Blake’s 7: Shock Troops has been out for a week or so now, so I thought I’d share some trivia and behind-the-scene facts from the story. But first…
BE WARNED – THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD! REPEAT: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD! PLEASE LISTEN TO THE STORY BEFORE READING!
OK, now that’s out of the way…
Shock Troops is a first for me in a number of ways. It’s the first Blake’s 7 that I wrote without my long-time writing partner, Mark Wright. It is also my first return to the Federation since stepping down as Blake’s 7 producer for the Big Finish range in 2015.
When Producer John Ainsworth asked me to submit ideas for a new story, I immediately asked if it could focus on Dayna, as I wanted to work with Yasmin Bannerman, an actress I had suggested for the role back when I was producing the range.
You may be forgiven in thinking that the Battle Drudgers are a tribute to Star Wars’ many droids. While, I admit, I’m a lover of Star Wars robots of all shapes and sizes (especially this one), the D’ creation was a matter of necessity. I was asked to keep the cast to a minimum for budgetary reasons, but needed a large squad of Troopers. I could, of course, have had a lot of doubling-up, but sometimes that just doesn’t work, and causes headaches for both the director and sound engineers. So our squad of beeping robots was born. I thought it also played nicely into the theme that the Federation was getting low on human resources and so had been forced to use robots instead.
The fact that the humans needed to be ‘upgraded’ to understand the Drudgers also helped introduce the idea of the Troop-Net and the soldiers’ training implants too.
The Drudgers are named after robots from a series of Doctor Who fan audios from the early 90s which starred none-other than Blake’s 7 Producer John Ainsworth as the villainous Time Lord Askran.
Originally, the plot involved Dayna trying to infiltrate an academy training a new generation of Super-Troopers (I can’t type that without humming ABBA…) The working title of this original storyline was Foundation.
While the plot was adequate, I was never really happy with it, even when I sent it into John on 2nd August 2017.
I wasn’t surprised when he came back two days later with notes that said, quite rightly, Foundation was a tad predictable. He asked me to make a few tweaks to freshen things up, but I still wasn’t happy.
Then, while camping near Corfe Castle in Dorset with my family, the idea of actually seeing the story through a Trooper’s eyes occurred to me. Up to that point, Dayna had been the ‘star’ of the story, but what if she was someone that our ‘hero’, whoever that would turn out to be, encountered while on manoeuvres? Breaking my own rules of not working on holiday, I fired a quick email off to John outlining the main beats of the story. He replied immediately, with an enthusiastic yes! I celebrated with a Pot Noodle. Oh, the glamour…
The new outline was submitted on 21st August, now entitled Shock Troops (although we also toyed with Troopers for the title). It was approved by Terry Nation’s estate four days later.
Dayna’s Trooper number, 817-A is a convoluted code based on 7th January, 1980, the transmission date for her first ever story – Aftermath. The 8 comes from 1980, the 1 from the first month of the year and the 7 from the day itself. I told you it was convoluted. Coming up with it amused me when I should have been writing, and I knew that no-one else would ever know… until now. Whoops.
The main inspiration came from The Hurt Locker (2008), which I rewatched the week prior to my holiday. After watching the film, I read about the real soldiers that inspired the movie. This gave me a lot of material for smaller details, such as soldiers having to buy their own equipment as the official military-issue sleeping bags and, in some cases, weapons weren’t up to scratch.
I submitted the first draft of the script on 15th September, and received a few notes from John a day later. They basically amounted to making the Troop-Net easier to understand, adding in some dialogue to tie the story into the overall Crossfire arc, and removing a cut to the Liberator Flight Deck during a lengthy scene near the end.
The second and final draft was submitted on the 18th September 2017.
John invited me to the studio for recording, but, as the session fell on my wife’s birthday, I reluctantly declined. Instead, I remotely recorded an interview for inclusion on the boxset’s making-of documentary.
So, there you go.. Those are a few glimpses behind the curtain for Shock Troops. I hope you enjoyed the story, as well as the rest of the box set.
Blake’s 7: Shock Troops is available in Crossfire Part 2 from Big Finish Productions