28 December, 2009

BBC Radio 4 Interview

I am interviewed in The Lost Episodes, a new BBC Radio 4 documentary first broadcast 26 December 2009 in the Archive on 4 series.

I was approached by BBC researcher Mark Harrison to take part in this production on 9 October this year. Mark described the documentary to me as 'a one-hour piece covering the wiping of some of the early episodes of the series and the subsequent hunt and restoration projects that bring these stories back to life.'

Mark invited me to be interviewed about my involvement in finding the last known surviving copy of The Lion, episode 1 of the 1965 William Hartnell Doctor Who story The Crusade. On my recommendation Mark also invited Neil Lambess to take part in the interview. As Neil and I found the episode together it is only right that he should be involved in telling the story.

Neil and I were interviewed together in a studio at Radio New Zealand in central Auckland early on the morning of Tuesday 17 November. This was a live link-up with the documentary's presenter and producer Shaun Ley, who was in the UK.

In a previous blog entry I discussed being interviewed for Stripped for Action for the Doctor Who DVDs and how I found this a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. By contrast the radio interview was a lot more enjoyable. Listening back to my comments I think it is plainly evident that I am far more at ease on audio than I am on video. In the radio studio I only had to focus on what I was saying and didn't need to think about where my eyeline was or whether my hands were waving about. It also helped that I wasn't the sole focus of the interview, so if I faltered or got anything wrong, Neil was right there to jump in and take up the story, and I supported him likewise.

At the time of writing, the documentary can be heard online via the Listen Again audio stream on the BBC Radio 4 website (though this will probably only be available for the next week).

I found it was fascinating and thoroughly engaging. The focus on audio restoration in the first half of the programme ideally suits the radio medium.

The story of the discovery of The Lion is featured towards the end, beginning around 47 minutes into the hour-long programme (that said, I recommend listening to the entire documentary).

The Lost Episodes is currently attracting some criticism in Doctor Who discussion forums. The central complaint is that it omits other individuals involved in the discovery and return of missing episodes. I have some sympathy with this view but I can also see the programme makers have chosen to focus on an individual episode find rather than covering the circumstances and people involved in each separate discovery. The Lion was selected, it seems, because it is of particular interest. As Shaun Ley says in the documentary, it is "perhaps the most remarkable rescue story in the Doctor Who Archive".

The documentary does however unfortunately misrepresent one aspect of The Lion's recovery.

In the documentary, Sue Malden says that the BBC asked Bruce Grenville if it could have a copy of his film print after an auction house had enquired about selling the print, and that Bruce then agreed to the BBC's request to loan the film. Shaun Ley's narration then states that it was after these "issues had been ironed out" that I went to collect the film.

These comments I think give the false impression that Sue Malden negotiated the return of the film with Bruce Grenville and that I was then despatched to collect it. In fact I sought and gained Bruce's permission to borrow the film to send back to the BBC some time before the auction house or Sue Malden got involved. By the time this issue arose the film print was already held, on loan, by the BBC.

This minor niggle aside, I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to take part in this documentary, which coincidentally was broadcast just days before the eleventh anniversary of the day that Neil and I made that historic discovery of a long lost episode of our favourite telesion programme.