How did you come to write Dark Season?
I was working as a producer in Children's BBC, and was dying to write the sort of shows I'd enjoyed as a kid. I'd already changed Why Don't You..? from a magazine show into a drama, with the gang and their sheep fighting a supercomputer. And I gained a reputation as a writer by scripting a comedy dubbed version of The Flashing Blade.
So I decided it was time for the next step, wrote episode one of Dark Season, sent it to my boss, Anna Home. And she said yes!
It's been suggested that Marcie is based on the Doctor. Did you set out to pay homage to Doctor Who?
Not consciously, but I suppose I was steeped in Doctor Who. I just wanted to get rid of all the padding, and make Marcie very aware that she was in a sci-fi drama. So she had an omniscience, which then made her Doctor-ish. The only conscious reference was Reet using a yo-yo to test gravity.
What else influenced your writing?
Everything I've ever read or watched or heard. Nothing goes, it all gets crammed in there. Infinite space.
Was the part of Miss Pendragon written for Jacqueline Pearce?
No, I had nothing to do with casting in those days. But I was delighted, obviously. The director, Colin Cant - a lovely, clever man - had worked with her before, on Moondial. I remember she arrived at rehearsals cursing and swearing about sex with a Russian priest. Glorious woman.
Did you have any inkling that Kate Winslet would go on to achieve such fame?
No, but we all knew she was good.
What happened to Victoria Lambert and Ben Chandler?
I don't know. But don't say that as though they might have failed in some way. Perhaps they're happier than any of us, with good jobs and loving families. I hope so, they deserve it.
Ever noticed how Dark Season is similar to Buffy?
Not until a letter to TV Zone magazine pointed it out. Weird, isn't it? The central trio - a heroine with special knowledge of evil, a comedy-sidekick boy and a red-haired friend. And the teacher/ally, evil hidden under the school, the returning supernatural villain with dyed blonde hair.
Though it's all archetypal stuff, Joss Whedon did it much better! And it sums up the difference between ambition in the UK and the US. I thought of a nice, humble six-parter. Joss Whedon imagined a global empire, and made it come true.
Those blonde wigs. What happened there?
Yes. I'm sorry. How awful. I thought they'd cast genuine blondes (or maybe that's my fantasy casting session). Look at episode four, as a guard stops Kate Winslet at the gate - that's an uncredited Jeremy Sheffield!
Is there a moment of Dark Season that you're deeply, deadly proud of?
Dark Season episode five, the Behemoth rises up through the school.
Did you enjoy writing the novelisation?
Hugely. Loved it. You can make everything so much bigger - I think the novel ends with the entire school falling into its foundations. The writing's a bit lurid and melodramatic, and shamelessly imitates Stephen King, but I'm still very fond of it.
Were there any plans for a second series?
I did write asking if they wanted more, but it was only commissioned in the first place 'cos Tony Robinson took a year off from Maid Marion. He then returned, so the slot quite rightly went back to him. So I went and invented Century Falls instead...
Photograph courtesy of Clayton Hickman.