Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Day I Met Moffat (and don't forget Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Tom McRae etcetera etcetera)

Today, the last day of November - Christmas is upon us, people! - I travelled up to London for a book signing at Shaftesbury Avenue's Forbidden Planet Megastore. The signers? Only a bloody horde of some of Doctor Who's most prestigious - and several sadly unsung - names! I'll make a list of them soon. I love lists and I'm sure you do too so get ready for some list-action!

Travelling to and around London was an adventure in itself. The hour long train journey spent talking with a friend was I thought delightfully Sherlock Holmes - if the Sherlock Holmes stories featured boring modern trains rather than the really cool Victorian ones.
Once in London we had to tackle the Tube. For someone who can't remember ever having used it before, it struck me as being oddly enclosed and claustrophobic. Though I did see Jon Culshaw (the impressionist who does a great Tom Baker among others) whilst waiting for the train. It's especially eerie as I'm reading Neil Gaiman's novel 'Neverwhere' at the moment set in a magical undercity beneath London where, among others, vicious creatures dwell in the dark of the railway tracks. Mind the gap!
Obviously, arising from the depths of London Below to the striking, bright, loud, busy, teeming with life London Above was a bit daunting but we managed to navigate ourselves through the great behemoth buildings to find our destination without much problem.

After waiting for the best part of an hour outside we finally got in and met (prepare yourselves, list-fans):

Steven Moffat - Well, you're all probably aware of him. The Moff is of course Doctor Who's Head Honcho. The man from whose head it all comes from. Needless to say as an aspiring writer and massive Who fan, he is a great inspiration. One of my all-time favourite writers.
Before going in I went over several things I wanted to say to him in my head. However, when it came to it, when Steven Moffat, the frogging lead writer of Doctor Who and the creator of Sherlock, is actually sitting in front of you wearing a big smile and saying 'hello! What's your name?' in his warm Scottish tones, all I could muster was '....Christian. Lovely to meet you...Thank you.'
Pah! I would go back in a time machine and try again but Moffat's episodes have shown me how messing with your timeline is a very bad idea - blowing holes in the time continuum the size of Belgium and whatnot. Besides, he was a really nice guy. Replying to my shyness with something like 'Well, there you go.' in a friendly way.

Mark Gatiss - Basically Moffat's second in command. The writer of the spooktastic episodes 'The Unquiet Dead' and 'Night Terrors' as well as wartime romp 'Victory of the Daleks'. In my opinion, he's a genius. I've never read or seen anything of Gatiss' I haven't liked, from his fabulous Lucifer Box novels to the terrifying Crooked House series to his co-creating the modern-day Sherlock. Sadly, due to the swiftness of the signings and the way it was laid out, I didn't get to say anything to Gatiss. Just a signature and a smile. But that's enough for me.

Gareth Roberts - Perhaps the most reliable of Who writers. Roberts' episodes are always hilarous, dramatic and touching in turn. He's great at doing the middle episodes that don't have some big event going on. Like the Agatha Christie pastiche 'The Unicorn and the Wasp' or the hilarious 'The Lodger'. He was a really nice guy. He took the time to say hello and had a nice bit of banter with Steven over the state of the Moff's handwriting of my name.

I could talk about everyone just as much but for the sake of your patience I'll just give you the pictures and who they are.

Tom McRae, writer of TV episodes 'Rise of the Cybermen/ The Age of Steel' and 'The Girl Who Waited'. I think he wins the award for best handwriting.

Ben Cook - Big Doctor Who journalist, regular contributor to Doctor Who Magazine and Radio Times plus co-author of 'The Writer's Tale' with Russell T Davies. He had the best hair of the bunch (perhaps cos several were bald) - Russell Brand style but bright red, really red!

David Bailey - Writer of several Doctor Who short stories and audio stories. Nice touch with the bow tie I thought.

James Goss - Writer of several Doctor Who and Torchwood novels and talking books
including 'Dead of Winter' and 'Blackout'. He was probably the quietest of them. Still nice though.

Clayton Hickman - Co- writer with Gareth Roberts of Who short stories, audio adventures and an SJA episode. Also, the ex-editor of DWM and the guy who designs the Doctor Who DVDs.
He's also, as you may have guessed, the editor of this book.

Paul Lang - Designer of this book.

David Llewelyn - Writer of several Doctor Who and Torchwood novels including 'The Taking of Chelsea 426' and 'Trace Memory'.

Jason Arnopp - Writer of numerous Doctor Who audio tales and a regular DWM contributor.

Gary Russel - Much like Clay Hickman, someone who gets involved in every bit of Doctor Who. He was the producer of Big Finish's Doctor Who audio adventures, the former script editor of both Doctor Who and SJA and is the writer of many Doctor Who novels. He also said he'd follow me on Twitter What a nice man!

Phew! Well, I hope you enjoyed that. At the time of writing the clock has just struck 00.00 on the 1st December! Seasons greetings, everyone!

And remember to watch 'The Doctor, the Witch and the Wardrobe' on Christmas Day by the wonderful Steven Moffat.

I've met him, you know.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Story Time #3: Peter and the Wolf

Last week, my Creativity group went on a trip (with packed lunches and everything - I felt like a school kid again!) to a Wolf Sanctuary in Newbury. It was an amazing day. We got to walk with the wolves and even pet them (you also have to go through a process of making sure they accept you first - think the Hippogriff scene in Harry Potter 3). I think the fellah above is Motomo, he was cool. The only wolf there who wasn't raised by people so that was the closest he would come to the fence. Anyway, the link to Creative Writing was that our tutor set up a story competition afterwards - write a wolf story up to 1000 words based on the day's experiences. The winner gets to be published in the sanctuary's monthly magazine. So, without further ado, here's my entry into the competition. I've left the explanation we had to do on the end as you may find it interesting. Read on...

                                             Peter and the Wolf

Midwinter night in the forest; bitter cold and smothered in a blanket of pure white. There is a full moon; the only time man can venture out once the day has gone. Peter has left the comfort of the small cottage in the clearing and has gone with his grandfather to collect wood for the fire. He has just turned ten years old – this is his first time in the forest.          
The woods are feared in the village. Every child is told of the legends of the slavering, savage, starving wolves that live among the trees. They are the Devil’s acolytes. They come for your family in the night. They mean you great harm.
Peter and his grandfather go further into the forest. The old man sets to his work, contented, until a cold sweat erupts on his wrinkled forehead; the silence of the night has been broken by the low, melodious call of the wolf. The old man grabs the boy’s hand and runs back through the trees. Peter risks a glance back, catching a fleeting glimpse of something shooting towards them like a bullet – the speed it was going at! Suddenly, the boy trips, his fall cushioned by the soft snow. His grandfather keeps running; he has not noticed! Peter hears a course breathing coming closer. He is terrified but he is brave, he tells himself. He can face this wolf.
It was an awesome spectacle. Its pelt was as grey as storm clouds and its nose as black as the night itself. Peter could see how the sight of it could strike terror into a man’s heart. But there was so much more to it. It looks a proud creature; its sleek body held high, its slender legs standing firm – it knows it rules this land and that Peter is a foreigner.  The stories he had been told painted the wolf as a sly, cunning animal or a ravenous bloodhound. From where he stood, neither of these is true. After all, they haven’t harmed him. The boy stands and the wolf turns its head; the burnt orange of its eyes fixed on him. Peter stares closer and peers through the windows into the wolf’s soul.
It is afraid. Constantly. All the wolves fear the slavering, savage, starving humans, dreading that humans will come for his pack every day. The wolf is wise but cannot explain why it is persecuted so. It surely is in the company of wolves that man fell from grace.
Something is pushing at Peter’s legs, he turns; it is another wolf, smaller than the first. His yellow eyes are less melancholic though his pelt is the same gunmetal shade. This wolf is the other’s cub. Peter goes to pet the newcomer but the first steps forward. The boy faces the wolf - it seems to see into his soul too; sees his innocence and care. It relents. The smaller wolf is excitable, jumping and jittering as Peter rubs its underbelly, feeling its wiry outer coat and the thick fleece of fur beneath. Peter’s anxiety melted at the wolf’s warm touch and its giddy countenance. He is no longer afraid.
Another shape comes from the trees. This one is fairer than the others. It sees Peter with the cub, a look of apprehension in its eyes. But it gazes at the first wolf and seems to understand. It strides over to Peter. This is the mother of the cub and the first’s mate. Two of the pack have accepted him but the first wolf, the father, stands clear. It has spent so long mistrusting humans, believing that they mean him great harm. Yet this boy does not. It slowly approaches.

And so, under the cool rays of the moonlight, that makes the fallen snowflakes glisten like jewels, Peter began to walk with the wolf.

I was largely influenced by how we were told of the wolf’s persecution through the ages. I wanted to loosely use the tale of Peter and the Wolf to tell a story of a human who sees that both the humans and the wolves fear each other the same. The wolf pack is also based on Motomo, Mai and Nuka from the sanctuary.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Happy birthday, Doctor Who!

Happy birthday to Who, Happy birthday to Who, Happy birthday Doctor Who-oo, Happy birthday to Who!

(cue one of those things that squawk when you blow it)

Yes, it's 23rd November 2011 meaning its been 48 years to the day since Doctor Who first appeared on the nation's - and later the world's - screens with an adventure titled 'The Unearthly Child'; two school teachers follow their unusual pupil home to discover she lives in a Police Box in a junkyard...
The first episode is wonderfully eerie with its hazy black and white look and William Hartnell is positively chilling as the Doctor. Far removed from his predecessors such as Tennant's chirpy Doctor and Smith's bumbler, Hartnell here (he later mellowed into a sweet old gent) is a cold standoffish figure, locking the two teachers inside his TARDIS so they won't tell his secret. And off they go into time and space.

It's hard for us now, so familiar with the concept, to think how ground-breaking and gripping that episode must have been - a Police Box as a spaceship! And it's bigger on the inside! And it travels in time! For those like Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat who saw this as young children, the sheer originality of the show captured their imaginations and hasn't let them go their whole lives.

I, however, was born a mere 30 years to late to see this episode live so my first Doctor Who memory was on a Saturday evening on 9th April 2005; of the TARDIS arriving in Victorian Cardiff meeting Dickens and ghosts...

I remember knowing what Doctor Who was before it came back - my dad had watched it through the first three Doctors (Troughton was his favourite) - but I had never seen any. I know I was annoyed when I accidentally missed the first couple of episodes; 'Rose' - my family switched over in time just to see Rose run into the TARDIS at the end - and 'The End of the World' so I made sure I watched the next one.

Needless to say, I loved it. I was instantly hooked on Who and haven't looked back since.

Gatiss' Victorian horror is still one of my all-time favourites - partially due to the fact he's one of my favourite writers (if you haven't already go check out his Lucifer Box novel series) and my love of Victorian-set fiction. To my 12-year old self, it was just the best; a friendly alien who cavorts about the universe in a bigger-on-the-inside phonebox and meets ghosts, big green monsters and metal pepperpots - how could I not love it!

Here's to the next 48 years!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Snippet of a Script

Thought I'd share with you all (well, you, anyway) a short opening scene I wrote for my Scriptwriting seminar. We were asked to come up with something akin to the morning scene in Jaws i.e. a short scene that sets up main characters and shows their world in balance. Anyway, here it is sans title as I haven't come up with one yet. P.s. Excuse the eschew formatting, I'll blame Word.


It is a bright summer’s morning and two young children are cheerily playing and running around together in a nicely kept garden behind a pleasant detached house. Our focus is with these children – one boy, one girl, both dressed in school clothes – the main sound we hear is their laughter with perhaps some birdsong in the background.

               Ha! I won. My turn again.

                   Maisie (V.O)
    What? That’s not fair. If you won I should g-

As we hear the children’s playful arguing the shot pans further down the garden to where another child – a boy – is sitting alone by a small garden pond. He, also dressed in school clothes, seems smaller and more fragile than the other two. Unlike the other children’s cheery expressions, he is visibly more sombre, engrossed in the pond. Shot changes to the other children who have stopped their play to look at the boy, in that way that children do when they see something they don’t understand.


A woman circa thirty is busy fixing lunches and fiddling with school bags. She is rushing around and going back and forth but she doesn’t break into a sweat. She’s a mother, she’s used to it. Suddenly, the phone rings and she hurriedly picks it from the hook.
  Hello. Oh, hi Jennifer. Yeah, he’s settling in fine.

Mother walks over to window and we see from her point of view as she watches the boy still sitting alone by the pond. The other two are buzzing around, out of focus.

 He’s quiet, of course. But so is everyone around new people. I’m sure he’ll come out of his shell once he gets to know us better.


A kindly woman in her forties is sitting at her desk whilst on the phone.
I’m glad to hear that. Robert always is a bit reserved in his first few days. (She suddenly changes tack as if she has let something slip) It was so nice of you to take him in after all he’s been through; especially as you already had kids of your own. Are they getting along OK?


Mother is still observing children through window. In between their play the children are glancing at Robert with peculiar looks. Mother stares at this for few seconds before snapping back.
Er, yes. Brilliantly. Sorry, I’d better go now. Things to do. Thanks for calling.

           Sarah puts the phone down and steps outside.

            Kids. Why aren’t you playing all together?

Ben looks and Maisie, looks back to his mother and shrugs in an exaggerated fashion.         Sarah goes over to Robert and stoops down to his level. She speaks quietly to him.

      Do you want to play games with Ben and Maisie, Robert?

 Robert doesn’t turn to look at her. He scrunches up his mouth a little as if debating the    question with himself. Then he firmly shakes his head.

    No? Ok. She stands up and resumes her louder voice. Kids, go play with Robert by the pond.

         Ben and Maisie start to moan, talking both at once, saying they don’t want to because the pond is boring. The Mother is about to protest when Sam comes to the patio doors. He is dressed in a suit with a briefcase. He flashes a warm smile and a wave to his family.

                     Bye Ben! Bye Maisie!

They call and wave back.

                     Bye Robert.

   No reply. We see Sarah looking worried.

  Sam goes back in kitchen and Sarah follows.


           Sam is leaving but Sarah grabs him by the arm. She looks at him, biting her lip for a moment before she speaks.
                   Are we doing the right thing?

 Takes her hand.  Oh. Not this again. Of course we are! How could taking a troubled boy under our wing be the wrong thing?

         I know. I know. I just worry that–

There’s nothing to worry about! It’ll all come together soon I promise.

    They hug quickly but lovingly. He kisses her on the forehead.



 Sarah turns away and lets out a quick breath as if to symbolise the relieving of her worries. She walks to the patio doors.

                 Kids, It’s time to –

She stops and gasps. We then see it from her eyes. In the pond, spluttering and flaying about, is Robert. Ben and Maisie are standing around it, watching.


 Sarah runs towards the scene.

        What the hell happened? Did you push him in?!

Sarah picks up Robert from in the pond; he is breathing heavily and quietly sobbing.

              You pushed him in, didn’t you?

              We didn’t push him. We didn’t –

You did! I can’t believe you’d do something like this, Ben! Especially in front of your younger sister.  She is cradling Robert and looking at Ben. Apologise to Robert now!

       I didn’t push him! I didn’t push him!


Right. If you’re not going to apologise then you’re gonna get punished.

We start to hear Ben protesting and Sarah shouting back but this fades away as the camera focuses on Robert’s face in his foster mother’s arms. He is no longer sobbing or shivering but simply wearing the same passive expression we have seen on his face in all the way through.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Story Time #2: The Melancholy Memoirs of Malcolm Stone

Are we all sitting comfortably? No? Well, tough, cos Story Time's gonna happen anyway.
In the first session of my 'Creativity' module, we each had to pick out several stones from a pot and devise characteristics for that stone based on their appearance.  After a cruel process of elimination (I will grieve Vincent, the bold yellow rock, until the day I...stop grieving him) we were left with one to write a story about. Today, I have chosen to share dear Malcolm's with you. Do enjoy.

I felt numb. My whole body just sighed to a halt. I let his hand fall from mine as I vaguely sensed the nurses rushing around me to get to him; the shrill whine of the life-support machine washing over me. Before long, I found myself sitting beside an empty hospital bed; my face a blank mask of indifference, as if it couldn’t find an expression to match what I was feeling. The nurses kept murmuring hollow consolatory statements as if they had been uttered so many times they had lost their sentiment. The next time I came to my senses, I found myself in my local pub; dealing with grief the only way I knew how.
The most important person in my life had just departed it for the final time. He was, at times, my best friend, at others, my worst enemy. We had experienced everything together; growing up in our sleepy little village, travelling across the world, seeing the greatest sights the Earth had to offer, settling back down in our old village, losing those we loved.
After my dear wife died, he had always tried to pick me up, to help me find myself again. He had lost his wife too but after the usual period of mourning, carried on, content in the times he had with her. In my state of mind, I had hated him for it. For a long while, I did everything I could to avoid him. For weeks, months, years (who knows how long my petty grudge lasted), we didn’t speak until, out of the blue, I received a phone call. He wanted to see me…
Amongst all these bubbling thoughts about what I had lost, a flash of light sparked in my head as I remembered a long-lost memory, buried for over sixty years.
When we were about ten years old - just tiny sprogs with the whole world ahead of us - we had dared each other to spend the night in a graveyard, the old one up on Graystark Hill that all the children feared, and always have. We told our parents we were staying at the other’s house and expected to return triumphantly to school the next day as heroes. However, as soon as we arrived amongst the twilit tombstones our nerves were set on edge. We made it half an hour into full darkness before we heard a distant bark, which our agitated young minds told us was a werewolf, we ran all the way home, greeted by a severe bollocking from our parents for what we had done.
As I remembered it, as clear as if it had happened yesterday, one side of my mouth made an awkward jolt upwards and was soon joined by the other side. I realised that I was smiling. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, I swung my head backwards and let out a long raucous laugh.

There we go then. You might be thinking "You rotter! Why have do you give your stone such a tough time." To which I would reply (even though you didn't actually say it; I'm psychic!): oddly, enough most of us did. And I attempted to give him a happy ending of sorts.

P.s. To those of you waiting for the final part of  my Hallowe'en story 'Man in the Mirror', please hold on but it may be awhile. I'm currently rewriting the whole thing in the 1st person as I think it might work better so I'll put the new version up ASAP.
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