THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . OUT NOW . . . THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . CLICK HERE . . .

CURRENT : NEOPOETICS exhibition : The Stable Block, Plas Tan y Bwlch, Maentwrog : Through 2018

FUTURE : THIS illustrated edition : Publication Date TBA
EDGE2 exhibition (curating) : Pontio’s White Box Innovation Space, Bangor : Saturday 19 January – Sunday 10 February 2019
solo exhibition : Oriel Maenofferen Gallery, Blaenau Ffestiniog : May 2019




Friday, 5 October 2018

Regenerating the Doctor

FROM THE REMY DEAN ARCHIVE : 1998


Interviews with the 7th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy
Director Graeme Harper,
and Producer John Nathan Turner

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:


" THERE ARE WORLDS OUT THERE WHERE THE SKY IS BURNING, 
AND THE SEA'S ASLEEP AND THE RIVERS DREAM. 
PEOPLE MADE OF SMOKE AND CITIES MADE OF SONG. 
SOMEWHERE THERE'S DANGER, SOMEWHERE THERE'S INJUSTICE. 
SOMEWHERE ELSE, THE TEA'S GETTING COLD.... 
COME ON, ACE, WE'VE GOT WORK TO DO. "

...that was 1989.


BACK IN FASHION 
WHO IS JOHN NATHAN TURNER

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



GIVING THE DOCTOR DIRECTION
GRAEME HARPER

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."

To what would you attribute the lasting appeal and continual regeneration of the show?

"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!"

Are you a science fiction fan?

"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...



THE ONCE AND FUTURE DOCTOR… 
SYLVESTER McCOY

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."



These three interviews were first published 
exclusively in The 5 Times issue 16, 1998


*  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.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Projects 'Archive'


I will be adding an archive to highlight a selection of projects, both past and on-going, including information and sample images that are representative of the associated works.

check out the art 
HERE

for my writing, read samples
HERE

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

DYS PH ASI A


 “In this exhibition I have selected recent works that consider the differences
between intended meanings and interpretations. This is a continuing exploration 
of poetic landscapes, both real and imagined, searching for common-ground for 
writing and visual art to cohabit.” - from Artist's Statement

ARTIST'S TALK on Wednesday 10 January 2018 at 17:30



Remy Dean : Dysphasia : Partial List of Works 


‘Land Poems’ (2017)

Digital prints made with a photographic process using colours sampled from landscape. Compositions are guided by the interaction of lines using poetic rhythm and metre. Although the 'poems' are linear in structure, they may be ‘read’ in multiple directions, beginning from any square. It was my intention to capture the essence of the land through its colours and transient moods. My initial approach to this photography series was informed by the famous ‘lozenge’ paintings of Piet Mondrian.

This set of 'Land Poems' was produced as part of this year’s Creative Residency at Plas Tan y Bwlch, the Snowdonia National Park Authority's Environmental Study Centre, in Maentwrog, Wales.


‘Writing to Escape…’ (2015 – 2017)

Ongoing series of prints resulting from written drawings of visual and narrative stimuli. Expressing emotions whilst avoiding the deliberate formation of words and so, perhaps, circumventing the cultural dogmas often attached to words and languages. One perceptive viewer described this as, "a tiny form of dance, recorded visually". Precedent for this kind of approach can be found in the calligraphic scroll paintings of China and Japan, and in the modern works of Joan Miró, Cy Twombly, Franz Kline, Hans Hartung, and others…


‘The Stars, at Our Feet’ (2016)

iron : leaves its mark upon the slate in nebulae of rust in a starscape of tiny pits and scratches left by the footsteps of quarriers. The slate, once above their heads, now at their feet, reflecting the infinite night above. Ancient mineral memories… of the blood, of the land, of the stars : iron

The poetic image of slate miners returning to their barracks on a rare, clear night, their heavy work-boots splashing in the puddles, mixing the reflection of the stars with their own. This and the recent classification of the Snowdonia National Park as a Dark Skies Reserve were the seeds for this series of photographs, its title suggested by an old poem by an anonymous Cwmorthin miner. Produced as part of my 2016 Residency at Plas Tan y Bwlch.

You can read an article about The Stars, at Our Feet in EGO Magazine HERE


‘Cicorc Conwy’ (2015 – 2017)

Before setting off on longer than usual voyages, sailors would have ‘one’ last drink in their local pub before embarkation onto their ships and boats. They would enjoy a favourite tipple, smoke a pipe and sometimes they would make a small model dog with corks and match-sticks. These tiny cork companions would travel with them to distant ports in exotic far-off lands and upon their safe return would be gifted to their children. A limited edition, hand-made series of these objet-avec-courte-histoire will be available for adoption, each with accompanying information and story booklet.


‘The Questing Beats Back-Catalogue’ (2017)

A selection of re-issue CD covers from obscure, or non-existent, bands signed to the legendary 1980s art-rock/alt-punk label based in Stoke-on-Trent.


‘Sugar Rush’ (2015 - 2017)

A series of objects, photographs and information commenting on the shaping of the local landscape and culture... taken with a spoonful of sugar. From sugar and slaves… to sheep and slate…


'#Moelwyns' (ongoing, since 2007)

Selected prints from the series of photographs documenting my attempt to capture the ever-changing moods of  the Mynyddau Moelwynion mountain range, the transient atmospheric conditions that only people who are lucky enough to live here, in Snowdonia, really get to know. I see the Moelwyns and walk their slopes almost every day of the year... They remain the same, yet continually change. They never get old. To keep up with this series on twitter, click here.


'Illustrations for THIS' (2017)

Illustrations for the forthcoming illustrated edition of This, by Remy Dean with Zel Cariad, Book One of the This, That and the Other trilogy - imaginative fantasy, on an epic scale. The story follows the special friendship between two girls who embark on a magical adventure together, across the three realms. It is a modern fable inspired by Welsh fairy tales and folklore, in the tradition of The Neverending Story, The Box of Delights, The Chronicles of NarniaThis is published by The Red Sparrow Press

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Same Plas, Another Time...


The current exhibition in the Stable Block at Plas Tan y Bwlch, Maentwrog, includes a selection of my responses to the Creative Residencies I have undertaken there. More related works will be shown later this year, in a solo exhibition at the Canolfan Maenofferen Centre, in nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Remy Dean talking about his art at Plas Tan y Bwlch, part of the Gwynedd Helfa Gelf 2017 Arts Festival 
(photographs © Kim Vertue)
You can read  more about these Residencies HERE

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Mysterious Messages from Briony O Clarke


Wooden Boulder, the ground-breaking landscape ‘drawing’ by David Nash recorded a journey from the mountain slopes above Maentwrog, down into the river Dwyryd that finally carried the hunk of wood out to sea via the tidal estuary at Portmeirion. As it went its leisurely way, drawing a line through space-time, it recorded the rainfall run-off in the tributaries it travelled.

Spheres and more in the temporary artist's studio of Briony O Clarke...
It has been fifty years since The Prisoner was filmed at Portmeirion. Patrick McGoohan, as Number Six, was chased across the sandy expanse of the estuary at low tide by a wobbly white orb known as ‘Rover’. Perfect white orbs feature in the work of Briony O Clarke, who is in the final year of her low-key residency as the Village Artist. I visited in 2014, when she explained her desire to work with the land, how she wanted to devise a way to produce drawings from the swell of the sea. Last week, I was back at the historic holiday resort and popular tourist attraction to see how it has all developed. What I found was a piece of art that rivals Nash’s ‘Boulder’ for innovation and invention in the field of landscape art.

Briony O Clarke took up residence in 'Number Two's Dome'
Drawing upon her recent research experiences in Oslo, where she worked with the University’s Department of Informatics, Clarke has produced art that merges the mystical folklore of tide and time with information technology and digital data collection. In one corner of her temporary studio, situated in ‘Number Two’s Dome’, she has built the Scrying Pool, a continuous vortex of water contained within a black Perspex bowl. The swirling mini-whirlpool distorts its surroundings in ever-changing rippling reflections. It is an elegant installation that recalls the 1960s lava-lamp Rover nursery that could be seen in the circular Village Control Room. It is also part of a printing process that Clarke has developed from the ancient art of Japanese Suminagashi, where hand-ground pigments and clear oils are floated on the surface of water. Instead of laying paper onto a still surface, pages are carefully introduced into the flow, taking prints from the fluid patterns.

Scrying Pool and the Sea Fax
The culmination of Clarke’s four-year residency is Sea Fax a machine that allows the sea to send us messages of its beauty. A buoy, far out in the Atlantic, measures the levels of the tide and the rhythm of the waves, wirelessly sending this data to Clarke’s contraption, which reminds me of 2001’s Monolith, having a lie down.

Is it a modernist monument, or an understated tomb marker? A pool of water contained within this pure black, table-sized rectangle, is mechanically set in motion to reproduce the conditions out at sea from the live data it is receiving. Clarke then uses pigments ground from locally sourced stones, slate, granite and marble, to produce prints in the Suminagashi tradition. Miraculously, these automatic drawings, transmitted from the sea, often resemble the most beautiful and elegant watercolour landscapes of zen painters. The sea sends us pictures, drawn with the land itself.

Gently. Carefully. Mysteriously.

Two delicate drawings made by Briony O Clarke's Sea Fax

read a short interview with Briony O Clarke at the Portmeirion website

Friday, 21 July 2017

Getting To The Point - an interview with Trent Reznor

FROM THE REMY DEAN ARCHIVE : 1991

With Trent Reznor making a guest appearance in the new Twin Peaks series, and a new Nine Inch Nails album recently announced, I am reminded about meeting him for an interview, early in both our careers… So here it is, dug out from my clippings archive - a snapshot of music history from 26 years ago! The music scene back then seemed very vital and there were always interesting and surprising stories behind the bands… this interview is no exception. [NOT edited for language.]




NOT THE HAPPIEST GUY IN THE WORLD... 

Nine Inch Nails are surprising, deceptive and dangerous. The image evoked by the name comes pretty close to summing up their sound: hard, metallic and with a point. They have already caused quite a stir with the alternative charts, heavy metal audiences, MTv, the FBI, and whilst on their debut tour over here, the British police. Why?

Musically, main man Trent Reznor has used his Nine Inch Nails to knock together industrial dancecore, traditional pop and metal in such a vital manner that the barrier between the usual cult status afforded such bands and the mainstream has been punctured. The debut LP, Pretty Hate Machine, broke the ground and achieved major crossover success, but rather than planting easy-grow pop seeds and waiting for commercial chart success to blossom, the follow-up album, Fixed, is a much harder, uglier and intense crop of songs, exploring the darker corners of sound and self. When asked of his major influences, he has an off-pat reply: "Ministry for aggression, XTC for song writing, Severed Heads for production... and I like Prince a lot."

Pretty Hate Machine sold something like 500,000 copies and spawned three top-five alternative-chart singles in the USA. Their live debut in the UK was before an audience of 85,000 at Wembley, and the first single, Head Like A Hole, got quite a grip on the mainstream charts here.

The Nine Inch Nails live phenomena is intimate, aggressive and often truly dangerous. More than once, the shows have ended with injury to the band, the audience, and most certainly the hardware. As I am shown up to Mr Reznor's hotel suite, I hear that another journalist has cancelled as he is considering pressing assault charges against Trent for injuries sustained at the gig the night before ... What have I got myself into?


Today, however, Trent Reznor is in apathy mode, stretched out on the sofa, yawning...

So, what's all this about assaulting my fellow journalists?

"He was very upset, and considering pressing charges, because he got hit in the head with a bottle of water and got a black eye… which is bullshit because we don't throw bottles of water on stage.

"Our live show has gotten a lot more aggressive than the records. My whole idea of a performance is to take it beyond just being a band on stage... We try to be more interactive. I've noticed in our shows, when they get more chaotic, people like it. And the more element of danger to the audience - not that we're gonna attack them or kill them - then there's real interest being inspired and their attention is focussed. The music excites them and the energy released is not as safe as being in your seat 500 yards away. It’s interaction. That's why we like playing clubs."

So, what was it like opening for Guns'n'Roses to a stadium audience?

"It was what I'd expected, and worse. Axl's a friend of mine, we met in LA when he came to the show and asked if we wanted to open for them on some dates in America... we couldn't do it, but as we were planning on coming over here, we thought what better and stranger way to do it than supporting the biggest rock band in the world?"

Was there any worry about the somewhat dubious, even juvenile, image of Guns'n'Roses rubbing off - onto NIN?

"They are that and more. They're a big fucking dangerous live rock band! That's what they do and they do it well, with all the trappings right down to the drum solo. For what it is, they do it better than anyone else.

"I don't care if people want to think we’re cock rock... and another reason for doing it was the strangeness of a synth act being on that bill."

We know NIN aren't cock rock. What does Trent think they are about?

"When I wrote the record, Pretty Hate Machine, I thought, 'What would be my reason for having a band? What can I say musically or lyrically?' I was looking inward and made some very personal songs that were about how I felt about certain things. The motivation was more dissatisfaction rather than, 'I'm the happiest guy in the world, let's write an album!'

"The theme of the record revealed itself to be things that were really bothering me: not having my religious outlook together, not being able to fit neatly into a little hole in society, trouble dealing with people on a one-to-one basis. Nothing staggeringly new, teenage angst, but trying to do it with some sincerity - a kind of questioning examination.

"I'd like to break down all these stereotypes and ideas that if you're in a band, you put out a record, hopefully once a year, and then you go on tour, and then do an album, make a video and repeat the process until you have nothing else to say and die out."

Videos for Nine Inch Nails have already stirred strong reactions. How far do they represent the NIN vibe?

"I don't like videos, really... what could have been a cool art form turned out to be nothing but corporate commercials for a record, and it's to the point now where a lot of bands, us included, have to justify spending quite a sizable amount of money to make a video. To make it the way you want to make it, you get such strict censorship problems...

"We couldn't show Down In It to begin with because of me laying dead on the ground - that may imply suicide... Head Like A Hole couldn't be shown because it was 'too disturbing' - what the fuck does that mean? So, I spent X amount of money - it cost almost as much to make as my album did - for a video that no-one gets to see because this fucking station won’t play it."



"What I'd like to do is work in a totally different format. So, for the next album, there are no videos - I'll make a film that's 45 minutes or an hour long, and sell that to stores, and that's the visual accompaniment - that's the way you get to see Nine Inch Nails, and it's a little more elite and a little more special."

Like any band that criticises the capitalist commercialism of the record industry, how can Reznor justify his position as a product that has to sell to remain in existence? Surely there must have been many compromises.

"The record business had always been a closed door to me. Now it's open, all the fucking scum has come out and surrounded me, embraced me. I thought, naively, that people put out records because they liked music... but it's not about art, it's not about music, it’s about fucking product, and ripping people off and marketing schemes and formulas. So what I'm trying to do is create an environment where I'm toying with accessibility. I like to hear, ‘Well MTv wants to play it, but you have to edit that second out of the video' - make them squirm a bit. Not that they'd go out of business if they didn't play Nine Inch Nails, but the only way I can change a system I really hate - like MTv's formatting… such as top 40 radio - is not to comply with it.

"They want millions of record sales and I want to put out music that has some integrity to it. Because I tried to do that, I think that's why we got to where we are now, but they don't see it like that. They see it like, 'you sold 480,000 you could sell four million - we’ve gotta smooth things off, and do a video with some girls in, let's get some fucking cars in that video... might as well change the lyrics cos they're a little ugly, let’s take those guitars out of the chorus…' - what’s left? That side has been the most disheartening, seeing the control being taken away."

A knock on the door interrupts us at this point.
Apparently, the police are on their way up and we are advised to hide-out in another suite to complete the interview. I follow the swearing Reznor along the corridor and into his manager's room where he falls back onto another couch...

This is not his first brush with the law. He was once involved in an FBI murder inquiry. Where he was the... victim! …what? So, rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated?

"We were doing a bunch of stuff lowering Super-8 cameras off buildings," he explains, "The theme of the video, very obliquely, was suicide. The track was Down In It - which wasn't about suicide at all, but if you juxtapose that idea onto the song, it makes sense, almost in a crucifixion kinda death scene. That was the idea, but it became so oblique you would never know that, unless I told you.

"There was this scene, where I'm lying on the ground with corn starch on me so I look like I'm dead... and we tied a camera to a weather balloon filled with helium, and attached some strings so you could start the camera, let it go, and then pull it back down. So when the film was reversed, it looked like the camera was dropping down onto my head. But the strings broke and the thing just took off! We were doing some stuff at the top of this building, so we ran up... but by the time we got to the roof, you could just barely see it on the horizon... it was gone! I remember saying, 'Hey, I hope that doesn't fall and hit someone on the head... it could absolutely kill someone…' and never thought any more about it.

"About a year later, John [manager] came and said, 'You will not believe this, but I just got a call from the FBI...' This thing went 200 miles, landed in some farmer's field. He found it and, thinking it was some kind of marijuana surveillance camera - a ridiculous thing to think - took it to the police. The police developed the film and... they saw me laying 'dead'. Also on that reel, there was some stop-frame animation that didn't work very well - it was at night and it turned out really awful-looking, and they thought it was some kind of snuff film with a clue a murder - I was dead and you could see these other people walking away...

"They tracked it down to Chicago. Chicago police went round art schools, then realised it was a video for a rock band... I thought that was funny... It looks like we set up a dumb publicity stunt, but it wasn’t at all. It was just a fuck-up. When I heard what had happened to that camera it was, like Jesus Christ! Couldn't believe it!"



Trent is losing the apathy and getting restless...

There are sounds outside the door. I decide to round off the meeting before a police raid does it for us. So, to what does he attribute the 'surprise' success of that first album?

"I think it's a good album, but didn't realise it had the accessibility it seems to have. That may be attributed to the fact that I am conscious of writing songs in the traditional sense. I am concerned about melody, choruses and hooks, things like that. I think that gives us an edge that the other bands we tend to get lumped-in with don't give as much attention to. Which is not good or bad, just different and maybe gives us more pop appeal. Again, I hope to retain some amount of accessibility, but I wouldn't look for a top 40 single, that's not where we’re heading.

''I'm just concerned with doing the music as well as it can be done. I don't know if we're ever going to go up in mainstream popularity from where we are now, because I know - what my new music sounds like!"

And so, I wish him luck with the law and quickly make my exit.

As it turned out, the charges were dropped and he was able to fly back to his new home in New Orleans, delayed only when the plane he was on made a forced landing because part of the cockpit window blew-in during flight...

Trent Reznor is the kind of guy things happen to ...and Nine Inch Nails are definitely happening.




This interview with Trent Reznor was conducted during the first UK tour for Nine Inch Nails, back in 1991. A snippet first appeared in Outlook Magazine, and Crumblin’ Rock later published the full version you have just read here.

The meeting provided solid grounding for research towards my 1995 book on the origins and influences of Nine Inch Nails (ISBN: 978-1886894259).

Thursday, 25 May 2017

This Must Be The Plas...


Helfa Gelf is now an annual event - an Arts Trail through North Wales during September that involves hundreds of artists, crafters - creatives of all kinds - in an exciting and varied festival of events. Many creatives open the doors of their studios to the public, presenting an opportunity to interact and share their creative practices. The open studios season is during September and is also preceded - and then followed by - a programme of exhibitions, workshops and courses for creative professionals, interested novices, and all those between. Helfa Gelf presents a unique opportunity to meet and chat with artists, makers and doers in their creative spaces, see them at work, perhaps have a go yourself, and see their finished work - which is often available to purchase at special 'trade prices' - ideal if you want to get some unique Yuletide shopping sorted ahead of the rush...

This year, I will be at Plas Tan y Bwlch for the Helfa Gelf festival, picking-up on the Residency that I began there last year...

There will be readings from my books, 'pop-up' exhibitions of photography and other visual responses, and plenty of chat about art and folklore. Work produced during my 2016 Residency will be on show and I will also host free 'drop-in' creative workshops, and 'taster sessions' from the forthcoming Creative Writing Course: A Sense of Space, to be hosted at Plas Tan y Bwlch in March 2018.

For more info, dates and times, see my Helfa Gelf Artist's Profile Page (click images below) and while you are there, have a good look around their website at all the many and varied artists that will be welcoming you into their work spaces throughout September 2017...