Treasure Island sails with the Berkeley Players

I’m delighted and flattered that the Berkeley Players are staging my co-written pantomime version of Treasure Island on the 8th, 9th and 10th December, at Berkeley Town Hall.

When adapting Robert Louis Stevens’ classic children’s adventure for the stage, in tandem with Adrian Barradell, I was keen that the theme of Long John Silver being a unreliable father figure for Jim Hawkins was kept in the story, together with the pirate being something of an anti-hero, rather than an out and out villain. I also wanted to make sure there was still plenty for Sally Trelawny and Jim’s mum to do, in what is very much a boy’s own tale. There’s plenty of groansome jokes, as well as some quite decent character ones. I’m particularly fond of cheese obsessive Ben Gunn. It was a lot of fun writing all that pirate speak too.

You can buy tickets at Berkeley Pharmacy. Wishing the cast and crew every success!

Next February 2023, Aldbourne Light Entertainment Club will be putting on Adrian’s and mine’s retelling of Aladdin on Aldbourne Memorial Hall on Thursday 9th, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th. Again this makes me very happy and I’m pleased that they were impressed enough by our script. I’ll be plugging their production again nearer the time, but for now, enjoy your rehearsals.

Very British Futures – The Aliens

It’s been longer arriving than I hoped but Season Two of my podcast Very British Futures is finally taking flight. I’ve found a better way of planning my time, and so I’ve been able to invest some energy into editing my recordings from the last few months.

So first released blinking into the online world is our discussion of The Aliens, E4’s 2016 drama with blackly comic moments, set in a world of human and alien drug dealers, ghettoised resentful alien immigrants and one hapless protagonist who keeps trying to do the right thing but generally just digs himself deeper into trouble.

It has a marvellous cast of people who were just getting recognised for their talent, including Michaela Cole (I Will Destroy You), Jim Howick (Ghosts) and Michael Socha (Being Human) and Michael Smiley (Kill List) and was produced by a lot of the same team responsible for Misfits.

This is also best produced episode so far, thanks to the technical brilliance of Kevin Hiley (Tripodscast) and being the first to be recorded in an actual room instead of online. I was joined by two guests from Tripodscast: Rebecca Wray and Dani Wray. Both of them were excellent and had plenty of fascinating observations about the show and its characters. Look out for their forthcoming new series with John Isles I Don’t Do SF in the new year.

You can listen to the episode at Anchor FM or on all the major podcast platforms. You can also check its dedicated page at my new website for the podcast which also has links for further reading, including the original E4 website which contains a lot more background information about the fictional history of the aliens’ arrival in Britain. For the first season I also put the episode up on this blog as a downloadable MP3. I’ve decided to stop that for season two, partly to cut down on housekeeping, and also to hopefully encourage more listeners to the podcast platforms and build up the podcast’s official stats. If you would like to download a file to listen to offline, may I suggest checking out the episode’s page at Spreaker, which has a download option.

Hope you enjoy this episode. More coming soon, continuing with The Flipside of Dominick Hyde.

Rik Hoskin’s latest story, plus an interview about White Sands. Plus a little news about my websites

No time for a catchy post title I’m afraid but I’ve got a few bit of news about myself and my friend Rik Hoskin.

Rik first! His latest short story has been published in Cosmic Horror Magazine, entitled The Invincible. It is available in print or digital format. Cosmic Horror, stories in which humans encounter vast, terrifying and often uncaring creatures or forces is intrinsically linked with the works of HP Lovecraft and his alien elder gods. These beings often act through unknowable motives, have dimensions which the protagonists find hard to comprehend and there is often a theme that we mortals almost without the monsters being aware of them. Aside from Lovecraft, another favourite of mine from this genre is The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. More recently, it has been interestingly suggested that the award-winning television series of Chernobyl had horror overtones and could be an example of a new kind of cosmic horror, with radiation as the uncaring, unstoppable monster.

Rik has also given a excellent video interview to a Spanish website dedicated to Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe. Talking to Tamara of cosmere.es Rik talks about adapting Sanderson’s manuscript White Sand into a series of successful graphic novels, working on other Brandon Sanderson properties, and his working process. He also talks about his career, including Deathlands, Disney comics, Game of Khans and his own original novel Bystander 27.

In other news I have moved the website of my Very British Futures podcast to a new permanent home. You can find it at https://westlakefilms.uk/verybritishfutures/

Similarly the website for my old Doctor Who audios from the 90’s can be found at https://westlakefilms.uk/fineline/

Weird Weird West

The wild west is one of the USA’s greatest creations. Based on historical fact, but the legend, landscape and characters have grown into a defacto fantasy kingdom. One that is big enough to hold many kinds of stories, from simple white hat/black hat children’s adventures, to gritty period drama to out and out horror. That’s where Card Trumps enter the picture with their latest pair of card games – Weird West – a easy to play Trumps style game featuring real life personalities mixed with hideous monsters, each realised with lurid artwork from Tim Brown and droll descriptions from Rik Hoskin.

Horror and the sinister works well in the West because it is already a harsh environment, where death can be sudden, a character can be isolated away from help, and it’s believable that there are unknown regions, or even bizarre creatures like Bigfoot. A theme of horror is the modern world coming up against ancient terrors and evils that its characters are trying to put behind them. The colonisation of the west is often that classic drama of an old life fighting back against a modern European civilisation with new kinds of danger. Putting monsters from the old country like vampires and zombies into the land of Stetsons and Colt 45 Peacemakers has novelty appeal too. Most of my references are movie based and amongst notable entries in this sub-genre are the anthology Grim Prarie Tales, Dead Birds, and Ravenous. There was also DC’s western occult hero Jonah Hex, television cult series Wild Wild West (forget the movie) and many of the works of horror author Joe R Lansdale.

Two cards from the pack
That tank looks kinda familiar

Long time readers of this blog will already be familiar with the work of Hoskin and Brown from their previous packs of Horror Cards, inspired by Top Trumps infamous Horror packs released in the Seventies. They’ve been extremely well received and this latest range has already achieved its Kickstarter minimum but there’s still time to pledge money and get hold of your own sets and some attractive stretch goals. I was sent some preview samples and can confidently it is well up to the standard of their previous titles.

You can learn more over at their Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/terrortrumps/weird-west-terror-trumps-two-new-top-quality-horror-packs

Happy trails!

More Randomness – My latest podcast appearances

I always enjoy recording podcasts, either my own or as a guest. September is turning into a busy month for me. First off is the second part of my interview for The Time Scales YouTube channel. Greg continues our conversation with questions about writing pantomimes, Bolton Little Theatre, Will Hadcroft’s Fine Line story The Chattath Factor, promoting yourself on social media, taking rejection, and the future of Doctor Who. You can watch Part Two here and I hope you’ll find it interesting. Greg and his wife have done a great job creating a programme out of our lengthy, pleasant conversation.

You might remember The Randomiser from previous mentions, a brilliant Doctor Who podcast featuring my old friends Tim Reid and Charles Auchterlonie. It’s a chat show where the two of them debate a story chosen at random, alongside several mini-features like “No complications”, finding magic moments of greatness and naffness in the long-running programme. The latest episode is out now and I had the pleasure of being their special guest for the the second time. We talked about The Faceless Ones, the recent Star Trek The Motion Picture cinema re-release, Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s fascinating children’s drama King of the Castle and held a tribute to the much missed Bernard Cribbins. I only hope we did justice to him. You can listen to Just looking for Wombles, officer on their Anchor.fm website or find them on all the major podcast platforms.

Interviewed by The Time Scales

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by Greg for his Youtube channel The Times Scales, a place dedicated to Doctor Who. I’d originally planned to try and keep to a disciplined hour, but we ended up talking for nearly three, so the interview is being released in two halves. You can watch part 1, about being a fan of the classic series, thoughts on the so-called Wilderness Years, and the joy of its mainstream success when it returned. We also talk about my BBV productions, Audio Visuals and my own fan audio stories. The second half will continues with more about Westlake Films, my pantomimes, the future of Doctor Who and the excellent writing advice of Georgia Cook.

We had met online via Will Hadcroft, whom Greg had already interviewed as part of Will’s promotion of his BBC audiobook The Resurrection Plant. Greg was interested in covering my journey as a creative too, so we arranged a date and had an enjoyable conversation. Greg proves to be an excellent interviewer and I think he’ll only get better. You can watch part 1 now below and I hope you get something good out of it. If you have any questions yourself as a consequence, feel free to drop me a line here or on Twitter @gazhack.

Interview on Time Scales Part 1

Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant

It’s surprising to realise that Doctor Who has rarely used the Industrial North as a setting. We have seen adventures set in futuristic factories and warehouses, visited the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Mark of the Rani and had a few romps into Steampunk. Big Finish has touched on it in The Peterloo Massacre and Industrial Evolution but that landscape of terraced houses, looming smoke-belching factories and municipal buildings that could be found from Birmingham to Newcastle has remained the province of Coronation Street and contemporary drama. So having the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land on the corner of a cobbled street in Will Hadcroft’s The Resurrection Plant feels quite fresh.

Not that this is the actual North of England. In fact the TARDIS has brought our friends to Calico Three, a small habitable planet where the rural colony the Doctor remembers is in the grip of an unexpected mechanisation. What’s more the factories are capitalism run wild, with human workers mere expendable cogs in the machine. But nobody minds because on this planet everyone can be brought back to life thanks to the Resurrection Plant, even if occasionally they change gender along the way. The travellers investigate but are soon captured, just in time for a factory accident to lead to the creation of a terrifying mutation in the newly grown humans.

The author captures the the characters of the regulars extremely well. Patrick Troughton’s Doctor can be hard to capture in print, since so much of his character is in his delivery, but here he’s compassionate, curious, mischievous and has moments of righteous indignation. Jamie and Zoe both get moments to shine on their own too. The story seems to be setting up as a Frankenstein-influenced piece about Ren, a technocrat facing up to consequences of treating his workforce as commodities, together with a fearsome but misunderstood monster, but there’s a second act twist which takes us into another kind of drama, one that I was worried was going to ruin the authentic Sixties atmosphere that Will had recreated. Thankfully he skilfully avoids this.

Fraser Hines has been sharing his enjoyable Troughton impersonation for a while in Big Finish audio plays and books. It’s great to hear it again. Elsewhere he is an excellent reader in general and tells the story with animation and a good pace. Similarly impressive is the soundscape.

There are echoes of The Rebel Flesh and The Quatermass Experiment, but ultimately this is a great original adventure. It tells a story probably too difficult for the television series of the time to realise well, and instead takes advantage of the freedom of prose. An excellent addition to this year’s mini-Troughton celebration, along with the recently released animated recreation of The Abominable Snowmen.

CD cover

Will Hadcroft of course is a friend of mine and its been marvellous to see him achieve the ambition of writing an official Doctor Who story. He’s previously written several novels and many moons ago an adventure for my old fan audios Fine Line, called The Chattath Factor, which has recently been re-released on Youtube. It was a marvellous story to end my fan series on.

Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant is available now from all good bookshops.

The Resurrection Plant and The Folklore Podcast

Several fun news items to report on today. My old friend Will Hadcroft has achieved one of his personal ambitions (and mine too someday) of having an official Doctor Who story released. The Resurrection Plant is being released on CD and download by the BBC and Penguin Books on 4th August 2022. It features the Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton), together with Jamie and Zoe and is read by Frazer Hines, who not only played Jamie in the television series but in recent years has been acclaimed for embodying the Second Doctor in new adventures for Big Finish. Here’s the description:

The TARDIS brings its occupants to Calico Three, an Earth-like planetoid where industrial foundries are worked alongside sophisticated technology. The Doctor is staggered to learn about the Resurrection Plant, which re-births anyone mortally wounded in the line of work. While Jamie is put to work in the foundry, Zoe and the Doctor investigate the Plant – but when the machine goes terribly wrong, they must work with the locals to combat a horrifying monster. The Doctor also uncovers a shameful secret that, for him at least, hits close to home.

You can buy Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant from Amazon and all good bookshops as they say. Or directly from Penguin

Will’s been on the publicity trail for his audiobook and was recently extensively interviewed by Greg for the YouTube channel The Time Scales. He’s also just guested alongside myself on The Folklore Podcast.

Hosted by author, lecturer and folklore expert Mark Norman, The Folklore Podcast is a long running series which “…began in the summer of 2016, after it became apparent that there were very few podcasts which dealt with folklore in an accessible and yet informative way. Most were of the storytelling, ‘campfire’ variety. The ethos of this podcast is simple. To bring world-class experts in the fields of folklore and its associated areas of interest to a wide audience, completely free of charge.” (taken from the official Folklore Podcast website)

Will mentioned my name to Mark after being invited on to talk about the crossovers between Doctor Who and folklore. What followed was an entertaining hour and a bit of conversation between the three of us, looking at the ways the programme had used not just British myths but legends of other cultures too, such as China and Greece. A theme developed that in an almost Scooby Doo fashion, whatever was introduced as supernatural was almost inevitably unmasked as alien by the end of the story. We gave special attention to The Daemons, The Awakening, The Curse of Fenric and The Shakespeare Codex. Our debate moved into the show’s educational remit, its treatment of religion and the often thin line between genuine folk stories and cinema inventions. I enjoyed guesting a lot, and you can listen to the finished episode on your favourite podcast platform or directly from the website.

Speaking of podcasts I have recorded two conversations so far, covering The Aliens and The Flipside of Dominick Hide and I am currently editing them for hopeful release later this month. So watch this space.

I am pleased to say that I have graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University after four years, having achieved a First Class honour in BSc Digital Technology and Solutions Apprenticeship.

Finally, I have begun work as the sound designer/operator on Bolton Little Theatre’s forthcoming production of ‘Allo ‘Allo by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Based on the hit BBC sitcom it will be running from 12th to 17th September and you can book tickets now. This includes me using QLab extensively for the first time and to support this and future web design work I’ve bought my first MacBook after a lifetime of PC use.

Thanks for reading and I’ll post again soon.

Tripodscast – The Saga Concludes

Last week, the tenth and final episode of The Tripodscast was released. It’s fittingly one of their best episodes, a lively discussion of some of Samuel Youd’s (aka John Christopher) other novels, interspersed with an interview with his children Nick and Rose. They now run The SYLE Press, a small imprint dedicated to putting their father’s work back into print. It’s an interesting conversation, not only for what it reveals of the author in his private life, but as a picture of what is involved in being an independent publisher. Samuel Youd wrote in great many genres over his career, from gothic romance and family sagas to more literary portraits of the time he was living in.

You can listen to this episode and the rest of the series on your favourite podcast app or at https://anchor.fm/the-tripodscast Of course I am biased but I think it’s a quality mini-series for anyone wanting to hear more about the books or the TV series.

It’s been fascinating to watch this podcast develop in confidence and ambition. Initially intended as discussion podcast between three friends looking at the SF series The Tripods Trilogy in books and TV, it has developed into an in-depth examination of Samuel Youd, the making of the television series and its ongoing fandom. It’s scored interviews with all four lead actors, some of whom have rarely been interviewed before, plus the series producer and television veteran Richard Bates, whose career includes script-editing or producing The Avengers, The Darling Buds of May and A Touch of Frost. Writer Will Hadcroft, was another excellent contributor, not only as a viewer but as someone who corresponded with and met Youd.

You’ll be hearing from John Isles, Rebecca Wray and Dani Wray in forthcoming episodes of Very British Futures.

Fantasy Trumps card game – The World of Talamander

Hope you have had a Happy Easter. I’m delighted to spread the word that Rik Hoskin and Tim Brown, the creators of the Terror Trumps card games I’ve talked about before on this blog, have just launched a new Kickstarter campaign for Fantasy Trumps.

Set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Talamander, the 36 cards depict heroes, monsters, wizards, fare folk and their kin. All illustrated in the glorious retro style of the previous Terror cards and featuring Rik’s witty mini-bios. Not only that but they’re compatible with the earlier card games too.

Fantasy Trumps Promotional Video

Their first two Kickstarter campaigns were a great success and I’m wishing them all the best for this third release. You can learn more about the game and offers for supporters by visiting their Kickstarter page.