Strange, Strange Creatures takes its title from a Murray Gold tune written as incidental music for Doctor Who and used in the 2008 cinema trailer. I decided on the title after finishing the story. For quite some time it was called Ghostworm. I had the idea of a story about a mutated variety of the slug called “Selenochlamys ysbryda” or Ghost Worm after accidentally coming across a report of it’s classification as a new species in 2008. The fact that it was discovered around Cardiff was an absolute gift. It just had to get into a Torchwood story. But I knew I might not sustain a whole story set around it, so it ended up with the story of Ianto and Alun out in the countryside on the trail of the carnivorous slug intertwined with a story about another strange, strange creature in Cardiff itself.
The countryside north of Bedwas became the location of the story purely because I was looking for a valley road with a few trees on the ridge. Having closed in on that area on Google Earth I noticed that there was a line of electricity pylons going in a north-westerly direction, crossing the road and carrying on across country. That gave me the idea of the ghost worm following the electricity currents, though there is no earthly reason why it should do that. The RSPCA man becomes a reluctant ally of the Torchwood boys as they follow a trail of unpleasantly half digested farm animals. The sheep that they examined in the back of Inspector Lucas’s car was originally going to be a pregnant ewe with a dead foetus visible inside, but that was too nasty even for a Torchwood story.
The idea of the trail ending in the zoo came to me while watching a documentary about a small zoo in south Wales called Manor House Park. It’s nowhere near the setting of this story, being up near Tenby, but there can’t be very many zoos run by former TV celebrities. The real zoo is owned by former TV interior designer Anna Ryder Richardson, who comes across in the documentary (Wild Welsh Zoo, made for BBC Wales, in case you’re wondering) as a very nice person who loves animals. Natty Jackson, former celebrity chef made a good stand in for her. I didn’t really want to do cruel things to the animals in a real zoo, and I don’t actually think Anna has an elephant enclosure. But it seemed like a good way to round off that part of the adventure by having the elephants stamp on the giant carnivorous slug. One problem solved, the cleaning up problem just starting.
Meanwhile, the other strange, strange creature was upsetting the dogs of Cardiff, and with them the Weevils and werewolves. Ray the Wolfman who crops up every so often in these stories turns out to have the clues to something nasty lurking in the city. Jack follows it up with him and ends up fighting for his life in some real geography. The Royal Stuart Warehouse, once an integral part of the Glamorganshire Canal, backs onto Adelaide Street and the nearest primary school to both the Torchwood Hub and Century Wharf where Jack, Garrett and Gray live. It is the school Gray would most likely go to. Setting the fight with the scary werewolf there made sense, although it might seem a bit too much for anyone who has children at that school. In which case, honestly, don’t worry. It IS fiction.
The Glamorganshire Canal, which I slightly touched on in that part of the story, seems like a fascinating bit of local Cardiff history and I wish I had time to explore it a bit more. If I can think of a way of working it into a Torchwood story, I might well do so. It’s a bit less gruesome than the ghost worm, at least!