On October 1st, a special Doctor Who birthday will be celebrated at a one day UK event.
‘Who’s at the Playhouse’ has been created to celebrate 40 years of one of the Doctor’s much-loved companions K9 who appeared for the first time in ‘The Invisible Enemy’ in 1977.
K9, the man behind his voice John Lesson and creative team Mat Irvine, Bob Baker, Tony Harding and Paul Tams will be joined by two Doctor’s Peter Davison and Colin Baker and a companion Louise Jameson plus many more at the Epsom Playhouse for a day of chat, photo opportunities, and autograph sessions.
Creator of this unique event is writer, director, and broadcaster Martin Parsons who has worked hard to bring all our Doctor Who favourites together for one day only. Blogtor Who recently talked to Martin about the event and his love and various connections with Doctor Who. See what he had to say below…..
Where did the idea come from for ‘Who’s at the Playhouse’ and why was Epsom Playhouse chosen as the venue?
The idea came together for a number of reasons really. I’ve been going to Doctor Who events since 1985, touring as an actor in theatre shows since 1997 and producing my own theatre tours since 2013. I’ve always tried to combine hobbies and work, so staging my own Doctor Who day seemed an obvious next step!
You have a great line up of Doctor Who stars. How much persuasion did it take to get the likes of Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Louise Jameson to say yes?
Thank you, I’m delighted with the line-up too! It was more about establishing a rapport and trust. I was an unknown producer to them, so building a rapport is vital. I think my own performing background and Big Finish credits helped. It’s wonderful that they’ve agreed to come and be part of what I hope will be a terrifically warm, nostalgic day.
The date of the event (October 1st) just so happens to be the 40th birthday of the Doctor’s non-human companion K9. Was this date chosen especially for that reason?
Absolutely yes! It’s the 40th anniversary of the broadcast of K9’s first story, The Invisible Enemy. I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who in all its incarnations but grew up with K9, so marking his ruby anniversary seemed the perfect occasion to organise a unique event around.
K9, his voice John Leeson and operator Matt Irvine will all be at the event. How special is it to have them all together?
Very special and I can’t thank them enough for being so open to the idea. I think that it’s the first time that ‘Team K9’ will have been together – as well as John and Mat, there’ll be K9’s creator, scriptwriter Bob Baker, his original designer Tony Harding, and Paul Tams, producer of the forthcoming K9 film TimeQuake. Bob and Paul are especially busy with the film at the moment and have been very generous in their help preparing for the day – K9 is Bob’s creation after all!
You have a great day of Q&A sessions, autographs signings and photo opportunities planned. Can you tell us any more of what we can expect from the day?
With my background in theatre, I’m very keen to make use of the venue and put on a stage show of sorts, a kind of chat show to celebrate Doctor Who. It’s great that we’ve got two Doctors of course and I’m keen to try and prompt new memories of the show they may have. I’ll be doing this by having some screen-used props from their time on the programme – I think it’ll be fun to see if they recognise them and what they remember of them! The day will also tell the story of K9, from his creation to his upcoming film, plus we’ll be asking Mat Irvine to show us the original metal mutt himself! Most of the guests have a connection to K9 too, having appeared in stories with him, so there’s something connecting them all. We’re hoping to have an episode of Doctor Who drama for attendees to enjoy, as well as Lily Connors, the holder of the Guinness World Record-breaking Doctor Who memorabilia collection – it’s wonderful how the programme attracts people of all ages. Louise Jameson is always a fascinating guest, of course, Paul Lavers is a very entertaining raconteur and Eric Danot will be making his convention debut – that’s to name but a few, it’s going to be a full-on day! It doesn’t finish with the end of the day’s events either because, to celebrate K9’s ruby anniversary, John Leeson is performing his one man show JOHN LEESON: A DOG’S LIFE in the evening. Attendees of the day event can get £2.00 off per ticket for his show as well.
You have a varied connection with Doctor Who. When did you first become a fan and when did you find yourself becoming more involved?
Yes indeed, the first memories I have of Doctor Who are of being scared of the Nucleus in The Invisible Enemy – no really! A school friend and I discovered there was a Doctor Who local group near where we lived in Brighton, we became members and things escalated from there, attending the Panopticon convention in the town a few years later and meeting Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. Then years later, having trained as an actor, Gary Russell kindly gave me my first job with Big Finish – the connections have been many and surprisingly varied!
Now a must ask question! Who is YOUR Doctor and why?
I love all of them in so many different ways but in my heart, it’s the first Doctor I saw, Tom Baker, the Doctor I grew up with – a hero of my childhood that’s always stayed with me.
Back in May 2016, you attended the Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s 40th Anniversary Convention where you did a series of interviews with some of the Doctor Who stars, writers and directors including Terrence Dicks and Graeme Harper. Can you tell us more?
The Society’s Barry Ward was looking for someone to record interviews for their You Tube channel and as one of my occupations is producing documentaries, I was fortunate enough to be asked – I’d known Barry since our school days. So I spent the convention conducting one-to-one interviews with many of the guests, who spoke in a tirelessly enthusiastic fashion about the show. Terrance Dicks, Graeme Harper, Katy Manning and Richard Franklin were highlights for me as their infectious passion and love for this funny old programme was still undiminished after all this time, a treat to see.
You have also done some acting for Doctor Who. Voice acting on the wonderful Doctor Who stories created by Big Finish Productions. Titles such as the Fifth Doctor story ‘The Council of Nicaea’ and the Sixth Doctor tale ‘Pier Pressure’. What was it like to be involved in such a popular extension of the show?
I’m always a believer in ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ so, having trained and been working as an actor, I wrote to Big Finish with a voice showreel I’d put together asking for a job! I didn’t hear anything so after some months wrote again, and this time my timing must have been good as Gary Russel phoned me in reply, offering the role of the villainous Athanasius in The Council Of Nicaea, a wonderfully atmospheric historic tale by Caroline Symcox. This, in turn, lead on to Pier Pressure about a year later. The main thing I remember from the recordings is how hearing the Doctors’ voices in my headphones re-awoke my twelve-year-old self! Not only were Peter Davison and Colin Baker a pleasure to work with but I was lucky enough to be playing the sidekick to Max Miller, played by the one and only Roy Hudd! Then there were Nicola Bryant, Maggie Stables, and David Bamber – who later appeared in Mummy On The Orient Express of course.
You have a great love for history and are a presenter for such organisations as the National Trust. Doctor Who features a lot of historical figures and settings. Are you are able to watch these episodes with the same wonder as a future or space themed episode?
Actually, I think even more so – a love of history and a love of Doctor Who go together very well. I think a knowledge of history makes those worlds easier for me to imagine.
Since the announced back in July 2017 of the first woman and 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker there has been a very mixed reaction from the Doctor Who fandom. What are your thoughts on this huge change for the series?
I’m always nervous of a new Doctor, and those nerves are always unfounded, so I’m sure the same will be the case this time too! Jodie Whittaker is a terrific actress and, combined with a new production team, I’m sure there’s a whole host of fresh, new, reinvigorated adventures to come. I can understand that for some fans, especially those of the original series, it may feel like a particularly huge change to the show’s format, but hopefully when the new series is transmitted everyone will give it a chance. Though I think every era of the show has more or less appeal to different parts of the audience – one of the great things about the programme is its variety. It would wither without change and this is just the latest in a long line. But we are all entitled to different opinions on things and don’t have to agree – there’s plenty of different types of Doctor Who to go around for all of us! For example, much as I enjoy the new series, my favourite area has to be the classic series, and that’s what we’re going to be celebrating with Who’s At The Playhouse.
If you were able to write an historical Doctor Who story for the new 13th Doctor. Which era would you feature?
Lots to choose from! I think I’d choose the 1st and 2nd century BC when the first lists of the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World were made. It would be fascinating for the Doctor to visit them – maybe in a Keys Of Marinus-type quest
After ‘Who’s at the Playhouse’ what is next for you? Anything Doctor Who related?
If anyone has any young children, they’d be welcome at my next project – it’s a tour of a play I’ve written, Santa’s Christmas Wish, this December – slightly different!
Who’s At The Playhouse is my first Doctor Who event and I’m confident we’ve got a packed and fun day lined up for attendees. It’s followed by my second – the same evening, John Leeson: A Dog’s Life is also at Epsom Playhouse, a one-off show in which John will be taking us through his multifaceted career including his 40 years as the voice of K9. As they’re my first Doctor Who events, once they’re over I’d love to do some more but we’ll have to see – I’d really like to put Doctor Who back on stage again… but have never shared that thought before, so am open to suggestions!
If anyone has any thoughts or questions, do send them to me at the Who’s At The Playhouse Facebook page. Also, show tickets are available for Who’s At The Playhouse and A Dog’s Life from Epsom Playhouse’s box office on (01372) 742555. I look forward to seeing everyone there, do say hello! 🙂
Blogtor Who would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin for giving his time to answer our questions and we look forward to attending Who’s at the Playhouse on October 1st.