Shaun Lyon with Mark Phippen
Doctor Who Returns to the Radio: Doctor Who Magazine and several British newspapers recently reported that BBC Radio was in the advanced planning stages of a new Doctor Who project for Radio 4, for debut in early 2001. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred were touted as being considered to reprise their roles as the Seventh Doctor and Ace for the serial. An article in The Guardian, a UK newspaper, on March 27, indicated that the script is written by Dan Freedman and Colin Meake of Radio 4's Loose Ends comedy show. Freedman told Doctor Who Magazine that "This will not be a comedy. I'm keen to develop a new take, to bring forward darker aspects of the character." The Guardian story goes on to mention that Sylvester McCoy is considering the role, but that a BBC spokesman would not promise a series, being quoted as saying "We don't want to build up fans' hopes." Recent information suggests that the radio drama bears the provisional title "Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time".
Actor Stephen Fry has apparently signed on to play a role in the production. Sylvester McCoy commented that the Radio 4 chief who commissioned the production has recently been replaced and this could affect the show, which is currently slated to be taped in October 2000 and aired in February 2001.
In early June, in the popular UK movie magazine Empire, Stephen Fry answered questions sent in by readers; he confirmed his involvement in a Doctor Who project for radio. "It is true. It's extraordinarily clever of him to know that. I've been sworn to the utmost secrecy by the BBC because there is such a huge contingency of Whovians, I think they call them. So it is true, but I can't tell you what part I play or what happens in it because I would be assassinated if I did." However, on June 7, Outpost Gallifrey was contacted by Dan Freedman, who sent us the following clarification: "The facts are: At least one episode is definitely being made, series is likely but not officially definite. Sylvester, Sophie and Stephen Fry are confirmed in it. Its called Dr Who: Death Comes to Time and is set after Survival. I write comedy when I'm writing, but I'm just producing this, not writing. Colin Meek (SF writer, not comedy) is writing it. Next week we should have an info page about how fans can be involved in it on the Online page. The departure of James Boyle (ex controller of Radio 4) doesn't mean anything bad, it took me 5 months to persuade him to have it..."
The BBC's official Doctor Who website has confirmed that the BBC has commissioned a pilot episode only ("This means that they have asked and paid for the production of one episode for Radio 4. If they like it, they will commission a series. Until then, there is no date for anything to be broadcast. At the moment, recording is scheduled for October.") Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Leonard Fenton (Dr. Legge in "Eastenders") and Stephen Fry are confirmed by the site, and we have received word that actress Jacqueline Pearce ("Blake's 7") and actor John Sessions have both been confirmed for the production.
It looks almost certain that the pilot will be released on BBC Audio, eventually. Meanwhile, the BBC Symphony Orchestra won't be doing the pilot because of the new date, but they will be doing the series, if and when it happens, according to the BBC's official site; neither will David Bowie, who isn't in the drama's pilot because of time concerns -- but who apparently has expressed interest in doing the series itself if the pilot proves to be successful (as a character called the Duke of White). However, William Hartnell does appear in the pilot (after all, this is a series about time travel...)
On Thursday June 29, BBC Online completed a live interview with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, producer Dan Freedman and actor Kevin Eldon this week, all of whom are all taking part in "Death Comes to Time". The production will feature a new version of Ron Grainer's theme music. Eldon says he will not be playing the Master, but instead "a gay Cyberman triumphing in the homophobic world of evil robots" (he was, of course, joking).
As of November 8, the pilot for this proposed series is complete. In addition to the above, actor Huw Thomas (coincidentally the brother of early Dalek director Richard Martin) is among the many cast members. If BBC Radio decides to go ahead with an audio series -- commissioning editors likley to make a decision in early January -- the series would likely not be out before June, according to our highly-placed sources.
(With thanks to Peter Anghelides, David Whitten and Gareth Fenton...)