In 1999, the BBC Radio Collection restarted releases of missing or incomplete Doctor Who stories on cassette and CD, based on the much better quality off-air recordings that had become available since the original cassette releases of the early nineties. Working with audio producer Mark Ayres, Sue Cowley was asked to write linking narration for the first few releases. The following article, in the style of her diary, was originally published in Doctor Who Magazine and is reproduced with their kind permission.
15th February 1999
Knew I would live to regret continually saying to Steve (Cole) "Just let me know if there’s anything I can do..." He is utterly swamped with stuff (as per usual) and has suggested I might like to try writing the linking scripts for The Massacre (of St Bartholomew’s Eve). Was rather hoping he would allow me to indulge my Lytton fantasies in a full-length novel instead. Hmmm. I can't even remember if The Massacre is H or W... (v. sloppy. Must revise storycodes for 1964-67!) Dislike of Hartnell threatens to overwhelm desire to see name on "proper" Who merchandise. Remain outwardly calm and express cool interest to Steve.
29th March 1999
Have not heard a peep out of Steve re The Massacre scripts so assume he is doing them himself. Disappointment at missed opportunity tempered with relief at not having to get intimate with Old Bill after all.
6th April 1999
Arrghhh!!! Am doing The Massacre!!! Copies of the off-air audio tapes and the camera scripts have just arrived. Am too scared to refuse as Steve looks like he hasn’t slept for a week and my refusal may jeopardise future of entire book range. "Who is supposed to be fun" I remind him, conveniently ignoring the fact that I have just committed myself to link-scripting a Hartnell historical...
10th April 1999
Trying not to panic. Have listened to The Macra Terror and Evil of the Daleks (discovered both on shelf still in cellophane) to acquaint self with style of previous audio releases. Keep getting lost in Evil so figure I can't do any worse.
7pm. Sit down with cup of tea to listen through Massacre tapes for the first time.
9pm. Doom!! Have realised that this story is rather dependent on the utterly visual ploy of Abbot and Doctor being identical i.e. this is the entire plot. Now understand why Steve did not want to do script. Resist temptation to phone him and shout abuse, as this will not appear very professional.
9.10pm. The thought occurs that the novelisation must have had same problems to overcome. Thank lucky stars for compulsive buying fan mentality, then realise that Target novels have been boxed away in loft for the last five years to make room for New and Missings.
1 am. Three hours rummaging in loft has revealed Hartnell novels in the bottom of the last box I look. [nb. some part of brain clearly anticipating wild success as retrieve Highlanders novel for future reference.]
3 am. Double Doom!! Lucarotti’s Massacre novel is so wildly at variance with televised story as to be practically useless. Throw book at cat in disgust and fall into troubled sleep.
11th April 1999
I will not let Hartnell beat me!! Have decided that a calm, methodical approach is best. Spend long hours on computer breaking down action scene by scene and summarising the salient points. Come to alarming conclusion that The Massacre is rather good. Am concerned to maintain original episode format as far as possible, so time the available breaks in the dialogue (egg timer from kitchen shaped like a tomato comes in v. handy for this bit).
At the end of this session have concluded the following:
Major-league crucial visual plot notwithstanding (hmmm), The Massacre has very traditional structure which lends itself to audio presentation (v.g.) Scene breaks are often v "natural" (i.e. like radio drama) and require little or no sign-posting from me (hurrah!!)
Lovely moody drumming at beginning of each episode is perfect for episode intros.
"Steven Taylor is an idiot!" (better remember to rewrite the five occasions I have mentioned this in the script before sending to Peter P)
Several over-long "silences" likely to present problems, but casually gloss over these for now.
17th April 1999
Work is progressing nicely, though lack of action in episode four is cause for some concern. Also a minor disaster on episode 3, as the page with all the stage directions re the assassination attempt on de Coligny is missing from the camera script. Luckily this is the only bit in the novel that bears a passing resemblance to the tv story, but am now worried that the use of word "arquebus" will expose plagiarism...
19th April 1999
Am boring everyone I know in fandom about how marvellous The Massacre is.
25th April 1999
Arrgghh! The opening of episode four continues to defeat me: no matter how slowly I read, still can’t make "Anne has spent the night alone in Preslin’s shop" fill 35 seconds. Decide this calls for desperate measures, and insert a cameo role for Zarbi Prince Xrribit. Hope Steve will not notice.
28th April 1999
Nervously hand over finished script to Steve in canteen. Am terrified have done crap job and he will have to re-do whole thing himself and never let me find typos in other peoples novels again.
1st May 1999
Am enjoying my first Massacre-free weekend for what feels like months when Steve calls and asks me complicated questions about the passage of time in episode 4. Had not even noticed apparent discrepancy after hearing 20 times!!! Massive self-doubt ensues (but Steve does not appear to have noticed the Zarbi).
4th May 1999
Hurrah!! Steve likes the script (mostly) but has a few minor changes to make. We have huge argument over using the word collide, and he makes me take the Zarbi out of episode four.
7th May 1999
Script submitted to BBC Audio Collection Managing Editor Piera Johnson. Phew!! Cannot believe its finished. Am told I can go with Mark Ayres to record Peter’s links if I like, but alas "real" work does not permit and besides Sadfangirlness threatens to turn me into mindless jello in presence of PP.
21st June 1999
I wonder what’s happening with the script and if its turned out okay? I haven’t heard a peep out of anyone. Still, am reassured that it still seems to be on all the release schedules.
9th July 1999
V exciting!! Piera sent over copies of Massacre today, hot off the presses. Am delighted, until I discover second place relegation on sleeve, listed after Mr Cole. Realise this was a subcontracted job but still want to smash his face in for stealing my glory...
9th September 1999
Bad news!!! Steve has resigned and is leaving BBC Worldwide. Selfishly wonder how I can get next audio project if Piera thinks Steve did all the work on the last one...
11th October 1999
10am Panic stations!! Had email form Piera asking me to do Web of Fear script – but the bad news is that she needs it by early November to fit Frazer’s availability. Eagerness to impress and joy at doing a Troughton impel me to agree instantly, as long as she can get the scripts to me by middle of next week. No problem.
10.02am Arrrggghhh! "Forgot" that Web of Fear was a 6 parter!!!
19th October 1999
The audio recordings have turned up but no scripts. Go on-line and print off transcripts from v useful website. Idly wonder if the Beeb is aware that this site exists, then enjoy irony of using fandom resources for "official" product. Go home and listen to tapes. Attention begins to wane about 2 minutes into episode five, and have first inkling that six-parter is not ideal for audio release. Try to ignore huge number of scene changes and amounts of exposition required – particularly given speedy scene cuts and lack of helpful pauses in action a la Massacre.
1am. Cannot sleep. V worried. The future of this Who classic is in my hands!! Have only self to blame. Must *not* be girly and give up, otherwise will be thrown out of fandom.
23rd October 1999
Cannot prevaricate – must abandon social life until Web is finished. Have listened through to full story again, this time making notes. Alarmed as this has taken most of day –2 extra eps apparently cause huge exponential growth in time required.
Points noted so far:
Opening left over from Enemy of the World is impossible and horrid. Wonder if I would get hate mail if I suggested cutting it out completely?
Far too much action in too many tunnels for my liking. Have already used "elsewhere in the tunnels" too often...
Nick Courtney is brilliant!!
Must have tube map handy at all times to keep track of web-fungus growth. Will suggest printing one on the sleeve of CD.
26th October 1999
Get tape of episode 1 from VT library (own copy 16th generation and unwatchable) in hope it will inspire with way to deal with Enemy of the World factor. Only serves to amplify stress. Begin to notice how far transmitted episodes and camera scripts differ. Oh dear. Web of Fear novelisation proves Fendahlesque in its brevity – very little help to be had there.
30th October 1999
Nothing for it. Nothing less than total immersion in Web of Fear will get it done. Review one episode per night in rotation until all the kinks are worked out. Am having panic attacks about being confronted at Panopticon by FanElders saying "It was not the Yeti on the left that attacked that soldier but the one on the right!" Realising Web of Fear was on tv the week I was born doesn’t help matters...
7th November 1999
Steve has loaned me a copy of the telesnaps reconstruction video, but sadly it fails to shed much light on the Covent Garden battle sequence, which is the bit that continues to give me the most grief. Well that, and the last five minutes. And the first five minutes, obviously.
12th November 1999
Scripts emailed off to Piera this morning with huge sense of relief. Have concluded from Web of Fear experience that
want more money (and time) if ever get asked to six parter again
somewhere between 1965 and 1967 television shows started being proper television programmes, and not just radio with pictures
there are only so many times you can use the phrase "the Yeti lumbers..."
17th December 1999
More scripts! Piera wants Galaxy Four and The Myth Makers done together so Peter can record both in one session. In theory have two months to complete, but Christmas and Gallifrey con encroach on available time. However, am flushed with success of completing Web of Fear (at all) and need money for shopping in LA so agree.
27th December 1999
Should really sit down and listen to G4 and TMM tapes. Or shall I watch Matrix on new DVD player instead???
1st January 2000
Resolve to be better organised about this scripting lark. Tomorrow...
[to be continued...]
Copyright Sue Cowley, April 2000