Fantastical TV

I’ve been racing around the country for the last few days so haven’t had time to write  about the panel I did at the weekend for the London Screenwriters’ Festival.  The topic was Fantastical TV, and my fellow panellists were Paul Cornell, Adrian Hodges and Jason Arnopp.  The chair was the ebullient Tom Hunter, who runs the Arthur C. Clarke Awards; it’s now been agreed that Tom should chair every panel, everywhere in the world. And damn he does it well.

I’d not met Jason Arnopp before – lovely guy, he’s just made  a low budget horror movie which I’m yearning to see. Adrian  was the showrunner of fantastical shows including Primeval and Survivors, and he’s got a new movie coming out called My Week With Marilyn. And Paul Cornell has of course written numerous splendid Dr Who as well as a spooky BBC 3 thriller called Pulse.

I was  the imposter at the feast  - I’ve worked a lot in TV but it was always on crime shows not SF or fantasy. I was script editor on Taggart for a while, which under Glenn Chandler was famous for its baroque amazing stories – like the episode where the killer is an old woman living in a gingerbread house in the woods who bakes children.  But Paul Cornell poured scorn on the idea that Taggart could be called ‘fantastical’ (it wasn’t a real gingerbread house.) I also once wrote the first every science fiction episode of Heartbeat, in which aliens land in Aidensfield. But Cornell asked if they were REAL aliens, which they weren’t; so he poured scorn on my claim that it was an SF episode at all.

Sigh.

I did also script edited a series by Geoff Deane called A Many Splintered Thing which had a magic realist episode in which Hugh Lloyd floats in mid-air – does that count Paul?

The debate was lively and spirited, which you’d expect. And sober, which you wouldn’t.  Tom chaired with his usual deft eloquence, like Dylan Moran without actually being Dylan Moran. We began by all agreeing that there wasn’t much great British fantasy/SF TV out there if you exclude Dr Who; then we ended up agreeing that there IS lots of great British fantasy/SF TV out there.  I put in a plug for Misfits, which for me is the only British show that reaches the heights of Buffy,  Battlestar, etc , etc etc.  It’s not a rip off of anything; it’s utterly unique, with a powerful writer’s voice (Howard Overman) and a stunningly good cast.

The Festival is a great event. It’s very very well attended indeed – the  room was overflowing with would be TV writers, and I saw  a few familiar faces in there.  The passion to write the fantastical is clearly out there…

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