In his recent appearance at Hal-Con 2012, I was able to get a chance to ask Nicholas Briggs a couple questions about Halifax, Canadian Whovians, the Big Finish Audios and of course, The Daleks.
Katerborous: The Daleks are the first villains Hal-Con had as guests. Does it come with more responsibility knowing that you’re our first villain?
Nicholas Briggs: Well, it certainly comes with much joy! I have to tell you that Hal-Con is the nicest convention I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to some great ones. Everyone was very nice and it was so well organized. But I did feel kind of honoured to be Hal-Con’s first Doctor Who guest.
K: You have done many conventions. Is there a difference in the way Canada, and/or North America, do conventions than in Europe?
NB: Well, I think one of the differences is that many of the people of Hal-Con are fresh to the world of Doctor Who. The charming personal assistant assigned to me, Margaret Maclennan, proudly told me she was a big fan of Doctor Who. When I asked her how long she’d been watching it, she told me she’d first heard of it three months ago! I’m more used to people telling me they’ve watched it since 1965 or something. So there’s been a really fresh enthusiasm.
As for the feel of the convention, it is very different. I think, because I’ve been around UK and some US conventions for many years; I have, quite naturally, been seen as part of the furniture – and that level of familiarity is quite often very warm and comforting – but I found it especially gratifying that everyone at Hal-Con was so enthusiastic and welcoming. I was also impeccably looked after too and had a really great time. Everyone at conventions are usually very welcoming, and I’ve made some great friends at Chicago TARDIS and Gallifrey LA over the years, so I was pleased to make some new friends in Canada and experience some really wonderful Canadian hospitality.
K: What about Halifax – did you enjoy it here in Canada??
NB: I did indeed, thanks once again to Margaret – this is going to go to her head. Hal-Con PAs look after their guests really well. They also listen to you and pick up what your interests are. So, for example, I’d mentioned my interest in the Titanic and that I loved being by the sea, so Margaret arranged for me to be taken to the Titanic cemetery and to the bracing, rugged coastline of Peggy’s Cove. I was also taken to a couple of local bars and saw a local band. The hotel was lovely too! Yeah, I’m really impressed with Hal-Con.
K: You’ve mentioned how North American audiences have fallen in love with the Doctor himself whereas the British audience love the monsters. Why do you think that is?
NB: I think the American audience came to Doctor Who later, once the character had evolved into the hero we know today. The first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, was not really a traditionally heroic character. He was at the centre of the stories, but Ian [Chesterton, companion] was really the hero. So, in those early days, I think the oddness and the newness of the monsters, in this case the Daleks, was the aspect that seemed most fascinating to audiences. The Americans really cottoned on to Doctor Who during the Tom Baker era, and that’s when the Doctor had a very defined silhouette and a very dominant personality.
K: What type of Dalek stories do you enjoy most and how would you like to see the race evolve?
NB: I prefer it when it’s clear how cunning and powerful the Daleks are. I think they’re less effective when they’re just used as a ‘generic’ force of evil. It was great fun doing that stone Daleks in the Pandorica story, but frankly, it could have been any monster. Glad it was the Daleks, though! If anyone’s going to actually kill the Doctor, it should be a Dalek!
K: Big Finish has given past Doctors a second chance in the TARDIS, especially for actor, Paul McGann. Seeing how he’s had less screen time than the others, was it harder or easier to prepare adventures for him?
NB: Bizarrely, in some ways, it was easier. That’s because we had something of a blank canvass. It’s been fun to investigate new ways of telling new Doctor Who stories with a new Doctor. And Paul has done an amazing job. We’ve also talked to him and listened to him about what he’d like to see in his stories. The latest one, Dark Eyes, is a direct result of listened to what Paul wanted from a story and what he was interested in. He’s often said he liked the ‘darkness’ in Doctor Who stories, and we both share an intense interest in the First World War.
K: You were the director for An Earthly Child, the introduced Susan Foreman back into the Doctor’s life as well as Alex Campbell, the Doctor’s Great-Grandson. How did the character of Alex come about? What led to Jake McGann being cast in the role?
NB: Our script editor, Alan Barnes, and writer, Marc Platt, came up with the character of Alex. Both brilliant writers! We were looking for a young actor to play the part, and Paul was very keen for Jake to get some experience.
K: An Earthly Child was a special release audio. What led to it being tied into to the Lucie Miller saga?
NB: Again, this was Alan Barnes wanting to link it in. We’re always looking for special moments and I think the Alex and Lucie story lines were both very special elements close to our hearts, so it seemed right to bring them together. It also gave us more emotional impact for the devastating finale a few stories later.
K: Hal-Con has just announced our 2013 guests which include Sylvester McCoy. Do you find it fitting that where a Dalek shows up that the Doctor must follow?
NB: Absolutely! And Sylvester will be a brilliant guest. And they must give him Margaret as his PA. Those two will get on like a house on fire! Sylvester is such a lovely man to spend time with. He’s always interesting, entertaining and lots of fun. I’ve had some great times with Sylv.