The Nightmare King was an idea that allowed me to tell some background stories for some members of the Torchwood Glasgow team. It is, obviously, a story in which the new characters take centre stage. Owen Harper is only involved by a video link and Toshiko takes no part at all. And I think that’s how it should be. Torchwood Glasgow is my series. They’re my characters and I don’t always have to maintain a connection with the TV series just to hold reader interest. I get enough feedback, in any case, that shows interest in the new characters. So there is every justification for a story featuring Dougal, Darius, Shona and Sandy on their night shift.

It is, of course, exactly what Owen says. An alien Freddy Krueger, interfering with their dreams. Each of the first three characters, at least, is troubled by something that is obviously a suppressed anxiety in them all. Shona Stewart’s father didn’t think she was good enough for the army because she was a woman. Her uncle Alasdair did have faith in her, but in the dream he abandons her because she has let herself get pregnant. Uncle Alasdair, of course, is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of U.N.I.T. I decided when I created her character to make her a relative of his. And why not? Of course, the Brig belongs to an old school British Army that saw women as ancillary workers, not combatants. His expectations for Shona might have been less exacting than she expected. But the nightmare version of him was much harsher than he really was.

Darius’ issue is with his long dead father, a hard, narrow, loveless man who obviously drove his son to the excesses that led to him becoming an Undead in the first place. Again, it is an illusion, but even a vampire can be caught up in such a thing.

Sandy’s nightmare is probably the most distressing, because it is the most true to life one. There are far too many homosexuals over a certain age who have stories of so-called ‘cures’ for their ‘affliction’. The treatments I described here are based on some of those accounts. Homosexuality was only de-criminalised in Scotland in 1980, thirteen years after the rest of Britain. Even then, it was not accepted by everyone. Fundamentalist Christians still insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that psychological and physical treatments can cure homosexuals. What these cruelties actually do to them doesn’t bear thinking about. Recurrent nightmares of the sort Sandy experiences here are only the half of it.

Dougal is the least badly affected by the nightmares. His dream of being on fire is less personal than the others, even though it is obviously painful. Clearly, Dougal has less deep-rooted anxieties than everyone else. It might be because he has no fear of death, or not.

The ending of the story has gone through a rewrite from the original version, which did lack a certain amount of tension. Essentially, the Nightmare King died in the cell before Dougal went to sleep. In the revised version, Darius witnesses its death after Dougal has had his nightmare and the infection was contained. I think it works better in the second version, though I slightly regret losing some good bits of dialogue in the rewrite. The original version is available to read online.

Nightmare King Original