There's No Way This Is Going To Work: The Secret History of our SuperWhoLock

It's been a year. And it's been quite a year. One year ago this week, our little group did our first thing together. It was the first Legible Scrawl event but Legible Scrawl wasn't even a thing yet. It was just a group of friends getting together to do something we hadn't really seen before. 

But let's go back.

A year ago I was working for Phoenix Comicon as a Moderator, the person who keeps the panels running right and on time. In that capacity, I had a chance to see lots of panels from varying perspectives. While many were fans getting together to celebrate, or bitch about, the things they loved, every once in a while you'd get something different. One of these styles of panels is where a fan dresses up as a character and then spends an hour answering questions as that character. Everybody is usually a good sport about this, but most of the panelist don't quite get how long an hour can be and how deafening the silence is. But there was something there, something pure in the fandom love and taking that thing you love and going on stage with it. I filed it away for later.

One of my jobs was helping to train Moderators for what to do when a panel goes off track. To do this, we set up scenarios where our veterans pretend to be made up celebrities who act in odd ways. In doing this, I got to see that many of my fellow Moderators were hugely talented and could think on their feet. And all that talent was going unused. I filed that away too.

I started thinking about making my own panel, but what would I do? How could I keep people entertained for an hour? I could write something, but prose doesn't come naturally to me. But screenwriting, that's a ballgame of a different color. But what? How about something you could never seen on the screen, a lost episode of a TV show. A unused script for Buffy or Battlestar Galactica? Maybe. But what would be interesting enough to get butts in seats?  

That's when I heard about SuperWhoLock. It's a odd little corner of the fandoms where people who loved all three shows imagined them all crossing over. I did some digging, but most of what I found were cleverly edited GIFs or fan art. I started to wonder what it would be like for real, if a studio decided to do this, how would they go about it? Instead of just riding into pure fan fiction, I decided to approach it as if I had be contracted by the studio. I would follow what I guessed the parameters would be: all the characters would have to emerge from the story intact and ready to do their next episode, etc. I set out to see what would happen.

And I discovered it was really freaking hard. Not the characters, I know them well enough to write them arguing without much issue, but figuring out a plot that would utilize all three fandoms without giving any one short shrift. A couple of problems cropped up immediately. The first is that the Doctor himself is a walking, talking Deus Ex Machina. What can't be solved by a time machine and magic wand, er, sonic screwdriver? Secondly, Sherlock. Oh dear sweet Sherlock, smartest guy in the room...until the Doctor walks in. But that's not the problem. The problem is that Sherlock can never, ever see anything supernatural or alien without having his whole world crash in around him. It fundamentally alters the character, specifically the latest version on the BBC. He's awesome, but must be kept contained. And how are you supposed to conceal information from a man who's super power is hyper attentiveness? Challenge!

I think I pulled it off. I managed to make a mystery-supernatural-alien story where each of the characters thought they saved the world and the others were idiots. So I had the script, now to get people on board. I talked to my friends, colleagues and a couple of nearly perfect strangers. All of them went nuts for the idea. We did a reading, I cast it (genderblind, best performance won!) and then got it approved by the powers what be, the hidden lords and ladies of Phoenix Comicon. 

We went up and it was magnificent. The script was a bit longish (I'm a terrible editor of my own work) but the audience was enthusiastic, willing to jump in with a scream or a boo! when I asked them for it. I never got the full count, but it was over 200 people, who didn't know us at all, they just showed up to see something different. You can watch it for yourself on our YouTube page or under the Projects/SuperWhoLock tab and decide for yourself.

It worked. Now I wanted more. 

I sat down to write it again, but this time the gloves were off. Last time I had played by the rules, but now there was no need. I'd seen what worked and that the audience would come, now it was time to get wilder. In fact, the story got so big that it ended up having to be split into two halves. And the Con was gracious enough to give us two slots on subsequent days, but in the same time and same room. 

For these, I wanted more characters, deeper into the supporting casts of each show, and the nature of the threat they were facing meant I didn't have to dig into just those three universes. On a writerly note, when I did SuperWhoLock 1, known as Trouble In Triplicate, I had modeled my story off of Russell T Davies style. His writing of the 10th Doctor was straight forward, an adventure tale, always rushing to the next amazing thing. For this next version, I wanted to use the 11th Doctor, and that meant modeling off of Steven Moffat. His stories, while just as trilling, were a bit odder, lots of strange pieces jutting together, wibbly wobbly timey wimey was his phrase after all. Sometimes the end was at the beginning and lots of times, things were just never explained. I knew what was going on, but there's no reason I had to tell everyone in the audience. 

Plus while the 10th Doctor was known for suffering ("I'm so sorry...") and having to live with the results of terrible events, the 11th Doctor did not give up so easily and would gladly put the universe at risk (or appear to) to save his friends. And I had a couple of injustices I felt needed to be addressed, and who better than with a time traveling do gooder? 

My cast is a murderer's row of talent. I'll spend another post talking about their many amazing virtues, but I know this is getting long-ish and I don't want to give them short shrift. Plus I can't give away who they are playing without tipping my hand. I'll do a spoiler special if there's a demand for it.

Will it work? I'm feeling good about it. The read thrus were full of fun and joy and cackling at nerdy in-jokes. If we can bottle that and share it with the audience, they are going to love it. 

As for the future, who knows? I've got things I'd like to do, characters I'm desperate to get in a room together, but I think the SuperWhoLock thing might be done. I feel like having to keep our friends in 221B in the loop is not good for them or the story. But SuperWho____ , that just might work. Fill in the blank with favorite fandoms and who knows what kind of magic you might come up with...