First of all, I think that what really intrigues people who have seen the series is not so much what we saw, but what we didn't see. Could you reveal the details of the planned tenth episode that was cancelled by strikes, I believe it went under the title "Murder on the Moon*"?
I was commissioned to do five episodes only and my five all got done. I had no idea what the other episodes were about until transmission. If you say the lost ep was called Murder on the Moon - lousy title by the way - I would have to take your word for it. Since it wasn't made and transmitted I'm as much in the dark about it as you are - more indeed: I didn't even know the title.
On the same theme, were there any concrete plans you had in mind for a second series? By the last episode it looked as if it would expand to the Mars colonies. How long do you think the series could have lasted?
I had thought to extend the story areas by dividing the force between different locations. The Mars colonies were on my list either for a new character or for one of the regulars who would then be replaced on Moonbase by a new regular. There was also new space colony construction - Big Ring projects that sort of thing. There seemed to be a reasonable number of possibilities...
As to how long it could have lasted - who knows? Two series tends to be the critical mass. I could have scripted that without much difficulty. Once you've got twenty or so episodes made a series becomes a marketable product - a worthwhile package for overseas buyers. If you can swing a foreign sale, or the prospect of one, then there's more justification to continue making a show. Look at Due South.
In your second novel of the series you claim it was a miserable experience. How far adrift from what you had in mind was the end product?
It was a miserable experience for a number of reasons but as far as the end product was concerned what I did find depressing was the unthinking and arbitrary crapiness of the detail. For example I wrote the scripts to take careful account of the difference in visual quality between film - used for location and model work - and tape - used for the studio recording. Providing you don't overlap them and shoot the same sort of stuff in both, the two work well together and make an interesting combination. I worked hard to make sure that what was called for in model and location shooting would actually make a decent contrast in plot terms from the rather flatter studio videotape. The decision was taken however to do the whole programme on videotape to avoid having to cope with the differences. In my view the result was flat and looked a bit cheap. Despite the suggestion that this could be seen as an innovation which the producer had employed before to me it seemed lazy and it limited the options.
Another example was a blue-screen scene I wrote - a deliberate device which not only would have saved a restaurant set but which would also have given a more futuristic feel. It was replaced with a more expensive physical set with the plot point delivered via a portable tv on a trolley which was slightly ludicrous.
On another occasion a film loop of simple countryside - meant to remind off-world workers of Earth - was replaced by excerpts I recognised from a programme called Great Train Journeys of the World and some old footage of athletics. (It was low cost and available so never mind the logic or the style.
Box was not allowed to be voiced by Nathan so that he was talking to himself. It was deemed too complicated/confusing for the audience. A slightly original dramatic device became more run-of-the-mill as a result.
And so it went on...
I suppose what I'm whinging about - and yes I know I'm whinging - is that nobody asked me and nobody seemed to get what I thought were pretty obvious points. Or perhaps they did and they didn't care. But I cared dammit. Of course it was difficult because we had already quarrelled, the producer and I, and we weren't on the best terms from the beginning. I'd actually shouted at him. I never did that - well almost never. Anyway I thought, I still think, the changes were arbitrary and lacked understanding and style.
How much control did you actually have over the programme's direction? And what did you feel about the cast? Certainly I think David Calder in particular was excellent...
The producer had a point to make - that was human enough. And you know what they say: to err is human, to forgive divine. But I'm a long way short of divine so sod him.
As to the cast - I agree with you I thought they were excellent.
Are there any aspects of the series that you're particularly proud of?
I'm proud of the scripts and I'm proud of the fact that the show made it to air.
You're probably most famous to TV SF buffs for script editing the whole of Blake's 7 and writing three (may I say, excellent) Doctor Who scripts**. How did actually devising your own show compare? Were you disappointed at the scheduling and lack of publicity the BBC gave it? I think it's a great shame it wasn't seen more widely as every time I've ever read an article on the show, the people only seem to have positive things to say about it.
Comparisons are difficult. Doctor Who and Blake's Seven had clever producers who were familiar with the genre and comfortable with it. The slot and the lack of publicity meant that the management had already decided it was a failure - which tends to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I was told that sf was supposed to find its own audience - or was it vice versa? - whatever it didn't need help.
It seems that the late-80s were a time when SF was marginalised on television. (I noticed that two years after hiding Star Cops in the summer schedules, the BBC also axed Doctor Who) Now it seems to have increased in the schedules again, would you ever consider resurrecting the series? And if so, whom would you cast and where would you take it?
I'd resurrect the series tomorrow if I could sell it. I think fat chance is an overestimate of the odds on that. There is the hint of a possibility that the format might be sold to the US but I would have nothing to do with it. The money would be handy...
Probably the only negative things said about the series are of the Justin Heywood theme tune, and the Anna Shoun character, which I'm feel sure I once read you were also unhappy about. How did you feel about both these elements?
The theme song probably wasn't bad in itself - but it was certainly wrong for the show. It didn't even fit the genre. Try as I might I can't think of an sf piece with a theme song as opposed to a theme tune. The Anna Shoun character was introduced without any reference to me at all. Believe it or not it has only just struck me that the producer worked as a script editor on Tenko...
If we're being brutally honest and since you asked the direct question the direct answer is that I hated the theme song and the character.
Aside from the creation of the Anna character, how pleased were you with the results of the other writers' work on the series? I felt they were still entertaining, if perhaps not as gritty as your scripts for the series.
John Collee and Philip Martin are both class writers and their work on the series was predictably good stuff. I met Philip, pretty much by accident, at the time and I met John a while later in connection with another project altogether. As far as I remember it I got the impression that working on the show was not an especially happy experience for either of them. I seem to remember that Philip was particularly upset.
So it wasn't just me...
If I'm honest I preferred my own scripts but then I've never met a writer yet who doesn't prefer his own stuff.
I've recently been enjoying the two novels you wrote of the show. How did the experience differ, was it preferable to the experience of the series?
Novels are harder work - and less well paid - than scripts. The novelisation of Star Cops at least allowed me to reinstate things I felt had been lost - and probably over-emphasise them.
A character I was curious about was Jiang Li Ho (and maybe I'm just thick, but what is the meaning of Devis' nickname for him, "Wangley"?) who replaced the Russian Krivenko character. Was this because the series' use of cold wars themes has now passed with the end of American/Soviet hostilities?
Yes you're right I changed it to try and take account of the changed political situation. Wangley was just a minor play on words and pronunciation (a wangle being a crafty trick, a manipulation of the system) which I thought Devis, never one to worry about giving offence, would probably indulge in.
I've just heard that you've done a commentary for the Robots of Death DVD. Would you consider doing the same for a Star Cops release? And if so, what would you say?
If only. What would I say? That would depend...
Finally, are there any things you're working on at the moment that you'd like visitors to the site to hear about?
I'm doing a third Doctor Who novel. It's called Psience Fiction and it's going badly at the moment. I'm trying to sell a pilot script for a series idea called Headcase and it's going badly at the moment.
I wouldn't dream of pushing my luck by adding another question to the pile, but it did occur to me today that I never asked the most obvious one of all - where you got your inspiration for the series from!
And finally your luck-pushing supplementary question. Where did I get the inspiration? Dunno. Nice of you to suggest there was some though.
* Since this interview I've found out further information on this unmade episode. Apparently the title was not Murder on the Moon as previously believed, but "Death on the Moon". For further details see the "articles" section
** The Face of Evil, Robots of Death and Image of the Fendahl. And yes, I know this was an example of shameless crawling.
Interview copyright starcops.com/Chris Boucher, 2000. Many thanks once again to Mr.Boucher for giving his time for this interview. Questions set by me, with additional question guidance, suggestions and "Death on the Moon" info by Kevin Burns, with thanks.