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Published on July 25th, 2009 | by Christian Cawley

Big Finish’s David Richardson

Big Finish’s David Richardson has overseen some of the most memorable serials on the Doctor Who audio range in recent times and recently spoke to us about The Companion Chronicles, the Lost Stories and the return of Tegan…

Congratulations on the recent Companion Chronicles plays – The Mahogany Murderers was particularly memorable! Any plans to reunite Jago and Litefoot once more following the positive reaction?

Thank you! You know, Lisa Bowerman (the director) and I just had the best time working on that. We knew we had a great script by Andy Lane, but we couldn’t have anticipated how much Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter would embrace it on the day and run with it. I remember Toby, our engineer, just listening to them at work, and turning to me during the recording and saying “This is absolutely wonderful”. Of course, the great fear then is that something you love passionately might not be as well received by the audience. I needn’t have worried – we’ve been besieged by letters of praise. I’m thrilled.

Will there be more? I’d love to but it all depends on sales. Big Finish productions are solely financed by sales, so if the audience votes for more by buying it… then hopefully there’ll be more.

Trevor Baxendale and Christopher Benjamin reprise Talons of Weng Chiang charcters Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago in Big Finish's The Mahogany Murderers - photo by Lisa Bowerman

I love the way the Companion Chronicles lets you bring in big stars from the show’s past and give them a starring role – the real question is, how did it take so long to settle on this format?

Actually Nick Briggs needs to be given due credit for The Companion Chronicles. It was all his idea, and the series started up a couple of years before I joined Big Finish. But, when Jason and Nick offered me the job of line producer for the company, I already had my sights on the Chronicles because I’d loved listening to them. Series one and two were just four episodes a year, but Jason embraced my suggestion that we go monthly with them, and we’ve never looked back.

I love them. I’m in my forties now and this is the happiest time of my working life. I get to work with great writers, wonderful actors, and Lisa, in particular, has been a joy to collaborate with – she comes to every production with infectious enthusiasm and endless ideas.

So far, the first five episodes of Season Four are finished, and I’m very happy with every one. The Drowned World allows us to do something very different with Sara Kingdom, The Glorious Revolution is a tour de force by Frazer Hines, and Prisoner of Peladon finds the brilliant David Troughton recreating the role of King Peladon nearly 40 years on. The Pyralis Effect is a thrilling sci-fi epic and Ringpullworld is Paul Magrs at his quirky, inventive best.
There are interesting plans for 2010 too – I like to shake up the format and throw in the odd surprise!

Obviously getting Janet Fielding back is a big success for Big Finish – will she be doing full-cast plays or the companion chronicles, or a mix?

The plan is to do a season of three stories in 2010 for the main range. This is going to be an event release – not only do we have the major coup of having Janet back, but she’ll be appearing alongside Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton… and Mark Strickson is jetting back from New Zealand especially to play Turlough in these episodes.

How exciting is that? Of course, logistically it’s going to be interesting – we have a tight window in January to record these episodes. But the writers have been chosen, storylines are underway and we’re well on course.

Onto the Lost Stories, some of these have fallen into fan lore, such as the Song of the Space Whale. There were a few that you left out, is there any chance of a further run of Lost Stories featuring some of these?

The Lost Stories have been a fascinating experience. It’s been a really interesting challenge to track down some of the more obscure scripts, and a real pleasure discovering just how good they are. I think both Leviathan and Paradise 5 in particular will prove to be very pleasant surprises for everyone.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, another season depends on sales. The advance buzz from fans has been phenomenal, but will this translate into sales?

Sadly we live in an age when internet piracy is rife. Some people – unbelievably – buy a Big Finish CD, upload it to torrent sites and allow thousands of others to just download it for free. It is stealing, but many people just don’t see that. I’ve heard many excuses: “It’s not stealing, because I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place” is a common one. Try that in Tesco’s: “I helped myself to this chicken, but if I’d had to buy it I wouldn’t have eaten it”. Anyway, soap box over!

Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Big Finish's David Richardson - photo by Lisa Bowerman

The Lost Stories presumably were written with the Sixth Doctor’s TV persona as opposed to his more developed audio persona in mind – how was this evolution in Colin’s approach to the role accommodated? Will we get a traditional blustering Sixth Doctor performance for these or is he already in his settled Trial of a Time Lord-era state of mind?

I think Colin has found an interesting ‘half-way house’ in recapturing the TV Doctor. The bluster is still there because it’s in the scripts. But he brings with him all the heart and warmth that we’ve seen in the Big Finish Sixth Doctor Stories. It’s been wonderful working with both Colin and Nicola on the Lost Stories. I’m going to be feeling pretty sad when we finish on the last studio recording day, because I shall miss their company.

Has Big Finish approached these differently than their own scripted plays?

Yes is the simple answer to that. I gave a very strict brief to everyone involved, that I wanted the Lost Stories to sound like soundtracks to the TV episodes from the 1980s. So the music and sound effects will have that 1980s vibe, and the scripts have not been updated with modern references.

I’ve also approached this very much as a proper season in its own right – Season 22b. It carried straight on from Revelation of the Daleks, and the Doctor and Peri go from one story to the next. So there’s a little bit of referencing back to te previous adventure, etc.

Finally… a cheeky one – Now that David Tennant is not tied up with Doctor Who on TV, is there any chance of him returning to Big Finish as a guest actor, perhaps a return for Colonel Brimcombe-Wood?

You know what? One of my biggest regrets is that I wasn’t working at Big Finish when David Tennant was here. Everyone says the most wonderful things about him, and I think he’s been an exceptional Doctor on TV. Of course, everyone would love to get David back in a guest role. I suspect he may be rather busy with films and TV work, but who knows?

Many thanks to David Richardson.

Don’t forget – subscriptions are available now for The Lost Stories season of Sixth Doctor and Peri adventuures, at the fantastic price of £80 for all eight CDs (or £75 for the downloads).

This represents a massive saving of almost £40 for the season but the offer expires on August 31 2009 – so make sure to subscribe now at www.bigfinish.com/Doctor-Who:-The-Lost-Stories

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About the Author

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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