The Survivor came from two sources. First, I wanted a story that took Torchwood Glasgow out to the islands and waters just fifty miles or so west of the city. The idea of underwater people is loosely taken from the Scottish legend of the Selkie, but only loosely. Selkie have been covered in a graphic novel involving Jack Harkness, written by John Barrowman’s sister, Carole, so I left that alone for now.
The other part, the mummified body in the archive which is linked to the mysterious boy, was inspired by a programme called History Cold Case in which people who usually spend their lives in university laboratories showed how they identify remains found in archaeological digs and uncover mysteries about historical deaths. One of the episodes featured a mummified body that had obviously been treated at the time of death to preserve it for exhibition purposes. They showed a rather horrific practice of the Victorian age involving body snatching and even murder to provide bodies for scientific research. The scientists involved in the programme were very emotional about this subject. The fact that they had a child’s body was an issue for them. they talked about arranging for a proper Christian burial for the remains once the investigation was over. That was my basis for Owen’s emotional reaction to having a specimen of that sort in the Torchwood archive.
Essentially, this story is about Owen’s emotional response to specimens like Alexander, who he is expected to be subjective and unemotional about. I wanted to show him rejecting that subjectivity much as the scientists in History Cold Case did and remembering not only that Alexander is a boy as well as a Torchwood case, but that the body in his archive was also a boy, once.
Some readers noted that Owen and Toshiko have bought a house. It’s in Tollcross, across the park from Tollcross Leisure Centre and close to several good primary schools. On a quiet afternoon I looked at properties on a Glasgow estate agent site using the sort of questions a couple with two pre-school children might ask and decided that Tollcross would do nicely. I have a vague idea about a story set in the leisure centre, but that might not happen.
The Isle of Arran only came into the story as an incidental. My original plan was for something a bit more detailed. It might stand for another time. Incidentally, a way to really annoy me is to get the Scottish Isle of Arran mixed up with the Irish Aran Isles. Both fantastic places, but the sweaters come from the Irish islands.