Wednesday, 3 December 2014
The thing about Fitton is that you have to remember that at the time I thought it might well be the last episode ever. I didn't want it to be, of course, but I was writing it before Abu Dhabi had aired, and I had no way of knowing whether the show would go well or not. Plenty of radio shows never get a second series. So I wanted to write something that would feel like a fairly satisfying end if it turned out these were the only six episodes that ever existed… whilst not painting myself into any corners if we got a second series. If I'd known we would get three more series, I would definitely have held back both what the letters MJN stand for, and Douglas' secret sobriety, for much longer. Imagine how much more effective it would have been if at the end of series THREE we'd realised that, for all the talking he does about what a booze-hound he is, we'd never actually seen Douglas take a drink. Ah well.
Fitton is also the first of three episodes (with Limerick and Xinzhou) which largely feature just the central cast, keeping themselves entertained, whilst confined to one location. I often give an episode a working title in my notebooks that's more helpful to me than just a city name - this one was called 'Busy Doing Nothing'. They are murder to write, these ones - it seems like you can just have any old messing around going on, so long as it's entertaining; but actually if you don't have conflict, desires, and forward movement in some form, the audience lose interest. So, you have to not only have a plot… but then also conceal that you have a plot. It's not easy. At least not for me.
This is the episode that marks a turning point for Martin and Douglas. Though there are plenty more episodes to come where they're at loggerheads, they never quite go back to the same level of antagonism as in the first five episodes. (Maybe briefly in Gdansk, but even then they're on the same side again by the end.) That's partly to do with the final scene, where Martin has power over Douglas and chooses not to use it; but I also think a crucial scene in the development of the show is the 'lipstick inscription' one, not because Douglas apologises for pushing a joke against Martin too far, but because Martin eventually laughs at it himself, and even joins in with it. I love how the actors play this scene, and I think that's the moment the characters become- broadly speaking- friends.
In non CP Advent Calendar news, Radio Three are currently broadcasting ten adaptations of stories from Boccaccio's Decameron, and I am in this one - cast, as I so often am, as an Italian nobleman.
Posted by John Finnemore at 11:53 pm