The first question at the Big Finish Audio panel produced some interesting news—or it would be news if it wasn’t just more fodder for the Doctor Who rumor mill. The first questioner, a child dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, asked if Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, Voice-of-the-Daleks Nicholas Briggs, or Big Finish Producer-Director Jason Haigh-Ellery, could tell us anything about the 50th Anniversary television special.
Briggs quickly said, “I was in it, but I’m sworn to secrecy!”
Then Baker said, “I am not in, so am not sworn to secrecy, and I can tell you that I just spoke with Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison quite recently, and none of them are in either!”
This earned some gasps from the audience, and he went on to say, “So if you want a multi-doctor story, our audio drama is the way to go!”
So, this might be news? Or it might be Baker—or as I now think of him, The Sassiest Doctor—pulling our chains a little. He made it quite clear throughout the panel that while he likes the new Doctors, he is on the Side of the Classics, and is only too happy to tease the new guys.
The Big Finish Audio panel was ostensibly introducing us to the 50th Anniversary audio special, “The Light at the End,” a story featuring the first eight doctors (plus an assortment of companions) battling The Master. The clips they played were really exciting, and it was interesting to see how quickly everyone relaxed into listening to the drama.
The real show, though, was the interaction between the Sassiest Doctor, the dryly witty Nicholas Briggs, and producer/director Jason Haigh-Ellery, who basically played the role of straight man trying to keep the whole thing on track.
The first thing Baker did was look out at the rows of empty Reserved Seating and bellow: “What’s all this “Reserved” here with no one in them? Get up here and fill them in. The doctor says so!” So crowds of be-fezzed Whovians ran up (in a polite and orderly fashion, of course) and filled all the seats in.
Haigh-Ellery asked how many in the audience bought Big Finish Radio Dramas, and while there was a large cheer, he took a moment to explain that they’re much bigger in the UK.
Baker chimed in saying that he listens to them as he drives to the theater for shows. “Especially mine, because by the time I listen to them I’ve forgotten the story. Plus [on the radio,] I look exactly the same as I did in 1983. Your own imagination joins in with skill of actors and scriptwriters, unlike TV where you’re spoon fed their idea of beauty, their idea of drama.”
Haigh-Ellery said that Russell T. Davies was a fan of the audio drama, which was how Briggs was tapped to play the voice of the Daleks. He actually took one of Colin Baker’s scripts, “Jubilee” and adapted it into the episode “Daleks” in first season.
“Mine was better!” Colin said.
Haigh-Ellery waited for the laughs to die down to continue: “We were at one point going to do an old-timey Western with Sylvester McCoy [...] and Tennant did a few minor roles for us, and at one point he told me he was in a play at the National Theater, so I went, thinking I’m being supportive to my friend, and then he comes out and I realize he’s the lead! But he’d never tell us that, he’s that kind of guy.”
Baker then did a weirdly hilarious impression of David Tennant that made him look like a penguin holding its breath, to huge laughs, but people seemed to be getting a little nervous.
Then Briggs asked, “Wait, I want to come back to something—Sylvester McCoy wants to make…a silent Western? On audio?”
Baker actually made a harrumphing sound, and said, “That’s exactly what Sylvester McCoy should do!”
At this the audience burst into ooohs, and Baker laughed. “I must remember—we Doctors always make fun of each other, but people do take it so seriously.”
Baker grumbled for a moment about “New Who” vs. “Classic Who,” and when Haigh-Ellery mentioned doing more modern scripts on the radio, said “Good luck doing the Silence or the Weeping Angels on radio! And with the Weeping Angels…well, if you have inferior Doctor, of course he can’t solve it! A superior Doctor would tell you: wink, don’t blink!” He demonstrated his anti-Angel technique to roars and applause from the audience, then clapped and said, “Did you ever see me regenerate? No, you did not. I never regenerated. I am still the Doctor. Sylvester McCoy is an imposter! He started a false line of Doctors! Follow me—at the very least you’ll always get seats.”
The next question was a bit simpler, but met with similar approval: one young fan asked Briggs to do his Dalek voice. Even without any of the audio equipment to filter and amplify him, it was terrifying.
When asked which modern Who episode he’d like to be in, Baker immediately replied: “I’d like to be in “The Doctor Dances,” and so I could say the line, ‘everybody lives.’ That is what the doctor is about.”
Baker said that his favorite Doctor is Patrick Troughton, because “if hadn’t been a genius, the show wouldn’t have made it past the first regeneration.” Briggs agreed, saying that he’d downloaded “The Web of Fear” to watch at 5:00 in the morning, and sobbed like a child in the shower afterwards because he suddenly remembered seeing the episode originally as a child. Then he added that Troughton was the one who “defined the Doctor as he is now—an eccentric who goes around doing good.” Haigh-Ellery added approvingly that Troughton was “the original madman with a box”
The next question asked for their opinions on Peter Capaldi, particularly the fact that he’d played other roles in the show prior to his selection. Baker waved that off, saying that his own performance as Maxil in the Doctor Who serial Arc of Infinity led to securing the role of the Doctor after Peter Davison. Baker therefore concluded that Capaldi will make an excellent Doctor.
Briggs and Haigh-Ellery have worked with Capaldi, and both of them love him. Haigh-Ellery had heard Capaldi was a fan of Doctor Who, but then he actually produced a play Capaldi was in on the West End. On opening night he went into Capaldi’s dressing room and discovered “all across his shelves were TARDIS, Cybermen, Daleks, all these things that his friends had given him for opening night presents.” Baker clapped and said, “Oh, I’d never heard that! That’s lovely!” Briggs added, “I walked over to introduce myself [to Capaldi] at a party, and he stopped me and said, ‘You don’t have to introduce yourself to me, Nicholas Briggs—you’re the voice of the Daleks!’”
The panel ended with a particularly touching type of Whovian regeneration: a woman came up to the mic to tell Baker that he was her Doctor, and thanked him for his work. She’s introducing her children to Who now, and they all love it. The whole room started cheering, Baker beamed and thanked her for being a fan.
Leah Schnelbach wants Colin Baker to be her Grandpa. Follow her on Twitter if you want to read her occasional attempts at sassiness!