Well, here I am back from the Utopia convention in Oxfordshire, and I have to say I really enjoyed meeting many new people and talking about the project that is Flashback!
Before I left for the convention I slammed together a number of scenes from the first episode – totalling about 15 consecutive minutes in all – burnt about a hundred CDs and presented them along with a promotional flyer to an unsuspecting public of Doctor Who fans. I managed to give away a good three-quarters of the discs – but why not all of them you ask?
Well, not everyone was interested in an item that DIDN’T have the Doctor Who logo plastered all over it, was a FREEBIE and WASN’T going to be signed or endorsed by a bona-fide celebrity – go figure! But those who did pick up a disc often wanted to chat about it. It seems there is a genuine dearth of comedy in science fiction and it is something that fans are starting to want more of. Most people were thrilled to see that Sarah Douglas was in the series and there were no less than three separate occasions where I had to disappoint convention goers by saying that I didn’t think they actually knew JoAnne Garries, despite claims to the contrary. When I told one guy that JoAnne hails from Canada and used to do a lot of stand up comedy, he insisted that he had been to Canada once, though admitted to never having actually seen a live comedy act in his life. It was that moment where I started wondering if JoAnne had some sort of cross-Atlantic sordid past love life that I didn’t know about, but then snapped out of it and just smiled and nodded to the fellow who was so obviously determined to convince me.
It reminded me of the old adage that “the customer is always right” and science fiction fans (or in this case, “potential fans”) come in all shapes and sizes and with their own preconceived notions of what they think they’d like to hear as well as sharp criticism to what they think should have actually been recorded or written. I’m looking forward to the varied feedback though I’m hoping that a majority of it will be positive!
At the convention I found myself describing the series as something of a cross between Sex and the City meets 1930s serial Flash Gordon and the more I think about it, the more that description seems to fit. Flashback owes a lot to the really old science fiction of the past more than it does to the recent past. To my mind, there is a wonderfully camp nature to the series, and that camp nature has loads of inspired moments gleaned from 1970s and 80s television sci-fi, but I think the structure and overall tone of the project has much more in common with those old black and white serials of the mid 1930s.
If you look at the definition of Series vs Serial, I think the structural differences become more obvious. A series, whether that be a radio play or television, is composed of a lot of stand-alone episodes. Many modern series though have an overall story arc to each season that helps define key moments in the series and these are usually located at the beginning, the middle and the end of each season. But a serial in the sense of those old Republic Pictures releases (to name just a few companies involved), were often an ongoing story broken up into Episodes or Chapters, with each chapter ending on a cliff-hanger. In many ways the bring-em-back nature and structure of a serial has a lot to do with how Doctor Who developed in the classic series. And I find that Flashback is more of a serial than a series.
Perhaps you are wondering what the big deal is – why is the space of this blog being taken up by definitions of series vs serial – but I assure you that it is an important concept in understanding the overall pacing of what is going to be five hours of audio content. It affects how the project is going to be marketed and sold. It is important for you out there to know that when you come to acquire your very own copies of the episodes, whether that be on CD or as downloadable MP3s, you’ll need to get them all to fully understand the story. The episodes won’t be sold separately because none of them are stand alone stories. It was something that I considered when I first wrote the episodes but I haven’t worried much about it since, because I’ve been told that fans enjoy being completists and so this kind of thing should appeal to that tendency.
Anyway, back to the project and the ongoing news. While at the convention, I also got the chance to work with the incredibly talented Paul Jones, who contributed three guest voices to the episodes – one of which will definitely make Doctor Who fans dance a joyous dance when they hear it. It certainly made me dance with joy, I can tell you!
So that means recording on the project is nearly completed, with only one last guest artist to go, but her character doesn’t make her first appearance until half-way through the serial, so work on dialogue editing of the first five episodes can proceed. The thing about Paul’s contribution to the serial is that one of his characters takes up a good portion of the latter half of episode one, so the preview CD I made could only include elements that had been completely recorded. So what you’ll hear in the audio file attached to this blog entry is really the first half of the episode. We don’t even get to the thrilling drama that leads to the serial’s first cliff-hanger! But no matter. You’ll be able to get a sense of how it is developing, though I have to say that the audio hasn’t been fully mixed nor mastered yet, so go gentle on the feedback!
And one last item of lovely news – Nigel Fairs, who plays Hargreaves in the serial, yesterday sent me some audio recordings of episode titles and cast lists and the text for an advert or two, and I’m really quite chuffed about it! I just love his voice. He is amazing and EVERYBODY should get the opportunity at some point to work with him.
So here it is… sit back and enjoy the ‘unmastered’ first 15 minutes of Chapter one of Flashback, minus Nigel’s super voice over just yet… we’re getting there! (Allow the file to load – it may take a little time, especially with slower Internet connections).
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