Keble graduate Marnie Dickens' first major series is the BBC kidnap thriller Thirteen, a stark look at life after abduction.

1226717_MarnieBy Olivia Williams  

30-year-old screenwriter Marnie Dickens is fresh from the success of her first drama, Thirteen, which currently features prominently on BBC iPlayer.  Dickens' story revolves around a 26-year-old woman who escapes from a Bristol cellar that has been her prison since she was thirteen. Her new freedom is only the beginning of the series, as we watch Ivy Moxam return home, and struggle to fit back into the world that she has been deprived of for so long. 

This year is looking even busier than the last for Dickens - her new series Forty Elephants, about a 1920s criminal gang of women, is currently being developed by the BBC, and she is also teaming up with Doctor Foster star Suranne Jones on a new project called Kit and Nim. Dickens explains how she has progressed from being a runner to calling the shots as a screenwriter in only a few years:

Did you write any scripts or stories while you were at Oxford - or earlier? 
I never wrote any scripts while at Keble (below) as I had yet to realise I wanted to be a scriptwriter. Besides - there were always too many essays to write.Keble
What did you do between graduating and getting your first script commissioned?
My first ever TV job was to be Jane Horrocks' stand-in, which involved me wearing a blonde wig and trying to stay quite still on the spot as they took their marks. From there I worked as a Floor Runner on a variety of TV dramas until I became a Third Assistant Director. A few events conspired to force me to take time off from assistant directing and it's then that I started to write scripts. Once you have a good agent for scriptwriting, you're off.
Which writing has had the greatest influence on your career? 
It would have to be Joss Whedon's. I couldn't be prised away from Buffy The Vampire Slayer when I was younger. It's partly his characterisation, the high stakes of his worlds, but also the wit that he shoots through even the darkest moments . 
Thirteen, Dickens' compelling drama about a 26-year-old girl coming to terms with life after abduction 
What is your favourite book or screenplay? 
I don't have favourites as such but my brother Max's book, Grief Is The Thing With Feathers is brilliant. Obviously I am biased, but still - it's quite something. 
What is your guiltiest viewing pleasure?  
When I was younger I loved sneaking off to watch the Sunset Beach omnibus.
Who are your heroes?
Writing heroes - Joss Whedon and Sally Wainwright. Life heroes - my Mum and Missy Elliott. 
Are there any actors who you would love to write a part for? 
Maura Tierney. I used to watch her as Abby Lockhart in ER and think - this is the real deal. Also - having just worked with her on Thirteen - I want to write Jodie Comer a part in everything. 

1226717_MarnieA scene from Dickens' five-part drama on BBC Three 

Where do you write?
I would like to say I am one of those writers who can pitch up to a cafe, plug in headphones and get scribing, but I'm not. I need to have a fair bit of solitude and quiet, which tends to mean my home.
Do you have a notepad or moodboard? How do you gather together your ideas?
I have both. The notepad is for the preliminary jotting down of ideas. The moodboard is a visual reference for whichever script I am working on. If it's a period drama then it will be a very busy moodboard - cut outs of weaponry and costumes and facial hair.
What did you do to celebrate your first commission?
Probably spent a lot of time checking whether it was true or not. 
Thirteen is avaialble to watch on BBC iPlayer
Images: BBC, Oxford University Images


By J P C Toalster

Two points:
1. Why should the only wines drunk at Oxford be Bordeaux and Burgundy?
My wife and I, living slightly north of Frankfurt, used to drive fairly often to Strasburg, where we could sample the wines of Alsace: Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Edelzwicker and Sylvaner; all of excellent quality.
Perhaps the college authorities would consider sending an expedition to Alsace, to test the wines and, if possible, to buy in a few dozen for College feasts.
I should mention also that the German wines of Baden, on the other side of the Rhine, are also well worth trying.

2. Your correspondent Ms. Bichovsky, who wants the to be abolished, has clearly forgotten - if she ever knew - that it gives the holder right of audience in the counsels of the University, as the B.A. does not (bachelors are still in statu pupillari). More importantly, we may ask why Oxford should follow the example of younger universities (see Royston Spears' letter on the wearing of subfusc). Let other universities classify their degrees as they wish, and we, together with Cambridge and Trinity College Dublin, will do the same.
Didn't the lady realise what she was in for when she applied for a place at Oxford? As they say in the Royal Navy: "if you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined".
In this connection, it was interesting to see that when HRH Prince William and his then fiancée, Miss Middleton, took their degrees from one of the older universities of Scotland, they were created M.A. The degree of B.A., so I understand, is not awarded in their university or in others of similar age, and one becomes M.A. at once on graduating.

As a final remark, I see that the solecism "Queen's College" (apostrophe + s), is still common. There is, of course, a "Queens' College", (s + apostrophe), in Cambrdge; but that only explains the mistake without excusing it.

J P C Toalster
Merton 1948

By Peter Quarrell

I found Mr Toalster's comment at the foot of the web page featuring Marnie Dickens' Thirteen. How it got there I don't know, as that article doesn't mention Bordeaux or Queen's College. It is perfectly OK to refer to Queen's as "The Queen's College" or "Queen's College" or even "Queen's".
I matriculated there in 1961.

By Andrew Gauntlett

I can vouch for the wines of the Upper Mosel. I once had a weekly commute between Brussels and Chur in Switzerland. If I took the German route one way and the French route the other it took in all of the Alsace and Mosel in a single weekend, with Epernay always presenting itself as a not-too-distant diversion.

Can't really comment on Thirteen as I gave up watching TV the same year that I matriculated.

Andrew G.
Jesus 1997