22 December, 2010

Long Ago in an English Winter

Paul Cornell has assembled an online collection of pieces of fan fiction featuring characters he had created. The stories are represented as a list of links on his latest blog entry The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Nine. Among the stories represented here is one that I wrote sixteen years ago.

Signifying Nothing revisits a moment from the 1989 Doctor Who television story Battlefield, framed as an encounter between the Doctor (in his seventh incarnation) and the Brigadier. The story qualifies for Paul Cornell's list because his creation, Bernice Summerfield, features in the story. This is a slight cheat as although Bernice is in the story, she is not at the heart of the piece.

The story appeared in print in TSV 38, published March 1994, but it was originally intended for Doctor Who Magazine. In the early 1990s DWM featured one-page short stories called 'Brief Encounters', in which typically some aspect from the series' past would be revisited. Signifying Nothing was written as my first and only attempt at submitting something for this series. Before I could submit it I learned that the magazine had a huge pile of 'Brief Encounters' stories awaiting publication. Somewhat dishearted by this revelation, I decided against mailing in my story.

Perhaps I made the wrong decision. If I had sent my story to DWM, and if it had been accepted for publication, who knows what might have eventuated? I would undoubtedly have been encouraged by this small success to write more short stories. It may have even given me the impetus I needed to finally do something about that long-talked-about Doctor Who New Adventures novel I had aspired to write, but ultimately never did.

Instead, the story ended up being published in TSV, my Doctor Who fanzine. The version that saw print was trimmed down from the original, losing some extraneous material about past companions socialising over drinks. I also excised the fact that it was a Christmas party, which accounts for why it is snowing outside the Brigadier's house. Had this detail been retained it would have been highly appropriate for the story's inclusion in Cornell's fiction collection, which is one of his Christmas-themed blog articles.

It is especially fitting to me that Paul Cornell should showcase this story, as his novel Timewyrm: Revelation had been hugely inspirational, opening my eyes to the potential of Doctor Who in prose fiction. I can see some of the influence of Cornell's fiction in my story with its emphasis on a character's internal emotional struggle, the wintry landscape and even the Shakespeare quotation.

Television story novelisations excepted, Signifying Nothing was my last piece of published fiction. I subsequently decided to focus exclusively on writing non-fiction for TSV and other publications, and that's where my writing career has taken me since.

11 November, 2010

Resurrection Revisited

I've delivered my fourth set of Production Notes subtitles.

This latest set is for the Resurrection of the Daleks Special Edition DVD. Normally I have to wait some months after I’ve written subtitles for a story before I can discuss it openly, but on this occasion there is no such impediment to disclosure, since the title has already been announced by 2|entertain as forming part of the Revisitations 2 box set, which is due out (I think) around the middle of next year.

I was offered the commission for this story, along with the of The Caves of Androzani Special Edition two years ago, just after I delivered the Production Notes for Planet of Fire. I had demonstrated with that first job that I could do the work to the required standard and as these two stories book-end Planet of Fire, I was the obvious choice to tackle both.

While I was very keen to do The Caves of Androzani, being as it is a very highly regarded story which regularly tops polls of favourite stories (even beating out Blink in last year’s Doctor Who Magazine survey), I was less enthusiastic about Resurrection of the Daleks. It is not so much that I dislike the story, though it pales in comparison to Androzani, but rather that I had a feeling of ‘been there, done that’ about this one.

I had written a fan novelisation of Resurrection as a not-for-profit book a decade ago (ebook available here). In order to write that book I had scrutinised the story in great detail. I knew every character, every scene, every line, intimately. The prospect of going back over old ground did not thrill me but I did not want to pass up the opportunity of more work. The idea that I could have a sequential ‘run’ of stories on DVD was appealing, and my past familiarity with the story could also work to my advantage by speeding up the writing process. So I agreed, in September 2008, to do both stories.

For the next two years, Resurrection sat on the back-burner while I tackled other projects. My third set of subtitles (for a story which for the moment must remain nameless since it has yet to be announced), was completed in September. Following this delivery, I had just two months to produce the Resurrection subtitles from start to finish. I knew this was achievable but there was little margin for error.

As soon as I started work on Resurrection I discovered that the time-coded DVD I had been supplied refused to play. The time-codes are an essential part of the subtitles script, defining the precise placement of each block of text on screen. I usually like to get the time-codes worked out early on, but this time I had to rethink my process so that I wasn’t unduly delayed whilst I waited on a replacement time-coded disc to arrive from the UK.

The penultimate week before the delivery date was already booked up with helping Rochelle run the Retrospace stands at Armageddon, during which I would be unable to work on the subtitles so I had to work around this. Then, directly after Armageddon, I came down with a severe cold which I almost certainly caught at the expo. This meant that I was sick throughout the last week I had in which to finish the subtitles, so as much as I just wanted to crawl into bed, I soldiered on and managed to deliver the complete set of subtitles on schedule.

I'm relieved that, despite the haste with which these were written and the obstacles I encountered along the way, this latest set of subtitles was approved with relatively few changes.

I’ve now resumed working on revisions to my much-delayed Comic Strip Companion book, something I had to put aside while working on the subtitles. Although I'm still writing about Doctor Who, it is still a big change to move from short, pithy blocks of informational text to long-form prose critiques and analysis; from grim Dalek massacres on DVD to the Doctor's slightly bonkers but ever-so-charming exploits in the pages of TV Comic.

19 October, 2010

Production Text Podcast

My very first podcast interview has just gone live. (I've been interviewed on the radio a few times, but never before on a podcast, though theoretically the medium's the same).

I'm interviewed by an old friend, Ian Bisset, about my work on the Doctor Who DVD production text subtitles.

I first met Ian in the early 1990s when he lived in Wellington and was a key player in the organisation of the Wellington Chapter. Ian and I fell out of contact when he emigrated to the USA later in the decade, but we've recently rekindled contact via Twitter. Ian is one half of the Cultdom Collective, a regular series of sci-fi themed podcasts with a clear bias towards all things Doctor Who. Ian asked me for an interview, and once I'd got to grips with Skype we finally recorded an hour-long session last month, at which time the DVD of Planet of Fire, featuring my first set of subtitles, had recently been released in the USA.

It's a chatty, informal interview and starts with a bit of a ramble through our mutual history before getting down to the nitty-gritty of what the production text subtitles entail and how I approach writing them.

Here's the link:

31 August, 2010

Toast of the Vogels

Time Space Visualiser, the fanzine of the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club, won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Fanzine at the national science fiction convention held in Wellington last weekend. This is only the second time in nearly a decade that these awards have been run that TSV has picked up a Vogel, so this is cause for celebration.

As former editor and founder of TSV I am of course delighted at this news. All credit - and the actual award - should go to Adam McGechan, who took over from me as editor several years back. Adam was responsible for producing the issue (TSV 76) under consideration for this year's awards.

Several months ago I predicted here that the nomination was the most recognition TSV could hope to receive from these awards. I was wrong.

The fanzine category this year has been awarded jointly to both TSV and Phoenixine, the fanzine of the Wellington science fiction society. I presume this means that both publications received equal numbers of votes. This is remarkable given that voting took place at a convention held in Wellington and was likely attended by most if not all readers of Phoenixine. Furthermore, judging by the lack of comments on the Doctor Who club message board, it would appear that very few TSV readers were in attendance.

So how did TSV manage to do so well?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that for the first time in the history of these awards, TSV was available for anyone to download and read as a PDF during the voting period. This was born out of necessity. The usual procedure is for physical copies of each of the nominated publications to be displayed at the convention, but this particular issue of TSV sold out many months ago and with a small-run reprint proving too costly, Adam and I elected to re-release it online. I did not have a spare physical copy available to supply to the convention, but I did provide the PDF download link, which was added to the ballot listing on the Vogel Awards website.

I'm assuming therefore that a number of voters clicked the link, downloaded the issue and had a read of it before casting their votes. Perhaps these readers were impressed at the standard of the writing, the range of articles and reviews, the great cover artwork and the well-ordered stylish layout. TSV 76 is, I think, one of the best of the half-dozen issues produced by Adam so the zine was shown off to its best advantage.

In my earlier post I stated, "The awards are not about quality but popularity." I don't mind conceding that I may have been wrong in that view. Either that or TSV is far more popular in the general New Zealand science fiction community than I had realised.

Adam has posted about winning the award on his blog here. Note: 'Adam Christopher' is his literary pseudonym.

15 August, 2010

TSV and Time Unincorporated

Time, Unincorporated is a series of books published by US-based Mad Norwegian Press reprinting collections of Doctor Who fanzine articles. Volume 1, issued last year, collected the writings of prolific fanzine contributor and author Lance Parkin. Volume 2, issued earlier this year, is a collection of essays broadly themed around the classic series by a various writers.

I recently purchased a copy of Volume 2 and have been dipping into it over the last week. Some of the material has a ring of familiarity. This is because over a third of the essays originated in the pages of Enlightenment, a rather wonderful long-running Canadian fanzine that I’ve been following for many years. Up until recently, Enlightenment was edited by Graeme Burk, who also, perhaps unsurprisingly, co-edited the second volume of Time, Unincorporated. I’ve corresponded with Graeme online a number of times over the years but we’ve never actually met.

Even though I’ve previously read some of the articles, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this great collection of intelligent and thoughtful writing, which also includes pieces from other fanzines such as Shockeye’s Kitchen, Dark Circus and Shooty Dog Thing. Although it is purportedly a collection of fanzine articles, over a third of the 74 essays have never been printed within the pages of a fanzine. There are a number of pieces from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide website and others were written especially for this book. I have no problem with this, though I do think that the inclusion of two chapters from the recent book Time and Relative Dissertations in Space (published 2007) is unwarranted. I’m sure that like myself, many other readers will have purchased both titles, rendering such duplication redundant.

The Time, Unincorporated series is of interest to me both as an enthusiastic supporter of fanzines and as a fanzine editor. So far the series has not featured anything from my own publication, Time Space Visualiser, but that is not a reflection on the quality of material. The omission is in fact due to future plans for the series. To quote from the foreword to Time, Unincorporated Volume 2:
Outside the UK, one of the most influential zines published over the past twenty years is TSV (Time Space Visualiser), the fanzine of the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club, but it’s hoped that TSV will get a future volume of Time, Unincorporated all to itself.
That's very flattering to have my fanzine described in such glowing terms. It was not until I bought a copy of the book and read the foreword that I realised that plans (however tentative) for this future volume had now been made public.

Publisher Lars Pearson first ran the idea past me of putting out a TSV themed volume of Time, Unincorporated back in 2008. Soon after that Graeme asked if he could publish material from TSV in the volumes he was compiling. These two approaches seemed to me to be at odds with each other. Naturally Graeme would have wanted to pick out the best and most interesting pieces from TSV’s back catalogue, leaving the later TSV specific volume lacking some of its showpieces.

We did not get as far as discussing the individual items under consideration for reprinting, but Lars, Graeme and myself all agreed to hold back all TSV material for its own volume. In retrospect I can see that this decision denied Volume 2 of some of its potential diversity. The reason that there is so much material from Enlightenment in that book I think is at least partly attributable to the withdrawal from consideration of anything from TSV.

There are many more volumes planned in the Time, Unincorporated series, and Lars has indicated that the TSV volume will be some way down the track. So, as yet, I’ve made little progress with this project. I have at least made a start on assembling a list of contents.
It has been interesting to look back through past issues and select pieces that I believe are deserving of a place in the collection.

For copyright reasons, the book will not feature fiction or artwork, so the collection with be comprised of articles and longer story reviews. There are several pieces that have reappeared in other publications which may count against their inclusion. In addition, I will need to seek permission from each and everyone of the writers whose material I want to use. I have kept in contact with many past contributors, but I daresay there will be some individuals who will require a bit of detective work to track down.

I think too, that just as Graeme has done in his volume, I may commission some original pieces for the collection so that, even for someone familiar with all 76 past issues of TSV, there will still be something new and interesting to discover in the book.

19 July, 2010

Panic Moon issue 1 (July 2010)

I'm intrigued by the current revival of Doctor Who fanzines. Why this is happening now and not five years ago when the series first returned to our screens is a bit of a mystery to me. Perhaps the new generation of Who fandom is only now discovering the medium in force. I thought perhaps paper-based fanzines were becoming a thing of the past, but it seems I was wrong.

After reading some favourable comments online, I ordered one of the new crop of fanzines, the UK-based Panic Moon, produced by Oliver Wake. I like the title which is both both cryptic and yet has currency for those in the know (An anagram of companion, it is the cover-name used for auditions for the role of Amy Pond).

Panic Moon is a small, conveniently pocket-sized A6 publication, and runs to 28 pages with a fairly small font size so that there is actually surprisingly a fair bit to read.

Most of the issue is filled with individual reviews of each of the Matt Smith stories. All too often fan critics seem to feel the need to accentuate the negative, so it is are refreshing to see that the reviews, from a number of different writers, are fairly balanced in their critiques. Interspersed with these reviews are short features on controversial topics including Amy Pond's character, the redesigned Daleks, and Chris Chibnall's writing.

Although almost all of the issue is taken up with coverage of the Matt Smith series, there is room at the end for commentary on a few other recent fanzines and the latest crop of Big Finish releases. The introduction explains that this emphasis on the new series is simply because it is topical and that the next issue will have "more old series stuff".

The artwork, all in black and white, is of a high standard and is used sparingly throughout the issue, nicely complementing the writing. The layout is pleasingly straightforward and unfussy.

I like this fanzine, and have no hesitation in recommending it.

Panic Moon is available to order worldwide, via payapal. Details can be found at:

26 May, 2010

Radio Live Interview

A bit of shameless self-promotion here.

Doctor Who will be a featured topic on Graeme Hill's Weekend Variety Wireless programme on Radio Live, this Sunday 30 May from 10.30 to 11am, and I'll be joining Graeme live in studio to talk about all things Doctor Who.

Graeme tells me he's a bit of a fan himself, so I'm looking forward to having a good chat about my favourite subject.

A short piece about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop will be featured, and we'll also be promoting the Greatest Doctor Who Weekend Of All Time marathon of new series episodes that is due to screen on New Zealand's UKTV channel a week later.

There will be a couple of competitions you can enter to win in conjunction with the Radio Live programme. The prizes are a Fourth Doctor and Davros statue from Weta, and a TARDIS cookie jar from Retrospace.

Radio Live broadcasts on various frequencies around the country, and can also be listened to online (see their website for details). I believe that Graeme Hill's show will be available to listen again from the afternoon of the following day.

25 April, 2010

Vying for the Vogels

TSV has just been announced as one of the nominees in the 'Best Fan Publication' category of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand's national SF awards. The full list of nominations for the Vogels can be viewed here. The winners will be announced at Au Contraire, the New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention for 2010, taking place in Wellington over 27-29 August.

This year TSV shares the category with Phoenixine, the fanzine of the Wellington Phoenix science fiction club, and a third publication called The Event.

Phoenixine has been the recipient of the award in the Best Fan Publication category (formerly called 'Best Fanzine') for most of the last decade. The exceptions were 2009 and 2007, when there was no award in this category due to insufficient nominations (TSV was not eligible in 2009 as no issues had been published in the previous calendar year). TSV has been nominated most years alongside Phoenixine, but has only won once - and that was by mistake.

A miscount of the votes resulted in TSV being announced as the winner at the awards ceremony at Icon in Wellington at Easter 2005. The issues nominated for that year's award were my final two as editor, TSV 69 and 70. The error only came to light when the voting papers were checked a couple of weeks after the event. The organisers apologised and made amends by issing a 'Joint Award' to both fanzines. I wasn't at the convention and only heard that TSV had 'won' when I received the apology from the awards organiser. The rather fetching engraved trophy statuette, manufactured by Weta Workshop, still sits on my bookshelf.

TSV is a fantastic-looking publication with a high calibre of material, thanks to the talent and effort of current editor Adam McGechan and the zine’s many contributors. This might count for something if the Vogels were decided by an impartial judging committee assessing the quality and merits of each nominated work.

The awards are instead voted for by attendees of the national science fiction convention and by members of SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand). TSV’s readership is barely represented in these spheres whereas many readers of Phoenixine are, I believe, SFFANZ members and/or frequent convention-goers. Naturally, they will vote for ‘their’ publication over any other nominee, whether out of loyalty or familiarity - or both.

Is there anything wrong with this state of affairs? Perhaps not, though in my view ‘Best’ is a bit of a misnomer for the category. ‘Most Popular’ would be a more fitting epithet. Maybe Phoenixine is thoroughly deserving of being called ‘Best’. I don’t know as I’ve not had the opportunity to view an issue in recent years. Regardless, that is not the criteria by which the Vogels are currently determined. The awards are not about quality but popularity.

It is a pleasure to see TSV and Adam’s name as editor very deservingly included on this year’s ballot, but it is a pleasure tainted with the certainty that this is the highest accolade we can hope to achieve at the Vogels.

28 February, 2010

Ian Scoones RIP

I've just learned that Ian Scoones has died.

Ian was a visual effects designer who worked on many episodes of Doctor Who and the first series of Blake's 7 in the 1970s. He also worked on Thunderbirds, Hammer Horror movies and the Hammer House of Horror television series.

I found out about his death on Total Sci-Fi Online, and have since learned that he passed away from liver cancer on 20 January this year.

I first become aware of Ian when his name appeared on the end credits of Doctor Who. To see that someone who had the same surname as myself was working on my favourite television programme made a big impression on me in my pre-teen years. At the time I didn't know of anyone with the surname Scoones who wasn't part of my extended family.

Over the years I've sometimes been asked by Doctor Who fans if I'm somehow related to Ian. Now I do have an uncle who frequently crops up in BBC television credits, but that's underwater cameraman Peter Scoones, best known for his work on David Attenborough's nature documentaries. As far as I know Ian is not a relative - or is he...?

In the mid-1990s, I tried to find out if there was in fact a family connection. Ian Scoones offered for sale via mail order a series of art prints of his production paintings from Doctor Who. A representative of his wrote to TSV, the Doctor Who fanzine I edited, to see if we would advertise these for sale. I took the opportunity to write back, confessing that I was curious to find out if there might be a family connection.

Ian didn't reply directly, but his representative wrote on his behalf, saying that Ian had read my letter. The letter said that Ian didn't know the Scoones side of his family at all as his father had left his mother when he was very young. He did however very kindly send me a complimentary set of his art prints, which I've kept to this day.

In later years myself and my father both conducted a fair amount of research into the Scoones name and put together a fairly comprehensive family tree. Two people called Ian Scoones crop up in my research; one's my father's cousin, and the other's a professor at Sussex University with a prodigous collection of books and papers to his name. But I'm still none the wiser as to how and where the visual effects designer Ian Scoones fits into scheme of things.

Here's the interesting thing though. Judging by the various photos I've seen of Ian Scoones over the years, there was definitely a resemblance to members of my branch of the Scoones family. Could it be that we are in fact related? Was his absent father one of the Scooneses who appears in my family tree? It's a mystery that will probably never be solved.

24 February, 2010

Vworp Vworp!

I received my copy of Vworp Vworp! Volume One today.

This is a publication of particular interest to me as it focuses on the history of Doctor Who Magazine, with a particular emphasis on the comic strips. Naturally, some of Vworp Vworp!’s material will be referenced and footnoted in volume two of my book, The Comic Strip Companion.

Vworp Vworp! is currently - and very deservedly - receiving many positive comments online. The A4, perfect bound full colour glossy publication is produced to such a professional standard that it could easily pass for a DWM special issue. It. What is most remarkable is that it is a fanzine, produced not for profit but as a labour of love by editors Grant Kavanagh and Colin Brockhurst.

The content includes an impressive line-up of articles and interviews with such familiar (to long-time DWM readers) names as Dez Skinn, David Lloyd, Dave Gibbons, Pat Mills, David J Howe, Andrew Pixley, Jeremy Bentham, Scott Gray, Clayton Hickman, Ade Salmon, Alan Barnes, Martin Geraghty and more.

Even though the written material is impressive it is just about eclipsed by the visual feast of colour and imagery throughout. If this were a professional publication I would still think it superb. That this quality has been lavished on a non-profit fanzine is, quite frankly, simply astounding.

All this aside, I must declare my own vested interest. My name appears in the “with thanks to” list, but that’s my one and only appearance in the issue. It wasn't always going to be this way, and in fact my involvement in its gestation stretches back over one and a half years.

I first got involved in October 2008 when I discovered online that a one-day event was shortly due to take place dedicated specifically to Doctor Who comics. I greeted this news with mixed feelings of delight and dismay; delight because it was exactly the sort of thing I wanted to attend since I was (and indeed still am) involved in writing a book on this very subject; and dismay because it was due to take place in a pub in Manchester, on the far side of the world. Frustratingly, had this taken place a few scant months earlier when I was still in London, you couldn’t have kept me away.

Had I been able to go, I would most certainly have volunteered as a guest speaker to talk about my book. Instead I did the next best thing. Gareth Kavangh, the organiser, was preparing a Doctor Who comics-themed fanzine called Vworp Vworp! to launch it at the convention. I emailed Gareth and offered to write an article for his zine, and he gladly accepted. I also provided him with some research material for a panel he was running at the event. So, in lieu of being there and giving a talk, I wrote down what I would have said instead. My article discussed my particular interest in Doctor Who comic strips and my book. I knew a number of like-minded comic strip writers, artists and fans would be in attendance and it was an opportunity not to be missed to let them know who I was and what I was doing.

Good plan - in theory. Trouble was, the convention came and went. Gareth ran out of time to get his fanzine together so it wasn’t published in time for the event. These things happen. Not to worry, he was still determined to produce the publication, and still wanted to use my article. In February 2009, Vworp Vworp! writer Matt Badham interviewed me by email about my book. The plan was for this interview to appear alongside my article.

Months passed. Gareth was busy with his Masters degree and the zine understandably had to get placed on the back-burner. By July, Colin Brockhurst had joined Gareth on the project. At this time I pitched a second article idea for the zine, this time a look at how Scott Gray got himself established as a comic strip writer. I interviewed a number of usual suspects, including, crucially, the elusive Scott himself. Before I could deliver the piece I learned that there was no room left in the issue and that the piece was instead under consideration for a planned second volume.

By December I learned that my earlier article and accompanying interview about my book had also been dropped from the issue. This wasn’t too much of a disappointment; during my years as a fanzine editor I was frequently faced with the agonising decision to drop a piece from an issue. That never gets any easier, and I could certainly appreciate that my article and interview were no longer a good fit for the issue's repositioning as a celebration of all things DWM. Besides which, my book still wasn’t finished, let alone scheduled for publication, so it made sense to hold the article over to a later date when it would be more timely.

Still very much eager to help out, I offered Gareth and Colin my services as a proof-reader and fact-checker. This was accepted, and shortly before Christmas last year, I pored through eighty pages of PDFs looking for errors. I came up with a list of sixty corrections, most but not all of which made it into the issue (if you see a few typos on page 79, rest assured that I did point them out!)

Gareth very kindly has sent me a complimentary copy of the issue, which I received in the mail today. I cannot recommend this publication highly enough. Although I saw it all on my computer screen when I was proof-reading, I cannot help but marvel at the final, printed product. It is a thing of beauty; Gareth, Colin and their team of contributors deserve to be very proud indeed of what they have achieved.

Go to www.vworpvworp.co.uk to order, but be quick - they're selling fast!

My only hope is that at least something of mine gets published in volume two...

08 February, 2010

Confessions of a Subtitle Script Writer

I write for Doctor Who.

At least that's what many people seem to think when I attempt to explain exactly what I do.

In fact I write for the BBC Doctor Who DVDs. I write Production Information Text scripts. Production Information Text is a subtitle option on Doctor Who DVDs that appears whilst as a series of on-screen captions, providing a constant feed of factoids about each episode as you are watching.

These subtitles include such fascinating trivia as deleted scenes quoted from the scripts, details about when and where certain scenes were shot, potted histories of cast members' careers, observations of continuity errors, and discussions about the writer's influences, amongst other gems.

I delivered my first set of subtitle scripts in September 2008. This was for Planet of Fire, Peter Davison's penultimate adventure. I've been intending to write something about creating the subtitle scripts for this story, but I've been waiting patiently to do this until the DVD has been released. That way it will be relevant and it will also enable me to post screen-grabs to illustrate what I'm talking about. Planet of Fire was to have come out last month (as part of the Kamelion box set), but has been delayed until sometime around June.

I've just delivered a second set of subtitle scripts. I can't say yet which story this is for, as there has yet to be an official announcement. Such information is commercially sensitive. Numerous threads on Doctor Who message boards are filled with postings fervently speculating which story will be announced next. (As the number of stories yet to be released on DVD decreases, the chances of guessing the next title correctly correspondingly increases; it's expected that every old surviving Doctor Who story will be out on DVD by some time in 2013).

I was commissioned to write this to-be-announced story, along with another couple of 'TBA' stories, not long after delivering my first set of scripts. At the time, a delivery date had not been set (or at least not communicated).

When I wrote the subtitle scripts for Planet of Fire I set aside around six weeks during which I worked on no other projects so that I could apply myself to the task with minmal distractions. This time around (possibly unwisely in hindsight), I decided instead that I would tackle the project in small concentrated bursts. The scripts were not needed anytime soon, so I worked on them as and when I felt like it; the odd day or few hours here and there. This was a great way of taking short breaks from my other writing, which is a fairly long non-fiction book analysing comic strips, and quite a different disicipline from the subtitle scripts.

Three weeks ago I received a wake-up call in the form of an email out of the blue from my editor, asking how I was going with the scripts. He explained they were significantly over-deadline. There was a bit of leeway for late delivery, but they were needed as soon as practicable.

Although I had done most of the groundwork and had compiled a set of rough notes, I had yet to actually start writing the scripts. I may not have known what the deadline was until it had passed, but nor had I asked about it in the intervening months. At this point I went into a state of mild panic.

I can at times be a terrible procrastinator which is a trait I've discovered I have in common with many freelance writers. An overdue deadline is however a powerful motivation tool. I made a concerted and sustained effort to sit down at the computer and force myself to just keep going, hour after hour, day after day. I devoted just about every spare hour I could to working on these scripts. Even when I wasn't writing, I was constantly thinking either about what still needed to be done, or how to compose the next section I needed to write.

I finished and sent the completed set of scripts yesterday evening - three weeks after learning that the deadline had passed. I felt an immense weight shifting from my shoulders after I wrote the last line on the final script.

I'll blog about the specifics of this set of scripts as and when the story is released on DVD, but I've written about this experience here and now, whilst it is still fresh in my mind, as a reminder to myself not to let myself let a writing project sit on the back-burner by for so long again.