Posted in Books, Fans, Fanzines & Fan Fiction, Interviews, Merchandise, News, Ongoing Series

The DWW Interview: Declan May, Editor of War Doctor Anthology – Seasons of War

Earlier this week we reported on the exciting social media announcement of a new fiction anthology. With an impressive line up of authors telling the hitherto untold adventures of the War Doctor, Seasons Of War is set to become a fan favourite. The book will be available from Mid-December in ebook, paperback and deluxe editions with all proceeds going towards the children’s charity Caudwell Children. The ebook is available for pre-order now by making a donation towards the charity on the Just Giving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/declan-may1/

We are delighted to welcome the Seasons of War originator and editor Declan May for an exclusive interview about the project.

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Seasons of War is available from Mid-December in ebook, paperback and deluxe editions and can be preordered in ebook form now.

Declan, thank you for agreeing to chat with us in what must be an incredibly busy time for you and your editing team. Can you start by sharing a little bit about yourself – how long have you been in this industry and what have been your greatest achievements to date?

I’ve been in the industry – in one form or another – since 2002 and a fulltime freelance writer since about 2004. So just over ten years. I started my career in France, writing English dialogue for French sitcoms and soaps and terribly short-lived drama series’. Also did the English adaptations of the narration for a French erotic TV series. All good practice though. Best advice I ever had as a writer was “Take on any job. It’s always good practice and helps you perfect and hone your skills”. So basically, I just accept most things that come my way. Not that I’m some sort of ‘tart’! Just that every opportunity, for a freelance writer, leads to another.

I’ve done comedy for the BBC (both TV and radio), script rewrites for movies, ghost-writing, joke writing for panel shows, synopsising scripts for producers, screenplay rewrites for films never intended to be made and, well… whatever pays the rent. As for my greatest achievements so far, I’d probably say it was writing the English language scripts for some of the live action Asterix films. By scripts I mean the dialogue for the English dubbing actors and the English language subtitles for the films. Essentially I had to rewrite the script – as jokes in French don’t translate into English easily – come up with puns, one-liners, throwaway gags and so forth. Really good training. Besides that, I’d say my greatest recent achievement was getting Seasons Of War together. It has really been all-encompassing for the past few months. But I’ve had to work for a living at the same time by finishing a novel before the deadline (released next year) and working on another ‘passion project’, a biopic about the actor and writer Dirk Bogarde, which, finally is getting off the ground. Four or five years of work and, fingers crossed, it’s being made this year. But Seasons Of War and all the people involved… that’s what I’m proudest of.

Dirk Bogarde is one of my Mum’s all time heroes (bizarrely he features alongside Freddie Mercury above the fireplace) so she would be made up with that (Come to think of it – how about a Freddie tribute too?)! It’s an impressively rich range of credits,  no doubt invaluable experience when it came to putting together such a diverse collection for the anthology.

With a bewilderingly enormous number of worthy charity causes out there, all in need of funding, what motivated you to select Caudwell Children as the beneficiary?

There are a few reasons why. The main reason being that my son continues to benefit from the support given by Caudwell. He is 7 years old and autistic. Caudwell offer on the ground, real support for children with disabilities, learning difficulties and all sorts of illnesses. Also, I wanted to bring attention to the fact that, for many families with a disabled child or a child with a condition such as autism, epilepsy, ADHD and so on, it can be very difficult. Financially, emotionally, in maintaining relationships, connecting with the rest of the world, getting the right support and keeping your head above water. Depression and isolation is a big factor for carers… living with a child (or an adult) with a disability can be a very stressful and difficult thing and Caudwell help with all this. Providing material support, helping to build and encourage and help families in an extremely difficult situation. It can be a very violent thing, you know? The upheaval and change in your life and lifestyle when there’s a person who depends so much upon you, who is so vulnerable, who needs constant help and stimulation and support. So that’s why I chose Caudwell. They help. They are utterly fantastic. And they need our help – the help of the public at large – to enable them to finance this support.

For more information on Caudwell Children visit  http://www.caudwellchildren.com and to make a donation visit  https://www.justgiving.com/declan-may1

With all of time and space at your disposal, what was it that inspired you to make John Hurt’s War Doctor the subject of this anthology?

Well. After the 50th anniversary episode Day Of The Doctor I found myself wanting to know more about this man. Wanted to see more. But, I realised, as we’ve seen his ‘birth’ and ‘death’, story-wise it is complete, you know what I mean? We saw Paul McGann regenerate into him and we saw John Hurt start to become Chris Eccleston. So that story, in a way, has been told. Plus it’s John Hurt and it’s highly unlikely he’ll be popping up on Doctor Who every so often. Also, ever since the series began in 2005 and they’d talked about the Time War, I’d always imagined what it’d be like to see, at least some of it. But with the War Doctor character, this incredible idea by Steven Moffat, this rich and layered character, I thought: well, there’s plenty of scope for new ‘untold’ adventures. Missing adventures, if you will. Lost episodes.

So, as I was casting around, trying to think of a book, an anthology in order to raise the most money and interest for the Charity, using the War Doctor seemed like the perfect solution. And, discussing it with some people who were involved in the show and fandom in one way or the other, I realised that there was an appetite for this. Also, I’d been watching on DVD the series The World At War and the scope of the thing – its 25 episodes or something – showed me that within a war, (even within one individual battle like the Normandy landings or Stalingrad or the Anaheim) there are so, so many individual stories. Plus the War Doctor is supposed to have been fighting in the Time War for 400 years or something, so that’s a hell of a lot of ground to cover – so many stories. So what we have in Seasons Of War, whilst being in no way official or anything like that, is just ‘some’ of the stories from the adventures of John Hurt during the ‘story arc’ of the Time War.

John Hurt’s performance was almost universally lauded at the time, and no doubt the majority of fans were hoping that following The Day Of The Doctor we wouldn’t be saying War Doctor No More. Certainly the initial reaction to the announcement has been really positive.

How did you go about assembling such a high calibre of writers and contributors, all willing to give freely of their time and talents for the anthology? Were there any particular joys or set backs along the way?

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The late Paul Spragg who was instrumental in the early days of the anthology

It’s been nothing but a joy from start to finish. From soup to nuts. At the beginning I was helped informally, conversationally, over chat and instant message, by someone who helped me out with email addresses, contact details, possible lines of enquiry and the like. This was Paul Spragg, who sadly died a week or two after those discussions. But we’ll come back to that. Basically, I just asked, or got other people to ask. And people are, really, just very nice and enthusiastic and willing to help, you know? Especially for a worthwhile charity. And that’s the important thing: the charity always comes first – before ego, before reputation, before storyline or pitch or whatever.

Little by little, we got some really fantastic names. But I can’t take credit for all that alone. I was helped by so many people. For example, Simon Brett, one of the editors and writers in the anthology as well as the main illustrator, he put me in touch with the wonderful, funny, humane and gentlemanly Andrew Smith (author of Full Circle and so many great Big Finish audiosand the bloody amazing author Paul Magrs put me in touch with the equally bloody amazing George Mann, author of so many things but, Doctor Who-wise, the War Doctor novel Engines Of War which is absolutely cracking. A work of art and which, as we got further down the line, acted as a sort of standard or template. This was the first ‘Time War’ novel, so we looked to that for inspiration. Then there were people like Gary Russell, Jenny Colgan, Matthew Sweet, Kate Orman, Jim Mortimore… I just asked. John Peel too. He delivered a story in a matter of days. Same with Lance Parkin. Incredible work. I can’t wait for people to read them all.

Anyway, short answer: I just chanced my arse and asked! I mean, what have you got to lose? The worst someone can say is “no”. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve got contributors of all ages and from all over the world. UK, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, France, the Netherlands… Very diverse and varied bunch. Two of the best pitches and stories I’ve seen, and are included in the Anthology, are by an 18 year old Israeli girl. If I was writing like that at 18, I’d be a lot richer now, I can tell you. Big future for her. Also, there’s a fantastic writer called David Carrington, who’s ostensibly a comedy writer and hasn’t really done much in the way of sci-fi prose or short stories. His story is glorious. I reckon he is going to be massive.

Without giving away any spoilers, can you give us an idea as to the style and variety of stories we can expect and will there be a running arc tying it all together?

Christ. The style varies. We’ve people from all over the world, different types of writers from diverse backgrounds. We’ve fairy tales, horror stories, thrillers, cyberpunk, steampunk, hard sci-fi, Ballardian ‘inner space’ science fiction, comedy, Shakespearian pastiche… But there is a consistency. And there is an arc, of sorts. It all ties together and there are thematic overlaps and connections. It’s a very satisfying collection, if you know what I mean. It builds up, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in overt ways, to a conclusion. So the Doctor we see in Arcadia in Day Of the Doctor…well, we see a little how he came to that point. How he got there. But in such a way that there is a lot of scope for a thousand other stories to be told about this version of the Doctor. We’re not plugging every gap. But it should all work out and you’ll get the feeling of having read the story of a life at different points. But, being Doctor Who, that can be in a very Timey-Wimey way…

The anthology is not officially endorsed by the BBC but how conscience have you been of maintaining links and continuity with the ongoing show? (For example, has the reference to The War Doctor in Listen impacted upon any of the stories). Is the current production team aware of the project?

As for links to the current ongoing show, we have been very careful. For example, during the pitching process back in June and July, someone submitted a story set in that barn from Day Of The Doctor. Now, because of my job and because I know people involved with the show, I knew that that would be coming up in Listen. So I said “We can’t use that” and they changed it to somewhere else. Same with the Doctor’s childhood and so forth. Some things were out of bounds. It was all in a ‘writers guide/bible’ thing I gave out to prospective authors. I’d things like “no Rani, no past-Doctors, no sequels or prequels to TV episodes”. Seems to have worked out ok.

As for the BBC, well I’ve been in touch with them throughout and, as long as it is all for charity and nobody earns a penny out of it and as long as we do not make any claims to it being ‘official’ or ‘canon’ or whatever, then we’re ok. I use the analogy of a charity fete where the local am-dram group puts on a stage production of… Midnight. Same with all the fan-fiction on the net. Like us, it’s absolutely free. Anyone can access it. The difference is we’re doing that, but making sure those who read it donate to the charity. But, all along the process I’ve made sure to check up and run things past certain people now and again.

Having contributed three stories to the anthology, what was it like for you to write about The War Doctor? And do you have any advice for would-be new writers?

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A sort of ‘posh bohemian gone to pot

It’s liberating. It really is. And also, because Steven Moffat’s writing of the character was so strong and John Hurts portrayal was so bloody good, you find that the voice comes easily to you. He’s a sort of ‘posh bohemian gone to pot’. You can see him propping up the bar in the Colony Rooms with Francis Bacon and Jeffrey Barnard. But with a hint of steel. He’s still the Doctor (even though he strenuously denies it) but he’s a warrior. He can be gruff, but there’s still this English gentleman underneath. That’s how we’ve been writing him. Everyone seems to have gotten him spot-on!

As for advice, it wouldn’t be my place to say except what I said earlier. Go for everything. Every opportunity. If you’re offered a chance to stretch your writing muscles, then do it. And be sending stuff off everywhere ALL THE TIME. There shouldn’t be a day that passes where you haven’t sent off a pitch, a synopsis, a chapter, a treatment, a few jokes, a request for work. People wont come to you unless they know you. So, make yourself known. Be a pain in the arse. Also, don’t be a snob about it. Don’t say “Oh well…I only write sci-fi” or “I only write drama”. F**k that! If you want to be a writer, then write. Send stuff off. It can’t just be a hobby. You need to take it seriously like any other trade. As for writing a Doctor Who short story, the only advice I would have is that ideas and concept should come first. See if there’s a story in it. Then see if you can add Doctor Who to it. The other way round rarely works. The story shouldn’t serve the Doctor; The Doctor should serve the story.

Any project like this generates a hell of a lot of submissions and I imagine you were swamped with synopses. How many did you receive and how difficult was the task of whittling down the stories?  Are there any memorable stories that for whatever reason didn’t make the cut?

In total, I received something like 330-340 submissions. Pitches for the most part, but a few full stories as well. Quite a few were clearly already written with another Doctor in mind and then changed to “the warrior” or “the Time Lord”. But you can always tell. A lot of really good ideas. Really. There are a lot of really creative people out there. But we wanted to make sure that a great idea could be backed-up, followed on by good writing. It’s often the case that you’ve someone who has great ideas and concepts but who can’t really write prose. Sometimes it’s the other way round. We needed people who could do both. So there I  was with a couple of other editors looking through the submissions. Far too many “the Doctor arrives on a strange planet and discovers a Dalek superweapon” or stories based around Romana or Drax or Leela and Andred, or just generic sort of stories where nothing much happens. No story…just people talking a vast screed of canon and Gallifrey references. Dull as dishwater to read.

What I did want to avoid – and submission-wise, we did receive a lot of these – were stories set within the Doctors head, or in the Matrix or in some ‘dreamscape’. We received far too many of those. It’s very difficult to read or to hook in the reader, if all that is happening is the War Doctor walking through some fantasy dreamland, talking to wise old characters who are aspects of himself or something like that. We needed stories with a start, middle and end. Antagonists. Action. Story coming first. But any story where it was just the War Doctor by himself, wandering round his own head or the Matrix, talking to himself with nothing much happening… Not interested. But Christ, there were quite a lot of those. And we had to refuse any pitches that changed the lore or the history of the show too much. I can understand totally why people would want to write a story like that, the temptation is huge, but we didn’t feel it right or appropriate to do anything too drastic (like blow-up Karn or kill Romana) in the anthology.

The other thing was people sending-in pitches and work and saying: “I am a brilliant writer and my Doctor Who fan-fic is highly praised at such and such a website” or “You should choose my story because everyone who has seen it thinks it’s the best thing they ever read.” or “My writing is better than Steven Moffat’s” and they’ll send a story that demonstrates painfully clearly that that is categorically not the case. A lot of that. And a lot of very angry people who, when you politely reject their pitch and say why, get quite abusive and there’s personal attacks and so on. If you want to get on in this business, you have to learn how to take rejection (on a daily basis!) and don’t be a rampant egoist, throwing your toys out of the pram if your story doesn’t get chosen. But, for the most part, people were lovely. And out of about 300 pitches we narrowed it down to about 35 and, the stories and writers chosen…well, they really are the best. Some absolutely remarkable work.

What a great mix of established and new writers and I would like to echo Declan’s words about dealing with rejections – keep plugging away and respond with grace and humility, but be absolutely confident that you do have stories worth telling. You have to find the right place for them and take on board all the advice you can get from experienced editors and writers.

This will sound cheeky Declan, extremely so… but can you give Doctor Who Worldwide any exclusive teasers or quotes?

Well… as far as teasers go, I can give you a few to whet the appetite. There’s a comic strip, drawn by one of my fellow editors and writer Simon Brett, with a script by the New Adventures and BBC Books author Jim Mortimore, based on notes and ideas from Russell T Davies! It was going to be used for something else a few years ago, but that fell through, so now it’s being included in Seasons Of War. It is fantastic – a thing of beauty. We’ve stories that will utterly astonish you and really question the War Doctor and show just what utter incomprehensible hell the Time War was. As for plot details, we discover how Rassilon got brought back from the dead (and it is horrible) we learn why the Doctor’s age is what it is (the War Doctor says he’s 800 in Day Of The Doctor, the 7th Doctor was 953 or something) and it’s a fun and interesting plot point with a lot of retconning.

You also will get to see how the War Doctor tried to keep his beloved planet Earth away from the Time War, although he doesn’t always succeed. And there is a delicious cameo from a future Doctor and his companion which all fits in with the continuity of the show. There are stories that had me weeping, there’s great pieces about how war affects the little people and there are some mindblowingly creative villains and alien races and planets and concepts that, I think, is some of the best Who prose fiction I’ve ever seen.

Another teaser is, of course, the short film that will accompany the book’s release. All done by professionals, directed by a fantastic director, scored by a well known musician and… Well, I can’t say too much about that. Oh, we’ll also be announcing some very familiar names who’ll be reading extracts from Seasons Of War. But I won’t say who.

Dec – you are such a tease! Lots of jaw dropping stuff there with the promise of more announcements to come once certain funding milestones have been reached (so readers – you know what to do!)

The anthology is dedicated to Paul Spragg, familiar to some of our readers but for those who never had the pleasure of knowing him, can you tell us a little bit about Paul and why this particular anthology is particularly fitting for such a dedication?

I never met Paul Spragg, but we had a few mutual friends in common. Like everyone, I’d heard him on the Big Finish podcast and had talked to him via email or chat. But, while I was thinking about the anthology, it was he who right at the beginning really helped me out getting in contact with writers, and with his infectious enthusiasm and optimism offering suggestions, encouraging me to see how far I could take this. Really fired me up, you know? He was such a lovely man. Then, a few weeks later, he was gone. And I think that is a massive blow for so many people, even people like me who didn’t actually really know him outside of ‘virtual communication’ and text messages. But for his partner, his family, his colleagues, his family and his friends it was awful for them. So very sad. But, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the Anthology had to be dedicated to his memory. I think that’s right, isn’t it? I haven’t yet found anyone who could disagree with that. And, in some way, his name will live on through this Anthology, read all around the world and contributed to by people from all over the world. All in the spirit of charity, enthusiasm, love for the show. Part of Paul Spragg’s legacy I think.

I am sure readers of DWW will echo your sentiments Declan. As one of the contributors to the anthology I remember the enormous wave of positive support from all of the writing and editorial team when you first proposed it, along with so many moving and personal stories of Paul’s generosity and kindness. Here is a great opportunity for our readers to ‘spread the love’ by supporting Seasons of War and the staff and beneficiaries of Caudwell Children.

Thank you for such a candid and insightful interview Declan, you have given us a great understanding of the writing and editing process as well as some exciting teasers about the forthcoming anthology. But above all you have given us the opportunity to reflect upon and consider the wonderful work of the staff and supporters of the charity Caudwell Children.

Look out for more announcements over the coming two months and don’t forget to sign up to the Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/SeasonsOfWarAnthology

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Posted in Interviews, News, Ongoing Series

The DWW Interview: Simon Fisher-Becker – Dorium Maldovar

Actor, voice artist, raconteur, ghost, intergalactic black marketer… Simon Fisher-Becker is a man of many faces, but non possibly more famous than Dorium Maldovar during Matt Smith’s era of Doctor Who.

Starring in the key The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes to War and The Wedding of River Song, Simon and Dorium quickly became a firm favourite among fans.

Simon has kindly agreed to speak to DWW on a range of topics, from the family atmosphere on set to his upcoming plans with new comedy Puppy Love and My Dalek Has a Puncture

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Simon has said that two hours are allowed for make-up for Dorium but it normally takes less.

Your career has been hugely varied, taking in everything from Shakespeare to audio plays, movies and television. What was it attracted you to acting?

Acting is something I tried at school and found in the main it was something I could do reasonably well. Some things came to me naturally and other skills I had to work on. I did not consider taking up Acting professionally until I was made redundant from the Civil Service in the mid-80’s.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice prior to the start of your career, what would it be?

Build a thick skin earlier. ALL actors are just that – actors. Famous people are no different from non-famous people – particularly actors. Try not to be intimidated. Give yourself regular ME days.

Were you a fan of Doctor Who prior to being cast as Dorium?

Absolutely. It was a family tradition to watch. I was two when Doctor Who started so I do not remember the first episode but I clearly remember watching William Hartnell change into Patrick Troughton.

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A Good Man Goes to War

You first appeared in The Pandorica Opens in 2010 before gaining a bigger role in 2011’s A Good Man Goes to War, how did your return to the series come about? did you expect to return once again in The Wedding of River Song after your beheading?

Originally Dorium’s appearance was only six lines in one scene in The Pandorica Opens. It was exactly a year when my agent got the call for A Good Man Goes To War. Naturally when Dorium lost his head I thought, ‘oh that’s a shame’. To my amazement the call for The Wedding of River Song came about a month after filming A Good Man Goes To War.

What is the experience and atmosphere like working on set for Doctor Who?

Everyone you ask this question of will give the same answer – it’s like being a member of family. Long hours, sometimes uncomfortable but in the main hugely enjoyable.

The character of Dorium quickly became a fan favourite in the new series and you yourself have been very popular on the convention circuit, were you surprised at the positive reaction? what have been your most positive experiences on the circuit?

When I first saw my bald blue head in the mirror I recall thinking – what a stricking image. Each script beautifully written giving more and more layers to Dorium is the fan fascination. The convention circuit is fantastic. I have travelled the world, met some of my own heroes and made some good friends. Above all, meeting the fans is the best thing of all.

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As The Fat Friar in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

As well as Dorium, you also played Hufflepuff House ghost The Fat Friar in the first Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. How do you compare working on the two iconic series’? is the reaction you get from the two sets of fans similar, or is it a different crowd?

I consider myself very luck to have worked on Harry Potter. It was a brilliant experience but disappointing too. Most of what the ghosts filmed ended up on the cutting room floor. But Harry Potter Fans don’t care! They are just as wonderful as Doctor Who fans.

With Series 8 of Doctor Who debuting this weekend, would you be interested in returning to the show in the future alongside Peter Capaldi? Do you believe that there is more we can learn about Dorium?

There is a huge amount to learn about Dorium. I have let it be known I would be happy to continue playing Dorium. I would love to go head to head with Peter Capaldi. Will Dorium return..? That’s up to the Powers that be.

You have also performed in several plays for Big Finish Productions, perhaps most notably the Gallifrey V series. How do you like the medium as an actor? what are the differences that the medium demands?

Audio work is surprisingly exhausting. I thoroughly enjoy it and find it is very physical too. When performing on stage or before a camera you have your whole body to help get the message across. In radio and other audio set ups you only have your voice so you find yourself exaggerating body movements and pulling your face into all sorts of shapes to help produce the vocal sound you are aiming for. I love It.

Later this year you’ll be seen alongside Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine with guest appearances including, Tobias Menzies in the new BBC comedy Puppy Love. Can you tell us a bit about the new show and your role?

In a nutshell it’s the story of two very strong women coping with teenage love, tantrums and angst. Disappointing husbands and very cute dogs. If you like Getting On – you will love Puppy Love. I play the regular character of Tony Fazackerly – Joanna Scanlan’s husband. Joanna & Vicki very took into account my mobility issues – Tony is a disabled agoraphobic!

Your one man show, My Dalek Has a Puncture is continuing to tour, appearing next at the Melton Theatre in Melton Mowbray on September 6. How are you enjoying the run so far? Do you find being a raconteur comes easy with the life of an actor?

It’s been a real learning curve but thoroughly enjoyable. The travelling is tiring but the response from the crowds it therapeutic. ‘My Dalek Has A Puncture’ runs for ninety minutes plus Q & A. Followed by signing session in the bar, where I find I do another forty minutes or so. The autobiographical element awakens similar memories and the audiences just want to talk more about their own personal experiences. Some reviews have used the term Motivational – something I did not plan. Am I a natural raconteur…? Came along and find out for yourself!

Simon-Fisher-Becker can be next seen in his own man show in Melton Mowbray on Saturday September 6 at 7.30pm followed by Broadway Barking, Essex on Sunday September 14 at 3.00pm. Full Tour Details can be found at: www.fisherbecker.info

DWW wishes to thank Simon Fisher-Becker for his time and we leave you with this… from The Wedding of River Song – “Doctor Who?”

Posted in Interviews, Merchandise, News, Video Games & Apps

The DWW Interview: Susan and Lee Cummings – Doctor Who Legacy

0cf94b_062a46a3671b42b0af744f283cc0beaaReleased in November 2013, Doctor Who: Legacy has won rave reviews from fans and the gaming press alike. Widely acknowledged as the best and most popular Doctor Who game ever released, DWW speaks to the game’s creators Susan and Lee Cummings of Tiny rebel Games:

Doctor Who: Legacy has won high praise from Doctor Who fans and games players alike, how did the original concept for Legacy come about? How difficult was it to separate Legacy from the wealth of games such as Bejeweled that have flooded the app market in recent years?

Lee – the game started in very early 2013, Susan (Executive Producer) and I were discussing what we should do next, and we quickly came to the conclusion that, since we had never made a true mobile game (vs Nintendo DS, PSP, etc) it would be a great challenge. We also decided early on that we would take everything we had learned from publishing console games over the years and try to publish this soon-to-be-designed game ourselves.

As we started to discuss what this game would be it became clear that trying to design, produce and publish the game would be a tough task for two of us, so to take some risk off the table we decided that the game would be based on an existing universe (vs trying to design our own world, characters) which would also let us focus almost entirely on the core gameplay.

Susan and I are huge gem game fans, but very specific types of gem games – those with an RPG backbone and story (such as the incredible Puzzle Quest), as opposed to the more arcade focused puzzle games such as Bejeweled. We’ve been involved shipping many games which supported a solid core gameplay with RPG systems (Grand Theft Auto, Borderlands, Bioshock, for example), and we’re pretty hardcore RPG gamers in our spare time, so this part all fell into place quite easily. Susan and I had designed / produced a puzzle game a few years ago (Puzzle Kingdoms), and we had been itching to take another swing at the genre.

The final part was finding a universe we loved, full of characters we wanted to play with, and we were exceptionally lucky that we were in the right place at the right time and the BBC said yes when we approached them. Looking at a single screenshot of any gem game makes it very hard to differentiate it against another gem game, however when users play Legacy, and see the scale, scope, mechanics of the game, it’s pretty obvious that it’s very, very different from an arcade gem game like Bejewelled.

Was the process from the initial conception to final product a straight one or where many ideas discarded along the way?

Susan – After we reached a point where we knew we wanted to make an RPG backed gem game in the Doctor Who universe, the process was fairly straight forward. In fact, the game we shipped is remarkably faithful to the original concept we pitched the BBC on. The big decisions that really had to be made along the way were regarding which episodes to include, what abilities made sense for various enemies and allies. And there was a lot of great iterative design that came up as we went along — for example, the weeping angels granite gems. We knew we had an extra gem type sitting around in the database that we hadn’t used, that was ‘blank’. And after a late night viewing of Flesh and Stone, where the Weeping Angel has infected Amy’s eye and she’s rubbing granite out of them, we came up with the granite gems. This was the sort of stuff that we felt really emphasized the puzzle side of this game, that brought “puzzle” potentially to the next level in an RPG gem game. From there, it wasn’t a big leap to come up with Cybermen locking gems and so forth – and all of these things eventually evolved into gems being swiped from you, mixed around on you, and of course the ‘blind’ mechanic. From the very beginning, we wanted this to feel like a dungeon crawler. Where things are happening around you, where enemies react to you, where you have to react back. More like a traditional RPG than has been done before in a puzzle game.

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Lee Cummings

Doctor Who is a global brand and the centrepiece of BBC marketing around the world. Given the rabid fan base and quite poor reception to previous games from other companies (not to mention tie-in games in general), did you feel any pressure to “get it right” first time?

Lee – Luckily we walked in not having played any of the other Doctor Who games and having no idea of how prior games were received. In the original pitch to the BBC we told them that we wanted to “make the best Doctor Who game ever”, but we had nothing to compare against at that point, all we knew was that we wanted to build a platform more than just a game – a platform where you could take any Doctor, any ally, any situation in Doctor Who canon and abstract it away to a challenging puzzle mechanic. We decided that being able to fill a game with decades of characters in situations taken directly from the show HAD to be the most epic, “best” Doctor Who game ever. So we never really had the pressure you described where we looked at another game and said “we want to be better than that”, rather we had this epic idea of what we wanted to build, we had very tight grasp on the gameplay we wanted to build, and we knew that we, as gamers, would love to play the game we had in mind. The pressure came from inside us – we were desperate to play this crazy Doctor Who puzzle game we had down on paper, we knew we would likely only have one chance to make a Doctor Who game, and we didn’t think we could live with ourselves unless we tried to do something unique, something which spoke to our inner Whovian.

How is your relationship with the BBC? How much of the content additions and designs are influenced by the BBC?

Susan – You honestly couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner. From the beginning, BBC has trusted our gameplay vision and has never in any way detrimentally interfered with game design. On Doctor Who canon, they’ve of course had to push back now and then on ideas that strayed too far, but that’s one of the things we need them for. As much as we know and love about Doctor Who, they know far more and the feedback or constraints have always been well founded. Most of the people we work with at the BBC, including our producer, are gamers. They play the game as much as anyone else. So they try to keep fun factor in mind just as much as we do.

The game as a very unique and much praised look. What influenced the design of the game and the decision to take a fusion of East and West?

Lee – one of the original pillars of the design of Legacy was that it has to be enjoyable to Doctor Who fans wherever they were in the world. Mobile, free to play, worldwide release and so on were major parts of that, but alongside those we had to make sure that the game was visually engaging to users wherever they were on the globe. From the very start we decided that we had to have an “east meets west” visual design for the characters, and the BBC (as with everything else in the game) were awesome, backed us up, and gave incredibly input (nobody knows the brand on a worldwide scale better than those guys) to help us to get to the art style we ended up with. It was of course very helpful that we were lucky enough to have a development partner, Seed Studio, who are based in Taiwan but who already knew and loved Doctor Who as well.

We started with a much more anime look and slowly scaled that back until we felt that the style looked “western” enough to be accessible to casual users in the west, but still retained an anime edge which would similarly appeal to fans in the east. We were thrilled when users and reviewers fell in love with the look of the game.

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Susan Cummings

Both Lee and Susan have worked on some of the biggest games on the past decade while at Rockstar and 2KGames, notably the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Bioshock, X-Com and Borderlands. What influenced the decision to form your own company Tiny Rebel Games? what values and experience did you take from Rockstar and 2kGames into the new company?

Susan – One of the problems with console development is that budgets, teams, scope, have gotten MASSIVE. There are console games where you have multiple producers who each deal with just one aspect of the game. From a holistic standpoint, it is just impossible, on a team of hundreds, to really feel like you have your arms entirely around what you are developing. We wanted the opposite experience. We wanted our hands in every aspect of this game from development through to publishing and marketing and tech support. Everything. People email support and they hear back from the executive producer, the creative director, or from the technical producer in Taiwan. That’s really cool in my mind. And we’ve never had this sort of direct dialogue with our fans. Where on a moment to moment basis we can throw out a question on Facebook regarding what ability a new ally should have and within an hour over a thousand people have given us their opinion. And an hour later, the game has been updated.

But the values our past employers taught us – Rockstar in particular – was a fierce protectiveness of game design. That what is best for gameplay is always what is best for the game. That obsessive attention to little details matter and get noticed by the player.

The game has offered regular updates much to the delight of fans, the fan community being massively supported from day one. How long do you envision continuing the releases and how important is it to engage with fans with the game?

Lee – It’s absolutely vital to engage with fans of the game to decide what gets added to the game. Up until launch we were making the game we wanted to play, but after the game was released it immediately became someone else’s game – it belongs to the community – and our roles changed to gatekeepers trying to balance what the community would like to see next and where the game is heading. Before launch we had a small design team making choices, now it feels like I have thousands of co-designers and every day it’s incredibly important we keep remembering that. If we keep building the game in a way which excites and engages the community then hopefully they will continue to financially support it, allowing us to keep expanding the game – it’s a wonderful cycle which will hopefully lead one day to the statement we used to pitch the game to the BBC so long ago: “we want to start with the latest episode of the show and go all the way back to An Unearthly Child”.

Would you rather keep updating the original game or will there come a point it will be necessary to release a full sequel?

Lee – I don’t see us ever doing a traditional sequel, the game is built as a platform we can keep adding to over time. We can add new gameplay, new enemy and ally abilities, levels, perks and lots more instantly using our live patching system. The game was designed to expand for years and be “the ultimate Doctor Who gem game”, so it was sort of built in that a sequel would actually be unnecessary, although we would love to take Doctor Who to another genre, perhaps do some sort of spinoff

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The hunt for Greayhound One is on!

Will Series 8 and Peter Capaldi be making a debut with the game in the future?

Lee – Sadly we can’t comment on the new season yet, although we’re close. There is a good chance that by the time this interview goes live we would have formally announced our plans =)

And finally, what content can fans expect to be added over the coming months?

Susan – Hunt For Greyhound One is coming in August. We haven’t announced our plans yet for the upcoming new season of Doctor Who but hope to share that soon. And of course we’ll be continuing to add content from both the modern and the classic episodes of Doctor Who.

DWW should like to thank Lee and Susan Cummings for their time and the Hunt for Greyhound One is available now in the game.

Doctor Who Legacy is available now on Facebook, the Amazon Appstore, Google Play and the Apple Appstore.

Posted in Books, Classic Series, Interviews, Merchandise, News, Ongoing Series

The DWW Interview: Paula Hammond – Author of 50 for 50

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50 for 50: Celebrating 50 Years of the Doctor Who Family was published in November 2013.

Paula Hammond’s book, 50 for 50 was described by Starburst as “an absorbing, wonderful book that really deserves to be on the bookshelf of every self- respecting Whovian” and could certainly be described as one of the true hidden gems of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary.

Collecting together 50 interviews from the length of the show’s history, the book is a fascinating and insightful look at some of the key names in Doctor Who history. Looking to find out more, DWW spoke to author Paula Hammond.

Your book 50 for 50: Celebrating 50 Years of the Doctor Who Family was published not long ago, the book collecting together an apt 50 unpublished interviews ranging throughout the history of the show. What was that inspired the idea for the collection?

It was a slow burn. I’d been collecting Doctor Who interviews for many years and quietly ferriting them away. Initially, I was interested in simply recording the recollections of those actors who had been involved in the show in the ’60s and ’70s – they were getting older and a lot of them had never really been asked about their experiences. It was only at the end of 2012 that I realised that I had the makings of quite a substantial book.

The collection covers so many aspects of the show, from actors such as Colin Baker and director Waris Hussein to designer Bernard Lodge and effects man Mike Tucker. Did you purposely set out to cover such a wide range of experiences on the show?

I did. I’ve been to conventions where some actors will start an anecdote and then say ‘you all know that story’… And it’s true. The Doctors and their Assistants have been interviewed so many times that most of us have heard the stories before. I really wanted to give the fans something new.

Do you believe that the personalities involved in Doctor Who, be it on screen or behind the camera, play a large role in how the show has developed over these 50 years?

Absolutely! Doctor Who has always hinged on the ability of the actors to make us believe it (and for me, no has done that better that Tom). But behind every successful serial there are writers, directors, stunt guys, effects teams and they all leave their mark. Back when I was a kid, I don’t think we really knew that it was the likes of Philip Hinchcliffe and Terrance Dicks who were making the show we loved so damn exciting. Now, fans are a lot more switched on and they appreciate the incredible contribution that Russell T Davies’ and Steven Moffat have made to the show.

Which of the 50 interviews would you consider your personal favourite? did any of the interviewees surprise you in any way?

That’s tricky! The main surprise was that everyone involved was so generous with their time. Crawford Logan not only took time out from rehearsals to speak to me, but got me tickets to his show and walked my friend back to her hotel after. John Leeson left a casserole burning to come out and chat. Victor Pemberton was incredibly gracious – he’d suffered a personal tragedy during the two or three weeks we were in touch but still wanted to help out. I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised – I think Doctor Who has always attracted nice people. However, if I had to choose then I think Angela Bruce is the one interviewee who really stands out in my mind. A lot of actors have a professional ‘face’ that they present to the world, but Angela was all raw, open honesty.

Was there anybody who you’d have liked to interview for the book who you didn’t manage to?

It goes without saying that I would have loved to have interviewed any of the older era Doctors. Troughton would have been fascinating, especially as he rarely spoke about his work. However Susan Engel, who played Vivien Fay in Stones of Blood, was on my list. It’s such a wonderfully well-developed character and I’ve always been curious about the nature of the relationship between Vivien and Professor Rumford. There seemed to be a slight frisson there – or perhaps that’s just my interpretation. Ha! But, of course, it was the ’70s and Who was still considered to be a kid’s show, so any gay subtext would have been very definitely sub text.

Your book was published by David J. Howe’s Telos Publishing, how important do you feel independent publishers are to authors such as yourself?

Incredibly important. Telos like most independent publishers, really understand their market and have a very close relationship with their customers. They’re also interested in what you as an author have to offer. That might sound odd, but it is quite rare now. I started working in publishing at a time when authors still sent in manuscripts and publishers actually read them! Today, the larger publishing houses are only really interested in franchises and big names. Lady Gaga’s ex-assistant has just signed a million dollar book deal. Can she write? Who cares – it’s the name that sells.

Interviewing 50 people connected with the show is in itself an achievement, is there an art to the interview? did you take a different approach with different people and would you have any advice for authors and journalists on conducting an interview?

Thank you. Well, everyone has a technique that works for them. I tend to do quite a bit of prep. in advance as there’s nothing worse than an interviewee referencing something and you have no idea what they’re talking about! I usually start with a couple of standard questions. ‘What inspired you to act?’ is a nice generic one that will get people talking and thinking. Beyond that, I like to let the interviewee speak and then follow up on any interesting points, rather than slavishly follow a list of questions. My only rule is that I always tell interviewees that they will have final approval on all text. When I was writing 50 for 50 there were several interviewees who had had very bad experiences with other publications and were really afraid of being misquoted. I don’t think they would have spoken to me at all if I hadn’t given that assurance. It does sometimes mean that the story you end up with isn’t the same as the one you were told in the pub, but I’m not interested in ruining careers or reputations.

And finally, what are your next plans? any further Doctor Who endeavours on the agenda?

Ooh. I always have plans. Getting the time to work on them is the trick. You have to be flexible as a writer, so I tend to juggle magazine work with larger book projects. One of those is out this month. It’s a retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray for children, illustrated by the wonderful Kev Hopgood of 2000 AD and Iron Man fame. I’ve been helping Bob Furnell of Whotopia with some interviews for a Sapphire & Steel book that he has planned. I’ve started gathering more Doctor Who interviews, so perhaps a “50 More” could be in the pipeline. Then there’s that Gothic novel that’s stalled at about 40,000 words that I really should finish… !

50 for 50: Celebrating 50 Years of the Doctor Who family is available now from Telos Publishing and comes highly recommended. A kindle edition can be purchased via the Amazon link below.

With thanks to Paula Hammond and David J. Howe.

Posted in Interviews, News

In Tribute: An Interview with William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill, William Russell and Carole Ann-Ford

Taking our que from the DWM interview that allowed Patrick Troughton to sit comfortably alongside Matt Smith, using archive material from Pat to recreate an encounter, today we present the original TARDIS team of William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford. Using archive material and rare quotes from William Hartnell we present the beginnings of this wonderful adventure in space and time. Some quotes have been merged or edited for tense only, all text is otherwise accurate.

We feel it is an opportune moment to pay our respects to the entire original cast but in particular those no longer with us, both Jacqueline Hill and William Hartnell, a man who adored Doctor Who. We humbly dedicate this article to their memory.

With this 50th anniversary month now well underway, fans and the television industry alike are looking back to the very beginnings of the show, but how was it our pioneering cast came to join the show in the first place?

William Russell:I was contacted by Verity [Lambert] who said she wanted to meet to discuss a part in a new serial she was doing. I went along to talk to her about it and got myself into a lengthy discussion about the series, what it was about, what my character was supposed to be doing in the whole set-up and roughly what the other details about it were – how long the engagement would be, etc. Eventually, all was agreed and I signed my contract, which was interesting as the BBC had an escape clause whereby had the series been a flop they could have dropped us at any time, whereas we were bound to keep to our side of the bargain. I have to admit that none of us thought that Doctor Who would be around for a very long time, except Billy, who had the kind of confidence in the project that the star needs to have.”

Jacqueline Hill:I was at a party one evening and the usual bunch of friends were there. I’d known Verity Lambert socially since she had joined the ABC television company for whom both my husband and myself had done some work. She was one of Sydney Newman’s proteges, and by this stage she had transferred with him to the BBC, where she had been asked to become a producer. Anyway, this party came at just the right point for me, because Verity was in the process of casting the regulars for her new television serial Doctor Who. We talked about it, and shortly afterwards, she offered me the part of Barbara Wright, which I was more than happy to accept.”

Carole Ann Ford:I was doing another television play, and up in the control box was not only the director of the programme I was doing but also Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein. I’ve never asked her what she was doing up there, I presume she was just a friend of the man directing it. Whether or not she said to him ‘I’m looking for someone for this part’ and he said ‘Well come and have a look at this girl’, I don’t know. Anyway, they saw I was a good screamer and offered me the part. They told me Susan was going to be an Avengers-type girl – with all the kapow of that – plus she would have telepathic powers. She was going to be able to fly the TARDIS as well as her grandfather and have the most extraordinary wardrobe. None of that happened.

William Hartnell: Before the part came along I’d been playing a bunch of crooks, sergeants, prison warders and detectives. Then, after appearing in This Sporting Life, I got a phone call from my agent. He said, I wouldn’t normally have suggested you work in children’s television, Bill, but there’s a sort of character part come up that I think you’d just love to play. My agent said the part was that of an eccentric old grandfather- cum-professor type who travels in space and time. Well, I wasn’t that keen, but I agreed to meet the producer. Then, the moment this brilliant young producer Miss Verity Lambert started telling me about Doctor Who, I was hooked. I remember telling her, This is going to run for five years. And look what’s happened. I was so pleased to be offered Doctor Who. To me kids are the greatest audience – and the greatest critics – in the world. I always believed in the idea of it, but a good idea is no guarantee of success.”

How much influence did our cast have with the production team and scripts in those days?

Jacqueline Hill: All I knew at first, all I was actually told, was that my character was a very learned history teacher and that I was there to represent the Earth point of view when we went back in time and did the occasional serial set in the past. I found that quite easy, as I liked history and those historical stories appealed to me anyway. Everything else I had to put in myself, and this meant taking it up with either Verity or the director concerned. I think there were times when I said ‘Barbara wouldn’t say this or she wouldn’t do this’, and they were usually very good and listened to me on those points because I knew the character better than anybody else”

William Hartnell: “I kept my nose out. I dare say I could have had more of a say, but we had very talented writers and I let them get on with their job, as I got on with mine though a lot of the script writers used to make the Doctor use expressions like ‘centrifugal force’ but I refused. If it gets too technical, the children don’t understand and they lose interest. At one time I thought we might extend the series and I suggested giving the Doctor a son and calling the programme The Son of Doctor Who. The idea was for me to have a wicked son. We would both look alike, each have a TARDIS and travel in outer space. In actual fact, it would have meant that I had to play a dual role when I `met’ my son. But the idea was not taken up by the BBC so I dropped it. I still think it would have worked and been exciting to children.”

Carole Ann Ford: “There was a great team feeling. We were in contact with David Whitaker and Mervyn Pinfield all the time. It was a great big cumulative business – a much more chummy, family-type business than I think it is today, possibly because it’s such a big production now. It never had to be made up to time, but we certainly used to put some of our own ideas into it simply because of continuation of character. When you are doing it for a long period like that, inevitably new directors come in who don’t necessarily know every aspect of your character, and there are writers to come on to the programme likewise, and so you have to change things when you know your character just wouldn’t be doing this.”

William Russell: “We were pushed around a lot sometimes. One of the things we’d always argue about on the studio floor was that certain writers were making us say things that we felt our characters would not say. Eventually we got a script editor, Dennis Spooner, who co-ordinated with the writers and kept an eye on things. We liked to talk a lot about how our characters would develop.”

Carole Ann Ford:All my differentness was cut out. They made me wear horrible little trousers, not even funky jeans. Horrible little flat shoes. I don’t know why they did this to me.”

So what were the casts initial reactions to their characters and how they developed over time?

Jacqueline Hill: “The good thing about Barbara was that because she was older than most of the girls since, the writers were more hesitant about making her look silly, or scream too much. That side of things was largely left to Carole Ann Ford, which is why she left earlier than Bill Russell and myself”

Carole Ann Ford:The part I was originally offered ended up being something completely different, and if I’d known I was going to be asked to do the lady I finished up doing for a year, I wouldn’t have been quite so happy to do it. You learn your lines, you turn up, you don’t bump into the furniture and you take your money, you know? Bill and I put together a back story because we had to. You can’t act something unless you know what is behind it. We created the fact that he had done something to annoy the other Time Lords and they decided he had to go

William Russell:Billy was especially thorough in working out his character and the way he would relate to the rest of us. He worked as a great professional, ironing out the smallest of details and embellishing where possible. He tried to understand the TARDIS as far as he could and he devised a way of operating all the switches to keep continuity. He thought of little touches, like always getting my name wrong, and he was keen to develop a kind of protective friendship with Barbara, coupled with a rivalry between the Doctor and Ian. We formed a very happy little group. Billy wasn’t at all like the Doctor off set, he was just a very professional actor who did his job in his own way.

William Hartnell:Most of it was there [prior to casting]. I brought something of myself to it, I’m sure, but if he and I sat down together we would seem very different. I think he’s a wonderful character, very mysterious and enigmatic but very kind beneath the veneer of grumpiness. I saw the Doctor as a kind of llama, one of those long lived old boys out in Tibet who might be anything up to 800 years old, but only look 75! they find me a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas.

Of course no article on the era would be complete without mentioning the Daleks, what was it working with the metal monsters and being surrounded by Dalekmania?

Jacqueline Hill: “I had quite a good part in The Daleks, and in a series like Doctor Who one tends to remember that. We were all absolutely fascinated with them, it became very easy to suspend one’s disbelief when acting opposite one of those things, and that helped make the whole thing that little bit more polished and exciting. I remember Carole Ann Ford bringing her young daughter to the studios one day, and her daughter trying out the Dalek for size. They have that irresistible appeal, that does make you want to try them out for yourself. There were others I liked – the Sensorites were unusual, for instance, and the Mechanoids were interesting too, but overall it still has to be the Daleks. One could almost put up with the lessened part to be in one of those Dalek stories, because they were such fun to make.”

William Hartnell: “The Daleks we couldn’t ignore, they were everywhere, they invaded the high street. But I hoped we didn’t overuse them. I was very clear on that with the producers. I told them we must not let the series descend into constant Dalek battles. They had to be used sparingly. All the other adversaries were in many cases human, or human-like, and quite complicated in terms of their motivations. I think perhaps the Daleks were the only monsters, they were difficult to play to, because you’re not looking into human eyes. You’re looking at a metal object, moving about, with a voiceover. The association of the Dalek question, this mechanical mobile object, I began to find it distracting”

Carole Ann Ford: “Sometimes I see Matt Smith’s Doctor look at these disgusting alien creatures in front of him and say something like, ‘Oh, you are beautiful.’ It would have been so nice to say that occasionally, instead of running away shouting, ‘Aagh!’”

William Russell:I have to confess that the Daleks took time to grow on us, and we weren’t especially taken with them when they were first unveiled. But they were very effective on screen – my daughter was absolutely terrified by them. “

William Hartnell:They were very good. I knew that from the moment I first saw them, I knew they had legs, if you’ll excuse the pun.”

William Russell: “You needed a lot of ingenuity to work with the Daleks and it helped if you got on with the men who pushed them around from inside. It all came back to the business of taking the fantasy situation with the utmost seriousness, so that the right mood would be conveyed to the audience. The Daleks provided me with the first indication that our programme was going to be really successful. I bought a copy of the Evening Standard one day and inside there was a cartoon showing General de Gaulle as a Dalek. And that was that.”

Jacqueline Hill: “The other reason for remembering that story is much sadder. We were in the studio on the night that the news of President Kennedy’s assassination came through. It was devastating and everybody was very, very upset. I don’t think, looking back, that anyone today can quite understand all that Kennedy had meant to the western world, and when he was killed the last thing anybody wanted to do was get on with acting out a fantasy in a confined studio. I don’t think anybody stayed behind after the recording for the customary drink.”

While the Daleks were certainly popular amongst the audience at home in those days, what was everyones own personal favourite memories of working on Doctor Who in those formative years?

William Hartnell:Memories? There are so many. There was the occasion when I arrived at an air display in the TARDIS and the kids were convinced I had flown it there! On another occasion I went by limousine to open a local fete. When we got there the children just converged on the car cheering and shouting, their faces all lit up. I knew then just how much the Doctor really meant to them.”

William Russell: “I liked Marco Polo and I think that was extremely well-written, exciting and diverting as well as having a bit of history on the educational side. I was actually behind one of the stories, as we had a lot of contact with Verity and David and we knew they were always on the look out for stories and ideas, so I suggested the idea of doing a serial set in the French Revolution, which, lo and behold, became a reality. The historical stories were always fun, because it gave us the opportunity to dress up and really enter the period. I remember doing The Romans, which was fun, and another about Richard the Lionheart, in which the director wanted me to let my arm get covered in ants – I said ‘Under no circumstances’, and that was that, they had to get a stand-in.”

Jacqueline Hill:I always preferred the historical stories, because I was given a bit more to do in them. In the science fiction stories, it was the monsters and weird characters who tended to take over, and all the girls tended to have to do was look frightened and get lost in a gloomy passage or two. I adored all the dressing up that went with doing the historical stories, and they were much more colourful for us because the historical sets were so gorgeous to act in. I think I liked The Aztecs, and the one about the Crusaders, best. In The Aztecs I had the most magnificent headdress, which was terribly difficult to balance, but which looked superb and made me feel very regal. The story itself was extremely clever and it was a fascinating period. I suppose I liked it above all the others because that was the one in which Barbara was most important to the storyline. I liked The Crusade for similar reasons, and also because I greatly enjoyed working with Douglas Camfield on that one. The Romans was another which was great fun to do. It had Derek Francis in it. He used to make me laugh all the time and we got the chance to play Doctor Who all out for comedy, which was fun.”

Carole Ann Ford:The mix of stories was fantastic – the science-fiction ones were great, the historical ones were wonderful. I suppose the historicals came out slightly better. John Lucarotti was a great writer. My favourite story was Planet of Giants. The sets were superb – you almost didn’t need to act!”

William Russell:With Planet of Giants, they got very ambitious and literally filled the studio with as many of these outsize props as they could fit in, including a giant telephone and a box of matches. The matches themselves were rather dangerous as they were bulky and could bump you on the head if you dislodged them. We used a process called back projection, where we were placed against a giant screen onto which was projected film of this cat trying to turn us into his lunch. That was another fun one which we enjoyed doing.”

Carole Ann Ford: “Mind you, there were ones that I wasn’t so keen on, such as The Edge of Destruction. We went mad for two episodes, and I think that was simply because none of us knew what it was all about – we just didn’t know what we were doing. And not only because it was so quick – it was frankly so weird and whenever we asked why we were behaving in a particular way we were just told to get on with it and say the words!”

With the show developing through that first season into being a huge success for the BBC, what effect did being in the show have on our cast’s lives and why did finally leave the show?

William Russell: “Doing Doctor Who didn’t really affect our lives that much at the time. We all got up early, drove into London and rehearsed and then went home; life went on, and we didn’t have much time to attend fetes, although I did do a few public appearances. I finished the show and then went on to do something else. I think we were all aware that once the series had established itself, it would run for some time, but I don’t think we were ever intending to see it through to the end regardless. Carole was a young actress who, understandably, wanted to do other things, and so we were sad but not especially surprised when she left us. I think Billy felt it the most – he was certainly very annoyed with Jackie and me for throwing the towel in. Jackie and I both came to the same decision at about the same time, and we gave Verity plenty of notice. I think it twas her plan to write us out together, although that was obviously the most logical, neat way to do it. My memory is a little blurry as to how they actually disposed of us, although I do remember being taken all around London’s sights for the closing shots. Actually, Verity and Billy between them tried very hard to keep us on but that was it, we’d done two years. I had to go, because the whole Doctor Who job was turning into a grind, the spark had gone out of it for us, and I wasn’t inspired enough to put all I felt I should do into it.”

Jacqueline Hill: “We decided to leave virtually as a mutual thing. We’d done two years of it, which was a strain and there wasn’t a lot more we could do with it either. Everything that we wanted to do in the series had been accomplished and we felt, and I think Verity sneakingly agreed with us, that it was time for the series to try and see if it could do something new. As for the question of going together, well, it all just seemed to come together at the right time for both of us. I think it had always been felt that Ian and Barbara, who had this slightly romantic side to their relationship, should go together much as they came – back to the London they left. They wrote us out well. They took us all around the centre of London to get some shots of us ‘back home again’, which were later shown in the last episode. For the last live action filmed piece, we went back to, guess where, glamorous Hammersmith!”

Carole Ann Ford:It was a tiring schedule on the show. We often recorded them as if they were live, without any breaks for nearly twenty-five minutes. The air conditioning wasn’t very good in the studios and we really sweated our heads off and the TARDIS console would keep going wrong because of the heat. I would have been happy to have left earlier. It had become so repetitive. For a large part of the time, Susan was arriving somewhere with her grandfather and the other two, being told not to get into danger, having them come and get her out of danger, then flying off again. In the meantime, I was watching visiting actors do really interesting stuff.”

William Hartnell: “Doctor Who is certainly a test for any actor. Animals and children are renowned scene-stealers and we had both – plus an assortment of monsters that became popular in their own right. Look at the Daleks. They started in the second serial and were an immediate success. We did Doctor Who for forty-eight weeks a year but I loved it.”

The show of course has a very passionate and loyal fan-base, what were the reactions from fans?

Carole Ann Ford: “It was instant madness, there was nothing like it on television. We could go anywhere in the universe, and we gave them great cliffhangers, it was amazing, like being a pop star. I couldn’t go down the street for a bottle of milk any more!”

William Hartnell: “I couldn’t go out into the street without a bunch of children following me, like the Pied Piper. People used to take it terribly seriously. I’d get letters from boys swotting for exams, asking me complicated questions about time ratios and the TARDIS. I couldn’t help them.”

Jacqueline Hill: “How so many people can still appreciate what we did all those years ago in a tiny black and white studio really astonishes me. I suppose it’s unique.”

William Russell:I found it curious to have such a passion for something I’d done so many years ago, but I soon discovered the fans are as sane as anyone else. It’s strange to me, because my life has moved on and I’m constantly doing other things. I often find myself at a loss of what to say to people, because they know more about the programme than I do. I’m astonished and very flattered. Even now, people still write to me saying they enjoyed the show very much, and asking for a signed photo. If you think about it, a lot of people are seeing it for the first time and so it has the same effect on them as it did all those years ago. It’s very wonderful to have played a part in that.”

And finally, after paving the way for everything that was to come, what does Doctor Who mean to them, and why has it been such a success?

Carole Ann Ford: “I must say that when I left Doctor Who, I was filled with… not loathing, but I was incredibly annoyed because I wanted to do more television and films and the only thing that people could ever see me in was a recreation of what I had done. A Susan clone. Some kind of weird teenager. I wanted to do work that would disconnect me from Doctor Who. That is a very difficult thing to accomplish, as many other actors who have played the companions have found out.”

William Russell: “What we started in Doctor Who is not so very surprising when you consider the talent of someone like Verity Lambert, or the impact that Billy made with audiences everywhere. It had a very positive effect for me, really, because it was a very successful programme and I enjoyed doing it very much. Anything that gets your name around can’t be too bad. I’m lucky in my work, because I flip between television, film and theatre, so I don’t, in a sense, capitalise on anything I’ve done on screen.

Jacqueline Hill:It all goes back to the success of Bill Hartnell as the Doctor, I should imagine, and we always got on well. He would get very annoyed with the way things were done if he thought they were being done the wrong way, but he cared so much about the programme and I think it showed. Looking at the show’s durability now, it’s a quite amazing phenomenon, although it was an excellent idea, particularly for the time. I think he has managed to last so long because it has this ability to change and develop, it’s never the same, so nothing gets too boring or familiar.”

William Hartnell:It may seem like hindsight now, but I just knew that Doctor Who was going to be an enormous success. Don’t ask me how. Not everybody thought as I did. I was universally scoffed at for my initial faith in the series, but I believed in it. It was magical. We’re all very pleased and honoured that so many people seem to have taken it to their hearts.”

Posted in Interviews, News

New Tom Baker Interview in The Telegraph

We are told never to meet our heroes, but I am glad I ignored that advice. You cannot underestimate the part Tom Baker played in a typical week during my single-digit years – tape recorder switched on (video was only just starting to come in), parents hushed into silence – or else banished from the living room.

For me and millions of other children of all ages from 1974 to 1981, the curly-haired giant with the ability to thwart monstrous hordes armed with only a Sonic Screwdriver, an improbably long scarf and a bag of jelly babies was one of British television’s biggest stars. In 1979, when the Doctor battled Julian Glover’s Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, in Paris, 16 million people tuned in.

Baker is 80 in January – great going for a man who admits to frequenting the drinking haunts of Soho with Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Bernard and Francis Bacon a little too often. And yes the years have caught up with him physically. But when you close your eyes, the stentorian voice that also captivated the audience of Little Britain many years later is still wonderfully intact, as is his warmth and charisma….

Read the interview at The Telegraph

Posted in Interviews, News

Archive: An Interview With Jacqueline Hill

As school teacher Barbera Wright, Jacqueline Hill innovated the role of the Doctor Who companion. While many of the Doctor’s companions, certainly in the Classic Series, have been accused of being “scream queens” and doing nothing for the feminist cause, it is somewhat ironic that one of the innovators at the very beginning was anything but. An intelligent career woman, Barbera was one of two main leads intended by Sydney Newman to educate and teach the nations children.

RADA graduate Hill had already had some successes prior to joining the cast of Doctor Who, starring alongside a young Sean Connery in future husband Alvin Rakoff’s Requiem for a Heavyweight and appearing on television in Fabian of the Yard and An Enemy of the People amongst others. 

“I was at a party one evening and the usual bunch of friends were there. I’d known Verity Lambert socially since she had joined the ABC television company for whom both my husband and myself had done some work. She was one of Sydney Newman’s proteges, and by this stage she had transferred with him to the BBC, where she had been asked to become a producer. Anyway, this party came at just the right point for me, because Verity was in the process of casting the regulars for her new television serial ‘Doctor Who’. We talked about it, and shortly afterwards, she offered me the part of Barbara Wright, which I was more than happy to accept. Because of this good beginning, Verity and I always got on well. Making that number of programmes every year meant that it helped to ease the burden of doing so many.”

Originally commissioned for only 13 episodes, Doctor Who became one of the instant and runaway successes of the BBC in the 1960s

“I think nearby everybody, including the BBC, under-estimated ‘Doctor Who’s appeal. We had quite long-running contracts which bound us up initially for a year, but which had a number of clauses which meant that they could drop you or the series, or both, whenever they felt like it. So in effect they had the best of both worlds. Looking at the show’s durability now, it’s a quite amazing phenomenon, although it was an excellent idea, particularly for the time. I think he has managed to last so long because it has this ability to change and develop, it’s never the same, so nothing gets too boring or familiar.”

Filmed in a tight budget in the cramped conditions of Lime Grove’s Studio D, the Doctor Who team were said to have become a family of sorts, working incredibly well together and developing a chemistry that crossed-over onto screen. Jacqueline in particular remembers William Russell with fondness

“By the end of a series one did begin to get very tired, but they would usually try and write the scripts to accommodate you, so that one week Carole Ann or Bill Russell would have more to do, and on occasions they’d even write us out for a couple of weeks so we could dash off for a holiday. We were so on top of each other, in those tiny, tiny studios, that bad tempers would have been a disaster. I got on particularly well with William Russell. He shared my sort of approach to acting and liked to get on with the job with the minimum of fuss. I’ve worked with him since, doing a lot of rep abroad, in France, and I’m hoping to work with him again soon. Carole Ann Ford and I enjoyed a very easy relationship, although we didn’t keep in touch after she left the series. She was very busy being a mother and our paths just never seemed to cross. However, I did see her again recently at a ‘Doctor Who’ convention and I enjoyed that very much. She’s really quite well known at these conventions, I gather, whereas I’ve only done the one. They’re quite amazing. How so many people can still appreciate what we did all those years ago in a tiny black and white studio really astonishes me I suppose it’s unique.”

While Susan, Ian and Barbara all played their part in making these formulative years of the show a success, not to mention the dreaded Daleks, Jacqueline ascribes William Hartnell with the lions share of the credit

“It all goes back to the success of Bill Hartnell as the Doctor, I should imagine, and we always got on well. He would get very annoyed with the way things were done if he thought they were being done the wrong way, but he cared so much about the programme and I think it showed. He particularly enjoyed all the comeback from children, and I grew quite fond of him. I think he was sad when we left. I know I was.”

And what of her own character? As we outlined, Babera was hardly the “scream queen” of popular tradition when it comes to the shows leading women. How much of that was down to Jacqueline herself and how much thanks to the innovative writing team working on the show at the time?

“All I knew at first, all I was actually told, was that my character was a very learned history teacher and that I was there to represent the Earth point of view when we went back in time and did the occasional serial set in the past. I found that quite easy, as I liked history and those historical stories appealed to me anyway. Everything else I had to put in myself, and this meant taking it up with either Verity or the director concerned. I think there were times when I said ‘Barbara wouldn’t say this or she wouldn’t do this’, and they were usually very good and listened to me on those points because I knew the character better than anybody else.”

While An Unearthly Child was a success, it must be said that it was The Daleks that transformed the show, ushering in an era of Dalekmanina and creating one of the cultural and design icons of the 1960s

“I had quite a good part in ‘The Daleks’, and in a series like ‘Doctor Who’ one tends to remember that. We were all absolutely fascinated with (the Daleks), it became very easy to suspend one’s disbelief when acting opposite one of those things, and that helped make the whole thing that little bit more polished and exciting. I remember Carole Ann Ford bringing her young daughter to the studios one day, and her daughter trying out the Dalek for size. They have that irresistable appeal, that does make you want to try them out for yourself. There were others I liked – the Sensorites were unusual, for instance, and the Mechanoids were interesting too, but overall it still has to be the Daleks. One could almost put up with the lessened part to be in one of those Dalek stories, because they were such fun to make. The other reason for remembering that story is much sadder. We were in the studio on the night that the news of President Kennedy’s assassination came through. It was devastating and everybody was very, very upset. I don’t think, looking back, that anyone today can quite understand all that Kennedy had meant to the western world, and when he was killed the last thing anybody wanted to do was get on with acting out a fantasy in a confined studio. I don’t think anybody stayed behind after the recording for the customary drink.”

Much like her character, Jacqueline much preferred the historical setting, speaking fondly of her time on The Aztecs where Barbera takes a central role 

“I always preferred the historical stories, because I was given a bit more to do in them. In the science fiction stories, it was the monsters and weird characters who tended to take over, and all the girls tended to have to do was look frightened and get lost in a gloomy passage or two. I adored all the dressing up that went with doing the historical stories, and they were much more colourful for us because the historical sets were so gorgeous to act in. I think I liked ‘The Aztecs’, and the one about the Crusaders, best. In ‘The Aztecs’ I had the most magnificent headdress, which was terribly difficult to balance, but which looked superb and made me feel very regal. The story itself was extremely clever and it was a fascinating period. I suppose I liked it above all the others because that was the one in which Barbara was most important to the storyline. I liked ‘The Crusades’ for similar reasons, and also because I greatly enjoyed working with Douglas Camfield on that one. ‘The Romans’ was another which was great fun to do. It had Derek Francis in it. He used to make me laugh all the time and we got the chance to play ‘Doctor Who’ all out for comedy, which was fun.”

Yet Doctor Who always seemed to return to the Daleks in this era, and who could blame the show for that? After the immense popularity of the first Dalek serial Terry Nation was asked to write a follow-up, this time the Daleks were on Earth! Jacqueline however doesn’t remember the filming of the serial with particular fondness

“Shooting ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ on location was hardly what you’d call a massive amount of location filming, and the location itself was just around the corner from where we recorded the studios in Hammersmith. We had very little time to do it in, more or less one take only, so it was just as bad as working inside. I can recall very clearly filming the sequences in and around the famous landmarks of London, because we shot them first thing in the morning, as soon as the light came up – on a Sunday too! That was even more arduous because we had to run along pushing this wheelchair, which I can tell you soon lost its novelty value.

Dalekmania of course wasn’t limited to the small screen in the 1960s. Two motion pictures were produced based on The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, both starring Peter Cushing as “Dr. Who”, none of the TV cast returned. Was Jacqueline ever asked to be a part of the films?

“I certainly wasn’t asked (to be in the film Dr. Who and the Daleks), partly because I was hardly a top box office name but most of all, I expect, because all my time would have been taken up making the series itself. I never had much time to watch myself in the series, although obviously I saw the occasional one or two. I haven’t seen it now for quite a long time, and besides it’s virtually a different programme now, it’s moved on so much. Science-fiction isn’t really my own taste as far as entertainment goes.”

Soon the first family of Doctor Who was to break up however as Carole Ann Ford announced her departure from the show. William Hartnell in particularly said to be upset and Ford’s replacement Maureen O’Brian didn’t didn’t enjoy her time on the series

“The good thing about Barbara was that because she was older than most of the girls since, the writers were more hesitant about making her look silly, or scream too much. That side of things was largely left to Carole Ann Ford, which is why she left earlier than Bill Russell and myself. Naturally Maureen O’Brien felt very nervous when she first arrived, but nobody was out to be unpleasant and that initial, understandable feeling quickly wore off. I think we got on very well, although it was strange not having Carole around at first. Maureen didn’t really enjoy her time with the series, though, because she inherited Carole’s role of screaming all the time, which luckily for me I retained the better of the two female parts. It was more or less her first big television part and I think it was a bit of a rude awakening.”

Soon both Jacqueline and William Russell also departed the show, feeling they had gone as far as they could in the programme. It was essentially the end of a a mini-era within the Doctor Who

“(William Russell) and I decided to leave virtually as a mutual thing. We’d done two years of it, which was a strain and there wasn’t a lot more we could do with it either. Everything that we wanted to do in the series had been accomplished and we felt, and I think Verity sneakingly agreed with us, that it was time for the series to try and see if it could do something new. As for the question of going together, well, it all just seemed to come together at the right time for both of us. I think it had always been felt that Ian and Barbara, who had this slightly romantic side to their relationship, should go together much as they came – back to the London they left. They wrote us out well. They took us all around the centre of London to get some shots of us ‘back home again’, which were later shown in the last episode. For the last live action filmed piece, we went back to, guess where, glamourous Hammersmith.”

Yet it wasn’t to be the end of Jacqueline Hill’s association with Doctor Who. In 1980 she returned to the show, not as Barbera but as Lexa in Meglos alongside Tom Baker’s Doctor. Jacqueline is reflective on the changes during her time away

“We did ‘Meglos’ in different studios, and of course television had moved on in leaps and bounds so that the technique was completely different. The special effects were a lot more dominant. It was recorded entirely out of order and there was nobody working on the story who could remember as far back as me – which was something of a humbling experience. I did enjoy it very much, though, mainly because the part I played was so very different to the calm and unflappable Barbara. It was a happy reunion with a show that was really only the same show by name alone.”