Iain McLaughlin

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On the shelf

Ideas that went nowhere... yet...

Not every idea you come up with goes anywhere. You might think that it's genius, that it's going to make you the next J.K. Rowling... but in the end it goes nowhere except here - on the shelf. Well, it's better than in the bin. Never throw an idea in the bin - you never know when you might be able to use it. Anyway, just as a curiosity, here are some of my efforts that went nowhere...

The Lone Warrior

This was submitted to Gary Russell roughly at the same time as Eye of the Scorpion. It didn't float his boat. Even though Erimem got picked up as a companion, Tess in this one was my deliberate attempt at creating a new companion. If you're very naughty I may post the script one day..

A Stitch In Time

Another that was submitted to Gary Russell at the same time as Eye of the Scorpion and didn't make the grade. Again it was a Sixth Doctor story, this time with Peri. I initially had this in mind as a non Doctor Who sci-fi disaster novel but it always felt like it should be performed rather than read. There are bits of it I do plan to reuse, though.

The Celestial Toymakers

For Doctor Who's 40th anniversary in 2003, Gary Russell offered a bunch of us the chance to submit ideas for a trilogy of returning villains. Initially, The Celestial Toymaker was one of the three but was replaced by Omega (which has one of the best cliffhangers Doctor Who ever had). This was my submission for the Toymaker story.


This one goes a LONG way back - to early 1988. I was 21 and I wanted to write, so I submitted a 3 part story to my favourite TV show. I haven't read it in two decades and I have the feeling I probably shouldn't. However, Andrew Cartmel's letter of reply was incredibly generous and kind, offering much-needed advice and encouragement, For that kindness, I am still very grateful.

The story was a three parter, set on a submarine in the near future and it came from something I read about toxic waste being dumped on the ocean floor. Other than that, I remember very little about it.

The Last Power

When I was young (I was young once, honestly) I was game to give anything a try. I wanted to write, I wanted to write Doctor Who, so for a bit of self-graitification I wrote a multi-Doctor story. And then I heard about The Dark Dimension. And then I heard The Dark Dimension was cancelled. I had no idea why so I pitched mine instead. I got a polite letter back. It was nice of them to be polite and better than the script deserved. It was awful fanwank. and I am very glad I no longer have a copy of it. But, for the sake of completion, and because I'd feel guilty if I brushed it under the carpet, I'm mentioning it. A couple of interesting ideas in it I think but for the most part, utterly risible.

Star Trek: Enterprise

I remember the glee I felt (no that doesn't mean I started singing and making pop classics sound like show tunes) when I heard that the Star Trek franchise had an open door to spec submissions. I think they also had a three strikes and you're out police - three failures meant no more chances. So, I started writing up ideas, did three scripts in very different styles. And then the open door closed and I was left with three full scripts and nowhere to send them. If there's interest I may put them on line here.

The Screaming Planet

Mark Wright and Cav Scott (splendid fellows, both of them) invited Claire and I to pitch ideas for Season 7 of Big Finish's Tomorrow People audios. What we came up with was called The Screaming Planet. If memory serves it would have been the third or fourth story of the season. Of all the things that I've worked on that didn't get made, this is the one that saddens me most. Big Finish did brilliant things with The Tomorrow People. 

You can read more about what was in store for the Tomorrow People in the seasons Big Finished had planned but were never able to complete in Kenny Smith's rather brilliant The Big Finish Companion Volume 2, which you can get here.

Figure of Eight

When Eye of the Scorpion was being recorded I asked Gary Russell if I could have a bash at something else. Well, nothing ventured... he suggested I try a Benny script. Which I did. It was scheduled as 3.4 then dropped, I think, because it was very similar to another story in that run of Benny adventures. The gist of this was a schismed society, with religion and science at each others throats and the planet's weather being equally divided because it had a figure of eight orbit looping around two suns, one of which was hotter than the other. If you're interested you can read a bit more about it in Simon Guerrier's brilliant book, Bernice Summerfield The Inside Story. And if you don't know who Bernice Summerfield is, you're really missing out. She is a fabulous. Check her out here.

Cabot & McKinlay

Imagine The X-Files, set in Britain, and with the style and atmosphere of Hammer Horror - and a touch of very silly British humour. It was a series set in the present, looking at the paranormal and the abnormal. Werewolves, vampires, poltergeists, ex-wives, dead parents, sarky bank managers...

For a couple of months, this was in development as a TV series before it was dropped. In my head I had Tom Baker as Cabot and Louise Lombard as McKinlay. There was also an enigmatic tramp who was pivotal to the entire first series. I still think there's something in this one. Maybe on radio?

Okay, so... I didn't write for BBV. I bought their videos and CDs but I didn't write any of them. But I did talk to them about it a few times.

The first time was in about 1993. I think the third of The Stranger videos had just been released. It was again a Stranger and Miss Brown story, and set in an abandoned house in the country. It had a mystical Tramp and it had living paintings. If I remember correctly, I wrote the Tramp with Jon Pertwee in mind and wrote roles that would have brought Mary Tamm and Frazer Hines to mind when casting. All Doctor Who-ey stuff. I chatted with Bill Baggs about it but nothing came of it and so I lifted bits of it and used them elsewhere .

In 2002, after I'd had some success in getting scripts with Big Finish, I pitched a couple of ideas to BBV for their audio series. The one they seemed to like concerned Zygons and a news crew in the South American jungle during a local coup but after saying he was interested in the story, I never heard back from Bill. A pity - I liked a lot that BBV produced. 


Okay, I'm not going to say anything about this other than, yes, I did write a Carry On that fell through. Still, at least I got the chance to write one and for that I am grateful.