LOOK HOW HAPPY HE IS!
Wow I've really played a game of chicken plugging this. Okay, "Time Spanner" - the thing whose progress I've been charting on this blog the past ten years - finally had a pilot recorded in June and was then broadcast on Radio 4 a month ago, which means you now have just one day left to listen to it. Sorry.
And look who turned up to the recording!
Ben Moor! Ned Mond! Julia, Joel, Jason, Katy Wix!
(Wedding photographer: Stephen Evans)
Has it really been ten years in the making? This interview from September 2007 suggests not: There I talk about wanting to write a vehicle for myself about a homeless wedding planner instead. What I think I realised soon after that interview however was that if I was going to write that, I'd have to research wedding planning, and I wasn't very interested in researching wedding planning so opted instead for this sort of cosmic science-fiction fantasy - You know "Doctor Who"? That.
Beautiful pic for the Radio Times by Thomas Flintham
Of course it's not really "Doctor Who" (Carrrie Quinlan's got that gig sewn up.) It rips off so many ideas from so many sources that hopefully I can't be fingered for any specific theft. The real impetus behind Time Spanner is probably the comics I read in my teens, when comics seemed to be doing something amazing, when Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" created a playground in which Peter Milligan's "Shade the Changing Man" could hang back on the benches coolly composing existential thought experiments with painted covers by Brendan McCarthy, while the more popular kids like Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" entered everything and won the gold, exactly the same impetus behind that strip I did about a slacker sent on a mission by an angel twenty years ago, now that I think about it. Sorry. Obscure references. Bad.
Also I wanted to write the show to which "Peaches En Regalia" was the theme tune.
Team Spanner photo by Amanda Bensonl to r: Jeremy Limb, me, David Mitchell, John Finnemore, London Hughes, Belinda Stewart-Wilson
So yes I'm sorry I haven't given you blog-readers much notice of this culmination. You'll probably want to listen to it three or four times, that's what all the cool dudes are doing. John suggests as much in this very nice piece. "John" as in John Finnemore, who played Laika - both in the finished thing and in that first read-through that he let us do in his flat six years ago. (Organising those read-throughs was the only deadline I had for finishing a script.) Also present at that first read-through was the show's producer Gareth Edwards, who I suspect experienced even more ups and downs trying to get this commissioned than I did. For me this was always the dream. You're a fool to be disappointed if you don't get your dream. But Gareth managed it.
Here's our Kraken. I had asked for Jon Hamm but what are you going to do? It's worth mentioning that if it wasn't for David Mitchell I wouldn't be writing comedy at all and I certainly wouldn't have written this. He effectively joined Gareth as midwife for the last two years of this thing's birth.
Returning for a second to Jon Hamm: I love Mad Men creator Matt Weiner's motto "Subtext is Pleasure" and I was keen that the dialogue in Time Spanner should sound pretty natural and leave as many jokes unsaid as possible, if that make sense. The problem is that commissioners are only going to read your script once, if that, and even if by some miracle they do correctly interpret every nuance and fluff the actors who end up having to perform the thing are only going to be spending a single afternoon with these words as well, so you have to make it absolutely clear why people are saying what they're saying on the first read. It's not Shakespeare. And it was David who suggested the solution. Stage Directions. Here's an example:
Needless to say all David's ideas were good. Here I think he's suggesting John be given a stool:
And here he is holding a script in front of his face because the character he is playing is on the other side of a door. John as Laika is urging me on. I as Martin am literally miming holding a cup of tea because I'm new to this.
Oh yes. That name. "Martin". I wanted - as we all want - something basically normal but a little unfortunate. "Martin Gay" just came up in conversation eight years ago and I thought: Bingo! It wasn't until two years into the drafting that I realised I'd plumped for exactly the same name John had already chosen for his own feckless sitcom hero, and by then it was too late. This might be why nobody in the episode ever actually addresses my character as just "Martin".
London! Secret weapon. Gareth always said Gabbie was the key. Here's another indicator of how long I've been writing this: I was writing for Laurence and Gus when I first thought of Gabbie. Isy Suttie was in the cast and I thought she might make a good Gabbie and then, by a total coincidence, she was cast as someone called Dobbie in Peepshow. That long ago. Anyway, auditioning actors for Gabbie might have been the most grown-up thing I've ever done. Everyone we saw gave beautiful, intelligent readings but London Hughes actually reminded who Gabbie was. I don't mean that she reminded me of Gabbie, I mean she reminded me who Gabbie was, and why Gareth was so right. There's a surplus energy in Gabbie you can't transcribe and without which very little Martin does in this episode really makes emotional sense. So we were very lucky with London. If you want more of her - and of course you do - try here.
And completing the team, second from left, the unweildily talented Jeremy Limb from The Trap and Music. You can hear his own science fiction comedy epic Event Horizon Crescent here. If Time Spanner is a baby I always wanted Jeremy to be Godfather. In the Green Room before the recording, as final tweaks to the script were being made, it occurred to me how lucky I was to be in one of the best writers' rooms ever assembled. So thanks again to Gareth and to all the cast for keeping me company. And thanks to everyone who came to the read-throughs and played the roles and helped them exist a bit more. And thanks again to John who always seemed to love this thing in all its forms. Which meant it was probably good. Which meant I stuck at it.
Have I missed anything? OH! THE LINK! Here.
(And you can like it on here too.)
((And also broadcast that same belated epiphany was Now The Twelfth Night Show, which I loved appearing in, and which you also have a day left to listen to.))