3.5. Home Truths
Behind the Scenes
This story takes place between episodes seven and eight of The Daleks' Masterplan.
THE WRITER'S BLOG: Simon Guerrier
How long does it take to write a Doctor Who audio? Simon Guerrier, author of the Companion Chronicle Home Truths, checks his diaries…
Tuesday 11 December 2007, about 09.00
I’m wending my way through Notting Hill on the 52 bus, off to a freelance job writing a sticker book, when I bump into Nigel Fairs. He’s off to Big Finish’s usual studios and we gossip about what we’re both up to. The Wake is finished so my duties on Benny are over. I’ve got to type up my notes on How The Doctor Changed My Life, but otherwise I’m not doing much. Ever tactful, Nigel says we should work on something again soon.
Wednesday 12 December, 15.36
An email from David Richardson. Nigel has suggested me for something they’re planning, “a 5th Doctor mini-series that is a sequel to the Key to Time series, for release in 2009”. Can I come along to “a preliminary writers’ meeting for either the morning of Wednesday 19 or the afternoon of Wednesday 20,” at Jason Haigh-Ellery’s swanky club in London? No, I can’t – I’m still writing a sticker book. “You’re fired,” says David.
Thursday 13 December, 20:20
“How busy are you in the early months of 2008?” asks David Richardson. “Besides the Key 2 Time... I'm gonna be producing the third series of Companion Chronicles, and wondered if you'd be interested in writing one...”.
Tuesday 18 December, after 18.30
The preliminary writers’ meeting. We drink posh drinks in posh surroundings and discuss the bare bones of Key 2 Time. I meet David Richardson in the flesh for the first time and beg to be allowed to write for Sara Kingdom. I’ve got this wheeze for the framing sequence, of an older Sara recalling her adventures with the Doctor even though she died as a young woman. David says he’d like a historical story – or at least something very different from the sci-fi adventures Sara enjoyed onscreen.
Wednesday 19 December, 13.55
I send round my first outline for what will one day be The Judgment of Isskar. Some things survive to the final version – the fifth Doctor, the Key to Time, the last scene of part four. Everything else – new companions called Mary and Angie, the return of an old friend of the Doctor’s, a fake London of 2009 – gets binned over the next few weeks.
Wednesday 24 December, some time in the afternoon
I make my first notes on the Sara Kingdom story, in which the TARDIS visits a spooky family home at Christmas. The gist of the final story is there in the outline. I’m stealing the second character – who I’ll later name after my friend Robert Dick – from the Superman comic strip “For Tomorrow”.
Sunday 30 December, 18.21
I send David a rough 500-word outline for “The House of Pleasure”, “a science-fiction twist on a haunted house story, perhaps with a Christmas flavour like the BBC’s old MR James adaptations.” David is pleased, wants it “to drip with that black and white TV feeling” but worries the title sounds rude. I suggest “Home Comforts” and “House Proud” while he contacts Jean Marsh’s agent.
Thursday 3 January 2008, 12.17
“HOOOOOOOOOOORAY!” says David’s email. Jean Marsh has agreed to reprise Sara Kingdom. I resend my outline to David for passing to Big Finish script editor Alan Barnes. I explain that “I've changed it from House of Pleasure to House of Judgment, which is also the name of a prose poem by Oscar Wilde. Which, of course, I knew beforehand.”
Friday 4 January, 18.42
“Cute,” says Alan, and points out that “Stephen” should be spelled with a “v”. Whoops. He also says: “It's a spooky house at Christmas. The Chimes of Midnight is probably the single most highly regarded BF production. It's kind of cornered the market in spooky houses at Christmas. I think it'd be more interesting to make it a crazy space house, in an abandoned futuristic Ideal Home exhibition or something.”
Sunday 6 January, 11.50
I send Alan and David a 1,200-word outline for “The House of Judgment”, this time detailing the progression of events in the story. Alan suggests we call it “Dream Home”. He also feels that once Sara knows what’s happening it ends too quickly. “My instinct would be to go for a realisation-ordeal-resolution sort of thing, where Sara realises what's going on but something gets in the way.”
Monday 7 January, 10.38
I send David a revised outline, now called “Home Truths”. David reminds me it needs to be in two episodes, so I add a cliffhanger. We get back to discussing my Key 2 Time outline: whether I can use the Ice Warriors and whether new companions Eve and Janus should both travel with the Doctor in part one.
That script becomes the priority for the next few months. Then David wants me writing a completely different Companion Chronicle linking to the Key 2 Time. Zara (formerly Janus) will share a cell with Ace in The Prisoners’ Dilemma.
17 April, 12.32
The synopsis for Home Truths has been approved by the estate of Terry Nation – who created Sara Kingdom. The BBC approves it too, with a couple of minor changes.
A week later, we record all three Key 2 Time plays. In May, I’m busy writing – and rewriting – The Prisoners’ Dilemma and then the first draft of Home Truths.
Monday 2 June, 10.24
I send David the first draft of Home Truths. I check Lisa Bowerman is directing the story because I’ve an idea for part two…
Thursday 5 June, 14.50
Jacqueline Rayner provides some additional comments on the script – “structurally it seems fine, they're mainly small niggles”. I make these changes that afternoon and also suggest that, as per Doctor Who of the time, the story should have individual episode titles. I suggest “The Dream House” for part one followed by “Home Truths”. David stares at me strangely.
Wednesday 11 June, 10.55
The BBC approves the script. David has to book it into studio and we need to cast someone to play Robert.
Monday 16 June, all day
Recording of The Prisoners’ Dilemma. I go along, get in the way and talk to Lisa Bowerman about the feel of Home Truths. She listens with heroic patience.
Thursday 19 June, 10.25
I answer David’s questions about my two Companion Chronicles for a forthcoming feature in Doctor Who Magazine.
Tuesday 3 July, 11.54
I provide David with blurbs and liner notes for both Companion Chronicles. I mention that, with Home Truths, Sara has been in more Doctor Who episodes than Captain Jack Harkness. David cuts that bit.
Monday 7 July, 14.59
David tells me Home Truths will be recorded on 8 September, since Jean Marsh is in a play until then. I check my diary. Drat! I’ll be in Seville.
Friday 18 July, 18.33
I enthuse to David and Simon Holub about the cover for Home Truths, which has been put up on the Big Finish website. Simon sends me a large version of the artwork. Hooray!
Monday 8 September, 12.44 (local time)
I text David to see how the recording is going, while stood in front of the cathedral glimpsed in The Two Doctors. Then I have an ice cream.
Saturday 18 October, 15.43
Paul Wilson, who runs the Big Finish website, kindly provides me with a download of Home Truths, which has gone off to be pressed. I’m meant to be doing my tax return. Instead I am grinning and giggling. Cor, it’s so much better than I’d hoped. I send an email to David Darlington thanking him for the impressive sound design. Only it wasn’t him who did it.
Wednesday 12 November
The huddled masses are able to download Home Truths from the Big Finish website and the CDs are posted out.
Jean Marsh and Niall MacGregor