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 the Professor … er, the Doctor discuss the conditions of her joining his adventures in 1987’s “Dragonfire.” [BBC Photo]
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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!)
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.
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’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.
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.]
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.
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.
We can be heroes … for just one day. [Photo courtesy BBC]
Understatement of the year: 2016 was a rough one for music fans.
From David Bowie and Prince to Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen and George Michael, we lost a lot of iconic artists. Other losses were just as heartfelt: Dan Hicks, Guy Clark, Maurice White, Buckwheat Zydeco, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Leon Russell, and on and on.
I re-assembled the A-Team of local music fans to remember them and play some tunes: Mary Donnelly (the Professor of Power Pop), Eric Coker, Kirk Madsen, Dan Davis (a.k.a. Doc Sonic) and Brian McKinley (who took over running the board, as always).
Lots of good discussion and music over five and a half hours (!) – check it out.
Driftwood is, from left, Joe Kollar, Joey Arcuri, Claire Byrne and Dan Forsyth. [Photo provided]
One of the great things about covering the music / entertainment scene in Binghamton is watching performers grow over time.
I remember when Driftwood‘s first album, Rally Day, came out in 2009. Claire Byrne was still in college, so Joe Kollar and Dan Forsyth recorded it piece by piece when she was on break from school. Even when it came out, though, the project did not accurately reflect the growing energy that the band displayed onstage.
Three albums later, they are touring up and down the East Coast (and beyond) and are easily the biggest group to come out of Binghamton for the past 20 years. Have a listen to City Lights and realize why they deserve it. I’m proud of them.
Olga Ruocco outside Konk Studios in North London, November 2013. [Photo by me]
My love for the music of The Kinks is well documented at this point, so there’s no reason to talk about me all over again.
Let’s talk for a minute about the fans – and there are many dedicated followers in the U.K., the U.S. and around the world. Like any diverse family, there are squabbles and rivalries, politics and fights. However, in the 20-plus years since I discovered the Kinks fandom online, one thing has remained constant: Everybody loves Olga.
Over the years, Olga Ruocco has proven to be nothing but welcoming and generous to fans old and new. Among her many activities over the years: She has helped people get CDs (both official and unofficial) and books, she has given tours of the Muswell Hill section of north London where Ray and Dave Davies grew up, and she is one of the co-organziers (along with Geoff Lewis and others) of Kinks nights at the Clissold Arms (across the street from the Davies brothers’ childhood home).
I first met her in person for one of those tours in 2000, and later that year she traveled to America. One of the things she did here was an interview with a radio host on the West Coast, which we helped to facilitate remotely. (Remember, this was before the miracle of Skype!)
So naturally, when I finally got my own radio show, I decided to do a birthday show for Ray Davies around June 21, and I got Olga to do an interview with me about her Kinks experiences. In this June 19, 2012, program, we discussed how she became a fan in the mid-1960s and how her love for the group has continued to this day. We also played tunes that Olga hand-picked, including a track from Ray’s 80 Days musical (which really should be revived somewhere).
In 2014 and 2015, Kirk Madsen – who served as Ray Davies’ guitar tech and road manager in the 1990s – has joined me for the birthday show, and he’ll do so again this Wednesday (June 22) at 7 p.m. EDT. We’ll be taking requests, and you can live-stream at whrwfm.org. The show also should be archived for later listening.
(If I have time this week, I will find Kirk’s previous shows and post those as well.)