Tuesday, November 29, 2005

SJS audios - series 2

So, what can I tell you about the second series of SARAH JANE SMITH audios, coming soon from Big Finish Productions? Not much, actually, as BFP swears its writers to secrecy about plot details and suchlike. In all honesty, I wouldn't say much even if I could. I hate having my enjoyment of a story spoiled in advance, I much prefer to experience something without expectation so I can enjoy it on its merits.

But I guess I can talk about the process of writing the series a little. I was approached by produce-director John Ainsworth, who asked if I'd be interested in having a go at writing all four stories in a new series of SJS on audio. I'd already written one of the stories in the first series three years ago, called Test of Nerve. That seemed to be well received and no doubt helped my cause. Plus I've worked with John on numerous BFP audios - five Judge Dredds and a Doctor Who Unbound. We seem to work well together and he's very good at diplomatically encouraging me to do better.

From that first phone call to delivering the rewrites on my final script was about ten months, I think. It seems longer, but only because I've also been working on a lot of other projects at the same time - such as writing three novels. Finding plot ideas for the audios wasn't hard - Lis had some suggestions of her own, I had a fistful of notions I wanted to pursue and John contributed immensely to the development of the individuals stories.

Back when we started work on SJS 2, we had no idea the character of Sarah Jane Smith would be appearing in the forthcoming second season of new Doctor Who. Once that became known, it introduced a large wrinkle into the process. How would the TV production team react to the audio plots? Would the 'School Reunion' episode put the kibosh on SJS 2? Happily, the answers to those questions were 'positively' and 'no'. After two nervous months of waiting the plotline were approved by Cardiff and I could start writing. By then time was marching on and scripts were needed sooner rather than later if the first audio was to be out as scheduled in January 2006. Having Sarah back on TV made hitting that deadline all the more important, as it might give us an extra boost (or not - who knows?). If the new TV series starts on roughly the same dates as it did this year, School Reunion will be broadcast in early April - just as the final SJS audio is due out.

Fast forward to November this year, as recording begins on the first two audios. Alas, I'm away on holiday for both recording days and miss them completely. As a result I don't get to hear BBC TV reporter Shaun Ley taping his sequences as News Reader, nor do I get to have a reunion with Lis's daughter Sadie Miller, who was such a star in Test of Nerve. Such is life.

Back from holiday I returned to finish the final script and rewrite the third audio. John told me where the second block of recording dates was and, miracle of miracles, I could actually make it to one of them. The photo shown captures some of the cast members from my day at the studio, Wednesday November 23 - appropriately enough, the 42nd anniversary of Doctor Who's TV debut. Recording took eight hours, including lunch break, and I got the chance to do some on the spot rewriting to fix the odd moment of clunky dialogue. Often as not, most of my suggestions were cuts to eliminate unnecessary verbiage. John is a wonderfully patient director, and put up with my many, many comments and ideas. The man deserves a sainthood.

Now SJS 2 is all over bar the shouting as far as I'm concerned. Lee Binding is hard at work creating some magical covers, Steve Foxon is weaving his magic on the sound design and I've just sent off a few suggestions for promo blurb.

One thing I can say for certain: I have absolutely no idea how the audios will relate to 'School Reunion', for one simply reason - I haven't seen the script for Sarah's TV comeback and have no more knowledge about what happens in the episode than anybody else. In fact, I probably know less than some, since I've tried to avoid spoilers for TV series 2 - so don't tell me!

Now I simply have to wait two months to hear the finished product and get the reaction of listeners. Right now January 2006 seems a long, long, long way off...

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