Tag Archives: Big Finish

LETHBRIDGE-STEWART – Popular Questions

slider_lethbridgestewartWell, it’s only been a few days since the series was announced, but already a lot of interest is being generated (the series even made it to Digital Spy!). With all this interest a few questions have begun circulating, so I thought I’d take a moment to address a few of them, just to clarify things.

Are they official or fan made?

The short answer is… they are official. But let me explain. No, they are not licensed by the BBC, but that’s because they don’t need to be. The BBC does not own the characters or concepts created by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln for their Doctor Who scripts. The copyright is owned by the Executor of the Haisman Literary Estate and Henry Lincoln, and we have a license with the Haisman Estate and the approval of Henry Lincoln. But yes, they are fan made, in that most of us involved in producing these books are fans, in the same way as the TV series is, the BBC novels are, and Big Finish’s output is.

Will there be eBooks?

Yes indeed. We’re even looking into setting a pre-ordering system for eBooks.

How will you do the back-story — in relation to the books and audios?

dwmr009_thespectreoflanyonmoor_1417_cover_largeOur main point of reference will be the TV series. This is the only source we will go to great lengths to not contradict. There is not a great deal of back-story for Sir Alistair on television; most of what we have learned was revealed in all the novels and audio dramas produced since 1991. Now, it is a fact that much of the novels and audios conflict (as does a lot of the TV series, come to that), and it is generally considered (and stated in both respective mediums) that they take place in separate realities, both spun-off from the prime reality of the TV series. Our books will be no different. We spin-off from the television series and are set in that reality and will not contradict what we know of Sir Alistair from that medium, however there will almost certainly be echoes of the continuity established in the novels and audios, suggesting that certain events happen in all realities, although not always in the same way. A good example will be, in most of the books and audios it is accepted that Sir Alistair was born in 1930, and we see no reason to contradict that as it fits what we’re doing and it makes Sir Alistair around the same age as Nicholas Courtney. Of course, all this said, if fans wish to tie everything together, then they are most welcome to do so. After all, that is part of the fun of being a fan, trying to make everything fit. I do it, we all do it! But as professionals we can’t be bound by continuities outside of the TV series as to do so would only inhibit and constrict what we’re creating.

Will the UNIT dating issue be dealt with?

Not directly. We’re not dealing with UNIT, but we do detail the years leading to its formation and thus fit within a certain timeline. The guidelines make it clear, for the authors, in which year the series is set (initially, that is), but they have been expressly told not to state the year within the narrative. There will be clues, both subtle and not-so, for those who wish to work it out. But we won’t be directly tackling the issue. The UNIT dating issue has existed for so long now, where’s the fun in solving it?

Will the Doctor make an appearance?

Short answer; no. It’s not within our license to use anything owned by the BBC, and that especially includes the Doctor.

Will any other companions appear?

Again, no. There are a few companions not owned by the BBC, but to use them would almost certainly muddy the water.

Candy_Jar_LS_Front_Amended2-mediumAnd my favourite question;

Will it be the ’60s-’80s Brig and UNIT or the CyberBrig?

Neither. The announcement has made it very clear that we’re dealing with Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart directly following The Web of Fear. At this point he has only met the Doctor once. He has only dealt with an alien threat once. And his entire world view has been changed by this.

So, they were a few of the most asked questions (even the last one!), and these are the official answers. We’ll explore the behind-the-scenes more in the lead-up to the release of The Forgotten Son, but for now I hope this reaches you all well. If there are any more questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask.

The first four books (or the first, if you wish) be can be pre-ordered directly from Candy Jar Books. All pre-orders will be shipped at least a week prior to official release.

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Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – The Big Five, part two.

My enthusiasm for the anniversary of Doctor Who was waning, and listening to The Light at the End did not help. Already I was tiring of Doctor Who, after watching every single episode over a period of five months, and researching every novel, comic and audio adventure produced, to cook my own slice of the anniversary cake – namely my book, Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants. Something was seriously needed to kickstart my excitement…

50th-Anniversary-of-Doctor-Who-2712715

Luckily the BBC were forced to released a very unexpected surprise after a mini-episode, a prequel to the anniversary story, was leaked earlier than planned. It was officially released on Paul McGann’s birthday, and what a present it was for him, and what an anniversary treat for all the fans!

#2: The Night of the Doctor

No one really expect this. Since 2005, when Christopher Eccleston appeared in Rose,  it was the one question every Doctor Who fan wanted answer. When and why did the Eighth Doctor regenerate? The obvious conclusion, based on visual evidence in that first story, was shortly before the Nu Series, at the end of the Time War. But then earlier this year we saw the end of series seven and discovered a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor, the one who fought in the Time War, and it was John Hurt! This threw us all into a tiz, trying to work out how he fitted in the grand scheme of things; was he the older version of the Eighth Doctor, was he the Ninth Doctor (thus making Eccleston the Tenth, and Tennant the Eleventh and so on)? We were all hoping that the anniversary special would answer this, and despite McGann’s insistence to the contrary, I for one was certain he’d appear somehow. But not like this!

8docI, like so many, clicked that youtube link to see this minisode (as they’re now called) and watched as the TARDIS rushed through space to help a ship about to crash. And like all the others, my mouth at first fell open, and then broke into a wide smile when a voice said ‘I’m a Doctor, just probably not the one you expected’ and the shot cut to Paul McGann standing there with a cheeky grin on his stubbly face.

For the first time Steven Moffat (whose reign as producer has not always inspired me with confidence) was God. He delivered, in seven minutes, the best piece of Doctor Who he had ever written and produced. Finally all our questions were answered. This was the Eighth Doctor who had lived a long time past the TV Movie of 1996, who had endured much pain and loss, who had lived through the Big Finish audios (yes, for the first time since Nu Who began, the Big Finish Eighth Doctor adventures were given their place in TV canon when the Doctor names all his Big Finish companions – a lovely touch, and a most unexpected one [and one that creates more work for me, when I come to to revising my Companions book]), and was now battered and bruised by the Time War, which he refused to become a part of.  At last we knew, it was not the Eighth Doctor who fought in the Time War, and it was not he who regenerated into the Eccleston Doctor shortly before Rose. 

After years of playing the Doctor on audio, McGann stepped effortlessly back into the role, in an outfit that was the perfect evolution from that which he wore in the TV Movie. I had always liked the ‘dark eyes’ look Big Finish took to using, leather jacket and satchel included, and it always seemed a nice link between the old and new, but the outfit McGann sported in The Night of the Doctor changed that view for me. And his scenes on Karn were superb. Oh yes, Karn. Another surprising touch. A return to the location of the 1976 story The Brain of Morbius and the Sisterhood of Karn, a race of immortal The-Night-of-the-Doctor-regenerationbeings who elevate Time Lord science. For four minutes the Doctor was actually dead, unless he chose to take the offer given him by the Sisterhood, regeneration or final death. It was a sad but noble performance as the Eighth Doctor chose to end his life and become the warrior needed to fight the Time War.

There is really so much in these seven minutes to love. None of it was expected, but all of it so gratefully appreciated. It finally gave us that link between the ‘original’ series and the ‘new’, proving once and for all that they are but one series. And it was the moment I fell back in love with Doctor Who. Suddenly my fears of the anniversary special faded, somehow I just knew that Moffat was going to do a damn good job, and I held to my belief that we would see all the old Doctors in one form or another, and we’d see Peter Capaldi turn up (it was too much of an opportunity to pass up, in my view, a fact I told many people over and over again).

But before that special was something else entirely, the one thing I was truly looking forward to it. An Adventure in Space and Time

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – The Big Five, part one.

So, it’s been a week since the official anniversary of Doctor Who – fifty years of the longest-running science-fiction series in the world. And this time, it truly was the whole world, with an anniversary special shown at the same time in ninety-four countries, both on TV and (for the first time since the ’60s) in the cinema!

13doctors

We were treated to a whole host of shows, events and merchandise to mark the occasion – everything from books and CDs, to documentaries, conventions, TV specials, a cinema release in 3D, and special look at the origins of the series. But for me only five really mattered (plus my own book celebrating the series, but we’ll get to that later), and it’s these five that I’ll giving my appraisal of here.

#1: The Light at the End

The first step of the anniversary for me began when Big Finish released their multi-Doctor anniversary adventure, The Light at the End. Now I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of Big Finish’s main range of Doctor Who adventures – I stopped listening to them when the TV series returned. Might seem a little unfair of me, but I easily tire of the over-reliance on returning monsters and companions that started to litter the releases from that point. Truly original pieces of drama seemed to diminish bit by bit, which is fine since, in my view, Big Finish needed to cater for the core group of fans – those who wanted Doctor Who as it used to be. I like my Doctor Who to continue to grow with the audience, with the social development of our culture. For me during the Wilderness Years (when there was no TV Who) Virgin Books, BBC Books  and Big lightFinish provided us with a Doctor Who that continued to grow, to echo the decade in which it existed, as it always did on TV. Then, in 2005, Doctor Who returned home to BBC One and the books and audio adventures seemed to lose a lot of their ambition, their originality. Which is a shame. There were some true classics produced between 1991 and 2005 – not to say that Big Finish haven’t produced some sterling stuff since, but usually it’s in their spin-off series’, like the Gallifrey series, or the I, Davros plays and, primarily, through the ongoing series of adventures for the Eighth Doctor that were being produced for transmission on BBC Radio. So, The Light at the End would be my first, for fun, look at a Big Finish play in a long while. (Bearing in mind I had to scour all of the Big Finish releases when researching my anniversary book, so it’s not like I haven’t heard the majority of them.) At the time it seemed that the official anniversary story, Day of the Doctor, was not celebrating the classic series but rather focussing on the mythos and characters introduced since 2005. The BBC insisted that no old Doctors would be appearing! To me, and so many other fans, this seemed to be a slap in the face. It was the anniversary of  fifty years of Doctor Who, not just Nu Who (as the series from 2005 to present is affectionately called), and so the cast list of The Light at the End decided me on getting that story. This seemed to me to be a true celebration with countless characters from the old series returning. For the old fans an anniversary story was an excuse to bring back as many old faces as possible – the strength of the story was secondary. We wanted something like The Five Doctors, which is not a terribly interesting story – it’s not known for its complexity, but it is known for the pure fun and nostalgia of seeing so many old friends return. And so The Light at the End

Hmm. How quickly one’s view can change.

It took me a while to work out why I left The Light at the End feeling so blah. The story was straight forward enough, although possibly not the most well-structured. It certainly brought back a whole host of old friends, every Doctor from the first to eighth made an appearance, countless companions. Essentially all one could want from an anniversary story. At least that’s what I had always thought. but upon reflection I came to realise the problem – for me, at least. Ever since Virgin got the licence to publish original Doctor Who fiction the guest appearance of old Doctors and companions had become something of a regular occurrence. Indeed, the very first novel, Timewyrm: Genesys, featured guest appearances by the Third and Fourth Doctors. Later stories saw the return of all kinds of Light_at_the_end_limited_collectors_editioncompanions from Peri to Liz to Susan, and featured all sorts of multi-Doctor stories (although none topped Lance Parkin’s Cold Fusion which featured a bona-fide reason for two Doctors being in the right place, and a wonderful spin on how the Seventh Doctor did not recall the events already, since his fifth self was also involved – the answer was simple, he did remember!). Big Finish have also featured various versions on the multi-Doctor story over the years, everything from The Sirens of Time (their very first release! Much like Virgin and BBC Books did before them), to The Four DoctorsProject: Lazurus and The Wormery. Even companions got their own stories with releases like The Five Companions. And so the problem as I see it; The Five Doctors was a success because of the nostalgia. Characters we had not seen in years returned, Doctors joined forces for the first time in ten years (well, eleven really when you consider The Three Doctors was transmitted in 1972, almost a year before the tenth anniversary). In The Light of the End it’s essentially just more of the same. We hear all these actors so often throughout the year, hear these characters interact, heard the various Doctors team-up countless times. There’s no sense of anniversary or nostalgia. Linking it to 1963 didn’t do anything except offer a failed attempt to enforce a feeling of nostalgia. We can’t orchestrate such a thing; it comes from within, from the memories. Don’t get me wrong, hearing Tom Baker and Paul McGann together is fun (although the BBC were soon about to officially do something even better with these two!), but having actors come in to impersonate the first three Doctors is not. I can see what was being attempted, but it felt like an insult. It didn’t help that none of the three actors sounded anything like the characters they were supposed to be (something in common with the Patrick Troughton impersonator on the upcoming An Adventure in Space and Time). I left the story with a feeling of blah, of ‘yeah, seen it all before’, and I realised that it was no longer just enough to have loads of old actors return to Doctor Who. An anniversary, to me, needed to be something different. A good story, a development of the mythos of the show, and a sense of nostalgia.

Enter the BBC’s first surprise… Coming in part two.

The Misadventure of Mark Thorne (remastered)

The Misadventure of Mark Thorne was a story originally published in the 2007 Doctor Who anthology, Short Trips: Snapshots, edited by Joseph Lidster and published by Big Finish Books. It is now out of print, and the rights of the story are all mine again. Of course, I do not own the Doctor Who elements, which does somewhat prohibited the story being reprinted. However, I can share a new version of the story with you for free. And here it is… A bit of official Who fiction, from me.

The Misadventure of Mark Thorne
By Andy Frankham-Allen

‘Look, it’s perfectly simple. Mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon. Come on, you can’t be that cowing thick!’

Mark Thorne looked down at the trembling hands of his trainee, and smiled. This was power. In this kitchen he was the king of the hill, and all who came here to work had to bow before him. The trainee started adding the seasoned mayonnaise with a knife. Mark tutted loudly, and snatched the knife out of the trainee’s hands.

‘No, no, no! You’re using the wrong knife now.’ He put the knife in the sink and reached for the knife with serrated edge. He knew his little monkey had been using the correct knife, but that was hardly the issue. It was about power.

*

Hours later Mark threw his coat on and barged his way out of the unit. Head lowered, he wasn’t particularly interested in who got in his way. They wouldn’t be there for long. Like a rhino he carried on, barging his way through the crowded concourse of Cardiff Central Station. It was match day, and the people were jostling to get to an exit in one piece. Unfortunately most of them were not natives of Cardiff, and so they experienced a moment of indecision as they wondered which exit offered the quickest route to the Millennium Stadium. Even more unfortunately, for them at least, Mark did know which exit he wanted and he was not in the mood to tolerate their blocking him.

So he carried on relentless, leaving curses in his wake. Finally he reached the doors. Just as he was about to step through them and out to the cold air, an unusual sound penetrated his single-minded course. He stopped, and looked around. He had never heard anything like it. In the concourse people were also looking around, trying to locate the source of the noise. Some reacted in shock, no doubt disturbed by the sudden strangeness of it all – expecting some kind of bomb to go off, perhaps. Mark smiled. It was clearly nothing. The inside of the concourse looked like it did on any other match day, so he turned away to continue on his way outside.

He walked smack into a hard object, and for a moment was dazed, but he couldn’t step back. Instead someone from behind bumped into him, and the solid object before him gave way. He stumbled over something, and found himself surrounded by a bright light.

A strange humming sounded resonated behind him. Mark turned to look, but the effects of concussion had begun to sweep over him. He imagined he saw two large white doors closing, but his feet gave way and he fumbled backwards. He spun around, which did not help the dizziness, and before he knew what had happened his head slammed into something with a sharp edge.

He was on the floor, and the light was fading. He blinked again. Something came into his vision, something silver. It looked vaguely like a man, reaching out, as if to help him up.

And then… All was darkness.

*

He pushed the door open and it swung with force. ‘Right, that’s it! Where am I?’ he asked loudly to what, it turned out, was yet another empty room.

Mark checked his phone once again. It had been almost an hour since he’d awoken in that strange bedroom. An hour since he had started trying to find a way out of this clinical looking place he had found himself in. For a while he had entertained the notion that it was some kind of hospital – it was certainly white enough – but he’d never been in a hospital like this before. Plus there was the total lack of wards and, well, people. He had found many different kinds of rooms behind the various closed doors along the multitude of corridors, but no people. It had got to the point where he would have been happy to see the silver man, whom he was sure he’d imagined anyway.

He looked around the room he was in this time. It looked strangely familiar. In the centre of the room was an object that… His head subconsciously reached for the bump on his head as his eyes rested on the sharp edge of the console. Six sided, resting on a plinth, with a glass column running through the middle of it. There were various controls on each of the six panels, including what appeared to be a computer keyboard.

Mark approached the keyboard section. He was pretty good with computers, and hopefully he could call up some kind of information on the monitor above the keyboard. Just then he noticed a difference in the wall before him. Unlike the other five walls, this one had cracks in it. He peered closer, and then it came to him.

A pair of double doors. A way out. At last!

Heart racing he rushed around the console. There had to be something on there that would open the doors. Some kind of… Aha! Right before him was a lever with a red handle. Smiling at his brilliance, Mark pulled the lever and, with a sense of satisfaction, watched the doors swing open.

*

OK, having all those rooms and corridors inside a blue box was one thing, but the place outside? Mark had to wonder if he was going mad.
He was standing in the middle of a field. The grass beneath his feet was a kind of orange, contrasting horribly with the garish green sky above. In the distance he could see trees. Although they weren’t like any trees he’d ever seen. The trunks were as white as the purest snow, with leaves of baby blue. Mark shook his head, wishing he’d brought his sunglasses with him. The colour scheme, coupled with the mild case of concussion, was giving him a granddaddy of a headache.

‘Hello?’ he called out, before it occurred to him that it might have been a better idea to keep quiet. He had no idea where he was, or indeed what kind of people populated a place like this.

Out of his depth as he was, he wasn’t the kind of person who could just wait. Ask anyone at work. Patience was not a virtue of his. He glanced back at the blue box once more, making sure he got a complete picture of its location in his mind. Wherever he was, whatever he was going to find here, this box was his ticket home. And he had no intention of losing it.

*

He followed a road, not yellow brick unfortunately, although he half expected there to be one, into a built up area. Once more he was faced with the startling differences between cities he knew and the one before him. He was probably being generous likening it to a city, it was more of a small town in size at least, but there was something about the grandiose nature of the buildings that made him think city. They reminded him of something, although he could not think what, the way they were all carved out of stone. It was as if the mountains themselves, which he had only just noticed now standing on either side of him, were part of the city.

All he needed to find now were some people. Maybe they knew who that silver man had been. Maybe that’s what he was going to find here. Hundreds of silver men.

As he was soon to discover, he couldn’t have been more wrong. As he walked deeper into the city he heard the sound of scuffling. Smiling to himself he sought out the source of the sound. Whatever he was going to find couldn’t be any madder than everything he’d seen so far.
Famous last words, he thought, when he turned the corner.

First he noticed the two men backing up against the stone wall. They were roughly the same height, looking much the same age, too. One of them was dressed in a strange outfit that looked vaguely like cricketing whites, while the other one was dressed in dark grey slacks and blazer. He was the younger of the two, and also clearly the one out of his depth. Mark could appreciate that. But the other man seemed perfectly at ease. He was even offering out a hand and a smile to the aliens who were literally cornering them.

And they really were very alien. They stood almost four feet taller than the two men, and were as wide as both of them put side-by-side. Their skin, what he could see of it through the haphazardly spaced tufts of coarse hair, was an oily black.

Mark backed away a bit, so that he was mostly hidden by the edge of the corner.

He watched events unfold, having no intention of getting involved. He knew it was a character flaw of his, the amount of times he’d seen someone fall over in the concourse while at work and never offering any help, but he couldn’t help it. In his kitchen he was the master, but outside it he was little more than a regular Joe. A cowardly one at that, too.

‘No need for any hostilities,’ the blond haired man was saying. ‘Perhaps introductions would be best here? I’m the Doctor and this is Turlough. You are..?’

The two aliens turned to each other, and for the first time Mark got a good look at their faces. They had one huge eye in the centre of their faces, with big, slobbering lips, saliva dripping. Mark didn’t want to be quoted, but it seemed to him they looked hungry. Very hungry.
That decided it. Even though it seemed clear the two men must have arrived in the blue box, too, Mark’s survival instinct was higher than his desire to be a hero. He quietly slipped away.

He didn’t get far. He turned around just in time to notice another two aliens come up behind him. Mark swallowed hard.
‘Erm. Hiya,’ he said, his voice never having sounded so small.

The aliens smiled. At least, Mark hoped it was a smile. It was so difficult to tell through all their drooling.

*

They introduced themselves as Trawets and Naitsirk, although considering the way they were always moving around him Mark had great difficulty remembering which was which. He hated to sound racist, but they really did look exactly the same. He had expected something sinister, but instead they constantly talked to him, offering him much food. A sign of respect for honoured guest, or some such, Mark assumed. Either way, one thing was certain, they loved their food.

Right now they sat around a table, various meat dishes filling up most of the table’s surface. And still they talked. Mark had an image of the two men he’d seen earlier taking part in a similar scene. For a moment there he had thought that perhaps the aliens wanted to eat the men, but he was glad to be proven wrong. Sure, they looked hungry, but during the short time he’d spent with them that had not changed.
Mark laughed. What a ludicrous idea! Trawets looked at him. ‘Sorry, private joke.’

‘What is a “private joke”?’ Trawets asked, and when he spoke his lips moved in a way that did not go with the actual words. It was like watching a badly dubbed film.

‘Can I see more of this place? First time, erm, off world, so I’m figuring I need to soak up the experience,’ Mark said, in a not very subtle attempt at side-stepping the question.

Trawets turned to Naitsirk. Mark watched them, wondering what that look meant. He was never very good at reading body language as it was, so trying to read these two was nigh on impossible. Naitsirk slowly nodded his large head, and Trawets returned his attention to Mark with what Mark now knew to be a smile.

‘Walk is good,’ Trawets said.

*

On reflection Mark realised he liked it here. Sure, everything was so alien (an inane thought) but all the Shev were so damned friendly. He was surrounded by at least ten of them now, and all were listening intently to his stories about working with food. It seemed an obvious topic for a race who prized appetite above everything else, and if there was one thing Mark knew well, it was food. Well, that and old films and TV shows, but he didn’t see how the Shev would have any interest in such things. Unless he told them about Junior down at Fraggle Rock. A distant relative of the Shev mayhaps? Looking at the ten gathered around him Mark could see the physical similarities.
As he told his stories, putting himself up there with the gods of course, in terms of his culinary skills, his mind drifted back to his life in Cardiff. He was, he thought in all modesty, clearly an undiscovered genius. Too good for the city, as drab and cold as it was. But here he had a purpose, a fellowship with the Shev that he just didn’t have back home. Maybe, he considered, he wouldn’t bother trying to find those two men and that silver man (whom he had almost certainly imagined) so he could get back to Cardiff. This planet was vibrant, and it made him feel alive.

A sound rang out, both cutting his story and his thoughts short. Whatever the sound meant it sent a ripple through his audience that superseded anything he had to say. They started talking to each other animatedly, jumping with unsuppressed excitement.

‘What’s going on?’ he asked.

One of the Shev, possibly Trawets, turned to him, saliva drooling even more than usual. ‘Food has escaped. Now we join the hunt.’
Well, Mark had never hunted for food before. Living in a city it had never been necessary, not when there was a Tesco on hand. ‘When in Rome,’ he said, standing up. ‘Let’s go chicken hunting!’

‘Yes! You lead us, we follow you. You smell the food better.’

Mark wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by that, since the Shev had bigger noses than he did, but he was game. His chest swelled with pride. Oh yes, move on Gordon Ramsay. It was the Mark Thorne show now.

‘Yeah, why not?’

*

Trawets soon took over, since it became obvious early into the hunt that Mark just didn’t have the nose for it after all. This came as a great disappointment to Trawets, although Naitsirk exhibited no surprise at all. So the hunt continued, through the city, out over the hills, and onto the burned orange pastures. All the while the Shev were getting more and more excited, and Mark was finding it hard to keep up with them. For all their bulk they were incredibly fast. Occasionally he slipped on the ever dripping saliva. Now, Mark loved food as much as the next man, possibly more, but he was beginning to get turned off by the constant slobbering.

Finally, they caught up with their prey. And Mark pulled back in shock.

Surrounded by a good twenty Shev were the two men he’d seen earlier. For a few moments Mark was stuck trying to process this development. He wanted to deny it, pretend the men were simply helping the Shev in their hunt, just as he was. But too much was coming together. The huge meal, the friendliness of the natives, why walking would be good for him, and now this…

‘You eat people?’

Trawets just nodded his head.

‘You eat people?’

Naitsirk came over to them. ‘Human meat is the best kind. That is why we breed you. Trawets thinks it is better to get to know your food first. I think Trawets is right now. Much more satisfying.’

Mark didn’t know what to say. There was really nothing more he could say. But he knew one thing for sure. He wasn’t going to be served up like a Sunday roast. He turned and pegged it.

As he ran he heard laughter behind him. He had got used to the Shev laughter, found it strangely addictive. But now it made his skin crawl. So he ran faster.

*

Mark knew they were close behind, but he didn’t care. He doubled back on himself, running through the city, hiding from time to time in the shadows. If he stayed on the right track he knew he could find his way back to the blue box. If nothing else, his running hopefully was enough of a distraction to allow the two men a chance to escape. He just hoped they were heading back to the box, too. If not, then perhaps his imaginary silver man was not so imaginary after all. He had to get into the box, or else he’d be dead meat. Quite literally.

He shuddered, poked his head around the corner to make sure the way was clear, and shot out of the shadows. Before him was the non-yellow-brick-road. The path to freedom.

On the horizon he saw the box, and let out a sigh of relief. But like a kick in the chest the sigh was ripped away from him when he noticed that the door of the box was closing behind the man in the grey slacks.

Mark shouted out, and doubled his speed, ignoring the stinging stitch in his side. He had to reach the box, to let them know he was here. Surely the silver man wouldn’t let them go without him.

He was wrong. Before he could reach the box a wrenching noise filled the air. He recognised it as the same noise he had heard in Central Station, which seemed so long ago now. His running turned into a stagger, which in turn became little more than a crawl on the grass as he witnessed the box fade into nothingness. Mark screwed his eyes shut. If the silver man ever told them about him, it would be too…
He heard the grass pressing beneath the pressure of many large feet.

Spittle landed on his head. Then, a voice.

‘Trawets was right, much more satisfying.’

*

Mark was bundled unceremoniously back to their hut, where he was stripped naked by Naitsirk while Trawets prepared the pot. A third Shev had joined; a family friend come to taste the new meat. Mark struggled, finding a well of courage he never knew he had. Perhaps it was simply his survival instinct overriding all else. As it turned out, his struggles were for nothing. The Shev were so much stronger than he.
Once he was naked they sprayed him with a misty something. It smelled lovely, and for a moment Mark closed his eyes imagining how it would add flavour to the food being prepared. He shook his head, the horror of the situation just beyond his grasp.

It was so insane. He was the one being seasoned, like some leg of beef. He knew that, but still his mind could not quite accept it.

They strung him up into some kind of cradle, which they gently lifted off the floor and attached it to a pole over the top of the large cauldron. Mark looked down, grateful that the lid was still on the pot.

‘Listen,’ he said, his voice pitiful, ‘you don’t need to do this. I can offer you so much, teach you of the ways we cook things on Earth. There must be something I can do for you.’

Naitsirk looked at Trawets, and if Mark read it right there was a doubtful look in his eye. Trawets shook his oily head, and approached the cauldron. ‘All you can do is hope you digest slowly.’

Mark’s eyes widened in horror, the sound of the lid scraping against the cauldron. ‘I hope you choke on me,’ he said feebly.

‘Unlikely,’ Trawets said, and opened his mouth. Mark looked into the deep chasm. It was impossibly wide.

As they began to lower him into the cauldron of bubbling liquid, Mark’s eyes watered and he looked around.

‘Please,’ he began, then blinked. It was impossible surely, but before his eyes, unseen by either Trawets or Naitsirk, the third Shev was changing. His oily black skin was turning silver…

Mark could not help but smile, tears of relief pouring from his eyes. The silver man had come to save him.

Pain seared through him as his naked legs sunk into the boiling liquid. ‘Help me!’ he screamed, looking for the silver man.

There was no silver man, just three Shev watching him in glee as he was boiled alive.

It was the end of the Mark Thorne show…

Fade to black.

The Misadventure of Mark Thorne © Andy Frankham-Allen 2007, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Doctor Who © BBC 1963,2012. All Rights Reserved.

Space 1889 – Looking Back, part 2

In the second part of my look back at the Space: 1889 audio series, I talk to Richard Dinnick, my co-author on the final release from Noise Monster Productions, The Lunar Inheritance.

1) What interested you in Space: 1889 in the first place?

I am a complete sucker for “what if” scenarios and Space: 1889 slotted into that very well. The moment you and I got the gig from John, we ran all over the internet (metaphorically of course) seeking out information about the franchise. What we found really spurred us on: a fascinating environment with some wonderfully colourful characters and a huge scope for expansion. What else does a creative person need?
2) What difficulties did you face in converting a Role-playing Game scenario into a fully-fledged audio drama?

As John has said, he used the role-playing game books as a series bible. He sent this to us and we took a look. Remember, this isn’t a case of adaptation, this was merely a case of coming up with a story within the confines of someone else’s universe. In that respect it is just like writing for Doctor Who or Stargate with all the brilliant possibilities and sometimes limiting factors that come with that.

The one thing I was keen to do – having played a few role playing games myself – was keep that element of “how do we get out of this one?” or “in what way are they going to pull the rug from under us?” that embodies that relationship between player and games master. I guess I saw us as games masters and hopefully we managed to pull the rug by revealing that the Selenites were the Silanteans’ (the moon men) modems.

3) Who are your favourite characters?

It must be said that Frank Chadwick has done a superb job in fleshing out his vision of a Victorian Space Opera with very three-dimensional characters. This made our job a great deal easier. Annabelle was great; she’s feisty and well-capable of handling herself. Helen Goldwyn brought her to life splendidly. Her uncle – who was played by Garrick Hagon- wasn’t in our story very much but Doctor Cyrus Grant had a key role to play and you – who wrote the prison cell scene – brought him to life magnificently.

Of course, I suppose I am bound to say that I liked the characters that we came up with best because we had created them and fleshed them out. If I remember things correctly, you were behind the creation of William Brooker while I handled Captain Nathaniel Blake. Originally the Naval officer commanding Indomitable was going to be James Carter played by Anthony Daniels from the first Space: 1889 (Jonathan Clements’ Red Devils) audio drama! Alas, his schedule meant we had to create our own officer, which was a boon because I think he’s a great character. Yes, Blake is my favourite.

4) Your three favourite moments in The Lunar Inheritance are…?

I don’t think I will ever forget the email that said we had got the job. This was my first audio commission and I was extremely excited! So that has to be highlight number one.

The actual writing of the play took an age. We had a first draft and then a second (with changed and new characters to slot in and a new sub-plot to add) and then we had notes on that which had to be incorporated. It took a while, but it was an invaluable learning process and John was incredibly supportive, nurturing and positive.

There was one scene in the great elevator where I wrote a stage direction saying that there was balalaika music playing in the background. John said, “I’m not sure we’ll be able to get that, Richard!”, and that was when I realised that all the sound effects and music would have to be sourced and the job involved in that. It made me think about the ensemble team a lot more and served me well when I went on to write for Big Finish’s Sapphire & Steel range. So, the second highlight? When I got the CD and sat down to listen to the finished version, there was the balalaika playing in the background as Blake and K’chuk try to bluff Colonel Molatov. Simon Robinson had come up trumps! I was stupidly happy about that!

Finally, being in studio for the recording was a massive buzz. I will never tire of hearing a script brought to life by a talented group of artists marshalled by an equally gifted director. That recording was great for so many reasons. It cemented my friendship with John and he introduced me to Nick Briggs, who has become a great friend and person to work for.

5) What’s coming next from you?

I am beavering away at so many things right now. I was a finalist in a BBC Writers’ Room opportunity to create a TV Show for CBeebies and I have been asked to deliver a revised script and tone document. I have a script and a book to write as well as a graphic novel idea and a drama series idea to pitch to the right people! And this is all by the end of November!

In terms of releases: The Big Finish Companion is out and we’re launching it at the Dimensions convention in Newcastle before flying off to Chicago. Also before the end of November! The tour continues at the Gallifrey One convention in LA come February and thence at Big Finish Day 2, Invasion and Regenerations.

December sees my adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles released in the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes range. That’s followed by my adaption of David Stuart Davies’s The Tangled Skein. I am very proud of this series as I was also assistant producer on them under Nick.

Then I’ve got my First Doctor Companion Chronicle due in May – The Wanderer. At some point next year my Stargate audio will see the light of day along with three unannounced projects I am working on or will be working on soon!

Thanks to Richard for his time, and if you’re curious about his latest work, why not pop over to the Sci-Fi Bulletin and check out their review of The Big Finish Companion.

Elisabeth Sladen, 1948-2011

I very nearly got to work with Elisabeth Sladen, back in 2006. After a chance meeting with producer John Ainsworth at a Big Finish party we agreed to discuss story ideas for the second series of Sarah Jane Smith audio adventures. We got quite far with that, too, taking the series potentially into some serious literary territory. Lis Sladen was very much up for it, but alas it all fell through and the second series was postponed for some time (it did lead me to write for the Space 1889 audio series, however). It’s a great sadness to me that I never got around to creating real words for Sarah Jane, since I’ve been a big fan of the character from childhood.

And now she’s gone. Not Sarah Jane Smith, the character will continue forever, ensuring that we will never forget the great woman who created her. But yesterday, April 19th 2011, Elisabeth Sladen died after a battle with cancer, at only sixty-three years of age. She is survived by her actor husband, Brain Miller (who appeared opposite Sladen in the 2009 series of The Sarah Jane Adventures) and her daughter, Sadie (who starred alongside her mother in the first series of Sarah Jane Smith audio adventures). Last night rumour of her death swept across Facebook, and I had to text a friend, Gary Russell (script editor on The Sarah Jane Adventures) to discover the truth of the rumours. Considering I never knew the woman, although I had seen her at a few conventions over the years, news of her death hit me quite hard – no doubt a result of resurging memories of my own father’s failed battle with cancer a few months ago. My journey home felt like a long one, as a deep sense of sadness and loss overcame me.

With the exception of Donna Noble, played by the ever-amazing Catherine Tate, Sarah Jane has always been my favourite companion of the Doctor. I’ve seen and heard every story she’s appeared in, and have always been amazed by how little she has changed over the years. The character grew, especially in recent years, but Elisabeth Sladen herself just never seemed to age. She looked as stunning last year in series four of The Sarah Jane Adventures as she did in 1973 when she first encountered the Doctor. There is no doubt that the world of Doctor Who, both in fiction and in reality, is so much poorer for the loss of both an outstanding character and an amazing actress.

I never knew her, but through Sarah Jane it feels like I did. And I know I will miss her. Greatly.

Rest in peace, Elisabeth Sladen, 1st Feb 1948 – 19th April 2011. As the Doctor said; ‘Goodbye, my Sarah Jane.’