Class returns to Big Finish this month with Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince. BlogtorWho spoke with writer Blair Mowat and actors Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo about the new release.
Big Finish brings us another audio release for the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the young adult drama created by Patrick Ness about four human teenagers, an exiled alien prince and his Physics teacher/last of the Quill attending the Coal Hill Academy. The short-lived programme last aired on BBC One in December 2016. Big Finish then recorded another four volumes of full cast audio adventures with the first release in August 2018.
Once again Big Finish returns to Class, bringing back the critically acclaimed series with a new audio drama written by the Blair Mowat (the composer of Class’ musical score). Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince features the return of Greg Austin as Charlie Smith, the prince of the Rhodians and his boyfriend Matteusz Andrzejewski played by Jordan Renzo.
In the first of two interviews BlogtorWho spoke with Blair Mowat to delve behind the scenes into the new release, how he came up with the concept, the diary format and writing for Charlie and Matteusz.
Composer to Writer
Blair Mowat provided the music for the previous four volumes of Class releases on Big Finish. However, Mowat also wrote the final story of Volume 4 ‘Queen of Rhodia‘, so we asked what inspired him to go from writing music to writing stories? As Mowat explains;
“When I was doing the Class audios at Big Finish I just got jealous listening to the stories and imagining the sorts of adventures these guys could be up to. It’s something that I’ve done before at University. For example, I wrote and directed a short film. I’d always had aspirations to do bits of writing in my career alongside music. But as with most things, you get sort of siloed into one thing, and you really do have to commit to that one thing if you want your career to be successful. So I just sort of abandoned any other possibilities of doing that stuff for the best part of a decade. Then Class seemed like too good an opportunity because I knew the characters so well.
I probably watched those characters more than most people in the world have. Because when you watch a scene and you’re doing the music, you have the picture up in front of you and you’re watching those characters and listening to them just over and over again hundreds of times as you’re writing the music. So, it felt like a very easy introduction into doing some writing again. I enjoyed it so much the first time that I wanted to give it another crack and do a second script, especially working with these talented young chaps, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
As the title suggests Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince is based on Charlie’s Diary. But it’s not just Greg Austin reading a series of diary entries. The audio drama combines sections from Charlie’s diary with scenes between Charlie (Greg Austin) and Matteusz (Jordan Renzo). That unique format has given Mowat a chance to flesh out the story of Season 1. Mowat explained how he developed the story and the format;
“I originally conceived of the idea as a celebration of the show. We hadn’t had a Class audio for a while, so I was able to go through the whole of season one and before season one to fill in some of the gaps of things that we never saw. A diary entry format just made sense, and gave me the ability to do that and jump around.”
Mowat further elaborated on how the diary format worked for this new release; “The story isn’t completely linear, as in we don’t see every day of Charlie’s diary. We skip around to the bits that we didn’t see in Season one. It functions partly as a reminder of what happened in Class if you haven’t watched it for a while and want to get back into it.”
However, the diary format wasn’t without challenges. Although an audio drama is perhaps better suited to a diary format than others, developing a coherent story using that format comes with its own set of difficulties as Mowat explained;
“It was quite tough. There is no rule book for how to write a drama like this. There are millions of books out there on how to write a pilot or how to write a heroes story structure when it comes to writing. But there are no guides in how to make an episode which revolves around a diary entry. So, it was also an interesting challenge as well to try and work all that out.”
Charlie and Matteusz
In addition to the diary entries there are also scenes between Charlie and Matteusz as Mowat explains; “There are diary entries, but there are also scenes between Matteusz and Charlie. So, he might be talking about a particular thing that happened, and then we’ll cut to him and Matteusz having a discussion about those things. So, it’s a mixture of a diary format, but also dialogue scenes between these two chaps as well, which helps break up the story.”
For this new release Blair Mowat was able to focus on the relationship between Charlie and Matteusz as he explains; “It is a celebration of the show and of these two characters and their relationship in particular. I think their romantic relationship really struck a chord with the audience watching Class. Giving them more, more intimacy, more stuff behind the scenes of all the action that was going on in Season One, I think was something I really wanted to give the fans.”
In the second part of our interviews Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo join Blair Mowat to further discuss the relationship between Charlie and Matteusz.