• PSAudios 4.1. Sting of the Time Bees


    Doctor Who
    Paul Monk and Martin Penny star in

    Sting of the Time Bees
    By Steven Alexander
    "The Time Bees are coming, Ed. They're coming for YOU."

    Norombra A world of myths and legends; ruled by a tyrannical Queen.

    Gene Bradley The playboy billionaire businessman and movie star; a
    gentleman and an adventurer.

    Lord Raxbone Ice Lord of Mars; his mission to recapture the honour of the Martian Empire.

    The Doctor's companion Edward Bradley is thrust into a world of intrigue and mayhem. But being executed by the Palace Guard and escaping the clutches of the Ice Warriors are the least of his worries. Because Ed has been marked by the Time Bees... and the cataclysmic events that follow will shake Norombra to it's core and bring the whole galaxy under threat!

    Ed has one hope left - that the Doctor will save him. Only this time the Doctor has problems of his own. After all, how can he save Ed... if he can't even save himself?

    Empires will crumble, secrets will be revealed and loads of people will die in... The STING of the TIME BEES!

    Listen
    Episode 1

    Download PSAudios - 4.1. Sting of the Time Bees - Episode1.mp3

    Episode 2

    Download PSAudios - 4.1. Sting of the Time Bees - Episode2.mp3


    Cast List
    Doctor Who Paul Monk
    Ed Bradley Martin Penny
    Gene Bradley Andrew Clancy
    Mr Parminter Simon Hart
    Lord Raxbone - Steven Alexander
    Sizleer - Si Hunt
    Arzax - Jason Thompson
    Queen Cordelis Emma Thompson
    Princess Aldeera - Susan Alexander
    Porter 1 Jason Thompson
    Porter 2 Ant Cox
    Head Cook - Jonno Simmons
    Percival - Si Hunt
    Executioner - Steven Alexander
    Private Wildebeest - Philip Ludlam
    Major Orinoco - Jon Masters
    Private Jodrell - Ashley Culley

    Extras...
    (click for larger versions)
    CD Sleeve/Front


    CD Inlay


    CD Back


    CD Label


    Images from the recording
     


    Production

    It all started with a fan-recorded commentary for Timelash...

    Dave Tudor was making fun of the Guardoliers and the veils that they wear over their faces. He wondered if they were to protect them from the bees living in the Timelash - the Time Bees!

    Wasting nothing, Steven Alexander decided that there might be a story in that.

    There were at least two completely different versions of The Sting of The Time Bees planned before the final story came together.

    The original plan was to bring Ed, the Doctor, Rob and Nick together. In the first attempt, the story featured Napoleon, the pyramids, the New Harlow Megropolis, Ed Bradley's Grandfather (Gene Bradley), the Blue Peter Satellite Prison, the beast of Primrose Hill, the SFL Institute, the Temple of Amber and Zombie Mr Ed, the Talking Zombie Horse. (Sample dialogue - "Gee whizz Billy Bob! Neigh... Braaaaiiinsss..."). Episodes 1-3 of this four part mega-epic were scripted, but eventually binned.

    Attempt two featured Ed, Rob and Nick as the companions. It was set partially on present-day Earth and had a story built around killer bees, teleportation, a love interest for Ed and a planet with a black hole at it's centre. This story was planned out, but minimal script was written.

    Eventually, it was decided that in order to make the production easier, The Sting of The Time Bees would be a two-parter. Also for production reasons, Steven decided that this should be the story to write out the Doctor's companion, Edward Bradley.


    Production Diary
    Work so far (28 March):
    Scenes 1 and 2 have been de-hissed and I've cut the vocal lines into separate files by character (so I have an TBS01Ed.wav file and at TBS01Doctor.wav file). The next steps would be to sort out the stereo positioning and then re-assemble the vocal lines.

    I have also created a multi-tracked choral effect for the Pendant. This is a 'choir' bit of music from Cavendish Music: Poisoned Planet. I changed the pitch and created four different verions in different 'keys'. I then overlaid them, starting at different times, to create an ethereal choir that builds up.

    I've ordered a new sound card (Asus Xonar), because the on-board sound on my motherboard is poor. The device drivers don't work properly in Windows 7. Hopefully it should arrive in a day or two.

    March 29:
    Scenes 3-7a have been prepped. Some of Si Hart's lines have hit the top of the Loudness barrier and are a little distorted. So the poor little lamb will be back in front of the microphone before too long.

    Also, I'm a little unsure about my Ice Warrior. While Si Hunt and Jason were nicely whispery, Lord Raxbone seems to be a bit too vocal. I'll be digging out the Peladon DVDs to check the Ice Lord's voice. Perhaps I should have done that last week!

    March 30:
    The new sound card arrived today! I have inbuilt 5.1 sound on my motherboard but it's had issues with device drivers since Windows 7 was released. Plus the sound was a bit ropey with fading out and odd effects. So I went for the expensive (80) upgrade and, to be fair, it's solved all my problems including letting Audacity 'grab' sound from any source, which is vital.

    I had a listen to the music from The Ice Warriors which has been put up on YouTube. It's an edited version with all of the vocals and fx mixed right down. It's low quality and even on the episodes themselves the music sounds like it's come from a scratchy LP. I might use some of it quietly in the background.

    There are lots of Bee sfx that I've got a hold of too now, varying in quality. I will probably use them all! Annoyingly, I couldn't find a good sfx of a whisky flask being opened. I may have to re-create that one manually.

    I finished cutting up Scene 7, 7a and 7b. Then I cut up the Head Cook scenes, 8, 10 and 12. I'm sure the Head Cook was going to turn up again at the end of the story to lead Gene to the armory, but I changed that for some reason. Jonno is fab as the Cook and I'm disappointed that I took it out now!

    April 04:
    More cutting and cleaning. I've nearly reached the end, in fact I'm halfway through Scene 24! Of course this is only the preliminary work, but it should be a fairly quick process to stitch it back together. Now, finding the right music and sound effects could be a lot harder!

    Si has sourced a Paddy Kingsland CD of Medieval Style music. It's got loads of trumpets and fanfares and castle stuff, so that might be putting in an appearance.

    The worst thing about a really good episode of Doctor Who on the TV is that it takes the sheen off doing these audios. I'm thinking about the dialogue in the last scene and although it's servicable, it could be so much better. The trouble is you only need to have one line that feels unnatural and it brings the whole thing down. Or even half a line. There's a million tons of exposition in that last scene.

    Then again, it's wrong to compare dialogue for audio compared with dialogue for TV. If this was TV, you could have a flashback to show the Queen Bee going back in time. You could have someone being punched without lines like 'Come on, trusty left hook!' So maybe I shouldn't be too hard on it. Listeners can be swept along by the production, the story and the ideas so the odd ropey line of dialogue can be more of a stumble rather than a fall-flat-on-your-face moment. There may be a lot of exposition, but it's shared between the actors and is conversational, so the scene still feels like it's moving forward hopefully.

    06 April:
    Four scenes are now substantially complete, the pre-credits teaser and the first two in the palace.

    Ant Cox's voice sounds a little deeper than normal and I'm not sure if this is actually how he sounded! One problem I've encountered before is to do with bit-rate. Tracks recorded at a higher bit-rate will play more slowly when imported into Audacity. The net result is that an actor can suddenly acquire a deeper voice! I actually rather like the new sounding Ant, so it's staying as is.

    Another problem is to do with specific sound effects. A bowl of soup is knocked over in Scene 4, but how do you find the right sound for that? The sound search-engines don't have 'Bowl of soup knocked over' as a standard sound. I know! I've looked! The finished effect was made up of a metallic clatter, a splash from someone diving into water and a nice 'bowl spinning' sound. The 'bowl spinning' sound is so familiar, but it's really hard to describe. You can't type in 'You know when you drop a bowl face down and it takes a while to come to rest, because the edges bounce up and down causing it to spin, that sound'. I tried that one too! Fortunately I found what I wanted under 'bowl' in general.

    So far I've only cut one line, but I may be more ruthless in future. It's very difficult to judge timings at this stage.

    19 April:
    I've specified myself a 'deeply weird' sequence in Scene 10. It's about 15 seconds long and is meant to be unsettling and bizarre. As if Jonno's French accent wasn't strange enough!

    There's a character who is feeling unwell and the idea is that we get a brief insight into their state of mind. This kind of sound fx work is great fun to do, because you can use any effect and it doesn't have to sound like anything specific or real. So there's quite a few things thrown into the mix.

    The first thing was to create a 'whining' noise for the background. If you've seen Snakedance, there's a bit where we see things from possessed Tegan's point of view and to create a sense of confusion, there's a constant high-pitched whine. This is the most obvious example, but it happens in all kinds of films and TV. Audacity came up trumps (or beeps) as it will automatically generate a 'Chirp' that rises in pitch. It's a constant single note, a rising whistle.

    But that's not weird enough! The chirp effect is taken into Nero's Wav Editor where it's treated to some Multi-Tap Delay. This is a great effect which allows you to add several different kinds of 'echo' (or 'Delay') all at once. So you can have one Delay line that rises in pitch, another that feeds back, and another that fades out quickly. One of the presets in the program perfectly re-creates the Vogon voices from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy! Anyway, adding this to the chirp gives it a bit more body and strangeness.

    After that, the main vocal line was treated in the same way and played over the top. Finally, various sections of dialogue were cut-up and played over the top at random, to create the disjointed confusion that one would feel in those circumstances! The snippets of dialogue were speeded up and slowed down, pretty much at random.

    It was important to maintain the volume at a reasonable level. A lot of the layers had to be quietened down, so that the vocal line was still audible and so that people wouldn't be tearing their headphones off in agony at the sudden noise!

    Hopefully the end result should puzzle and intrigue the listener. It's all logically derived from what is actually happening, but it's a very strange effect.

    April 20th:
    A heavy duty scene completed last night! This had more layers of sound going at once than in any scene I've done before. Towards the end of Scene 17 there is gunfire (on two levels), swarming bees, time vortex fx, hissing, running footsteps and dialogue all going on at once!

    All of the FX will be heard at a louder volume in other scenes, so they're comparatively quiet here so that the dialogue isn't swamped. The fx were all mixed in to make one wav file and then I turned the volume down a smidge before adding the reverb (the slight echo effect that you get in a large room).

    I'm considering having a line of music playing through the first half of Scene 17. There are a couple of big revelations as secret motives are revealed. Consequently, the music should be as quiet and un-distracting as possible, but it still needs to be there. It's a difficult balance and I'm certainly not using music in every scene. I went about 1,000 miles over the top on Doctor Who and The Christmas Gnomes which was scored like a movie, or a new series episode. Fine for visuals, but it really doesn't work on audio where the dialogue is totally driving the story.

    The second episode of Sting of The Time Bees is almost 75% exposition. Everyone has a story to tell! In order to keep things going the episode is punctuated by as many deaths as possible. If someone starts to tell you something, then they get attacked; if they finish telling you whatever it is, then they die in horrible agony. I'm not a fan of villains who pose a nebulous threat. In my opinion the higher the casualty rate, the nastier they are - generally speaking! It's always possible to be threatening in a different, smarter way, but you run the risk of making the listener / audience think 'I don't care!'

    There are a lot of scenes that I can't do because we haven't got Aldeera yet. Hopefully we might get someone in early May to fix this!

    Si Hunt interjects:
    I prefer to do scenes with a lot going on than loads of talking in. I remember "Hand of Peace" had one scene which was about 10 minutes of dialogue - I embraced it in the end, as you have to, but you have to work very hard with what you have to avoid making it boring. And you run out of music very quickly.

    21 April:
    If the dialogue is good (as it was in Hand of Peace) then there's no problem. Though I'd be tempted to split it up and stick it around another scene. On the other hand, there's a much greater tolerance to long talky scenes in audio plays. One of the best scenes in any of the BF Audios was in Joe Lidster's play, Master, where the Doctor and the memory-wiped Master sit about discussing the nature of evil. They could have strung that out for hours, because it was fascinating.

    I agree that it would be hard to find a 10 minute score of incidental music. But you can make the listener sit up if you introduce music as the debate starts to get heated!

    Quote Unquote

    DOCTOR: "Beware the Time Bees!"

    --

    ED: "Ow! Get off! Hey, I've got nothing to hide."

    PORTER 1: "Your Highness! The Pendant of Norombra!"

    ED: "Except The Pendant of Norombra it seems."

    --

    ED: "Half of what you say doesn't make any sense and the other half is drunken gibberish!"

    GENE: "Tell me Ed... have you ever ridden a horse?"

    ED: "WHAT?!"

    --

    LORD RAXBONE: "Gene Bradley! You BASTARD!"


    Listener Response

    Well, I've listened to it now and I think it's marvellous! It's hard who to single out on the performances front, Martin Penny steals the bloody show as usual with his trademark Penny moments ("MICROWAVED?!?") and overall eccentric/startled delivery, but then I have a soft spot for Andrew Clancy's wonderful Gene in this - I love his speech about missing Cordelis' lips when he leaves and other asides. And Jonno is just marvellously surreal as the chef - and then there's Steve's Ice Warrior which it's equally obvious he's having a great time playing, and Emma's noble Queen which is pitched just perfectly (but then Emma always pitches it perfectly!). And I rather like Si's Parminter too, subtly different from his other roles.

    I do like the sound design, particuarly the ever present bees and the way the Doctor keeps popping in and out of existence as time freezes around him and Ed (that's how I interpreted the scenes anyway) and the whole thing is barmy and cartoonesque in a way we've come to expect from Steve's writing. Especially like the Court of Norombra, with Jason and the odd other chap garbling away about historical accuracy, the roaring crowds at the execution, and the way Queen Cordlis' address echoes round the court. I can see it all (in my minds eye) now as a colourful, costumed adventure, half-Merlin and half-Robin Hood.
    Si Hunt

    I think Steve excels at witty dialogue, and everyone gets loads in this story! My favourite scene was probably the two porters discussing the flags, which was acted superbly by Ant and Jason. Gene Bradley might just be my favourite character in the PS Audio's so far, I love his 'silken' speech at the end of the episode. On the downside, there's hardly any Paul Monk!

    The production is spot on as well, with the Bees sounding rather creepy! The scene with Ed running through the palace worked really well too, I never lost track of where he was. Oh, and I think that was probably the best cliffhanger we've had so far.
    Martin Penny

    You can tell everyone was enjoying themselves at the recordings. I think this is a classic audio example of that thing that Jon Pertwee always referred to, in that if you are having a good time and a laugh, then when required you great the best performances out of the 'company'. As always we did all have a great time (I can only speak for the stories that I've played a main character in, but I bet it's the same for every story that's recorded). The end product is terrific, everyone plays it for real - that's the thing I like about the PS crowd - you can really get into things like this without worrying about what other people think!!!
    Andrew Clancy


    Trivia
    • Edward Bradley leaves in this story, but it's not his last story. Confusing!
    • The Ice Warriors make their second appearance in a Planet Skaro Audio play. The voices are not entirely accurate to the TV version and deliberately so. The Ice Warriors on TV spoke in a pure whisper, but in 'The Sting of The Time Bees', their voices are given a bit more body. This was done to ensure that the lines were all clear and easy to understand!
    • As far as we are aware, this is the only recorded instance of a singing Ice Warrior.
    • New technologies were embraced for this story. Episodes could be streamed online rather than being downloaded and an RSS feed was set up for the releases. It was also synced up with I-Tunes for easy download.



    Existing Material
    All of the original recorded dialogue exists, along with out-takes.


    Forum and comments
    Rate, discuss and comment on PSAudios - 4.1. Sting of the Time Bees

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    Next: PSAudios 4.2. Once Upon a Time Lord
    Previous: PSAudios 3.5. The Kalrexi Mutation
    Index: Season 4


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