A for Effort


BBC4 recently aired a new version of “A for Andromeda”, originally shown as seven 45-minute episodes back in 1961. Not much of the original series survives, so as with their recent production of “The Quatermass Experiment” the BBC has updated and re-made the production.

Sadly, “A for Andromeda” wasn’t transmitted live. One of the most wonderful things about the new Quatermass was seeing how actors cope knowing that if they fluff a line they can’t simply re-do it. About the only time you see that nowadays is at the theatre, so it’s always nice to see people acting without a safety net.

Quatermass was rendered especially challenging by the fact that the pope died half-way through. A little ticker came up at the bottom of the screen saying “Major Breaking News on BBC1 now”. In my house we thought, fuck it, a giant plant-monster eating Tate Modern has to be more fun than people droning on about a dead white guy.

I like to imagine the whispers flowing through the set as those actors not on screen were filled in by their friends and colleagues. Did it put them off? How many of them were Catholic?

Back to Andromeda.

The new version was filleted to ninety minutes. Most of the story still made sense, though there was one moment where a couple of characters managed to somehow figure out that someone had been a) murdered and b) selling secrets to the US despite the lack of any evidence or information.

So what was good about it?

Mainly the fact that it was cheap, good, ideas-led science fiction. A riposte to the concept that SF can’t be entertaining without being filled with the latest CGI wizardry. A proof-of-concept that an audience is willing to engage with big concepts without enormous explosions to sweeten the pill.

BBC4 have proved that there’s an audience for tightly written genre pieces, and that it doesn’t have to be all about the effects.

Moving On

Outside my house is a burned-out car, which was quite surprising. It appeared overnight, and I found it while walking to the newsagent in the morning. Apparently my housemate got to see them putting it out on her way into work, which was exciting.

Surprising, because you don’t often see cars set alight in the middle of London, but the sight of a burned out car and that particular aroma of burned rubber, petrol and oil did bring back memories.

It reminded me of where I was brought up, and why I left.

He’s in the best-selling show.

Anyone in the UK who didn’t watch the superb Life On Mars over the last couple of months has been missing a rare treat.

If only there were some way that people who’d missed it, or lived in a different country, could somehow download the entire series onto their computer instead of having to wait for the DVD release. Sadly, such a brilliant technological invention may never exist. If it did, I’m sure you’d all be using it right now.

DMc summarises Life On Mars here (scroll down to the picture). Short version: Copper gets run over, wakes up in 1973.

The series was co-created by Matthew Graham, who also wrote or co-wrote five of the eight episodes.

So it’s a super-duper treat to find that he’s going to be writing an episode for Doctor Who.

Let the rejoicing begin!

State of Play

Or, what Piers is working on right now.

Persephone (formerly Untitled Horror Project) – a feature.

I’m just finishing off the second draft, should be done by the end of next week. The narrative frame is OK, but there’s at least one subplot I’m going to have to take a long hard look at in the next draft. Because I don’t think it’s bringing anything to the party.

Playground – Radio Drama

Draft 2 is sitting in a drawer, and has been for some time. It’s a two-hander, and one of the characters doesn’t have a strongly-enough defined point-of-view.

Everyone Repents – Warhammer 40k short story.

Because I thought it would be fun. There’s a short story competition running over at The Black Library. Synopsis and Writing Sample are in, and I’m waiting to hear back whether I’ve made it into the next round.

Theatre Comedy

For NewsRevue and The Treason Show. Actual paid work. Not paid much, admittedly, but hell it’s not like I’m going to say no to the money. Christine & I are still putting these in, but not as often as we used to – probably 6 or 7 sketches written a month rather than 6 or 7 written a week. Of which we sell maybe 1 in 3.

Cons Anon – Radio Sitcom

Sitcom Challenge, again with Christine. Write a sitcom in two months. Other people on the challenge are William, Michela, and Jamie. We’ve plotted ours out and are rewriting the outline this week, with the intention to go to script by the end of the week.

When Ds Attack

There’s a terrible poster adorning the side of bus shelters in the UK right now.

It features a picture of Sir Alan Sugar, star of the UK version of “The Apprentice”. He stares menacingly out of the poster, finger pointing directly at you. A wisp of smoke rises from his finger.

Beneath it, the caption: Ready. Aim. Fired.

This makes no sense.

Who’s fired? Well, the picture is of Sir Alan. Is he fired? No, he’s the firer. Huh?

And the phrase is Ready. Aim. Fire. So it’s not as if someone has just copied the phrase onto the poster without thinking about it. Oh no. Someone has actually gone ahead and thought “You know what that poster really needs? A D on the end.”

Many pub urinals in the UK now have adverts at eye-height so you have something to read while you piss. The versions of the poster in there make sense. Same picture. No extraneous D.

And of course, you have the beautiful double-meaning. Ready. Aim. Fire.

You see that? That’s good advertising.

This isn’t the first time that a D has screwed something up. Let’s take a few moments to look at “Tomorrow Never Dies”, the 18th James Bond film.

Take a moment to consider the title.

It makes no sense.

In no way could it be said to have anything whatsoever to do with the film. At no point does anything bearing the epithet or metaphor for Tomorrow come close to dying, or indeed not dying.

But when you find out that the film was written under the title “Tomorrow Never Lies”, suddenly you discover a world of beauty. The Chief Villain quotes the title when explaining his dastardly plan. Filled with delicious double-meaning, as the paper he owns – Tomorrow – is filled with lies from end to end. And, of course, thematically you can lie all you want, but James Bond will find you out. A beautiful title.

And then a D came along and spoiled it all.

Advertisers, I’m begging you. Resist the lure of the D!