I've been nominated for an Audie Award!
Chuffed to share this with the rest of the gang behind Doctor Who: Stranded, including fellow writers Matt Fitton, John Dorney and Lisa McMullin.
The Audie Awards are probably the most lauded awards in audiobooks & spoken word entertainment, so to get nominated for Best Audio Drama in 2021 is a very happy state of affairs indeed!
The urban fantasy series Unseen (by the fine folks behind the celebrated Wolf 359) gave the podcast world a much needed dose of magic throughout the final months of 2020. Their stories involved dragons, detectives, people that trade in memories, and paintings that can eat you, all performed by some of the best acting talent in the audio drama space.
Having script edited the series, I was thrilled to write a guest episode - the Unseen Valentine's Day Special! Having rarely dabbled in romance before, I decided to take inspiration from one of my favourite authors, P. G. Wodehouse, and write a slapstick adventure in which our protagonist finds love almost by accident.
'How Dudley Took the Plunge' allowed me to write comic prose for the first time in an age, and it's brought to life by actor Leo Wan as Dudley Carmichael: a harpy from a long line of harpies, enmeshed in a marriage plot against his will, and battling the machinations of his formidable Grandmother Winifred.
Though Valentine's Day has been and gone, you can still enjoy this episode by searching and subscribing to Unseen on iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts, or else listen to it right here. Recording scripts and transcripts are also available on the Unseen website.
While COVID-19 has put the brakes on Wooden Overcoats Season 4, I've been kept busy on other projects - particularly as a script editor and consultant for other productions!
Unseen is a brand new urban fantasy series from the team behind Wolf 359 and Zero Hours, two of the most celebrated indie productions in the podcast space. Written and directed by Gabriel Urbina, Sarah Shachat and Zach Valenti, it's set in a 21st century world where magic is real - only most of us can't see it. Starring talent from shows all across indie audio drama, including Wooden Overcoats and The Bright Sessions, you can download every episode for free on iTunes and other podcast providers. I love working with this team, and the results have sent a shiver down my spine with every episode released so far.
Meanwhile, for those of you with Audible credits to spare, give a listen to Winding Road, a new 10-part mystery drama written and directed by Clare Sladden. A famous musician disappeared without trace 25 years ago, leaving emotional devastation in his wake. Now two podcasters are determined to solve the mystery with the help of his family, but the lines between 'voyeur' and 'subject' grow increasingly blurred, and somebody on the property is willing to go to violent lengths for their own purposes...
Starring Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things) and Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black), Winding Road examines celebrity, obsession and musical passions, and was made with help from Screen Queensland. It's a deviously clever series, exploding the investigative podcast format, and its production team have done some stellar work to get it released into the world this year.
I've written a Doctor Who for Doctor number 8 himself, Paul McGann! Released today, Stranded volume 1 sees the Doctor and chums stuck on 21st century Earth, living with new friends (and maybe foes).
With a massive cast headed by Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan and Rebecca Root - and special guest Tom Baker - this set should provide a very different spin on Doctor Who during these lockdown days. My script Divine Intervention has the Doctor organising a dinner in a restaurant for a large group of people, which was one of the most ordinary things in the world when I wrote it, and now feels entirely fantastical!
You can nab yourself a copy of Stranded volume 1 at Big Finish Productions.
Though Season Four of Wooden Overcoats has been indefinitely postponed, the team still wanted to release something during the lockdown period - and we've done it! Recorded remotely and written for the purpose, The Trouble with Rudyard sees the titular undertaker trapped down a well and forced to rely on outside help. Between them, will Antigone, Georgie and Eric be able to get him out?
We released this today as a surprise for our regular listeners, and I hope the episode resonates with how we're all feeling right now, while giving a bit of cheer!
You can download The Trouble with Rudyard through your podcast app of choice under Wooden Overcoats, or listen to a compressed version of it on AudioBoom. And if you enjoyed it, do chip a few coins if you can into the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund at the World Health Organisation via the button below.
Stay safe and well!
With the world in lockdown, creative production is in limbo across the board. Sadly Wooden Overcoats has been affected too; our fourth season has been postponed until we're able to get into our recording studio, which may mean delaying release until 2021.
However, companies are already grappling with how to make content under the present circumstances - with the audio medium perhaps in the best position to respond - and of course there are the many productions that were fortunate enough to be recorded before the lockdown!
Amongst these are several Audible Original productions I script edited for Audible Australia. The Goodbye Party is a cold case crime drama from the pen of acclaimed playwright Louis Nowra, while Riot Act is a satire of ultra conservative radio personalities from Mark Humphries, Dan Ilic, Kacie Anning and Evan Williams. Both were released last year to very positive reviews. More recently, Screen Queensland helped to fund Beyond Strange Lands, a supernatural adventure road trip set across the Australian outback, from the brains of Simon Taylor and David Peterson. (Warning: all three productions contain mature language and themese.)
And today saw the return of the acclaimed TV adventure comedy Danger 5 by Dario Russo and David Ashby in a brand new audio series, Danger 5: Stereo Adventures. Starring the original cast and creatives, Danger 5 is not quite so well known outside its native Australia, where it has a dedicated fan following - but it's a relentlessly enjoyable slice of escapism (and the source of the 'sensible chuckle' GIF that everyone has used at some point on Twitter). The audio series recaptures the verve and wackiness of the TV original and provides a welcome dose of daring escapades, fun frolics and explosions.
With more productions in the pipeline, it's been a pleasure to work with so many different writers, shaping narratives, suggesting ideas, and polishing the odd script. Every writer works in their own way and learning to adapt to each one's requirements is always a stimulating process. The best thing about being a script editor is working on shows far outside your usual sphere and experiences: you're constantly learning, on each and every production, and expanding your understanding of various genres.
And as usual, if you'd like me to take a look at your own scripts, send us an email!
When not writing a sitcom set in a mortuary, I've been working on a true crime show set in one too! It's a new podcast from Whistledown for BBC Sounds called Mortem, in which mortician Carla Valentine examines a dead body found in unusual circumstances and interviews forensics experts to discover how and why they died - and how the killers were caught. If you ever wanted to understand the science of blood spatter, or how you can catch a criminal with pollen, this is the show for you. There'll be 3 cases and 9 episodes in all.
I was hired as the script editor for this podcast last year and it's been enormous fun working with producer Deborah Dudgeon and writer Nina Millns to mould these narratives into their final form. Whilst the cases have been reconstructed from numerous real crimes - in order to protect victims and their families, the names and circumstances depicted in this podcast are fictional - the show engages with real science and professionals to describe how cases of this kind are solved. It's got lots of gruesome detail and squishy sounds. It's fab.
You can download Mortem on iTunes, the BBC Sounds app, and wherever you get your podcasts.
A couple of quick announcements as the year comes to an end!
Hot off the heels of Daughter of the Gods, my next Doctor Who for Big Finish Productions has been announced: Divine Intervention, one of the four tales in the new Stranded boxed set coming next year. This time it's with the Eighth Doctor himself, Paul McGann, as the TARDIS becomes stranded in a truly terrifying place: Britain in the year 2020. Also starring Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Tom Price and Rebecca Root, this set of stories is released in July next year - find out more at the Big Finish site!
And as the Wooden Overcoats team continue working on our fourth and final season, we had a lovely end of year surprise - we've been listed as one of Time's "50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now."
This uniquely British comedy (think Fawlty Towers crossed with the British Office) from creator David K. Barnes centers on two competing funeral homes in a small village. The show, which has been airing since 2015, has managed to deepen its emotional resonance as the characters grow and change. And that’s saying something for a series that is narrated by a mouse.
We'll of course be back next year with a whole new season of adventures featuring historical pageants, angry mobs, school memories, and the truth about Eric Chapman! Hope to see you all there x
Outliers is a podcast from Historic Royal Palaces in association with Rusty Quill, which casts an eye on events from the perspective of those 'on the edges' of history. Each episode presents a brand new play, written for the podcast, which is professionally performed, scored and produced. I was glad to have contributed a play to their first season in 2017 - The King's Sister, about Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves - and was very pleased to be asked back to write for their second season with Mehmet and the Wild Boy.
I've long been fascinated by the King's Staircase murals at Kensington Palace, which depict the many courtiers of George I's entourage. They're a dynamic and varied lot, including doctors, painters and entertainers. One of them has drawn particular interest: Peter, the so called 'Wild Boy,' a feral child found in the forests of Germany and brought back to England to be kept as a pet. I wanted to write a play about him and chose to tell it from the perspective of another intriguing figure, Georg Ludwig Maximilian von Königstreu - better known to us as Mehmet, a Turkish valet of unusual station and importance.
The fascination and prejudice that both Peter and Mehmet would have encountered in 18th century England struck me as a potential window to tell an entertaining and sensitive story about them both, in which Mehmet finds himself embroiled in the attempts to make Peter sit still for long enough to be painted. The play has been masterfully performed by Atilla Akinci and directed by Alex Newall, and I hope we've done justice to the historical persons involved!
You can download Mehmet and the Wild Boy from your usual podcast apps, or listen to it here. Further info about the history of this play can be found direct from Historic Royal Palaces, and do check out the rest of the series! It's a fine selection of plays with plenty more on the way.
When two Doctors meet, you know there's trouble afoot...
My third adventure for Big Finish Productions has now been released! Doctor Who: Daughter of the Gods revisits a classic 1960s Dalek epic, when the TARDIS ends up colliding... with itself. The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive on the planet Urbinia to find that the First Doctor has already been here for three months. The Daleks are invading and it'll take their combined wits to think of a solution. But there's an extra complication. The First Doctor is accompanied by his friend Katarina, a handmaiden from the ancient city of Troy. And there's no way she can possibly be here - because, as the Second Doctor knows, she died within a day of meeting him...
This one is a love letter to 1960s Doctor Who, combining two Doctors, four companions, and lots of Daleks. To be honest, the plot will probably make no sense to anyone but the most ardent anoraks but it was incredibly satisfying to write. Katarina, originally played on television by the late Adrienne Hill, only appeared in five episodes of the programme before her character was shockingly killed off: she was the first companion to die. Only one of her episodes still exists in the BBC Archives, so she really is a kind of unknown character, more famous for her status within the programme's history than for her actual personality. I placed that tension at the heart of this story, giving Katarina the time and exploration that she sadly never received onscreen, so that at last she can stand at the centre of her own narrative.
Ajjaz Awad does a tremendous job as Katarina, and she's ably accompanied by three actors from that classic era: Peter Purves as Steven, Frazer Hines as Jamie, and Wendy Padbury as Zoe. Peter and Frazer also play the two Doctors respectively, in tribute to the late William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. It's a story with plenty of twists, daring escapes, and an argument over breakfast about the Doctor's late night parties!
Daughter of the Gods is available on CD and download from Big Finish - and you can also read more about my approach to writing Doctor Who and other audio dramas in this interview for Downtime. It's a great site which has been especially supportive of my Who scripts so far, and I was really chuffed to be allowed the time to discuss science fiction, 'big ideas', comedy and how I approach writing for the series I grew up with!
David K. Barnes