Actor Richard Elis was very excited to see a dalek when recording an intervew about 2023 on BBC Radio Cymru...
‘We’ve been working on this for years,’ Zoë said to me the other day. ‘And now you’ve gone and put all this sci-fi in it. I had to go research Star Trek 3 and 4 and…’
Things I have explained thus far in rehearsals –
1. That a Star Wars Porg does not remotely resemble a Star Trek Borg.
2. That if Tom Blumberg will make a humpback whale sound in one scene then it probably should mirror the sound one makes in Star Trek 4 when communicating with an extra-terrestrial probe. (I, um, did this to demonstrate.)
3. That Spock does suffer from pon farr, even though he’s half human, and that pon farr aftershave is apparently available to buy from all good stockists.
I did not realise how much of a geek I was until I wrote this play. Nor how much sci-fi references fill my life and how much I take for granted other people will get them.
Because Zoë's right. Sci-fi is a late addition. Yet it thematically works. Chris, John’s husband and Mary’s ‘donor dad’ in the play, is a complete and utter sci-fi geek. Sci-fi music helps him concentrate, helps him imagine solutions, possibilities. It helps him deal with the grief from his parents dying as he imagines time travel and different time lines. Chris sees his parents alive in his donor daughter, carrying their souls, like McCoy does for Spock in Star Trek 3. The fact Dr Who regenerates would appeal to him. He’s the sort of Cardiffian who cannot help but look up for Myfanwy the pterodactyl when walking through the Bay. It’s a side to him that his husband John doesn’t get – even though he finds it endearing.
I love the sci-fi in the play but it didn’t used to be in there. So what happened?
We did a period of rehearsal and development to see whether the theme of D/deafness would work. We decided that it would and I rewrote the play. I then filed the piece until we knew whether or not we had funding for a production. When we knew we had, I took it out, read it and for me, it didn’t work. This is probably a writer thing – it worked for other people, but I was struggling to connect to it. I’d put in all the research – too much of it at that point – but it didn’t feel very joyous. It didn’t read like I’d enjoyed writing it, even though I actually had. I knew I needed to kick back, hang out with the characters, see them happy before everything goes belly-up. But I felt a bit like Seven in Star Trek Voyager. I felt like I was trying to say ‘Fun will now commence’. So I do what I sometimes do before doing anything major. I think ‘Oh f*** it’ and write something, on the basis that actually no one has to read it if I don’t want them to. I wrote a scene where Chris and John are enjoying a bit of sci-fi sexual foreplay in the park. It made me laugh. I started connecting with the characters again, with their warmth. I wanted to hang out with them and then the rewrite went from there and the sci-fi thematically took a stronger hold.
It helped free me up. It connected me to the reasons why I love writing and reading and drama. I love Oedipus Rex, but my love of narrative slips probably comes from the Star Trek episode Yesterday’s Enterprise. I adore Milton’s use of Biblical structure and any subversion of that. But I know that love probably comes from Babylon 5. I know I can get out of dramatic problems – but not with a deus ex machina, but if I thoroughly ground my solution into the backstory like the writers of Who have done with regeneration. So putting the sci-fi in reminded me how much I love writing too.
(Even though it’s caused the play to open with a scene I’m a tad nervous about, much as I adore it, because it's a mix of sci-fi and sex and, you know, my mother’s coming…)