The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Brenda Is Always In The Way

Time for a quick rant. Now that Virgin Media have finally taken away the cable on my front lawn – o frabjous day – I’m moving down the list of irritations, from major annoyance to minor niggle.

The thing that is annoying me today is this: when pop stars stick exclusive bonus tracks on albums in other countries. I find that annoying. Because if I like a pop star, then I like to own everything they have released. I’m obsessive like that, loyal, a completist. It’s a trait that is good to encourage in one’s fan-base; you want the fans to collect the b-sides, the cover versions on charity compilations, the box sets of demos.

But how is one to maintain a complete collection if pop stars insist on releasing things that it is impossible to buy. I realise why they do it, it’s because if you release an album in one territory after it’s already been available elsewhere in the world, you want to give added value, particularly if the domestic album is more expensive than the import. I understand that. But that is no excuse for not making those ‘added value’ tracks available to those people who want to own them elsewhere. It’s just encouraging file-sharing and depriving the artist of revenue. I’m not saying it has to be available immediately, just within a reasonable time period, by some legal means.

For instance, I really like Marina & The Diamonds. They, or rather she, is probably my favourite ‘current artist’ and no, I don’t know why I’m putting that in quotation marks either. I bought her album The Family Jewels on iTunes, thus entitling me to the eponymous title track as a bonus (it’s not part of the canonical album). But I’m still missing ‘Seventeen’, a track only available in the US and Japan. It’s not been released in the UK as a b-side or anything. You just cannot buy it for love nor money.

Next defendant – Mika. His first album, Life In Cartoon Motion, released in some territories with the track 'Erase'. Not available in the UK. Second album, The Boy Who Knew Too much. Released in some territories with the track 'Lady Jane'. Not available in the UK.

And finally – well, I’m sure there are dozens of other examples, but I’m stopping with this one – Sparks, who I discover, a mere 3 years after buying their album Exotic Creatures Of The Deep, released it in Japan with the additional track 'Brenda Is Always In The Way', not available in the UK (well, it might have been on a 7" single but what is this, the middle ages?).

Ah well, if these pop stars don’t want my money, it’s their loss. Silly sods.

ADDENDUM: Seventeen and Lady Jane have since been made available via amazon.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Trees

Another blast from the archives, this time from 2006, a review of the Douglas Adams/Graham Chapman sketch show 'Out Of The Trees'. The only surviving off-air copy was shown at a Missing Believed Wiped event at the NFT; I'm surprised and disappointed it hasn't been commercially released since then.

Out Of The Trees

Douglas Adams once described his ill-fated collaboration on a sketch show with Graham Chapman and Bernard McKenna as 'only semi-brilliant'. This sounds like modesty until you bear in mind that he only wrote about half of it, and the brilliant half to which he was referring to was his half.

Adams' main contribution seems to have been the Genghis Khan scenes, and the peony sequence at the end, and certainly the Khan scenes are the highlights. To begin with there is a worry it is going to dissolve into look-we've-hired-an-actress-with-big-tits sniggering of the type found in Spike Milligan's Q shows, but instead we get some extremely well-constructed, economical sketches - the first of which even has a decent punchline.

The second Khan sketch is, as has been mentioned elsewhere, Graham Chapman taking the piss out of John Cleese never having time to do 'Python' because of his business interests and wanting to get more reading in. Clearly the character is written as a Cleese character, but Chapman does a good job, and there are some great sequences later on with Khan massacring and becoming a businessman.

However, saying that Khan is written as a Cleese character kind of points up one of the problems with the show. There's another character, a Scout Leader, who has obviously been written as Michael Palin (or has been written as a Michael Palin-type character) - who just doesn't work when played by Tim Preece, even though he is quite close to Palin in terms of voice. Similarly the two bickering women would have been much better played by Chapman and another 'Python' in drag, but played by actresses, they don't quite work.

This leads me on to a couple of other criticisms. The sketches with which Adams doesn't seem have been involved - one about firemen politicians, another about businessmen - feel like very generic 'Python', and in particular, series 3 and 4 'Python' when the formula was beginning to look a little tired. There are good lines but a feeling that it's all been done before. Also, the linking device of the show feels like pastiche 'Python' - three or four half-finished sketches being played out in the same location, plus some self-referential 'deconstruction of the form' which felt rather-sixth form-revue without being particularly amusing. And these three or four half-finished sketches were all very familiar - the boring cycling enthusiast, the 'Four Yorkshiremen'-esque game of one-upmanship between two housewives, the waiter who gets the wrong end of the stick (a la the two guards in 'Holy Grail').

On the other hand there is the line 'Well, not as such, I more, sort of, don't' - which doesn't quite work written down but is very funny spoken.

The other odd thing about the show is how little Graham Chapman has to do in it. Apart from his turn as Genghis Khan, he is present in most sketches but only as a bit-part player. It's not quite because it's an ensemble piece, it's more a general lack of focus. In some scenes he looks, well, bored. In others, plain drunk. He doesn't quite know what to do when he hasn't given himself any lines, so he throws in unnecessary 'reacting along' acting. And yet when the focus is on him, when he takes centre stage, he is utterly self-assured.

But you can see why it didn't go beyond a pilot (and my suspicion is that the decision was made even before this one episode was broadcast, as the script mentions it being a 'series' and yet they haven't even bothered giving it a title sequence). The BBC would have been expecting a Graham Chapman vehicle, just as Rutland Weekend Television was Eric's and Ripping Yarns was Michael's and Fawlty Towers was John's. Instead they got a show with some not-very-good-at-comedy actors not making the most of some half-hearted material. I mean, Simon Jones is fantastic, and Mark Wing-Davey does the best with what he's given, but they are also barely in it. Instead there's far too much Roger Brierley, a sort of bank manager of an actor, and nowhere near enough Graham Chapman.

And yet it is, as Douglas said, semi-brilliant. A lot of money seems to have been spent on it - particularly the film sequences with Khan and the end bit with the peony - and to be fair it's on about the same level as the last series of 'Python' or something like End Of Part One - not terrible, but with too much self-indulgent funny-when-written-down weirdness instead of jokes. For Graham Chapman, it feels like he's going through the motions, and for Douglas Adams, it feels like he's doing a John Cleese impersonation - he hasn't really found his authorial 'voice' yet.

But it was lovely to see it at last and, if you ever get the chance to see it, do.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


More Blake's 7 episode reviews, from back in 2002:

'Countdown' yesterday. Great stuff; a simple, straightforward and relatively cheap plot by Terry Nation that not only works, but also manages to fill up its 45 minutes with no padding. Sadly Jenna and Cally get even less to do than usual; Jenna's performance is so knowing I'm surprised she doesn't wink at the camera. Cally's getting a bit tetchy. Vila's comedy banter falls a bit flat, as usual, but he's a likeable enough sod. Avon unusually heroic, and Blake unusually gullible. I really enjoyed it. I would give it a good '8 out of 10' if I awarded things marks out of 10, but I don't.

Voice From The Past

Oh my goodness. There's some real vying going on in the competition for 'most sheepish episode of Blake's 7 ever'. But it will be difficult to out-sheep this.

To begin with, this appears to be the episode that has had no money spent on it whatsoever. Four sets - three of which are the Liberator control room, a room in the Liberator and Servalan's office. Three non-regular speaking cast members. And five minute's location filming, at the Barbican if I'm not mistaken, unless that's a corridor in TV Centre.

The plot is essentially, 'Blake gets a headache and goes a bit mad'. He has to be restrained to a chair. Cue lots of nasal hair shots. There is some endless to-ing and fro-ing - will they go to the asteroid or the bouncy planet with the Fera particles? For the longest time this viewer was convinced they wouldn't even get off the bloody Liberator. Cue model shot of Liberator turning left. Cue model shot of Liberator turning right. Cue model shot of Liberator turning left again.

In all its years of rubbishness, Doctor Who never managed a special effect as colon-evacuatingly awful as the space-suited Blake wandering across the surface of the asteroid. I mean, I think it's lovely that they let the producer's four-year-old daughter paint the backdrop, I really do, but what is that big white line supposed to be? Is that big round thing a moon or something? Is that a giant Gin and Tonic?

It gets worse. Blake is here to meet Shevan, a rebel leader. Who is covered entirely, from head to foot, in bandages. And who talks like Papa Lazarou after he's had a stroke. 'Elllo Blaaaake. You wanna buy some pegs? Maaaaa wife was right, there was a problem with the Federation, but I fixed it. Of cooourse you can join us! etc. etc.'

It transpires, in a trouser-changingly absurd plot twist, that Shevan is none other than Travis in what must be the feeblest disguise since John Simpson tried to smuggle himself into Afghanistan dressed in only an Hawaiian grass skirt and a coconut bra. A disguise which somehow fools not only Orac, but which has passed every medical examination test known to man. Even Scooby Doo could've spotted this one.

The actors are past caring. The dialogue is ridiculously out of character - whoever wrote this episode seems to think the Blake gang are a bunch of petulant 17-year olds out on a jolly picnic. So whenever a line comes along which doesn't fit with the character, it is delivered flatly, with just a hint of 'get me out of this series NOW' desperation. Cally and Jenna seem embarrased by the juvenile bitching they have to perform, never mind discussing how pretty asteroids are. Vila makes no pretence to be taken in by Blake's loopy plan. Only the Darrow bothers to put in a performance, but even his gritting seems somehow half-hearted. He's only semi-clenched.

You know the woman in Timelash, the one with the cheek blusher and wide-eyed facial expression? Vena, played by Jeanette or Jean something. You probably thought she gave the most wooden performance by anyone in a sci-fi series ever. But, no, the woman who plays the rebelling planet president leader thing in 'Voice From The Past' is even worse. No emotional inflection what-so-ever. She takes inanimation to extraordinary lengths.

And how is this dire situation resolved? It suddenly occurs to Avon that it might be a good idea to smash the box which is controlling Blake's brain. He does so. Blake then wakes up - and lucky old Blake has no memory whatsoever of the events of 'Voice From The Past'. I wish I were Blake. Apart from the puffy sleeves and space wellies, of course. But that's it, that's the ending. Fnnurk.

The - rather unexpected - couple of scenes shot at Barbican look quite nice, though. You get to see the federation guards in spotlights, looking quite sinister. But that's hardly enough to redeem the most sheepish Blake's 7 Episode ever. So far.

And those exercises looked extremely painful.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Dead Bodies

Yesterday I finished reading the second, and middle, book of the Mervyn Stone trilogy, DVD Extras Include: Murder by Nev Fountain. I’d already finished reading the first book, Geek Tragedy, several weeks ago, and I read the third one Cursed Among Sequels last year in a giving-encouraging-notes capacity.

A quick bit of background. Nev started writing the first book four or five years ago, possibly longer, and sent it to me when he’d written about the first third. I thought it was very terrific and told him to complete the novel as I was desperate to find out what happened next. I think it gives you some idea of how much weight my opinion carries that a mere four or five years later, Nev followed my advice and completed the novel, and then kept on going and completed two more.

The books are ‘whodunits’ with the detective role being filled by Mervyn Stone, a former TV script editor on a science fiction show called Vixens From The Void. Since Vixens was put on an indefinite hiatus in the 1990’s - alright, alright, it was axed - his career hasn’t been going particularly well, so to make ends meet he appears at Vixens From The Void conventions, records commentaries for Vixen From The Void DVDs, and – in the third novel – acts as a consultant on the Vixens From The Void revival. Bu then people start being murdered, and it’s down to Mervyn Stone, with his script editor’s eye for detail and things that don’t make sense, to find the culprit.

As you may guess from that, the books contain a great deal of humour based around science fiction TV and its fans. But while from a lesser writer you might expect a lot of sneering at anoraks, Nev writes Vixens From The Void fandom with insight and sympathy, and brings to live the full, wild, eccentric diversity of fandom in all its shapes and forms. It’s very affectionate, almost celebratory. If you want to get inside the head of a science fiction fan, I would strongly suggest you reconsider, but failing that, these books are a good place to start.

And as odd as the fans are, they’re nowhere near as strange as the various actors, actresses, writers, directors and producers of Vixens Of The Void that we meet over the course of these novels, with their tangled web of feuds, nervous breakdowns, and sexual liaisons.

As you might expect, from a writer for Private Eye and DeadRingers they are also full of satire about the state of TV, though with a lot more bite than Nev’s other work. But all this would be for nothing if it weren’t for the fact that each book is also an incredibly well-plotted and ingenious whodunit; in the second book, for instance, someone is murdered during the recording of a DVD commentary, by means which seem almost miraculous.

But most of all these books are beautifully written and very, very funny. The argument between Graham Goldingay and The Gorg in the third book, Cursed Among Sequels, is one of the funniest things I have ever read, I had to put the book down to regain my composure.

I recommend you buy them now so that Nev will be forced to write some more.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Greater Good

First of all, here's a screengrab of the most exciting moment from last night's episode of Doctor Who.

The advert for my book! It's been on TV after the Doctor Who title sequence, therefore it is canonical.

Secondly, a brief update on the Virgin Media situation. I still have yet to receive the refund cheque they promised and send round a tech team to remove the cable they dumped outside my flat. It's been a month.

And thirdly, a thing I meant to post ages ago but forgot. It's my Mission Statement from the Doctor Who story Deimos/The Resurrection Of Mars. I wrote it as kind of a prelude to a synopsis; not so much saying what would happen in the story but what it would be about thematically. I think this approach worked out very well so I'm now wondering why I've never done this sort of thing before or since.

Contains spoilers for the Big Finish Doctor Who stories Deimos and The Resurrection Of Mars. It was written 15 April 2009, at a point where some parts of the arc had been worked out, and some hadn't.


This is not a synopsis. It’s just some thoughts.

Episodes 1 and 2 concern the ICE WARRIORS who are preparing to invade MARS. It’s at some not-contradicting-established-continuity point in our future, after The Seeds of Death and Red Dawn. Humanity is aware of Ice Warriors but believes them to be now extinct. We have now established a colony city on Mars, of about 300,000 souls. Living in biodomes, with terraforming in its early stages. The Ice Warriors, having frozen themselves in a comet, or on one of the moons, have returned and now wish to take back their home world.

That’s the first two episodes – the Doctor and his companion, let’s call her Tilly, arrive as the Ice Warriors are establishing a bridgehead on the moon of Deimos (or a space station). All hard sci-fi action-packed space battles, with the Ice Warriors gradually taking over the moonbase. Until at the end of episode 2, the Doctor has evacuated all the remaining humans from the base (possibly by using T-mat?) and has set primed explosives throughout the base ready to explode, powerful enough to destroy the moon. He’s not on the moon by this point and is able to detonate the explosives by remote control.

He gives the Ice Warriors an ultimatum. Leave and find a new home planet – or he’ll blow them up. It’s their choice. The Ice Warriors decide to call his bluff.

And then, end of episode 2, there’s another message. It’s Lucie. She’s on the moonbase, hiding from the Ice Warriors! If the Doctor sets off the bombs, he’ll kill her. So he decides not to... meaning that there is now nothing to stop the Ice Warriors launching their main attack on Mars! Oh f**k!

• MAD IDEA – Could Lucie’s return come as a complete surprise? If there’s no pre-publicity – or the pre-publicity suggests that she joins in the next story – then this cliff-hanger could come as a brilliant, out-of-the-blue, WTF moment.

• EVEN MADDER IDEA – Could the fact that this is a four-part story come as a surprise? Maybe the pre-publicity could have it down as a two-part story, so the listeners will think, nearing the end of episode 2, they are approaching the conclusion of the story – when in fact they’re not! Maybe this could be achieved by announcing the next 2 episodes as being another story by Jonathan Morris, one which sounds really dull, so no-one will be disappointed that it doesn’t exist. Or maybe just another story with the same cast ‘set on Mars a short time later’.

This is where things get interesting. Paul McGann’s always saying he wants to do stories which explore the nature of the Doctor and why he does what he does. And that’s what this story is going to try to do.

It’s about the dilemma the Doctor faces at the end of part 2. Because he’s the guy – the only guy – who is not prepared to sacrifice someone else for the greater good. While he’s happy to put his life on the line of others, he is not prepared to ask someone else to give their life on his behalf. As far as he is concerned, the only acceptable number of casualties is zero.

That’s what’s different about him. He’s not prepared to make the calculation of one-life-for-many, because he knows that if he’s prepared to let one person die to save millions, then he would be prepared to let a hundred people die to save millions, he would be prepared to let a hundred thousand people die to save millions. He refuses to do the maths.

Why? Because that’s the difference between him and the bad guys. The bad guys will always justify killing in terms of ‘the greater good’, in terms of a long-term benefit. And the Doctor remembers that he used to be like that – he used to ‘manipulate’ events, he used to make ‘masterplans’ – and realised that he was turning into the very thing he was fighting against. He was becoming a monster... and ended up travelling alone, because he knew that if it came to it, he would even be prepared to sacrifice one of his companions.

And we learn, that’s why he likes to have human companions travel with him. So he can never become that man again. So he can never forget how much one life is worth. So whenever he’s given the choice to let one person die to save millions, he’ll never be prepared to let that one person die, he’ll always, always find another way. Because he’s found out the hard way that ‘evil’ is nothing more than somebody believing that the ends will justify the means.

But this story is where this high-minded outlook comes back to bite him on the bum! Because in parts 3 and 4, the Ice Warriors launch their attack on Mars – and endanger the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Innocent people who would’ve lived had the Doctor been prepared to sacrifice Lucie’s life.

The Doctor is confronted by survivors who have lost their families, who blame the Doctor for not being prepared to let Lucie die. Worse, he’s confronted by Lucie herself, who now has the loss of hundreds of lives on her conscience.

So not only are the people of Mars arguing that the Doctor should’ve thought of ‘the greater good’, but his companion – the companion who he saved – is arguing with him about that two. Real emotional drama!

But this theme, of ‘the greater good’, feeds into the story in two other ways. Firstly, in the conclusion – there’s a landing party of Ice Warriors on one of the Mars colonies, with the Doctor, Lucie and Tilly, when Grand Marshall Izal gives the order for the whole colony to be destroyed. The Doctor tries to argue with the Ice Warriors trapped with them in the colony that now that their leader is prepared to sacrifice their lives, they should join forces with him against that leader. But the Ice Warriors refuse! They’re happy to die for the greater good.

Somehow that gives us the climax of the story, as the Doctor is once again confronted with the dilemma of having to choose between the life of his companion(s) and the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents. And he finds a third way. Not sure what it is yet, but it’ll be devastatingly clever. The point being, the Doctor’s way is right – and that anyone who is prepared to let innocent people die for the ‘greater good’ is wrong.

Secondly, this theme feeds into the explanation of how and why Lucie happens to turn up at the end of episode 2! You were probably wondering if I’d get to that. Because Lucie has been brought there deliberately to prevent the Doctor from defeating the Ice Warriors invasion of Mars. Why? I’ll explain.

If the Doctor defeats the Ice Warriors, then they will abandon their attempts to reclaim Mars and instead they will establish a ‘New Mars’ on a second world. Not an uninhabited world. A world currently home to a peace-loving race, who I’ll call the Zogs. According to their ‘established history’, the Doctor’s defeat of the Ice Warrior invasion of Mars leads directly to the Ice Warrior’s colonisation of the planet Zog – and the total extermination of the Zog race.

So, as a last-ditch attempt to prevent this happening, the Zogs have enlisted one of their number – or a passing time-travelling Doctor-surrogate who I shall call Brian - to travel back in time, in a rough-and-ready Zygma-powered time machine - to prevent the Doctor from defeating the Ice Warriors, so that the Ice Warriors conquer Mars and never go on to destroy the peace-loving Zogs.

And the best way Brian can think of sabotaging the Doctor’s plan is to find his best-loved companion and stick her in the middle of it at the most crucial moment to prevent the Doctor from pressing the button that would destroy the invasion fleet. So Brian has travelled back to 21st century Europe, found Lucie whilst she’s on holiday, befriended her (Brian appears totally human) and transported her to Mars, centuries into the future, under the pretence that he’s been sent to fetch her by the Doctor because he needs her assistance.

This means the whole idea of why Lucie appears out of the blue at the end of Part 2 isn’t a coincidence, but is actually the point of the story. Because Brian and the Zogs are, of course, also acting for the ‘greater good’ in their way – they’re prepared to let 300,000 humans die in order to save a whole world.

This is all very vague and train-of-thought at the moment, but I think this might be an exciting and dramatic idea, to tell a story where the Doctor’s principles put him into conflict with not just the villains, but also the villain’s victims and his companions. To make the whole story about the Doctor’s moral choices, and why he does what he does, and why he’s the guy who’s not prepared to give up one person’s life in order to save thousands. Because, as the events of the story will make clear, that’s what makes him different from the bad guys.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Future Legend

If you haven’t already bought it or received it as part of a subscription, I recommend picking up a copy of the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, as it features part two of my comic strip, The Child Of Time. Of course, it won’t make a great deal of sense if you haven’t read part one; I’m not sure it makes much more sense if you have. I think I must have been on the Moffat pills when I wrote it as virtually every page contains an insane twist. I’m rather proud of that. This is my big, epic, season finale, one which will hopefully grace the latter pages of a graphic novel featuring my entire 11th Doctor run.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Richard III

Another chapter from my thankfully-abandoned Shakespeare book - a complete (?) guide to Shakespeare references in the TV series Black Adder. (The idea for the book was that it would include all sorts of nonsense that normal Shakespeare books avoid, like listing all the Shakespeare quotes that have become the titles of Star Trek episodes, that sort of thing. Anyway.)

Shakespeare on Blackadder

Shakespeare, quite rightly, receives an ‘additional dialogue’ credit on the first series of the TV comedy ‘The Black Adder’. Many episodes of the series contain references to Shakespeare, or parodies of his work - many of which only become clear when you bear in mind that the first series of ‘The Black Adder’ was broadcast a few months after the BBC’s productions of the Henry VI and Richard III plays. But no-one has been sad enough to compile a list of all the Shakespeare references. Until now.

Series 1: The Black Adder

1. The Foretelling

Edmund Blackadder is named after Edmund from King Lear, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester who plots to turn his father against his legitimate son, Edgar. There was a genuine Blackadder dynasty in the middle ages, but they were based in Scotland. Blackadder’s manner and appearance seem to be inspired by Ron Cook’s performance in the BBC production of Richard III.

A Baldrick is a type of ornamental belt worn diagonally, but is also a slang term for vagina - see Much Ado About Nothing’s ‘hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick’.

This episode concerns the Battle of Bosworth Field, presenting an alternative ‘true’ version of events to those shown in Richard III. It begins with Richard III, portrayed as a kindly uncle by Peter Cook, in a parody of the opening of Richard III - where Shakespeare’s Richard is self-loathing, Blackadder’s Richard is self-deprecating:

‘Now is the summer of our sweet content
Made overcast winter by these Tudor clouds...
And I, that am not shaped for black-faced war,
I am that am rudely cast and want true majesty...’ - Richard III, Blackadder

‘Now is the winter of our discontent,
Made glorious summer by this son of York...
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks...
I, that am rudely stamped and want love’s majesty...’ - Richard III, Richard III

And later, at the battle itself, Richard conflates two speeches from Henry V:

‘Once more onto the breach, dear friends, once more.
Consign their parts most private to a Rutland tree...
And gentlemen in London now abed.
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
And hold their manhoods cheap while others speak.
Who fought with us upon Ralph the Liar’s day!’ - Richard III, Blackadder

‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
Or close the wall up with our English dead...’ - Henry V, Henry V

‘And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!’ ’ - Henry V, Henry V

Later, having defeated Henry Tudor, Richard casually calls out for ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ as in Richard III, before being accidentally beheaded by Blackadder. Meanwhile Blackadder’s idiot friend Percy helps Henry Tudor flee the site of battle (Henry Tudor coincidentally being performed by Peter Benson, who had played Henry VI in the BBC’s productions).

When Prince Harry, Richard’s grandson, discovers the corpse, he mourns him by paraphrasing Hamlet: ‘Goodnight, sweet king. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’

Later in the episode, Blackadder is visited by the ghost of Richard III while at the banquet, in a scene combining the ghostly visitations of Hamlet and Macbeth.

And finally, while chasing Henry Tudor through some woods, Blackadder encounters three witches, named Cordelia, Goneril and Regan after the daughters in King Lear, in a situation reminiscent of the opening of Macbeth, where they inform him that one day he will be king. It turns out that they have got him mixed up with Henry Tudor.

6. The Black Seal

The bloodbath conclusion of this episode, with everyone accidentally drinking poison, recalls the climax of Hamlet. Just before Blackadder dies, his father calls him Edgar - possibly a reference to King Lear, but also part of the running gag that at this point in history it’s quite difficult to keep track of names and who’s related to who.

Series 2: Blackadder II - 1986

1. Bells

This episode concerns a girl, Kate, dressing as a boy to seek her fortune, falling in love with her employer, Blackadder, in a direct homage to the plot of Twelfth Night where Viola falls for the Duke while pretending to be ‘Cesario’. And according to Tim McInnery, his characterisation of Percy was based on Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Sir Thomas More, who pointed out that a boy without a winkle is a girl, would later be the subject of the play Sir Thomas More, partially written by Shakespeare.

‘Kiss me, Kate’ is obviously a reference to The Taming of the Shrew.

Nursie seems to be inspired by the character of the Nurse from Romeo and Juliet, who is similarly obsessed with sex - and who was coincidentally performed by the same actress, Patsy Byrne, in the 1976 Thames Television production of the play.

2. Head

Blackadder mentions how keen Queenie was on Essex, right up to the point where she had his head cut off. This would be Robert Deveraux, the Earl of Essex, alluded to in Henry V and the last person to be executed at the Tower of London.

3. Potato

Shakespeare has helped Queenie out with the title of her poem, ‘Edmund’.

4. Money

Tom, the Mad Beggar, seems to have wandered in from a production of King Lear, where Edgar pretends to be an extremely similar mad beggar, Tom O’Bedlam, who refers to himself as ‘poor Tom’ and is always going on about how ‘acold’ he is.

Percy suggests ‘For God’s sake, let us sit upon the carpet and tell sad stories...’, paraphrasing Richard II - ‘For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.’

Baldrick has a such a poor sense of humour he’d ‘laugh at a Shakespeare comedy’.

The ballad played at the end says ‘be not a borrower or lender’, paraphrasing a well-known saying from Hamlet.

6. Chains

Lord Melchett is identified as Lord Chamberlain. There wasn’t a real Lord Melchett - towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, the Lord Chamberlain was her cousin, Henry Carey, who was also the patron of Shakespeare’s acting company, hence the name, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Series 3: Blackadder The Third - 1987

4. Sense and Senility

The actors Mossop and Keanrick are superstitious about the name of the ‘Scottish play’, Macbeth, and whenever it’s mentioned they have to perform a chant ending with the line ‘Puck will make amends’, paraphrasing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Coincidentally, Baldrick’s uncle was in Macbeth once - he played second codpiece.

Blackadder mentions that during the assassination scene from Julius Caesar, the Prince Regent shouted out, ‘Look out behind you, Mr Caesar!’ The part of Brutus was played by an actor called Kemp, possibly an allusion to William Kempe. Mossop and Keanrick perform their stage roars from Hamlet, Julius Caesar and Macbeth.

The Bloody Murder of the Foul Prince Romero and His Enormously Bosomed Wife appears to be a particularly gruesome revenge tragedy in the John Webster/Thomas Middleton mould.

The Shakespeare Sketch - 1989

Not strictly canonical Blackadder, but clearly in a similar mould, this sketch was performed by Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie at the Hysteria 2 benefit concert. Hugh Laurie plays William Shakespeare, who is being advised by Atkinson’s character on possible cuts to Hamlet. He suggests editing the ‘stand-up stuff in the middle’, reducing the line ‘To be a victim of all life’s earthly woes, or not to be a coward and take death by his proffered hand’ to ‘To be or not to be’ and, by taking out the guff later on in the speech, creates the mixed metaphor ‘to take arms against a sea of troubles’. He also suggests killing off the main character in Act One:

“Let’s face it, it’s the ghost that’s selling this show at the moment. Joe Public loves the ghost, he loves the sword-fights, he loves the crazy chick in the see-through dress who does the flower gags and then drowns herself. But no-one likes Hamlet.’

Eventually Shakespeare agrees to the cuts - in return for the scene with the ‘awful cockney gravediggers’ and ‘the skull routine’ being put back in.

Special: Back & Forth - 1999

In this sequel-too-far, Blackadder finally bumps into Shakespeare himself, played by Colin Firth. After getting his autograph, Blackadder punches him for all the suffering he will cause schoolchildren for the next four hundred years, stuck ‘at school desks trying to find one joke in A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. And then he kicks him as retribution for ‘Kenneth Branagh’s endless uncut four-hour version of Hamlet.’

There are also non-specific references made to Macbeth, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Othello, and then later, in an alternative version of history, Blackadder congratulates Shakespeare on his King Lear, describing it as ‘very funny’.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Angel Eyes (Extended Remix)

Today, I proudly present a 'deleted scene' from my Doctor Who novel Touched By An Angel, published earlier this year by BBC Books. Though it's not so much a deleted scene as a heavily-edited scene; when writing, my approach is always to over-write and then cut down to length.

This scene was edited down for three reasons. 1) It was too long 2) It was telling the reader stuff they already knew, or didn't need to know and 3) One of my 'read-through' critics thought the Doctor sounded like David Tennant. The third is a particular problem with spin-off media; while on television, Matt Smith can turn a David Tennant-y line into a Matt Smith-y line, in books and comic strips, the reader is imagining the character's voice based on cues in the text alone, so the writer must not only avoid writing out-of-character dialogue, but keep on re-emphasizing the actor's voice through the dialogue.

Anyway, here it is. Beginning of chapter 6. All the cut material is the stuff not in italics.

12 June 1994

‘So what exactly are these Weeping Angels?’ asked Mark.

The Doctor sliced his sausage and skewered it with his fork. But rather than eating it, he jabbed it in the air for emphasis. ‘The most malevolent creatures in the history of the universe,’ he said. ‘Nothing gives them greater pleasure than to watch a lesser species suffer. And to them, we are all lesser species.’

‘And they feed by sending people back in time?’

‘Usually.’ The Doctor ate the sausage. ‘But these Angels are different.’

‘A different variety,’ explained Amy helpfully.

‘They feed not on potential time, but time paradoxes. The consequences of irresponsible time travel.’ The Doctor raised his eyebrows at Mark reprovingly.

‘So,’ said Rory. ‘If somebody travelled back and killed their own grandfather - ‘

‘Their idea of a snack,’ said the Doctor. ‘Unless, of course, you killed your own grandfather after he’d met your grandmother and conceived one of your parents, in which case it would just be a horrible thing to do. What is it with time travellers and grandfathers?’

‘But any change, any change at all -‘ said Mark.

‘Well, the bigger the better, obviously. The more potential ramifications. Ramifications, love that word. Rory, could you write it down for me?’

‘Still not your secretary,’ Rory reminded him.

‘Vacancy’s still open.
The more ramifications, and, of course, the more paradoxical it is, the better.’

‘The more paradoxical?’ said Amy, sipping her orange juice.

‘The more it violates the normal laws of cause and effect. The universe doesn’t like that, you see. Result - release of vast amounts of time energy. Like blowing up a balloon and popping it. And that’s what you are, Mark.’

‘What, a balloon?’

‘Okay, metaphor doesn’t quite make sense.’ The Doctor squirted more brown sauce over his fried egg and swirled it in the mix. He ate breakfast as though it was a laboratory experiment. ‘That’s the trouble with metaphors. I would’ve gone with “pustule” but, you know, eating.’

Amy winced. ‘So where do these Angels come from?’

‘The Angels are an incredibly ancient race, born during the chaos of the primal universe. The stuff of legend. Regarding these particular Angels... many years ago there was a war, a terrible war between beings that had mastered time. A war waged using history itself, each side re-writing the past. Some races got caught in the crossfire. There were stories of abominations, of whole species transformed into the stuff of nightmares... but some races survived. Some thrived. The result of a million years of evolution in a matter of seconds. My guess is that these Weeping Angels are the remnants of one such race. A race forged in the crucible of war, adapted to life within a temporal schism.’

‘So what are they doing on Earth?’

‘Starving to death. Which makes them even more dangerous.’

‘Sorry,’ said Rory. ‘Why are they starving to death again?’

‘Because, Rory, they’ve evolved to feed on time paradoxes. Which have been rather thin on the ground since the war ended.’ The Doctor gazed into the distance, haunted by a memory. For a few moments, they all sat in silence in the hotel restaurant, the only sound an occasional clatter of cutlery from the kitchen.

‘Which is why,’ announced the Doctor. ‘Which is why we have to take you home, Mark Whitaker.’

‘But if the Angels want a paradox,’ said Amy. ‘Why go to all the trouble of bringing Mark here in the hope he changes history? Why not just do it themselves?’

‘Because that would make them part of the paradox. They need someone to do their dirty work for them so they remain external to the chain of events.’

‘What if I don’t want to go back?’ said Mark.

‘Not an option,’ said the Doctor, wiping his hands and rising to his feet. ‘Look. You’ve had some fun, a chance to relive the good old days, but now the trip’s over.’

Rory and Amy both got out of their seats, as a hint to Mark that he should move. He stayed put. ‘What if can’t go back?’

‘What do you mean, “can’t”?’

Friday, 16 September 2011


Nearly ten years ago, I did what I like to call a 'Blake's 7 Watch'. Well, sort of. I started half-way through the second series, because I'd watched the first series too recently (i.e. within the last ten years), and only wanted to watch episodes I'd not seen since they were originally broadcast.

So that I would never have to watch any of the episodes ever again, I wrote up my thoughts after each episode as a review. These reviews, as reviews tend to do, became more detailed and elaborate as time went on. I shall republish them here, but please bear in mind these are 'Voices From The Past' so some of the topical references may be outdated and my writing style may be even more immature than it is now. And please bear in mind that any opinions I express in these articles do not necessarily reflect opinions I currently hold.

Here are the first two reviews, from Jan 28 2002 and March 3 2002 respectively. First, some general thoughts:

I'm currently watching the Blake's 7 on UK Gold, for the first time since way back in the 70's. I remember it as being excellent, adult entertainment; I'm amazed by how well it holds up now - much better than Doctor Who of the same era. If you ignore the Captain Pugwash animation for the spaceships, that is. I particular enjoy the Dudley Simpson and the Terry Nation aspects.

My main sources of fascination are; 1) Jenna, and in particular, is she shagging Blake? I notice they always beam down together and seem awfully intimate on occasions. Either the characters are supposed to be shagging or REDACTED 2) the way Paul Darrow will run into to a room and do a sort of hop-and-skipping motion as he maneuvers himself around a desk to sit down in a hurry. Paul Darrow is the master when it comes to running into a room, hop-and-skipping round a desk and sitting down in a hurry 3) trying to work out who would play who if the casts of Blake's 7 and S Club 7 were interchanged and 4) the way people keep on staring out of a window and talking at empty, black space as though doing so lends their words greater significance. I suppose that's why it's called Clackavoid.

And now a review:


Stone me. Doctor Who never got this bad.

The '7' seems to have taken a turn for the worse since Gan left. First there's a rather dreadful Chris Boucher script about a leotard louse creature that talks in pidgin English whilst the multi-chinned bloke out of Coronation Street who says everything twice tries Travis for treason I said Ashley he t-t-t-tries Travis for treason etc etc.

Then there's a uncharacteristically badly-plotted script by Robert Holmes which features a scene of a gas attack where the Federation troopers [who are wearing gas masks] are collapsing whilst the locals [who are not wearing gas masks] remain perfectly fine. Which doesn't even have a 'Don't look at me! Don't look at me!' scene in it.

And now... Allan Prior's dialogue is even more clackavoid than Nation's or Boucher's has ever got; it alternates between portentious- Pip-n-Jane-speak and statements of the bleedin' obvious, often within the same sentence. The model work is a Greatest Hits of all the previous modelwork sequences, with which we are by now painfully familiar. And we are treated to a veritable b-list of Doctor Who villains - a Fibuli, a Ranquin and a Chen. The plotting is ludicrous - you'd think something so hackneyed and cliched would actually make logical sense by some sort of default, but it doesn't. What the hell is Avon's motivation? Or Servalan's? Or Travis'? Or Blake's? Orac is the only character in it with any motivation, and that's just to say something sarky before Avon pulls out his plug with that wonderful peowweeee sound which I believe was sampled in 'Peter Panic' by Blur.

How many former friends and relations does Blake [or 'Roj', as he suddenly seems to be called] have scattered about the universe? Why is a forty-year old pig farmer in wellies being referred to as 'my boy'? Why is Travis suddenly a fat cockney with gaffer tape over one eye instead of a scheming homicidal maniac in a mask? Why has Gareth Thomas stopped acting? Is Cally actually in it any more? Why do the Mutoids now all look like Theresa Gorman? Why does Servalan look like a female version of Marc Almond?

I notice that Jenna is now doing 'Rachel out of Brookside' acting; in other words, just alternating between doing happy and sad expressions irrespective of the lines she is given. And Paul Darrow is obviously the star of the show now. I've previously mentioned his wonderful ability of running into rooms and pirouetting neatly around desks to land into seats with meticulous, breathless urgency. Well, on top of that he now has this thing of being beamed down somewhere, only to drop to a crouch and point his gun suspicously in every direction, teeth gritted, eyes gritted, nose gritted, arse gritted - everything gritted, in fact. It's like he's acting for 7 because the other 6 can't be arsed any more.

Directed by Vere Lorrimer. Directed? A scene in which the camera is pointed at Blake and Ranquin's wellies throughout? A scene in which Ranquin pushes Travis over a cliff in which we see neither Ranquin nor Travis nor the cliff? And Blake and Ranquin dropping giant polystyrene boulders on a 'Nut-o' [a psychopathic muto, apparently] - or, at least, rolling them playfully along the ground towards him.

Still, it could be worse. There could've been a hands-on-hips 'doh, Vil-a' comedy moment at the end. Eeuruuruek.

To be continued.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Shakey Ground

A few years ago I started to write a 'guide to Shakespeare' book. I never finished it; I think I'd probably bitten off more than I could chew.

Here's what would've been one of the chapters, kind of topical given the release of the film Anonymous.

Did Shakey write Shakey’s plays?

Yes of course he bloody did.

But some people don’t think Shakey wrote his plays. They’re not convinced he even existed. They think the plays were written by someone better-educated, someone from the ruling classes, someone who decided to hide their identity behind a pseudonym. If you ever meet one of these people, give them a slap, because they’re not merely wrong – they’re snobs as well.

Of course it’s unlikely that the son of a glove-maker from Stratford would be the greatest writer of all time. It’s unlikely that an Austrian patents clerk would come up with the theory of relativity but somehow he managed it. Or his wife did. The thing is, no matter how unlikely it may be that Shakey wrote all those plays, it’s still a hell of a lot more likely than any of the alternatives.

Shakey was a real person. There’s as much evidence of his existence as there is of anyone else around at the time – more so, in fact, because we’ve spent so long looking for it. We have everything from the record of his baptism to his marriage certificate to his will to the record of his burial, his signature appears on a court deposition and he’s named in a summons for threatening behaviour, he’s listed on tax records as ‘in arrears’, he’s in the cast of Ben Jonson’s Every Man In His Humour and Sejanus, he turns up on a contemporary list of ‘my top twenty-seven favourite poets, in order’ – at number thirteen - and he’s the victim of character-assassination in Robert Greene’s Groatsworth Of Wit. We have records of him receiving payments as a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He’s a beneficiary in the will of one of his fellow actors, he’s named on the deeds for the Globe, a house in Blackfriars and New Place and we have his application for a coat of arms. We have records of the births and deaths of his parents, siblings, wife and children. He’s the subject of tributes shortly after his death and there are accounts of tourists visiting his monument at Straftord-Upon-Avon from 1630 onwards. If that weren’t enough, there are all the poems and plays bearing his name and, in the case of the Folio, a large picture of him on the front.

There wouldn’t be all this evidence if ‘Shakespeare’ was a pseudonym.

But assuming that an actor called Shakespeare did exist – is that enough to prove he wrote the plays? Well, it seemed enough at the time. If it was a scam, it’s a scam that took in – or required the collusion of – his fellow author Ben Jonson and his fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell.

That’s the problem with the conspiracy theories. Why would someone spend so much time and effort writing the plays and poems only to allow a lowly Stratford actor to take all the credit?

None of the theories has a convincing answer to this question. They have, however, come up with various candidates for the shrinking violet in question.

Number one in our list of people who didn’t write Shakey’s plays is Francis Bacon. His name was put forward by the not-entirely-coincidentally-named Delia Bacon. Apparently Francis led a team of top scribes, including Edmund The Faerie Queen Spenser and Sir Walter ‘More than a sailor’ Raleigh on a mission to improve the morale fibre of the nation. The main drawback with this theory is that we have examples of Francis Bacon’s writing - and he was crap.

Candidate number two is Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. In his favour, he was very well-educated. Problem is, he died in 1604, which means he’d have had trouble putting references to the gunpowder plot into Macbeth or hearing about the shipwreck for The Tempest. There’s also the snag that if he did write the plays, he’d have been writing for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men – rivals to his own theatrical troupe. All this notwithstanding, it’s hard to take this theory seriously because it was dreamt up by a guy called John Thomas Looney. Who thought there was nothing remotely amusing about his name.

Third on the list is Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe, who would not only have to had to adopt an entirely new literary style in order to have written Shakey’s plays, he would also have to had to survive being stabbed to death in 1593.

Number four... well, to be honest, the list goes on forever. The thing is, no matter how persuasive each case may be, the best candidate for the author of Shakey’s plays always turns out to be the Bard with the beard himself.

Although he was the son of a glove-maker, he had, by our standards, an extremely thorough classical education, an average school day consisting of Latin, more Latin, and extra double Latin. It’s not implausible that a young actor would become a proficient playwright after a decade or so of touring – particularly as he’d have been learning a new play every couple of weeks.

There’s also the sheer number of references in Shakey’s plays to rural life. While you can imagine a young Stratford lad learning all about courts and Kings through play-acting, it’s hard to imagine a member of the upper classes picking up Warwickshire slang for flowers or the jargon of leather tanners.

But what really marks Shakey out as the writer of his plays is the stuff he doesn’t know. A more well-travelled writer – such as Edward de Vere – would’ve known that Venice is famous for its canals, that Bohemia hasn’t got a coastline, that Verona and Milan aren’t seaports and that the quickest way of getting from France to Spain is not by going through Italy.

And that’s the proof that Shakey wrote his plays, and not somebody better-educated from the ruling classes. Because only the son of a glove-maker from Stratford could have had such a poor grasp of basic European geography.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Into The Valley

For the last couple of days, I’ve been a recording studio somewhere in Kent, for the recording of the Doctor Who story ‘The Valley Of Death’, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor and Louise Jameson as his companion Leela. Normally with these things I have to keep all my excitement under wraps until they’re announced (sometimes months or even years later), but as this story has already been announced I can write a blog about it and sound a fanfare from the rooftops.

The story is an adaptation of a story outline written by Philip Hinchcliffe, who was the producer of Doctor Who for the first three years of Tom Baker’s run, and who was responsible for stories like Genesis Of The Daleks, The Seeds Of Doom and The Talons Of Weng-Chiang. My understanding is that the story was an idea that would probably have made it onto television screens had Philip remained as producer for a fourth year; however, by the time it was pitched to Douglas Adams in 1978, the show’s budget had been substantially reduced, so a story which might have been practical a few years earlier was no longer viable.

This is the second ‘lost story’ I’ve adapted; in both cases, my approach has been to remain as true as possible to the original author’s intentions. That said, had the story been made back in 1978 it would have developed during the scripting process, and would have had a substantial input from the show’s script editor, so I felt I had a little leeway in changing the details where it would serve the story, to make the end result as exciting and dramatic as I could.

The Valley Of Death is very much a Boy’s Own adventure in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H Rider Haggard; it’s easy to imagine it being filmed by Amicus or Hammer in the mid-70’s. What I love about it is that the narrative keeps changing location and subject matter; structurally, the Doctor Who story to which it is most similar is The Hand Of Fear; it has that quality that the final episode is about something entirely different from the opening instalment!

I think it’s a lot of fun, very colourful and imaginative, with room for lots of humour as well as some weighty dramatic confrontations. It will probably come as quite a contrast to the other story that is in the same Lost Stories box set, The Foe From The Future by John Dorney (script edited by me, and based on a storyline by Robert Banks Stewart). The Foe From The Future is, I think, going to be regarded as a classic, as John has written a fabulous script with lots of action and grisly death. I think it will go down well with fans of stories like Pyramids Of Mars and Image Of The Fendahl.

The recording went terrifically well. Tom Baker has a formidable reputation but he was an absolute joy in the studio; professional, meticulous, full of suggestions, and really engaging with the material and having fun with it. Louise Jameson was equally marvellous, portraying Leela with great integrity. There were moments, many moments, when you could close your eyes and imagine you were hearing a story recorded in 1977. Yes, of course, people’s voices sound a little older than they did back then, but I felt the magic. My fan-sense was all a-tingle.

How do I feel about writing a story for my favourite Doctor, writing for the Doctor I watched on television when I was 6 years old, the Doctor who made me a fan of the show in the first place? It’s an honour. It wasn’t a childhood ambition, but only because I would have to have been an insanely ambitious child to think I would ever get the chance to write for Tom Baker’s Doctor.

The Valley Of Death will be released in January next year, with The Foe From The Future as a Lost Stories box set which can be pre-ordered here.

Friday, 2 September 2011


One of the many great things about the pop group Sparks is their choice of subject matter. A list of some song titles should give you some idea; How To Get Your Ass Kicked, Throw Her Away (And Get A New One), I Can’t Believe You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song, (Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country, Tits, Pretending To Be Drunk, Thank God It’s Not Christmas, Your Call’s Very Important To Us Please Hold, Angst In My Pants, I Married A Martian, I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car, Achoo, etc.

But, just as a fun way to waste time waiting for buses, I’ve thought up titles for songs which Sparks have yet to write. Titles for songs that any band has yet to write, for that matter. So if you’re an aspiring songwriter, or one of the brothers Mael, please feel free to take inspiration from the following:

I’m Not Being Racist But
My Baby Went Over The Niagara Falls In A Barrel
She’s Dyslexic
Sorry I Overslept
Abandoned At The Altar
Those Cheekbones
Practically Invisible
A Parody Of My Former Self
It’s A Feature Not A Fault
The Queen’s English
A Listening Exercise
Foreign Films With English Subtitles
It’s A Million To One Shot (But It Might Just Work)
The Missing Dog
Making Our Own Entertainment
Please Leave It Alone
An Area The Size Of Wales
The British Sense Of Humour
Confidence Can Be Taught
Speaking As A Mother
Left On Standby
This Is Just Like A Movie
Politeness Costs Nothing
Due To Creative Differences
Brian May
We're Poles Apart
I Fell In Love With A Spambot
His Name Is Not Da Vinci
At This Moment In Time
Riding The Coat Tails
Let's Go Antiquing
Shot By Friendly Fire
The Sequel To The Prequel
Montage Sequence
The Curate’s Egg
Me And My Micro
From A Brouhaha To A Hullaballoo
I Much Preferred The Original
I Was The Last Man On The Moon
Position Closed
Pick A Card, Any Card

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Child

And I’m back.

Two overdue plugs first.

The latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine is out now, featuring part one of my final Doctor Who comic strip (at least for a while) called The Child Of Time. It features glorious artwork by Martin Geraghty, the guy who did the Axons story last year, and is something of a ‘season grand finale’ as it picks up the various ongoing threads that have been woven through the previous eighteen months’ worth of stories and ties them up. I’ve just delivered the final part of the story (it’s a four part story) which will be out in November, and then someone else will be taking over.

It would be dishonest of me to say that writing the Doctor Who Magazine was a childhood ambition; for it be an ambition, it would have to seem impossible and to be honest, as a child, I was so much in awe of the people responsible for the comic strip – Pat Mills, John Wagner, Steve Parkhouse etc. that I never dreamed for an instant that my own name might be added to the list thirty-odd years later. But it has, and that’s something of which I am immeasurably proud. I’ve loved writing all the stories, I think they all turned out extremely well (for which I give all credit to the artists, colourists, letterers and editors) and I’m massively grateful to have been given a chance to show what I can do, in terms of telling lots of different styles of story, working with so many talented people, and convoluting a big, complicated-but-hopefully-not-too-complicated arc. I look forward to them all being compiled in a big graphic novel of some form (I don’t know when, but it’s inevitable it will happen eventually).

And secondly, Big Finish have recently released on CD a Companion Chronicle story I wrote back in 2008, called The Mists Of Time. It stars Katy Manning as Jo Grant and relate one of Jo’s adventure with the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who. It was given away as a freebie with Doctor Who Magazine, but this is the first chance that people have had to pay for it! It comes in a box which is, quite frankly, a thing of inordinate beauty, which also includes another former freebie called Freakshow and all the many episodes of The Three Companions by Marc Platt (the companions in question being the Brigadier, Polly, and my own creation, Thomas Brewster.) Please buy.

And finally. I’m back on the internet, thanks to PlusNet. After I wrote the previous blog, and moaned excessively on twitter, Pete from Virgin Media got in touch and offered to arrange for broadband to be installed the next day, but by that point I’d already decided to cancel, because you shouldn’t have to write blogs and moan excessively on twitter in order to get a standard of customer service which is denied to people who merely phone to complain. On top of moving house, it was an extra level of stress which I didn’t need.

However, the fibreoptic cable they left still remains outside my flat. I received a letter saying they were sending someone around to finish the installation tomorrow, on the 2nd, despite the installation having been cancelled, so I look forward to finding out how they will proceed, in much the same way, and with as much confidence, that one looks forward to Norman Wisdom approaching a swimming pool.

UPDATE 2 SEPTEMBER: No-one turned up.

I’ve a few more blogs I want to write, on Lewisham and it’s supposed ‘riots’, and other nonsense. I’ve also realised that on my computer I’ve got lots of reviews of Shakespeare plays and Blakes’ 7 episodes and other things which might as well reach a wider audience. And there are a few deleted scenes and background note things from Touched By An Angel which I’m desperate to inflict upon you. And I haven’t even mentioned the Tom Baker Doctor Who audio story...

And finally, I am on twitter, so should you wish to receive missives of devastating pith and insight in real time, as and when they pop out of my brain. I’m Jonnymorris1973