By Gary Russell
at Big Finish Towers, in our plush 94th floor penthouse
apartment, we get quite a few questions emailed to us and so we
thought it was time that Gary Russell, putting his producer's
hat on finally got around to updating some of these answers. So,
hello from June 2002...!
on the FAQ:
What exactly is Big Finish Productions?
company was formed in 1996 by Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nancy Hine
as a small production company, handling both audio and video productions.
Jason invested heavily in the company which is why we, honestly,
plead poverty so much. We have no multinational companies backing
us, no injections of cash from well-meaning sponsors or generous
relatives. Like a vast majority of small businesses in Britain,
BFP gets by on luck, love and some rather special talent.
In 1998, Jason was approached by myself and Nicholas Briggs to
do some audio science-fiction. The two of us had been responsible
for much of the elbow-grease in Audio Visuals, a fan group
from the late eighties who made non-profit-making, highly unlicensed
Doctor Who audio plays. Jason had been a fan of ours and
knew our work. We had secured the licence from Virgin Publishing
to make audio dramas based upon their range of novels featuring
one-time Doctor Who companion Professor Bernice Summerfield.
Nick and I produced the Benny audios for Jason and Nancy's company.
When we were offered the licence to make brand new Doctor Who
by BBC Worldwide in 1999, we grabbed it, with Jason acting as
producer for BFP, myself as artistic producer and initially
BBC Books range editor Steve Cole as our Executive Producer on
BBC Worldwide's behalf. After Steve's departure from the Beeb,
that role was taken on by his former assistant, now Eighth Doctor
desk editor herself, Jacqueline Rayner. With Nancy having departed
during 2002, Jason is the only BFP full-timer, although
he is ably supported by the magnificent Brenda Smith who does
all the mail-order side of things. Myself, John, Nick, Alistair
and the others whose names appear in the credits on the CDs and
tapes are freelancers employed by BFP on a production-by-production
basis. We do, therefore, live in fear of Jason one day being possessed
by an evil twin who sacks us all. Until then...
What does the BBC license entitle us to do?
basically, we are allowed to make brand new audio dramas based
upon the BBC Television series Doctor Who. We are not allowed
to adapt books, unmade scripts, stage plays, comic strips, ancient
texts from lost Atlantis etc. And nor would we want to. This is
the first time such a license has been granted and it seems rather
daft to us to waste it rehashing existing material when we have
an opportunity, within the confines of that license, to keep Doctor
Who alive and fresh well into this new century. Oh, and one
other thing, no we are not allowed to regenerate the Doctor into
a ninth persona.
Okay, so you're using Paul McGann, Colin Baker, Peter Davison
and Sylvester McCoy, but what about Tom Baker?
We've talked informally to Tom and he wavers between saying yes
and no. An interview with Tom in Doctor Who Magazine some
months back went some way towards illustrating the way Tom would
like to re-present himself in the role, and some people have commented
that it might not be very typical Doctor Who. Personally,
I don't think that should present too many insurmountable challenges
- but it's just a case of striking the balance to keep all parties
happy and, above all, the fans pleased. Ultimately Tom will do
it if and when he feels it is right. We have no intention of pressuring
him into doing so - what would be the point?
4) You've got the Doctors, but what about
companions, villains etc?
we have a nice variety of relevant actors to team up with the
Doctors. With the 5th Doctor, thanks to Mark Strickson and Sarah
Sutton, we have the option of adventures with Nyssa and Turlough.
We also have Nicola Bryant, whom we can pair up with either the
5th or 6th Doctors. And for the 7th Doctor, Sophie Aldred is always
happy to return as Ace and Bonnie Langford is happy to come back
as Mel with both the 6th and 7th Doctors. Besides that, and again
bearing in mind the terms of our licence, I do believe in pushing
the boat out a little now and again. The 6th Doctor's era in particular
is a rich untapped source of possibilities. Already we have created
the character of Evelyn Smythe to travel with the post-The
Trial of a Time Lord 6th Doctor before his adventures began
properly with Mel Bush. And we have The
Holy Terror, teaming him up with Frobisher, the shape-changing
Penguin from the old Doctor Who Magazine comic strips.
Plus of course we have Charley Pollard alongside the Eighth Doctor
(we do not have the rights to use Grace Holloway, Chang Lee or
any other elements specifically created for the 1996 TV Movie),
and to keep the 5th Dotor happy, we now have the Egyptian pharoah
Erimem. We do believe that if the odd experiment isn't made once
in a blue moon, the audios could become a bit repetitive and predictable.
Although we can't further the Doctor Who mythos with a
new incarnation, we feel it would be remiss of us not to add a
bit of colour now and again where we can. And remember, we cannot
do anything that BBC Worldwide don't approve of first, so you're
unlikely to find a rampaging, gun-totting, sex-maniac, swearing
Doctor all of a sudden. We'll leave that unimaginative route to
the movie producers of the future.
there's the question of the bad guys. Okay, let's deal with the
Master first. We held informal discussions with Anthony Ainley
but sadly we couldn't agree terms and conditions. Thus we went
back one, as it were, to Geoffrey Beevers, who was more than happy
to give further voice to the decrepit Master seen in The Keeper
of Traken. Thus Geoffrey is our on-going Master. we'd
love to use the Rani sometime and even if we negotiated with Pip
and Jane Baker, who own the copyright on the character, if we
could not employ Kate O'Mara, again, what's the point? Far better
to create a new character. Yes, of course the Master and Rani
could regenerate, but clever as that concept is, it can
also be badly overused (vis a vis Borusa on television). We have
discussed the possibility of finding a way of using the Valeyard
that would be a departure from his TV appearance (it would be
too easy to use the character as a substitute Master) and I would
like to work with Michael Jayston, but we'll have to see what
we can come up with. We do have plans, though...
Why don't you get sound-alikes to play the first three Doctors.
Maybe David Troughton could do the Second Doctor and Sean Pertwee
will not recast those three Doctors under any circumstances -
to do so would I believe be the height of bad taste. On TV they
got away with it in The Five Doctors, and that should remain
a unique event. William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee
were three great actors whose memory is better served by enjoying
what we have rather than muddying it with sound-alikes. And to
ask their sons to impersonate them would be insulting to them
and their fathers. It's a definite no-no.
Does that therefore mean we won't see their companions returning,
paired with other Doctors?
happened in a number of the novels, with varying degrees of success.
Personally, I'm against it. It's been far more fun working with
Anneke Wills and Caroline John in totally different roles, and
hopefully they won't be the last familiar faces we bring to unfamiliar
parts. Recently we enjoyed working with Elisabeth Sladen on a
new Sarah Jane Smith series, but I can't see how it would
benefit Sarah to bring her back into a Doctor Who story. Gallifrey
opens up a number of interesting possibilities - Leela could work
well alongside unfamiliar Doctors and of course Lalla Ward has
recently returned to play Romana alongside both the 6th and 8th
Will we ever see/hear the Brigadier again, particularly alongside
Colin Baker's Doctor as Dimensions in Time aside, they never properly
met in the series?
sorted. The Brigadier meets up with the Sixth Doctor in The
Spectre of Lanyon Moor and encounters the Eighth Doctor
in Minuet in Hell. Hopefully,
he'll be back again...
Why do you use that particular version of the Doctor Who theme?
preference, more than anything. We initially commissioned four
new versions and although they are all great reinterpretations,
I still believe that to most people, the Pertwee/Baker theme is
Doctor Who. When the Comic Relief team used it for The
Curse of Fatal Death, that finally swung it for me. And we
were fortunate to be aided by Mark Ayres who had prepared the
special stereo short mixes for the charity special and that's
the version we use. And for those who wonder why we use so little
of it, well, that's straightforward, ugly old economics I'm afraid.
We have to pay the copyright holders a percentage per second's
worth used. It's not cheap and therefore we use what we can afford.
A number of people have suggested that we use the different themes
for each Doctor but that gets us further into the red! Not only
do we still have to pay the copyright on the piece of music itself,
but those individual re-arrangers would need to be paid each time
too. Honestly, we simply cannot afford it. And, as I say, I believe
the theme we do use is the one most closely associated with Doctor
Who to a majority of people. For the 8th Dotor series, it
seemed a fun idea to create our own unique version and thus, thanks
to Mark Gatiss, we were able to work with David Arnold in between
Bond movies, to produce a quite exciting version that can be found,
reworked by Alistair Lock on the first run of 8th Doctor plays,
and re-edited by Davy Darlington on the second run. David's full,
untouched mix appears on the Music From The Eighth Doctor Audios
Do you intend to have big-name guest stars?
Who has a fine tradition of employing great actors to be in
the series, and, budgetary considerations allowing, I think it's
great if we can continue that. Already we've had familiar 'faces'
such as Jacqueline Pearce, Derren Nesbitt, Michael Sheard, Eleanor
Bron and Hugh Walters as well as the type of actor you always
thought should have done the show but never did like David Ryall,
Stephen Greif, Holly de Jong, James Bolam, Don Warrington, Charles
Kay, Bruce Montague, Sally Knyvette, Peter Guinness and Gareth
Thomas for instance. I have a list as long as my arms (legs as
well) of people I'd kill to work with. But I don't believe in
guest stars for the sake of it. Actors must be cast for what they
bring to a part, not what they bring to publicity.
Have you considered enhancing your CDs with extra material, like
a lot of singles and albums do with pop videos etc.
we're actually looking into it now and again, but it's not a cheap
option. Certainly, the most we could do would be photographs and
such like, and that has to be costed against whether or not it's
truly worth it. Also, there may be a slight licence query over
that as our contract with BBC Worldwide doesn't cover such a thing.
We'll have to see. Certainly we won't be doing enhanced CDs in
the near future.
You're doing a series of linked Dalek plays. Will Davros be there
categorically not. Nick Briggs and I are massive Dalek fans and
don't ascribe to the lazy notion that Daleks need Davros to do
their talking for them. Throughout the Sixties and early Seventies,
the Daleks came across as powerful adversaries, adept with cunning,
intelligence and power. Once you stick Davros with them, they
simply end up as mobile tanks, doing his dirty work. In Genesis
of the Daleks, Davros was essential and unequalled. No matter
how good David Gooderson and Terry Molloy are in the subsequent
adventures, Davros seems to us to be superfluous to requirements.
We're basing our Daleks on the ruthless conquerors of the Sixties.
The Dalek Empire adventures do, we believe, echo those
classic serials. That's not to say we wouldn't do Davros minus
the Daleks one day...
What about story arcs?
difficult to do when you have a play with a different Doctor every
month. Within their own eras, I think it can be fun to have running
themes, as opposed to continuing arcs. For instance, in our 5th
Doctor/Nyssa stories there was a slight arc, starting in Land
of the Dead concerning Nyssa that was eventually resolved
in Primeval. But these are things that are very minor themes that
people can spot and enjoy but if you miss them, they're of no
great importance. Again it comes back to what I mentioned earlier
about pushing out the boat a bit. It's fun, and necessary, to
play around a bit with what we're doing, without altering or damaging
the canonicity of the TV series that started it all. The status
quo must always appear to be maintained, but that doesn't prevent
us all having some fun along the way. The Eighth Doctor stories
we have recorded with Paul McGann offered us a greater opportunity
to provide close links which is one of the reasons I chose to
release the plays sequentially, akin to seasons, was so that we
could do this. Although all ten stories are separate entities,
listened to in order, they do possess an extra dimension, particularly
in regard to Charley.
Big Finish also do the series of Bernice Summerfield audios. Are
we likely to see her crossing back into the world of Doctor Who
definitely. Paul Cornell, who created Benny for the Doctor Who
novel Love and War, wrote a story entitled The
Shadow of the Scourge set during her travels with the
Seventh Doctor and Ace, and Trevor Baxendale has recently completed
another one, The Dark Flame
for release during 2003.
Have the BBC suggested doing novelisations of the audios as Virgin
did with the two Jon Pertwee radio serials The Paradise of Death
and The Ghosts of N Space?
they've never mentioned it, and it's not an avenue that I'm keen
to go down yet. Getting people interested in listening to audio
is hard enough as it is. It's not as immediate as TV, nor as convenient
as a book. And Doctor Who fans these days are far more
used to getting a new adventure in print than on audio. We believe
that given the option of the story on audio or in a novelisation,
a large percentage of our potential audience would plump for the
book. Which would put us out of business rather rapidly! Hopefully
everyone agrees with us that that'd not be a good thing.
Are you accepting submissions for scripts?
at the moment. As fans ourselves, we know what it's like to be
part of creating new Doctor Who and decided right from the outset,
it would be churlish to say an outright no to submissions. Doctor
Who fans are amongst the most literate genre fans out there
and we'd kick ourselves if a great story was out there but we
never had a chance to see it. However, and this is important for
would-be scribes to remember, the chances are actually slim -
probably far slimmer than they are for getting a BBC Book accepted.
This is not because we're ogres (well, I am, but that's a different
kettle of fish...) but one of practicality. Writing audio is far
harder than it at first seems, and to be brutally honest, I have
provisionally filled all available slots until well into 2004
already. For that reason, we closed our submissions policy. When
the time comes to look beyond 2004, we may well re-examine the
Where can we actually get the audios?
from us - to be honest, that's the best way to ensure we keep
going simply because all the costs go back into subsequent productions.
If mail-order/web-ordering isn't your thang, then in the UK, a
majority of specialist shops and convention dealers (Forbidden
Planet, Galaxy 4, 10th Planet, Bruce Campbell etc) carry the CDs,
while some branches of HMV carry, or can order, them. In the US
Ministry of Sound and Vision are our distributors and usually
any little 'gifts' we give to subscribers in the UK will find
their way to MOSV's subscribers, too. We're always looking for
ways to further our invasion of Australia and New Zealand, so
fingers crossed on that...
What is in the future?
newspages of this web-site carries our latest news, as of course
do the many news sites on the internet, and the Gallifrey Guardian
section of Doctor Who Magazine. And of course, other genre
magazines regularly feature us. Which is nice and we appreciate
it. But this page is always the best for accurate and, more importantly,
How long will you be doing the New Audio Adventures for?
license with the BBC is not indefinite and needs to be renegotiated
like all licenses do every few years. Hopefully by the time ours
comes up you'll still want us to keep making the plays and the
BBC will similarly want them to continue. If it were down to Jason,
Nick, John, myself, our actors, writers and directors, we'd do
them for as long as people want us to. As Doctor Who fans,
our job is to give other fans new and exciting Doctor Who adventures
and keep the show alive for a whole new generation.
a sly old joke out there: How many Doctor Who fans does
it take to change a lightbulb? None, they just sit around and
wait for it to come back on.
whilst there's a grain of truth in there somewhere, for a majority
of us, it's not true. For as long as fans keep reading books,
reading magazines, listening to audios and watching the videos,
let alone buying toys, calendars, posters etc, then there's a
good chance that one day someone in the BBC will wake up to the
fact they have on their hands the most unique piece of entertainment
ever created for television. Until then, it's up to the fans
to keep it all going...
the audios, and thanks for reading this.
and Copyright: This FAQ V.3 document
is Copyright (c) 2002 Big Finish Productions Ltd., and its contents,
opinions or information may not be modified and/or distributed
or used elsewhere without consent of the current maintainer. Please
feel free to address further questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, putting FAQ
in the Subject header.