Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and popular Doctor Who assistant Leela were on hand in London on Saturday to help Big Finish launch their new download service (DoG was lucky enough to be able to have a chat with them both individually later on, and those interviews will be up shortly).
Big Finish writer and producer Nick Briggs – who specialises in writing Dalek stories and is also well known as the Dalek voice in the new Doctor Who – presented a short and informal Q&A with himself, the two veteran Who actors – both of whom have participated in Big Finish’s audio Doctor Who adventures – and Chief Executive Jason Haigh Ellery.
What is it that keeps both of you coming back to Big Finish, given that the Doctor Who thing is something that you did a long time ago?
DAVISON: I’ve never had a problem going back to things I’ve done before. I’ve loved being a part of Doctor Who, and everyone has their own Doctor, and this also seemed – I can’t remember the timing exactly but it filled a desperate gap when Doctor Who wasn’t around, providing the fans with Doctor Who stories.
They’re fun to do and you don’t have to learn the lines, which is very nice, though you do have to keep quiet when you’re holding the script, and I just love the way that you can throw yourself into it with maximum energy. The only problem from my point of view is that because they are done very quickly, I am less familiar with them, and so have to be reminded about them by people who ask me about them. We listen to them sometimes in the car – my children do listen to them even though I’m in them [laughter], which is remarkable.
BRIGGS:Louise, you’ve come back to —
JAMESON:It’s the lunch! That’s why I come back – it’s the best catering of any job I have ever done. But seriously, it’s the quality of the writing. I think it’s extraordinary. Given the turnaround, I just think the scripts are absolutely fantastic. I find myself, even though I’m in them, totally getting taken up in the thrust of the story, when I listen to them, and that’s really unusual – usually you watch and listen to things with such a critical eye. You hear yourself or see yourself on television and you’re cringing, but here I’m not, I’m caught up in the story.
DAVISON:In my time as The Doctor we did have some great scripts, but we also had some scripts from people who, shall we say, would wrote more for Softly Softly and the like, and they suffered from that, they weren’t science-fiction people. At Big Finish you do get the impression from the scripts that they’re written by people who are –
JAMESON:Who know the genre.
Did you have to remind yourself of how you played the part all those years ago, before you started doing the audio productions?
JAMESON:It’s like a bicycle for me.
DAVISON:Obviously you can’t – some of my stories are slotted in between stories that I did back then, so I can’t quite make myself sound like I’m 29, but there was no problem in going back to the part. I think probably I am a little older in my head now.
JAMESON:I think I was helped because…it wasn’t exactly an accent with Leela, but I’d say ‘was not’ instead of ‘wasn’t’, I never condensed them. So once I got into that rhythm Leela just sort of appeared. I can’t remember which it was, but in one story I was given the magical line about how the air on Gallifrey has stopped me ageing [laughter]. I wish! So the imagination of anybody listening could keep me in that leather leotard.
Are either of you into downloading off the internet?
JAMESON:I don’t know how to do it. I was very well-cast as Leela!
DAVISON:I do download a lot off the internet. Part of the problem I think is the illegal downloads thing, which is obviously a problem, but I think you’re hoping that the fans who do buy these CDs do want them to continue, and the way to keep them continuing is to buy them.
Do you think you get a certain level of freedom because you’re able to concentrate just on the acting rather than the lights, cameras, and so forth?
DAVISON:Yes, absolutely. Colin Baker always says something about the pictures being best on radio, but it is kind of true, and you can do all sorts of things on audio –even now- that you couldn’t on TV. I also like the energy, the fact that you’re doing it in a short period of time, so that the energy that you’ve got is easier to control, easier to maintain. If you’re doing a filming thing then you literally stop between takes and make it over a period of three weeks.
Have you had to be more careful about playing about with the continuity of Doctor Who since the series returned?
BRIGGS:I think it’s fair to say that Doctor Who was kind of a forgotten property before Russell T Davies came along and said that we can do something great with it. We were more or less left to our own devices before, although the BBC did check everything that we did. When the TV series came around, we did hear the noise of several necks turning towards us.
Gary Russell a former producer is working in Cardiff as a script-editor, and part of his job is to approve our scripts, and BBC Worldwide, they all look at it and give a bit of input. We have a very good relationshio with them, but we have had to build into our schedules that kind of paproval process.
DAVISON:There’s a part of me that thought once a programme’s back on the air, then what I was doing had served its purpose, but that hasn’t proved the case, which is gratifying.
HAIGH ELLERY:I think it’s quite interesting the number of times we’ve talked to guest star actors who have come in on the productions, such as James Purefoy, and others – they come in and they say ‘My son or my daughter said that I had to do this!’.
DAVISON:That has always been the case. That was the case when I was in the role on TV, and there’d be an established actor or actress coming in, and they’d say ‘This is the only thing I’ve ever done that has given me credibility within my family!’.
Many thanks to Leesa Daniels of Forbidden Planet and David Richardson at Big Finish for helping to arrange these interviews.
Check out the other interviews at Den Of Geek here.