MCM London Comic Con: Getting from Screen to Page panel

MCM London Comic Con: Getting from Screen to Page panel

0 comments 📅30 October 2017, 12:00

The joys of adaptation, what Russell T Davies tells the Torchwood staff to write more of and more were discussed at ‘From The Screen To The Page’ in the Author Corner at MCM London Comic Con.

The panel included Guy Adams (Torchwood, Doctor Who novels and audio dramas), James Goss (Doctor Who, Torchwood novels and audio dramas), Una McCormack (Doctor Who, Star Trek and Blakes 7 novels and audio dramas) and Tom Macrae (Doctor Who, The Librarians). The panel was moderated by Alasdair Stuart (Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, Star Trek Adventures RPG and not a far away from this very site…).

Starting Out

-Una revealed that she began writing Star Trek fanfic and was hired due to how good it was. She also explained that this almost never happens and that she used her Star Trek experience to pitch for and get Doctor Who work.

-Guy Adams pitched books about Hustle to Kudos. They liked the ideas tremendously and Guy and his designer ended up writing deeply eccentric (And very good) tie in books for Life on Mars.

-James Goss started off doing the BBC websites for Doctor Who, Torchwood and Strictly Come Dancing and transitioned to novels from there. Although he has yet to write the Strictly Come Dancing thriller the franchise richly deserves.

-Tom Macrae met Russell T Davies and became good friends with him. His career took off in the year when Davies was developing Doctor Who and he was asked to come aboard with the second season. Age of Steel and Reign of the Cybermen were the result.

Playing With Other People’s Toys

-The panel all talked about the challengers of working to someone else’s guidelines. Una discussed the importance of finding the niches where you can do ‘quietly subversive’ stories within the boundaries of the work.

-Those boundaries change too. James revealed he’s adapting a lost Douglas Adams script. Concerning a planet that cuts itself off from the wider galaxy, the notes he got back included a request to ‘take all the brexit stuff out’ despite the book being written decades before then.

-Tom discussed the fascinating way that the Big Finish audio dramas based on the series and the Doctor Who TV show itself now have very different audiences. He revealed that Davies was adamant that as little original continuity should be put in the early New Who scripts as possible. He was acutely aware of how well the show was doing by dint of being new and didn’t want to change that. The fact that most of the old continuity is now back, Tom pointed out, feels earned in a way it otherwise wouldn’t have been. In contrast, the Big Finish audience are steeped in the continuity of the show and far better equipped for stories that include that.

-Tom also discussed the challenge of writing the show as it is, not how you remember it. He revealed that he remembered the show being dark and operatic and was asked to lighten his first scripts up. The importance of writing to the audience that you have, not the audience that you think is vital.

-James Goss revealed that while working with licensed characters can be restrictive, that’s not really the case with Torchwood. He said the most recent note from Russell T Davies for the Torchwood line was ‘More f–ing’.

Dream Projects

-The panel were asked about their dream projects. Tom talked about wanting to show run Doctor Who and better still to produce something that would still be around 50 years later. And also that one of his dream projects, the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, is already happening.

-Una agreed about wanting to write for Doctor Who. She would have liked to write Firefly too but is delighted with what she’s written so far.

-Guy was a third vote for Doctor Who, and to write for Hellblazer.

-James freely admitted that, given he’d led a bookshop of people in a Doctor Who rap/poetry slam earlier this year, he could probably die now.

-Tom also exclusively revealed that if he did come back to Doctor Who in a few years, he’d do the musical episode, with Michael Ball as a villain.


-In terms of advice for getting into this line of work, the panel all agreed on writing their own material. Do your original work, do it well and that will get you noticed by other people. You need to try lots of things, find your own voice and write

-Tom also advised you to champion things that ‘need’ you and to be a fan. James backed this up by explaining that the worst pitches he gets are ones based around ‘fixing’ continuity. Write the stories you want to tell, not the ones you feel are ‘needed’.

Proudest Moment

-The panel were asked what they’re proudest of. Tom talked about how close he’d been to the late Geraldine McEwan and how proud he was of the episode of Miss Marple he’d got to write for her .

-Una talked about how proud she was that there’s fan-fiction of her Cardassia novels. She’s proudest though of a Blake’s 7 audio starring Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce that came out exactly as she saw it in her head.

-Guy talked about the trilogy of supernatural westerns he’s written, set in a town called Wormwood, and how they were the most ‘him’ thing he’s written.

-James said he was proudest of getting to novelize City of Death by Douglas Adams. And that he wrote an audiobook that won Glamour Magazine’s Must Listen To While Tanning book of 2010.

With the panel concluding that this revelation, and James’ burgeoning rap career, made him the winner, the hour drew to a close.


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