I started writing a dvd commentary for my own pleasure, but with a wordcount over 20K that gets both unwieldy and repetitive. Instead, here for my own reference are some scattered thoughts on Burn Brighter Through the Cold.


The story got started because back in June I had bronchitis, and as fans sometimes do, I decided I'd feel better if a character had it as well. (As fans also sometimes do, I made the character way worse off than I was.) I wrote 2000 words of sick!Foyle and thought that might be that, and was pleased all the same since that was 2000 more words of fic than I'd produced in several years. (And sickfic being an end in itself, as far as I'm concerned, especially in the subgenre of "stoic authority has to accept help." #BulletproofKink #NoSurpriseToAnyone.) But then it occurred to me that Andrew might be able to come home if his father were unwell, and things started ticking over. When I had enough that I showed it to Penwiper, she asked if there was going to be a case, and if not, what wider context might there be for a Sam/Andrew reconciliation.

I already had mentally set the piece between "Bleak Midwinter" and "Casualties of War" so as to have Sam's anthrax in the rear view but the Hastings police station band still together. I originally thought of it as being closer to "Casualties of War" with a vague thought of the depressive effects of recent illness contributing to Foyle's frustration with AC Parkins and his ultimate resignation in CoW. (I used a similar setup to pretty satisfying effect in my Buffy days with Intransigence.) Thinking about context, however, led me to ponder anew the Robertson Davies Theory Of Illness which, while it would be skeevy in real-life medical practice, is very useful to the h/c writer. To wit: why does the character need an illness at this point? What in their life do they need to step back from to reconsider? And THAT led me to consider anew the potential ramifications of "Bleak Midwinter."

It's a hell of a case for everyone - Milner, obviously, but also Foyle, who gets harassed throughout by people telling him he shouldn't treat Milner as a suspect, or (in the case of Mrs. Summersgill) that he should just arrest Milner already. Being Foyle he probably has the idea of internal sabotage quite early, but that's not really an improvement, since the constables are his responsibility as well. (Back in “A Lesson in Murder” there seemed to be a very clear divide between the uniform and detective branches at the station but after Hugh Reid disappeared at the end of series one, that division also seemed to end and everyone seemed to report to Mr. Foyle.) When the case is over, Foyle must have a huge mess of clean-up, in which he can't really delegate anything to Milner.

I surmised he could be getting pressured from above to not prosecute Peters, so he's bringing all his bulldog tenacity to pushing on that, while trying to rally the wider team at the station to help them recover from the double shock of Milner-as-suspect and Peters-as-criminal AND, simultaneously, to quietly but thoroughly check the rest of the force for weak spots that he might have missed before. And he's privately shaken, more deeply than he even consciously recognizes, by the revelation of Milner having lied to him about being divorced. He rationally filed it under "can't understand what it's like, not my place to judge" much like Rex Talbot's orientation in "Among the Few", which he clearly felt great compassion about. But unlike with Rex, it hurts him personally. Also unlike with Rex, the situation with Jane Milner triggers tamped-down feelings from his own life, from when Elizabeth reappeared and started angling for a longer-term role with him.

So, dramatically speaking, he has near-pneumonia because he's wounded to the core (lungs) by the last case and it takes his body going OI WE ARE GOING TO FUCKING STOP FOR A WEEK HERE for him to recognize it rather than continuing to try to power through it. And his illness lets the little chosen family of Sam-Milner-Foyle rebuild (or strengthen) their bonds, as well as throwing Sam and Andrew together with an urgent project they have to work on in concert.

When they're thrown together, Andrew can rediscover how he feels differently about Sam than about other girls, and Sam can rediscover how much she likes the quiddity of Andrew and also be smacked in the face with how, though he can be a playboy, he is actually capable of deep affection and tenderness. At first that hurts her because if he can do that, why didn't he with her? But it also makes her feel less insane for being so wrapped up in him, even nearly a year after their breakup and much more than a year since they last saw each other. And as they talk more and give/accept apologies and find that the attraction between them is still there, she has that experience of his gentleness with his father as well as with her to shore up her feelings of "it's risky but worth trying" getting back together. It was important to me to show Sam taking the initiative in their reunion, since so much had been on Andrew's impetus the first time around and since it was also important to me to show Andrew, not to put too fine a point on it, having grown the fuck up from his OH PRETTY GIRL HEYYYY ways.

Many pixels have been spilt, comparatively speaking, on the sharp interaction Sam and Foyle have during "Bleak Midwinter," when he comes down very hard on her for attempting to discuss the Milner case with him. I don't see that as a lastingly wounding exchange for Sam, even though it distresses her in the moment, because I imagine she realizes on her own that discussing the case in the street outside the hotel where Foyle's about to interview witnesses to Milner and Jane's meeting is not the best-thought-out choice she's ever made. I'm not sure if she also later realizes what I think Foyle was thinking, or rather what I think is behind his curtness there, viz.: Sam, more than anyone else, should remember when Andrew was a suspect in a murder case (in "Among the Few"), and how sharp Foyle was with her about her attempt to protect him. Even if she doesn't consciously recall that incident, however, I think the general gist of it is with her and contributes to her general conclusion that, while he was excessively harsh, she was also in the wrong in her timing and location for the discussion. With her usual incorrigible optimism she shakes off the rebuke and is shortly back to... discussing the case with him (and misquoting Shakespeare).

I think Milner does explicitly remember the "Among the Few" situation, and it helps him stay comparatively cool during the investigation, but (for my purposes) it also adds to his agitation afterwards when things remain weird between him and Foyle.


Two things that were tricky for me were the Foyle pov sections and the Thursday sickroom scenes. The big question I had with the Foyle sections was what to call him inside his own head. I tried "Christopher" (for maximal contrast with Sam's "Mr. Foyle") but that felt odd to both B&R and Penwiper. Penwiper suggested trying for using a plain "he" as much as possible in the flashback and fever-dream sequences, and in the real-time scenes "Foyle" with immediate signposting to show we're in his head. I think that worked very well in the more impressionistic scenes and reasonably well in the straight scenes with Kieffer and Milner. In the Thursday sickroom scenes I needed to show Sam and Andrew working increasingly well in concert despite their wariness of each other, and I wanted to convey something like that awful timeless suffocating feeling that comes with sitting in hospital rooms. I could very clearly imagine what I wanted as a sequence in a film: alternating, overlapping voice-overs of Andrew and Sam reading aloud, with wordless scenes of them doing things for Foyle. It took several tries to get something textual that I could live with.

I sort of wish I'd more strongly brought out the motif of Foyle's anxiety about contagion paralleling a fear of his own vulnerability/weakness being damaging to his dependents, but I also sort of think leaning any harder on that would have been anvilicious.

Similarly, it was mayyyyybe overkill to have the bluff and hearty American be literally back-slapping. (It's fun to write an OTT BBC American, though!) I first planned to bring Kieffer in just to get Andrew a quick ride back to work, but then it worked out really well with the Foyle & Milner thread. I was working hard to manage an emotional arc for The Most Stoic Man Who Ever Stoic'd, and having trouble even with delirium on my side (ALWAYS ENLIST THE DELIRIUM) and then the happy thought occurred to me - who would Foyle allow to talk about feelings to him? AN AMERICAN OF COURSE. Put the American on the wall, have him go off in the penultimate act, done.

I hope I don't have any deafeningly howling anachronisms or Americanisms; I did find I'd let a "gotten" slip through and went back to change it, and some might say that I have Andrew using "supposed to" when it would be more likely that he'd say "meant to," but if that's the worst violence I've done to George VI's English, I can live with it.

Random small moments that made me really happy on the last reread:
- Foyle saying "Worryguts, both of you."
- Milner side-eying Sam when she says she could kiss him.
- Foyle apologizing to Sam as she and Andrew are trying to bring his fever down, and her answering "It couldn't matter less" just as he did when she apologized for not turning up at work after being bombed out in "Fifty Ships." (Attentive fans may note that there are a metric ton of callbacks to "Fifty Ships" in this story. That is because "Fifty Ships" is excellent.)
- Andrew offering to deface hymnbooks for Sam. "It might take a while."
- Sam asking Andrew if he wants to kiss her.
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