105. The Condemned
Behind the Scenes
This story takes place between the television adventures, The Trial of a Time Lord and Time and the Rani.
By David Richardson
I was the new boy at Big Finish when The Condemned went into studio. And while Cuddlesome, which was produced for Doctor Who Magazine, was my first recording, this was the first full BF release that I worked on. It seems fitting somehow, because The Condemned, in its own modest way, is a bit of a reboot for the Doctor Who audio range, as it marks the first story with the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Eighth Doctor companion Charley Pollard (India Fisher).
And so I arrived at The Moat studios on November 29 for the first day of recording, to find a huddle of people drinking coffee. And then in walks Colin, who marches up to India with a broad smile and booming, ‘Hello, you’re my new assistant aren’t you!’ Big grins, a warm handshake - it’s there, in that moment, that indefinable chemistry between two people… and they haven’t even gone into the recording booths yet. A little piece of Doctor Who magic in one instant; this is going to be a great day.
And, indeed, first up for recording in Nick Briggs’s schedule is the opening TARDIS scene, as Charley meets the earlier Doctor. It’s pitch perfect - though India would never know, we’re all laughing out loud in the gallery at the wonderful comic moment when Charley can’t quite muster surprise at stepping into a Space and Time ship.
The Condemned has a large cast, most of which are here for the two days, while some do their scenes in one. Our guest stars are faces familiar from the TV series; Anna Hope, previously seen under cat prosthetic as Novice Hame, is here in the flesh, and she’s lovely. A gentle, feminine figure who steps into the sound booth and transforms into the brassy DI Menzies, which she performs in her own Mancunian accent. Will Ash was in the TV show in 42, stuck in an airlock with Martha Jones; here he’s the rather tragic figure of Sam, and he’s scary and brilliant in his scenes. Poor Will; the night before he had been filming in Sheffield until 4am and then drove down to London for our recording. Yet he’s a bright and sparky presence in the green room, chatting away. He mentions a BBC3 series called Conviction that he starred in a few years back. I realize I bought the DVD but never watched it; that night I start catching up.
It’s funny, I’m never star struck - 14 years working as a journalist has knocked that out of me. Yet I am just a little in awe of actors. I just think it’s marvellous that someone can transform into someone else. Like Diana Morrison, who plays the sultry and dangerous Antonia Bailey. In the green room she’s sweet and chatty and a really warm presence; put her in the recording booth and she scares the life out of me. Then there’s Stephen Aintree, a face you’ll recognize from Little Britain and Tittybangbang, who’s bullish as DCI Turbnall in the story, yet behind the scenes was just delighted to be working on Doctor Who, and he’d bought his autograph book along for everyone to sign.
It’s a great two days. When the wrap is called, it’s off down to the pub: just me, Nick, writer Eddie Robson and India, who wants to know about her next story, The Doomwood Curse. I reel off a synopsis of the story, and suddenly I’m conscious of how deliciously crazy it all sounds. The Sixth Doctor and Charley really do have some wonderful adventures ahead of them.