Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Hollow Hills

There’s now a trailer, cover, blurb and cast list up for The New Counter-Measures: The Hollow King an audio drama I wrote due for release from Big Finish Productions in January 2019.
It’s an Earthbound 1970s science fiction adventure featuring characters spun off from a 1980s Doctor Who serial, though no knowledge of that is expected or required. It stars Karen Gledhill, Hugh Ross, Pamela Salem and Simon Williams as a team investigating the strange and unusual and this is the third play I’ve written for them (you can find the first two here and here).

We often talk about The New Counter-Measures as being an audio in the style of the globe-trotting ITC film adventure series of the late 60s and early 1970s though, to tell the truth, I’ve imagined this one slightly differently. I thought it’d be fun to think of it as an episode of the 1970s TV series Thriller, which is set in a slightly skew-whiff England as an American tourist might imagine it or a UK TV company might present it when trying to make something you could sell to America and show at home.  
A lot is still on film (though mostly mute), but whenever you go into the village pub or the local lord’s country estate where all the dialogue breaks out you’re definitely on video in a studio set…
Anyway, that is sort of the world of this play. Don’t worry we’ve not sound designed it to feel like a video and film mix, there’s no out of place US guest star and people do talk outside. It's just there’s slightly more chance of sparring dialogue over large tumblers of whisky than you’d get in The Champions. 
It’s rural England with top 1970s concerns laced through, UFOs, the counter-culture, quaint folk tradition and scary analogue synthesisers.

Major influences include Sutton Hoo, an episode of Project U.F.O. I adored in 1979, the gloriously eccentric musician and writer, Desmond Leslie, a rather lovely festival of ideas I was invited to in 2016 and the sub-genre of 70s British film and TV we’ve come to call Folk Horror.
I hope I’ve managed to serve both our cast’s beautiful way with dialogue (they can all land a gag superbly) and audio’s power to disturb.

This play was originally planned for the second series of The New Counter-Measures released last year but around the start of March of 2017 the writers working on scripts were told one of our stories would be bumped to make way for a late addition to the box set. We later found out this would be a story featuring the Doctor Who adversary, The Great Intelligence. Big Finish's executives had just negotiated permission to use it and dropping it into The New Counter-Measures set would allow Big Finish to mark the 40th anniversary of its first TV appearance.

Once our first drafts were in it was decided my play (it's the closest in tone of the four initially planned to an Intelligence story), should be the one held back for recording in series 3. I thought that’d be that for a while until I got an email on holiday in the July of 2017 asking if I could do a second draft to get my play ready for recording with the others after all. So, over a couple of days swapping notes with script editor John Dorney, that’s what I did.
I think, reading between the lines, getting my play studio ready was just to give flexibility in case anything dropped out late in the day. No one wants to hire actors for a week and not fill all their time!

Unfortunately, the sales of the second New Counter-Measures box last year weren’t quite strong enough to automatically greenlight a third, so unusually my play’s ended up being released on its own. I’m delighted it has because if it hadn't been squeezed into that recording week it could very easily not have seen the light of day at all.

If you’re clever, and I suspect you are, you might spot a couple of elements in the play that we’d intended to pay off down the line in further stories. It’d be wonderful if one day that can still happen.
Fingers crossed. I’d love to think that there could be more adventures if this accidental one-off sells well enough to make them viable.

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