I know it upset the rest of the team, including my friend Nathan. I was still a new writer, and they probably thought I'd vastly overstepped the mark.
Thing is, I was inexperienced, and just figured this was the lead writer's role. I was being guided by others who assured me it was fine. I didn't know better.
I now have very different views about it - having been rewritten myself. It almost always grates, and on the few occasions since, when I've been brought in to work on a script started by another writer, I've always tried to be respectful, and retain as much as possible of their work.
The only time it hasn't bothered me is if the rewriting improves upon what I did, and makes me look even more excellent.
As was usually the case with My Parents Are Aliens.
My Sooty script editor had campaigned on my behalf for me to get a writing gig on Granada Kids' flagship show. I have her to thank for convincing the show's producer - Connal Orton - that this relatively untested writer was a good fit. He offered to try me out on an episode. I decided to go all out and write about death.
Consequently, it became a busy year. Alongside writing far too much on Sooty, I was writing my first episode of Aliens - a script I remain proud of - as well as Digitiser (albeit, by this point, stripped of all its humour... and thus stripped of all effort by its writer).
My Parents Are Aliens went sufficiently well, that they offered me two more episodes the following year - one of which featured my two eldest kids as extras, and was nominated for a BAFTA - and four the year after.
In total, I think I wrote 14 eps of the show (including the final episode ever... though for some reason, Wikipedia and IMDB seem to credit several of my eps to someone else). My tally was second only to series creator Andy Watts, who even stopped rewriting us after my second year on the show. Bless him.
Storylining days with Andy were one of my favourite parts of my time on the show. He taught me a lot about structure - and his polish of my first script taught me a lot as well.
Seeing that episode completed was a revelation; writing stuff on spec is all well and good, but to really understand how scripts work you have to see them made.
I used to be quite wordy - in both dialogue and stage directions - but I learned to strip everything back, and keep it economical. It's amazing how much time is taken up with characters just doing stuff, or the rhythm of their speech.
While My Parents Are Aliens was proving to be splendid fun, Sooty wasn't going anywhere near as well. Initially, it was fine, with just myself and the script editor coming up with ideas for the bear's 50th anniversary series.
We even got a behind-the-scenes tour of The Natural History Museum - getting to see jars full of pickled wildlife, and freezers full of sharks - for a special episode set there.
We also toyed with the idea of finally giving Sooty a voice. Yes, with hindsight, it seems madness that we ever considered it. Part of the problem would've been getting the right voice right, and I favoured a thick Glaswegian accent. This improbable idea went as far as speaking with the head of Granada Kids - who gave us his blessing, if we could make it work in the scripts.
Ultimately, we decided it might be too much for a character who had, for five decades, been defined by his lack of a voice.
And then things went off the rails. We suddenly had a new producer, who had new ideas. He wanted to shake up the show - and his first move was to fire the costly puppeteers who had been with Sooty for years, including the voice of Soo (who had become my favourite character... I wrote her as a menopausal woman...).
Something I learned on Sooty - later confirmed, when I was offered a job on ITV's Saturday morning show Ministry of Mayhem - was that puppeteers are... well... they're a funny bunch. It's not as simple as just sticking your hand in a puppet and doing a voice, apparently. They're "artists", and they develop a profound connection to their alter-egos. Brenda Longman, who voiced Soo, was so wounded by being let go after 20 years of association with the character, that she took her story to the tabloids.
The new producer also insisted on redesigning the puppets themselves, which further put noses out of joint. And then he insisted on having unprecedented input into the scripts.
And then he and the script editor went to war.
We had a horrible meeting at Sooty HQ - a warehouse in, I think, Maidstone, which was full of decades-worth of props and puppets. Well, I say a meeting... by this point the producer wasn't talking to us.
Though since bought by a major licensing company, Sooty was very much run as a family business. Sweep's voice (we had to script all of his lines, incidentally) was created by a cardboard razzer thing, placed in the puppeteer's mouth. These devices would get damp and soggy after an hour or so, and thus they were made by hand - as they had been for years - courtesy of a female friend of the Corbett family.
Indeed, I was told that when Matthew Corbett stopped being Sooty's handler, and sold the character, it was on the proviso that another family friend - Richard Cadell (a magician, who ran a fun fair when he wasn't required for Sooty-related activities) - would take over.
Unfortunately, whereas Granada Kids seemed to be on the side of the script editor and I, the Sooty family were, seemingly, on his side. It was horrible. Sat in a warehouse full of empty Sooty, Sweep and Soo puppets, everyone fully aware of what was going down, the atmosphere beyond tense - the script editor and I in one corner, working on scripts, the obsequious producer and the cast huddled in another.
I still remember walking into that room and Richard coming over and saying "Hello, Paul" in a voice that could've frozen fire.
Ultimately, I took my name off of several episodes, after the producer rewrote them. I even threatened to quit altogether at one point, unless he took out a line about a female hotel guest reaching down in the shower and touching "something warm and furry", and another about "chasing the dragon".
It was a risky gambit for so inexperienced a writer, but - contrary to everything that Digitiser might've suggested about me - when it came to Sooty, indeed all of kids TV, I'm pretty adamant that it's not the place for innuendo or drug references.
Oh... and of course, one of the episodes was pulled from broadcast when the higher-ups saw it, as they felt Sooty and his friends' new interest in aromatherapy drew uncomfortable parallels with the use of LSD.
This was also the year that things had gone bad on Digitiser... before getting good again. And then me quitting.
It was a terrifying thing to do at the time - or, rather, was after I'd done it so impulsively - but Sooty and My Parents Are Aliens had given me just enough confidence to think I might be able to make a career out of screenwriting.
Additionally, I'd been accepted into EastEnders' shadow scheme, which they use to test potential new writers. In effect, for every episode of EastEnders there's another version of it that won't go out on air, written by a writer who is being tried out. You go through the experience as if you're actually writing on the show for real. I got to shadow-write Mark Fowler's final episode.
I was a massive EastEnders fan back then - and that's why there were frequent references to it on Digitiser. When I mentioned to my agent about it, she was dubious, telling me it's a very hard show to get onto. As it transpired, I found it very easy. Just not so easy to remain on.
I insisted she send them my North of Watford script, and following a brief meeting at the BBC's Elstree Studios - a mere 12 minutes' drive from my house - I got accepted.
For a fan, the most exciting thing was being privy to six months' worth of upcoming storylines, and getting to tour Albert Square. Things I learned: 1) It's a rectangle, not a square, 2) It's tiny, 3) The Albert Square road signs are made of plastic, as are most of the bricks, and 3) In real life, the exterior of The Queen Vic would be too small to accommodate the interior.
Off the back of EastEnders, I got another soap gig, on an upcoming reboot of the long-running, ill-respected, motel-set soap Crossroads.
I hadn't intended to become a soap writer - I just really liked EastEnders - but my agent insisted that many writers earn their stripes on soaps. It's also, potentially, good, regular, money.
Growing up, I was aware of Crossroads, but I'm not sure I ever really watched an ep. It was sufficiently iconic, though, that you didn't need to - the music, the weird way the credits scrolled vertically and horizontally, Benny and Noel Gordon (who I was once on a train with as a kid)... somehow I'd absorbed them all by osmosis.
I was even born during an episode of Crossroads. My mum had gone into labour, and my dad was waiting for my sisters to finish watching the show before taking them up to the hospital. Didn't happen; I was born too soon.
The show's new executive producer, Yvonne Grace - who had risen to notoriety as "Evil Yvonne" on an ITV search-for-a-soap-star talent show - was promising to sex up the show, and was quite blatant in her efforts to aim it at a primarily gay audience. Her major casting coup was Jane Asher - former girlfriend of Paul McCartney, and belatedly a cakewoman.
I don't remember interviewing for the show, but I do remember my first writers' meeting. We had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, and I was somewhat taken aback by the presence of one Peter Milligan - who had written some of my favourite ever strips in 2000AD. I never worked up the courage to speak to him, but I figured if the new Crossroads was good enough for the co-creator of Bad Company and Hewligan's Haircut, then it was good enough for me.
We also got to visit the set. At one point I leaned on a corridor wall, causing it to topple over (thus proving the long-running gag about Crossroads' wobbly scenery). And yes, I did - briefly - meet Jane Asher, and travelled back on the train with a young actress called Freema Agyeman, who some of you may know better as Martha Jones from Doctor Who.
Yvonne had a fearsome reputation on the show, but I always found her easy to work with. I loved the tongue-in-cheek tone, though Crossroads fans - and they did exist - were up in arms. Ratings tanked, and the tabloids had their claws out - in part, perhaps, because their existing narrative painted Yvonne as a villain. And in storytelling, villains have to be defeated.
I wrote four episodes for Crossroads, but only two of them were made before the show was axed, just five months into its run. My second two would've gone out on the Monday and Tuesday the week after the final episode was shown.
When that final episode of Crossroads was broadcast, I was just two months away from leaving Digitiser, after ten tumultuous, occasionally glorious, years. It still felt a little unreal, but I could sense there was - finally - some momentum to the screenwriting career that I'd somehow stumbled into.
I wasn't certain that I was going to be earning enough to keep a roof over the head of my family, but with potential work from Granada Kids, EastEnders, and a bunch of stuff I had in development, I thought we might scrape through.
What I hadn't banked on was that leaving Digitiser would make me go mad.
CRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART ONE: WE TWO VETS - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART TWO: HUSK & HORNBLOWER - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART THREE: NORTH OF WATFORD - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART FOUR: KNIFE & WIFE - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART FIVE: SOOTY - BY MR BIFFO