Now Playing: Dogma Audios

15 03 2009

Before I get to the main news just a couple of quick points. Thanks to the help of some of you folks out there I’ve gotten a bit more info on old audios. So I’ve moved them out of ‘Queries’. Best Fishes and Solos have gone into the main database. Sadly, Zindignite has gone to the Graveyard. I’ve also started adding links to the audio groups wiki pages on Doctor Who Expanded, so that it’s quicker to get more info if you want. Now on with the re-release..

As part of the continued effort to catalogue and make available all of Doctor Who fandoms creative audio efforts, I’ve been in touch with Jo3hn Karp, formerly of Australian group Dogma Audio Productions. He was very helpful in providing old material and wrote some honest insights to the time they spent making audio stories. They are without doubt some of the most bizarre Who based stories produced, or more accurately parodies. There are two notably odd records. Firstly, the most regenerations to occur in a single episode. Second, the shortest ever episode within a full length story – at just over 2 minutes, including the theme music.

All four stories are available to stream or download on the Theatre page. Along with a few extras in the form of unproduced scripts and out-takes. I asked Jo3hn to put together a few recollections and here’s what he had to say.

exterminationcover“Dogma was a project I started in high school. I wanted to be a writer so much, and Dogma let me do writing and Doctor Who and computer geekery all at once. Arpit Thomas, a school friend I turned on to Doctor Who, had recorded one or two videos of himself, and we thought we could take that idea and turn them into some short video stories. You should have seen these videos. They were so awful I was helpless with laughter. He had one called “The Wrath of Omega” where he wrapped himself in a doona, stuck a tea towel on his head and called himself Omega. He wanted his dad to write him a name tag, but he misheard and wrote “Amiga” instead. So wrong and so very right. That’s the kind of insanity you can’t invent, it just has to flow naturally from a genius.

So we’d decided to do some real videos from start to finish. We had no props, but figured we could digitally edit in a TARDIS or whatever. I wrote Extermination of the Daleks with Arpit’s input, but pretty soon we realised a video production was way too ambitious and switched to audio. The project became more and more driven by me, though I still depended heavily on my friends for input. I press ganged Chris Hay to pick the music and some friends to come over and record it.

Our other stories followed on from there. ‘Wrath of Omega II’ was a follow-on from Arpit’s original. ‘Revenge of Morgoth’ was written by Chris Hay, based heavily on the Dead Ringers sketches. The idea was to string them into one story, the less realistic the better. I helped him out with the hardcore Doctor Who stuff, but the sense of humour is his. ‘My Son the Timelord’ is the best story we ever did – best audio quality, best script, and fantastic actors. Everything came together. I’d heard that there was some new rubbish bit of continuity in the Virgin books where Irving Braxiatel (of the Braxiatel Collection in City of Death) turns out to be the Doctor’s brother. So I wrote My Son the Timelord with the aim of making the most ridiculous leaps of continuity I could. Everyone turns out to be related to the Doctor, including Sutekh and the characters I crossed-over from an Aussie sci-fi TV show called Spellbinder.

We all acted in our stories. Some actors had me cracking up, while others were pretty appalling. I’m afraid I was more likely to be one of the latter. A lot of my friends weren’t into Doctor Who, but I’d lay on pizza and DVDs of Black Books and Red Dwarf, so there was always something geeky to enjoy. We recorded the stories on really knocked-up old hardware – bits and pieces I’d found on the side of the road, old tape decks, a reel-to-reel player, poor-quality microphones… We used to put a tea towel over the microphone to stop plosives sounding too loud, which caused more problems than it fixed. You can hear me ranting about it in one of the outtakes. When it was done, I’d digitise it and edit it together with music. They sounded pretty awful, but it was a huge amount of fun. The sound quality got better and better but, just when I was getting happy with our technique, we stopped making them.

There were one or two stories that just never got finished. My friend Julian, who acted in some stories, had plans to write a story. I’ve got some draft scenes, but it’s nowhere near finished. Then we recorded *all* of Shada, but some parts of the recording are so quiet it was impossible to edit it into a finished story. It’s a shame because it took a million years to record the damn thing. I wrote and recorded Quest for the Anniversary Special, which is a great story but missing Fitz’s part [the companion]. Kind of a vital part, that. By this stage I knew it was time to end things. We were all in university and it was too hard to get people in one place. I wanted a trilogy of stories to end things, but I only ever wrote the first one. I had wanted to go out with a bang, but it just never happened.”

Ed – I asked about a catchy sample repeatedly played in one of the stories…

“As for the “Boot to the Head” clip, you clearly have good taste! That’s from a novelty song called “Ti Kwan Leep” by the Frantics. You can listen to the whole skit and song here. Earlier on in Dogma I used to do a lot of references and used to borrow a lot of jokes from other places. Towards the end, though, I made an effort to focus on my own jokes and tried to make the scripts better on their own merits. I didn’t stop referencing stuff, just stopped stealing their jokes.”

And on that bombshell… thank you Mr Karp. Everyone else – go listen to them now.


A Civilized Chat with DNA’s Author

26 11 2008

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.

The Unregenerate: On Making FANZ (part 2)

21 08 2008

Previously on ‘An Evening with FANZ’
    “I remember standing behind the door of Stuart’s house and pretending I was behind a window.”
    “Big stripey tank tops.”

If you missed the first half then you’d best go have a look. It has a proper introduction.

And now, the continuation…

[Be warned – there is some more bad language and sexual innuendo.]

>9. When you started in 2000 did you think you’d still be doing it in 2008?
STEVE: Personally, I probably didn’t think it’d last this long. I’m glad it has coz it’s a hell of a lot of fun. And every time you [Stuart] phone up and say, ‘oh we’ve got a new script’ I’m like ‘Yay’. Coz it is horrendously good fun. Season 27 lasted up until FANZ started, when I jumped ship. [laughs ] I had a better offer.
JAMES: If you’d have asked me back in 2000 whether I thought I’d be doing it in 2008. I’d have thought possibly we were, but might have hoped that we’d done a few more by now. [chuckles ] Yeah, well, post production does take a while.
STEVE: You never did finish that last Season 27 one did you.
JAMES: No. It’s true. I do still have all the master recordings for ‘Flesh of the Damned’.
STEVE: That’s what happened to Season 27!
JAMES: Yes, I just didn’t do it.
SAM: We had an insider.
DUNCAN: Take ‘em down James.
JAMES: Now you know the truth. Flesh of the Damned does exist. And it’s in my cupboard.
STEVE: Who’s been putting FANZ in it?
JAMES: There was actually a scene in Campaign of Fear that was going to use material recorded for Flesh of the Damned. Which had Steve as The Doctor, and Jeff would have been cut in to replace Monica, the companion. But that scene was dropped because there weren’t any gags in it, and it made the whole thing run too long.
SAM: I didn’t think it would because I don’t think that far ahead for a start. Also I think the original plan was we’ll do three a year. That obviously never happened, and here we are still doing it. But as everyone else has said, it has been great fun. We’ve got it down to a fine art now. We can do it in a few hours and then we just get pissed and have pizza.
MARTIN: I never thought it would go on for as long as it did as at the time there was a lot of fan related material out there.
JOHN: Hmm. We planned three seasons but I don’t think anyone realised how their lives would change and the amount of work that would be involved to the extent that any production schedule inevitably went out of the window. So I suppose the answer is no.

>10. What’s your most memorable or standout moment from the series? (either on or off ‘air’)
SAM: On air, I think my favourite one is shoving Duncan out in the porch. [breaks into giggles ]
STUART: You even forgot his name. That’s in the bloopers. You called him thing.
DUNCAN: I was new to the group.
SAM: And, I’m most impressed by Alistair Lock, when he came down.
STUART: You’re nicking my anecdote.
SAM: Sorry.
DUNCAN: You can have the same favourite moment.
SAM: I was just so awed and impressed by Alistair’s talent. It was unbelievable. All the different voices in one taking, almost. It was absolutely amazing.
STUART: We’ve got somebody with talent! Don’t let him out. Stick him in the shed.
SAM: And off air there’s just too many to mention. And most of them I can’t mention. One of my other favourite moments is, do you remember when we did the convention? And somebody said ‘can I take a photo of you’. So we all grouped up, but all of a sudden we had a crowd of people with cameras around, and within seconds it was like paparazzi everywhere.
STUART: That has got to be with Jason [Haigh Ellery] and Rob Shearman, and even today I still replay those scenes and think I can’t believe they did that. One of my favourite moments, which probably isn’t Duncans. We were recording Coach Potatoes. He’d come up with this strange new drink absinthe, and it involved burning sugar in a spoon, and we’d just had a new carpet, and it went horribly wrong. It dripped on the carpet and his hand was getting scolded because he couldn’t put this flaming spoon down, getting hotter and hotter by the second. I was on the floor laughing my tits off. We’d had this new carpet put down and he’d burnt it, and to add to that he’d said, ‘Oh My fingers! I’ve got a huge blister.’
JAMES: It’s the fact that he was complaining about his fingers, yet his crotch was on fire.
DUNCAN: I’d been making absinthe with beet sugar and Stuart had cane sugar, which burnt a lovely bright blue. And it started dripping onto this carpet. I’m stamping it with my sock, and it’s dripping on my trousers. It was my other hand that I’d washed the spoon with, because it was a blue flame I couldn’t feel anything. Martin was, ‘Duncan – your finger’s on fire.’ And it’s literally aflame like a British Gas symbol.
    On air, there’s a few favourite ones. From ‘Campaign’, when we were doing the anime stadium, and Steve was hilarious – “Hooow can this beeee!” It was the most mental thing, turned out even more mental in post production. It was just the most fun thing. Also, in one of the first scripts, adding the “Shada” thing from the Tom Baker video onto Kris’ demise.
    Off air, there’s quite a few. I remember staying round Stuart’s and Sam’s, going upstairs thinking Ebbsy [Paul Ebbs] had driven home, and opening the door to find a pair of blue Y-fronts on a fat arse staring at me. I had one where I was staying round, and he decided to come in while I was sleeping, turn the lights on in the middle of the night, and try to scare the bejeezers out of me. Going ‘Bah!’ and flashing his hands at me.
    Actually, my favourite moment has to be – we’d all had a fair bit to drunk [sic ], and our beloved leader had entered the room wearing a big shirt. [Stuart groans in the background ] And said, ‘Does anyone mind if I take my trousers off?’ Said ‘well, no?’ And he went, ‘Well I am.’ And just dropped them. And with a flourish likes of which a new romantic ‘There!’ A Byronic wave of hand. Fortunately for this long 18th century shirt covering his modesty. The style; if you’re gonna drop your trousers at least do it with panache, and I’ll give Robinson that.
JAMES: The bits I like are actually where we go beyond being a sketchy comedy show, and treat the characters as characters and give them something a bit more to do. There’s some very nice depth of character moments in it.
    In terms of memories, going up to Coventry was fun, and doing Battlefield and having a stall there.
DUNCAN: Oh yes, Coventry. Coming back from, I’d just gone to get a drink or something. Sylvester McCoy said how much he liked my artwork. I think that was one of the great things.
JAMES: There was a guy who turned up at the convention looking like Kris Krump, which was kind of scary. There was also a small boy who turned up looking like a whale.
DUNCAN: Crashed into the BBC.
JAMES: Yes. He had so much inertia he couldn’t help crashing into all the stands, as he ran around in excitement. I’m sure Bill Baggs took a little webcam shot of him and used him in ‘Have You Got A License?’ Not necessarily a head in a jar…
DUNCAN: An adipose. [laughing in mockery ]
JAMES: [unconvinced ] Yes, whale boy became an adipose.
    I remember Paul Ebbs being so heavy that when he stood on my mini disc recorder, he actually crushed the battery compartment to the extent that I can’t take the battery out. He’s a man mountain, and he crushed my equipment.
STEVE: My big over-riding one was the Christmas thing that we did. When we were pissed off our heads, and we were trying to do that improv. Well, it was scripted but we were kind of improvising. That was so much fun, I really want to do another one like that.
    The monkey, was it, Pablo?
DUNCAN: Yeah, the monkey that never came.
STEVE: Didn’t he ever?
DUNCAN: No. He never turned up.
STEVE: Ah, There was a little monkey and he [Duncan] did a lovely voice for it. It was bizarrely outrageous, but the character came out of something you were just improvising in the evening. He’s got a lovely spectrum to his voice.
JAMES: I do remember the recording of Coach Potatoes of Doom. Luke Curtis, our one time associate. His wife wanted to come to the recording, and she sat through the whole recording bless her. And she fell asleep. She sat there snoring and we had to prod her awake because it was carrying onto the mic. We record in Stuart’s household. We have to look out for all sorts of things like creaking floorboards, traffic, buzzsaws, vultures, trains, police raids, low flying aircraft. There was an alien abduction. There was rectal probing.
MARTIN: I think for me the scene with Cindy with me playing the evil Djinn, as it was nice to have minor character role that was a total departure from Gary.
JOHN: This one is difficult. Probably Steve again either the way he says the line “Used & dirty” in Couch Potatoes (not one of my lines) or the way he was Dancing with a former DWM editor at a convention. Through Fanz I have met some great people and have had many good times, I’m sad to see it go.

>11. There were plans for another series of FANZ. What happened? and what would have happened?
[Warning – there are spoilers in here]
STUART: We always said we would only do three series and that was it. So we mapped out three series, and I said at the end of series one I want to kill somebody. James, probably quite rightly, didn’t like this idea. He said, ‘every series I’ve seen where they’ve done something like that, it kills the series.’ We were kicking this around, and it might have been a while before that that we’d both read Campaign, and thought it was really good. We knew we wanted to do something based on Campaign. At that point I’d decided it was going to be Jeff because he was the least significant character. As I said earlier, he was the character we wheeled on and off again. That was the original plan anyway. It was gonna be Jeff. Let’s kill him off in the final story, and then at the start of series 2 we’ll take every major character comeback that’s been done. Do the whole thing – he wakes up he’s in the shower, parallel worlds, throw it all in. That was supposed to be series 2. What happened is basically people have lives. We could only turn around a certain amount of scripts.
DUNCAN: I was trying to work on a script, which sadly isn’t being made. I kind of like some of the things I did. I think I was going to end up being introduced as a character, which me and James wanted to be a Planet of the Apes monkey. His thing was to bug everyone from FANZ because he loved and thought the Peter Cushing movies were canon.
JAMES: Bernard Cribbins is canon now.
DUNCAN: He was supposed to be a student and I did try and learn some Latin American Spanish for this part I never played. It’s just a laugh. I did work on what was going to happen to Kris. He was going to get burnt in a fire so he ended up looking like The Master from Deadly Assassin. And he had this cat called Kronos. But that didn’t happen yet. Or will it?
DUNCAN: Or will it?
JAMES: Duncan’s referring to Pablo. The monkey boy character. He looked like the bloke from Supergrass. I dare say some of the concept art might end up on the website, along with edits of the script.
    I was inspired to write a script, which was FANZ doing Blakes7. Purely on the basis of Steve’s Paul Darrow impersonation. Stuart wasn’t keen on the idea.
    All the stories in series one end ‘of Doom’, all the stories in series two were gonna end ‘of Fear’. Then series three was going to be ‘of the Daleks’. Gareth Preston was writing a script for series two. A very interesting script, Zeitgeist of Fear, about a rival programme to Doctor Who. Had some lovely stuff where Kate and Gary had to pretend to be in a relationship for the benefit of Kate’s father. To be fair to Gareth, we didn’t get back to him for ages every time he sent a draft of it. But it was looking very funny.
    The climax of Anti-Climax was rewritten quite a bit. It would have had a lot more Kris stuff in it, and revealed that he was the main driving force behind a lot of series ones stories. We would have then done The Enemy Within of Fear, which would have been the climax of series 2. In which he plants a replica of Tom within the group to spread dissent, and they all start fighting each other, whilst he tried to get Tom on his side. This was discussed, no more than that. It would have ended with The Grapes blowing up, which is where the idea of the burnt Kris comes from for series three.
   We wanted to explore Kate’s daytime job as a vasectomy nurse. Balls of the Daleks or something. Also Jonathan temporarily becoming really alpha male and pulling. There was some idea as well, it’s hinted at in the Maltese Video, ‘You all have a great destiny ahead of you.’ At the end of it all, it would turn out that these geeky, horrible individuals turned out to be lords of the universe or something. There are all sorts of ideas planted in there that have not been realised.
    That’s what would have happened, and quite a lot of it might well have been rubbish.

12. Outside of FANZ what other creative credits or projects do you have to your name?
STUART: I’ve done some work for radio on the BBC. Parsons and Naylor and Dead Ringers, and a pilot for a show that didn’t actually get made called Revolver. And short stories – The Tainted, The All, and something else.
DUNCAN: We were talking about Battlefield. I had a chat with Bill Baggs, who asked me to do the cover for Richard Franklin’s The Killing Stone. It was a really fun project. I tried to draw it in the style of the Star Wars Animated series. Following that Bill asked me to do some sketches for a notebook in Zygon, which Alistair Lock managed to make look really nice. I did this, and didn’t ask Bill for anything coz I was well, I don’t know if he’s happy with them. Then I get a text from one of my mates going, ‘Is that your artwork on the back of DWM?’ And it was indeed, although I didn’t get any on screen credit. Very nice to have on there anyway. I didn’t care. Hurrah!
JAMES: Here we go. List all of my fanfic. Like Stuart, I contributed to the over familiar and infamous fan fiction anthology Tales of the Solar System. He did Mercury. I did Cassius, I think. It was the last one anyway. I did the second Doctor. He did the sixth. Following that I had stories in Missing Pieces, and the one by J Eales [Walking in Eternity], and The 13 Crimes of Doctor Who. Also Stuart and I wrote a couple of audio plays for the first two Stranger DVD releases by BBV. Little five / ten minute pieces supposed to compliment the existing storyline. Dare I say improve them. That was fun as well.
[calls from the back of ‘what about the acting?’ ]
JAMES: I started doing amateur theatrics in 2004. I’ve been in many plays since then, and been nominated for awards, and won awards, and I am very good. [Fails to maintain a serious voice. Bursts of laughter ]
STEVE: It all started a long time ago.
[The unruly unregenerates make wibbly wobbly dream noises ]
STEVE: I like that noise. It all started years and years ago when I was in a band with Ebbsy. Six years in a band called Carnival. Ebbsy being lyricist and vocalist, and me being bass player, keyboard player, and backing vocalist. Then we had a really shit gig, and that’s when we decided to kick off Season 27. With Ebbsy writing and me doing post production, and playing The Doctor. Too much like trying to do it like Colin Baker. Looking back I’d have done it differently now. But three good stories and one in post production. The eternity of post production. Through Season 27 I met Bill Baggs and initially designed the K-9 for his K-9 series, and ended up doing about 30 covers for him. Then Gary Russell asked me to do some covers for the McGann series. So I’m officially a BIG Finish Doctor Who artist. [everybody goes ‘ooooooo’ in mock admiration ] What else? Getting involved in some BBV audios – post production with ‘Punchline’, acting with ‘Race Memory’. I did the video effects on Cyberon and Do You Have a License to Save this Planet? Greatest Shop in the Galaxy, did the editing on that with a bit of touching up from Alistair Lock. Oh, and I’ve been on a couple of really shit TV shows.
SAM: Oh yeah, Bargain Hunt or something!
STEVE: [with a withering voice ] Bargain Hunt, Car Booty, and I still haven’t seen it. Stuffing meself with a hotdog, saying how great the Essex boot sale scene is.
JOHN: None at all. I enjoy acting, writing and other creative activities but am sadly rubbish at all of them. The only thing in my jeans are my legs.
MARTIN: Outside of Fanz I have only one short story written years ago and a couple small sketch like pieces for a fan magazine.

13. Is there no love for The Time Monster?
SAM: No.
JAMES: It’s not my favourite story. I’d probably rate it immediately above The Mutants, Colony in Space, The Monster of Peladon, Warriors of the Deep, and Four to Doomsday.
[a mini discussion about James’ choices breaks out ]
DUNCAN: Even Time Flight?!
JAMES: Time Flight is directly above The Time Monster.
STUART: Leave Time Flight alone.
JAMES: Stuart’s the only person I know who defends Time Flight. Bless him. Stuart likes Four to Doomsday as well. He finds it great to fall asleep to.
STEVE: I was watching a youtube clip of The Time Monster the other day, and thought I fancy watching that again. How long is it? [reply of six episodes ] Six? Can’t someone edit it down to 45 minutes?
DUNCAN: One of the perverse ironies about my character is I do actually have a perverse liking for The Time Monster. It’s just fun. It’s got The Master, a man in a white dressing gown flapping his arms wearing a papier mache hat, a woman with very nice breasts, and Benton in a nappy. What more could you want?
MARTIN: It’s an ok story but certainly not the best ever written.
JOHN: Pah Time-flight rules!!!!!!!!!!!

>14. Obligatory question – favourite Doctor and why?
SAM: After various different likings of different Doctors, I would have to say David Tennant. He’s just fabulous.
STUART: I don’t think it’s fair to compare the new series Doctors to the old series Doctors. So I’m gonna cut mine in two. Favourite new series Doctor. Up until the start of 2008 I would have said Eccleston, but now I have to say Tennant. Old series, I have two really.
STEVE: Oh for goodness sake, you can’t mention all of them.
STUART: Shut Up. There’s a Doctor you grew up with and I think it would be churlish to throw that Doctor away. So I’m gonna say Patrick Troughton and Peter Davison.
DUNCAN: Favourite Doctor is a tough one. I kind of became a Doctor Who fan proper in the wilderness years, and not really watching anything past Dav-O. Baker and Dav-O, Tom Baker used to be, but hmmmmm [deep thought ]. It’s a close call between Tom Baker and David Tennant. I might cop out and do a Stuart. They’re both really good in similar but different ways. Tom Baker I like the fact that he had a different range in the early part of his era to the later. The Hinchcliffe era and the Douglas Adams influence, the mad, weird, over the top ad-libbing, which I do like.
JAMES: I’ve come to the conclusion that I like all of them. I certainly don’t dislike any of them. Including Peter Cushing.
DUNCAN: I though we had to choose one.
JAMES: Well, as a kid my favourite was always Colin Baker. [uproar from the others ] That’s my era. When I was young it was Dav-O, and I wasn’t actually old enough to appreciate what he did. But growing up my Doctor was Colin Baker, and there was a lot of stuff about his character that I really liked. And when I used to write fanfic he was the Doctor I always liked writing for most. Him and Peri is the companion and Doctor combination that I grew up with, from the point when I really understood what was going on.
STUART: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
JAMES: I pretty much like them all equally. Pertwee’s Doctor doesn’t do a great deal for me, but there’s moments where he’s really good. My favourite Pertwee moment is in Day of the Daleks, when he flips that guy and then calmly has a sip of wine. It’s sheer class. You can say what you like about Pertwee, but that bit’s brilliant. They all have moments. Hartnell in The Crusade is utterly brilliant. He’s great at put downs, and being morally angry, which no other Doctor, not even Eccleston comes close to.
STEVE: As much as I loved Tom Baker when I was growing up, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about Doctor Who as I am now. So I have to say David Tennant all the way. He has become my favourite Doctor. To start with I was like, ‘he’s good but Tom Baker’s still better’, but [now] he is out and out my favourite. I love everything about the new series. That is why I was so shocked last week [referring to the broadcast of The Stolen Earth ]. I was so traumatized.
MARTIN: Tom Baker and because he was mainly my Doctor when I was young plus his portrayal was the most interesting as he seemed to play it more as an alien with alien values.
JOHN: Fifth! Odd for my age(43) but Peter Davison was The Doctor when I got into Fandom. I wanted to hide from reality at that time as well, who needs girls! and I have a thing for Sarah Sutton.

>15. What’s next for The Unregenerate and it’s members? More audio plays, something else, early retirement?
SAM: I work in a shop until Friday, and then I’m leaving work. I’m going to be a lady who lunches. I’m going to grow vegetables and make my craft things. My mates have already started calling me Barbara, as in off The Good Life, because I wander around in my wellies.
STUART: I’ve got no idea. More audio plays? Unless anybody else has any ideas, doubtful. FANZ is moving to a more professional footing, so that’s no longer an Unregenerate production. Probably just dying on it’s arse. I mean, what more do you want? We brought Doctor Who back. Job done. QED.
DUNCAN: Who knows. When I joined the group back in ’99. It was about three times the size of what it is now. I’m not really the creative drive. I’m just the guy who rides on the coat tails of other people’s talent. So if Stuart goes ‘we’ve got this great idea about making Jon Pertwee’s face out of jam’ or something like that. As for The Unregenerate we shall continue to meet down the pub and have a good laugh.
JAMES: As has already been pointed out, there’s probably not much in the future, apart from still getting together and discussing latest Doctor Who episodes way into the future. I’ve written a few projects with Stuart that we’ve tried to get made in a more professional capacity. There may be more of that. I’ve no idea. It depends whether he sobers up.
MARTIN: Only time will tell on that one.
JOHN: Who knows I hear you say. Given our average age will soon be over forty, early retirement is a possibility, or put out to stud. More likely a one way visit to the glue factory. I know that Stuart has found a way to make his unique idea mainstream and I fully expect to tune into a sitcom one day with the credit written and created by Stuart Robinson. James has more talents than are fair and will go far, perhaps Brisbane. Duncan is a multi talented enigma and Martin well that’s a whole other story but I think I mentioned that, but he’s also a good bloke. Sam is the groups substitute mother and held in high regard by us all having something in common with the favourite in the 3.10 at Chepstow in a non equine sense that is. Steve is someone who I hold in high regard but that may have a lot to do with one night in Coventry. Carol frightens me but that’s probably the blurring between fact and fiction. All of these are fine people and I am very fond of them. I am proud to have been involved with Fanz & it is privilege to know them.
STEVE: So, being a member of The Unregenerate now, I think there’s gonna be two movies by 2010, world distribution, and then I shall be buying a small Mediterranean island, and I’m going to go in search of Pablo.

And that just leaves me the task of thanking everyone for giving their time to answer these questions and bathe their egos for an evening. May all your Sontars be HA!

The Unregenerate: On Making FANZ

18 08 2008

A line has been drawn. The end of an era. The end of FANZ as we know it. They recently released the last in the series. So, a good time for a retrospective from members of The Unregenerate. Summing up their years of producing the comedy series. And they weren’t shy about answering questions. So much so, I’ve decided to split the interview in two, to be more digestible. Rather than edit too much out. Afterall, we wouldn’t want to miss out on Paul Ebbs’ pants.

The main interview was recorded by the The Unregenerate last month. The questions were also emailed on to two other members, and their answers appended to the transcription.

Those present at the recording were:
Stuart Robinson: Series Creator / Script Editor / Writer / Actor
James Potter: Writer / Actor / Post Prod
Samantha Robinson: Actor
Duncan Wilson: Actor / Designer / Artist
Steve Johnson: Actor

Those who emailed:
Martin Robinson: Actor
John Claydon: Actor / Writer

You can visit the FANZ website for downloads of all their stories here:

Introductions over… on with the questions.
(Be warned – there is some bad language and sexual innuendo.)

>1. Firstly, to ease you in, could you all briefly introduce yourselves, what parts you play and crew positions?
SAM: I play Cindy. The blonde trollop, stupid girl.
STUART: I play Tom, and write loads of stuff, and annoy James – that’s my primary job on FANZ. It’s not something that’s really that black and white because everybody on FANZ actually plays loads of the bit parts as well, which I don’t think should go unrecognised. Especially Duncan [giggles ], he’s been dumped on so many times.
    In the early days we decided that myself and James would do the majority of the writing and the post production. We’d be the techy guys behind it, but, as it turned out I…
SAM: Didn’t know what the fuck you were doing.
STUART: Okay. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. It kinda worked out in some areas but not others, because we’ve all found certain things we’re good at, and not good at in my case, while we’ve been doing this. It’s been quite revealing like that.
DUNCAN: I primarily play the part of Kris Krump, the nemesis of the Camford United Telefantasy Society. I’m sort of like the straight Kenneth Wiliams of FANZ. Voice of the week, and mostly happy with most of the voices I do. Obviously with Stuart’s sketch format of coming up with gags and then jamming them somewhere in the structure of a story, I usually end up playing the part of taxi driver, monk passing by, gentlewoman stroking ferret, and Johnny-cum-lightly – the flamboyant berry boy of Bermondsey.
    I also ended up doing the covers, primarily from The Coach Potatoes of Doom. I can’t remember how it started. I think I did the logo for the first one, and then people realised I could do some stuff.
JAMES: I play Jonathan, and I’ve written some of them, and I do the majority of the post production work, and all the techy stuff. Generally it’s left to me to rescue anything that we can’t be bothered to redo during the recording. Oh, and get annoyed by Stuart.
STEVE: I’m Steve, and I am Graham. Okay, I’ve taken on the role of Graham, and I like Graham as a character. Graham likes men, I like men, and so there’s a marriage between the two.
MARTIN: I played Gary Tapp.
JOHN: Hello I’m Jeff……. Well John Claydon who for the last seven years have been playing Jeff badly. I was also asked to be one of the writers and as such co wrote The Couch Potatoes of Doom, badly.

>2. When, and more importantly how, did The Unregenerate first form and give birth to FANZ?
SAM: The Unregenerate, as a group, formed way back when, what, 11 years ago now. That was because Stuart was a lonely Doctor Who fan and wanted some friends [stirs up plenty of cruel laughter from everyone ]. So we made a group and put some posters up, and we went to the pub, and some people came.
    As for FANZ, that came quite a few years later, when James was also a member of the group by that time. And Stuart had been into writing and wanted to do some comedy stuff. Came up with the FANZ idea, and then they went off into the sunset holding hands.
STUART: The Unregenerate came about because [gives a somewhat embarrassed giggle ], oh Jesus, this really is sad. The real version of why The Unregenerate came about is a lot sadder than the one you just heard. 1996, we have the TV movie. That’s not exactly what we all wanted. Some people were happy, some people weren’t. But you know, it was in the right ball park. And I think it was late ’96 they had the Beeb’s aunty’s awards for drama, and Eastenders was up against Doctor Who. Now, by this point Doctor Who hasn’t been on the television for what, 7, 8 years, and yet Doctor Who was in there. So they obviously just chucked in there for a laugh. But of course Doctor Who won [he says with a great deal of satisfaction ]
    So I was sitting there outraged going, ‘Grrrrr, Doctor Who should be back on the telly. I’m going to form a group and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to write letters and stuff and things.’ And in 2005 Doctor who is back on telly. Job done. Thank you fandom. [laughs and cheers all round ]
    So anyway, that’s how it was born, and various people turned up and went away, and came back. Like any other fan group. Then we’d reached the point where we were all just turning up there talking bollocks, and it was a bit boring really.
SAM: We needed a focus.
STUART: Yeah, we needed something to direct attention. I thought ‘why don’t we do an audio’, but there’s a million and one audios out there that are Doctor Who fan fiction. Thought there’s no way we can compete with that. Season 27 had just come out. They had, sort of, raised the bar for everybody. What else should we do? The old writer’s maxim was ‘write about what you know’. We know all about how to be Doctor Who fans. And I thought we’ll do it as a comedy coz if we do it as a drama we’ll probably fuck up.
DUNCAN: I joined Unregenerate about 98/99 because some bloke who used to come into the shop I worked in, bought DWM and he’d seen a poster for The Unregenerate, which I think had a picture of Richard E Grant on it. So I turned up with this mate, whose name eludes me other than we called him Squeeky Dave. I stand around being generally quite quiet, and Stuart Robinson is a great guy who listens to one of my jokes, forgets about it for about three months, and writes it in one of his scripts, and goes, ‘This is mine.’
STUART: I never knew you noticed.
DUNCAN: I might look stupid, but I’m not that stupid. Anyway, I was a new fan, and they said ‘we’ve got this website. You must go to this website.’ So I typed in The Unregenerate and got these religious sites. Then I found it and there’s all this stuff about magazines and video nights. ‘I’ve not seen this! What do you guys do?’ Then Stuart said do the audio plays, which I was up for. It just sounded like a lot of fun, and the quality of the scripts were very good – as Colin Baker would say.
JAMES: I can’t really add a lot to that. I joined in ’98 because I’d been at uni in Wales and seen some adverts on UKGold. On teletext for The Unregenerate [there’s uproar and surprise from the rest of the group ]. Yeah, on their Doctor Who pages. I heard they were meeting up in Colchester, which wasn’t far from where I lived, and so I went along. I had to ask at the bar where the Doctor Who fans were. The woman pointed in the corner and said, ‘They’re all over there’ with a disdainful look and a down turned mouth.
STUART: Before it was back in cool.
JAMES: Definitely. It was a very large group and everybody seemed to have a real laugh. And there were two fanzines being produced. I was writing lots of fan fiction at this time, and it was an output for that. Then he had this idea for FANZ.
STEVE: When Paul [Paul Ebbs] and I finished doing Season 27, The Profit of Doom, we decided to peddle our wares in this little fan group based in Colchester. Got some rave reviews from the guys in the group, and then we…
[Stuart calls out as to where these rave reviews came from ]
STEVE: You actually Stuart. [getting back on topic ] And that was it really. We just kept coming back for more. And at a BBQ I remember sneaking upstairs to audition for Graham. It came out very Tim Curry at the time.
MARTIN: I saw an advert at a convention I was attending at the time, and got in touch with Stuart and everything went from there really. As for the inception of Fanz, I had nothing to do with that.
JOHN: I saw an add on a fanzine in 1997, wrote in, turned up and they still haven’t got rid of me. Having been asked to be on the original writing team from day one sitting in huddled secret meetings chipping in the odd thing or two but mostly sitting back and admiring Stuart & James’ brilliance.

>3. Imagine this scenario… I’m a 32 year old brick layer, never been to a convention, and my favourite Doctor is Colin Baker. Give me the hard sell on FANZ.
SAM: [in a deep sultry voice ] Come on over here big boy. Try it, you might like it.
STUART: [in a somewhat less sultry voice ] If you didn’t like her – try me. [pauses ] You’re a sad fucker with no sense of humour, you wouldn’t like it. Comedy.
DUNCAN: Charmer! I just think it’s a very funny series. If you don’t like it, take the CD out, and the cover, and put something else in you’ve downloaded.
JAMES: Please buy it and save my ego.
STEVE: [in Graham’s most provocative voice ] I’ll show you how to lay a brick darling.
JOHN: A brick layer hmmmm. Fanz is a unique series of Audio Comedy dramas following the off the wall adventures of The C.U.T.S. Situations that any fan can identify with taken that one step beyond. It’s brilliant so listen to it. P.S. don’t tell Mr Baker about the couch gag!

>4. What were your major influences and inspirations? Also with regards to the characters themselves.
SAM: Well, nothing exciting really. I just played myself. [Howls of laughter from everyone else ] I’ll rephrase that then. I used my own voice and read Stuart’s lines. I got into the part. It was easy to play.
DUNCAN: In terms of humour I’m a big fan of Peter Sellars, which is possibly where the voice characteristic stuff comes in. Also a big fan of Morcambe & Wise, Mighty Boosh, and Reeves & Mortimer. As for the art, I love Rolf Harris and Tony Hart. Who are legends. The scripts… I kind of find the character within those. Kris would go towards The Master. I also wanted, although my voice isn’t that good, to make him sound like Christopher Lee. So I had to drink lots and smoke cigars before recording, to make my voice deep and gravelly. Javilian Smyke was fun because that was really high campery.
JAMES: I am Jonathan. Jonathan is me. He’s pathetic, unloved, terrible with women, and obsesses about nothing but Doctor Who. [There are plenty of agreeing chuckles from the others ] It hasn’t occurred to you before, I know. Jonathan started off sounding a bit new labour. He wasn’t supposed to be especially young or weedy. Just very sort of ‘Yar’, that sort of voice. It changed from there [James slips into character ] and now he’s sounding rather pathetic, and, and, won’t someone please love me. Sometime. I wish I had a lady chum. [snaps out of it ] That sort of thing, which has a lovely sort of pathos to it. So it was rather enjoyable to play it that way. Yes, it’s exactly like me.
    You’ll find that most of the FANZ characters have some sort of facets based around the people who play them. Stuart really is that boring. Duncan really is that scary. Stuart wears tank tops. Big stripey tank tops. And you’ve already heard Steve for himself.
STEVE: Basically any night you see me in Soho is probably where Graham comes from. I remember something happening at G-A-Y bar as well, but I’m not gonna mention that. [letting out his distinctive wicked laugh ]
SAM: Shut up!
STUART: Graham’s based on your life. We get that.
STEVE: Well, it’s not just my life is it. [more raucous laughing ] We stop there.
STUART: Anyway, moving on from the G-A-Y bar. I play Tom, and it is drawing on my own experiences. Whereby I’m completely indecisive. I do tend to wear an awful lot of tank tops. It is based on the guy Chris Langham was playing in ‘People Like Us’, and George in ‘Drop The Dead Donkey’. For most of the characters they were basically drawn from people we encountered.
    You had, at the time, the fan who hated everything and you wondered why they were a fan. You had the so called ‘rad’ fan, in Jonathan, who was ‘everything is fabulous’. Everything is Doctor Who. Every little poxy book. Cindy – it’s difficult to see why a girl would be hanging out with that group. So we had her there because she had the hots for somebody, and it was a very safe environment for Cindy to be. Cindy’s quite, on the face of it, a shallow character, but she is quite complex. She won’t go for a relationship she thinks is going to lead anywhere, because that’s too scary. She thinks she’ll fuck it up. So she goes for relationships that are going to go nowhere and collapse. Kate on the other hand. There were an awful lot of girls at the time in Doctor Who fandom who were, ‘women are great, men are bastards.’ You couldn’t say ‘what would you like to drink?’ without getting you’re arse kicked. Graham, well, speaks for itself really. Jeff was initially thought of just to wheel him in every now or then, and say something obscure for a cheap laugh. But as you all know he became a bit more important than that.
    There were things like ‘Drop The Dead Donkey’ which were gang shows. Which as far as I’m concerned, they’re master classes in comedy. How do you get seven or eight actors in one place and give them each space to do something?
MARTIN: I basically saw Gary as a very angry individual who believed the world was against him and he deserved a bit of a break, but underneath I think his heart was in the right [place] even if his brain wasn’t.
JOHN: Having no acting ability it evolved from me trying to sound Jeff’s age, as well as a mentally damaged drug addled ex hippy. This was awful and so Stuart suggested just using my own voice.

>5. Why the Camford United Tele-Fantasy Society?
SAM: Erm, because you [Stuart] wanted to use the word c*** but then couldn’t. So you changed it slightly.
STUART: It was a one joke thing. So, er…
JOHN: Originally it would have been Colchester United Tele-Fantasy Society after the town where The Unregenerate is based but I said this sounded like the local football team. Suggesting instead Camford as the opposite halves of Oxbridge and to the best of my knowledge a totally fictional name.

>6. In the beginning, did anyone have experience making audio plays? How did the first recording session go?
SAM: No, and badly. It took us absolutely hours and hours. It took us weeks. And the next morning. And it was hot. It just took ages and ages, and now we’ve got it down to like two hours.
STUART: No absolutely not. I think James was probably the only one who did have experience doing something.
DUNCAN: I did not have any audio experience. I remember lots of different stuff about it because I’d had a car accident, and I had to have some Vaseline because my steering column had gone into my kneecap. I had a blood soaked copy of the script that had been signed by Paul Cornell. I remember us having the microphone dangling from the light. I think we had a stocking tied round the top. I was still trying for the part of Kris. Martin wanted to be Kris and played it like Peter Miles.
    The first recording session was just fun. I remember standing behind the door of Stuart’s house and pretending I was behind a window.
JAMES: Because we couldn’t do post production.
DUNCAN: I actually had to stand behind glass.
STUART: We put you in the porch.
JAMES: I had done post production and radio work at university, so I did have some sort of idea of what I was doing. With the equipment we had – one single microphone hanging from the ceiling, which is why there’s a high amount of hiss. I wince now every time I listen to it. We had to rotate, so that everybody stood under the mic and said their bit, then stood back when it was somebody else. It did go on for a very long time. And yes, we did things like shutting Duncan in the porch, which was very entertaining. There’s some of that on the bloopers I think.
STEVE: As part of another group that was drafted in. [jeering from the back of ‘you would say that’ ‘what experience have you got’ ] I was part of FANZ from the beginning. Don’t you give me that load of old bollocks. Season 27 were honorary members of The Unregenerate. So piss off. So yes, plenty of audio experience at the time. Was I in the first one? I remember. I missed the first day and I came for the second day. I just remember getting terribly drunk; probably being horrendously embarrassing.
    It’s a load of fun. It didn’t matter how much experience anyone had. It wasn’t about coming to the table and saying ‘we know we’re doing a top notch professional job.’ It’s just gonna make everyone laugh. We’re gonna have a lot of fun doing it.
MARTIN: This was my first venture into audio acting, the only acting experience I had was on the stage in am/dram productions. For me it went well but as it was our first most of us were pretty nervous.
JOHN: Steve Johnson had been fulfilling everyone’s dream of playing The Doctor for Season 27 with Paul Ebbs and performing many of the other aspects producing their excellent plays. Otherwise I think we were audio virgins. It took all of an afternoon and evening and went relatively slowly considering the pace developed for the later recordings.

>7. In The Five Directors of Doom there are a number of notable guest stars (not least the inimitable Rupert Booth). How did that come about? Were they happy with their very colourful new personas?
STUART: That came about in an interesting way. We were trying to get some sort of advertising space in DWM, and the editor at the time, Clayton Hickman, met him down the Fitzroy Tavern, and he said, although subsequently I found out he was lying. He said ‘yes absolutely, if you can get some sort of Doctor Who connection in there.’ So as time went on, scripts went on, we devised the Five Directors. It was originally supposed to be about all of them trying to direct this fan film.
    By the time we got Dancing Queens and Maltese Video out, when we went to the Fitzroy Tavern talking to people about it. They were all saying ‘yeah. I’ve heard that. That’s really good.’ And so, with an ear to what Clayton had said about a Doctor Who connection, I started saying to people, ‘Well, okay, how would you like to be in one?’ The one that sticks in my mind is Jason Haigh Ellery. Me and Steve were in the Fitz, we were talking to Jason, and Steve said ‘by the way did you know Stuart does FANZ’, because I’m very backward about coming forward – or was in those days. Jason said, ‘oh that’s fabulous’ So I just went, ‘would you like to be in one? We’ve got one coming up which has a space for you.’ And he said ‘Yes. Absolutely no worries’ And me and Steve walked outside in a very controlled way, casually walking out chatting. Got outside, and screamed like girls. Could not believe that. Rob Shearman went much the same way. Alistair Lock. Rupert… he’s just a fag hag basically. If you give him a packet of fags he’ll do anything. [laughs] And you can print me on that.
DUNCAN: We were very lucky to have Marky D.
STUART: Oh yes. Mark Donovan, who was most recently seen in the cinema in ‘In Bruges’.
DUNCAN: What I remember about it – being jealous.
STUART: We couldn’t believe our luck. These people were coming down to do stuff in one of our plays. We still had microphones hanging from ceilings with stockings over the front as spit guards. And we couldn’t get everybody down on the same day. It was regrettable.
JOHN: With the exception of Mark Donovan all of them recorded separately to regular cast recordings. The severe case of the highly contagious but ultra rare Riboflavin Virus may have put them off or perhaps it’s just that even Big Finish don’t work on Sunday’s.
JAMES: Five Directors was also the first play where we really started pushing out with the hardware. We used Steve’s mixing desk, and we had at least two mics. At the very least we weren’t going to be embarrassed by asking these people to talk into a sock wrapped round a microphone.
[Call from the back of – ‘I think Rob would have liked that’.]
JAMES: Rob would have liked anything. Rob was great. Alistair Lock was great. And Jason Haigh Ellery, bless him, really did do his best, and was very good.
STUART: [I was] very conscious writing the script that these people really don’t have to do this, and it’s very easy to upset people because you’re doing this larger than life depiction of them. So each day I sent them their scenes, and asked ‘are you happy with this?’, and they didn’t care. If you’ve listened to Five Directors, Jason Haigh Ellery’s bits really do take the piss out of Jason Haigh Ellery, and he was absolutely fine with it. I can’t believe what we did to him and Rob Shearman.

>8. Samantha, how about a rendition of that peasant/servant accent you do so well?
(click to play)

And on that saucy cliffhanger we call a close to the first half of the interview. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of this interview coming soon. Featuring – whale-boy, Sylvester McCoy, and the alternate universes of FANZ.

Planet Skaro: The Interview

17 07 2008

No, not daleks. The audio makers. They’ve just embarked on a journey through their second season of stories. Episode one was released last weekend, and recently we’ve managed to round up a big chunk of the cast and crew for a Q&A on things past, present, and future. Planet Skaro’s certainly proved to be a thriving website with strong community spirit. For their first release, ‘Echoes of the Protii’, they raised over £200 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and continue to promote different charities with further releases. The colour coded culprits joining us can be viewed below.

Si Hart: Writer / Producer / Actor
Si Hunt: Writer / Producer / Actor
Steven Alexander: Writer / Producer / Plays companion Rob
Paul Monk: Plays The Doctor
Martin Penny: Writer / Actor
Pip Madeley: Artwork / Producer / Writer / Actor
Supporting Cast: Ant Cox, Tim Hawtin, Ant Williams

On with the questions…

> 1. How did it all get started? Why did you get involved in the Planet Skaro productions?
SI HUNT: Well, it all started with an idea! Si and I had written a story for a fan fiction website, using their Doctor and companions, called “Echoes of the Protii”. And one day I had the idea of making it into an audio play. Then I forgot the idea. Some time later, it popped back into my head and we did it! Luckily we had a follow-up story to turn into a sequel, and by the third play we’d decided to do it regularly and write our own scripts from scratch.

SI HART: As Si says, we wrote Protii and Soap many years ago and I was delighted when he came up with the idea of adapting Protii as an audio play. I was honestly astounded at the time at what we’d achieved, since none of us had had any experience of this kind of thing before. It was just something we were going to do once, make some money for Great Ormond Street hospital and that was that. It’s just grown and grown since!

STEVEN ALEXANDER: There was talk of doing a live-action Doctor Who related adventure. Sadly, this was far, far too hard and expensive so we did an audio only instead! I’ve always had a vague yearning to do some amateur dramatics, this was a good opportunity. Plus it’s a very good excuse to meet up with everyone from the forum without getting too drunk!

ANT COX: Without wishing to sound flippant, the answer is because I was asked! The reason I agreed is that I’ve been involved in Doctor Who fan productions in the past and have always thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

PAUL MONK: I honestly can’t remember. I was a regular on the Planet Skaro forum and was good friends with both Si’s. I’d like to think I volunteered for the part of the Doctor and then did a lengthy audition but I reckon Si Hunt got me drunk one night and got me to sign a 10 year legally binding contract. I thought I was signing a birthday card! J

TIM HAWTIN: Why not!? I was already a regular on the Planet Skaro message board & a regular at the annual meet in London so I was interested & I’ll try anything once…within reason. 😉

PIP MADELEY: It sounded like lots of fun! I’m the Technical Admin for the Planet Skaro website, so it’s been my job to help with the website, but the chance to make the covers was too good to miss! I like to do the occasional cameo in the actual recordings, but it’s the technical side that interests me most, particularly when I had the chance to produce the final episode of “Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes”. I enjoyed the freedom and control of shaping the episode together so much that I’ve agreed to produce a story to be released this winter, “The Curse of Ratanapura”. A cracking ghost story, but then I would say that, I co-wrote it! 🙂

ANT WILLIAMS: Because the people involved in making them are really good friends of mine. Also, I thought that they’d be a lot of fun (which they have been!)

> 2. The first two audios, ‘Echoes of the Protii’ and ‘The Soap of Fatal Death’, were adapted from novellas. What was that process like?
SI HUNT: Mostly quite dull and time consuming. It literally consisted of turning the story lines into lines of script, and then tweaking it to how we needed it. Then of course, we added extra bits according to cameos we wanted to fit in. In those days, we were trying to give everyone star spots, rather than casting to fit a group of characters, so there was often scenes shoehorned in to accommodate a favourite forum poster we’d persuaded to do a cameo!

SI HART: It was actually quite difficult. In prose it’s easy to report things back to the reader without actually showing them, as you can get inside the character’s heads, but with audio, we had to expand all those short cuts in the storytelling, and so the scripts were rather longer than they needed to be. I remember Si having to cut down Soap of Fatal Death quite brutally because we’d simply written and recorded too much material From that we’ve learnt to write concisely, which is good, but it was shame to lose some good material from the early stories.

> 3. What are your memories of the/your first recording session?
SI HUNT: Really good fun, but really hard work. I can remember, as is now common, sitting up in our spare room calling people in to record scenes for hours on end. We took a break to take some photos by the river for the cover, and then it was back in the bedroom for more slogging away. The climax involved a lot of noise and everyone crammed in the room together! But it was very good fun and I think people were surprised at how good the results were once the editing and post-production process had been completed.

SI HART: I remember everyone laughing a lot! But there was a lot of nervousness too. No one really knew what they were doing and we all sort of muddled through it together. We had a great day and no one could believe how quickly we’d got through it all in one day.

ANT COX: A bit hazy now as it was a good couple of years ago (if not more), but it was certainly an atmosphere of great excitement and enthusiasm (mind you, they all been like that!). It was definitely a learning experience for all of us, as I think subsequent stories have shown.

PAUL MONK: I was very nervous and unsure of myself. I felt a lot of pressure on me because I was The Doctor and I was worried I might let everyone down. Also we were raising money for charity and I was worried that I might let them down too. Once we started recording I realised that everyone else was nervous too and I started to enjoy myself.

MARTIN PENNY: I had recorded my lines for the first two audio stories on a microphone and emailed them in, and it was much more enjoyable actually interacting with the cast – although I recall being embarrassed about having to sing in front of people…my singing was…not the best!

STEVEN ALEXANDER: I remember in the very first scene we ever recorded, Rob had the line ‘Spanners, wires, an old Pentalion drive’. I corpsed like you wouldn’t believe and after 30 takes and gales of laughter, Si Hunt had managed to record most of the individual words and was able to cobble it together. It didn’t bode well! Although the rest of the recording went with hardly a hitch.

TIM HAWTIN: To be honest everyone seemed nervous but excited. Lots of out takes, lots
of swearing when my lines wouldn’t come out properly & lots & lots of laughs.

PIP MADELEY: My first cast recording session was for the second story, Soap of Fatal Death, and I remember having such a great time. It helped that my character, the conniving Rufus Sugar, had such memorable & funny lines. Doctor Who’s strength is the fact that you can take it anywhere and to do something so silly and enjoyable like acting in a spoof soap opera was a joy.

ANT WILLIAMS: Playing a rather camp villain, and having great fun camping it up in the

> 4. Has there been a change in the way you write, record and produce since the early days? Any lessons learnt along the way?
SI HUNT: Plenty! I used to try and edit the tracks whole and fit sound effects around them. Now I literally strip out every line then piece them all together again! It takes longer, but gives better results. Also I think we are very much aware of how long it takes to record, and trying to be economic with the roles we can record at different times. We’ve recently bought proper mike stands and popper shields to improve the quality of recording. The very first play involved some performances being submitted on cassette! All I can say is, never again! Those people sounded like they were underwater!

SI HART: I think we’ve learnt a great deal from every recording session. Each play has given us the chance to refine what we do and how we do it. As Si said we’re trying our best to reduce the popping on the dialogue recording, and trying to write more concisely so that we don’t have to record too much material. I think we’ve learnt a great deal really.

STEVEN ALEXANDER: Loads of lessons. Too many! With production, I found that sound effects and music should be used sparingly. If there’s more than one piece of music in a scene it’ll sound overcrowded, unless it’s a very long scene. Episode 2 of The Christmas Gnomes, which I produced, has so much sound it’s almost a musical! But then it is Christmas.

> 5. There’s a lot of history to the creation of this incarnation of The Doctor. How have you approached playing the part?
PAUL MONK: The part has evolved quite a lot since recording the first play Echoes of the Protii. Initially I had in my head a sort of Troughton / Davison type Doctor and I approached the role with that in mind. I had decided that he’d look sort of scruffy but actually be quite well spoken and so I gave him a slightly posh voice, which in hindsight didn’t work too well. Over the following plays I definitely relaxed into the Doctor and he’s now a more exuberant version of me, with my voice. I basically see him as a guy that just wants to see the sights with his friends and then sit down for a nice cup of tea but saving the universe keeps getting in the way.

> 6. What is the basis for the writing behind this Doctor, and is he a specific regeneration?
SI HUNT: We’ve never really explored where our Doctor fits in, and I’ve always assumed him to be an unspecified future Doctor. We concentrate more on his personality, knowing now how Paul plays him. I think we know him pretty well, so he leaps off the page really. Few stories have been about the Doctors past, as we prefer to look at his personality and how he reacts to his companions. I think we enjoy giving Paul tough emotional material to tackle! And if he steps out of line we just write a ridiculous hat into the story and force him to wear it for the cover shots.

SI HART: The first two stories were written for other Doctors, and I don’t think we necessarily worked to Paul’s strengths in those, and Paul has admitted he was quite nervous about playing the Doctor to begin with. As we’ve gone on, we’ve got a better idea of who this Doctor is, how he handles situations and he’s good fun to write for. I quite like the fact that we’re not specific about which Doctor he is. Whatever you do will always be contradicted by the TV show in the end, so it’s far better to keep it vague. One thing we were specific on was that we weren’t going to recreate a TV team. What’s the point? It’s always far better and easier in the end to do your own thing.

STEVEN ALEXANDER: The Paul Monk Doctor is defined by his blundering incompetence. In some ways he’s like a young William Hartnell, but he’s more likely to be the 80th regeneration than the first.

> 7. Nick is an unusual character, and seems to be the butt of a fair bit of sexual tension. What’s his place in the TARDIS?
SI HUNT: Nick is an alien, but paradoxically more level headed and balanced than our other companion, Rob. Being an alien stems from the character he replaced in the original version of the first story, and I developed this idea that the Doctor hatched him from an egg after sitting on him for 6 months, and gradually dropped it into conversations until it became fact (Paul has tried to claim that the Doctor must have invented some kind of incubation machine, but it’s not true!). But again we’ve never really looked at how the characters joined the Doctor; we’re more interested in whatever adventure they are in currently. But Nick is loyal to the Doctor, and his place in the TARDIS is as a sort of adopted son to him.

SI HART: Nick is great fun to write for. I’ve always seen him as a bit of an innocent, open to new experiences whatever they may be. His relationship with the Doctor has been good to develop and I like the fact that we’ve only hinted at what and who he is. It gives us lots of scope later on to explore his character and his past. I enjoy his banter with Rob, but we don’t seem to use them together too often sadly. They’re a pretty close knit TARDIS team for all their little arguments.

STEVEN ALEXANDER: Nick is actually the main character of most of the stories and is the romantic lead. His problem is that he never attracts the right kind or person, or even the right sex of person!

> 8. Is companion Rob terminally daft? Or will we see a transformation in future?
SI HUNT: No, I’m afraid Rob is a lost cause! But he’s not daft in a silly way, despite his eccentric way of talking sometimes. In himself, he’s very serious and very seriously wrapped up in his problems. Because he’s always got problems! Mainly sorting out where he stands with the other two, what he wants from life and messing up things by getting into trouble. I’m sorry to say the writers of next year’s stories have even more unfortunate messes lined up for Rob to get himself into!

SI HART: Poor Rob, he’s just misunderstood. I think he’s a good person underneath but he’s just a bit awkward and unsure about how to approach things. I hope the audience realises that! I think in a typical Doctor Who story it’s good to have a companion who gets things wrong and adds to the story’s jeopardy, it’s just that in ours it always seems to be Rob. He has had his heroic moments though and I’d argue through most of Magical History Tour he’s brilliant- he gets himself to where Nick is and even if he doesn’t get the girl, he does better than usual!

STEVEN ALEXANDER: I think Rob is in his late teens at the moment. I’m sure he’ll settle down by the time he gets to his thirties!

> 9. What’s it been like playing the same character for so long? Has much changed in the character or your acting?
STEVEN ALEXANDER: It’s tremendous fun playing a regular in these stories. I’m always pushing for more lines, a bigger slice of the cake, a comfier chair and payment of some kind.
Fortunately for me, Rob is quite pig-headed and unlikely to change too much as a character.

> 10. As a long serving supporting cast member, how do you find jumping from character to character with every new story?
SI HART: I suppose I’ve been lucky to have had some of the best roles in the plays so far! Vera Jundrey is a joy to play, mostly because of the really silly voice that just developed when we were first writing the story, and the character has been taken to the hearts of all that listens to the play (or so they tell me to my face anyway!). I hope the fun I have playing her comes across! It’s all in true panto tradition (and indeed due to the lack of women we have who are happy to be in the plays).

Playing Brian Epstein was difficult, but rewarding. It was hard work playing someone real and I didn’t really true and do an impression of him, because I didn’t feel comfortable (or indeed able) to do that. I hope that the spirit of the real Brian is in there somewhere.

Soap was difficult too, because those of us playing the stars of Clear Waters also had to play them playing the characters in the soap opera too, so it was two characters for the price of one. That’s why I played Daniel Nelson with my natural voice. I don’t think my joke of playing Ethan Fox really badly worked very well in hindsight, but it seemed to go down well at the time.

At the moment I’m having a break from acting in the plays, other than as small bit parts when they’re needed, as I think people will get sick of me and I’ll exhaust my ability, such as it is. I’d love to play a villain sometime though.

ANT COX: Quite easy for me, as my two biggest parts have both been security guard types (now the subject of a running gag!) so there wasn’t a huge amount of variance between them. I did play a villain in a Doctor-less spin-off story, which was enjoyable, although I did end up slipping into the voice of Nyder from Genesis of the Daleks! Even though the other bits and bobs I’ve done have been more minor parts, they’ve perhaps been more challenging in that they required accents and/or funny voices. The most fun voice-wise was a Reindeer with a speech impediment, but the entire scene I was in was cut from the story!

MARTIN PENNY: My first two characters were mainly just me playing myself, but I’ve gotten some very varied roles since then – including a pirate and Freddie Mercury! I consider myself lucky to have gotten such a wide variety of roles, and now have two recurring characters to play who are vastly different.

TIM HAWTIN: I’m not sure I’d class myself as a regular but I am in 3 of the first 5 plays (my last being Gnomes) & all 3 characters were very different. I’d place my self as a method actor in that I feel I need to get in character & stay there. I wasn’t great in Protii & it makes me wince when I listen to myself. I also like to have more instruction than probably most of the
others guys, so I know where I’m coming from in the story.

PIP MADELEY: It’s interesting, I’ve played pirates, doormen, a 10 year old boy, a tree and an intergalactic Brian Blessed. Madness! All to varying degrees of success of course. Voices can be difficult, especially accents. I wouldn’t mind a crack at playing the Doctor, but not until our Paul Monk has had many many adventures!

ANT WILLIAMS: Well, I was quite pleased to reprise the role of Scott (who I originally played in the first episode, “Echoes of the Protii”) in “The Christmas Gnomes”. One role I played, I pretty much played a younger version of myself, and in another, a more evil version of myself. Maybe I’m just getting typecast!?

> 11. The stories range in tone from the silly (Christmas Gnomes) to the emotional (Magical Mystery Tour). Who brings which elements to the writing?
SI HUNT: That’s a difficult question. I think the writer of “Gnomes” (who also plays Rob!) definitely brought a welcome sense of silliness to that story. I think it’s ironic that Si and I are both quite silly people, but we seem to write quite seriously. When I write alone it often comes out quite bleak. But when I script edit, I tend to strive to add more humour to other peoples work, which I think is ultimately appreciated by the actors as it tends to add colour to the scenes. Sometimes new writers don’t realise that every line has to be different, or entertaining, or absurd, because even one dull line is not good.

SI HART: It’s difficult to say really. It’s been such a collaborative process that it’s not easy to say who came up with what idea and how it’s all evolved. I have to say that I love writing the character stuff best of all and it was great to be able to have the space in Magical History Tour to write lots of that kind of material for Rob and Nick. Then of course we have Steven Alexander’s notorious ad libs… I’m not sure what they add to each story though!

STEVEN ALEXANDER: I’m probably responsible for the ludicrous bits, Si Hunt is responsible for the outrageous bits and Si Hart is responsible for most of the jokes that are funny. I think it was very brave of the two Si’s to try for something more emotional in Magical History Tour and very impressive that it worked. It’s much easier to keep a cynical audience engaged with more humour – and in my opinion, the listeners to fan audios are likely to be the most cynical of the lot with their fingers poised on the ‘off’ switch.

> 12. Who is responsible for ‘Man Hole’ and why is it not on itunes or all good record stores yet? [from Keepsake]
SI HUNT: “Manhole” is a song by a rather wonderful singer we happen to know called Lorraine Bowen. It’s not, alas, available as a single but is on her CD “Lorraine Bowen’s Vital Organs” available from Lorraine herself makes a cameo in “Soap of Fatal Death”, singing a few bars of another of her songs, “Crumble”.

ANT COX: God only knows – there are some criminal injustices in this world, aren’t there?

STEVEN ALEXANDER: Manhole is a song by Lorraine Bowen, obscure but brilliant cabaret artiste and underground celebrity. Check out her Myspace profile.

PIP MADELEY: Good question! I don’t think the world is ready for Lorraine Bowen; she’s so ahead of her time. Getting her to perform a cameo in “Soap of Fatal Death” was a real coup. Maybe we can get Jim Bowen, or even Christopher Bowen next.

ANT WILLIAMS: Because there is no justice in this world!

> 13. The title ‘Doctor Who and the Christmas Gnomes’ -are you trying to start more arguments? Which side of the fence are you on?
SI HUNT: I can’t remember how that got started, but I insisted on keeping it like I made sure nobody sneakily dropped the exclamation mark from “Heist!”. It just works better, not to mention keeping to the slightly offbeat nature of the story. Like “The Silurians”, “The Christmas Gnomes” as a title would be slightly lacking something.

SI HART: I always thought it was a homage to the Target Book titles. Really though it was just a bit of fun for Christmas!

STEVEN ALEXANDER: In the story, Father Christmas refers to the Doctor as ‘Doctor Who’ throughout. I thought this befitted Father Christmas’s status as an iconic, mythical character. Anyone who transcends fiction like Father Christmas should be able to call him ‘Doctor Who’. On the other hand, the story also implies that Father Christmas discovered his name through using a mild psychic probe, so ‘Who’ might just be a placeholder for a man with no surname. The ending of the story too implies that ‘Who’ is not his real surname, though the Doctor doesn’t flat out deny it. People should form their own opinions!

> 14. How has recording been for the new stories?
SI HART: Heist! Was recorded almost in real time and in story order, which was a first. We’ve tried to encourage some other members of the forum to join us this time round, which was good as you hear different voices and get different inputs from the casts. Oh and Si Hunt made another round of wonderful sandwiches.

ANT COX: As fun as it’s always been, though the last few have been much improved from a technical point-of-view by means of more microphones and pop-shields.

PAUL MONK: Good fun. We all have a great laugh and the recording days are more like friends getting together and having a party. In fact that’s exactly what they are.

STEVEN ALEXANDER: Efficient, professional and great fun! We’ve brought in some new people, which is always a joy especially when they put in a good performance. Mike Talks and Alex Finch in particular have come in and made excellent contributions this year. My only concern is that we could do with a few more female voices, to vary the sound of the plays if nothing else.

PIP MADELEY: I find that recording becomes slicker every time we get together; it’s a real learning curve for everyone involved. We recently invested in professional recording equipment and I think that shows in the end productions. Recordings are always great fun though and there’s always a role for newcomers, whether its writing, acting or production.

ANT WILLIAMS: I’m quite sad to say that I haven’t been in them, due to other commitments.

> 15. One of the new stories, ‘The Paradise Machine’, is by a new author for Planet Skaro – Martin Penny. What might we expect?
SI HUNT: You can expect a very traditional adventure for the Doctor, and a very sinister new foe (which Martin wrote for himself to play). We hadn’t done one set on a spaceship before, and it’s also based around a very clever central idea. And you can expect a peek into the dreams of our companions, as they are both imprisoned in a world of their desires!

MARTIN PENNY: With, ‘The Paradise Machine’, I wanted to keep the same tone as the previous audio’s, and also take advantage of things that had not currently been done. In some ways I think it’s a very traditional Doctor Who story – with a space station, evil executives, robot guards, and plenty of escapes and captures!

> 16. Has making these audios opened up any aspirations beyond fan audios? Will we see any names in lights one day?
SI HUNT: I’m not sure, but what I will say is, we do these for fun and no-one has delusions of grandeur! I think essentially they are the product of a fun day of recording, and that’s how I always like to look at them. “Come over, have a laugh, and take home a CD as a momento”. Well, take it home three months later. That said, we are constantly getting new writers on board, so I don’t see why success shouldn’t find them at a later date if they are good enough. So long as they remember who started them off when they are rich and famous!

SI HART: Who knows. For the moment it’s just for fun. I really enjoy the writing, and the recording and it’s not for me to say if either is good enough to go professional!

STEVEN ALEXANDER: Maybe. Look out for Steven Alexander’s story in the forthcoming Big Finish short story collection, ‘How The Doctor Changed My Life’.

ANT COX: It’s certainly inspired me to do something beyond fan audios, but I’ll say no more about that for the moment…. I doubt you’ll ever see my name in lights, but there’s at least one actor who’s been involved who is, in my opinion, very capable of acting on a professional basis….

PAUL MONK: I’m on the phone to BBC Wales as you read this!

MARTIN PENNY: I’ve always dreamt of being a voice actor, and I always enjoy creating new voices and speech patterns for the characters I have played. So, hopefully, one day, I might get somewhere!

TIM HAWTIN: LOL Are you kidding!!!? Have you heard me!? No, I’m nowhere near good
enough & I know it. Know your limits & I do believe I’ve reached mine. 🙂

PIP MADELEY: Perhaps! We’re not out to become the next Big Finish of course; it’s just a fun little sideline of the Planet Skaro forums. It’s a very rewarding hobby and I’ve made many friends through it. Although the stories are offered as a free download, we also take the opportunity to raise money for our favourite charities, so there’s an added incentive to get hold of the limited edition CDs in the knowledge that every single penny will go to a good cause.

ANT WILLIAMS: Not really – acting’s too difficult a profession to get rich in 😉

> 17. Obligatory question – favourite Doctor and why?
SI HUNT: Paul Monk of course, because he’s fab!

SI HART: I love them all, but for me it’ll always be Tom. He was my hero as a young kid and his Doctor has always been my favourite.

ANT COX: If we’re talking PS Audios, then there’s a bit of a narrow choice, isn’t there? In general though, I’d say Tom Baker, but I like them all for different reasons. In some cases it’s like trying to compare apples with oranges!

PAUL MONK: Cop out answer time. All of them! Oh all right. If I had to pick one it would be Peter Davison. I only really remember the end years of Tom Baker so Peter was really the Doctor I grew up with and they’re always the one you like best aren’t they?

STEVEN ALEXANDER: Sylvester McCoy. When the director nailed him down and forced him to give a good performance, he was astounding.

TIM HAWTIN: Tommy B. He’s da main man! Even if he is a little odd…actually that’s probably why, birds of a feather and all that. 😉

PIP MADELEY: Paul Monk’s Doctor of course! Anyone who likes tea and Battenburg has got to be nice, right?

ANT WILLIAMS: Sylvester McCoy. He was MY Doctor (or the closest thing to!)

> 18. You’ve blown up the TARDIS, brought back the time-space visualizer, had a Doctorless story, brought us Brian Epstein and a Scottish Santa Claus. Where do you go next? What’s in store for season two?
SI HUNT: The 2008 season features many wonders, most of them poached by Big Finish before we have been able to release them! I’m joking of course. It’s the cruelty of timing. Our Doctor faces his first robotic enemies this year, acquires a wife and journeys up a living tree. Is this enough? He also faces a very, very old foe from the “proper” series and we also have another Christmas Special being written as we speak. So lots to look forward to!

SI HART: Anywhere we want really. That’s the fun of having our own Doctor and our own series of stories. We can do anything we like! We’ve got a new companion on the way which we hope will show some different sides to our Doctor and we’re trying out some 2 part stories so that we can try and get lots more stories and some more variety too.

STEVEN ALEXANDER: A new companion, the Baron of Boralis, a taste of Paradise, the Zunestra Collection and a shocking betrayal!

Sigma Phi Kappa: The Zorbosian Trilogy

12 06 2008

Now Playing in the Theatre.

First formed back in 2001, the American production group Sigma Phi Kappa created a variety of stories over the coming years – starting with Doctor Who. After chatting with writer/producer Steve Mollmann, he’s agreed to re-air their trio of Doctor Who stories, The Moons of Zorbos, The Zorbosian Invasion of Mars, and Destiny of Zorbos. Botcherby’s will be streaming them all for the foreseeable future. You can find them on the Theatre Page.

If that wasn’t enough, many of the cast and crew also agreed to answer a series of questions about their experiences making audio dramas. There’s a full list of credits for each story in the Theatre, but to give you an idea of who’s who in the Q&A – we have:

Steve: Writer / Producer / Post Prod / Actor
Chris T: Plays The Doctor / Writer
David: Plays companion Lieutenant Kantasion
Adam: Plays villain The Overlord
Grady, James S, Stephen, Catherine: Supporting Cast
Geoffrey: Script Editor

The interview was conducted via email, and all answers are verbatim (with a couple of trimmed sentences). With so little editing it’s a tad long, but worth the read. 14 questions in all. There are also a couple of spoilers in there which I’ve tried to point out. This is the first feature of it’s sort on Botcherby’s so your comments would be appreciated.

1. Sigma Phi Kappa’s first audio production was The Moons of Zorbos. How did the audio group get started? Why did you do it? And why Doctor Who?
CHRIS T: Steve Mollmann and I founded a Sci-Fi club at our High School. One day when Steve and I were brainstorming as to what we could do as club activities Steve said “We should do a Doctor Who audio drama” meaning we would listen to one in the meeting. I missunderstood and agreed emphatically, “we totally should, but who would play the Doctor?” Basicalliy all of Sigma Phi Kappa productions stemmed from a misscommunication.
STEVE: We were all in high school together– and all members of a Science Fiction Club that we founded and ran. I had gotten into Doctor Who pretty recently– Chris Tracy had turned me onto it– and the Big Finish audio dramas in specific. I was listening to the eighth Doctor ones. This was back in 2001, so I’d heard of his first season. I thought we should listen to one at an SFC meeting, so I said, “We should do an audio drama.” This was misinterpreted by someone else, and everything sprang from there. The name Sigma Phi Kappa was coined by Chris; it’s the Greek letters for “SFC”.
CATHERINE: I got involved because my brother “runs” it, it being in his room. I don’t remember if he offered or if I wanted to.
DAVID: More or less, the majority of the founding members for SPK prod. were my friends; therefore to me, the recording sessions were mainly nice opportunities to hang out with my friends as opposed to contributing something to the fandom. I was a bit familer with Star Trek but had little exposure to Dr. Who at the time; our high school Sci-Fi club (of which said friends and I founded), helped get me up to speed on the Doctor’s complete and total awesomeness. In addition, the more esoteric aspects of fandom, like the yahoo-group-based fanfic-stories for Foundation that I was a part of, were still quite unfamilier to me, so it was enjoyable to take part in something I had little awareness about.
GRADY: To be honest, a lot of the actual “founding” was done by Steve Mollmann; the group itself came about because we were all high school friends of relatively similar ages and interests. I personally really got into it because I enjoy acting on any medium, and liked the idea of making an audio drama. I think the Doctor Who universe was chosen as the backdrop because of its overall openness in addition to being an overall well-liked science fiction program for all of us.
ADAM: As I remember it, it was Steve who wrote the first script, inspired in part by the Big Finish Dr. Who audios which one by one were being passed around among our group of friends at the time. I first got involved in the actual audio and acting end of things when we were sitting down at lunch one day, passing around his finished script. We were each taking a part, just to see how it sounded, and I volunteered for the part of the Overlord. I asked Steve what a giant slug would sound like and the guidelines he gave me were the slurping noises and to sound big.
JAMES S: The group really stemmed out of our group of friends at high school and the lunchtime conversations. It also to a certain extent was part of the same burst of activity that founded the Science Fiction Club at our school. In fact that is where the name comes from. Steve was at the time listening to Big Finish audio adventures and lending them out. We all enjoyed them and Steve sort of decided that he could make one himself. Thus it was born. I guess the reason for Doctor Who was the fact that we were inspired by Big Finish for at the time most of us were bigger Star Trek fans and had seen very little Doctor Who, something that has changed. I personally did it because everyone else I knew was and it sounded like fun.
GEOFFREY: Afraid I can’t really be much help with this. My role was story editor on one of the segments, which means that Steve sent me the script and I sent it back with a whole bunch of comments added in red. He knew I had a lot of proofreading and copy-editing experience, both fannish and professional, and at the time I had enough spare hours so was glad to help out. As an in-joke thank-you, you can catch my online name ‘Wersgor’ in the background loudspeaker babble during the scenes in the alien weapons mall. I never got to meet anyone else involved in the production in person, though!
STEPHEN: I’m sure much of this is redundant to what others will write, but the group came out of members from the science fiction club we founded in our high school. It was Steve Mollmann’s project, and while I was unfamiliar with Doctor Who at the time beside a couple episodes that the sci-fi club showed, Steve and other members had been fans (and I know at least Steve was a fan of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio productions which were I think of the greatest inspirations). We could tell a collaborative story of epic proportions that wasn’t just a written story and could still be achieved without the effort of a grand video production.

2. What was the inspiration for the story? Was it originally planned as a trilogy, or did that occur later?
CHRIS T: The story was inspired by two elements in our high school experiance. A teacher at our school who was the assistant principal for discipline who also happend to be a huge sci-fi fan (Commander O). And our friend Adam who we all likened to a giant slug due to his tendancy to lick his lips contantly.
JAMES S: I think the idea for the trilogy occured later.
GRADY: A lot of the little details were actually inspired by a teacher of ours who eventually became an assistant principal, Mr. Odioso. His self-given nickname was Commander O, and he would often speak of Zorbos and Saint Itation. I’m not entirely certain if it was initially planned to be a trilogy, but it certainly had hit that point by the time The Zorbosian Invasion of Mars was being produced.
ADAM: The Moons of Zorbos was originally a one-off written, as I said, by Steve Mollmann, but we had such a blast doing the first one that we immediately wanted to make a second. It fell on his shoulders again to put together the reunion of these characters, and this time he had plans not only for a sequel but for the final volume in the trilogy as well.
STEVE: A couple of us had had a rather… eccentric history teacher named Mr. Odioso. He frequently would refer to himself as Commander O. One day, he came to class dressed as an alien gray and informed us that he was Commander O, an emissary from the Moons of Zorbos, and that the Time Lords of Zod had decided that our planet was rife for economic contact, but only if we developed our technology a bit. He then divided us up into groups and made us come up with plans and left; Mr. Odioso entered the classroom a little later, apologizing for his tardiness and wondering what he had missed. The whole thing was supposed to teach us something about the coming of Commodore Perry and the Americans to Japan.

[Ed – **contains spoilers**]
Anyway, when I was casting about for a story idea, that seemed a natural fit. Much of the background of The Zorbos Trilogy comes from things Mr. Odioso would talk about– the moons themselves, the Time Lords of Zod, Blinky the Space Dog, “preliminary announcements”, Saint Itation, Silver and Gold, the base on Mars and the destruction of the NASA probes, &c. I somehow wove these together into a story. A lot of what pops up in the stories stems from things that were going on in school at the time, actually– the Doctor is always quoting John Donne’s “Meditation XVII” in Destiny of Zorbos because I had just read it in English class, for example. Doctor Who references were usually determined by what I’d seen recently: the Daleks are a time-active power in the first one because I’d just seen Remembrance for the first time, the Ice Warriors show up in the second because I’d just heard Red Dawn, and there’s references to Kinda and The Awakening in the third because I was watching the fifth Doctor at the time. (An additional bit of inspiration for the first one was a suggestion from Chris that if the Time Lords of Zod were capturing time travellers, they might have gotten the time traveller from The Time Machine.)

Originally, it was just the one. Which certainly caused us a lot of bother when we decided we wanted to do more! After all, I’d killed off basically everyone. It was sort of at the back of my mind, which is why Commander O and his officer escape, but I didn’t know how to pull it off– there were a lot of false starts on how we would get the Overlord back, what everyone would be up to, and so on. Obviously when I wrote the second, I knew there was going to be a third, so there are a couple forward references– not to mention the huge cliffhanger! I had a vague outline worked out, so I knew what temporal shenanigans needed to be set up. I did figure out what Lord Xtoyun’s one line in Destiny would be so we could record it during the Zorbosian Invasion recording session, since I knew he wouldn’t play a major role. And then I spent some time figuring out how to work that one line in!
[Ed – **/spoilers**]
STEPHEN: The Moons of Zorbos is a collection of inside jokes that focuses mostly (if not solely) around a teacher we had during our freshman year, Mr. Odioso, who taught World History. There was a time in class when he wasn’t present and all of a sudden the lights turned off – a masked figure walked the dark room in silence, and then proclaiming to the room that he was Master O of the Moons of Zorbos (or something similar to this, my memory is very fuzzy), which then proceeded into a quirky in-class essay assignment. Definitely not making this up. Blinky the Space Dog would be referenced in class from whatever whims of Odioso’s imagination. Yes, we did give copies of the dramas to him during our senior year (he assumed the position of Assistant Principal by then), and yes, he loved them!

3. Does it have a place in the Doctor Who timeline? Was it written for a particular Doctor?
GRADY: I don’t believe so, but Steve would probably be best to answer that question as the primary writer.
STEPHEN: I always imagined our Doctor as the fourth, especially given his penchant for jelly babies, though Steve can give you a much better idea of where this takes place in the Doctor Who universe.
STEVE: When I started writing it, it was supposed to be for the fourth Doctor, since Chris thought that was the Doctor he could imitate the best. Originally, K-9 would have battled it out with Blinky the Space Dog in the closing scenese. But when Chris read my early script pages, he thought it sounded more eighth Doctor, which made sense, as I’d been listening to those audio dramas, so we made the switch and K-9 was dropped. (Which was probably for the best, as I’ve no idea how I would have done his voice!) My thought was that The Zorbos Trilogy took place after the TV movie and before the Big Finish audio dramas.

Later, when I thought of the second trilogy that never went anywhere, I came up with this idea that the Chris Tracy Doctor was a 7.5th Doctor, taken out of his own timeline during the regeneration scene in the TV movie, so that he looked like Paul McGann (as per the covers) but sounded completely different (and a bit American, no doubt because of his environment). The trilogy would have ended with him being returned to his natural place in time to preserve the universe. Or something. It was a bit overcomplicated and totally irrelevant to the story we did get.

You’re probably best off just imagining the Chris Tracy as his totally own incarnation and avoiding all this nonsense. He’s a bit ruder and more condenscending than Paul McGann ever was.
JAMES S: It was written for the Eighth Doctor.
CHRIS T: The idea was that this would be a Paul McGann adventure post The Enemy Within. But my BAD acting makes it sound kinda like the fourth Doctor at times.
ADAM: I think in the end we decided it was most likely a 7.5 Doctor audio. Chris’s performance reminded us a lot of the eigth Doctor, with a dash of the fourth thrown in as well. He ascribed the eigth Doctor influence to the Big Finish audios, as their new set of Doctor and Charlie had begun and were the freshest in his mind.

4. [Chris T] On playing the part of The Doctor, what/who did you base your performance on?
CHRIS T: I was attempting Paul McGann, I swear. You’d prolly never know by listening too it but such is life. I was raised Doctor Who by my parents and the Tom Baker will always be my favorite Doctor. No doubt this slipped in from time to time.

5. [Adam J] The Overlord is a very extroverted role, and seems to come naturally. Is there something of yourself in it?
ADAM: There’s probaby a bit more of the Overlord in me now than there was in high school! Back then I simply enjoyed doing funny voices and I would pass the time at my job by holding conversations with myself in different characters. With other people, however, I was a much more withdrawn sort, at least around those who I didn’t really know. Not quite painfully shy, but shy enough. I enjoyed playing the Overlord immensely, though, and at times I still find myself muttering to myself in those bombastic tones. And of course hold entire conversations between myself and my temporally shifted older self about involving a third iteration of myself in a plan to take over the galaxy was just awesome!

6. What are your memories of your very first recording session? How did it go? Did the experience change with later recordings?
CHRIS T: Chaos. We had no idea what we were doing. Steve also started editing the begining of Episode 1 together while we were all still at his place. With the rising complexity of SPK productions, we nolonger get to see most of the editing process just because it takes Steve so long.
GRADY: I remember we were all swapped around for each scene in a small-ish den area, clustered around a small microphone and trying not to make too much excess noise. This was rather difficult, but we obviously got it done. Later recordings were done in a much more sound-friendly location with a much better mic.
JAMES S: I was not actually able to go to the very first recording session. So, I stopped by Steve’s house one day after school all by my self and recorded the lines for the guard. In fact I recorded earlier than everyone else so I guess they missed the first recording session. It was rather awkward I remember, because I had no one to act against and I was just reading silly guard lines into the microphone.
STEVE: I had a very cheap microphone that came with my computer, and we sat it on a table and sort of kneeled around it. James couldn’t make it on the day where we did everyone else’s lines, so I did his earlier, which is why his voice is so much louder than everyone else’s– without other people to hog space, he could stand right next to it! If anyone messed up, we would stop recording the scene and start over. Which made it quite difficult, as you might imagine.

It was always a blast; the bloopers will reveal that we were certainly enjoying ourselves. We got pretty proficient at it eventually, and could knock those things out in no time.

Before the second one, I got a fifteen-dollar microphone at Radio Shack, which was a world of improvment. I also stole my sister’s music stand to hold the scripts on. I still have that, actually, six years later, and still use it. It’s a good thing she gave up on band.
ADAM: I think we ended up doing the first recording session at Steve’s house, and it was a blast. Though, to be fair, at some points all of our sessions seem to blend together. We really quickly set up some habits for recording however, with those of us involved clumped around the microphone hanging from Steve’s ceiling or clipped to an old music stand, and the rest of us down stairs causing general mayhem and mischief. The whole recording experience for the most part didn’t change inherently so much as grow more and more complicated. After our Zorbos trilogy we branched off to do so many different projects that they started to become quite complex. Steve managed it all with great aplomb, for the most part, however, and they never failed to be a great time. I’m glad that I never had to coordinate our schedules, especially once college stared for us all… I know the one time Chris did he swore that his level of respect of Mollmann had been raised by an order of magnitude.
STEPHEN: I was very excited to play my role because even though I was less familiar with Doctor Who, I loved the book The Time Machine and thought the crossover of this character’s story into the Doctor’s was extremely clever. I only wish I had the acting skills at the time to do the character more justice. As future recordings continued we became more used to the pacing and the process went more smoothly.
CATHERINE: One time, I couldn’t for the life of me say, “Please be more specific”. I kept saying “pacific” instead of “specific” and finally, after numerous tries, we gave up and just used the best one. Also, I remember, in one of my roles, I was a Nabian girl and was very annoying–I wanted to play with a big gun.
DAVID: For the first Dr. Who audio drama, “The Moons of Zorbos”, I could not maintain any particular voice for my character, Lt. Kantasion (of The Patrol!). Pretty much in every scene or every line, I would switch up accents in some way or another. It was quite embarassing and I therefore cringed whenever my brother Stephen, fellow audio-drama participant, would insist on playing it on long drives for our parents. . .

I always enjoyed Lt. Kantasions’s growing fetish for his laser-rifle in later episodes.

Playing as my own character, Otis, in the Foundation series was very cool indeed; being my own character, his actions and personality were, uh, obviously, much more easy for me to transfer to the mic during the recording sessions than the other characters. But I always liked it when I was cast as a villain; I recall being Cry Rcy’s evil rival-whose-name-escapes-me as an enjoyable one.

7. How did you find being an actor?
CATHERINE: I only has small parts, but it was fun. It was also cool to see my voice changed on the final product, such as for the role of the computer.
DAVID: I like doing silly impressions and voices in my head; unfortunately, they don’t always come out the way I imagine when I have to actually speak. . .

8. What was used for post production, sound effects and music? How did you find the task of sound mixing?
STEVE: Originally, I used a cheap program that had come with my computer’s cheap mic. I don’t even know what it was called, but it got the job done. I had had absolutely no experience with that sort of thing before, and I was thanking God when I discovered the “Paste Mix” function, because I’d had no idea how I was going to get two sounds to play at once! I took to it rather easily, to be honest; I don’t think sound mixing is a very hard thing to do. (Good sound mixing is a different thing entirely, of course.) Obviously, as I went along, I got better at it; I think you can hear a progression as you move through the installments of the trilogy. Eventually, I replaced my cheap program with Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge 6; I think this happened after I finished up on The Zorbosian Invasion of Mars. I was able to do a lot more at that point.

Initially, I got most of my sound effects off the Internet; the Doctor Who WAV Archive was a massive help. I think most of their sound effects came from holding a microphone up to a TV playing a poor VHS copy of an episode, though, and it shows. As time went of, I replaced their versions of common noises like the TARDIS materialization, the transmat beam, and so on with ones I’d ripped directly from the Big Finish CDs or some of the DVDs of the classic episodes. My other primary source was a collection of sound effects from classic Star Trek that Chris loaned me. I think more of the trilogy’s sound effects come from Star Trek than Doctor Who, actually! Most of the sound effects relating to the Ice Warriors were stolen from the computer game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Basically, I’d take these things from wherever I could get them.

My favorite sound effect in the whole thing is that of the anti-artron bomb powering up; its simply a giant penny slowly spinning with a filter put over it. A special mention has to go to the control buttons from classic Star Trek, which are used by both the Doctor and the Zorbosians!

Music was ripped off of a variety of sources. The main theme was the TV movie one by John Debney: for the first two installments, I used a copy from the WAV Archive. The end theme for the first two was the David Arnold theme from the audio dramas because the WAV Archive hadn’t had the Debney end theme! The incidental music for The Moons of Zorbos came from (again) classic Star Trek; I had a CD full of the stuff, and it was the most over-the-top music I could find. I think Dudley Simpson would be proud. The incidental music for Zorbosian Invasion came from Star Trek: Voyager, specifically the “Bride of Chaotica!” episode. As that episode was designed to emulate 1930s serials, it was again perfectly over-the-top. Before doing Destiny, I picked up the soundtrack CD for the TV movie, and I replaced the themes I’d been using with ones from there. Almost all of the music for that installment comes from that CD, bar one theme by Malcolm Clarke.

My favorite bits of music are the incredibly dramatic theme that follows the introduction of Blinky the Space Dog, and the way I used the music from the TV movie’s prologue underneath Destiny’s opening scene.
ADAM: Steve was the big post production man, with Chris taking a hand in the mixing and music of his own personal project. One of the really cool things, I think, about listening to all of the Zorbos trilogy in a row, is how Steve’s skills and resources improve vastly from one part of the story to the next. By the time we started to branch out into other areas, such as our Star Wars audio, his chops had gotten to the point that space battles and force powers were well within his reach.

9. Looking back on it, what was it like putting yourself out there on the internet, for anyone to hear?
CHRIS T: I loved it, but I love attention so no shocker there. I would LOVE to do another Dr. Who audio drama and we have tossed around the idea of a film. Who knows…
GRADY: It was exciting, to be honest. The idea that anyone could download and listen to this thing we made of their own volition was a very exhilarating thing.
CATHERINE: I never really thought about it since I figured not _that_ many would hear it and I never had a big role.
JAMES S: It was fun. At the time I felt that the internet was brand new and I was just glad to be out there. Also I was more worried about what the people at Sci-Fi Club would think since we had listenings and gave them out there.
DAVID: To tell the truth, oftentimes I forget that Steve Mollmann has put the dramas on the internet! Sorry, Steve! But I would think that it’s really neat being part of something that was both fun to do, and something that the fandom seems to appreciate, to an extent!
STEVE: The Doctor Who audio dramas were hardly ever up on the Internet, and I never heard from a soul about them! So it didn’t really feel like anything at all. A few people listened to our Star Trek ones, and the response was generally positive.

The only thing we did that got any sort of exposure was Star Wars: Betrayed Federation. I guess I was mildly nervous, but I’d heard what else was out there, and felt our stuff was just as good. A lot of the prominent Star Wars audio dramas were pieced together from people recording all over the place, and it shows. The response to that was entirely positive; some guy e-mailed me to say his kid loved it, and that pretty much made my month!
STEPHEN: I never imagined that this would be heard by many people, but I was always willing to put creative work out for other fans to enjoy.
ADAM: Honestly, I rarely think about the possiblity that other people could/would be interested in our audios. Though I’m always super-psyched whenever I hear that someone not from our group has listened to and enjoyed our work. Actually one of the high points of having stuff on the internet was when I was featured on a Star Wars audio site as “voice-actor of the week” or somesuch. Completely floored me!

10. What other audio productions did Sigma Phi Kappa create? Of them all, do you have a favourite? If so – Why?
GRADY: Let’s see, we also produced Star Trek: Foundation, Star Wars: Betrayed Federation, and Rhenus Coldanus Exploring the Universe to my recollection. I’d say my favorite was the last one; it was purely original, but it also incorporated a new form of writing we’d not tried before, namely each chapter was written by a different individual on the project.
STEVE: There were four Star Trek audio dramas, which sort of alternated with our Doctor Who ones. These were called Star Trek: Foundation and concerned the adventures of the crew of a science vessel typically throw into situations beyond its capabilities. There were four episodes: Foundation and Imperium, Nemesis, Lest We Remember, and A Choice of Catastrophes. These had many more characters than the Doctor Who ones and suffered a lot as a result; they were too ambitious for my skills at the time, both writing-wise and technical. I got better as we went along; I still think A Choice of Catastrophes is best thing I’ve done; it’s all set in one room, and it focuses primarily on one person and his decisions.

My favorite, though, is the Star Wars audio we did, Betrayed Federation. The final product, for once, was exactly what I’d imagined going in. It’s simple– the tale of two bickering Jedi Masters going up against the Trade Federation– but it’s loads of fun. It’s got incredible Force feats, bounty hunters, lightsaber duels, Mandalorians, an oppressed mining colony, and bad Chinese accents. What else do you need from Star Wars?

Since then, we’ve abandoned “fan” audio dramas. I’m currently working on a serialized story called Rhenus Coldanus Exploring the Universe, about a plant-alien, a robot drone, and their adventures. It’s a series of fifteen-minute episodes using a variety of writers (so I’m not on my own for once). The first “cycle” of episodes (which will hopefully not be the last) consists of thirty-three episodes (plus two bonus stories). All of these have been written, twenty-seven of theme have been recorded, twenty of them have been sound-edited, and fourteen of them have been released on CD. I lied earlier– this is the favorite thing I’ve done. It’s just plain fun, much like the Doctor Who and Star Wars stuff, plus it’s quite satisfying to work in your own universe. Hopefully, I’ll put them all up on the Internet someday.

The other original series we’ve done is Soul Crimes, which was two thirty-minute episodes. That was primarily Chris Tracy’s baby, though, so you should get him to expound on it if you’re interested.
ADAM: Aside from the Zorbos Trilogy, we produced Star Wars: Betrayed Federation, a companion and prequal to a fanfilm we made. Also we adapted a several of our Star Trek sim stories as well, which were good fun. After these entries into our favorite fandoms were completed, Steve concieved of a project entitled “Rhenus Coldanus: Exploring the Universe”, based around our own characters and with stories written by a variety of authors. Those were/are a great time to write and act for as well.

Though as to my favorite, I’d be hard pressed to pick only one. I love the Overlord, and to this day he remains one of my favorite characters that I’ve given voice to, but I’m attached to all of the character’s I’ve played. Though for overall story and sound, the Star Wars one, as well as one or two of the Rhenus Serial stand out in my mind as tops. But behind them all is Zorbos, which is just a great time to listen to.
CHRIS T: I love Soul Crimes, because I wrote/directed/edited it. But that bias aside I’d have to say its a tie between ST Foundation Volume 2 and The Moons of Zorbos. Volume 2 just sounds slick and the Moons of Z will always be the one that started it all.
JAMES S: I personally love the Rhenus Coldanus stuff the best.
STEPHEN: I don’t have one particular favorite, but one of them would be the second Doctor Who drama, The Zorbosian Invasion of Mars. The Overlord comes to realize not all is as he thinks it is with the Doctor while Commander O is concealing the truth:

The Overlord: “Come back here commander, I command you! Doctor, HOW DO YOU KNOW?”

The Doctor: “I was there . . . ”

Not to mention Adam and Chris’s acting works extremely well together and I think this scene capitalizes on that.

11. There was mention of another Doctor Who production named ‘Out of Time, Out of Mind’. Did anything come of it? Were there any other potential ideas or stories of interest?
CHRIS T: Don’t really know what happend to that one.
GRADY: You know, I’m not entirely certain. I recall there being talk of producing another Doctor audio drama, but that’s about it. Things have been kind of difficult to do since we all went our separate ways for college.
JAMES S: There have been lots and lots of ideas thrown about, particularly whenever we all find ourselves in Cincinnati at the same time the idea of a Doctor Who movie is always thrown about.
STEVE: Out of Time, Out of Mind is something I considered at one point, but dismissed. (I don’t think I’d even made the second/third at that point.) I scarcely remember what it was about anymore! I also outlined a second trilogy (Space’s Edge, Time’s Something-or-Other, and a third story title I forget entirely), that would have involved artificial realities, Herbert Hoover, and the return of the Master, among other things. But that went nowhere too, and I decided to stick with what I had. Oh, and at one point I toyed with a Quark story because my little sister could do a mean Quark voice.
ADAM: I know Steve toyed around with a bunch of different continuations in the Whoverse, but I remember him telling me that nothing ever really struck him in the way of concrete plot. I myself started to try and put together an audio for our Star Trek series, but the task of script writing wasn’t one I was ready for at the time. When Rhenus came around and I got the chance to write for it though, I definately took it. As to potential ideas or stories, there’s still a bunch of Star Trek sim stories which have yet to be crossed over, although our simverse and the audios have diverged somewhat. Unfortunately, though, now that college is over and the cast and crew of Sigma Phi Kappa is spread out over the country as well as the world, recording anything would be a monumental task, a problem for which I myself am in large part to blame, as I’m living in Japan now for the next year and half.

12. Since SPK, have you done anything more in the way of story telling, such as writing, acting, producing?
GRADY: Absolutely. I personally have written several short stories and am in the process of writing a few novels; I’ve been in two locally-produced musicals here in Socorro, NM (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Orpheus in the Underworld); and this summer I plan on producing a weekly internet show about the local environment, not entirely dissimilar from something like what you might see on Animal Planet.
STEVE: I’ve actually gone on to be professionally published– with Michael Schuster (who is also one of my writers on Exploring the Universe and appeared in both it and Soul Crimes), I’ve written a few stories in the universe of Star Trek. The first was an electronic novella called The Future Begins, published as part of the Corps of Engineers series. Then, we had two short stories appear in the anthology The Next Generation: The Sky’s the Limit, titled “Meet with Triumph and Disaster” and “Trust Yourself When All Men Doubt You”. We’re always hoping to do more, of course, though nothing’s panned out as of yet.
ADAM: Nothing of any sort of public work. I write, but mostly for myself, and although I did some acting in college and thought it was awesome, I never went beyond that sort of amatuer thing. Several of the others though, have gone one to study or work in the film/production industry.
DAVID: nothing very prolific; a single entry in my College gag-paper is about the only notable one. . .at least it actually was written and put into (college) print.
STEPHEN: As far as personal projects go, I started a band called The Spoony Bards ( We play mostly video game and anime music, particularly at conventions throughout the midwest, but also for charity and private events. We’re currently producing our second CD.
JAMES S: Not really just SPK stuff, probably because Steve in the only person willing to put up with acting abilities.

13. Obligatory question – favourite Doctor and why?
CHRIS T: Tom Baker
GRADY: Patrick Troughton. For one, he was my first, but he also had mannerisms and a personality that greatly set him apart from the other doctors in a manner I really liked; he also acted a lot through the eyebrows. William Hartnell, John Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Sylvester McCoy all vie very strongly for second.
STEPHEN: Having most recently watched the second and third seasons of the new Doctor Who series, I have an favorable bias towards the 10th Doctor – anyone who can defeat the forces of old magic with the words of Harry Potter gains a lot of extra points.
STEVE: Paul McGann. Coming to Doctor Who during the interseries gap, his audio dramas were the going concerns, and I’ve faithfully collected every one. He’s effectively my “first” Doctor, in the sense that if you grow up watching Tom Baker or Sylvester McCoy, that’s who your favorite is. I love his enthusiasm and passion, but also the sense that he can genuinely be frightened in a way that Tom Baker definitely never was. A close second is Christopher Eccleston, who is without a doubt the best actor to ever assume the role.
ADAM: The eigth Doctor and Charlie are my favorite TARDIS crew, if only because they were my first. I’ve enjoyed each Doctor, though, and the new series is currently awesome as well!
DAVID: While I have seen key fourth, seventh, and tenth Doctor episodes (I like David Tennent quite a bit, really; but it seems everyone does), I find myself oftentimes feeling partial to the celery-wearing one; if only by virtue of his insistence on wearing a piece of celery. I confess I have seen quite little of him; as is evident by the fact that I do not know offhand which number he is (fifth? Please don’t hit me if I’m wrong!!). But he’s David Tennent’s favorite, right??
JAMES S: The Second Doctor. I always loved him with Jamie and Zoe. He in my mind really set the mold from which all subsequent Doctors have followed.
CATHERINE: The latest (David Tennant), because he is young and hot. Second would have to be Christopher Eccelson (sp?), then Tom Baker because of his cool scarf.

14. Now, about that Zorbos Medley…?
CHRIS T: The singing was a totally random thing. We were just messing around with the mics and that happend. This also became a running gag at recording sessions, with actors having a tendency to break out into song mid recording. Much to the chagrin of Steve.
STEVE: Lord knows what we were thinking when we did that; it just sort of happened. I’m rather fond of it, to be honest. Each little ditty is quite enjoyable. “OoooooOOOOOOOoooooh, Commander O!”
STEPHEN: We were messing around with silly songs at the end of recording the second drama – a lot of it was improvised. Not including the BGM interludes.
ADAM: I blame Chris, it’s all his fault and you won’t get me to say anything different! Though my song was the best.
DAVID: I’m the doctor~ [(DOCTOR~~R)jellybabiesyumyum]! I think I was just part of the chorus. It’s Chris’ fault.
JAMES S: Good Question