Nearly 30 years ago, the Doctor was going through a very dark time... It seemed that it was not the Daleks, the Cybermen nor the Master who proved to be the Doctor's nemesis, but Jonathan Powell, aka 'The Controller' (of BBC1). The Doctor attempted to escape his fate through the big screen with the movie, starring Paul McGann, in 1996. Then all went quiet...
It was twenty years ago, in 1998, that I conducted the following interviews with three key players who had witnessed the show's demise, and also provided a glimmer of hope that it may one day return. Little did I know back then, that it would not happen until Julie Gardner, Head of Drama at BBC Wales, joined forces with Russell T Davies to reboot Doctor Who... in 2005. That was a hiatus of 16 years, meaning that a whole generation of British children had been denied the experience of growing up with 'their Doctor' to provide hope and inspiration.
Now, with the impending new series featuring a completely new regeneration of the Doctor, to be given form by Jodie Whittaker, and with Chris Chibnall as the new show-runner, with a new format, and a new Sunday time-slot, it seemed an ideal opportunity to re-publish these historic interviews, which have only previously been published on paper in The 5 Times issue 16. So here they are online for posterity.
DOCTOR WHO IS THE LONGEST RUNNING SCIENCE FICTION SERIES AND ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AND BEST LOVED. DOCTOR WHO, AS A SERIES, DEMATERIALISED FROM BRITISH TELEVISION IN 1989, YET LOYAL FANS OF THE SHOW KEEP IT VERY MUCH ALIVE AND AWAIT ITS RETURN. A ONE-OFF TELE-MOVIE SAW THE LATEST REGENERATION OF THE DOCTOR IN THE FORM OF PAUL McGANN AND THERE WERE PLANS AFOOT TO PRODUCE A NEW SERIES, THEN ALL WENT QUIET AGAIN. FANS HAVE HAD TO CONTENT THEMSELVES WITH THE PLETHORA OF ORIGINAL NOVELS, ARCHIVE VIDEO RELEASES AND CONTINUING RE-RUNS ON THE UK GOLD TELEVISION CHANNEL.
THIS YEAR, AT CANNES, THE BBC ANNOUNCED THAT THEY HAD PLANS TO PUT BIG MONEY INTO THE PRODUCTION OF A BATCH OF THEATRICAL FEATURE FILMS AND LET SLIP THAT ONE OF THESE MAYBE A DOCTOR WHO MOVIE. A RECENT EDITION OF RADIO TIMES (13-19/6/98) REPORTED THAT THE FEATURE FILM WAS "CURRENTLY IN DEVELOPMENT", BUT ALAN AIRES, AT THE BBC CORPORATE PRESS OFFICE, DENIED THAT ANY SUCH PROJECT WAS UNDER WAY. HE TOLD THE 5 TIMES, "THE BBC ARE KEEN TO EXPLOIT DOCTOR WHO AGAIN, BUT NEED MORE FUNDING THAN LAST TIME THE BBC MADE IT." WHEN PRESSED ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT MADE AT CANNES HE STATED, "SUCH A PROJECT IS NOT EVEN IN DEVELOPMENT, AT PRESENT IT IS JUST A GLEAM IN THE EYE."
IN THIS SPECIAL EXTENDED FEATURE, THE 5 TIMES TALKS WITH THREE MAJOR FIGURES FROM THE BBC ERA OF WHO. JOHN NATHAN TURNER WAS THE PRODUCER OF THE SHOW DURING ITS LAST TEN YEARS AND WAS AT THE HELM WHEN IT WENT DOWN.
GRAEME HARPER HAD WORKED ON OR WHO SINCE 1966, FIRST AS A RUNNER WORKING HIS WAY UP IN THE BBC AND EVENTUALLY DIRECTING THE STAND-OUT EPISODES, THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI AND REVELATION OF THE DALEKS. WHEN THE BBC BEGAN PLANS TO MAKE THE DOCTOR WHO FEATURE FILM, THE DARK DIMENSION, HARPER WAS PUT IN CHARGE OF THE PRODUCTION...
SYLVESTER McCOY WAS THE FINAL INCARNATION OF THE DOCTOR FOR THE BBC AND APART FROM HIS CAMEO ROLE IN THE RECENT MOVIE, WAS LAST SEEN STROLLING AWAY ON HORSENDEN HILL AND INTO HISTORY, OR MAYBE THE FUTURE, WITH THE INSPIRATIONAL LINES:
What projects have you been involved with recently?
“I’ve been editing Nicholas Courtney’s autobiography, which is not just about his time on Doctor Who, but his whole life. And all being well, a children's series, for which we've already done the pilot, which I produced and wrote, called Big Step. It's about a friendly giant and Tom Baker did the narration. It looks fairly set to do a run of 26 episodes."
You have taken a lot of flack for making changes to the format which many fans see as the downfall of Doctor Who. How would you respond to that and how do you feel about it in retrospect?
"I feel that I've come back into fashion. I was there for such a long time and inevitably, you are popular for a year, then unpopular for the next. You're in favour then you're out... One has to take it all with a pinch of salt. Although some of the flack I received was highly personal and totally unnecessary. I don't think anybody should have been subjected to it, let alone me.
"How do I feel now? The tide seems to have turned. Let's face it, I kept it going for a long time and the minute I went... not a lot has happened since."
|John Nathan Turner photographed during filming for Silver Nemesis,|
a story from the final season of Doctor Who
Probably a lot of the things you were blamed for were not solely your decisions, the changing of schedule and format for example...
"Producers are asked for their opinion, and you say leave the show where it is. But it's the channel controllers that decide. It was one controller who decided to change the shape of the show into a 45 minute series. Then we had three years of being twice weekly and each year they changed the nights and the time slots. So I don't think the show was very well treated by the controllers at that time - but there was nothing we could do, except to ask and keep asking."
Were the BBC constraints at all frustrating? On set at such a time and off by such a time or the lights go out… all the bureaucracy involved, it seems to be a little like working for the civil service.
"I think things are incredibly different now - I know they are. But remember, I was working for the BBC for twenty-odd years, so that bureaucracy becomes almost a way of life. You can't really beat the BBC, you can play the system, but you can't beat it. But so long as you have experience and know how to go around things, which doors to knock on and which phones to ring... It was an extremely happy period of my life.
"The most troublesome areas were time and money. But I think that every producer will tell you the same thing about every show they've ever done. I bet that deep down they think Titanic didn't have enough money!
"We were constantly hit by the constraints of not having a very large budget and not having a great deal of time in which' to achieve what we wanted to achieve. I am very proud, in many ways, of the talents of the creative people involved, the designers in particular, and the directors."
Do you know the real reasons behind why they did cancel Doctor Who? Was it purely down to the viewing figures and complaints from Mary Whitehouse?
"I had been trying to get off the show for a very long time, and finally they said, 'OK you're definitely moving on'. And for a few months that was OK, but after a few months I noticed there was no sign of the new guy coming in. There wasn't a lot of stuff on the shelf to hand over. So it was only then that I discovered that we were 'resting' it for a year. Then it ceased to be my problem and gradually I realised that they were 'resting' it for two years, and so on. But I was never told, 'This is the end of Doctor Who', it was only the end for a year. Which is why we altered the end of the final story and added the voice-over to leave it slightly up in the air."
What was the low-down on Colin Baker leaving? The story we've heard from him is that he found out, only at the last minute, that he was no longer required. He was expecting to be the Doctor for at least another year and personally felt he would like to have continued beyond that. Why was he effectively sacked, was it pressure from the controllers again?
"I think that Colin's story is as near as dammit. There was pressure for him to go. The reason I was given, to tell him, was that he had done three years, and the optimum period for a Doctor was three years. When I made the point that he had held the mantle of Doctor Who for three years, but he had only done two seasons because of the hiatus - I was told that it still counted as three. I think Colin's reportage of the events is accurate."
What do you think of what's been happening to the show since your departure?
"Well, I was madly envious of the movie! The amount of money that was spent, the spectacular effects and the wonderful sets. But my reservations are two-fold. I didn't really think the story had much substance, it wasn't what I would call Whoish enough.
"Secondly, I was dying for Paul McGann to get up to speed. I felt that they spent far too long giving him this bumpy regeneration and the amnesia and so on ... Which I think you can do, as indeed I did do myself ... I think you can spend a hundred minutes showing his recovery, if it's the first hundred minutes of a run of 26 episodes.
"I would have preferred him to be right up to speed and - bam! - right into a new series of adventures. I wanted to see what he was like ... and when I saw what he was like, I appreciated it and enjoyed it, but then there wasn't enough of it, because all of a sudden, the film was over.
"So those are my two basic qualms with it, but on the whole, I thought that artistically it was splendid, and I liked him."
Any views on what may happen to Doctor Who in the future?
"Well, stick with it! I think it would be a wicked waste if there weren't any more.
"Clearly, whilst the merchandise is not selling in the proportions that it used to when it had the TV transmission to back it and promote it, they are still selling substantially well. And it's amazing that there are these semi-professional spin- offs that happen and there is such interest in them and they are making money.
"It seems to me that it would be an enormous pity if there were no more. But what the chances are, I really wouldn't hazard a guess. You can't really read the organisation like a book, signs and indications mean nothing, contracts and the dotted lines do. Whenever there's a statement, I'm always highly dubious, but I don't think it should be ruled out. The show still has friends at court.
"It seems miraculous that Marvel can still publish the monthly magazine, and the BBC itself still publish the novels. Somebody somewhere is just missing the next step, which is to put the show back into production."
|John Nathan Turner's dog on location with Sylvester McCoy,|
filming the final story, ironically titled Survival
I remember talking to you quite a few years back, about your involvement with the abortive BBC telemovie, Doctor Who: The Dark Dimension, what happened with that and how far did you progress it?
"I was asked to do the film. I sat down to six weeks pre-production, actually at BBC Enterprises offices, and started to prepare and plan - officially - the making of a movie which was for both television and theatrical release. A small theatrical release, but what they were really looking for at Enterprises was a big thirtieth anniversary video and book combined sales project, a box set or whatever. That was how it was initiated and started, then Alan Yentob got wind of it and knew it would appease all the fans by having a television version, then Enterprises also thought it would be nice to have a theatrical release as well.
"So, despite all the rumours you might of heard, and whatever the BBC officially put out, I actually sat down, officially, and was paid for pre-production. So were various other people."
Some of those rumours were that footage was actually shot, involving Tom Baker...
"To my knowledge that's groundless. It had nothing to do with me, anyhow."
Who was actually involved with writing The Dark Dimension?
"Adrian Rigelsford was the writer, and after quite a bit of re-writing and several drafts of the script, I honestly believe, hand on my heart, that the script was one of the best I was ever going to do in my life! It was a story in which the Doctor appeared, as opposed to a major Doctor Who story. But a very good story, and a very good one for Doctor Who."
Any chance of it ever coming to fruition?
"I very much doubt it. I think what Adrian might do is take the various elements and turn it into something else, which is not Doctor Who, because it was a great science fiction story."
Would you take up Doctor Who again if given the chance?
"I'd love to do it again! * I've always wanted to, providing that it was brought up to date in its concept and also on film. I thought it lost a lot in the old studio techniques, compared to what else was around, and what it had to compete with. I know that was kind of part of its cuteness, but I think it would have been better if John had been given more money to shoot it on film. Then along came the movie which we were going to do in Panavision or whatever, so that would have been a great opportunity. And indeed the film that was made, directed by Jeff Sachs, I thought looked visually brilliant. I just thought, because they were putting so much money into it, the script could have been better - that could sound sour grapes, and I certainly don't mean it to be. I wanted it to be good and a huge success and for them to do some more! That would be good for all of us, so we were all gunning for it. That happened three years after ours, and I was hoping that there might have been a film series to be made, which is where it would have led if it had got a few million more viewers."
"Gosh, that's difficult to say. The main thing is the Doctor, the character. A wonderful, cantankerous old so and so. The various actors who have played him have all had it in one form or another, whether the young Peter Davison, or Tom Baker... "
"And good stories with great monsters! Everyone looked forward to a good monster so they could get frightened behind the sofa. And strangely enough, those funny old dustbins called Daleks still seem to work! Isn't it funny, when you think of all the things that came out of Star Wars and Alien, and there was Doctor Who having to compete with all that with a few dustbins - brilliant! And they worked, people loved it and still do."
|Planet of the Dustbins?|
The stories are definitely what keep the fans going back to it over and over, one story of Doctor Who has more ideas than most other SF series would get to in an entire run.
"Yes! I'm sure there were flops as well, but most of the stories were so well constructed. Well thought out. A lot of people cut their teeth on Doctor Who and have gone on to do great things."
You were involved with Doctor Who going right back to Patrick Troughton's era, along with many other BBC productions along the way. What memories of your time on Doctor Who still remain fresh?
"Two main memories...
"I suppose my Doctor was Tom Baker. He was the one I enjoyed the most. Not my period as a young boy - because I was working with him. But I thought he had a marvellous mixture of that cantankerousness and Harpo Marx. I loved his shocker hair and his constant surprised look at the world. And any image I remember of Tom Baker is always bright big eyes, looking permanently surprised as if in shock about life being the way it is.
"I have a wonderful memory of a Doctor Who I did with Michael Bryant directing, which was shot in a big china clay pit in Cornwall. In those days, Doctor Who could afford twelve stunt men as well as a co-ordinator, in the early seventies. We did this huge, nine day shoot meant to be some strange alien landscape with the twelve stunt men doing some amazing battles...
"When you have twelve stunt men on a shoot, you're gonna have a lot of fun, because they're usually very lively and very silly. I remember one evening in the hotel, and they had heated the outdoor swimming pool, in February. Well, we all got plastered one night and decided that we ought to make use of the pool and go swimming. It was one 0' clock in the morning on a very cold night - one word of the heated swimming pool and the twelve stunt men took their clothes off, in the bar, and ran naked down stairs to the lower area. They thought they were going through my room, which was near the pool, to get out through the French windows and out. So they all jumped over the bed, shouting 'yippee!', twelve of them plus their entourage of a friends. But it wasn't my room! It was the First Assistant's. I was the junior Assistant Floor Manager. So the First Assistant, Nick John, and his wife - who were trying to have a nice evening - were rudely disturbed by all these naked people jumping over them in the middle of the night!
"That's a great memory - very silly!"
"I love it, yeah, I haven't read masses. I think there is also a lot of mileage in science fiction. There's a very big audience for it. I was thinking with Adrian that we should concentrate on some of the ideas we were trying to develop together. Because of workloads we never really got to it. But there's been plenty happening over the last few years and I'd really love to do some more.
"I like Starcops, I was one of the two directors with Chris Baker, both of us and the Producer felt there was a lot of mileage in that, and we could have got a really big audience, but it was lost. They were really interesting and should have gone to another series at least, and then decided whether to do more."
What did Doctor Who do for you?
"It gave me a tremendous amount of experience in two main ways. One in handling performances fast, because you don't get very much time to rehearse. Five days to rehearse per two episodes, or fifty minutes. You have to get your act together in the way you plan the show, so you go into the studio knowing how you're going to shoot everything ready for the effects that may be added at a later date, at the same time concentrating on getting good performances where they could just get bogged down with the technicalities of being in the right place at the right time. To give a good performance in void is quite difficult. So you have to be there with them giving love, care and attention so they know they're more important than the effects. If you got naff performance and naff effects, you're on a loser. I think in the end it goes back to the story telling, and the acting.
"I don't think you'll fool the audience, but when they know they're watching a good story, they'll forgive the creaky sets ... Because they forget and get wrapped up in the story and the people.
"That was a good lesson, because on any production now, the director is lucky to get a day's rehearsal or even a read through. Actors are expected to turn up with a performance and do it. Of course, they can turn up with a performance, but it might not be the one you want! "So you have to really get to grips with it right away and go after the performance you need. Doctor Who really taught you how to go about the craft in that way."
|Surprise, surprise! Tom Baker in The Masque of Mandragora|
What, of the many things you have done since, have stood out for you?
"I did a series called Stay Lucky, with Dennis Waterman in the early nineties. The producer of that, Andrew Benson, was asked to take over producing The New Statesman and I had been working with him and getting along very well, so he asked me if I'd consider doing it. I was thrilled to work on such an evil comedy. That opened the door for me to other comedies. So I'm now able to be offered both drama and comedy. My heart is really in drama, but I love doing comedy!
"I did The Broker's Man, which is a series with Kevin Whately about an insurance investigator... It's a different and interesting role for Kevin - not the nice clean cut boy from next door that all the mum's love, though I'm sure they'll still find him endearing. He plays a guy on his uppers struggling to make a living for himself, while trying to crack all the frauds that are going on ... The music is by Alan Clark who is one of the originators of Dire Straits, so the music is also very interesting.
"I've been working ever since Doctor Who, so there are many other things. September Song was a lovely thing to do. Heartbeat - I really enjoyed working on those. House Of Elliot really stands out - and very different from Doctor Who!"
Any thoughts on the future of Doctor Who?
"Bring back Doctor Who! I don't think it'll ever happen, it has died its death. I think there's now a jinx on Doctor Who. I think the film was it, that was the return and now they'll move on...
"What was lovely about Doctor Who was that it did creak along, no matter how much JNT wanted to up-date it, which he did very well and sold it to America, and pushed the fandom... But I think its appeal was that it was slightly antiquated and something of the sixties. People solidly put their backs into it and made it as good as it could be, despite the lack of money, I think people loved it because it was its own little world, a time warp all its own, and that’s what made it popular."
|Survival ? the future of Doctor Who was a big question mark...|
Doctor Who still has a huge and loyal following, what do you think keeps it alive?
"I think because there's no more Doctor Who on the telly, then the videos, the CD-ROM, and releasing the books slowly, in a sense keeps it alive. But what really keeps it alive are the conventions. Conventions used to be peripheral to the making of Doctor Who, now they have become the centre. I enjoy them a lot, they can be tiring, but I do enjoy them. I enjoy exercising that performance part that you don't get a lot in plays, responding directly to an audience. You get to use performance muscles that don't necessarily get used in acting in films, on telly or theatre."
How did it feel, being the face of Doctor Who during the period when the BBC were messing about with the format, trying to turn it into panto? How did you deal with the frustrating dichotomy of being the public representative of the show, yet having no control over it?
"He's just an actor learning his lines and trying not to bump into the monsters...
"...I didn't know it was going to finish when it did. Although I didn't have a lot of say over the three seasons, during the second I was beginning to get some say. By the third, I became a much more serious, mysterious Doctor - I liked that. I thought that over the years, too much had been given away about the Doctor's past, that they had filled-in too much of his background. And what made it attractive in many ways, was the mystery of the early days. So the idea was to try and get back to that. So it wasn't as frustrating, because it was slowly happening. What was frustrating was that we didn't quite get to it by the time we finished.
"What was also frustrating was that there was a feeling that it was becoming successful again, during my tenure... There was an upsurge in the general fandom, magazine sales, a general feel that we had turned a corner, and that we were getting towards something that would make it take off again. We may have been wrong, but that's how it felt. And if we'd done a fourth season we would have found out.
"I know that the viewing figures were on the downward curve, but the second season did incredibly well. We were getting nearly seven million against Coronation Street - which was unheard of! That was the high point. "But for the third season, Coronation Street were heavily advertising, because they were bringing out a Friday edition, but the BBC didn't do any advertising for Doctor Who. In fact, when the season started, there was nothing in the Radio Times. Also, normally every October, JNT had a big press call for Doctor Who. Everyone knew it must be autumn because there was a Doctor Who press call. It was a very established thing, but that year, he didn't do that. He thought that he was going to leave, half way through, and waited for that to focus all the press attention.
"So the figures did not look that good, sadly. But I think we definitely had something. We were getting somewhere. So it was very frustrating in that way, but the frustration didn't come until afterwards, when they said it was off. We were all saying, 'Hey, wait a minute - we haven't finished yet!' - It was a shame.
"I was also a little frustrated just after I took over, when I had no control over it. Because I didn't know what was going on. I didn't even know what I had let myself in for! There were a lot of attacks from all over the place... "
Probably sparked off by the abrupt departure of Colin Baker...
"I hadn't really followed what had happened to Colin, I didn't know what had gone on. But I was thick skinned enough to think I would win out, because there was a lot of condemnation in the beginning. I knew that much of it was that silly thing, where people make-up their minds about something before they've even seen it. I mean wait till you've seen it and then you can judge... and if you don't like it, fine. But there were people already writing articles about how dreadful it was before they could have seen it!
"I think it's maybe a very British thing - that we condemn when we think we know, when we don't really." During your time as the Doctor, we saw a lot of development, you had changed into the darker jacket and revealed some darker aspects of the character. If you had gone on to another season, what further developments might we have seen?
''We would have gone more so. It might have created a completely new part of the myth. There was always a triumvirate, or something - I didn't do a degree in Doctor Who! But, I think there '\' has been mentioned the three that founded the Gallifreyan civilisations. We were moving toward the revelation that I was perhaps one of those three ... All this time, for twenty-six years, you had thought the Doctor was one thing but, in fact, he's something else.
"That seemed to me to be a really good way of creating more mystery. Whilst keeping all the traditional Doctor Who elements and carrying on with the comedic front. But letting people know, more and more, that it was a front and behind was a very serious person, a complex being. "I was trying to be all different facets of the other actors who had played the Doctor as well. I was trying to do that all the way through - I would have kept that going. It was more fun, as an actor, to think that, 'this is a Colin Baker moment, or a Patrick Troughton moment… I mean not actually becoming that character and doing a John Pertwee impression but thinking it."
You were glad to come back briefly for the movie, to hand over to Paul McGann?
"Yes, I was... I felt that it had enough of the seriousness. I didn’t have much dialogue – I was silent and interesting… and I enjoyed that. But I have a theory that Doctor Who didn’t really work in America because I was in it, not that I was bad, or good or whatever - not that kind of judgement. But my character, being in it and changing into Paul McGann was a complication.
"It was too complicated for a new audience to take, and that's exactly what they were after in the States - a new audience. But by putting me in it, and not keeping me in all the way through - which would have been better – it got complicated.
"If they had just done this rip-roaring Paul McGann adventure and grabbed the X-Files audience, then they could have gone on to tell the story of where the Doctor came from. They could have easily done that later, it doesn’t have to be a linear story - it's time travel after all, could have gone over the place!
"The majority of the people watching the movie didn't know anything about Doctor Who and didn’t know what that means. In Britain, the majority of people. Even those who don't watch Doctor Who, know what it's about. It’s part of our culture, they know the Doctor can change from one person into another. The movie did very well over here, nine million viewers and video sales too…”
How did the filming for the in the USA contrast with making Doctor Who for the BBC?
''Well it was very different, it was very 'Hollywood'. Equally professional, all the technicians and make-up, and wardrobe and so on. They would call you 'sir', and they expected the actors to be horrid. If you weren't, they were first a little uncertain about you, waiting for the 'crunch', until after a while they realised that the 'crunch' wasn't going to come.
"They liked Paul and I very much, probably because we were British actors and were used to mucking in much more, Hollywood has much more of the individual star thing, whereas British actors are more theatre based, so we are always part of the team work. Even though we have just as big egos as the American stars, they're not used [0 sharing - just the opposite. They don't even get to a together in the same way, their relationship is with the camera, and they're very good at that.
"Over there, they loved us for that 'way' we had. When I get shot - that was the last scene that I filmed, at three-o-clock in the morning, laying in a puddle in the middle of Vancouver, freezing. After that, I as done. The wardrobe lady and the make-up lady went up to the Producers and said, 'could he not just stand up afterwards and say sorry you missed, so he can stay here and be in the film? We don't want him to go'. But they felt the same way over Paul..."
|Sylvester McCoy handing over the TARDIS key to Paul McGann...|
Would you like to go back to playing the Doctor?
"Yes. I think I would go back if given the opportunity. **
"I wouldn't be surprised if, in maybe in ten years’ time, someone came along with the idea of reviving Doctor Who. They have to get things to fill up 250 channels of television from somewhere…”
What have you been up to lately?
“Off to Africa – yellow fever in this arm, tetanus in this arm, injected with polio and plagues – to hopefully get a documentary done about a charity called WarChild. They’re trying to start up a project in Liberia - where they've had a terrible civil war - to build a village for children, because they are all orphans - with complete back-up of education, modern drainage, the lot. Pavarotti is involved, he's going to do a concert to raise money.
"I'm going out there to film this for the charity to use. 'And at the same time. I'm going to do a little bit of entertainment for the kids in the refugee camps already there."
Are you taking the ferrets with you?
"No! I'll be using crocodiles down the trousers... " (an expression of mild horror visits his face as he considers the possibilities) "...their teeth don't join together, they interlock and don't let go!"
"I'll also be reviving Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, but not the play, it's the opera. I did it years ago with the Welsh National Opera. And bizarrely, after fourteen years, they've asked me to come back and do a platform of it - which I'm looking forward to."
If you had a TARDIS, which historical personage would you most like to go back and have dinner with?
"Richard III. I know he got bad press. All that was complete propaganda. From what you can read about him, he was most likely quite a good king. He did one or two things in his time which were really rather liberal, but because the other side won, the Tudors, they re-wrote the history and turned him into a villain. So I'd like to go back and see if he was.
"The Bishop of Ely was an enemy of his, and Thomas Moore was under the tutelage of the Bishop of Ely, and Shakespeare got his history from Moore, so it all got warped. But a great play!
"I'd be interested to go back to Roman times too. Maybe I'd want them to be more like Asterix and Obelisk, than they really were ... "It would be so wonderful to have a time machine. There's so much I'd love to find out about first hand!"
The future - what do you hope it's going to turn out like, what do you think you'd really find if you went there in the TARDIS?
"I'm optimistic, really. I hope, I think that man will conquer space. To find water on the Moon... that's the start. First the Moon, then we can conquer near space.
"We do tend to be like royal personages of old, who used to go on their procession round England. Stay in one castle until so much shit and rubbish built up that you couldn't stand the smell. Then you'd go on to the next castle. I think in one way, mankind's doing that to the Earth. We have to find another castle we can get to. If we stay here, we might make it very dangerous for ourselves to live...
"We either have to stop soon, or come up with some new invention which is going to get us out of the rut.
"We need a solar battery that'll work off a flicker of light or something, because it seems to be energy, or lack of it, that holds us back and creates a lot of the pollution...
"We need to find another planet, hopefully with nobody there, so we can live on that one while this one gets better. And then when that one gets messed up, we can come back here while that one heals."
* It is really nice to know that Graeme Harper did return to Doctor Who, directing 13 episodes of the New Series from 2006 - 2009: Rise of the Cybermen, The Age of Steel, Army of Ghosts, Doomsday (for which he won the 2007 BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Drama Director), 42, Utopia, Time Crash (the Children in Need minisode), Planet of the Ood, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Turn Left, The Stolen Earth, Journey's End, The Waters of Mars and was finally recognised for his work on Last of the Time Lords (2007) along with the classic story, Warrior's Gate (1981). He also directed three stories of The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, Enemy of the Bane and Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?
** Sylvester McCoy also got the chance to return as the 7th Doctor for an animated webcast, Death Comes to Time (2001 - 2002) and to play his part in the Time War for the 50th anniversary TV special The Day of the Doctor (2013). He continues to be a mainstay for the Big Finish Audio Adventures.