As I edit Base Instruments for its intended release on this website, I’m working to keep in mind a goal I have for at least this first Hawking trilogy— to both build on previous storytelling with each installment, and to make certain that each piece serves as a good standalone story. While I love all the advantages serialization confers, I want to ensure anyone seeing these plays in isolation from each other can still enjoy them for their individual stories, without necessarily needing all the backstory.
Still, continuity is a fun aspect for familiar fans. As I go through this third play, I’ve tried to incorporate nods to the Hawking history and backstory without making it too necessary to understand them in order to grasp the whole piece. They’ll add richness and dimension without shutting out new fans. Here’s some of the little continuity mentions you can expect to see in Base Instruments:
MARY: Good evening, Constable Swann.
ARTHUR: It’s Sergeant now, matter of fact.
MARY: Really! I suppose it’s been a while.
ARTHUR: It has, and shame on you. Who knows what trouble I might have come into without you to swing that poker and watch my back? Could you bear that on your conscience?
This is a reference to the second story, Vivat Regina, and to how Arthur and Mary first meet— she defended him in a street fight from a ruffian with a well-timed blow from her trusty fireplace poker. His offhand joking about it here shows us that he respects Mary’s capability, and that he wishes he could see more of her.
NATHANIEL: Nearly ready now. I’ve been in meetings all day, or I should have had Chapman bring my tails by the office. He about burst a button when I told him I’d be dressing here.
MRS. HAWKING: I don’t know why, it isn’t as if I come to the door.
Here Nathaniel makes mention of Henry Chapman, who appears in the ten minute play Like a Loss, wherein we learned he was the Colonel’s valet who always disapproved of his relationship with Mrs. Hawking. After the Colonel’s death, straightaway Mrs. Hawking gave Chapman his walking papers. Nathaniel took him on to smooth things over, and Chapman’s worked as his valet since then, but it did nothing to decrease his resentment of Mrs. Hawking over the years. This mention here shows the trouble our hero has fitting in with the rest of the Hawking family.
NATHANIEL: It was the right thing to do.
CLARA: The right thing? Playing at hero? It’s the way of men, isn’t it, marching off to war when duty calls. But you’re not a soldier, Nathaniel. Your year at Newcastle should have taught you that.
Here Clara is referencing Nathaniel’s brief period where he enlisted in the service, as we learned in Vivat Regina, in an effort to emulate his hero the Colonel. But rather than finding grand adventures, his experience in finance saw him assigned to keeping accounts at the naval base. It had the result of driving home that martial work was not where Nathaniel’s talents lie. In Base Instruments, we see Nathaniel cultivating his abilities as a faceman instead.
CLARA: Women talk, you know. I must have heard it a half-dozen times now. That, if a respectable lady found herself in some trouble, there was a… they called it a society avenger. A lady’s champion of London. I’m not sure I ever believed it. But look here. Not only real, but my own queer old Aunt Victoria.
This isn’t so much a continuity nod as a Mythology Gag. This is the first time anyone has described Mrs. Hawking as “lady’s champion of London” in the text of a piece, which is how we tend to describe her in supplementary materials like this website. Bringing it in here alludes to how Clara is plugged into the information found in polite conversation and the kind of chats otherwise dismissed as gossip. Surprisingly to our heroes, she has a remarkable power to learn things because of her connections and observant nature.
MARY: So you’re the cleverest person there is, then?
MRS. HAWKING: Hardly. I was nursemaided by cleverer than myself. It’s all in what use you make of it.
And this last is the subtlest reference of all, not so much an allusion to the previous stories but more of a foreshadowing of story to come. This reference is to a figure from Mrs. Hawking’s past, one of the people from whom she learned some of her most important skills and tricks, who will feature again in Mrs. Hawking’s life to come.
All of these things will wash over the casual viewer. But I think making reference to the wider story enriches the world in which it takes place, not to mention rewarding fans who are following things as they unfold.