Here’s a pair of audios that really deserve another airing. Tea and Diplomacy and The Classy Café were produced in 2005, but never received a big fan fare release or their own website. Instead only available through a part of what was known as the Outpost Gallifrey forums. They are now being streamed in the Theatre, with downloads also available. So go check them out for some light hearted amusement.
The creator did pretty much everything in terms of making them, save the help of a few actors – although he did play multiple roles himself. He kindly agreed to a little Q&A over t’internet, and here are the results.
> 1. What made you want to do an audio story?
Since I was 13 I’d been knocking together these poorly made Doctor Who video covers for what I called the DNAs – “David’s New Adventures” – with accompanying humorous text and episode guide entries based on the Discontinuity Guide and The Television Companion. I put all these on the Outpost Gallifrey forums and people were kind enough to humour me and say that they enjoyed them; I ended up writing script extracts and short stories for my version of the Doctor and his companions, always comedy stories. Eventually, I started editing together short comedy audio trailers for certain stories and going on to do full stories seemed a natural progression. I already had a great interest in radio comedy and had done several non-Who audio projects. Once I got several friends interested – including Elizabeth Myles, upon whom the character of Calapine was based – then I thought I’d give it a shot.
> 2. Tea and Diplomacy is perhaps best described as straight forward, whimsical fun. Are there any particular shows that you would describe as influences or inspirations? Doctor Who is of course a given unless you have a certain story or period in mind.
Both stories are very silly, throwaway stuff and I never intended them to be anything else so long as they made people laugh. Making yourself Doctor Who is the most arrogant thing you can do, which is why I made sure that my version of the Doctor was absolutely useless and heavily reliant on his friends and on pure luck – which in some ways is just like the Doctor himself, I suppose! My influences have changed over the years. I’ve always been into old comedies and back then my main influences were the Ealing comedies, Frankie Howerd, Morecambe & Wise, Tony Hancock and the films of Leslie Phillips, Terry-Thomas etc. Though I still like all of these, and they definitely shaped my later (non Doctor Who) work, I’ve since found myself influenced more by Woody Allen and newer shows. I always think of Doctor Who as being one of the funniest series ever and I suppose a lot of my sense of humour comes from the Williams era; certainly season 16/17 was the period I based “my” era on in the various stories I wrote. The 4th Doctor, Romana and K9 remains for me the ultimate TARDIS team and so I tried to take that dynamic: me as a blundering Doctor, Calapine as the haughty capable assistant and Sunny as the one who saved situations by attacking people.
> 3. Was the project daunting? How did the actual production compare to your expectations?
Not daunting at all. I knew it’d have a limited range – friends on the Outpost Gallifrey forum – and I was content with that. Actors recorded their lines elsewhere and then emailed the wav files, so I was reliant on them getting them done and sent before I could do anything. Fortunately the audio quality of all the files was good enough to knock something together; the girl Sunny was based on didn’t have good enough recording equipment and so we had to recast the part! Editing everything and putting in music and sound effects could take days because, though they were silly comedies, I still wanted them to sound as professional as a 16 year old using Cool Edit Pro 96 could muster. And I think both productions came out better than I’d envisaged them. Of course now I find them a bit embarrassing, mainly as I’ve definitely improved as a writer and as an actor, but I suppose as knockabout fun they’ve still got their good points! But I’d never make myself Doctor Who again. Back then in my adolescence I was trying to be Ealing style terribly upright British and I was forcing that in my performance. Fortunately I’m generally a bit more relaxed then that now…
> 4. What was your favourite part of making them and why? For instance, directing people, editing audio, acting, or something else.
I rarely got to direct anybody as all the lines got sent to me – occasionally I could send an email saying “Could you rerecord this?” but in general I used what I got. Fortunately all the people I got ended up being rather good. You can tell none of us are really actors but with fan based stuff it’s the enthusiasm with which stuff is done that’s important; there are different standards set. I personally think that all the people I got turned in pretty respectable performances! I only got to be with actors twice: Elizabeth and I recorded Tea and Diplomacy together because we were the only actors in it, and I have fond memories of that. And I was with Alex Cameron – one of my best friends – when he did his lines as Maurice for Classy Café. I think those times when I actually got to interact with people were the most fun, definitely.
> 5. Yours are I think the only audios to use the Peter Cushing theme music. Any special reason?
I adore the Cushing movies anyway, and when watching Dr Who and the Daleks I noticed that the opening theme was only superficially different from the ordinary Who theme; in many ways it has the same structure, which I think is evident from the ease with which I turned it into an opening theme for mine. I wanted a theme tune that was Whoish, fun, and signified that what you were about to listen to was a bit different from other audios.
> 6. Both stories were released very close together. Did you always have it in mind to make more than one, or did The Classy Café come about later?
I think I had in mind to make several, yes, especially once we did Tea and Diplomacy and got positive feedback from it.
> 7. A third story, Post Haste, was written, but never made. Why not? And would it again have centred around hot beverages?
The script for Post Haste, which would have been a 45 minute – 1 hour story, was based around Jake Swantz who I thought gave such a fun performance in The Classy Café as Price the smuggler that he needed to do another. It was three episodes long. In episode 1, American inspector Jake Fondly – sent to England, demoted to constable, and pining for the old days of being a sexy detective again – is at a countryside village at night investigating a report of a break in at a post office when he bumps into Doctor Who. After a long conversation they end up at the post office where a dead man lies outside. Inside a late-night worker lets them in and we discover that the people who broke in are Calapine and Sunny, who are now suspected for murder. The rest of the story involved them protesting their innocence and the chap who let them turning out to be a mentalist who was building a time machine from spare parts he’d had sent to him through the post.
To be honest, there was very little in the way of plot and a lot in the way of long, funny conversations between the characters, which is where my comedic style was going at the time. In the end a lack of time stopped us from doing it; Jake recorded his lines but the girls couldn’t and so we dropped the story and several others I was planning on doing. Given that said stories involved 70s sex comedies and the Hood from Thunderbirds, it was probably a good thing we never proceeded any further…
[Ed - A copy of the script is available in the Theatre here ]
> 8. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of making their own audio drama?
My main gripe with the majority of fan based Who stories is that they take themselves far too seriously; they think they’re making a continuation of the real series or something. It ought to just be a lot of fun. Tell a “serious” story if you like but don’t forget the humour and fun that made Doctor Who what it was. “The Brain of Morbius” isn’t a comedy but it’s still bloody funny in places.
> 9. Obligatory question – Favourite Doctor and why?
Despite the season 17 crew being my favourite, my favourite Doctor is actually Hartnell. Both he and Tom are barking mad and hilarious to boot. But Hartnell has the most unpredictable quality and I’m not talking about the fluffed lines. His Doctor goes from being happy to inquisitive to enraged to caring within the space of a single scene. You have no idea where you are with him. He can also take ridiculous lines and make them sound as if he really means it. There’s a bit in The Edge of Destruction where, for no reason at all, he approaches the camera, clutches his lapels and exclaims “Could it be, then, that this… is the end?!” And you believe he means it. Any man that can take that and make it gripping deserves to be the best Doctor Who.
> 10. The DNA audios were originally released in 2005. Since then I’ve noted you’ve acted in some Planet Skaro audios. Where do your creative interests lay these days and for the future?
In 2006 I started studying at the University of Edinburgh and have been heavily involved in the Bedlam student Theatre; I am now within my 5th semester of 8. I’ve written and directed six shows, which encompass sketch shows, plays and mixtures of the two, and this last summer (of 2008) had a show in the Edinburgh Fringe which had a modest success; all of us involved in it were between the ages of 18-21 so we were pretty ambitious to give it a go. I’ve also been doing a lot of acting and at this exact moment I’ve been working in a number of plays and hoping to get my next comedy staged at the theatre in March 2009. I’m hoping whatever experiences I get at this student theatre – which really is the best of its kind – will help me in getting some sort of comedy career later on. I’m meeting lots of great actors and writers and making lots of friends so we’ll see what happens.
By the way, if you want to read the only full length fanfiction story of my Doctor, Calapine and Sunny, you can find it here:
“The Times and Lives of Donald Hickerty”, a mystery in a country manor with Terry-Thomas, Tony Hancock, a gnome, a man in a boot, marriages, girls, ghosts and a 1960s monster. Also had lots of cartoons which I drew myself. Still rather happy with this little story!
That just leaves me to say a big thanks the author for taking the time, and letting the audios be streamed again. If you haven’t already, go have a listen to them in the Theatre.