Having been utterly fascinated by the Ninth Doctor and Rose's dynamic, I was turned off by Rose and the Tenth Doctor, and hadn't realised how much I was missing Rose/Doctor until we were presented with the Master and Lucy. I love love love how the Sixth Doctor is like the Ninth Doctor's ID. Because the parallels (both being deeply scarred and wounded and deeply fucked up by the Time War, and both needing a companion in a way they have never ever needed another person ever before) are there, but the difference is where the Doctor who never initiate a physical relationship with Rose, I can absolutely and completely believe that the Master rushes in where the Doctor fears to tread. Most of that is, I openly admit, based not so much as the parts as written as they are Simm and Moen's performances, and the choices they make in those performances.
What I love about the Master and Lucy is that in The Sound of Drums they really are presented very much as a partnership. Particularly in the death of Rook and the scene immediately afterward. Lucy does not appear to be hypnotised or coerced in any way--nor is she afraid of calling "Harry" out when he fucks up. But the way they cling to one another, the way they interact and play every scene as if they have just had sex off-screen or are about to have sex the second they are off screen, and every single kiss whether it's in Downing Street in front of the entire staff, or on national television, the audience (and the other characters) are almost uncomfortably aware that they are having a physical relationship utterly fascinates me.
So what captured my imagination is knowing that there are 2 years worth of Master/Lucy backstory, before we are introduced to them. Knowing that the whole of Doctor Who from "The Christmas Invasion" onwards is recontextualised knowing that the Master is there, and in fact has to at points help safeguard Martha Jones, London, and the Earth right up until the moment Martha, Jack, and the Doctor leave Cardiff for "Utopia". Or else he'll cross his own time stream, create a paradox and be eaten by Reapers.
So he takes out the Christmas Star. And he sets up surveillance on the entire Jones family, manipulating them to not just keep them alive, but hasten and ensure Martha's eventual meeting with the Doctor. Hell, he even has to play nice with Torchwood and Jack the whole time, because knows he has to wait. And that whole time, there's Lucy. Lucy must have been right there, when the sky opened up at "Doomsday" and an army of daleks descended, the Master's worst nightmare playing out in front of his eyes. And Lucy is his only link to this world, while he waits for the Doctor. And he does care for her, in his way. And the way the Ninth Doctor desperately needed Rose, to see the universe through her eyes, I think the Master needs Lucy, though he would never admit it. But then once he has the Doctor? Lucy becomes superfluous. And just a prop, a toy to be discarded.
Falling is all about the journey from Mrs Master to the broken shell we meet in "The Last of the Time Lords", and how Lucy creates a fantasy world where she is still the centre of Harry's life and always has been, and slowly comes to wholly inhabit that fantasy world, and tries to destroy anything that threatens it. Like, you know, reality. And I still love the fact that she only shoots the Master after the Doctor, in his twisted benevolence, states his plan is to keep the Master in a cage for the rest of eternity, just as the Master had done to the Doctor himself.
And Seas May Lie Between (Gosford Park)
I admit, I cheated. I did. hafital had originally asked for an Novello/Parks NYR I think two years ago, and I got about as far as 500 words (novelising the deleted scene) before I'd stopped, because I'd realised I couldn't go any further until I knew Ivor Novello and the period better. So I'd shelved it, with the firm intent of coming back to it someday. Then I got my yuletide assignment, and I knew this was what I needed to actually spur me on to finally write the story I was dying to, because it would force me to actually follow through because when it's just me on my own, I give up too easy. But when it's for someone else, I don't want to drop the ball. ETA: also, knowing it was the fandom of her heart, it gave me an excuse to beg hafital to beta for me. SHE WINS. And I can't believe I forgot to mention. *facepalms*
So I re-watched the film three times through that first week-end (once with Fellowes' commentary, once with Altman's, and once just with the subtitles on) alone. I dug out my old notes and made new ones. I ordered used copies of every Ivor Novello biography I could find, starting with David Slatterly-Christy (the film's Novello expert). I asked a patient and understanding friend at the BBC to find me a dupe of the BBC Wales Novello documentary The Handsomest Man in Britain, which she supplied with a laugh at my scary fannish ways, and I owe her BIG. I wrote 2000 words that first week-end, and started a massive links list of research links on delicious. I started tracking down books on life in domestic service, social histories about the inter-war period, and novels either written or set in a period spanning about 50 years on either side of the events of the film. I started a website and a matching livejournal community because let's face it, that's what I do when I am obsessed: I share.
I made fan_eunice watch the film with me. I took it with me to Florida every time I went down while my mum was in hospital, along with a stack of books including the screenplay, Search for Ruritania, Pamela Horn's Domestic Service in the 20th Century (which is invaluable), and several of Margaret Powell's memoirs (which inspired Upstairs Downstairs and are written in a delightful voice), and Lesley Ross' play dramatising Ivor's time in Wormwood Scrubs prison, Inside Out. Every week at work, a new batch of used books would come in on Manor Houses and Novello and life in Service and I think my co-workers just expect this level of crazy from me by now.
What fascinates me about Ivor and Mary and Wilson in the film is how each of them have different pieces of information, but only Mary puts all the information together and confronts him. And Mary is the only one who is rewarded not just with information and openness and honesty, but also love. And I think in a way, that precisely because of this, the potential exists for forgiveness for Wilson and camaraderie with Novello. That this man who has live his entire life never having time or space to himself, who guards his privacy and his true self so carefully, who clings so fiercely to his identity, has that moment of pure joy at being able to share that with someone else and not be rejected.
Also, I love that Parks accidentally slips up--the only time he does, in the entire film--in the deleted scene when he casually reveals he knows much more about Sir William than he should to Ivor and there's that split second when he realises he's fucked up and Ivor realises he's just learned something and the tone between them changes completely in the space of one second. And then Parks acknowledges that change. And then we never see them together again. But what I also love is how that scene mirrors the moment between Parks and Mary in the servant's hall, when Thompson says he's not including the servants as suspects because he's only looking for people who had a real connection with the dead man--despite the fact that Sir William had sexual relationships with three women in that room, children by two of them, and every single one of them know that the night before Elsie was outed as his mistress. And only Wilson and Parks know he's William's illegitimate son.
And in that moment, Parks catches Mary's eye and smiles, because it's all over and he's got away with it. And that's the precise moment when Mary knows he killed Sir William, and also (I think) that she cares for him. They both come at the same time, with that same look. Except for Parks it isn't about getting away with his crime, because I don't think there's actually any ego involved. Just obsession, and a thirst for justice for his mother's death and his being sentenced to life in an orphanage. Because what matters to him is only that William gets justice, and Parks' mother is avenged. He is not a murderous man. He would never kill out of any desire to kill--his desire was only that William pay for his crimes, and also be stopped. And when William is killed, there's this immense sense of relief, and Park becomes happy, almost giddy. When he's asked what his ambition in life is, he honestly and without guile replies "I don't think I've got one. Not anymore." He is satisfied for the first time in his life.
Likewise, I think if he had been caught, he would have quite cheerfully gone to his death, because all that matters to him was that he and his mother were avenged.
So the next big hurdle for me was to figure out what I wanted to say in the story about Ivor and Parks. Unlike Mary, whom Parks can easily seek out and have a relationship with because they live in the same world and inhabit and move through the same sphere, Ivor cannot interact with Parks in any way, while they are in that house, except in the role of master and servant. And I wanted to explore how much that went against the grain for a man like Ivor--not just because he was a homosexual who was physically drawn to and attracted to Parks (and according to some biographers had numerous physical relationships with "rough trade" that required his partner Bobbie to pay off blackmailers right up until his death), but because more than that, he had no class distinctions. If he liked someone, he liked someone. It didn't matter where they came from. Full stop.
At first, the story was all going to take place at the Shooting Party, during the three (potential) scenes where Parks would have been dressing, undressing, and packing Ivor. And there was no prologue. But then I realised that I could use Mad Frankie and Wormwood Scrubs to recontextualise Ivor and Parks. And then it was a matter of how the denouement would be played and when. Because I knew it couldn't be the morning after the deleted scene. That was too soon. And I thought about William's funeral, but I don't actually think, based on all the deleted scenes in the film, that Raymond would have gone to William's funeral. And I wanted it to be at Gosford, at the scene of the crime. Also, I'd done a 180° on my idea of what Parks would have done, after the film. Originally I'd assumed he would have lefts service, having accomplished what he set out to accomplish. However, in doing all my research, I realised that there was no reason for him to leave and two very compelling reasons to stay: one, he has never worked at any other trade and knows no other life and with the servant shortages he will never be unemployed and it is a world he understands and knows how to navigate. And two, if he leaves, he will never see Mary again. And while I don't know if I think either of them are cut out for 2.5 kids a dog and a white picket fence, I do believe that the possibility of having a future--however tenuous and however brief--with her would be enough, because it is the first time Robert has contemplated any kind of future beyond Sir William's death.
So I decided on Isobel's wedding because it would give a bit of distance, but also enough time for Ivor to put the pieces together and decide how he felt about them and prepare for seeing Parks again, and deciding how much of his hand to tip. I loved the very Campion idea of Ivor Novello, Musical Detective, but I also wanted to play it as straight and real as I could, and it would be a really delicate balance. I'd already decided that Mary and Parks would have met several times in-between, though I hand't decided until after writing the denouement that at that point Parks did know about Wilson, but was protecting her. And I'd decided years ago that I wanted Wilson to go off with Probert, to help manage his hotel. So that worked out well, when it came for a way to impart information to Ivor that he wouldn't have been party to, due to who and what he was. (Also, I love writing Sylvia. She's such an unrepentant bitch. Lady Trentham I have a soft spot for, but Sylvia is the one I love to hate.)
I toyed with a follow-up even after that--either during the Blitz (Ivor used to keep on entertaining, even during the air raids), or actually Ivor's funeral procession. But somehow it made more sense to leave it where it was. I really liked how it turned out, and I am glad it went over as well as it has with my recipient and everyone who left me comments. I still need to make some small edits, but on the whole, I'm really happy with it.
The Servants' Ball (Gosford Park)
I came across mentions of Servants' Balls when I was doing research, and when I went through the unfulfilled requests couldn't resist writing this treat. It's my version of schmoop--which is to say pure wish fulfilment, and not nearly as bleak as I always assumed it would be when I tried to picture what would happen next for these characters. I knew that if Mary and Parks did meet again, there would have to be some kind of resolution. Because I don't believe that, Mary being who she is, she would betray Wilson's confidence. But also, I don't think she'd be able to let it lie either. And I'd played with the idea already in And Seas, with Parks repeating Wilson's Christian name in his sleep (which stems from a line from the script that never made it into the film where Henry complains to Ivor that Robert talks in his sleep). And all he has of his mother is a photo, a name, and a false idea of how and why she died. I think learning she lived would have been the greatest betrayal to Robert. Not so much that she abandoned him (which in truth she didn't, though he couldn't know that) but that he had done all he had done based on a lie. That his mother didn't die because William used her, but that she lived and went on and wasn't destroyed by William.
Also, I love the idea that neither Parks nor Mary would ask the other for a happily-ever-after, but instead be pragmatic and take whatever they can get and be happy with that. Because they're just wired that way.
Now and Then (Jekyll)
This was my pinch hit (I believe it was #5, and I pounced on it like a rabid wolverine). I then discovered that my Jekyll dvds had gone missing, and spent two frantic weeks searching and trying to find out if they had been loaned out before deciding I was clearly never going to see them again, and so I reactivated my Netflix account to rewatch the series because all I had were my BBC copies, not the full unedited episodes.
What I discovered re-watching the series 2 months after I'd rewatched it the last time was that the first story I wanted to write wasn't going to work, and that the 500 words I had of the 2nd story likewise wasn't going to work, and so there was slamming of head against the wall until I remembered that what utterly fascinated me about the first episode was Katherine and her memory, which was never ever expounded on.
Seriously, the first two episodes of the series had set me up for a very different series than the one we got, and I loved the one we got, but Katherine still fascinated me and I wanted to know more about her story. So I decided to play with that. Another huge influence on the story was something my recipient had mentioned in an LJ post about being fascinated by people who literally create a persona to inhabit. Because I very much saw Katherine as that sort of character--someone who projects the image she wants, but inside is very young and very vulnerable, and we only see the real her when she is rattled, and we only see her rattled in two instances: when Hyde takes control and corners her, and when Jackman returns after Klein & Utterson try and have her and Mir and Min killed.
And I rapidly started closing in on the deadline and had a jumble of scenes I wasn't sure worked as a whole, until the very last minute when I decided that to drive home the feeling of immediacy the story really needed to be in the present tense, and then my utterly fabulous beta elynross suggested reordering two of the scenes. And then suddenly it felt story-shaped. Elyn WINS. Seriously.
(I will say that next time? I will not spend three hours trying to decipher an on-screen letter and use every line that was readable on-screen, and try and force it to work with that I am trying to do. Because that's taking the canon-whore thing just a bit too far, and unfortunately made for a very very awkward chunk of text.)
Rock Stars (Jem)
This was another treat that I wrote in an afternoon, and just had so much fun with it, tho I regret leaving out Raya. I didn't mean to, she just fell through the cracks. Also, I purposely avoided dealing with Synergy, because I wanted to keep it grounded in reality. I debated the tag for ages, but then decided it needed it, not to justify writing it, but because it didn't feel story-shaped without it. And it just seemed to fit.
Rite of Passage (Léon)
This is ALL AJ'S FAULT. She dared me to do it, when I said something to the effect of "I think I could write something totally crackheaded where Mathilda grows up to be Portman's character from Closer" and she was all DO EEEEEEEET. And so I did. And she owes me $5.
It stems from an abandoned crossover I never wrote, where Mathilda is recruited by Section One. Because from the first time I saw the film, I realised that there was no way Mathilda was getting out of that story unchanged by it. And someday someone was going to recognise that.
For me, the most important bit was "This is what it would have been like."