An Interview with Jason Haigh-Ellery
Conducted by Robert Moore
Gary Russell and Jason Haigh-Elleery are the brains behind Big Finish Production’s return of Britain’s most famous time traveler; Doctor Who. As producers of the popular audio series both Gary and Jason are responsible for overseeing every aspect of production. Rob Moore caught up with Jason when he appeared as a special guest at the November 2002 Chicago TARDIS convention.
Robert Moore:As far as the Dalek Empire series, do you feel that the new series is going well?
Jason Haigh-Ellery:Absolutely. The first series ran better than we expected. It’s no secret that we agreed to do the first series and Nick (Brigges) was killing people off and half way through I said to him please stop killing people off because it looks like we’re going to do another series. So it has done better than we expected.
RM:Is there a possibility for a Dalek Empire III
JHE:Yes. It is a possibility and we have talked about it, but it will be a different concept than we have been doing it so far.
RM:The character of Susan Mendez, are there any plans to maybe use her in a Bernice Summerfield type production where there might be a one-off with a Doctor?
JHE:I don’t know. Dalek Empire is very much independent from the Doctor Who universe, and it might be better to leave it that way. Bernice was a little bit different in that she was already part of the Doctor Who myths because of the appearance of the books.
RM:Outside of any individual future stories, are there any plans for more Doctor Dalek stories?
JHE:Oh yes! We’ve got Jubilee coming out in January. That has a lovely cast; Martin Jarvis, and Rosalin Ayres his wife. It’s an interesting take on the Daleks written by Robert Shearman who as you probably know writes very interesting Doctor Who scripts. If you look at Holy Terror and Chimes of Midnight they’re not your normal adventure stories. And he’s looked at the Daleks in a completely different way. It’s a very nice and different script and I think people are going to appreciate it. Otherwise I think we’ll continue to use the Daleks when ever they come up, when we get good script ideas. We don’t plan to use them regularly.
RM:So you’re not doing what John Nathan-Turner did, using them as a “middle of the season” boost?
JHE:No, we don’t usually do that, but interestingly in the last two years we’ve done Cybermen stories as well as Dalek stories as well. Of course the Daleks and the Cybermen will always be a big part of Doctor Who so they will always come back, and always be part of the series that we do. But we’re also very keen to move ahead and do other types of monsters and other types of situations. If you look at such stories as The Rapture for example, which is a different take on Doctor Who, and a different way of doing it. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but you do need to experiment other wise you stay in a rut.
RM:So the BBC and all the people who are in charge of licensing are pretty much pleased with what you’ve done so far with the series?
JHE:Yes. Besides we’d know it pretty quickly if they were unhappy.
RM:Do you still have to pass everything through them?
JHE:They have to agree on the scripts. They do occasionally ask us to change little things or ask us to change things on the covers for example, so there is a certain element of creative control there.
RM:Is there anything that you can tell me about the forth coming Davros story?
JHE:Bering in mind that it still hasn’t been finished I can’t tell you much because we haven’t seen the script yet. I do know what the outline is, and not giving anything away that Gary (Russel) will kill me for, basically it more about the interaction between The Doctor and Davros. Looking at their relationship.
RM:Will you use any references back to the two books that John Peel put out, War of the Daleks and Legacy of the Daleks? Because sometimes it seems that you use references from the individual books and sometimes it seems that you act like they don’t exist.
JHE:Well I don’t think we’ve acted like they don’t exist, but we don’t slavishly look at their continuity. But we don’t go out to ignore them either. Its a fine line but we have to be our own product.
RM:Will you try to get Terry Molloy to reprise his role as Davros?
JHE:Hopefully if he’s available. We’d love Terry to do it.
RM:Do you have an idea for an alternate actor to play the part?
JHE:Not at the moment, no.
RM:So you may have open Davros auditions.
JHE:(Laughing) Yep, why, are you thinking of auditioning?
RM: I think I could do it. Susan (Mowat) had mentioned that when you first did the Dalek Empire series the actors during the production did not hear the effect for the Dalek voices and now they do.
JHE:We had a stunt Dalek in the studio because we just read in the lines for the images with no effect. This made it difficult for the actors so we used the stunt Dalek because obviously we thought it would be a bit easier for the actors if they though they really had a Dalek there. Nick Brigges is a very good Dalek so he would do it posts in the studio, making all the voices. Now for Nick this was quite difficult because he didn’t have the interaction of the actors either. And although you wouldn’t think that Daleks do that much acting Daleks do a hell of a lot of acting, and they do react to the other actors. So it was in Nick’s interest as well as the other actors interest to have them interacting while they were recording. So this time Nick has a different studio, and we used a two studio block which we had never used before. We’ve always used one which had been sectioned off for different splits, but because Daleks are so big in terms of noise we had to put him in a separate studio and run line between them, mixing it all down on one desk.
RM:The Special Weapons Daleks in The Genocide Machine are they supposed to be based on the ones that are in Remembrance of the Daleks
RM:Because its hard to figure which version of the Daleks you are continuing with. Are you continuing with the Imperial white type Daleks, or is it more of the gray and black type? You seem to use a lot of the 60s versions on the covers and not the various color schemes that showed up in the later episodes.
JHE:I understand, but I’m the wrong person to ask this question. You really should ask Nick. There is definitively a mix, let’s put it that way, and Nick would be able to explain to you where things are.
RM:But do you have any ideas, as far as Big Finish is concerned, as to the Dalek hierarchy?
JHE:Nope, you’d have to ask Nick. Nick knows what he’s talking about, I don’t (laughs), when it really comes to that. Nick wrote in the scripts and I accept what he says.
RM: Straying away from Daleks, are there any other classic Doctor Who monsters you’d like to see used in a story?
JHE:I think we used all the really good ones, a part from the Sontarans. But besides from that most of the monsters just made growling noises and really didn’t do that much. So I’d say we really used most of the good ones.
RM: So there’s no other monster that you’d consider using?
JHE:Not initially no. Possibly the Sontarans in the future.
RM: So the qualifications for a monster for Big Finish is that it has to talk.
JHE:Yes. It has to be a good talking voice and it has to be intelligent, because the dumb ones you can’t really use, they’re not going to say much. Also we want to move forward with different monsters and different situations.
RM: Regarding Paul McGann, after Zagreus is he going to have another series of stories?
RM: Will you continue to do him in a set or spread him out over several months like the other Doctors?
JHE:In a set. People seem to appreciate it. The vast majority of people like the idea of seasons with Paul McGann.
RM: When you decided to do the series with Paul McGann, was it the BBC that decided to keep the sound effects used in the American TV movie?
JHE:No that was us. In the minds of the listeners we wanted them to “see” the control room from the TV movie. We recreated those sounds in the studio, they were all recreated by Alsiter (Lock) and Nick.
RM: The character of The Master, will he remain the same as we heard him in Dust Breeding, will you be using Geoffrey Beevers in the part again?
JHE:The Master will remain the same and Geoffrey will be used in the part at the moment.
RM: Did you ever try and contact Anthony Ainley when you were recording Dust Breeding
JHE:Yes we did originally but he turned it down.
RM: Is it that, like Janet Fielding, he wants to totally separate himself from the role?
JHE: I don’t think he wants to totally distance himself from the role, but we could not come to terms over the financial aspect of it.
RM: Final question. Are there any other surprises in store for the future?
JHE:Yes! But if I told you they wouldn’t be surprises!
Interview ©2003 Robert Moore/Visagraph Films International.