I was one of those nerds who loved school. Okay, it wasn't always perfect, and it didn't always work the way it was supposed to, but the very idea of an environment built purposefully for the expansion of one’s knowledge is always a plus in my books. As a relatively academic person, school just went along smoothly for me. And I've met a lot of people through this experience of the schooling system, some of whom I hope to treasure for the rest of my life.
So when our Lord and Mistress Zoe Lance came to me with the idea of a mid-series story involving the gang really learning more about the Silence, my mind immediately turned to a school setting. Where better for a story that focuses primarily on the theme of learning?
The learning comes in a few forms. Firstly, there's the Silence. By this point, the religious order (first seen in Series 6 of Doctor Who) are getting tired of not having Melody Pond, so have decided to confront Sarah Jane head-on and take her back. Throughout the story, the gang of Sarah Jane and the kids, who had previously been a bit in the dark as to the motives of the Silence, gain an insight into their plan. They learn more and more about what they want, and how Melody ties into their plan. More than ever in this episode, Melody is a pivotal character - the story is, in essence, all about her. A lot of stuff is set up here, ready for the big series finale (which is shaping up to be a good’un). Furthermore, there's a lot to be said about the juxtaposition of a building made for teaching, filled with creatures that make you forget. In essence, it's a perfect place to fight back against the deadly weapon the Silence possess. I tried to utilise this idea by having the things they learn at school become useful in stopping the Silence. So often these days, lessons are met with “but when will we need to use this in the real world?” Here, I wanted to show that anything can be useful some day. I also wanted to ensure that both the arts and the academic subjects get equal attention, because with the government’s dwindling focus on the arts, it's important that we remember why creative subjects like music, art, and performing arts are so vital to creating well-rounded people.
Secondly, there's a more personal learning: Madame Kovarian has been a character shrouded in mystery since her first fleeting appearance in Day of the Moon in the main show - here we learn more about her. Her motives, her reasoning, her personality, are all explained to some degree in this episode. Credit has to go to my wonderful friend Sam for coming up with the idea for Kovarian’s backstory - it's chilling and melancholic - and for trusting me enough to not cock up his idea; hopefully I didn't, but I'll let you be the judge of that. Cheers, Sam. Some of my favourite scenes from the story are the ones involving the quiet and tense conversation between Kovarian and Sarah Jane in her attic. I enjoyed using Kovarian’s backstory and what we already know of her to draw some interesting parallels between the two women. They do very similar things, except one does it for good, the other for evil. But is it really evil? Kovarian genuinely believes she's doing the right thing, and there is an argument to be made that she is. Why do we call her evil? It's been really interesting to talk about the distinction between good and evil, and where the two women lie on that spectrum.
Thirdly, the main characters learn more about each other, and themselves. You may recall that last week’s episode was all about journeys, and this continues that journey, with the gang learning more and more about each other. Last week Zoe got a lot of focus, and the week before it was Beth; in The Sound of Silence, it's Dan’s turn to talk about himself. Dan is a very complex character - whereas you can see that Zoe and Beth are hiding their problems from the world behind their coping mechanisms, the problem with Dan is that he never shows anything. He is arguably the most closed out of the three: Zoe shouts, and Beth cries, but Dan is constantly smiling. It's nice to let that facade drop, and really get into the real Dan, behind the humour and the sass. And he has hinted in previous episodes that he has secrets…
So, there we are. The holy trinity of learning, as it were. Now the only thing that's left is to give you a few teasers…
So there we have it. Another week, another story. This is my final offering in SJA Series 6, but don’t start celebrating yet. I may or may not be back for Series 7. Who knows? (I do). But before then, you’ve got a whole host of stories to read. Up next is The Horde of Darkness by Ryder Smith, which is fantastic. As they say in the song that inspired the title of my story, hello Darkness, my old friend…
Writer of The Sound of Silence
Hello! I’m not entirely sure what to say here. The Trickster has just shown me his ingeniusly clever commentary on his story, The Wrath of Kaagh and he expects me to write one too. So, here I am!
The Trickster covered all there is to know about the team behind this project in his (and I can’t stress this enough) absolutely brilliant production notes, so I guess I’ll just talk about how I became a part of this ambitious (to say the least) fan-fiction campaign. It started sometime in May. The exact date - I don’t know, and quite frankly I can’t be bothered to fact check.
Anyway, to the point: it all started in May. Zoe Lance, our supreme leader and project director (she’ll be chuffed with that snazzy title) announced she was to relaunch Sarah Jane Adventures based off Russell T Davies’s original plans for the series on our sort-of-social-media platform, DWTV Downtime. The first six episodes would be based on the unmade episodes of Series 5B, which would be followed by a full length series, no longer set in Bannerman Road, but instead in the village of Foxgrove, starring a cast of original characters invented by her majesty - no, not the Queen: Zoe of course!
At first, I wasn’t too sure. I was interested but whether I could find the time for such an extensive commitment was another thing. Zoe noted my expressed interest and tried to reel me in. As gently as I could, I refused, but offered to help with further episodes if it kicked off, which I admit wasn’t the best side of me - I wasn’t eager enough to get involved with this project invented by someone who can be called mad on the best of days simply because I had my doubts. Not because it didn’t have potential. In fact it was rich in it. No - my issue was that it was very ambitious, and quite a task to take on. At the time I hadn’t known Zoe long enough to know if anyone could pull it off, it’d be her. But, like I said I would, once it kicked off and Zoe roped in a fantastic team of writers I decided I wanted in. And yes, I realise that makes me sound like a leech. (EDIT: Ever since I wrote this Amy has been nicknaming me ‘Leech’. ‘LEECH RIGHT MOAR’ is how she oftens starts conversations with me.)
My introduction into the project came in the form of the spin-off, Bloomin’ Lovely. The Trickster pitched the idea behind Bloomin’ Lovely on DWTV Downtime and I was immediately hooked. It’s easy to understand: Gita having her own show is without a doubt a winning formula. I signed myself up almost immediately. I know what you’re thinking: hang on, James Oswald (if that is even your real name), you didn’t get involved with Series 6 because you felt it was too ambitious! How come you went and signed yourself up for a 18-episode extension of the campaign? And you’re right. The project was even madder than ever before but I had glimpsed into its potential and I knew the writers behind it much better than I did previously to know it was going to be a success.
And here I am! At the time of writing (September the 1st, 2016) I’ve completed all of the Bloomin’ Lovelys I’ve signed up for (*cough* which is more that can be said for Zoe *cough*) and I’m anticipating the launch of this fantastic project. In fact, so much so that the past few days I’ve done nothing but procrastinate from doing actual work by making supplementary excel documents. I’ve made this brilliant table detailing all the publishing dates and it extends all the way to November 2017. Take my word for it - it’s a marvel, although Zoe doesn’t think so. Especially as of today. she has been forcing me to work four-hour shifts in writing episodes for Series 7! Yep, that’s right! I’m currently writing a story that won’t see the light of day until October, 2017!
Now about these Bloomin’ Lovely stories: I’ve written three. The process for writing these, I found, was to write up the zaniest, most ridiculous synopsis and work around this. These synopses were short sentences that summed up the plot. They went a little like: In which Gita fought a Dinosaur during her wedding ceremony. Of course Gita does not actually fight a dinosaur in any Bloomin’ Lovely stories, nor have a wedding ceremony. Although I think I’m on to something there… Perhaps for Series 2? I’ll pitch it to Zoe later...
Anyway, I took this very much to heart and the two episodes I came up with myself (The Invasion and The Rivalry) were as mad as I could get. In fact, with the latter Zoe expressed doubt it could be pulled off. And whether I did pull it off is up to you to decide! My third (in order of writing) story, The Husband was an idea donated to me by some other writer who decided they didn’t want to do it. Perhaps that’s not the best way to sell the story to you…
Something you’ll notice a month or so from now with the aforementioned The Husband is that I’ve done something interesting with it. It is connected with the following episode (The Rivalry) and together they form somewhat of a two-parter. Well, I say that, but they are about as connected as The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived. So, yeah. Take my statement with a pinch of salt.
Writer of The Invasion
WARNING: this article is being written by an English Literature student. As such, expect poncy language and symbolism references.
This is nerve wracking. It's always stressful putting a piece of work out there into the world, for everyone to see. The dread of having finished it and nervously awaiting the reaction to it...it’s a bit like the lead up to exam results day. But unlike results day, this story, Mind the Gap, is something I'm actually rather proud of, which is unusual for me.
Series 6 of the Sarah Jane Adventures is all about journeys. We've seen already in the first two stories where the characters are emotionally, and that has so far been crafted beautifully. And where better to kick these characters’ emotional journeys into gear than at a train station. That was my rationale when dreaming up the concept for Mind the Gap (it totally wasn't “hey, train stations are cool, I could do a story about that”). After the past two stories, where we learn about Zoe, Beth, and Dan’s pasts, we suddenly start to lurch forward. This episode sets in motion a progressive arc for the main trio - which is realised beautifully throughout the series by the other talented writers whom I am lucky to call my colleagues.
But enough about them, and back to my vanity article. Ironically, one of the most pivotal scenes in this story to starting the emotional journey is the one set on a stationary train carriage. With the hectic lives these young teenagers all lead, it's important that they stop for a moment to realise where they are. Only then will they be able to move forward as people. You may notice that Sarah Jane plays a relatively minor role in this story, and this was intentional as well. It's important to realise that whilst Sarah Jane is of enormous benefit to her new gang, these kids are strong enough to get through it themselves. My aim in my presentation of Sarah Jane in this story was to really emphasise the Doctor-like influence she has on the kids. To do this, I tried to incorporate a few subtle parallels between her lines and the Doctor’s - keep an eye out for them. It was a little flourish to really show that Sarah Jane is to the kids what the Doctor is to her.
Mind the Gap is also the only story in the series to feature a completely new creation in terms of villain. The other writers have wonderfully brought back some fan favourites, and to marvellous effect. But I decided that I wouldn't be able to do any of the notorious SJA villains justice, and that this story needed a completely unknown threat. And thus, the Choosers were born. I can't tell you much about them (or else Zoe Lance will cut off my quiff - I can see her standing outside my window with the scissors now) but I will tell you that they seem to have a rather large appetite. The Choosers are pretty vague and ambiguous; you won't learn a lot about them in this story (who knows, they may make a return some day!), as they're very mysterious and beyond our reckoning. They are not the most sophisticated villains ever to grace the Whoniverse, but look on the bright side - at least they're not the dreaded Angie and Artie Maitland. That would've been too terrifying.
Now, because I'm nice (far nicer than all the other writers, and don't let that secretly psychopathic Peter Darwin tell you any different), I'll give you a few teasers:
And that's all I can say on the matter. If I told you any more I’d have to shoot you - or more likely, Zoe Lance would shoot me, in the face, with a paint gun. You never really know with Zoe.
So I guess all that's left is for me to sign off now. I hope you all enjoy reading my story - and even if you don't, I had tremendous fun writing it so I'm glad I did it. Farewell, till next week at least!
Writer of Mind the Gap
Yesterday, Zoe Lance, our glorious, not at all terrifying showrunner, had a right go about the second story I have written for Series Six of The Sarah Jane Adventures (which, despite everything, is a flippin’ amazing sentence to say. Series Six of the Sarah Jane Adventures…)
As such, I was fairly sure that my first entry was safe. While I was being forced to write the later one again from scratch due to an inordinately long list of “constructive criticisms”, Zoe was distracted from any nagging inadequacies in the other one, which I had written first, and in far less of a hurry, on balance. However, within the last five minutes, she had contacted me to inform me that not only she, but also Dave, a fellow writer in the range, have decided that the opening moments of the prose are inadequate. “It’s not that it isn’t funny,” Dave assures me, “but it’s a bit out of character for-”
For who? Am I allowed to say which character is returning in Episodes Three and Four?
I will reveal that, yes, there is a returning character, a popular one, from the depths of Classic Doctor Who. That’s right; I can officially confirm that Sarah Jane Smith is coming back.
I’m too terrified to reveal anything more mind-blowing. There is a major returning character in it, whose name is revealed in the title, but I don’t know whether Zoe will let me reveal what the title is, or when she intends to let the various cats out of the various bags. So instead of telling you that the returnee, as I shall call him or her (it’s a he), I will detail each of the writers for the series so that you, too, will learn to love them and hate them in the same way that I do.
Zoe Lance is in charge. If there was any doubt of this, it is swiftly extinguished by her bellowing and punching which, given that we have never met or communicated in any way that is not exclusively over the internet, she manages to do quite spectacularly. It was her suggestion to do a Sarah Jane Adventures fan project, and she was very encouraging to begin with, although nowadays she mostly shouts “MOAR!”, which means that she wishes to hurry things along, or, occasionally, she might say, “we need to talk”, which basically means, “you’re in deep poo right now”. But it always turns all right in the end and I don’t think she hates me that much, which is a start. Also, there are apparently people in her house very often. Don’t ask. I have no idea what she’s talking about half the time anyway. And Laurel Lance deserved better, apparently, whoever that is. (And she is going to murder me for reminding her that Laurel Lance deserved better. It makes her very emotional).
David Nirved is an interesting fellow. He doesn’t seem to shout, although he does watch the Bake Off and Big Brother (which prompted him to complain about the rulebook inaccuracies of Bad Wolf), making him at least as weird as Zoe. He is, despite his own assertions, a very capable writer, although he also does strange things sometimes, such as abandoning us for a week of his own accord while creating many loopholes in his self-imposed rules in order to contact us. And he approves of Bill, the new Doctor Who companion, already, just from what we have seen, which at time of writing is still limited to Friend from the Future. I did say he was weird.
Next is Ryder Smith, who some may know as The Cyber Doctor (because he sacrificed his own humanity to join the Cyberiad). Being a Cyberman, he upgraded me recently and I had to pretend to be a Cyberman for the rest of the day. This might sound very fun, but it got very boring very quickly, but I had by Cyberface on by then so there was no turning back.
And then there’s Peter Darwin, the other person on the Series Six writing team. His story is super-amazing, and I think I know why: he’s been hanging around doing another fanfiction project under the watchful eye of Janine Rivers, who is a genius. She has also featured us on her fanfic site, so, er, I might be slightly biased towards her, but she was a genius before that, so maybe it rubbed off on Peter. He watches reality TV as well, so I can’t think of any other rational explanation.
And that’s everyone, until we get to the BL team- more on that in another Production Notes- and it’s amazing. Series One has guest writer James Oswald and he has written the best BLs ever. (To be fair, only he and I have ever written any BLs so far, but his are better than mine. They’re so good, in fact, that I’m not allowed to tell you that he’s on the Series Seven writing team.)
Oh, and there’s also me, The Trickster. Hello. I would tell you something about myself, but I’ve got to rewrite the start of Episode Three and then completely rewrite episodes eleven and twelve, as well as write the game-changing BL finale, so I’ll be off now. Cheerio!
Writer of The Wrath of Kaagh