Once upon a time, Big Finish tantalised us with this conversation in 1001 Nights:
Nyssa: You’re quite sure this outfit isn’t a little too showy? ...Oh.
Doctor: Nothing’s too showy for the Grand Coronation of the High Hierophant of the Five Revealed Truths. ...Oh.
N: We’re not at the Celestial Basilica, are we?
D: Apparently not.
[chitchat, cries for help]
D: Did you hear that?
N: Doctor. The Coronation of the High Hierophant, remember? Perfumed rain, falling from clouds sewn with powdered diamonds… you wouldn’t want to miss that.
D: I’ve had the invitation for the past 300 years, Nyssa. I can wait a little longer… come on!
Wait what? Go back! I want to visit the Celestial Basilica!
Sadly, they never did, leaving to me to wonder what it was like. I wrote a few scraps, but all I had was a poetic image of the setting. I needed a story to match the grandeur.
A year later, I listened to Big Finish The Church and the Crown featuring Queen Anne of Austria. As so often, a DW historical inspired me to look up the period and learn stuff I didn't know before. I found a surprisingly readable dissertation about Anne. It had an appendix describing the development of ballet as an offshoot of French court etiquette. Turns out her son, Louis XIV, had won popular acclaim by dancing ballet as frickin' Apollo, and that's why he's called the Sun King.
Look at this video around 2.15 or so. I mean. LOOK.
Invented dialogue, but the scene is pretty much historically accurate.
So, Nyssa is a trained dancer. She'd probably like that sort of thing. And I needed a suitably grandiose archetype on which to base my just-about-to-be-crowned Hierophant.
Corollary: why is it that science fiction always imagines futuristic design as minimalist? Why can't some advanced civilization suffer an attack of questionable taste and go for Baroque?
Before I knew it, I'd decked out Nyssa in something suspiciously Zuhair Murad, and I won't tell you what poor Five's wearing. Now I was getting somewhere. I had dancers. I had a stage. I just needed a libretto.
It took another several months for the story arc to gel, but boy howdy, do I have a plot. I know right down to the sentence where readers are going to start posting "FIRST OF ALL HOW DARE YOU." The hardest part will be holding back the chapters until I've choreographed the whole thing.
*snaps fingers* Write yourself, story. I command you.
Ah well. *frantic typing*