credits (writing credits)

Wild at Heart

Four episodes over several series following the adventures of Danny Trevanion, an English vet who moves to Africa with his family to help run a safari park.

Hippolyta

Series II, Episode 6

Danny the vet struggles to cope with two new arrivals - an aggressive hippo and his sour, manipulative mother in law Caroline.

It was a great thrill to be asked to invent a major new character like Caroline:  I'm worryingly good at toxic older ladies for some reason.  In time of course Caroline mellowed, but in a later episode her sister Georgina came to visit and I got to write her just as vicious as Caroline used to be.  Hooray!

Homing

Series IV, Episode 3

Again I got to introduce a new Wild At Heart character, this time Danny's new love interest, locum vet Alice, who is recruited to help Danny fight an outbreak of rabies.  I had a lot of fun: it's always easier to write the start of a romance where, according the immutable laws of romcom, our hero and heroine can't stand each other.  Alice was played by Dawn Steele -- the third time I have written a character for her, after Monarch and Sea of Souls. Just as well no-one could ever get tired of watching her.

More Than You Can Chew

Danny as State Vet rushes a translocation, Alice has a traumatic encounter with some lions, and DuP takes Caroline into the bush, expecting her to be useless, but she isn't. 

I wrote this episode shuttling between England and Spain, which didn't make life easier for the producers.  Much fun was had letting Caroline puncture DuPs bushman machismo, and I think I got to write Wild At Heart's first nude scene (bums only though.)

The Law is a Jackal

The mining company's new road is edging towards Leopard's Den, and Danny tries to enlist the help of the National Parks, only to find himself at loggerheads with their inspector. By going undercover Caroline finds evidence that the mining company has lied, but it doesn't persuade the court.

A tricky episode to write: we had to 'discover' a natural feature of Leopard's Den that was of vital ecological importance but had never been mentioned before.  Someone else came up with the idea of a waterhole, and pushed me into it, as it were.  And it worked.

Sea of Souls

Paranormal investigation series starring Bill Paterson, Dawn Steele and Ian Robertson

Oracle

Series III, Episode 2

I was asked to do an episode where Justine's psychic powers become known to her colleague Craig.  I had this idea for a story where Justine has horrible visions of a murder, which she and Craig assume is in the past.  Their investigation leads them to a frustrating dead end, and Justine realises too late her visions are of a murder yet to happen - and Craig is in the firing line. 

I was very pleased with the final show which had given most viewers a wonderful dose of good old- fashioned heebiejeebies. 

Wire in the Blood

A Coastal Production for ITV

Starring Robson Green as psychologist Dr Tony Hill

Sharp Compassion

Series II, Episode 4

A routine enquiry at a flagship hospital uncovers a spate of suspicious deaths. Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan investigate but they're obstructed by a well-connected medical elite. When Islamic fundamentalism comes into the picture, Carol finds her investigation hijacked by ruthless officials determined to get a conviction regardless of the evidence.

My first Wire script, ably guided by the then-script-editor Simon Wheeler who went on to become a successful producer in his own right.  He came up with the episode title, which baffled me until I realised it was a quote from TS Eliot - like 'Wire in the Blood' itself.  Duh.

Bad Seed

Series III, Episode 2

A series of horrendously grisly murders with no apparent connection between the victims has police baffled.  All Tony has to go on is that the murderer's methods match those of newly-released killer 'Mack the Knife' MacAdam (Daragh O'Malley) now reformed, with a new identity - and enrolled as a PhD pupil in Tony's class.

 

A wonderfully malevolent performance from O'Malley before his character fell victim to his own machinations. I was proud of this episode - like all good murder mysteries there's a tragic secret at the heart that no-one wants to tell.

Synchronicity

Series III, Episode 4

A sniper is preying on Bradfield, but Tony Hill has just been diagnosed with a brain tumour, and he's finding it hard to tell imagination from reality.

Inspired by the hideous true story of the Washington Sniper, this episode was written at short notice, which concentrated the mind wonderfully.  Encouraged by script editor Claire Hirsch I structured the episode backwards: Tony starts off seeing a pattern, only for it to collapse into baffling randomness - or is the tumour robbing him of his ability to think?  However, it didn't come out quite the way I'd planned... check out my second blog entry.

Hole in the Heart

Series IV, Episode 3

A perplexing series of murder/suicides points to a secretive religious cult at work.

The One About Religion. Tony Hill the rationalist tries to comprehend the illogical nature of faith, especially when it turns into murderous messianic fundamentalism. When does religion become self-imposed brainwashing? Director AJ Quinn had a lot of fun recreating his favourite Caravaggios complete with severed heads.

Nocebo

The bodies of two children are found, bearing markings that suggest some form of voodoo. Investigating, DI Fielding's team find themselves the target of something very much like black magic.

The producers were keen to do an episode touching on the paranormal and supernatural, but with Tony Hill as our hero the story had to be grounded in the rational.  Tragic cases of African children abused for being 'possessed by demons' suggested the motive and the power of suggestion provided the means.

Anything You Can Do

In the murder of an old woman living alone Tony sees the hallmarks of a killer who will strike again.  When he does, subtle differences in method lead Tony to suspect that not one but two killers are at work, each vying to out-do the other.

An episode about competition, envy and sibling rivalry. I was pleased by the effectiveness of an early bit of sleight-of-hand: Tony Hill precisely describes the murderer, but the cops already have a suspect, and unconsciously start selecting evidence to make a case.  When that line of enquiry draws a blank Tony gets the blame.

Unnatural Vices

A Kurdish father pleads guilty to an 'honour killing', but Tony deduces he is lying to hide the truth about his daughter's sexual adventures.  When four more bodies are found Tony and Alex realise they are seeking a sadist whose appetites go beyond murder.

The One About Sex.  Since all great mysteries have a secret at the centre, I decided to use private sexual fetishes at the core of this story.  Sadly there's only much you can do weeknights on ITV, even after the watershed.

Monarch of the Glen

Starring Lloyd Owen, Susan Hampshire, Tom Baker, Alexander Morton

Series One

Episode Four

A visiting genealogist stirs up a hornet's nest when he uncovers evidence that Katriona might be Archie's sister.  Hector refuses to deny it, Molly walks out, and Duncan learns that being an aristocrat is not all it's cracked up to be. 

An idea I originally dreamed up for Ballykissangel - lovers who cannot touch each other forced to camp out overnight - worked even better here, with the theme echoing through the other characters' storylines.

Episode Five

Archie's scatty sister Lizzie brings her new-age guru boyfriend back home and proposes setting up a healing centre.  Archie soon exposes the guru as a fake - but his magic works all the same.

Conceived as a sort of Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, this episode allowed me to portray Golly as supplier of consolation to numerous local ladies... they toned that right down in later series.  Boo.

Series Two

Episode Five

While Archie fixes up a derelict cottage as a tourist attraction, Molly plays a poker match with a hard man from Aberdeen - and loses.

Episode Six

A wedding party is booked in to Glenbogle, and Lexie is appalled to learn the bride-to-be is her mother, whose quest to be a perpetual teenager blighted Lexie's childhood.

Series Three

Episode Two

Stella's economy drive pisses off the staff, who all go on strike.  Hector and Molly, forced to share quarters, find it hard to live together.  Lexie considers finding a new job.

Episode Six

Plans to revitalise Glenbogle as a tourist destination seem to be working and a travel journalist comes to write a review. He turns out to be Stella's ex-husband, eager to get back together, or so he says.

Series Four

Episode Three

Archie is planning a big wedding although Lexie wants something modest.  But when Archie's old flame Katriona turns up, determined to win Archie back, it soon looks as if the wedding might be off altogether.  Archie eventually does the right thing - too late.

Series Five

Episode One

Archie is getting itchy feet, and when Kilwillie offers him a job in New York he is tempted to take it.  Duncan gets a bequest from a dotty old uncle who used to be in bomb disposal - an unexploded bomb in Glenbogle's cellar. Naturally Archie and Duncan are locked in with it when it starts ticking.

Episode Ten

A nighttime intruder turns out to be Lexie's long-lost Dad, seeking to start a new life near his little girl.  In fact he's on the run from moneylending gangsters, but as a compulsive fantasist, even when he tells the truth no-one believes him.

Series Six

Episode One

With Archie gone his half-brother Paul prepares to assume the Lairdship, unaware of the title's duties or its significance.  Lexie, returning from New Zealand after falling out with Archie, tries to placate Golly and the others and teach Paul to take his new role seriously.

Episode Ten

Paul is ow ready to become Laird, but at the last minute finds his claim to the title challenged by devious Uncle Donald.  Paul and Donald must undergo the Laird's challenge, but of course Donald brings in a ringer.

Hornblower

Series III, Episode 1

'Loyalty'

Swashbuckling high-seas adventure with Hornblower battling foes foreign and domestic.  The original book recounted a rather dull Channel blockade, so producer Andrew Benson let me work in the United Irishmen and Napoleon's planned invasion of England. Plus Hornblower getting married for honour, not love.

Second Sight

Series II, Episode 3

'The Kingdom of the Blind'

Paula Milne's series about an ambitious detective secretly losing his sight was an audacious concept.  I tried to think of the worst thing that could happen: a twisted veteran gangster, also going blind, deduces our hero's secret.

The Dark Room

Adapted from the novel by Minette Walters

A gripping book, but the heroine spentall of it recovering in a hospital bed, and the villain was revealed through a suicide note. I got Dervla Kirwan to shave her head and push the baddie off a church tower.

Adapted from the novel by Minette Walters. Photographer Jinx Kingsley, daughter of a millionaire businessman, is brought to hospital following a car crash, suffering from amnesia.  While she is recovering the bodies of her ex-fiancé and her best friend are discovered buried in a wood near where her car crashed.  Therapist Alan Protheroe, convinced of Jinx' innocence, races to help Jinx recover her memory before the police can charge her with murder. But exploring Jinx's scarred mind reveals horrors neither of them are prepared for.

Silent Witness

Forensic Pathologist solves murders, usually grisly.

Divided Loyalties

Series III, Episode 3

starring Amanda Burton, Neil Stuke, Nick Reding

Investigating the overdose of a single mother, pathologist Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton) finds herself dealing with an undercover cop gone rogue and out for revenge.

Gone Tomorrow

Series IV, Episode 1

Starring Amanda Burton, Paul Copley, Nigel Terry

A helicopter full of oil workers goes down on its way to a rig, and Ryan is called in to do the postmortems on the bodies recovered, hoping to be in time to save a life.

A last-minute commission, this script was held together with adrenalin and chutzpah.  it was a wonderful opportunity to work with my old mucker director Matthew Evans.  I love working to a tight schedule; no time to agonize over minutiae, just write the bloody thing.

Ballykissangel

The Sunday night comedy drama of an English priest in an Irish town.   Created by Kieran Prendiville, its first series broke records for viewing figures.

Someone to Watch over Me

Series II, Episode 5

Cute hoor Quigley gets a new cleaner, putting his daughter Niamh's nose out of joint, but realises his mistake when the new employee starts making noises about marriage.  Niamh finds a new vocation taming a classful of wild pupils newly imported to the village school. 

My first Ballykissangel episode was a blast, especially attending the boozy readthrough with the cast. I got into a long conversation with Niall Toibin about how the proper pronunciation of our name:  (Neel, if you're interested. Just don't spell it Neil.)

I Know When I'm Not Wanted

Series III, Episode 6

Father Peter (Steven Tomkinson) returns from England to find all the villagers have squabbled in his absence. Worse still, his secret love Assumpta has come home trailing a husband.

By Series 3 the UK tabloids were going bonkers about the two leads being an item and the rattled producers made lots of changes to the series arc and storylines.  Assumpta (Dervla Kirwan) getting married (to James Nesbitt, when he first started to twinkle) was a last-minute change that nearly overwhelmed the rest of the script.

Pie in the Sky

One of my first jobs for TV.  Pie in the Sky was a sweet, clever and under-rated show, and it was a challenge to come up with a new scenario where law enforcement and cookery overlapped.  A jury closeted in a naff hotel and guarded by our hero Richard Griffiths seemed to fit the bill.  I made a mistaken reference to a designer suit by John Smith instead of Paul Smith, but the producers thought I'd done it on purpose and left it in...

Ugly Customers

Series V, Episode 2

Police detective and restaurant owner Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths) is posted to guard a jury deliberating in a fraud case, who have been sequestered in a ghastly hotel.  Crabbe has to find out who is intimidating the jurors, and how the villain is getting to them.  Meanwhile he comes to the aid of the hotel's talented cook (John Thomson) who is cruelly oppressed by the jobsworth manager. Back at Crabbe's restaurant an obnoxious customer is giving new waitress Sally (Marsha Thomason) a hard time.

Spender

Starring Jimmy Nail, Sammy Johnson, Berwick Kaler, Tony McAnaney

Best Friends

Series III, Episode 7

When DS Boyd's dog is run over by car thieves he sets out to nail the villains.  Stick opens a jewellery shop only to find his first customers are wearing ski-masks, while Spender learns that Keith's girlfriend Emily is not as old as she let everyone think.

The producer Jen Samson will always be one of my heroes for giving me my first break into writing for network TV with the second-last episode of the Jimmy Nail cop show. She let me contribute to the final episode too.  Jimmy Nail used to intimidate the hell out of BBC executives by swearing at them, but fortunately coming from Northern Ireland I already spoke his language fluently.

Rotten Apples

Corrupt RUC Detective Spallen becomes convinced that shoplifter Maguire is a notorious Republican terrorist, and uses traditional methods of torture, intimidation and falsified evidence to prove he's right.

Shot on a shoestring in a lunatic asylum in North London, this 60' special for Channel Four was rough as old boots, but directing it taught me a lot.  Mostly that I should stick to writing.

Give My Head Peace

The adventures of bombastic Republican Da, Daniel O'Donnell worshipper Ma, idiot son Cal, failed pop singer Dympna, Billy the chronically lazy RUC man, bigoted loyalist Uncle Andy, clueless Mervyn, and psychotic Red Hand Luke.

I first met The Hole in the Wall Gang in 1993 and gave them one good gag for their pilot Give My Head Peace.  When they got a series they called me back, and for ten series and umpteen stage shows I polished gags and invented endings. An immensely funny, hard-working, hard-playing bunch of guys, they helped to change the face of Ulster, and got me an invitation to meet the President of Ireland.  What a beano that was: Tim made a fine speech, and I could have sworn I saw the head of BBC NI buying the drinks in the pub afterwards.