Sunday, 12 June 2011
Yesterday I went to Barking for Big Finish Convention Day, in my capacity as person-who-writes-all-the-stories-that-John-Dorney-doesn’t-write. Apparently I am now ‘ubiquitous’. I don’t feel ubiquitous. I certainly wasn’t very ubiquitous at the beginning of the convention as I turned up 15 minutes late, but just in time to join the panel announcing the new companion for the sixth Doctor, Philippa ‘Flip’ Jackson, as portrayed by Lisa Greenwood.
The companion came about as follows; last year we recording a sixth Doctor story, which was at the time rather limply called ‘The Gathering Swarm’ but which was released under the much better title of ‘The Crimes Of Thomas Brewster’. That story is concerns three of the Doctor’s companions, so in order to give events a ‘real world’ perspective, I wrote in the characters of Flip and Jared, two teenagers from east London who had 2010 terms of reference and who could be properly gobsmacked when transported to an alien world. Two normal kids who get caught up in a Doctor Who adventure. In particular, to get a bit of that ‘Misfits’ attitude into Doctor Who, to create two characters who could have walked out of that series and into the TARDIS.
When it came to the second day of recording, and Lisa started recording her first scenes as Flip, I immediately wished I written more scenes for the character, as she doesn’t get a great deal to do in the story. As I mentioned at the convention, there’s nothing better for a writer to hear their jokes being performed with instinctive comic timing, and for even their not-particularly-good-lines to sound well-written and full of drama and humour. That’s how it was with Lisa. The character came right off the page.
And it turns out that Big Finish producers Nicholas Briggs and David Richardson felt the same way, as it was decided – possibly that same day – that we should hire the actress again quickly before she became too successful and famous for us to afford her, as she was clearly headed for great things. And rather than create a similar character for her to play, it seemed the natural thing to do to just bring back the character of Flip.
Now, you might stick in the CD of ‘The Crimes Of Thomas Brewster’ and think there isn’t much to the character of Flip in that story. Which I think is a fair comment, and entirely down to me. But in her first ‘proper’ story, the one which was recorded on Monday and Tuesday last week, she takes centre stage and is given a lot, much more meaty stuff to do. So I’d ask people to reserve judgement on the character until then. I think her first story is one of the best things I’ve written, it had a real feeling of ‘this is special’ during the recording – they don’t always have that feeling! – and I think when people hear the title, and find out what it’s about, they will think that Jonny has gone completely barking mad.
Speaking of barking, the convention was great fun, it was lovely to catch up with old friends and see a few virtual ones in ‘real life’. But the real point of the day was to meet all the people who pay my wages, by which I mean the fans who buy the CDs, not Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery. It’s intensely gratifying and flattering to be asked to sign things I’ve written that people have bought - the more, the better – and one or two people said they’d bought them because I’d written them which was good for the old ego. It was also lovely to talk about my work, about where I got ideas for things from or what I was trying to do with certain pieces, or where I went wrong. I hope there’s another Big Finish Convention Day; consider me converted to conventions, I will go to them all from now on. I will be ubiquitous!