Doctor Doctor Who (Miscellaneous)

Press and Publicity Articles for Shada (Online)

Did you ever meet Douglas Adams, and what do you make of his comedy?

No I never met him, is he still alive? He's very dead.

No, I wish I had met him, he sounds fantastic. I think a couple of the guys that are on this have met him, and he was your original polymath, he sounds amazing, he sounds like Mervyn Peake or someone like that. He's funny, his books are good.

As Shada's about this very mysterious book, could you tell us what the oddest book you've ever read is?

I'm reading this [book by] Sebald, W G Sebald. A fantastic writer, this guy was, he died a year ago in a road accident, but he was a lecturer in the University of East Anglia, a German who'd come to England in the 60s. He's written four or five really strange novels but they're more sort of mind travel. Explorations of memory and his peculiar view of the world.

When he died last year, people are now waking up to the fact that we've lost a great writer. I can only recommend them to you, they're strange but really beautiful, and moving. W G Sebald, remember where you heard it first. They're scribbling furiously here.

What were you wearing when the original Shada was shooting?

What was I doing in '79? It's the year I started drama school, and in the breaks in-between the terms, in the holiday weeks, I used to work in this American retro shop. The American retro clothing boom had just kicked off in London and there was a shop called Flip.

Me and my brother took jobs there in the warehouse and opening a couple of the shops, but they encouraged you to wear the gear. I remember that the kids that I was at drama school with were all into the leg warmers and stuff in '79, but I went in looking like the Fonz. He-ey!

They must have thought I was a... anyway. Yeah, I looked great, I was the best dressed drama student that year.

Your normal companion is India Fisher - what's the in the way you can play off her as opposed to Lalla Ward?

Well, we've only just started today so I don't know, but I miss India to be honest. Nothing against Lalla, but I miss India, I keep expecting her to walk in through the door. They're different of course, India is more like working with your little sister.

What are your hopes for the Fortieth Anniversary adventure ?

Fortieth Anniversary of what?

Doctor Who.

Are you expecting some tough verbal sparring with your fellow Doctors?

I'll have to get a good night's kip before. They're all red hot, especially McCoy. You can't get a word in edgeways at the best of times with him.

So it's the 40th anniversary of what, of the first show on BBC. That dates us doesn't it. It was the old man with white hair.

What was your memory of the programme?

Watching William Hartnell. What was them sweets we had as kids? Hacks, those cough sweets. There was a jar of them in the house that we lived in, and on the Hacks jar there was some white haired old guy just about to sneeze and blow his head off, and then suddenly the scary Hacks man turns up in a TARDIS. I liked him, I thought he was the best.

Have any preferences about how you'd like the Doctor to look this time around in our animations?

What, clothes-wise? Has the scarf finally been kicked into touch?

Maybe a little bit more Saville Row, maybe a little less flowing. I want to look a little like Who Bond you know, a little sharper. That's what I want to look like, if I had my way.

There was much debate at the time about what you got to wear. Was it a sore point?

Oh yeah, they were completely tight about it. Also I turned up with a shaved head, and they made me wear this awful syrup [of figs - rhyming slang for wig].

I remember there was a scene where, because I was looking at a scarf going, 'I ain't wearing it', there was this stand off, but in the end I think we did some compromise, we shot a scene where you see the scarf and I just leave it on a hook and walk away from it.

Hmm... [considers again how his Doctor should look] Leather, maybe?

How do you find doing Doctor Who on audio as opposed to on screen?

To be honest the film now is like a brief mad memory of some crazy holiday. It just seemed to be over so quickly and there wasn't a lot of control. I just did what I was told and stood there and tried to survive. Doing these is a bit more satisfying.

I get the impression that even this version, Douglas Adams's story, is slightly tailored to suit me, whereas the film, obviously that was brand new and they didn't know what was happening anyway or what I was going to do, so that was trickier. In a sense I was trying to fit in with what they were about.

But doing the radio stuff is fun, not least because they can't see you. You can be as big, and as bold, and as angry, or as different as you want. I like radio work, I like voice work a lot.

Did you ever think making Doctor Who would be something you'd like to tackle?

Are you crazy, of course not, no, not once, no never. Not till Philip Segal phoned me up. I thought it was a case of mistaken identity.

Are you glad you've done it now?

Um… yeah. I regret nothing.

Bearing in mind that Shada is about a rather odd book, what's the oddest book you've ever read?

Oh my god, the Bible. It depends what you mean. Define odd?

Unusual, unexpected, quirky.

I think the kind of unexpected I really love is when you open books and the actual way of writing is different and interesting. Like reading Virginia Woolf for the first time or Lawrence Durrell for the first time. You read this unexpected use of sentences which I love, rather than the actual topic.

You're a renowned illustrator of books, tell us a little about that.

I wouldn't say renowned. I don't do that much of it.

I have illustrated two for Richard, [and] I did quite a lot for a vet called Bruce Fogal at one time. I draw animals, so I'm useful to my biologist husband because I can chuck out a few illustrations for slides for lectures, and things like that.

What are your memories of Douglas Adams?

I can't bear it that Douglas isn't still here.

The loss, not just to science fiction or the world of literature or anything like that, but undoubtedly to the world of science as well, is just unquantifiable. It is so depressing. You can't say of all that many people, that the world is deprived when they leave it, and when they leave it so ludicrously young one just feels furious, it's fate's rotten trick to do things like that.

I think Douglas was a real one-off. He was so clever and so intelligent and so well read in real science that he could make science fiction work as well as it did. And just such fun to have around, he was just such a lovely man.

Douglas introduced me to my husband, at his fortieth birthday party, so I have that to thank him for. I really got to know him better after that in a way than I had before, although I'd known him for a very long time and Richard knew him because they both shared a passion for Apple computers. As did I, which is probably why I got on as well as I did with Richard.

So we saw a lot of him and it was dreadful when he died, absolutely dreadful. I can't forget Richard coming up on a Sunday morning rather early, when I hadn't got up saying, 'Something awful has happened.' He said 'Well someone has died,' and I said 'Well tell me, what? Who?' and he said 'Douglas Adams,' and I just thought he was joking.

He'd had an email that morning, very very early, from a mutual friend in Germany. It takes a long time for that sort of thing to sink in, especially when it's somebody so young. You just think 'God, lousy rotten miserable business'. I think the only thing that might conceivably have made Douglas laugh was the thought that some of us now have an excuse never to set foot in a b****y gym ever again, because that's where he died.

One of the hallmarks of Doctor Who at the time that Shada was really begun was the fun and the humour of Douglas's input...

It's a very Douglas script.

Are you trying to re-inject some of that sort of type of humour into this production or is it a different horse for a different course?

Well, it's different in that it's audio and not visual, so some of the visual gags go but you don't have to inject anything with Douglas's scripts. That's what's so lovely, you can just get up there and open your mouth and it works. He had a very specific sense of humour - all those undergraduate jokes and things are terribly Douglas.

It's actually lovely to be doing it again, it reminds one of doing [it the first time], because we did in fact record an awful lot of it. We did all that filming down the Cam on a punt, Tom and me, and so I have quite a vivid memory of it all actually, which is a help I think. I'm jolly lucky, I can stand there and remember going through books in Professor Cronotis's room and climbing up ladders and chucking them down for the Doctor to catch. I remember it pretty well actually.

Was being in a punt with Tom in charge of it a scary experience?

No more than being anywhere with Tom in charge of anything.

I suppose it was harder to escape than some situations but it was quite funny because there were these ducks, as there are on the Cam, and they had perfect comic timing. Every time he said anything they'd go 'Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack.'

I think they cut quite a lot of those hilarious bits of laughter from the ducks out but I loved them, and I couldn't wait for them to keep going.

How would you like Romana to appear in the animation for this story?

I thought that one of the great things about Doctor Who was that you were jumping about in time, and I saw her as the kind of person who would drop into whatever the planet's local Portobello Road or whatever was and pick up bits and bobs, which is why I always had them mixing up things like an Edwardian waistcoat with a Victorian jacket. I like that totally mixed up kind of eclectic group of personal props and bits of costume and I think the fun of doing that is where I was very lucky with Doctor Who.

Poor Janet Fielding who came after me paid the price because she ended up in the same costume [for ages]. I think they had done the budget on mine, so she ended up in this wretched uniform for her whole time, and resented me dreadfully for this fact that she was lumbered with her horrible air hostesses gear.

Did you like the outfits you wore as Romana?

I absolutely loathed the one in the Creature From The Pit which was no fault of our wonderful designer. We actually shot that first - we didn't do Destiny Of The Daleks first which was my first story, we sort of jumped in the middle for some reason - and because I hadn't worked out what I wanted to do it was a Mary Tamm [style] costume.

Mary looked gorgeous in that sort of thing and I looked like hell on wheels, and I felt completely miserable, I just didn't know what I was doing. Fortunately everybody was worrying far more about that blob who played the monster so I don't think anybody was looking at me.

I got over it but then after that I started thinking about what I wanted to do and what the character really was and got it right. It was just totally not me.

Is the maxim true, never work with children and robotic dogs?

No, the maxim is not true, robotic dogs are definitely the thing to work with, K9, aren't you. Probably better than real dogs I dare say.

There's an awful lot of, 'Come on, K9,' you know, because he couldn't go over things and he was so slow. As for children, I don't really know about that, I haven't really worked with children so... I like children.

You've played Romana the High President a few times for Big Finish now. Are you happy with the promotion and the development of the character?

I don't know that the character develops. I enjoy playing it, it's fun, and I love doing audio stuff because normally I don't have to be on cameras like this. [That] makes it much tougher, and you have to fuss about things like what you're wearing and whether you look as if you're gone through a hedge backwards.

So I love audio things. It's fun because you work with different people. One of the things that's good about doing Shada is that it's Paul McGann and it's just very different. You get a different take on the Doctor's character which inevitably makes you react differently.

It's strange because the kind of banter that Tom and I had going isn't the same, but then it keeps you on your toes which is a very good thing. You're not thinking, 'Oh god, how did I do it last time?' you can just reinvent it with another person, which is a nice thing to do.

What was your earliest memory of Doctor Who?

Getting the part. Well, actually no, because I never really did get the part, I originally joined it as a different character, if you remember. You're probably one of these Who buffs who knows far more about it than I ever did at the time.

The interviewer is patted on the head by the cameraman at this stage.

So I never really got the part, I played Princess whatever her name was, Astra, per ardua ad astra ["through struggle to the stars" - the motto of the Canadian air force]. I wanted her to be called Ardua, never mind. Mary wasn't sure whether she was going to do it or not, and I sort of drifted into it I think because Tom got on well with me and it was easy. So in a way, there weren't really early memories, it just happened.

As for watching it, I never really did as a child because we didn't watch all that much television so I pretended I did at the interview. I said, 'Oh yes, I hid behind the sofa like everybody else,' you know.

Don't ask me who my favourite monster was because I'm sick of saying Tom Baker.

Tell us about performing in the 1980 BBC Shakespeare Hamlet production.

I think I got it because I was so sure I wouldn't that I was really extremely relaxed about it. I know an awful lot of people were up for the part, and it was a frightfully prestigious thing to get. We did it in a break between my two series of Doctor Who so I went along for the audition and thought, 'You must be joking, they're never going to give this to the Doctor Who girl.'

I think it was because Cedric Messina, the producer, had probably never even heard of Doctor Who, certainly never watched it that I got away with it. Perhaps because I was relaxed I did a good job at the interview for not being petrified out of my skin, so I got it.

Then I went to the read-through. I'd been watching on telly a series that they did on Sunday evenings of Shakespearean actors showing you how to perform, how to read sonnets, and one of them was Patrick Stewart, who played Claudius in that Hamlet. I was terrified of him because he was so good in this programme.

Claire Bloom who played Gertrude wasn't there because she was still doing Brideshead, which went on interminably because of strikes - probably the same strike that clobbered Shada got her - so she wasn't there. There are only two women in Hamlet, Gertrude and Ophelia so mine in a four hour read-through was the only female voice to be heard, since our script editor decided to read in Gertrude. He did a jolly good job actually.

Every time I opened my mouth I sounded like a little mouse. It was so scary and awful and I'd learnt the songs, which are frightening to do, two days before, so I kept thinking 'Oh my god, what am I going to do? This scene's going to turn up and I'm going to have to do these songs and oh god help.'

At the beginning somebody, I suppose the director, had said 'I'm sure every one of you has played parts in Hamlet in the past,' and Eric Porter, who was playing Polonius said, 'Well, as a matter of fact I've never been in Hamlet.' I thought, 'Oh goody, someone else who's never done this sort of stuff.' [Then] he said 'I've been in 30 of the 32 plays, of course, but funnily enough never Hamlet.'

I thought, 'Well there goes my ally in this thing. And then after the read-through I went down in the lift with Patrick, and he said 'Gosh, that was a marathon, wasn't it,' and I said 'Yes,' and he said 'Of course the highlight was the songs, that was wonderful.' I thought, 'Oh, thank you that was all right then.'

Patrick said to me, 'You used to be in Doctor Who didn't you?' and I said 'Yes, I still am actually,' and he said 'I mean why do you do all this television, why don't you do proper stuff like theatre,' and I said 'Well I love it actually, I love doing Doctor Who.' 'But science fiction, I mean why would you want to do science fiction?' I said, 'I don't know - I think partly because you learn so much technical stuff, it's really interesting,' and he said 'Oh I wouldn't want to do that sort of stuff.'

I haven't run into Patrick Stewart since, but I look forward to it so I can say, 'Funny, why do you do all that sort of science fiction stuff you do now, why aren't you doing the proper theatre like real actors.'

What is the most bizarre book you have ever read?

I'm reading a book at the moment which is very odd. It's called Lullaby, and it's about a song that kills people, an ancient culling spell. The guy who discovers it goes on trips around the US to try and eliminate all the copies of this book that he can find. I'm not quite finished yet. I don't know if it's the strangest but it's certainly up there.

We can't ask you what the worst thing you wore in the seventies was, so what's the worst piece of clothing you've ever owned?

Being a Scotsman I wear a skirt quite a lot, but we're allowed. I have an incredibly loud Hawaiian shirt that's pink and a particularly disgusting turquoise, but I just wear it on days when I'm in a strange mood.

Someone bought it for me because we all decided to crash a school party that was for a different year and all went wearing kilts and Hawaiian shirts. It was never intended to look good, it was a complete joke in the first place. Tartan and flowery Hawaiian - it gave a few people nightmares I think.

What's your favourite moment so far?

We just had a scene between Skagra's ship where the ship is being convinced by the Doctor to follow his orders instead of Skagra's, and that was absolutely hilarious.

Because Hannah Gordon is lovely...

Her voice is incredible, it's like everyone's suddenly fallen in love with the ship. [It's] very sexy and very rude at times.

If Hannah Gordon could provide the voice of any piece of electrical equipment in your house what would it be?

In my house, I'd like her making toast for me in the morning.

How you think your character looks and dresses?

I have to remind myself every so often that it is in fact in the seventies, because I was going along as a Cambridge student would be now.

Well, [I'd be] in a lab coat for a large part of it because he's in his science lab but [also] fairly smartly dressed.

What are your favourite memories of Doctor Who?

I'm just old enough to remember fairly clearly watching Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor, on television, and obviously the old repeats.

I've seen Tom Baker and I've seen Jon Pertwee doing it but not much to be honest.

What got me interested in this job was the fact that it was a Douglas Adams script because I'm a huge Douglas Adams fan, so as soon as they said those two words I just said yes. 'Do you want to read it first?' [they asked]. I said 'No, yes.'

How have you been influenced by Douglas Adams?

Well, hugely. I've read the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy at least once a year since I was twelve years old. A lot of my own personal sense of humour and sense of timing is very influenced by this, and whenever I occasionally try and write things I end up ripping off Douglas Adams which is probably something I should try and get away from, but it's a lot of fun.

What's your favourite bit of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy?

It's a different bit every time I pick it up and read it, because there's so many ideas that you can't possibly remember them all. Just the other day I was reading again the description of how the Heart of Gold, with the infinite impossibility drive, comes into existence, where you just enter the probability of it ever existing into the computer and then give it a cup of tea, [and it] appeared out of nowhere.

Do you have a favourite Hitchhiker's character?

The paranoid android's obviously a classic but it just depends what mood I'm in. I like Ford Prefect's odd reactions and Arthur reacts hugely to pretty trivial scenarios like not being able to get a cup of tea, whereas the fact that he's in space he's relatively chilled out about.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Childhood heroes? Well the Beatles, they always were and still are, and also to this day, everyone that was in any way involved in the making of Ghostbusters, which is my favourite film of all time.

Can you see yourself getting back together in a studio to do Harry Potter twenty years from now in the way we're doing Doctor Who here?

I wouldn't think so because Harry Potter's finite. There's seven stories, it's not going to go beyond that, unlike Doctor Who where there have been lots of writers and there's lots of episodes and the BBC are at liberty to write new ones. I think it's less likely to happen with Harry Potter.

The cast of this is fantastic, I walked into the hotel the other day, to the bar where we were all meeting up, and recognised everyone. All the people have been doing brilliant stuff since before I was born, I'm a bit out of my depth here.

How have the old hands been with you?

Oh, they're great. Everyone's completely lovely and supportive and not even slightly patronising. When you come [across] people who have done things for [so long], when they talk to you completely normally like an equal, it's very relieving.

What's your fondest memory of Douglas Adams?

His height, 6 foot 5 as I understand it, is that correct K9?

No, just a phenomenal brain behind the scripts, an amazing guy. Sadly my tenure as K9 was coming to an end when Douglas took over as a script editor, but I've very fond memories of Douglas, late, lamented, a very sad loss.

What's the secret of a good sci-fi voice?

I don't know. The capability of being really rather silly I suppose.

If you're going to play something like a Dalek or a Krarg, you need to have a voice that's capable of hurting your throat. You really do have to have a visit to the doctor afterwards, not the Doctor doctor, but a medical practitioner if you follow me.

What's the favourite thing you've done as K9 so far in the recordings?

Got through it without fluffing, that's the main thing any actor can hope for.

I suppose it's different to your time on Doctor Who in that you don't have to lie down?

No, I'm at full height, I'm in the studio, I can actually catch actors by the eye, it's fantastic. I don't see them at knee height now, which is lovely. They're quite tall really, some of them.

Is it true in rehearsals you were actually on the floor?

Actually on the floor, yes, a little bit. The BBC didn't give me a trouser allowance which was rather a shame, but yes, I was around on the floor so that physically the actors could see where K9 was going to be. Simple as that, and cheaper.

What were you up to around the time Shada was originally recorded?

Well, my favourite memory of the late 70s is probably the state of television then as compared to the state of television now.

It was just at the end of the golden era of BBC comedy, which was fantastic. Wonderful, wonderful comedies. I was lucky enough myself to have been in Dad's Army for an episode.

I worked with Hannah Gordon, whom I've seen today, and reminded her of an episode of My Wife Next Door that we did way back in the late 70s. It was a very, very happy and very productive period of my life.

Can you tell us about your involvement in The Power of Kroll?

Oh, The Power of Kroll, back when the world was young and I had a face that looked like, well, I don't know what.

I was a second choice of casting as I understand. Martin Jarvis was to have played the part originally but I think I had longer hair or something, I know not. Anyhow, it was one of those opportunities where I could actually stand up and look at actors and then I got shot.

So there we are, very sad, and this green swampy stuff was all over the place. One of the make-up girls was absolutely desperate because all the swampies were walking around the BBC canteen sitting on things, and they all had to be cleaned up.

Doctor Who is now becoming quite kitsch in a way. Have you ever been approached to voice K9 in an unusual way?

Not recently, but when I was doing K9, there were occasionally commercial producers who'd phone up and say, 'We really want John Leeson because we want your K9 voice,' and I said, 'Well you can't have my K9 voice, it's copyrighted,' so they'd say, 'Well don't worry about, can we have a voice that's so like K9 that people won't know the difference.' I think I obliged on one commercial and that was about it.

You did go on to your own spin-off.

Yes, K9 and company, with that wonderful signature tune.

Looking back on that, do you think it had legs, or rather, wheels?

I don't think the pilot worked particularly well, because the setting was terrestrial rather than otherworldly, in space or whatever.

There wasn't really enough sci-fi about the fantasy, it was a little bogged down in the Cotswolds, so I don't think it had quite a strong enough identity as a true spin-off of Doctor Who. It became a story of K9 and his journalist friend.

How did you first come up with the K9 voice?

Well I went to see Graham Williams. I'd been introduced to Graham by Derek Goodwin, and I saw the blue prints for K9. K9 hadn't then been built, and there was this sort of Scottie tartan collar round [his neck]. I said, 'Well do you want him Scottish?' and he said, 'Oh no, heaven forfend, we don't want Scottish,' so I said, 'What do you want?'

He said, 'Well really K9 is the receptory and the deliverer of all information. He's an absolute know-all, but we want his voice to sound as if it comes out of a tiny little elliptical speaker in a cheap radio.'

So I put a few voices down on a tape and then I had panic calls from the BBC to say, 'Have you accepted the job?' I assumed there was a queue yards long to play K9, I wasn't to know, so I said, 'Yes, yes, fine, I didn't know it was just me they wanted.'

I just put up [my voice] a few levels, clipped it as much as possible, made it sound like a machine. It couldn't sound like a dog, because K9 isn't a dog, but I made it sound as mechanical as possible.

Is it true that it was originally electronically treated and you gradually moved over to doing the whole thing yourself?

Yes. Dick Mills was in charge of sound effects and all the rest then, and he put the voice through a ring modulator or whatever gizmos he'd got at the time to make it sound a little more electronic. But here I am today recording this and I'm in the studio with all the others on a clean mic. It's extraordinary, the actor's found a way of doing it for himself.

What do you think is the oddest book you've ever read?

Well, I can only think of a children's book which is pretty peculiar called Flat Stanley, which is all about a boy who is flat and uses that to his purposes. He fits inside envelopes and things.

What do you find you need to bring to science fiction and fantasy roles that you don't need in straight dramatic roles?

It takes you back to the playground which is usually where actors started.

There's something very liberating about doing fantasy. You're not constrained by the way you behave in the kitchen.

What has been your favourite part of playing the character?

Claire is basically bewildered throughout the entire thing and very anxious about her lost bike.

That really comes into play with the Professor where she truly is bewildered. The dialogue is very good and very sharp and witty, so I've loved that interaction.

Is it true you wanted to be a Doctor Who companion when you were younger?

Yes, this was a childhood ambition, indeed. I would see myself as being [a companion] and indeed played the games in the playground, running around and going into various TARDISes, various cupboards. Yeah, that was a childhood fantasy.

Who was your Doctor at the time and was there a particular companion you liked?

Well it was Tom Baker, and I suppose Lalla Ward was certainly one of them. I can't remember the others I'm afraid, I'm not very literate in that way.

How do you envisage your animated character looking?

Well she's slightly preppy, isn't she, nerdy probably, being a science student, and so she's got the real classic student look I should imagine.

She'll probably have a scarf of some kind, maybe even specs. A sort of hippy chick, it being set in the seventies.

What were you doing in 1979?

I was at convent boarding school and so I was locked away somewhere in Sussex. But that's where all the fantasy and imagination developed.

What do you make of playing alongside Mr McGann?

He's a great Doctor Who and he's got that wonderful rather otherworldly quality, which I think is always good for Doctor Who. He should have a sort of timelessness about him and I think Paul's got that.

Is the old maxim true, never work with children and robot dogs?

I haven't had a chance to work with the robot dog so I can't really speak from experience on that, but he seems very well behaved to me.

What did you make of the photo shoot yesterday when the poor little chap was standing there outside?

He seemed quite happy, very well behaved.

Bearing in mind that Shada's about an unusual book, what's the oddest book you've ever read?

The books that come to mind are books from childhood, those always form the strongest memories for everybody.

My childhood was spent in Berlin in Germany so they're all in German. I still have some of them at home.

Not the oddest, but the most influential book in my whole life was a book called The 35th Of May by Erich Kestner who wrote Emil and the Detectives. There are some English translations which I would avoid, but it was just a fantasy, well science fiction really, but it's a fantasy tale that had a great important role in the development of my own attitude to life and to fantasy and to showmanship.

What's been your worst fashion mistake?

In the sixties I used to have those shirts with matching ties, [with] floral designs. Was that the sixtiess or even the fifties? I can't remember. What did they wear in the seventies?

Flares and camel hair, sheep skin…

Oh, I had my flares, yes. My son had wonderful flares, I wouldn't have dared to wear those. He looked at them the other day, in some old photographs, and even he had to laugh. His hair was down here somewhere [indicates long hair]. It looks crazy now.

How do you imagine your character looking in the animations?

I hadn't even thought about it, isn't that odd, because it's radio. It's just audio and I didn't think about a physical vision of him at all.

That's very unusual for me, except maybe it isn't [because] when you're doing radio, you think totally in terms of the picture that the voice gives. I've no idea what he looks like.

How much experience of Douglas Adams and his work have you had?

The only experience I've had really is through the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Last Chance To See.

When I've done this job I shall go home and look in my bookshelves and hope to find that book, Last Chance To See, and go back into it. Sometimes one needs a little jolt to get you back into something that you've enjoyed in the past, to read it more than once.

Do you think you have to bring anything different to working in science fiction drama as opposed to conventional straight drama?

Oh, I don't think so, I think you just have to have an awareness of what it's about, the style, the theme. The writing should give that to you, and if you've got any nowse at all you'll be sympathetic to the aims of the script.

Do actors relish the chance to tackle a villain or is it no more of interest to any other kind of character to play?

I think it depends on the actor. For myself, I love playing the baddies, the villains. In fact, one of my favourite roles ever was King Rat in Dick Whittington in panto. I played the Dame as well, which I also enjoyed very much for different reasons, but the baddie in a panto is wonderful because you can go over the top, scare the kids, and yet amuse them. They do sometimes get frightened, but if it's tempered with a little charm and enjoyment of his evil, then that's really quite nice to do.

One of the most satisfying things to do is to play baddies. It's closer to my own character really, I think.

Did you watch Doctor Who at all?

I wasn't watching it, except through the eyes of my children, who were into that sort of thing very much.

I saw it once or twice and in fact I was up to take over as Doctor Who but didn't get the part. Sylvester McCoy played it, but at that time they put my name forward for it. Shame, I'd love to have done it.

How do you think you would have approached it?

No idea, I would have waited to see. But I suppose quite eccentrically, although not over the top I hope.

You can be very self-indulgent and go mad and do all the wonderful things, but the script or the director should pull you back and say, 'Come on, stop fooling about, just stop acting, just do it, be in the spirit of the script'. I hope I would have done that, but I never got the chance. One of my sad tales of failure in life.

If the chance came up again would you still be interested?

I would actually, yes I would.

Does the task of working with a robot dog daunt you at all?

No, I've worked with animals before, real ones and not real ones. I'm not really working, I'm only working with the voice, so it presents no problem. I was very impressed with the first reading because [John Leeson's] done it forever, hasn't he? And it's unexpected, the voice, I hadn't heard it before on screen. He's very good, I have to say.

I suppose it must be fun to spark off with an actor such as Mr McGann?

I'd never met him before, so it's very nice. We hardly meet, well, we haven't done so far in the recording. I've got another day to go so I might get to say hello to him properly and have a drink or something.

What is the most bizarre book you have ever read?

I have a very old book my brother gave me for my wedding. It's from about 1580 and it's the Psalms in rhyming form. [Its] obviously [from] just before the 1611 bible so it's a very ancient original manuscript. It's newly bound but those pages are from about 1580, 1590. It's lovely and all perfectly intelligible and rather beautifully scanned and rhyming.

What's your favourite aspect of the character?

Well, I very much like the Professor. He's a tea maker, and tea is very important to him and it's very important to me as well. My wife started me off on tea when we got married because she was a nurse and they drink enormous amounts of tea, and so does the professor.

So I think it's my tea making that I'm most proud of, and my vast library of course which I haven't got a complete handle on yet. I like it a lot. It's fun.

What would you have been doing, and wearing, about the time Shada was originally partially made?

I was being criticised for my wardrobe and my hairstyle at that time. I was living in the north in Leeds and I remember getting very rude remarks from my mother for the various green suits and green mackintoshes that I would buy and the very bad cheap haircuts I had. She didn't like it at all, so the seventies were not my best dressing period.

Describe what your character looks like?

Are we talking about the late seventies here? I think he's a throwback from several centuries before that, but in the 1970s he would still be hanging on to that post-Second World War look, wouldn't he? Cardigans probably, jackets.

In the summer I think he wears a black one incongruously, because it attracts more heat, but it would be light-weight material. He probably wears a panama hat too, and he would walk around Cambridge I think maybe with a stick, but of course he'd look best in a mortar board.

Was Doctor Who ever something you watched yourself?

I wasn't a great fan, but I certainly did find myself at five o'clock on many occasions just being transfixed by the sights and sounds and the wobbles and strange appearances of the various mechanical characters.

No, they were wonderful and of course they were great heroes as they passed before us across the screen. Endlessly enjoyable.

I understand you've done quite a lot of vocational work?

Yes, I was in the universities of Sheffield and Leeds doing vocational work.

It was spiritual work, in connection with the New Testament and the gospel and things to interest students in spiritual matters. With some success, and with some rejections as well.

My wife and I were engaged in this voluntary work and we found it very rewarding. I took ten years out of acting to do it and it was a very, very important period of my life, yes.

Have you had any previous experience of Douglas Adams' work?

I did read Hitchhikers and I of course got many giggles out of it. I think he really was ahead of his time too, because science has become more and more popular to lay people.

I think he was one of the great ones that made it fun and accessible as well as very informative, and I think his fascination with time and time travel has stayed a main interest for the public, about this extraordinary fourth dimension that we all live in and have to think about.

 What's your favourite memory of Douglas Adams?

I was given the first book of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy as a birthday present. I didn't know what it was, I hadn't heard the radio series, and I read it in about two hours which was probably the fastest I'd ever read a book because from the first page I just couldn't stop and I loved it, it was absolutely wonderful. It was given to me by an uncle of mine and I'm eternally grateful to him for introducing me to the whole thing.

I never actually saw Douglas Adams in action at a convention or anything like that - but I've seen a tape of him telling an anecdote at some convention or other about how he and Ken Grieve, the television director, had been to Paris to film City of Death and decided to go off for a little drink afterwards and it turned into the most incredible anecdote of bacchanalian excess which involved catching aeroplanes to get to another pub that was still open and things like that.

Not only was he a great story teller on the page but he was a fabulous raconteur and wit in person as well and that's something I remember very, very fondly.

What would you say was the oddest book you've ever read?

That's quite a hard one. I'll tell you about a very odd book that I read when I was a child and it's stuck with me. There's a book called The Search For Delicious. I think the author's name is Natalie Babbitt, an American children's author. It's about a boy who sets off through a magical kingdom to find the definition of the word delicious, because the Lord Chamberlain is making a dictionary with the definition of every word and the whole court has a huge rumpus, an argument, about what is the most delicious thing.

So he goes through the whole kingdom doing a survey, asking everybody what's the most delicious thing. I must go and find that now and read it again.

What were you doing around the time of the original Shada?

I was in my first year at secondary school, so I must have been about eleven. I'll tell you an interesting thing actually.

Someone who was in my class at school came up to me knowing that I was even then a bit of a Doctor Who fan, and said 'What's the Doctor Who story that's being filmed in Cambridge?' because his older brother was at Cambridge University. I didn't know anything about it at the time because this was obviously something that was still in the works, but he said, 'Oh yes, there's a scene where Doctor Who goes along on a bicycle because my brother was watching out of the top window." So I was waiting for this to come up on TV and it never did. So I did hear about Shada quite early on, I suppose.

Are there different ways of working with different Doctors?

Inevitably you work with different actors in different ways, because each actor is a unique personality. How would you sum them all up? They're all so different.

Colin Baker is a very, very professional and very caring actor who thinks very hard about his part, and of course is actually quite a Doctor Who fan. He really knows his Doctor Who mythology inside out and it's great working with Colin. Peter, again a consummate professional, a very quick actor. He goes straight in and he's quite often a one take wonder.

Sylvester, how do you sum up Sylvester? He's fabulous, he's bonkers and it's glorious. [He has] a very strong individual characterisation of the Doctor, and it was fabulous fun working with him on Bang Bang A Boom just recently, absolutely wonderful.

And now Paul, who is a terrific actor in every respect. He's very easy going, very easy to work with, listens very carefully in the studio when we're talking through a scene and deciding what to do with it. He's full of ideas and he'll come up with all sorts of brilliant contributions and is a marvelous actor to work with. I just feel so lucky to be working with people like this.

Are you treating Shada as a bit of a nostalgia fest or are you making it a very modern Eighth Doctor story?

That's a very good question, and an interesting thing about the casting of this, for example.

When we first started thinking about this project and I was first asked to come on board, one of the things that we talked about of course was how we were going to cast this. Were we going to try and reassemble as much of the original cast or were we going to go for a completely clean slate?

Having thought about the merits of both, we decided on the latter for a number of reasons. Obviously everyone who was in the original cast is a bit older now, and some of them are supposed to be playing students. A couple of people from the original cast sadly are no longer with us so obviously we wouldn't have been able to have them, so rather than have a sort of a half-baked reunion party that might have been a bit funny in some ways, we thought "No let's just go for a clean sweep and re-cast from scratch."

So in that respect it's not a nostalgia fest, but in other respects it harks back. It is the original script that we're using, slightly adapted by Garry Russell to fit the audio format and to fit Paul's Doctor and his Doctor's relationship with Romana, but these are only very slight tweaks. For the main part it is substantially the original Douglas Adams script, and it is set in 1979 so in that respect we are doing it very faithfully to the original intentions of the script.

How would you describe your directorial style?

I think one of the director's most important jobs after casting itself is to trust the actors. As long as you cast the right actors in the first place, and on this occasion I really think we have, once you've got them there, [you should] trust them and listen to them and take on board their ideas and let them have their input. [That] is the most important thing for a director to do. The director isn't, in my opinion, someone who stands there and says 'Do it like this, do it like that, read this line exactly like this.' It's not like that at all.

Of course, there are times when it's your job to filter the ideas and decide what's a good idea and what's perhaps not such a good idea, but it's more a case of steering the ship along than of cracking the whip and telling everyone exactly what to do. You're more like a focal point to the whole thing,

Once you've got those actors together and cast them in the right parts, from then on to actually co-operate and trust and work on an equal basis with the actors, that's what I'd say a good director does.

Bearing in mind that Shada's about a very odd book, what's the oddest book you've ever read?

It was a medical dictionary, produced in the 1930s or 20s, which had a fold-out human form dissected. You went through the various layers and lifted parts of the paper anatomy and revealed the gory mess within and that was pretty sick. It stuck with me.

What were you doing, or wearing, when the original Shada filming was going on?

If I were really gauche I would reveal at this moment that I was probably sporting a Tom Baker scarf at college. What can I say?

You've dammed yourself …

My mother knitted the scarf, it was a wonderful thing. A great experiment, a great failure.

What are your lasting memories of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?

Of course I listened to Hitchhikers, [though] not on its first run. I did see the Rainbow stage play with a girlfriend at the time, which was very strange.

My first memory of it is [before] I'd seen it somebody described listening to a wonderful series on the World Service where he described a whale falling out of the sky and hitting the ground. I thought 'Hm, that's the kind of series I might like to listen to.'

How do you relish tacking the prospect of drawing an invisible spacecraft?

These are the kind of space craft that I dream of drawing. My whole career has been based on doing the minimum amount of lines for the maximum effect and I think this is going to be a career highlight really, the invisible space ship.

Will the Krargs be true to their TV style, or will you modernise them?

True to their TV style. We didn't really see an awful lot of them.The Krargs, from what I remember, which is about a week and a half ago when I last saw the tape, are slatey looking guys, and I think they will have a similar kind of look but much more terrifying.

I understand that there's more of them than the bits that I've seen of the existing material of Shada, so I will be trying to expand on those, but I liked that slightly silicon looking effect.

I think we're going to do something very interesting with one of the spacecraft, there's going to be a flying volcano, if I read my script correctly. Yes, I would suggest a flying volcano would be very good, with lots of lava dripping out of it. One of the other things is to make sure that the aliens look suitably hot and antipathetic to human beings.

Last time you turned Colin Baker blue. Are there any colour changes for Mr McGann this time?

I understand that Mr McGann has been given a blue coat in Doctor Who magazine. I'm not sure that's his colour, but I'm going to be using green. I like green, and it suits his eyes, and that's why it was chosen by the very expensive costume department in the movie in the first place I'm sure. So I will be continuing that.

We've only got one episode to base his look on and, I suppose we've got to stick with that completely, because he just hasn't had enough TV exposure to give him that kind of flexibility.

When did you first draw the Doctor?

Well for hire about 1988 and just for interest in 1963 I guess.

What were those first drawings of?

They were of the TARDIS and the Daleks which were my favourites, and remained my favourites really. I don't know if I watched the first episode, that's a bit hazy, but I know I watched the first Dalek story when it was being broadcast, and it terrified me completely.

I remember so much about it and it was wonderful to see it again. When I got to see the episodes again it was exactly as I'd remembered it, so it was a big influence. I still have drawings, which I suppose I may supply to the site, of Daleks which I produced in 1965, so you can see the difference between then and now, on nice little bits of yellow paper.

(Lee did provide the drawings, and you can see them here.)

How long did you draw for Doctor Who regularly?

I don't think I've ever drawn Doctor Who regularly. I wanted to, but nobody gave me the job. When I started work on it the editor of the comic strip was Richard Starkings.

His idea was to run different artists for different styles of stories. I was about to get a story set on an island surrounded by water, which I suppose most islands are. It was a tribal kind of story and didn't really suit me very well, so I nabbed the story which was coming up which had apparently seven Doctors and various companions. I had drawn a likeness of Richard Branson for Transformers Comic and everybody liked that so I got to do the Doctor Who Seven Doctors story and I've done them intermittently ever since.

I've done lots of Dalek stories so it looks like I'm regular, but I come in when they want Daleks and then I go away again. The real regular stint was on the Radio Times really in 1996, which was 42 weeks long.

You've worked on both Transformers and Doctor Who, both brands which are suddenly coming back. How does that make you feel?

Incredibly happy. Transformers was not something I was interested in per se, but I knew that the audience that were reading the comics were terribly interested, and very young obviously. Then about ten years later I started getting invites to conventions, because those young guys and girls had found themselves with student loans, which they were quite happy to spend on all kinds of things they shouldn't have been spending them on.

I suddenly found myself one of the favoured gang of artists from the UK round the Transformers. It was really nice because I knew how that felt, because obviously Doctor Who had had that effect on me. Also I worked for a couple of years with William Shatner, and I was a big Star Trek Kirk fan so that was a terrific kick to me, so I can understand all that falling in love with a subject.

It's interesting to see it coming around again. I work on Thunderbirds as well, that comes around every seven to eight years. It's a sort of mini-generation, just when the older brothers and sisters are throwing their toys out the young ones take it up. I'm sure it will just come back and back and back.

Are you planning on any nods to Douglas Adams or Hitchhikers in the art work for Shada?

I hadn't really thought about that. I think the thing I've been thinking most about is how we're going to either make it similar to or different from the original unbroadcast story. I don't know whether we shall be exploring Skagra's silver cape costume in any detail. I don't think that was Douglas Adams, that must have been the costume [department].

I'm sure if there are any kind of references they will be in the script, which Gary will very cunningly place in there, I imagine.

What's the difference between doing comics now to when you started?

The differences in drawing comics now to how they were when I started out about thirteen years ago is they're really technical now. The computer has come along and things like Photoshop, the computer graphics programme, have expanded the range of possibilities.

It seems a lot like cheating to me because I was one of the last from the era when you drew with ink and you whited out with something called pelican white, made with real pelicans one assumes. Someone like Frank Bellamy would have really been appalled by the use of Photoshop, but I'm finding increasingly that if you accept that you're going to be cheating you can do an awful lot of things with it, such as special effects.

You can flip images if you're not really happy with them, you can change the size of people's heads if you've drawn a really nice likeness but it's not quite in proportion with the body. You can shrink it down and do all kinds of things like that very fast, and it does free you up to make ultimately a better piece of finished art.

Are there any differences in the way you work when you're drawing for the web than when you're drawing for a cartoon?

Yes, the comic strip stories are a sequential series of art works that have to lead one to the other. When it's animated that is taken care of at the animation stage, so what I produce for the broadcasts, the web casts is background art work which is quite carefully thought out. It may not seem that way, but it is, I assure you. We have to allow for a lot of action to take place maybe in the far distance, in the middle distance and in close-up.

The animators will take very small areas of art work and blow them up to become entire backgrounds. It's very interesting to see that happen, because I wouldn't think of doing that myself, and it works so much of the time. I don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad thing but it's certainly interesting to see the process.

I have to supply foreground characters, middle ground and background characters. I draw them at different sizes because the level of detail required changes obviously, but it has been known for some of the foreground characters to have been blown up slightly more than they could really tolerate. Even so it actually works okay.

It's a completely different process, you have to think a lot about how the shot's going to be used.

Is there a part of any of the animations that you've been particularly proud of?

I've been extremely pleased with all the animation actually, it's very hard to choose a piece.

I really like the long distance shots. There's a particular sequence in Real Time where the Doctor enters the interior of the pyramid, and it's just so big. I was really surprised, and that was entirely due to the animation, because there's a slow pan up.

Even though I produce the drawing and it's probably about so big [indicates quite small thing], it just looks much bigger than that. The animation is carefully moved and it gives the impression of great height, which is fantastic.

How did you feel when you saw the violent stuff in Real Time?

I felt sick. Queasy.

The comic strip business is a funny old game. Next week I shall be drawing a scene in Judge Dredd where a poor innocent secretary is sliced in half by a laser beam. That kind of stuff happens all the time in comics so you get used to a bit of gore.

The gore really was suggested in Real Time, there's lots of kind of mouldering faces and pipes stuck in various noses.

Which Doctor is the hardest to capture the likeness of?

It's always been Sylvester for me because Sylvester has a very flexible face which is not the same in repose as it is in animation, which makes it tricky to select an image which works well. He's got a very interesting profile.

The one that I can actually draw best I think is Peter Davison, I don't know why, I think he's got a very simple face, there are very few hard lines in it and yet that can work really well. I like drawing Paul McGann, that's good fun.

What memories do you have of Douglas Adams?

I think this is probably my favourite memory so far of Douglas Adams. I've always been a fan of his work, bought all the books, listened to the radio series, watched the television series of Hitchhiker's Guide, but my favourite memory of Douglas Adams' work has to be the day before yesterday when we were doing the read-through.

Having read the script previously it's good on the page and it comes across, but when you actually hear actors speaking his words for the first time and making something of it, especially the actors we've got here who are of such a high calibre, it brings it all alive and you see the sideways logic.

He had an interesting sideways logic to how he did things and that comes across when an actor is given the opportunity to perform his work.

What is the most bizarre book you have ever read?

It's a book on First World War prisoners of war. I found it in the library years ago when I was a student, and I hadn't really thought about First World War prisoners and what they had to endure because it was before the Geneva Convention. It was before the Red Cross even, I believe, and the conditions they lived in and the way they were treated was pretty appalling.

What was your most regrettable lapse of fashion in the 1970s?

Well, I was eleven at the time so you can imagine what I was wearing. I think I was wearing cords, probably with a slight amount of bell bottom, very dodgy trainers, which kids today would rather stab themselves or cut their legs off than wear, probably a flowery shirt because my mum was always into flowery shirts in those days and I had a very terrible bowl hair cut, so I probably looked appalling.

Then again I've got to say that everybody else in my class at the time would have looked the same so it's all in context.

Where did the idea to do Shada come from?

I've always been a fan of Douglas Adams' work, and Shada is also one of those Holy Grails, the one that got away. It's one that the BBC never managed to finish. We had it released on video, but I think the problems with the video production was that if you looked at another work of Douglas Adams, say City Of Death, and you [only] had the location film and a couple of studio scenes, you wouldn't think that was any good either.

I think the stuff that survived from Shada, being mostly location and so forth, didn't give a real impression of how good a script this is. Although Tom Baker doing the links was a good thing, it didn't really make up the difference. So the opportunity to do Shada was always something in the back of my mind. Since day one to be honest with you, since the first day we had the licence, I thought it would be nice to do it at some point.

When BBCi came on board and we had the BBC support I thought 'Well it could be more realistic now.' We did Real Time which was a tester for us and then I suggested we do Shada, because it was the number one choice for me to do straight after Real Time. Fortunately BBCi agreed that it would be a very good project, and then I went off and spoke to Douglas Adams' estate for 10 months and subsequent to that, here we are.

What was the estate's reaction to the suggestion?

Douglas was never a prolific author of any sorts. Most of his work was actually done between 1976 - 77 and 1982, if you think about it. He wrote a number of books obviously and also a number of scripts, but he only wrote three Doctor Who scripts and two series of Hitchhiker's on radio. There isn't that much there, and most of it has already been sold in terms of rights to Walt Disney. Dirk Gently for example has been sold to Walt Disney, so none of the rights are available for that.

When I went to them about Shada, although they were aware of it they were a little bit concerned about letting something go which Douglas had written, because there's so little left which hasn't been optioned. At the end of the day the agent is there to look after the interests of Douglas's widow and his daughter. So it was an interesting bit of negotiation but they could see that we really wanted to do it and they trusted us to do it well and so we came to an agreement.

Can you tell us a bit about the reasoning behind the choice of Doctor for this particular project?

Well obviously we did offer it to Tom first, but Tom and Tom's agent and I have been in discussion over a number of years about him coming and doing work with us. We haven't got to that point yet where he wants to work with us on our projects. Who knows, in the future he may well do, but he declined to take part in Shada.

Once he had done that we had to find another Doctor, and the obvious Doctor to go for was McGann, because it was a new story for a new Doctor, effectively. It also wouldn't muck up any continuity with any of the other Doctors and it made it easy for us to drop Lalla Ward's character as Romana in. We slightly changed things so that she's no longer that Romana, she's now the High President of Gallifrey Romana.

Apart from the regulars, you've got a stellar cast. What was their reaction when you approached them?

We hit them with a double barrel I must admit. We hit them both with Douglas Adams and Doctor Who. Between the two of those aspects we managed to get the cast we've got.

I think in the case of James Fox for example, he was just intrigued by the character. We faxed over some of the pages for him to have a look at and he liked the idea of playing Cronotis. He could see why we'd gone for him and when people listen to and watch Shada I think they'll say, 'He is Cronotis, brilliant casting'.

In the case of Susannah Harker, she's a Doctor Who fan. We were discussing this the other night actually. She said when she was growing up all she ever wanted to be was Doctor Who's companion, so she just said yes within five minutes of her agent getting the call. With Sean Biggerstaff, he's a huge huge Douglas Adams fan, and therefore to take part in something which Douglas had written was a dream come true for him. So that was five minutes as well.

Then John Leeson was arguably the best K9 of the two, and we wanted him to do it and he was delighted to do it. Lalla Ward loves coming back and working with Big Finish, we have a great relationship, and she has a very good relationship with Paul McGann as well. And of course, Paul very flatteringly recently has s

LinkCredit: BBC Doctor Who