Doctor Who: The Lions Of Trafalgar

God, you're painfully attractive.  Thank you for gracing this blog with your face.

I've decided to try and step up the frequency of posts here, for two reasons.  For one thing, I think I've fallen into habit of saving stuff up until I make overly long posts which tend to be groups of updates.  For another, Graham Linehan on Twitter mentioned the site, which offers a way of limbering yourself up for a day's writing.  That looks great and useful, but it also struck me that a blog-a-day might not only keep the doctor away (although hopefully not The Doctor), but serve the same warm-up purpose.  For yet another thing (yes, okay, this is three things now), the tireless frequency of Chuck Wendig's blogposts have shamed me (not to mention the damn quality of the things - I hate that brilliant beardy bastard).  So I'm going to blog every day this week, even if it's about nothing in particular.  Let's see how it works for both of us, yes?  Yes.


In something like February 2010, I was commissioned to write a short Doctor Who audio story for Big Finish's Short Trips series.  Short Trips were originally a long run of hardback books which collected various stories featuring various doctors.  Back in 2008, I wrote Christmas Every Day, a text tale for the Short Trips: Christmas Around The World collection.

For a while, an idea for a Doctor Who story had been bouncing around my brain.  Something involving Nelson's column, with something alien inside it - and something very wrong with the four stone lions at its base.  I started working the idea up and made several visits to Trafalgar Square, taking photographs like the ones below.  Not being much of a history buff, I bought a book about 19th Century London (Jerry White's recommended London In The Nineteenth Century), since the story needed to be set at 1843 when the building of Nelson's column neared completion.

The story really came together when a friend told me about a remarkable dinner which took place that year.    Fourteen stonemasons, including civil engineer and entrepreneur Samuel Morton Peto and his cousin Thomas Grissell, perched a dinner table on top of the column (before Nelson's statue was placed upon it) and enjoyed a full meal, in order to celebrate their three years of hard work on the monument.  I loved that idea and the meal immediately became the focus of the story, which was originally named The Sevakrill Mission, before switching to the hopefully less generic and more interesting title.

Each Short Trips audio collection features one story for each of the first eight Doctors.  I was really pleased to get one of my very favourite Doctors: the Fifth, played by Peter Davison.  I wanted to pair him with '80s companions Nyssa and Tegan.  Best of all, Davison reads all of the Fifth Doctor stories in this Short Trips run, so I got the pleasure of hearing him read The Lions Of Trafalgar.

Or at least, I have today.  While writing this, I've been listening to it for the first time, despite the CD having been released over a month ago.  So why didn't I listen to it straight away?  Two reasons.  First and foremost, I suspected it might be pretty overwhelming.  A Doctor forever embedded in your formative years, reading your Doctor Who story?  That's enough to make the brain melt in on itself.  The second point leads on from that - what if I listened to the story and winced at clunky prose which I'd forced Peter Davison to wrap his gums around?  That would be overwhelming in a very bad way.  One of the important distinctions about writing prose for audio is that you have to be extra sure it will sound good aloud...

... and I'm really glad I made the effort to read The Lions Of Trafalgar aloud before submitting it to editor Xanna Eve Chown.  The story sounds great.  Big Finish could have had these short tales read simply - just the text spoken bare - but they've clearly devoted a lot of effort to these releases, with sound effects, voice treatment and a lovely attention to detail.  Davison reads it brilliantly, putting on a great Aussie accent for Tegan - and the sound mix is nicely multi-layered, with Davison narrating in the foreground and the characters' dialogue happening in a bustling Trafalgar Square elsewhere in the soundscape.  I'm properly delighted with it and will definitely be replaying.  The cherry on the cake has been a really nice review of Lions in Doctor Who Magazine, which called it "marvellous" and "compelling".  Woo, and indeed, hoo.

You can order Doctor Who: Short Trips Volume IV, which features seven other tales by writers like Richard Dinnick and Cindy Garland, on CD at Amazon UK or on CD/download through Big Finish themselves.

That's all for today.  Same time tomorrow?


My ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else is out now on Amazon UK, Amazon US and  You can also get the PDF Edition direct from me.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

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