Iain McLaughlin

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The Veiled Leopard

Big Finish audio play

Monte Carlo, 1966:

Four time travellers. Two missions. One costumed ball. The Doctor has sent Peri and Erimem to prevent the fabulous Veiled Leopard diamond from being stolen. Which is odd, seeing as the Doctor has sent Ace and Hext to steal the diamond. how will the two teams cope with this contradictory task? Will Peri's asp slip? Why does Ace have to pretend to be a French maid? How will Erimem cope with Pharaoh Rammalamadingdong? And can Hex really "do posh"?

written by Iain McLaughlin & Claire Bartlett

directed by Gary Russell


The Veiled Leopard was given away with issue 367 of DWM.

Okay, so... The Pink Panther. Yep. There's a definite Pink Panther influence to this story. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see that. Thing is, it didn't start that way. Nope, it started as something a bit different...

Gary Russell emailed and asked if I was interested in doing another DWM story, this time 2 episodes but with a few provisos...

  • 2 episodes
  • No Doctor in either.
  • Peri and Erimem in one episode.
  • Ace and Hex in the other.
  • They don't meet.
  • The two episodes have to be linked.

So... there we go... by then I was working with Claire Bartlett most of the time. Claire is one of my dearest friends and is the ideal writing partner for me. I'm geek. She's not. I go at stories full throttle. She puts the anchors on and fixes plot holes and problems with logic. She's great with characters, too. I really love working with her. So, we sat and chatted. There was an idea for something non-Doctor Who that we had been working on about two thieves in the 1940s. We hadn't quite got it right, so we wondered how the set-up would work in a Doctor Who story. That gave us a time period and it gave us the fact that there was a robbery. So... it was a caper, then?

Okay, it's starting to come together. If it's a robbery sort of story where do we look for inspiration in style? To Catch a Thief? Well, Cary Grant's character from that film, Jean Robie, is in the final script, albeit only mentioned by the doorman. Where else? Well, ITC's shows from the 60s and some American shows from the 60s... what if we did one in American style and one in British style? That was our starting point. But what was the plot? If it was a robbery and a heist it had to be a jewel robbery. It needed a sci-fi touch that could explain why the Doctors were interested. I'd been reading about the possibilities of information being stored on crystal... well... if it's in a crystal could it be stored on a diamond? Bosh. We have the reason for the jewel being stolen. Would both parties want to steal it? And could we get them all to try to pinch it? I think it was Claire who suggested one set trying to stop it being stolen and the others wanting to nick the diamond. Maybe one set could stop a theft so the others could pilfer it later? There we go - that's the rough plot worked out. We knocked that into shape over cake and coffee in Waterstones in Dundee.

The thing is... while the plan was to go with an Avengers/Saint/ITC feel for episode one and a Mission Impossible feel for episode two, when we got to writing we dropped straight into a completely different influence - The Pink Panther. The first film, with David Niven and Robert Wagner as well as Pewter Sogglers, the well-known spelling error. Now, we didn't have a Peter Sellers portrayed Clouseau but we could have the zing of that first film (let's pretend the Steve Martin films never happened), and so the script went in that direction.

Once the script landed with Gary Russell and then with sound and music genius Davy Darlington it did get that Pink Panther vibe. Davy's music in the very first scene absolutely smacked of Henry Mancini's music for The Pink Panther and particularly its sequel A Shot in the Dark.

The end product? I tend to rarely listen to the stories I write, I don't like doing it - I always find changes I want to make. But this may be the play of mine I listen to most. I think Gary got fantastic performances from all of the cast, and with Davy on the sound and music they put together something that is just what I wanted it to be - only more so. And I really liked a lot of the character-based gags Claire put into this script. I really do like this one.