Doctor Doctor Who (Miscellaneous)

Press and Publicity Articles for Real Time

Can you tell us a little bit about how you’re playing the character these days?

When I did the programme on television back in the 80s there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to develop the character. I only had two series and there was a kind of long-term game plan which was somewhat frustrated by the curtailment of my time.

A lot of the stuff that I wasn’t able to do and to show when I was playing the part has now emerged in the audio versions, which means that I have been able to examine some of the darker aspects of the Doctor.

The writers have been able to draw on things that I always wanted to show. The Doctor, if he’s a Time Lord, 900 years old, has travelled through space and time, has two hearts and a body temperature of whatever it is, he ain’t going to behave like a bloke who’s on the bus in Tooting.

He’s going to be somewhat different and it’s that difference that we’re beginning to investigate, the unpredictability, the sharpness, the edginess.

Ultimately, it boils down to good scripts. I had good scripts when I was doing it [on television] but not all of them were as good as the ones that I’m getting now, and the one that we’re broadcasting on the web is a thumping good Cybermen story. It’s nice to get back to good story telling, good traditional Doctor Who story telling.

If you had the opportunity what would you want to go back and change about the past?

I might go back in time to the past and see if I could infiltrate the upper echelons of the BBC and reverse one or two decisions that one may not have agreed with – let’s not be more specific than that. That would be kind of tempting, wouldn’t it?

And I’d like to go to one or two casting sessions and be standing by the director when he casts somebody in a part that I wanted, and say to him ‘Have you ever thought of Colin Baker?’

But that aside I love the whole thing of time paradox because when it comes down to it in any Doctor Who story, if things are going badly, the Doctor can nip into the TARDIS, go back half an hour and do something different. Very often we kind of gloss over that because it would make it too easy, but in this story that we’re doing now we actually do engage the whole question of time paradox and I think it’s a brave story for that.

If I was a good enough writer to write a Doctor Who story, and you’ve got to be a pretty good writer to write one, I’d want to investigate all those possibilities.

What are the key elements that create terror in a Doctor Who manner?

It’s traditional monsters, is a great part of it, Daleks, Cybermen. Not so much the Master, that’s more of a kind of Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty battle of wits. What is scary full stop is the unexpected, and things that carry with them a vast history.

Now, Daleks carry with them a vast history, they look ludicrous but we know what they are, which is upturned pepper pots of implacable hatred and destruction, ditto cyber men, no emotion whatsoever, all they’re interested in is total domination of everything else and everybody else.

Total destruction is all they’re interested in - that’s scary. The whole context of Doctor Who, I still think, is about family viewing, families sitting down together, willingly, to be scared. It’s the willing suspension of unscaryness, if you like, and we love it don’t we?

Kids love to be scared. [That’s] something that Roahl Dahl understood so perfectly. To hit the right level of scariness it’s got to be slightly more than children want to be scared and slightly less than parents will go ‘Oh no you can’t watch that’.

You’ve got to get in that little hinterland between parents stopping them from watching it and children not wanting to watch it and too often it’s either one extreme or the other and Dahl and I believe Doctor Who hit that in the past and still does it just right.

As regards companions, what do you think worked best with your Doctor?

Well, I’ve had a nubile American and a scatty red-haired Brit from Pease Pottage and now I’ve got one that I suppose, and with no disrespect to my previous companions, is an intellectual equal.

She’s a lecturer in history, and I mean Maggie herself is a smashing actress, but I think it’s great for my Doctor to have someone that he can bounce off intellectually. Someone who can actually turn the tables on him, unlike the screaming companion or the ‘I’m going to make you lose weight’ child companion. We’ve got one who is interested rather than scared and is actually quite feisty. She stands up to the evil that she encounters extremely well.

I think it’s an inspired choice, and I suspect that in vision there wouldn’t have been many producers who are brave enough to cast an older woman in the role of companion, but it works fantastically well.

As you know, the Cybermen have the strength of 10 men. If you had the strength of ten men at your disposal, what would you do with it?

If I had the strength of 10 men and women or could command the power of 10 men or women, what would I do? Any number of things around my garden. There have been some heavy winds recently and there’s some trees fallen over and rather than pay someone to come and do it I’d come and hump those out of the way.

I think I’d deal with one or two issues in my life, one or two people who could do with a firm hand, that would be quite handy wouldn’t it?

If I had the power of 10 men I think I’d find 10 women probably, I think that’s the answer, isn’t it.

How did you come to act in Doctor Who?

Well, I haven’t been an actress for that long. This is my second career.

I got into acting because I was asked to be an escapologist’s assistant. I taught French for about 150 years and I helped the escapologist in my spare time and in the holidays. One thing led to another and I was offered the chance of an early retirement. I took that and thought, "Well it’s great fun and you only live once, don’t you... I’ll try theatre".

Then in about 91 I was very lucky because I was able to go legit, stop doing musical numbers and do straight plays. I was in a straight play, a tour of Jane Eyre with Nick Briggs. There’s the connection.

So Nick Briggs rang me up and said, "I’ve got just the part for you, she’s an alien and she’s part Russian, part German and half warthog - absolutely right for you dear." I did it and that was my introduction to Doctor Who. Then I learnt a year or so later, that I was going to be Colin Baker’s companion. I couldn’t believe it. Very exciting.

Could you tell us about your character and her relationship with the Doctor?

She has a very good relationship with the Doctor, whom she doesn’t take too seriously. She teases him a lot.

We met in a university context, The history of her family was going to disappear from the records if she didn’t do something about it, so she went back with the Doctor to Mary Tudor’s court and that’s how it all started. She’s an academic lady, but she’s got quite a good sense of humour and feeds her students on chocolate cake.

She’s rather motherly really, although she’s not married. Well, in one of the books she did have a husband, but she doesn’t seem to have one now and there’s been no mention of any children. She keeps a bit of a restraining hand on the Doctor and if he gets a bit boastful she puts him down. She’s not respectful, although she’s very fond of him.

I believe that this is your first opportunity to work with Cybermen. Now the thing about Cybermen is they are often said to have the strength of ten men...

Yes, terrifying isn’t it?!

If you had ten men at your disposal what would you have them do?

What a wonderful thought! I think we would probably go somewhere rather nice where there was good food and dancing, and if there were ten men then if one of them couldn’t do the tango, then maybe another one could and we could have a very jolly evening with champagne and dancing and some very nice food.

What's your earliest memory of Doctor Who, but describing it in words that do not use the phrase 'behind the sofa'?

My memories of Doctor Who actually go back quite a long way, because believe it or not I remember it when it very first started. I had just gone through Beatle-mania and then Doctor Who arrived on screen. I was quite into sci fi as a kid and I remember racing off to school and saying to all my friends "Hey have you seen this great new series? It’s wonderful." For about two years I was addicted to it, I loved it, my mother and I watched it faithfully. And then I grew up.

Do you think Doctor Who is more scary in audio or on TV?

Oh no, I think it’s much scarier on audio because your imagination always supplies the really horrific bits.

I don’t actually remember it [being scary]. I’ve heard other people saying "Oh I was behind the settee I was so scared", but I have never been easily scared. I love gore and all the rest of it and I think I remember the sets wobbling a bit and being quite amused by that. I was into acting anyway when I was a kid so I sort of knew it wasn’t real. So no, I was never actually really scared by the TV sereis.

But with the audios, I find them much creepier actually, much more horrific, because you can use your imagination, so you can create sets that are a million times better than anybody else’s.

You’ve got the possibly dubious honour of being the world’s first Cyberlady. How did you find that?

It’s a bit scary really. There are a lot of people around who seem to know a lot more about Doctor Who than I do, because as I say I was really into it for the first couple of years and after that I really lost track of it.

I had to have a potted history last night from my other half on the subject of who the Cybermen were and what they’re like and how they’ve change. But then having said that, as I’m a whole new Cyberlady and there’s never been one before I suppose I can actually create my own thing, which is what I’ve been doing.

[Of course], the effects are done for you, [so] you don’t have to worry too much vocally because of the wonderful effects that they put on it. We can hear [it] down the headphones which is really great.

Before you turned into a cyberlady you played another character. Can you tell us a little bit about her?

She’s was an archaeologist. She has a rather nice relationship with her two henchmen, who are assisting her on this particular site, trying to find out what this particular thing is. There’s lots of jokes and banter, but it doesn’t last very long because she’s the first one to go. I shouldn’t say that, because I’m giving away the plot.

Time travel is a big part of Real Time. If you personally had the chance to nip back in time and change something, what would it be?

No, no, no. I’ve read much, much too much science fiction to want to go back and change anything because I might well find that if I changed it I didn’t exist.

If I change something in the past I might not exist now, [with] the butterfly effect, and I think I’d rather exist now. I’m very much a take it or leave it [sort of person].

There’s lots of things we’d all like to change but if you change one tiny little thing what’s going to happen to everything else? Nothing will be the same so no, sorry.

The Cybermen of course, have the strength of ten men. If you had ten men at your disposal how would you use them?

Oh, I think I could probably think of something for them to do. Do I get the strength of ten women though? This is something I should have asked the director, shouldn’t I? Ten women would not equal ten men, would they really?

Did you watch Doctor Who when you were younger?

We did have it in Canada, but it wasn’t as big a thing over there, obviously. When I was a kid I was raised by the television. I watched TV when I was doing my homework.

So I knew about Doctor Who, but I never followed it episode to episode. It was just in the background and I know bits of it. The unfortunate thing is they don’t actually do reruns of it very often in Canada. I haven’t seen it on television in Canada for years and years. I like the show.

Could you tell us how you initially became involved with Doctor Who and how you became involved with this project?

That’s a long story.

We had an open casting call for the Doctor Who TV movie with Paul McGann. They were filming it in Vancouver which is where I’ve been a professional actor for nine years now. Then they did the call-backs, [and] it was between two or three of us.

It just so happened that something terrible had happened and I was late for the audition by about an hour and a half. I found out later from [producer] Philip Segal that that’s precisely why they hired me. They wanted the Chang Lee character to have this ‘I don’t care’ kind of attitude, and I guess me showing up really late for this huge casting call was the ‘I don’t care’ attitude they wanted.

[Director] Geoffrey Sax had mentioned to me something about how I was going to have these repercussions happen to me and that I might be doing conventions and stuff. Eventually that did end up happening to me. I hooked up with different conventions here and there and ended up doing the circuit [in North America], and then everything died down for a while.

Then I went on a Doctor Who sea cruise a couple of months ago, and hooked up with [independent producer] Keith Barnfather from England, so came over here to do a UK tour. I knew Gary Russell from him writing a book about the TV Movie. We saw each other and he just said, "Hey, let’s do this thing" and we did. It’s like a long circuitous [route].

Can you tell us about the character you play in Real Time?

In this [story] one I play Goddard. He’s supposed to be a Cyberman expert, this young, naïve, kind of scared Cyberman expert that has been brought on as part of the team to discover what’s gone on on this planet with possible Cyberman involvement.

As it turns out he’s actually this technologically super advanced Cyberman that has rebelled against cyber-technology and has come back through the aeons to this particular point in time - the Nexus of the Cybermen taking over the world. He wants to stop this, and it turns out there’s a big twist in the end. It’s quite a complicated script actually, but I like it, I think it’s compelling.

There’s a lot of time travel going on in Real Time. If you had the chance to personally go back in time what would you want to change in your life?

There’s a lot of things that I’ve thought about changing.

If could go back to High School with the knowledge I have now I’m sure I could be a real ladies’ man, or I could get straight A’s without having to go to class. Or maybe I would have stuck in there and gone to college.

There’s a lot of things, but then at the same time I have to say that I’m not necessarily unhappy with my life. I have a good relationship now and I’ve done well for myself in doing something that I like, so if I go back and screw around with any of those things, there’s a possibility, as we know, that something might change in the future. I could be hit by a truck, or lorry as you guys call it. I could maybe not even be around right now, so I think I’ll just leave it alone.

It’s often said that Cybermen have the strength of 10 men. If you had 10 men or women at your disposal what would you have them do?

If they were interesting people, I’d throw a great big party I guess. Sit around, get drunk with them, chat and have fun.

Either that or I would get them to do things for me, so that I could simultaneously be at 11 places at once, and I could really play a lot of fun jokes on my friends.

Could you tell us your first memory of Doctor Who?

My first memory of Doctor Who is not actually the telly programme but the cover of one of the annuals. It was a Jon Pertwee one with lots of scientific equipment on the front, which looks really like the cover of a Who compilation album that came out in the late ‘70s as well.

Did the Doctor used to scare you in the early days?

Yeah obviously. And still a bit today actually. When I was in there [recording], there was a scene where this guy who’s a double agent, he’d double crossed the Doctor and tried to get it together with the Cybermen, gets made into a Cyberman. It unsettled me.

I’m not sure whether it was the actual scene that I was in today [that did it] or whether it was kind of a memory of how scary that would have been when I was a kid.

Tell us a bit more about your character Ryan Carey.

Well Ryan Carey I actually based on a bloke called Bob who is a builder/plumber that has come to work on my flat a number of times. He does so begrudgingly and with a kind of contempt both for his work and the people who are employing him.

When I read the part of Ryan Carey, who’s this guy who’s helping the Doctor to explore this temple and take scientific readings, he seemed to have the same unpleasant attitude towards his profession and the world around him. So he’s based on Bob R****** who is a builder in North London.

Why did you take on the role and how were you approached?

Why did I take on the role!

I got an email off some guys who’ve seen me doing comedy. One of them works for Doctor Who magazine and they put us in touch with Gary. Anyone, I think, of my generation or older or perhaps even slightly younger would have no choice but to say yes when asked to do a part in a Doctor Who thing because it just has such an incredible resonance.

Do you think comedy actors work better in these sort of fantasy shows?

I think maybe comedy actors and people with a comedy background are good in stuff like this because if someone says to me "Oh you’re a Cyberman now and your chest plates are being ripped off, can you make the kind of noise that that is" that doesn’t really bother me because I’ve done lots of strange things.

I’ve dressed up as big pieces of fruit and been kind of attacked by wolves and things on the radio and on telly so I’m not scared by having a breast plate ripped off me as a Cyberman. In fact I embrace the experience.

Real Time has a lot of time travel stuff in it. If you could go back in time, what would you want to change?

If I could travel through time I wouldn’t go back and change anything in my life because I’m delighted with the way it’s turned out.

I’m constantly surprised by the ridiculous things that I get to do for a living, one of which is, at the age of 33, suddenly finding that I can have some kind of contribution to an important part of British broadcasting. Even though like the BBC haven’t maintained Doctor Who in the way they might have done, I think for everyone of my age that grew up with it just to be asked to be in it is great.

Cybermen have the strength of 10 men. If you had ten men at your disposal, what would you do with them?

Well I’ve got a lot of stuff that needs fixed around the house. I need a lot of painting done, and they could sort out my garden. So I wouldn’t go for world domination, just simple horticultural and DIY things.

Tell us about the multiple role you have in this story.

I’m playing the Cybermen really.

There are a lot of people who get cyber-converted and they play their characters with the funny voice effect, but all the other Cybermen are me. Mainly it’s the Cyber-Controller who speaks in a big butch voice. Then my main other Cyberman is one I call the sore throat Cyberman. Everyone says he sounds like John Geilgud.

Once [your voice] goes through the pitch bending effect, which has two lower pitched voices of different pitches fighting with and harmonising with each other, the 'sore throat thing' sounds quite good. That’s my modest opinion of it anyway.

There are some other minor characters who we’re going to get some other actors to do at other recording sessions for other plays. This is how you save on cast you see, you nick people from other plays, and I may be playing one of those other characters when we record another play next week.

 How important is it to have the electronic effect on the voice while you’re acting?

In order to do an effective alien voice where your voice is electronically treated it’s best to hear that electronic treatment while you’re doing it, for two reasons. One, once you hear how it’s going to sound its quite exciting and you go with it. You hear the deep voice and you think ‘Oh god, yes, I am a Cyberman!’

And the other thing is, with the clarity and the articulation of your performance, you can’t really gauge it unless you can hear how your voice is driving the voice effect. Not hearing the voice effect you might give what you think is a very clearly enunciated performance, and then in post production they’ll put an effect on it and you can’t understand a word of it.

Likewise with the Daleks. You have to hear the remodulation in order to do it because if you just started shouting into a microphone saying ‘exterminate’ without remodulation it’s just very embarrassing, but once you hear that noise you think ‘Yes, yes, I can do this.’

Do you have an irresistible urge to say really daft things and see how it sounds as a Cyberman?

Constantly, yes. I have a reputation in Big Finish as quite a stern but fair director but if ever I’m called upon to do acting I am the kind of actor who I hate. [To whom] I would say ‘Can we just stop with the messing around, I mean we’ve got stuff to do.’

I’ll just tell you [something] so you can judge how poorly behaved I am in a studio. In one scene I just had a line which was ‘Yes, commander’ and I had been told that that was the only line I had. As I came into the scene, I was saying ‘I just say yes commander’ and they’d already started running through the scene so I’d said [my line] in a really random place. So I just randomly kept saying ‘Yes commander’ all the way through the scene, which no one found amusing, they just found it very irritating. And in retrospect I’d like to apologise to all concerned.

With the full Cyber voice do you now feel you’re a match for Colin Baker’s Doctor in terms of shoutiness?

Well, I would of course say that Colin Baker’s Doctor is not just all about shouting. The good thing about Colin’s performance is that it has real angles on it. He has real peaks and troughs in the performance, he’s a very, very interesting actor to listen to.

One minute he’s like this [shouting], and then he’s suddenly having a little thought to himself, and then he’s being a bit sarky to someone. I just did a scene with Colin where I had to have a bit of an argument with him and at the end he looked through the glass at me and went, ‘Very good, very good,’ and I thought ‘Bless you Colin.’

The Daleks’ and the Cybermen’s voices are the real classics of Doctor Who but which are the voices do you think really sucked?

It depends how anal you want to be about this, [how much you want to be] about details. A voice that really offended me was the Sontaran in The Invasion of Time, when they turned up on Gallifrey.

In those days we didn’t know what was going to come next in Doctor Who, so as a teenager it was really exciting. So it was really exciting when the Sontarans turned up, and when he finally took [his mask] off he looked great. And then he started talking and he talked like that [puts on stupid, somewhat cockney, Sontaran voice] and I found that really offensive.

What’s it like working for the BBC on a project, rather than having it all under your own control?

Not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I really did worry.

It’s just because I’ve been spoilt. I’ve had four years of doing Big Finish now, where the buck stops with me. I make the decisions about the scripts, I make the decisions about who’s writing, what they’re writing, whether I like it [and whether] I get them to change it. Then I worry about the director. I commission a director if I don’t do it myself, there’s all the casting, and I see it all through post production. Everything stops with me.

This is the first time I’ve had to go "Ooh, I’ve got to let go of this and let somebody else have a larger percentage of interest in it than I’ve got in it". So I worried, not that I thought that I was going to get interfered with by BBCi, but more that my ego, which is fairly large at the best of times, would have a severe problem allowing someone else to chip in, particularly on a story that I’d written.

I found it an absolute doddle as a result, it couldn’t have gone better. Working with James [Goss] and with Kim [Plowright] has been a joy and I look forward to doing it again. Hee hee, let’s do it again. It’s been an experiment but it’s one I think that’s paid off. I’m very pleased with it.

Is now the time to restore the credibility of the Cybermen, with Real Time and Spare Parts?

I have to say that the fact of Spare Parts and Real both being around at the same time is total coincidence, that wasn’t how it was originally planned at all. I remember talking to James Goss one day and suddenly going, "Oh my god you want this to go out in August and Spare Parts goes out in July and oh they’re going to clash!" and then we thought, "No actually they’re going to complement each other because [Spare Parts] is one end of the spectrum of Cybermen, pre-Tenth Planet, and Real Time, in my mind, is as far in the future as the Cybermen can go."

So that was nice. There wasn’t a conflict, they complemented each other.

Why did we go for Cybermen? Because originally we thought we’d go for Daleks, then we thought that was a bit too obvious. And I like Cybermen. [Doing something with] Cybermen involves using actors to play [them], they move around a bit more. I mean I love Daleks, obviously I adore Daleks, but from a Big Finish point of view, after what we did with Dalek Empire, [Nicholas] Briggs’ four-part mini-series, and what we’ve done with the Doctor Who’s, I thought ‘What else could we do that would be special? Probably not a lot at this stage’

Whereas with Cybermen I wanted to get in various things. I can’t take the credit for the female Cyberman. The character of Savage was originally a man and it was James Goss who said ‘Couldn’t it just be a woman?’ and I thought ‘Yeah, never been done, there’s never been a female Cyberman, Cyberwoman, Cyberperson before.’ So that was a bit of a kick.

I wanted to do that, I wanted to do the whole playing around with time and the various twists at the end. At the time we’re recording this interview, episode one has gone out and people are picking up on things and going "Well this didn’t make any sense" and "Why was this done?" and I’m sitting there thinking "By the time you get to episode six you’ll go, ‘oh, that’s what that was about.’" At least, I hope that’s what happens. If that doesn’t happen then I should be shot, but that was the plan.

I wanted to do a story that really interwove within itself. You’ve got a time travel story and messing around with the web of time and you’ve got a time portal, and the Cyberleader at one end and you’ve got the Doctor and Evelyn and everyone else here, and something going on in the middle. I wanted to do a story where I could really twist everything together, so for the first two or three episodes you’re getting a bit of this and a bit of that and you begin to think, "What’s that got to do with anything else?" and gradually things will come together.

It was an experiment on my part to see if I could write that sort of story and work within the restraint of ten minute episodes. Obviously I failed on the ten minute episodes as episode one was seventeen minutes long, but that’s just one of those bizarre things that you work your damnedest to make sure it’s ten minutes and it isn’t.

I sit down now and wonder how that stretched to seventeen minutes. It was timed at ten minutes, it equates to ten minutes in all the other plays we’ve done, and it’s actually seventeen minutes. But then, you get seven minutes free, so that’s the way it goes.

Did you use flip charts and diagrams to figure out the structure of the story?

I didn’t do that. Martin Trickey and James at the BBC did that. I had lunch with them one day and Martin or James bought out this big sheet of paper, and it said ‘Cyberleader, planet Chronos’ and they had arrows going here and arrows going there. I was going, "Bloody hell, you’re taking this more seriously than I am!"

But actually that was quite useful. I took a photocopy of it when they weren’t looking and went, "Right, that’s what that’s all about, okay". It did help in some respects in that we were able to bash a few little plot holes out that way. There were a few other plot strands going on which as a result of [seeing] that flow chart the three of us thought "We should take that whole section out."

It was [about] a load of Cybermen in a space ship in the future trying to get to Chronos, a convoluted sort of oroborus worm thing of, "Well, that started because that started, but that started because that started... " We took that whole chunk of it out and that was just from looking at their little flow chart and thinking, "Yeah, there’s just too much there".

What, if anything, did you learn from Death Comes to Time about writing for an online presentation rather than audio only?

I cannot answer that question because I have a policy with myself, as regards other Doctor Who spin-off audio products. I do not listen to them. Because, Doctor Who fandom being what it is, all you get is, "Bet you didn’t like Death Comes to Time, bet you thought Death Comes to Time is rubbish," or, "Wasn’t Death Comes to Time good, you’ve got to admit that was really good," and it’s much easier if I can just turn around and say "I didn’t listen to it".

I don’t like being drawn on comparisons so I haven’t listened to it. I’ve listened to the original pilot episode of Death Comes to Time but [as for] the rest of it - I know what happens in it obviously, but I haven’t listened to it.

What did I learn from it? All I can say is I saw a lot of the drawings that Lee [Sullivan] had done for Death Comes to Time and very early on when we were first talking about Real Time I was shown some of the animations that were being done for that pilot episode. Therefore when I was writing Real Time, I at least had in my head the way that it would be illustrated.

The thing I set out to do was to write an audio play for which the illustrations would be an embellishment. There isn’t anything that happens in Real Time that you shouldn’t be able to understand just from listening to the audio. I’ve had other people say to me there are events that happen in Death Comes to Time where if you didn’t have the visuals, you might not have got what was going on. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know, but the fact that people have said that made me work very hard to make sure that didn’t happen with Real Time.

Why do you think Colin Baker has suddenly become, according to the polls, the most popular audio Doctor? What have you done to the character to make him such a hit?

If I was to be entirely egotistical, I would say the thing that we have done that has made the Sixth Doctor popular is that, unlike on television, we’ve given him some good scripts. Beyond that there is nothing.

Colin is, I think, one of the finest actors around today. He was brilliant back then and he’s brilliant now. The difference is to do with the scripts and the attitude. Between now and 1986, I don’t think we’ve done anything different.

I think what has happened is, back in 1986, coming out of the Peter Davison era, there was a very conscious decision to make the Sixth Doctor a type of character. I think that went against the grain of what Colin wanted to do. It went against the grain in some respects of what the character of the Doctor is generally, so what we’ve done is strip away that ridiculous baggage.

All we’ve said to Colin is, "Do the Doctor as you’d like to have done him back in 1986." So without those artificial constraints he is allowed to be more Colin, he is allowed to be more Doctorish.

Nowhere in the world will you find a bigger fan of Doctor Who than Colin, a man who believes in the show, believes in the concepts, understands the scripts, has so much energy and so much enthusiasm for what he’s doing. You get him into that studio and there is a man who’s just vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom.

That’s not to say that you don’t get that with Peter, Sylvester and Paul, because you do, but with Colin there is just that determination not to do Doctor Who like it was done in 1986.

So I think that’s what we’ve done, we’ve allowed the Sixth Doctor to be the real Sixth Doctor with no baggage, and maybe that’s why he’s popular now. I think people are realising that, if anything was wrong with the TV series in ’86, it was that the costume and the stories and the baggage blotted out or covered up what a great Doctor Colin was. With that all stripped away we’re just getting pure raw Colin Baker and I think that’s what makes the Sixth Doctor now very popular.

Also, we’ve given him Evelyn and I think Colin and Maggie bounce off each other very well. They’re very happy working together. I mean, I know Colin loves working with Nicola and Bonnie as well, but there is a definite frisson between Colin and Maggie and that lifts everything.

In terms of popularity it’s your newer companions that are creating more of a buzz amongst the fans. Why is that?

I think it’s a bit of everything.

We’ve created Evelyn, we’ve created Charlie and we’ve created Erimem. And in the background we’ve done quite a lot with Bernice Summerfield as well. Why do people love them? I have to say there are some people that don’t.

With Maggie it’s obvious, we’ve gone against the grain. Rather than going for a young attractive [companion], that stereotype of a young, blond, busty Doctor Who companion in a bathing suit, we’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum. We’ve gone for someone whose brains matter more than the pin-up material of them. We’ve also gone for a fine actress, an intelligent actress and given her an intelligent character.

Again it was a part that was written for her. I’d worked with Maggie a couple of times before and thought "You’d make a great companion, let’s write a character for you," so definitely Maggie came before Evelyn and there’s a lot of Maggie or my perception of Maggie in Evelyn. In the case of Evelyn’s popularity, it’s the fact that she’s a great, terrific actress, terrific character and is different from anything that’s been done before.

India and Charlie work because India is just… well, no one else could play that part, no one else would throw themselves into that part [that way]. Unlike television Doctor Who, where the companion by necessity had to play second fiddle , it has allowed India to become a 3-D character - taking a leaf out of the books, but not going as extreme as the books go.

As writers listened to the first block of Paul McGann stories, they saw what India could bring to it, so for the second block they were going, "Right, India does this, India does that, India speaks in these idioms, you talk to India on a social basis, you know how she talks," so you can build that in. I don’t think that ever happened with TV companions because the writers never really got to know the actors.

There were certain rules they had to abide by. Well, we’ve thrown those rules out of the window so the writers are writing for the character and the actress through what we’ve already done and that helps no end.

Erimem made a very big impression in Eye of the Scorpion. She made a big impression on Jason and I. There was no intention when that script was written, or on the day it was recorded in the studio, that Erimem was going to continue as a companion.

Halfway through the first day I turned round to Jason and said "Caroline’s brilliant". I said to Ian [McLaughlin, the scriptwriter], "Rather than seeing Erimem dropped off somewhere else at the end, let’s just have her go off in the TARDIS because that would be a fun, different thing to do." So I said to Caroline at the time "Do you want to do this again?" and she was like "Yeah". I said to Ian, "Would you mind if we carried on using Erimem?" and he was flattered and over the moon.

So Erimem has stuck around. As yet we haven’t done a second Erimem story. We’re recording one quite soon which is the Church and the Crown, and then we’ve got Nekromanteia after that. We’ll see how her popularity goes, but she made a very big impression on the listeners for Eye of the Scorpion, so that was very encouraging.

LinkCredit: BBC Doctor Who