I’m not being disingenuous when I say I think it’s entirely down to Christopher and Trevor. I really do think they are the greatest double act since Morecambe and Wise, and their charm, wit and affection for each other is just as evident in the green room as it is in the series. I think everyone who works Jago and Litefoot tunes into their energy and enthusiasm… something clicked that moment they were reunited for The Mahogany Murderers, and it’s been building ever since. I know this isn’t just another job to them. They care deeply about these characters, the scripts and the stories, and I just think that shows in the product.
Tell us something about working with Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter.
Well, in addition to what I’ve said above, I’d add that they are an absolute riot. The badinage continues from the moment they arrive at the studio until the moment they leave. Trevor told me that he always gets very sad when we reach the end of each recording block – he misses the series when we’re not making it. We all feel the same way. I adore those gents.
I’m sure adding Louise Jameson and Colin Baker to the cast has made for a very happy company. Is this more of an ensemble series now?
Moving forward, actually no it won’t be. It’s going back to its roots, with series five through to seven being more focused on Jago, Litefoot, Ellie and Quick. I think for any series to have an ongoing life it needs to experiment and broaden its horizons. Bringing in Louise and Colin was an opportunity to head in new directions, but I always wanted to go back to the cosy core of the series. That’s not to say there won’t be surprises coming up, but it will be more ‘traditional’ Jago and Litefoot in tone.
I’ve just read the scripts for series six and I really do feel the series is still on a roll. Script editor Justin Richards has some lovely ideas coming up…
Lisa Bowerman has made the step from actress to director extraordinaire. What strengths does she bring to both Jago & Litefoot and the companion chronicles?
A passion for the material, a great eye for casting, a mind for detail, an ear for sound design and music and endless enthusiasm.
What delights can we expect in series five?
Well, all I’ll say is that a journey began in series four that will be complete as we arrive in series five. I haven’t heard any of the edits yet, but I think series five might be my favourite so far.
You must be extremely proud of the companion chronicles and how they have taken off. What was the thinking behind focussing more on the first three Doctors? Are there any more one offs like Zara and King Peladon in the pipeline?
I am very pleased by the response to the Companion Chronicles. To be honest you don’t really know how well something is going to be received until it’s out. There have been titles that I thought were brilliant that got mixed reviews; likewise titles that perhaps fell a little short of what I’d hoped that went down really well. But as a team – and it is a team on the series, myself, script editor Jac Rayner, Lisa and the writers – we really do strive to get it right.
I did wonder if I might run out of ideas and energy by now, but they still keep coming – and I’ve come up with something for the anniversary that I’m really in love with. That’s been a lot of fun to develop.
I think what’s happened with the Chronicles is that they’ve developed from being mainly talking books to being an almost indefinable hybrid of narration and full cast play. The more productions we do (and we’ve done a lot now!), the more Lisa and I come to realize how much we can push the format, how much dialogue we can do ‘in situ’, and how much we can create a full-fledged soundscape. If you listen to stuff like The First Wave or The Selachian Gambit, I believe they do sound almost like TV soundtracks.
I’m really focusing on the first three Doctors as, with Tom now aboard, the eras of Doctors four to eight are well covered elsewhere. There will be a one-off with a non-companion in 2013. It’s about time a villain got to tell their story isn’t it?
Whilst the range is packed full of gems do you have any stories of the last two years that you are particularly proud of?
I was really pleased with the Oliver Harper trilogy, partly because the character was so close to my heart. I wanted to create a gay companion, but I wanted his story to be told through the prism of history. Less than 50 years ago gay men were imprisoned in this country; today we have civil partnerships. So what would it be like for a gay man to step from the early 1960s into the future?
I think my absolute favourite Companion Chronicle, though, is The Rocket Men. I just think it’s beautiful – thanks to Dorney’s writing, William Russell’s performance, and Howard Carter’s mesmerizing sound design and score.
Can you tell us something about plotting out a season of companion chronicles? How do you decide upon the mix of styles, eras and tones? If an actor is unavailable would the story be put on hold or rewritten to feature another companion? Have you ever gone into the studio expecting a certain type of performance and been completely blown away?
I work with the writers to develop stories for specific companions (there’s never been an occasion when a story has switched from one companion to another). Then, during the development process, I’ll work these stories into the schedule to get as much variety as we can. Sometimes things change at the last moment – the Oliver trilogy, for example, was originally going to be staggered over the course of two years but I decided to go with the trilogy’s momentum and released the stories close together.
If a companion proves unavailable for a recording, I just bump the slot further down the line. Sometimes at the last minute. It’s a big jigsaw puzzle but somehow it all comes together!
You have now released a wide range of Lost Stories from many different eras. What has the response been to the range so far and which have proven to be the most popular?
The response has been great, and I think we’ve unearthed some stories that perhaps feel like little classics. Farewell, Great Macedon, The Elite, The Foe from the Future have had amazing feedback and I think there are some wonderful treasures yet to come in the third series.
How do you go about recreating a particular era of Doctor Who – go back and watch all the stories of the time and take notes?
It’s just in our DNA I think. I’ve seen or heard all the Doctor Who tv stories so many times that each era is ingrained in there. Sometimes I’ll dip in just as a refresher, and I’ll often get sound designers to look at the TV stories for inspiration – for example Toby Robinson watched some of Season One before embarking on Farewell, Great Macedon… and I think that shows in the finished production.
Both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy have been afforded an extra season from these ranges that some would say they were denied on television. What were the actors’ reactions when they were given the opportunity to bring these lost eras to life at long last? Are there plans for any third Doctor Lost Stories?
They were both delighted. In fact, we made the Season 27 stuff at Sylvester’s request – he’d heard that we’d done Colin’s Lost Stories, and was keen to make his own missing season. There will indeed be a Third Doctor lost story in the fourth and final season. I’m waiting for the adaptation to be delivered very soon…
With regards to each of these ranges are there any snippets of information that you can give us to the wet the appetites of the readers?
Here you go:
Companion Chronicles – We’re planning some more companion team-ups for 2013. I have three in the schedule currently.
Lost Stories – The range will end in 2013 with four adaptations of unmade scripts from the first, second and third Doctors. They’ll all be performed as in the same way we made Farewell, Great Macedon.
Jago and Litefoot – We’re just working through ideas for season seven, and having a lot of fun with that. Series six starts recording in three days’ time.
The Fourth Doctor Adventures – If all goes to plan, The Oseidon Adventure should feature a trailer for the Romana stories. I’m just waiting for the edit.
Counter-Measures – I’ve got the finished edit for episode one, and I’m delighted with it. I think it’s the scariest thing I’ve produced for Big Finish. I leapt out of my skin twice!
David, thank you very much for your time.