09 January 2013

Chat: Splendid Chaps live podcats

Splendid Chaps: A year of Doctor Who

Ben McKenzie and John Richards  like Doctor Who, so they've decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the telly show by being Splendid Chaps and hosting a year-long performance and podcast project.

Starting this Sunday, 13 January, they're recording a live podcast each month until November. Each month is dedicated to a specific doctor, has a new theme and is at a different venue. This month is about the First Doctor, William Hartnell, explores authority and is at Trades Hall (The Annex, Bella Union). You can book here.

Each visit, hosts Ben (Dungeon CrawlPop Up Playground) and John (Boxcutters podcast, Outland – really ABC, why hasn't this been repeated and where is Series 2?) and companion Petra Elliott will be joined by special guests. First up are Lee Zachariah (The Bazura Project, Hell Is For Hyphenates podcast), Nerida Haycock (3RRR), Alexandra Tynan (Sandra Reid) who designed the original Cybermen, and musical guest Geraldine Quinn with an updated version of her "Doctor Who's Assistant".

More info and episode zero of the podcast is at splendidchaps.com.

(Before anyone, including me, has a hissy: "We realise chaps is a gendered term, but with a podcast titled Splendid Chaps, we don’t imagine we’d get away with calling ourselves anything else." And the Brigadier said it.)

Meanwhile, Ben answers some questions.

Who’s your doctor?
If I had to pick a top three, it’d be Troughton, Davison and Smith. But I really do like them all.

What episode do you watch any time you get a chance?
Not an episode, but a story: The Caves of Androzani. Still my favourite, though some have come close in recent years. The first episode of The Talons of Weng-Chiang is pretty great too. A Christmas Carol is probably my favourite from new Who.

Can you remember the first episode you saw?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t watching Doctor Who, so no! Probably middle period Tom Baker, that seems to be what was on the ABC around the time I would have started. The first book was Terror of the Autons. Frightening cover! The first video I obsessed over was The Five Doctors. I know it off by heart.

How many Doctor Who toys do you own?
I have a few Dapol action figures and a TARDIS from back in the day, and a couple of sonic screwdrivers and pocket watches; not that many toys! It’s the books I collected. I have hundreds of them!

If the TARDIS landed in your living room, where/when would you ask to go?
Dinosaurs. And space. And aliens. The future, to learn how we answer the questions and solve the problems of today (spoilers!). Oh, just everywhere, I reckon. But mostly dinosaurs.

Photo by Robert Young

Kissing and crying in Doctor Who. Discuss.
I don’t think there should be a taboo against the Doctor doing either, but when you make him a romantic lead, you lose the unique position the show used to occupy in not having one. It made him much more anyone’s hero; a character any of us could be. Now he likes pretty young girls just like every TV hero. Hardly ground breaking stuff there! I thought it was sweet the way Paul McGann did it; Ecclestone’s made no sense to me; nearly everything since seems a bit gratuitous.

Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures?
The Sarah Jane Adventures. It's everything her appearance in new Who should have been and more. I loved it. Though special mention to Torchwood: Children of Earth for being quite brilliant, in sharp contrast to the other series of Torchwood.

What other TV shows are you obsessed by?
Doctor Who was my gateway into UK television, and I still love Press Gang, Monkey, Sapphire and Steel, The Prisoner, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, and Blackadder, of course. The Goodies   was hugely influential on me, it was far superior to Flying Circus in my book – I wish they’d release the whole series, not just bits and pieces. Hmmm…not much new on that list! I do love Lexx, but that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s delightfully weird. I am very keen on Game of Thrones, though I question it in some respects. The modern Sherlock is good, I’m a Holmes fan too from way back, so I’m also interested in Elementary. I was a huge Red Dwarf fan back in the day and I was incredibly (if pleasantly) surprised to find that the latest series is actually pretty good! The only show that has engendered anything like Doctor Who level devotion from me, though, is Community. Love every second.

Russell or Steven?
Steven, but only when he’s got his eye on the ball (and not working on twenty different things at once). I’m really interested to find out who’ll be next and what they’ll do, since we’ve seen several years of both these guys now.

Cyberman or Dalek?
I think they’re both equally interesting – when writers choose to make something of them. They’ve not been terribly exciting in recent history, with the notable exception of Rob Shearman’s Dalek.

Why should SM readers come to the live recording of Splendid Chaps?
Doctor Who is a show with a vibrant and wonderful fan community, and we’d love to share that with an audience. Plus, the live show will be around 90 minutes (with a break), but the podcast will be under an hour – so you’ll get bits you won’t hear on the podcast!

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