The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Phantom Of The Opera


And finally, today’s out-takes are from my first attempt at writing a comic strip, Opera Of Doom! from the 2007 Doctor Who Storybook. For the full story of how I wrote this, you’ll need to buy the marvellous The Betrothal Of Sontar graphic novel which includes a whole load of behind-the-scenes stuff. The ideal gift. I would say ‘baby need shoes’ but I don’t have a baby so I’ll say ‘Jonny need coffee machine’.

Been interesting, digging out these left-overs. As I said yesterday, there are loads more, but to find them I’d have to go back through old scripts and novels, comparing drafts with finished articles, and I can’t, quite simply, be arsed. There’s also the slight problem that most of my better things didn’t tend to change from the first draft very much (that’s not because they are my uncompromised ‘artistic visions’ or anything pretentious like that, it’s just because they were strong enough ideas for me to get right first time).

Unlike Opera Of Doom! which took me several attempts to get right, and then the middle bit still needed to be re-written by Clayton Hickman and Scott Gray. Which doesn’t bother me in the slightest – the end result was better than it would’ve been, my name was on it to take the credit, and I got paid in full...

Draft 1:

Panel 6 (new row)

It’s later that night, and the Doctor and Rose are making their way back to the TARDIS through another scenic alleyway. They are approaching a walkway beside a canal.

The Doctor and Rose are in animated conversation, Rose grinning with excitement, the Doctor gesturing flamboyantly. They aren’t even looking at the corpse in the canal...

ROSE: WOAH! TOP GIG!

DOCTOR: I DIDN’T THINK YOU LIKED CLASSICAL?

ROSE: I KNOW, BUT THAT WAS DEFINITELY UP THERE WITH ABBA AT WEMBLEY AND THE SMASH HITS POLL WINNERS’ PARTY!

They are being watched by a figure in the shadows in the foreground of the picture. We see the figure’s breath misting. It is a human, but we can’t make out who it is.

Panel 7

The Doctor and Rose see the corpse in the canal. We have a view from above, looking down at the corpse. The Doctor is crouching in interest as Rose backs away in shock. It is clearly the musician from Page 1. His face is twisted in fear and his hands are raised as though fending something off. He seems to have aged thirty awful years.

ROSE: OH MY GOD!

DOCTOR: HE’S BEEN IN THE DRINK FOR A FEW HOURS, POOR CHAP-

ROSE: WHAT COULD HAVE DONE THIS?

Panel 8

Straightening up, the Doctor and Rose turn to see one of the automata from the opera blocking the alleyway behind them. Lit in the lamplight, it is casting dramatic shadows and is absolutely terrifying. Its form is half-covered in its long-cape and tricorn. Its arms are outstretched as though it intends to grab them and do terrible, terrible things.

DOCTOR: AH... I THINK WE’RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT!

But even this scary panel isn’t quite as scary as what happens in the next one-

Panel 9

The Doctor and Rose turn back towards the canal – we catch them in an action pose, catching-breath-open-mouthed, hair-caught-in-the-wind, wide-eyed in surprise.

Another automaton is punting a gondola down the canal towards them. It is dressed in a similar way to its fellow, and is also caught in a spooky light. We should get a sense of absolute stillness and elegance. This is an alien killer than doesn’t need to hurry.

Meanwhile the first automaton is behind the Doctor and Rose, approaching, blocking off their only way of escape-

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1

Out of the shadows where he was lurking, Fred appears, half-diving at the automaton in the alleyway. Our image is of him in mid-air, punching it on the mask, bringing it down.

In the background, the Doctor and Rose look on in surprise and delight.

SOUND EFFECTS: THWAAK!

Panel 2

The automaton has been floored, seemingly knocked unconscious, its limbs strangely twisted – it has fallen whilst frozen into a walking pose. It is making strange noises. The Doctor is moving towards Fred, a grin on his face, a hand outstretched to shake. Fred can’t quite believe what he has done, and is looking at the automaton in amazement.

FRED: I WAS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO IT... IT DIDN’T SEE ME...

DOCTOR: FRED, I THINK THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN YOUR GREATEST HIT!

SOUND EFFECTS: CLUNKLE! WHIRRR-DOIIING!! GLURK!

Panel 3

We cut to a close-up of Rose, looking at the automaton on the gondola. Her expression is anxious. We can see the automaton, punting serenely away.

ROSE: DOCTOR! THE OTHER ONE! HE’S GETTING AWAY!

Panel 4

This panel should look almost exactly the same as the previous one, except that Rose’s expression has changed to a sort of incredulous embarrassment, as the automaton on the gondola has only moved about one foot down the canal. We should have the impression that there has been only very slight movement between the two panels.

ROSE: ...VERY SLOWLY.

Panel 5

Fortunately there is an empty gondola moored nearby. Our panel is of the Doctor jumping fearlessly into it with delight, followed by a more cautious Rose and Fred.

DOCTOR: QUICK, HOP IN!

Panel 6

Their gondola is now drifting down an alleyway. It’s a beautiful image, the water swirling gently in their wake, the reflected moonlight. Around them are decaying, once-lavish buildings. Ahead of them we can make out the automaton on its gondola, passing under the arched bridge-like entrance to a dark, ominous, torch-lit tunnel.

The Doctor is punting while Rose and Fred sit in the gondola. Fred is half-lying back in his seat, whilst Rose is perched upright, looking ahead impatiently.

ROSE: CAN’T YOU MAKE THIS GO ANY FASTER?

DOCTOR: THE TOP SPEED FOR A GONDOLA IS TWO MILES PER HOUR... THIS MUST BE THE MOST RELAXING AND ROMANTIC CHASE I’VE EVER BEEN ON!


Draft 2:

Panel 4 (new row)

The performance has finished. The curtains are drawn, and the audience is standing – partly in ovation, partly to leave.

The Doctor, Fred and Rose are standing up, getting ready to go.

ROSE: WOAH! TOP GIG!

DOCTOR: I DIDN’T THINK YOU LIKED CLASSICAL?

ROSE: I KNOW, BUT THAT WAS DEFINITELY UP THERE WITH ABBA AT WEMBLEY AND THE SMASH HITS POLL WINNERS’ PARTY!

Panel 5

The Doctor, Rose and Fred are making their way down one of the passages of the opera house. It’s opulent, torch-lit, with drapes lining the walls. There is no-one else about.

DOCTOR: WHAT ABOUT YOU, FRED?

FRED: I’M TRYING TO REMEMBER HOW THAT MIDDLE BIT WENT. IT WAS SORT OF DUR DU-DU DUR DUR...

Panel 6

And suddenly, in front of our three heroes, one of the drapes is drawn back to reveal two of the automata emerging from the darkness, their arms outstretched, their claw-like metallic hands reaching forward threateningly, their eyes staring out blankly. An absolutely terrifying sight. Caught in the torchlight, they cast eerie, twisted shadows.

FRED: DUR!

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