INTERVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ star Sophie Aldred at L.I. Who

Sophie

The charming Sophie Aldred fields some questions from me. (The potted plant had no comment.) [Photo by Adrienne Wise]

Depending on how you count them, there were something like two dozen companions in the original run of Doctor Who from 1963 to 1989. Ace – as played by Sophie Aldred – was the final, and some would say best, companion.

During the era of the seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), writers gave Ace a pretty extensive backstory – something that previous companions rarely had. She also was strong and feisty, questioning the Doctor’s authority and blowing stuff up. Memorably, she also fought a Dalek with a baseball bat – and won.

When the show returned in 2005, Ace proved to be an inspiration for Rose and the other companions who followed.

Since 1989, Sophie has been involved not only in fan conventions but also 18 years of stories (and counting) with Big Finish Productions. It was cool to talk with her about some of her experiences last November at the L.I. Who convention. Even she seems surprised at how much influence her two years on Doctor Who has had on her life.

As Ace herself would say: WICKED!

Ace-and-Doctor

Ace and the Professor … er, the Doctor discuss the conditions of her joining his adventures in 1987’s “Dragonfire.” [BBC Photo]

INTERVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ star Colin Baker at L.I. Who

colincrop

The Doctor is in: Colin Baker chats with me at L.I. Who in November 2016. [Photo by Adrienne Wise]

In the last post, I talked about how I discovered Doctor Who in the mid-1980s just as Tom Baker morphed into Peter Davison. I knew nothing about the concept of regeneration at the time, so it was (to say the least) a big surprise.

The next time around, I was ready. It suffices to say that Colin Baker‘s take on the Doctor was quite different from either of the others I’d seen. Brash, arrogant, unpredictable and sometimes downright unlikable, he took a lot of getting used to – but I did grow to like him, even if his Technicolor outfit seemed a bit of overkill.

dd1fa17b1ab1ef6b89ee03c0a755eb8a

The Rainbow Doctor. [Photo by BBC]

Not even aware of fandom at the time, I had no idea how threatened Doctor Who was during Colin Baker’s era, from the infamous 18-month hiatus between his two seasons to him being unfairly fired by BBC bosses.

Luckily, the sixth Doctor has received a second life – and a sense of redemption – thanks to audios from Big Finish Productions. His many stories (stretching back to 1999 and still ongoing) show that Colin was not the problem, but rather some subpar scripts and distain for the show in general from the BBC. In the audios, his Doctor has been shown to be compassionate, charismatic and more than a match for whatever challenges the universe throws his way.

In person, Colin strikes me as clever, outgoing, personable and very knowledgeable about the show he still clearly loves. I was thrilled to get the chance to talk with him at November’s L.I. Who convention and discuss his final season (“The Trial of a Time Lord”), which turned 30 years old in 2016. We also chatted about Big Finish and whether he’d consider writing a memoir like Peter Davison just published. (The answer: Probably.)

 

INTERVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ star Peter Davison at L.I. Who

Peter

Always good when you can make a Doctor laugh. [Photo by Adrienne Wise]

Thanks to my friend Jeff, I had vague knowledge of Doctor Who as I was growing up, and my local public broadcasting station used to show one episode per night from Monday through Friday.

But I didn’t really sit down to watch it until “Warriors’ Gate,” a story very late in the much-vaunted run of Tom Baker. That was the guy I knew. I had no clue about regeneration, different actors playing the role and so on. In those pre-internet days, I had yet to discover even the snail-mail version of Doctor Who fandom.

So when that curly-haired scarf guy turned into a younger blond guy a couple of stories later, I was pretty puzzled – but intrigued enough to keep watching. I’m glad I did.

davison2

The young Doctor and his celery. [BBC photo]

Peter Davison played a younger, friendlier, more vulnerable version of the Time Lord. He always tried to do the right thing, but often found things going very wrong. In many ways, his Doctor is the one who hooked me on the series – and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

After Doctor Who, Peter has continued a quite strong career, and I have loved many of his roles over the years – particularly Albert Campion, Margery Allingham‘s adventurous Edwardian sleuth, alongside Brian Glover as his amusing ex-con servant Magersfontein Lugg. (I once wrote a college paper based on the Campion books, which was great fun.)

albert-campion_2880407b

A detective and his manservant, solving crimes and having adventures. [BBC photo]

I have also very much enjoyed his return to the role of the Doctor in the Big Finish audios. Some of the best ones have starred Peter, including Spare Parts – a brutal glimpse into the origins of the Cybermen.

Last year, Peter published his memoir Is There Life Outside The Box?: An Actor Despairs – a witty and revealing look at his own life and career. I got to talk with him about the book at November’s L.I. Who convention – along with his thoughts about Big Finish and why he thinks he’s had such a prolific career. (Turns out that it pays to be a nice guy. Shocker!)

INTERVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ star Anneke Wills at L.I. Who

img_0094

The lovely Anneke Wills. [Photo by Dan Hall from annekewills.com]

Traveling with the Doctor on Doctor Who can take his companions on wild and wonderful adventures – but perhaps no other companion has lived such a varied existence in real life than Anneke Wills.

Playing Polly Wright from 1966-67, Anneke was there for the first-ever regeneration of the Doctor from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton in the classic stories “The Tenth Planet” and “The Power of the Daleks.”  Appearing alongside Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) and, later, Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), Polly very much was a Swinging ’60s gal from London, complete with a Carnaby Street fashion sense.

After giving up acting in 1970, Anneke traveled from the English countryside to religious quests in India, Vancouver and California. She tells her life story in two volumes of autobiography: Self-Portrait (covering up to 1970) and Naked (1970 and after). I’m most of the way through volume 2 now and it’s fascinating stuff. Her life has been filled with so much love, tragedy and transcendence.

anneke-and-dalek

Ben (Michael Craze), Polly (Anneke Wills) and the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) encounter a Dalek in “The Power of the Daleks” (the non-animated version, obviously). [BBC photo]

I was thrilled to get a chance to interview Anneke for a few minutes at last November’s L.I. Who convention. We discussed her time on the show, the recent animated release of “Power of the Daleks”, reviving the role of Polly for Big Finish audio adventures, and why she keeps copies of her autobiographies hidden under her bed.

I’m sure I could have spent hours covering all the cool stuff she saw and did during the 1960s in London (which would be my destination if I had a time machine). Maybe someday.

Hopefully more of the missing episodes from her tenure on the show will be animated in the future. Personally, I’d love to see “The Highlanders” (which introduced Jamie to the show) but I’m not sure that’d be as big as seller as “Power.” A guy can dream, though.

INTERVIEW: Nicholas Briggs of Big Finish Productions at L.I. Who

nick

Nicholas Briggs discusses Doctor Who and Big Finish Productions at L.I. Who. [Photo by Adrienne Wise]

I’ve been a fan of actor/writer/producer Nicholas Briggs for a long time now, ever since I first heard the fan-made Audio Visuals from the 1980s that imagined Nick starring in Doctor Who. Many of the stories were better than what was on TV at the time.

Since the return of Doctor Who in 2005, Nick has been the voice of the sinister Daleks as well as many of the other monsters on the show – and since 2006, he has served as executive producer at Big Finish Productions, which produces not only new audio adventures for Doctor Who but also The Prisoner, The Avengers, Dorian Gray, Sherlock Holmes and others.

Full disclosure: Big Finish is one of my addictions, and a sizable piece of my income goes right into their coffers. Even so, I can’t keep up with everything that the company puts out. Some of that is cost, but a lot of it is simply time: I listen in the car, and my commute to work is only 15 minutes each way. I do relish a good road trip when I can really dig into a story or two, but those happen too rarely.

So it was a thrill to get to talk one on one with Nick for a few minutes at last November’s L.I. Who convention. We discussed what makes a good monster voice, as well as his role as Big Finish’s creative mastermind and as the star of the Sherlock Holmes series. Given last night’s sad news about John Hurt, our brief mention of him seems especially poignant.

[I’ll post other interviews from L.I. Who in coming days.]

LIVE SESSION: Brian Wolff in studio

636204247430468683-16107091-10154912792012065-6355310194924555652-o

Brian Wolff rocks out at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas. [Photo provided]

Since I started hosting The Signal in the fall of 2011, I’ve had numerous guests join me on the air – but I believe Brian Wolff has been on the show the most number of times.

He built a good music career in the Binghamton area and then decided to take the leap to Austin, Texas – a mecca for all kinds of cool acts from blues and country to rock and folk. His blues-rock band Fair City Fire put out a debut album last year called The Simple Truth, with a bunch of great original tunes.

Several of the interviews that Brian and I have done for the show over the past few years have been by phone, so it was great to get him back in the studio with guitar in hand. We had a fun chat covering not only Fair City Fire but his inspirations in Binghamton and what it’s really like being part of the Austin scene.

 

LIVE SESSION: Devinne Meyers in studio

15994822_10154890521542065_8872158847402629897_o

Devinne Meyers [Photo by Stephen Schweitzer]

Devinne Meyers and I have been talking about her coming onto The Signal for a while now. Finally it worked out this week.

She played some tunes live, discussed her life and music, and even shared a few album tracks from East Coast Bigfoot (which she recently departed). A fun time. Check it out below – and keep an eye on her for 2017. She’s definitely going places.