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THE WRITING OF EPISODE FOUR

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Garret Keogh, Online Editor | 17:03 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

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There have been a lot of complimentary noises coming from you bloggers about the additional writers who have worked with Toby Whithouse to create certain episodes within the new series. But who are these mysterious figures? And how do they go about creating their episodes? To find out we caught up with Jamie Mathieson, writer of ep4, to find out exactly what the experience was like...


So I was shown into an office. On the wall was a whiteboard, gridded into eight columns by four rows. Eight episodes, four main characters. Lines tracking their arc across the series. Lots of boxes with spidery writing, crossings out. Swearing. Was that a smear of blood?

"And this will be your episode." Toby gestured with his obsidian cane at column four, the rest of his body shrouded in darkness.

And so it began.

I had a fair bit of direction given on the Mitchell plot line. He'd just taken over as unwilling leader, so there were all sorts of Godfather style ideas thrown around before we settled on the Vampire AA. The idea of Annie having a mentor called Sykes was also a given, but what he was teaching and his character was initially blank. Nina was mostly out of the picture, aside from her change in the chamber.

But this was to be a George-centric episode, and beyond the idea of him getting a new job and potential new love interest, we were missing the big idea for his story.

So I started pitching ideas for George. Terrible, terrible ideas. Some of which I may return to and make work, so I'm not about to reveal them here. And anyway, you'll laugh at me.

Then, as a last ditch attempt, I threw in a half baked idea I'd had about George taking tablets to knock out the wolf, which had always seemed to me a supremely logical thing for him to do. But obviously, if it works then the character becomes unusable, so we'd have to make it go wrong...but how? "I don't know. Maybe, maybe it starts leaking through into the rest of the month." "How does it leak?" "Er, I don't know? Tourettes? Anger management issues? OCD?"

Something sparked in Toby's eye. He stepped out of his pentagram and approached me.

"You know, in a very early draft of Being Human, I had George transform in a cage in his room." he purred. We both felt the temperature drop.

"Okay, so how about this? George, because of his wolf anger leaking out, does something awful. Maybe kills someone, maybe just really hurts someone. And our last image in the episode, is George, weeks before a full moon, in his cage, naked, crying his eyes out."

Toby smiled, but his eyes were dead. I shook his hand and knew then I was damned.

Actually writing the episode was a joy. I'd seen the show enough to times to hear the actor's voices in my head and could tell whether or not a line felt right for them. The tic of list making comes from my wife (she actually puts things on a list after she's done them, so she can have the thrill of crossing them off) There was a lot more OCD stuff for George which was cut for time. I think the only thing left is him putting the bowls in ascending order of size and flavour in the tasting scene.

In terms of research for the episode, as luck would have it a couple of friends, Nicki and Al, staying with us who were insanely well qualified to help. They had both taught English as a foreign language, (all the business with teaching students swearing comes directly from their anecdotes) In addition Nicki is a veterinary nurse, leading me to ask her "So how would you knock out a wolf?" and Al is a plant geneticist, who dictated the list of stuff needed to test DNA in the opening scene with Jaggat and Kemp. However, as I have no further need of their skillsets, I've since thrown them out.

The lovely thing about writing for Being Human is that is recognises no genre boundaries. A scene can be thigh slappingly hilarious, then dramatic, then horrific, all within a few seconds. Just ask George's boss in the toilets. I can't think of another show that pulls this off, or even tries.

I saw the episode on DVD a week or so before it aired. You get used to expecting a certain percentage of loss between script and screen. Scenes don't work how you pictured them, actors deliver the lines in different ways than you envisaged. But with this I was blown away. This episode is the closest thing to the script that I've ever worked on. And it is also the thing I am proudest of.

Not wanting to belittle anyone else's contribution, as I realise a hell of a lot of talented people both in front of and behind the camera work like crazy to make each episode work. But can I just offer one opinion: Russell Tovey knocked this one out of the park. His acting is amazing, his comic timing is bang on, his tourettes attack, which I had pictured as simply comical, is desperate and tragic and heart-breaking. By the time he crawls into his cage at the end, we totally feel for him.

Thank you Russell, for making me look good. And thank you Toby, for giving me the chance to work on the show in the first place.

Now let's all go and have sex in my cage.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hehe and I was just saying nice things about Mr M on the previous page lol I should've waited to put it here :-P

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Never mind my last comment

  • Comment number 4.

    And yes this was my favourite episode so far I think - absolutely loved it...but Jamie - word to the wise don't make offers like that last line - you may get a few people taking you up on the offer...and thats just the blog team lol dirty dirty boys :-P

  • Comment number 5.

    So you had advice on DNA and on tranquilisers. But nothing on sex in cages? ;)

    Ha. But seriously, I think its interestign to find out how much the writers are given by Toby and how much they have to fill in themselves, and I must say you did a great job. I find it hard to pick favourite episodes bu this one was up there. :D

  • Comment number 6.

    *makes complimentary noise*

    Wow. That was a really fab little article (is it an article? Or whatever it was!). Well I guess it was a screen writer who, er, wrote it so I guess it should be. Ok, sorry I've gone off on a tangent.

    Anyhow, I thought this episode was superbly written, with the horror and the comedy and the serious stuff all mixed in perfectly :D Probably one of my favourite episodes (and it wasn't centered around Mitchell so that IS a testament to your writing skills!!!!)

  • Comment number 7.

    BH production, thankyou so much for this blog post. I'd been wondering just how much information a new writer had about the storyline of an episode before they started writing.

    I loved this episode, and yes, Russell's acting was amazing...as usual! That's not to say all the other actors aren't amazing too, because they are, but this ep was Russell's!

  • Comment number 8.

    BHP: Thank you for this blog post...great to have info about the writing and writers...

    and yep, Russell Tovey acted his socks off...what a talent...he just rocks.

    Oh, and Barry...I'd be careful about that last line if I were you....I just might take you up on it! hehe x

  • Comment number 9.

    Ooo great post! And as this guy basically has my dream job it's always good to read about how these things come about!

    I loved this episode, definitely my favourite yet of the new series!

  • Comment number 10.

    Ah....sorry Mr P....it wasn't from you that last line, was it...riiiight...still might take you up on it though..

  • Comment number 11.

    Anglo (comment 10) We can but hope lol (Mr P have we made your ears go red yet? :-P)

  • Comment number 12.

    Bit disappointed to learn there's no beer involved in the process, but thanks for the informative blog. The STFU moment was a thing of beauty.

  • Comment number 13.

    Caging/drugging of werewolves appears in she-wolf of London and the book naked brunch. Werewolf AA is used in naked brunch too.

  • Comment number 14.

    thanks for a great post - it was really fascinating to hear more about the process of going from arc to detail - (speaking as a wannabe writer!) - sounds like fun too! this ep had such a good balance of comedy, drama and horror - it's the switches between these that make BH unique - but it looks so hard to get it right - thanks again.
    Esp interesting to hear that writer thought George's script was mainly comedy and it was Russell who brought the rest - but the potential must have been there too - too modest (but RT's acting was superb)

  • Comment number 15.

    Definitely one of the best episodes so far, great writing, great acting. And, er, don't know how to say this without offending loads of people but, er, glad there was hardly any Nina in it :-o I really am having trouble taking to her, she just annoys me.
    Roll on sunday when we hopefully find out if Mitchell's undercrackers really are as bad as they look!

  • Comment number 16.

    Who is the scribbler with the green pen? :-)

  • Comment number 17.

    ah ha one of the great questions

  • Comment number 18.

    Ooh great post. :) Very interesting.

    And I agree with everyone about the last line. Risky thing to say, especially considering the things that certain bloggers talk about without being encouraged. xD

  • Comment number 19.

    16 - my money's on Mr P lol

    Right back to the cage...

  • Comment number 20.

    I have watched episode 4 twice now, I am really addicted. It was by far the best episode so far, everyone was amazing.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thank you Jamie Mathieson, you have put the image in my head of Toby, with a top hat, cape, twirly beard and cane*shakes head sadly*
    Actually, next writer's questions should be delivered that way
    ......

    I jest ^_^

  • Comment number 22.

    Great ep Mr.M BTW

  • Comment number 23.

    I loved this episode! My favourite part was when george was writing on the mirror and the boss walked in- legendary!

    RT was amazing in this ep but we cant forget all the others, annie was great, so were sykes and mitchell.

    Brilliantly written and i loved reading this post and getting an insight into how everything works as a writer.

    Great ep and i hope we get many more like it :)

  • Comment number 24.

    The correcting the grammar thing *was* awesome, but was there a bit of inspiration from Monty Python's Life of Brian? :- "The Romans they go the house!"

  • Comment number 25.

    To all those commenting on Mr M's cage you are very naughty. That cage is for transformations ONLY. Tut tut double tut.

    However, we are giving Jamie a round of applause for taking the time out to write that for us *clap clap clap* But that's not all! We'll have a similar feature on the music of eps 1-4 coming soon...

    Plus lots more interesting bits and pieces including a new face to introduce here on the blog. But I can't say more than that... Muhahaha!

  • Comment number 26.

    Mr P - of course - purely for transformations - tut tut indeed! I would never say such things!

    Ooh a new face hey? You tease! And yay for the music feature too...

    The new face - is this a new character - new prequel? Or are you gonna introduce us to a new member of the crew? Either would be pretty awesome :-P

    Ps. Mr P any chance you're gonna be at the Southbank over the weekend??

  • Comment number 27.

    I wasnt one of the naughty ones commenting on the cage - and I didnt think anything either - honest!
    Thanks BHProd for continuing to work so hard for us bloggers - looking forward to the music one - was wondering who chose all the tracks.
    And a new face? excellento as George would say

  • Comment number 28.

    That was a really great blog - I find it really interesting to learn about the idea/writing process.
    I really loved episode 4 - George becoming a teacher was a stroke of genius! *grin* It had me in stitches!

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm looking forward to the music blog too - the Mumford and Sons track was a standout for me this year, and all the music that Gilbert listened to/was accompanied by last year took me right back to my yoof.

  • Comment number 30.

    It was a great episode. I really like how the supernatural populace is being padded out a bit too, with Sykes and Nina (as well as the usual Neck-Nibblers Anonymous crowd). I also really like how there's not always a physical transformation in every episode. I think some teams would be tempted to do that every single week. I also really enjoyed the trial-and-error of the cage and the blood-addicts group. I don't think all production teams would actually bother trying to face the obvious methods (even if the audience is sitting there thinking "why don't you try X?"), and I think it's important that you guys do, if only so we as an audience can see it being ruled out. Awesome episode in an awesome series. And thank you for not making Nina go pop.

  • Comment number 31.

    that is really interesting to see howan episode evolves from ideas to paper. Russell's acting was outstanding in this episode, which also shows how well the writing was, to couple that and Mr. Tovey...Oustanding. Looking forward to the music feature, and wondering who this new face is....cast or crew? Can't wait to find out!

  • Comment number 32.

    I loved this episode. It had so many engaging moments (For Me). I loved how things turned in a second, the humour of George correcting the graffiti to his attack on his boss (Admittedly I wanted him to punch him... but when it carried on and on... like OMG George reign it back.)

    I liked the little bits of domestic bliss and the way how Lucy saves Nina. (Is she as bad as everyone (including me thought?) and as everyone has said... brilliantly written and brilliantly acted episode.

    thank you.

  • Comment number 33.

    Lol Chas_Smesh5416 - me too (I wanted him to hit him I mean lol) to be fair its one of those things most of us (if you have a boss like mine anyway...) just imagine ourselves doing in your head to keep you on the verge of sanity without actually doing it and getting fired lol

  • Comment number 34.

    Evening,

    Have watched Ep4 again and now don't trust Sam. Perhaps I just have a deeply suspicious nature?

  • Comment number 35.

    Really enjoyed reading this and thanks Jamie for a funny and informative read. It sort of answers one of my questions for Toby as i've been wondering how the continuity was achieved throughout with so many different writers. I loved eps 4 and said on previous blog how superb Russell's acting was ....wonder how long George is going to stay in his cage and is he going to return to the Language School?
    Loved the bits Jamie wrote about Toby,( never really had him pegged as the Prince of Darkness) his friends and his wife with her lists( bless!) I still think that there was a huge contrast between Mitchell in eps 3 and the fun,supportive Mitchell in eps 4 but that's not a complaint!

    Pharmcat:...don't understand your dislike of Nina's character...she is perfect for George and I'm hoping that she'll be featuring a lot more in next few weeks.

    Mustardseed...I'm trusting Sam..tis true that her daughter Molly came out with a rather odd ( and rude!) comment meeting George for first time on the doorstep....possibly she can sense the 'wolf within'

    And the cage isn't for sex Mr P?...shame...I was making plans...!

  • Comment number 36.

    Re-watching episode 1. The 'tidal forces' of the full moon are gravitational. Increasing atmospheric pressure can't counteract gravity. Also if it were anything to do with gravity wouldn't there be an even greater effect at the new moon?

    If the CenSSA lot are meant to be scientists and their logic is werewolves = moon = tides = sea = hyperbaric chamber, well that's really a bit rubbish isn't it?

  • Comment number 37.

    Dorina #35, it's Sam's behaviour, rather than Molly's, which is making me suspicious but let's see how this develops.

  • Comment number 38.

    "If the CenSSA lot are meant to be scientists and their logic is werewolves = moon = tides = sea = hyperbaric chamber, well that's really a bit rubbish isn't it?"

    Because believing vampires are "the devil incarnate" is really logical ;) I think they're scientists for a given value of scientist, tbh. I suppose that they could be working on something to do with the werewolf change needing cellular expansion/reproduction, and that high pressures could mean that there is insufficient energy supplied by the curse to overcome that and complete the change, but I think the word "curse" kinda removes the condition from the realm of medical science :)

  • Comment number 39.

    Well obviously Kemp isn't exactly Mr Rational, OTOH we're talking about a world where vampires, werewolves and ghosts exist so who's to say he isn't right? It seems that for him in particular to be looking for a scientific explaination for werewolves does lack somewhat in the area of internal consistency.

    I was thinking more of Lloyd and Jaggart who, we are led to believe, ARE looking for a scientific explaination. That one, as described by Kemp, strikes me as not very good. Even as sympathetic magic it's not mcuh cop.

  • Comment number 40.

    Ah, I'd missed it being described by Kemp - I suppose we can't expect the production team to be rigorous researchers AND fabulous writers :) [A little mean part of me also adds that whilst Lloyd and Lucy *are* scientists, nowhere did it say they were *good* scientists ;)]
    I'm happy to suspend disbelief over it anyway - for me, the "it kills people" part overwhelms the "it's Doctor Who science" part, especially in fiction :)

  • Comment number 41.

    Poor Lloyd, maybe that's why he's so loyal to Kemp, nobody else would hire him, and from the flash-back Lucy is clearly used to people taking the piss because of her 'evil gene' theory. So, they're not *good* scientists, I can live with that :-)

  • Comment number 42.

    They were definitely lax on the controlled conditions front - strangers in the DNA lab (Kemp's first visit to Lucy), no protective gear on Lucy whilst she was working on the DNA samples, no set perameters on the 'experiments' ("up the pressure" from Kemp - to what? With what plan, precisely?)... Honestly, standards have slipped ;) [I was a bio-physics geek for a few qualifications, for interest. Did science get you too, or just a general polymath?]

  • Comment number 43.

    I've been a science geek since I was a kid, up to A Levels and then I swapped to computers at uni and became a tech geek, but the scince bug never totally lets you go :-)

  • Comment number 44.

    isnt it a bit odd that Lucy is a research scientist one minute and a hospital physician the next??

  • Comment number 45.

    Either she was totally discredited by her 'evil gene' theory and lost her research grant and had to take what she could get OR the hospital job is just a cover and a way to get at Michell.

  • Comment number 46.

    (44) That could be jsut a way to get close to Mitchell, taking a job as a doctor at the hospital he works at. Might appear to be a step down but she is there solely to get top him, remember "Professor Jaggart, we've found them" at the end of series one.

    Ooh thanks BHP! Looking forward to the feature on the music of the series which I love, I am already indebted to the show for introducing me to several great bands, most recently Mumford & Sons after I heard them in episode two. So cheers for that. :D

    The books are out tomorrow, haven't ordered any yet but I will at some point, maybe I should save them to keep me occupied between the end of the series and the DVD release? Must get my Beign Human fix somehow :D

  • Comment number 47.

    I think youre right she's there to get to Mitchell (and George?) - but still puzzled as to how she got the job? wrong qualifications?? unless she and CENSSA are more connected than they look - looking a bit fringe crazy at the moment?

  • Comment number 48.

    (43) I left science too, when I finally had to decide between physics and languages, but I still dabble - they don't tell you what you're 'allowed to know yet' in linguistics :)

    (46) I'm looking forward to the music blogs too - I'm most definitely the uncultured youth, so it'd be nice to see who's behind the choices. (Mumford & Sons got me too, along with stuff I really should have known, like Mushaboom leading to Feist's latest album or Howl - I *liked* both those bands and had still missed those offerings ~shame~)

  • Comment number 49.

    (43) As you guys know I'm studying to be a librarian, but I had to share this, one of the people who studies it with me said that cataloguers were the geeks of the librarian world
    .......
    probably off topic, but I thought I'd share

  • Comment number 50.

    Thanks for that Mr. M....was really interesting....love the idea of making a list after the deed is done....you could never feel like a failure that way.
    Like everyone else, the last line about the cage 'Got my attention'...but if it's only to transform in...I'll not bother thanks...Hehe.
    And yes, Russell's acting, especially with the Tourettes thing...brilliant

  • Comment number 51.

    Hi folks...

    Celticgrace: (44) There are occasions when you can be both research doc and do physician/surgical work too...you have to fit both in. I've worked in NHS and medical schools and it frequently has to happen that way...when doctors get so far in their junior careers, they must carry on taking exams like FRCS or MRCP so have to study and work at the same time...in Lucy's case it's looking like she's doing more medical work than she should be as a cover, like peeps are saying...she may want to appear to be doing more of the research stuff behind the scenes (which she seems to be doing) then doing the A&E and ward work in order to keep bumping into Mitchell and entrapping him...I'm sure she's still on track with that tho may fall for him later, but for now she's treating him purely as research fodder..

    What I find odd is that she's a Professor...how old is the woman? I've heard of Professor's in their thirties but either she's a vampire herself and therefore and extremely well preserved 40something, or she's not a Professor of Medicine or Surgery (way too young for that I'd have thought) but a Professor of Theology which would give a leaning towards the religious side of her life, if there is one...

  • Comment number 52.

    VF: Howdy...how are you? Had an interesting day so far but not blogging material so can't go into it here..

    Russell's acting...what can I say? Completely and utterly perfect..

    The cage would be boring if all I did was transform in it...much prefer our writer's original suggestion...and I did offer after all (only joking Mr P)

  • Comment number 53.

    51) professor could be an honorific or we've heard Kemp use phrases from older times his way of saying Doctor?
    side note the screen shot for ep 5 is up and I'm one book down 2 to go

  • Comment number 54.

    Been watching goings on in parliament today and find that there are some striking similarities between some politicians and the members of CenSSA. The willingness to sacrifice other people in pursuit of ideology, some members hardline and utterly convinced that they are right, others less sure but towing the party line even after voicing concerns because they don't have the courage and moral fibre to risk their careers. Some lying to themselves and ignoring the evidence because facing the truth would force them to do something about it.

    In the world of BH at least the weak and misguided characters might come good and the evil one might end up with his head ripped off or something equally satisfying. IRL the most we can hope for is that they loose their jobs {sigh}

  • Comment number 55.

    I might have to post this comment a few times to get an answer because I can't find out where I should really post it...

    Where are you able to post questions to the writers?

    Or was that a one-off thing and now they're not answering questions any more?

    By the way (unrelated comment) - to the guy who mentioned She Wolf of London - it's finally out on DVD now if you want to pick up a copy. It only came out this month. x

  • Comment number 56.

    If anyone doesn't mind spoilers lastbroadcast has a very detailed review for episode 7,very interesting.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am so please to see that a further series has been commissioned. You know when you get that heart sinking feeling when you look and see you are on episode 4 of 8 ..... Oh No - it's half over ! How am I going to fill my evening once it has finished.... I'm going to have to buy a set of dvd's and watch all the episodes again from the very very beginning !

    Feel a tad ocd, but hey - Being Human's worth it!

  • Comment number 58.

    brilliant episode, it was. I have TS (tourette's) and OCD and really loved George's story in this episode =)

  • Comment number 59.

    As an ESL teacher myself, George's star turn as swearing coach extraordinaire had me in stitches. His correcting the faulty grammar on the bathroom mirror was sheer brilliance...and *so* true to life! Kind of like a modern-day Harold Ramis in "Stripes," or "Mind Your Language" (which my international students love to watch).

  • Comment number 60.

    Great episode and a great blog post too.

    One thing I'd need to point out though:

    "The lovely thing about writing for Being Human is that is recognises no genre boundaries. A scene can be thigh slappingly hilarious, then dramatic, then horrific, all within a few seconds. Just ask George's boss in the toilets. I can't think of another show that pulls this off, or even tries."

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

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