• PSAudios 2.7. Christmas Spirits

    Doctor Who
    Paul Monk, Steve Alexander and Dave Tudor star in

    PSAudios - 2.7. Christmas Spirits
    By Paul Clement
    "Three is a powerful number Doctor, especially in the world of spirit...soon I will be free of this hellish limbo. And just as in any good game of chess, the pawns will be sacrificed as necessary..."

    Arthur Cottonwood is a Victorian Gentlemen like any other, and aided by his loyal employee Daniel Everett, strives to uphold a decent household and business. But Arthur Cottonwood hides a secret - he is plagued by voices from beyond the grave. And one spirit in particular, is determined not to rest in peace...

    Meanwhile the TARDIS arrives in Victorian London, and the Doctor, Nick and Rob set out to experience a Victorian Christmas after their recent battle against the Daleks and the Krotons. But soon the Doctor's curiosity is piqued by Cottonwood and his demons, little knowing that demons of his own are stirring in the ether...

    Who is the mysterious Spirit of Shadows that seeks an existence outside of Arthur Cottonwood's dreams? What is the secret from Arthur's past that threatens to surface with devastating consequences? And is the Doctor prepared for a battle against an enemy even he thought long dead?

    Full-Length Episode

    Download PSAudios - 2.7. Christmas Spirits - Episode.mp3

    Bonus Features
    Ezra's Knock by Paul Clement, read by Paul Ballard

    Download PSAudios-2.7X1.ChristmasSpirits-EzrasKnock.mp3

    Christmas Spirits Trailer

    Download PSAudios-2.7X2.ChristmasSpirits-Trailer.mp3

    Trailer for Season 3 of PS Audios

    Download PSAudios-2.7X3.2009Trailer.mp3

    Hilarious Out-takes

    Download PSAudios-2.7X4.ChristmasSpirits-Outtakes.mp3

    Cast List
    Doctor Who - Paul Monk
    Rob - Steve Alexander
    Nick - Dave Tudor
    Arthur Cottonwood – Andrew Clancy
    Daniel Everett – Simon Hart
    Spirit of Shadows – Jason Thompson
    Spirit of Retribution/Mordecai – Si Hunt
    Jenkins – Alex Finch
    Mary – Kathy Riedtmann
    Street Hawker – Phillip Madeley

    Written by Paul Clement
    Directed by Si Hunt, Steve Alexander and Pip Madeley
    Produced by Si Hunt
    Cover by Pip Madeley
    Originally released Saturday 20th December 2008

    Ezra's Knock
    Written by Paul Clement
    Produced by Si Hunt
    Read by Paul Ballard

    (click for larger versions)




    Pictures of the cast

    Paul Clement had previously submitted ideas for PlanetSkaro Audios, including an unused storyline called "Landfall: Raaga" concerning the Terileptils. Eventually however, Si Hunt asked him to provide a story idea for a special Christmas story to be completed in 2008 - suggesting that a Victorian theme would be appreciated. He initially offered three story ideas to the team, and "Christmas Spirits" was the one taken forward.

    Of the two other story ideas that didn’t make the cut, one was a Jack the Ripper idea, the other was to be set during the Victorian era in a large house in the country. The owner had acquired a ‘game’ that originated from another world. The game would tap into the fears and guilt of anyone it was set to work on, and the house owner had arranged for a select group of acquaintances to attend his home for Christmas, intent on utilise the ‘game’ on them.

    Christmas Spirits is rather obviously inspired by the Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, but Clement wanted to go beyond the idea of redemption alone as the reasons for the ghostly haunting. He hit upon the idea that the man being haunted would have two opposing ghosts affecting him. One who wants to redeem him, and one who wants to destroy him for perceived wrongs done by him in his past. It was at this early stage that the writer realised that the characters of Nick and Rob would either have little to do within the story, or would have to diminish the role of another of the characters in the story, Daniel Everett. Clement spoke to Si Hunt, and asked if he would be happy with a story that only featured Nick and Rob at the very outset and once again at the end. Hunt agreed, but asked for a short story that covered their time away from the Doctor during the events of Christmas Spirits - this would form the "bonus" feature on the CD, and would be a narrated episode rather than a full cast drama.

    "Christmas Spirits" featured a character in it from the shows past that Clement had wanted to bring back. He wasn’t sure whether the production team would go with this idea, so developed a back up just in case. As it was, the production team were happy to let him go ahead with the resurrection of an old enemy, and the Master was set for his first appearance in a PlanetSkaro Audio.

    In November 2008, a recording session for "Christmas Spirits" and another forthcoming story, The Wealth of Craytians, was held in Redhill. The recording was felt to have gone extremely well, with two microphones being utilised, each connected to a laptop. However, on returning home Si Hunt discovered that the recordings made on the second laptop were very low in volume. After amplification and clean-up, the sound quality of the recordings was akin to a telephone conversation, and it soon became obvious that they would not be usable.

    The team set out an immediate plan for recovery, hoping to rescue the Christmas Story with a series of re-recordings. On analysing what could be saved, the news wasn't all bleak - the working laptop had been used for around 60% of the work completed. The part of the Spirit of Retribution (and Martin Penny's work as Ed Bradley in the second story) was intended to be recorded later, remotely, anyway. The biggest loss was all bar one scene of Jason Thompson's key performance as the Spirit of Shadows, and most of Andrew Clancy's lines as Arthur.

    It was quickly arranged to meet back in Redhill a few weeks later - Thompson was persuaded to re-record all his lines, meanwhile Si Hunt asked Andrew Clancy to re-record his part from home (Clancy's laptop stopped working a day after he finished the re-records, so a days delay in re-taping the lines would have written off the entire project for a second time). In addition, Paul Monk re-recorded many of his lines as the Doctor that had previously been found to be usable, in order that his performance matched that of Thompsons. The team managed to record all the material they needed for Christmas Spirits at the second attempt.

    When approaching the production of the story, Si Hunt envisaged the adventure having the feel of a play, and being mostly dialogue orientated. He did, however, set out to create some atmospheric background sound-scapes, including the one for Victorian London, which featured layer upon layer of tirelessly sourced sounds such as horses, children playing and street sellers. A BBC documentary and documentation on what the real Victorian London would have sounded like (extremely noisy!) was even studied. Several 'ghostly' wind noise sounds were developed, and for the sequence when the fate of 'the Spirit of Love' is recalled, Si created some special flashback sequences.

    It was quickly decided that this story should resemble a film on audio, or a feature length Christmas adventure, so for the first time there were no episode breaks. Also in keeping with this, for the (to date) only time in PlanetSkaro Audios history, a different version of the Doctor Who theme music was used - Si wanted a festive and more epic arrangement, which he eventually located.

    P-Bal recorded "Ezra's Knock" to much hilarity and much laughter which made the story difficult to finish recording. Out-takes from this session were included on the CD, although the story's trailer wasn't, due to timing reasons.

    Very few photographs were taken for the CD cover, though Pip Madeley used some shots of Jason Thompson to depict the Master on the story's sleeve.


    JENKINS: I’ve just told you, Mister Cottonwood doesn’t like to be treated by anyone other than Doctor Stapleton. Your journey therefore has to have been wasted.
    DOCTOR: Ah! But I’m not here to treat Mister Cottonwood.
    JENKINS: But you said…
    DOCTOR: I said I was the Doctor. The rest you just assumed, never a good habit to get into.


    SPIRIT OF SHADOWS: I know you better than you know yourself, Doctor. I set events in motion that called you in so insidiously, you weren’t even aware you were being manipulated. I called you here, and you came as unwittingly as a lamb to the slaughter!


    SPIRIT OF LOVE: There was more than enough love inside you to move on, but you chose not to. You let guilt consume you and shunned your feelings for anything other than the pursuit of financial gain. That is no sort of life for one such as you.


    SPIRIT /ARTHUR: I died, Doctor. My spirit was released at the moment of death, and I found myself looking down over my own abandoned body. I saw you. Your pity for me was almost palpable. Do you know something, Doctor? In that moment I think I hated you more than I ever had before.

    Listener Response

    "Special mention has to be made to the opening scene. Full of atmosphere, sets the scene wonderfully. I think it's probably the best opening of PS audio so far ..."

    "I thought it was excellent. Very atmospheric, and the production was absolutely spot on, save for a couple of quiet lines of dialogue here and there. Loved the reference to It's A Wonderful Life at the end!"
    Antony Cox

    "I thought Paul turned in his best yet, Jason made for an excellent villain, and Andrew was brilliant too, making a sympathetic character out of someone who at first might be difficult to like. And whilst I know Si's voice was modulated somehow, it was a brilliant effect, and made for an extremely chilling enemy of the Doctor."
    Alex Finch

    "On the downside, there's this violin noise that keeps cropping up in the background ambience... it's the only part of it that makes it obviously a loop, but apart from that it sounds great and very atmospheric... Ezra's Knock is very, very strange... I can kind of see what the story is getting at, but it's so weird for Rob and Nick's characters. Rob comes across as a right b**tard, while Nick is as soppy as Jo Grant! Although the story is an every day tale of tramp-washing (!), I don't know if it quite works for the regular characters."
    Steve Alexander

    "To me some problem I had with this is best described as "visual aspects" - things which if this had been a television show, there wouldn't have been a problem, but it being audio only it didn't work too well ...

    1) Arthur Cottonwood comes out and goes "Help me ... somebody help me", and there's dramatic music. But it's not really easy to tell what's happened to him. There perhaps shouldn't have been that music, but instead the sound of someone hitting the ground, or someone going "he's collapsed". It wasn't easy to follow.

    2) The Psychic Battle relied heavily on descriptions from bystanders. Again really hard to do on audio. It did drag a bit. I think perhaps it needed to just be a little slicker, but it's a tough order. The scene was really crucial to the story though.

    3) The Master disappears in a TARDIS. One minute he's talking about not wanting to be stranded in Victorian London, about stealing the Doctors TARDIS. The next he's in a TARDIS and away.

    But it's not the Doctor's TARDIS is it? It's not obvious at all, it just seems to come from no-where, and is never mentioned before. I'll admit the TARDIS engine doesn't sound quite the same, but there's not enough audio signposts given to the listener.

    In the final exchange with the Doctor/Nick/Rob I was expecting the Doctor to tell them they're stranded, but next moment there's the creak of the TARDIS door. I'm sometimes a bit annoyed when there's gaps like that in story which mean I rely on reading a thread about the audio to fill in the gaps."

    • Nick and Rob are mostly absent from this adventure - this was planned from the start, as writer Paul Clement had other characters he wished to use in the companion role. Consequently, all the material with Rob and Nick was recorded earlier in the year, at a different recording session, to release Tudor from the later session.
    • There is a continuity error late in the story: the Master mentions stealing the Doctors TARDIS, before audibly taking off in his own
    • The short story, "Ezra’s Knock" was originally going to be called The Gift of Christmas. Clement wanted the story to counterpoint the Doctor’s way of saving the world, by having a story where Nick, with a little help from Rob, saves a person. There’s a great ad-lib line in the story, by the narrator Paul Ballard, when Ezra is being washed.

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