Echoes of the Protii Edit
In 2002, Si Hunt and Simon Hart were asked to write a story for the Doctor Who fiction website Doctor Who: The Legacy. The pair wrote the story, Echoes of the Protii, together at Si Hunt's house, hammering out each episode with both of them round the keyboard. Si Hart later came up with an idea for a further story, Soap of Fatal Death, which Si Hunt helped him write.
Some time later, Si Hunt came up with the idea of adapting Echoes as an audio play, to be performed by members of the Planet Skaro Doctor Who forum. It was decided to change the legacy companion Alf into a male companion, Rob, but to keep the male companion, Nick. The story was directly transcribed into three episodes of audio script, which new material added in order to feature cameos from as many forum members as possible. The play was recorded in an afternoon, mixed in the following months, and then unveiled at a 'premier' evening at Si Hunt's house in Sawbridgeworth. The play was well received, although some of the cameo performances had been of quite poor quality, including some sent on cassette, so it was decided not to include cassette-originated material in the future. The play was distributed on a double CD, with a cover designed by Pip Madeley, who would henceforth become "official" cover designer when the plays became a regular proposition.
The CD also contained a "Making Of" documentary (as the story had an odd number of episodes something was needed to fit on the end of the second disc) containing out-takes and interviews with the performers.
Soap of Fatal Death and Keepsake Edit
It was soon decided to adapt Soap of Fatal Death into an audio play as well, although it was a year later, in early 2007, before the play would be recorded. The characters of Rob and Nick were back, and Hunt and Hart decided to include a cliffhanger into a planned third play. Wanting "something huge that it was impossible to get out of", they had the TARDIS blow up in the final scene. Si Hunt secretely persauded cabaret singer Lorraine Bowen to record a cameo for Soap of Fatal Death, which delighted the regular cast at the story's premier. Soap of Fatal Death was again released on a double CD with a cover by Pip Madeley, although as it contained four episodes (compared to Echoes of the Protii which had three) there was no "Making Of" feature. Because they had been adapted from a written story, the play ended up very long, and lots of material had to be cut, to the dissapointment of some cast members.
Some time afterwards, some members of the team were meeting at Simon Hart and Steve Alexander's house with some other friends, and it was decided to record a 'mini adventure' which was written in under a week by Si Hunt. Paul Monk was not present, so it was a Doctor-free adventure introducing the character of Rob's friend Ben (played by Dave Taylor) and featuring the Celestial Toymaker. Once recorded, it was found that the material taped had quite a short running time, with each of the two episodes lasting less than fifteen minutes. However, this story now stands as something of a template for the future, being the first 'mini adventure', the first with a different main cast, and the first written by someone other than the original writers, Hunt and Hart.
Magical History Tour, Consequences and Heart of the Haniad Edit
Si Hart had an idea for a story set in the "swinging sixties", featuring Brian Epstein (a role he would eventually play himself). Si Hunt meanwhile wanted to write a Pirate adventure. The two ideas were combined, and Magical History Tour told the story of how Rob and Nick were re-united after Soap of Fatal Death and were tracked down by the Doctor, who had been stranded in history. Hunt, Hart and Steve Alexander toyed with many titles for the story including "Time Gash", "You've Got To Hide Your Nick Away" and various takes on Beatles' song titles. Magical History Tour abandoned the idea of cameos for their own sake, although it featured the return of Rob's Mum Linda McCow, again played by Trudi Gard. There was also the by-now customary cameo by Martin Penny, a forum member who had appeared as a different guest character in each of the previous audio plays (apart from Keepsake). The play also featured the last appearance to date of the hat-obsessed Harolds, as played by husband and wife forum posters The Curnows. Their recordings had been of poor sound quality, and difficult to integrate into the main adventure.
Martin Penny had decided to meet the team by coming along to the recording session for Magical History Tour. In order to give him more to do (Penny was slated only to play brief cameos as a Pirate and as Freddie Mercury in Magical History Tour) Si Hunt asked Steve Alexander to pen a shorter adventure, set in space, and featuring Penny as a new companion. This story was taped at the end of the recording day, and was the first time stories had been 'double banked' in such a way. It was also the first time an audio featuring a companion other than Nick and Rob had been recorded, although arguably previous characters like Emma Bonham and Vera Jundrey had fulfilled the same role.
As Magical History Tour had left the character of Nick on a somewhat uncertain note (in distress after the end of his relationship with Brian Epstein), and an upbeat Christmas Special was being planned, Simon Hart decided to write a one-scene mini-adventure, Consequences to resolve the issues between Nick and the Doctor. Hart produced the short play himself, and it was included as a bonus on the Magical History Tour CD and made available to download on-line. Although not considered a "proper" story on release, the Planet Skaro Audios Website announced it as such, and the story is now counted as an official adventure. Consequences retrospectively foreshadows the introduction of "minisodes" and other short fictional extras that would be introduced in 2008.
Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes Edit
An unplanned adventure for the end of the year, Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes was written by Steve Alexander (in release order, the first time a story not written by Hunt or Hart had been produced). It was decided that, due to the enforced seasonal deadline, for the first time production would not be the sole responsibility of Si Hunt, an episode each being handled by Hunt, Alexander and Pip Madeley. They were frictions during this period as Alexander asked for approval on any edits made to his material.
Si Hunt made a passing reference to designing a cover himself for Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes, and built a scale model of the TARDIS outside Tinsel Central. The model had to be moved 70 miles to the home of Hunt's parents to be photographed on a high quality camera, and was sprayed with fake snow for the occasion. Meanwhile, Madeley had designed a computer-generated cover depicting the TARDIS hovering in space above the planet Bauble. In the end, copies of the Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes CD would feature a double-sided cover, so fans could decide if they wished to display Madeley's design or Hunt's far superior one.
Season 2 Edit
Heart of the Haniad had not been released on CD or put on-line because of the impromtu plans for Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes at the end of 2007. Feeling it would be unsatisfactory as the sole offering in early 2008, Hunt decided to hold it back and release it alongside the two new stories to be recorded that spring, forming a mini-season. This would be retrospectively titled Season 2, with all the previous stories designated the umbrella title Season 1, even though they spanned two years and were not originally made as a deliberate season.
Wanting to bring back the character of Ed, it was decided that one of the two new stories (Heist!, by Simon Hart) would feature Ed, and the other (The Paradise Machine by Martin Penny) would feature Rob and Nick. The stories were recorded back to back, with production on Heist! being performed by Simon Hart and The Paradise Machine by Si Hunt.
At around the same time that Heart of the Haniad, Heist! and The Paradise Machine were released in order on-line and on CD, the team recovened again in Bracknell to record more stories. The Curse Of Ratanapura and The Crystal Eye were taped on this day, as well as Many Happy Returns, a surprise mini-adventure which would later be presented to Si Hunt as a birthday gift, and a new story that would be put by for 2009 in the same way that Heart of the Haniad had been for 2008.
The team found the amount of material that needed to be recorded (which also included some advance scenes for the forthcoming 2008 Christmas story) a struggle. In addition, a leading cast member could not be present on the recording day and some members of the team were dissapointed with the recording quality able to be produced from the second recording session. It was decided to limit the amount of material to be recorded in any future recording session to just four episodes.
The second half of the 2008 Season was made available in October 2008, with The Curse of Ratanapura being completed just days before going on-line.
The team felt that the potential for "Making Of" documentaries had diminished with the increased release rate, and so it was decided to pursue more 'mini adventures' like Consequences. These would either be fully dramatised scenes or short adventures ("minisodes"), or narrated short stories ("shorts"). The first "short" to be recorded was Ezra's Knock, to be bundled with Christmas Spirits, with the first minisode being Enjoy Your Shoes to be included on the CD of Eye of the Daleks.
2008 Christmas Special and Brush With Disaster Edit
In November 2008, the team recovened at Paul Monk's house in Redhill to record Christmas Spirits and another story to be held back until 2009, The Wealth of Craytians. The recording was felt to have gone extremely well, with two microphones being utilised, each connected to a laptop. However, on returning home Si Hunt discovered that the recordings made on the second laptop were very low in volume. After amplification and clean-up, the sound quality of the recordings was akin to a telephone conversation, and it soon became obvious that they would not be usable.
The team set out an immediate plan for recovery, hoping to rescue the Christmas Story with a series of re-recordings. On analysing what could be saved, the news wasn't all bleak - the working laptop had been used for around 60% of the work completed. The part of the Spirit of Retribution (and Martin Penny's work as Ed Bradley in the second story) was intended to be recorded later, remotely, anyway. And all of Emma Thompson's lines as The Spirit of Love were salvaged. The biggest loss was all bar one scene of Jason Thompson's key performance as the Spirit of Shadows, and most of Andrew Clancy's lines as Arthur.
It was quickly arranged to meet back in Redhill a few weeks later - Thompson was persauded to re-record all his lines, meanwhile Si Hunt asked Andrew Clancy to re-record his part from home (Clancy's laptop stopped working a day after he finished the re-records, so a days delay in re-taping the lines would have written off the entire project). In addition, Paul Monk re-recorded many of his lines as the Doctor that had previously been found to be usable, in order that his performance matched that of Thompsons. The team managed to record all the material they needed for Christmas Spirits at the second attempt, and as a bonus almost all the missing lines for The Wealth of Craytians as well.
At the re-recording session, Paul Monk and Si Hunt discussed the future of the audio range, namely if the team would carry on with a different person playing The Doctor if Monk quit his role (Hunt suggested not). It was decided that the audio plays could potentially finish for good at the end of 2009. However, in later discussions it was decided to carry on with a less hectic schedule. The team still expect to take a break at the start of 2010 after all scripts so far planned have been made.
2009 Season Edit
Early in 2009, a new recording session was planned for April, when it was scheduled to tape Blood Money and The Hand Of Peace (the other two stories having been completed and held back during 2008). In February, Si Hunt started production work on "A Baron For All Seasons", written some time before as the minisode for the 2009.1 release. However, it was quickly decided to flesh out the material to a full episode, thus increasing the 2009 Season length even further. Martin Penny completed additional scenes on the night before recording. The next day, this one episode story was recorded. Production was completed in the following weeks and the play was sent to Martin Penny and Pip Madeley on 16th February.
Shortly before the recording session, a new microphone was purchased which would increase the quality of recordings. The team recorded four new episodes in Sawbridgeworth during April - for the photo session, Martin Penny donned a UNIT Beret and Paul Monk dressed up with slicked back hair and chewed a disclosing tablet to become the 'possessed' Doctor.
"A Baron for All Seasons" went on-line during March, with the four stories of the season proper scheduled to begin appearing on-line from 16th May.
Postponement of "Massanicassa" and 2010 Season Edit
On November 7th 2009, the team reconvened in Bracknell. It was planned to record Simon Hart's epic story of Nick's origins, "Massanicassa". Prior to the recording, Si Hunt visited his Nan to tape the lines for "Milestra" - she had recorded an old woman's voice in a dream of Nick's in the very first PS Audio story, "Echoes of the Protii", and this was intended to recall that particular scene. "Massanicassa" was recorded, along with "Bless This Mainframe", a non-Doctor Who comedy script written by Steven Alexander.
Alas, disaster struck again and much of the recordings for "Massanicassa" were unusable due to the sound not being properly recorded. This was a heavy set-back, although Si Hart set about recording what was salvagable, hoping to tape the remaining lines (unfortunately most of Paul Monk and Dave Tudors lines) at future sessions. Before the end of the year, Si Hunt and Pip Madeley recorded all the monster lines for "Massanicassa" in Sawbridgeworth. At one time planned as a Christmas Special, Paul Monk's "Once Upon A Time Lord" was now pushed back into 2010.
Late in 2009, a personal disagreement between the team and Pip Madeley led to Madeley electing not to produce the covers for the 2010 Audios. Madeley also pulled out of writing his planned collaboration with Martin Penny, "The Rise and Fall of Tor Garane", for the next season.
The first recording session of 2010 is planned for March 27th, when the team will tape "Once Upon A Time Lord" and Steve Alexander's "Sting of the Time Bees", which will write out the character of Edward Bradley.
In April 2010, Ant Cox met at Si Hunt's house with the purpose of recording an interview with him for a proposed video documentary on the Planet Skaro Audios. Unfortunately, Hunt had too much red wine and the session was completely unusable. While there, however, Cox recorded a part in Steve Alexander's "Sting of the Time Bees" adventure, the scripts for which he had been developing over the past months.