Time for another plug.
Out now, courtesy of Big Finish Productions, is Doctor Who: Phantoms Of The Deep, a new audio adventure written by yours truly, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor, Mary Tamm as his companion Romana and John Leeson as the robotic dog on casters K-9. The story is set in the deepest depths of the ocean, specifically the Mariana Trench, and concerns all sorts of sinister goings-on with various denizens of the dark. It combines Doctor Who with one of my other little obsessions, deep-sea creatures.
Having listened to it last night, I have to say that director Ken Bentley and noise bod Jamie Robertson have done an exceptional job on it. Irrespective of any qualities of the script, the end result is fast-moving, suspenseful, atmospheric and scary, and sounds like a big-budget movie. I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result, and as with all these projects, I feel very lucky to have been involved, like I’ve won some sort of competition.
In particular, and I may have mentioned it before so please feel free to glaze over, there was the moment in the recording studio where I heard Tom and John record their first scene together as Doctor and dog. Now, Tom was on fine form, full of energy and enthusiasm, firing on every cylinder going, and when John Leeson does the K-9 voice, he sounds pretty much identical to how he did on telly back in the day (they stick an electronic effect on too, but not so that you’d notice.) So there I was, Jonny the balding thirty-something fan, sitting in the recording control room and I hear the Doctor and K-9 speaking words I’ve written, sounding for all the world like it’s 1978 and they’re back in the TARDIS and suddenly I’m Jonathan, five years old, sitting cross-legged about a dozen inches from the television. It was a real feeling, a visceral jolt of nostalgia, like I’d done some time-travelling of my own. Now, I can’t guarantee this audio will have that effect on every listener but it did on me. There was quantifiable ‘indefinable magic’.
Reviewers so far have been very kind to take pains to mention that this story was recorded before the recent television adventure set in a submarine, as I seem a little foolish (well, a little more foolish than usual) in the accompanying interview saying that there’s never been a Doctor Who story set on a submarine before (at least, to my knowledge). To give an idea of time-scales, I wrote Phantoms back in August 2011 with it being recorded in October; long before anyone working on the TV show had even heard of submarines. (At the same time, I was finishing The Child of Time comic strip and script-editing The Wrath of the Iceni, and don’t they both seem like distant memories?)
In the writing of it, this was one story where it all just clicked, where every problem became a plot twist and everything just fitted together so neatly by accident it looked like I’d done it intentionally. The intention with it was to do something as different from The Auntie Matter as possible, to show my ‘range’ if you like, to go dark and claustrophobic where I’d been sunny and expansive, but to be even more fast-moving, more tightly-plotted than before. I very strongly believe that you not only can tell the equivalent of an old four-part story within 45 minutes but that you should. Not just to give fans bangs for bucks, but because we’re all so familiar with the format we can take chunks of it ‘as read’. Compressing a story down, taking half a dozen lines of dialogue and getting the same amount of meaning, character and humour across in two lines, that’s what re-writing’s all about.
So please buy it. Phantoms of the Deep can be bought/ordered/downloaded from here.