelist and writer of many Big Finish Sherlock Holmes tales) and Nick Briggs as we imagined Miss Pollard’s activities since she left the Doctor(s) behind… What is the Lamentation Cipher? What is the nature of the Ever-and-Ever Prolixity? And just what is Charley doing with the Viyrans (voiced once again by Michael Maloney)? All will become clear in May.

The full guest cast for the series has been revealed, and as ever I was amazed at the talent assembled here. Across the four stories we have the likes of Jacqueline King, Louise Brealey and Nadia Kamil popping up. Here I am with the Pollards: Anneke Wills plays Lady Louisa, India Fisher as Charley herself, and introducing Charlotte’s father, Lord Richard Pollard, brought to life by Terrence Hardiman.
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Just a few short weeks to wait now… and plenty more on the go to continue to distract me from this blog.

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Past, Present, Future

1 January 2014.

OK, so really it’s just numbers. Just another day on a calendar that’s come about by accident of civilisation. But counting gives us a marker, and it’s a good place to stop, look back and look forward.

So, glancing at the recent past, I’m so pleased with the reception the Big Finish December release has received. Afterlife was an attempt to do something a little different, and with such a fantastic cast (see below, where I’m chuffed to be in studio with Amy Pemberton, Philip Olivier, Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy), great suggestions from script editor Jonny Morris and marvellous direction from Ken Bentley, I was delighted with the resulting audio-play. It pays off an ongoing story and also looks to where the Seventh Doctor and Ace might be heading next.
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As it’s my blog, I can reveal a couple of exclusive snippets of information about Afterlife:
First off, when I conceived the story, I gave each episode individual titles, which in the end weren’t needed. But just for you, here they are (and don’t worry, they’re none too spoilery):
1 – After Hex
2 – Absent Friends
3 – The Gangs of New Hoylake
4 – Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

And secondly – because I know it’s been asked – I can confirm – yes, Sylvester played those spoons himself!

Looking at the current month, we have Luna Romana. This one is also part of a continuing story, the finale in fact, of the Companion Chronicles 50th anniversary trilogy. So the story of Quadrigger Stoyn, begun in… The Beginning, and revisited in The Dying Light, will come to an end with an encounter with the Fourth Doctor and more than one Romana.
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As you can see from the cover, joining the Romana roster we have the fantastic Juliet Landau as an unspecified future incarnation of the Time Lady (introduced in the Gallifrey series) looking back at events in her first two lives. Lalla Ward also narrates, and during the course of the adventure we pay tribute to the wonderful Mary Tamm.

So, that’s past and present – what does the future bring? Dark Eyes 2 with Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Ruth Bradley as his companion Molly (as namechecked in the BBC webisode Night of the Doctor!). They’ll be joined by a host of exciting guests for the follow-up to the success of the desperate Dalek-driven race through time that was Dark Eyes. Nicola Walker will reprise Liv Chenka (from the Seventh Doctor story Robophobia), and Alex Macqueen will return as the Master, alongside a number of other foes including the mysterious Eminence and of course, the Daleks themselves. I’ve written two of the four stories in this box-set, and plans are already underway for more Dark Eyes to follow…

And just a little further ahead, an old friend of the Eighth Doctor is coming back too. But in a series of her very own. Charlotte Pollard is on her way, and she’s looking for adventure!

One more thing for the month – Big Finish Day 4 will take place at the Copthorne Hotel in Slough on the 18th January. We’ll be joined by the Eighth Doctor himself, Paul McGann, a full complement of Counter-Measures (Pamela Salem, Simon Williams, Karen Gledhill and Hugh Ross), and Steed (Julian Wadham) and Dr Keel (Anthony Howell) will be there to launch Big Finish’s audio Avengers series. See you there!
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Fifty Years and Counting…

It’s been a busy old year (as you can probably tell from the lack of blog updates on this very page…)

Not least because I’ve been involved in lots of work for the Fiftieth Anniversary of my favourite thing of all time. Doctor Who reached its Golden Anniversary in November and things have rarely looked healthier for the centuries-old Time Lord. With a triumphant TV special, and a hotly anticipated Christmas Smith-Capaldi handover, the weekend of 23rd November itself saw tens of thousands of fans descend on London’s Excel centre to celebrate – myself and my son included.

I was particularly pleased that the month saw the final release in the Destiny of the Doctor series, my story The Time Machine, read by Jenna Coleman. A Doctor-by-Doctor celebration spanning eleven stories, the whole set can now be bought from Big Finish in a very nice TARDIS presentation box. And the bargain price means it’s a perfect Christmas present for the Who-fans in your life.

It’s been amazing to be able to contribute to my favourite thing in this of all years. I began in January with a multi-Doctor story, and during the course of the last twelve months have written for the First and the last Doctors and several in between. And now December brings Afterlife – an emotional coda to the story of Hex and his journeys with the Seventh Doctor and Ace (all of which I’d heartily recommend you catch up with first!).
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And as soon as 2014 starts, I’ll be rounding off the Companion Chronicle anniversary trilogy with Luna Romana. Lalla Ward, Terry Molloy and Juliet Landau star in a tale of Romans, Romanas and a Quadrigger named Stoyn – who’s out for revenge…

So why does this fifty-year-old telly show garner such devotion, inspire such creativity in those who follow it? And how has it been going so long? These are questions I’ve been asked quite a few times already this year. So I’ve had time to consider my answer – and it’s always this. Quite simply, Doctor Who is the best sci-fi-fantasy-tragi-comedy-(pseudo)historical-(melo)dramatical-farcical-serio-family-kids programme there has ever been or ever will be. And it thrives on change, which means it will be around in some form or other much longer than any of us. It’s a legend that’s been formed in modern times, something new that will last forever – which is a very rare thing indeed. And it’s been a dream come true for me to work on it.

So thank you Big Finish, and happy birthday Doctor!

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