The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Johnny Byrne

Another Time, Another Place

There are a number of approaches that you take to writing certain kinds of stories and in this one, I built it vertically. I just thought of the worst possible situation that these people could be in, accomplished it in the first twenty seconds in the hook, and then each act ending was built around either an extrication from a difficult situation or a further development of that initial situation. So everything flowed from the first thing and I loved the idea of the Moon separating into two and them not being sure that maybe they were on another Moon. Then the next thing that happened is that, suddenly, they appeared to be going back to where they came from and, just as they think everything is alright, around the corner comes this other Moon. So they send over two people, the Commander and his side-kick, to have a look and they find a crashed Eagle on the surface and inside is themselves.

Beyond that point, I hadn't developed the was just everything flowing out of each other as a fun and interesting thing to work with and you always hope, of course, that at the end of the day things will come out right in the end. Along the way, it dealt with notions of identity, reality and fantasy, and one or two other interesting things about the relationships as well on Moonbase.

ATAP was not just about individual Alphans confronting their Doppelgangers, but experiencing a revealed vision of a possible future. It also highlighted the cyclic nature of human experience - the catastropic failure of 20th century techno man established in Breakaway and a new beginning of the process. A theme which was also echoed in Troubled Spirit.

But here I may be expressing retrospective wisdom. Most if not all my episodes were written from the inside out. By that I mean they were never planned as vehicles for issues big and small and frequently the end result was just as surprising to me and to others. Clearly they were tapping into themes and concepts swirling around in my mind at the time. It perhaps explains why episodes of this type finished so multi-facetted, simple of the surface, very complex within. I particularly remember the highly charged excitement I felt when writing ATAP. I wrote it at Pinewood and oft times I'd simply down tools and rush along the corridor to blast Chris' ear with new and ever more fascinating conundrums arising as the script developed. I also remember knowing *exactly* what I meant by Bergman's weird but nonetheless clinching comment that if they didn't get back to Alpha before the moons collided, they'd have no place to die. Today, if dwelt upon, it raises more questions than it answers. So far as I know, I was on nothing more stimulating than the stodgy food served at the studio restaurant.

It's a long time ago now but, thinking back about it, I remember it very vividly. It had Judy Geeson in it, who I felt was very good and I was very sad to see that she didn't develop her career. I have a very fond feeling for it, simply because it was the first one that I wrote entirely myself, and it was also directed by David Tomblin whose work I admired enormously and with whom I had a very strong working relationship throughout the series.

I wanted the repercussions to affect the Alphans on the human and emotional level, rather than in your face gothic horror. It would also, I hoped, open up the relationship of Koenig and Helena in a way that was not normally possible. Carter I chose because I wanted to highlight the man of feeling behind the macho image. I thought he beautifully captured the poignancy of his relationship with the doomed Regina. On the planet, Morrow's aggressive response was rooted in fear for the community they were struggling to establish. It embodied elements of the rural idyll/technological man dilemma you mentioned above. Morrow and the others had decided to establish a community though less comfortable, was infinitely more predictable. Out were the vast uncertainties of the wandering moonbase alpha - at least here they knew what to expect and were prepared to make it work. The second moon's arrival and Koenig's appearance on the scene revived all the uncertainties they had hoped to put behind them. Complicating that, was the primitive, visceral fear of people mingling with their other selves. The same fear we see expressed today on the subject of human cloning - one of the big issues of our increasingly Brave New World..

Comments by Johnny Byrne, abridged from an interview with Tim Mallett and Glenn Pearce and a 1982 interview with Carsten Andresen.