On Screen: Producer Keith Barnfather Discusses The Doctors: Monsters! - Part 1
For over half a century, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and Ice Warriors have all become familiar names that have sent children running behind the sofa. Now, a new 2-disc DVD compilation from Koch Media entitled, The Doctors: Monsters! celebrates the iconic aliens from the worlds of Doctor Who and the people that brought them to life.
The compilation is headlined by a documentary presented by actor Sylvester McCoy (who played the seventh Doctor from 1987-89) entitled I Was A Doctor Who Monster and features interviews with key figures from the classic era of Doctor Who.
“It celebrates all those unsung heroes from Doctor Who, who never really got a look in,” says producer and life-long Doctor Who fan, Keith Barnfather, “if it had never been for them, Doctor Who would never have been the success it was!”
The Doctors: Monsters! is the latest DVD release featuring rare and exclusive interviews with key production and cast members from Doctor Who. All featured interviews were previously released via Reeltime Pictures' Myth Makers video series and are been reissued for the first time on special value-for-money DVD collectors sets.
Although Keith has been producing the Myth Makers series for over 30 years, his love for Doctor Who goes back further than his first video production.
“I organised the very first Doctor Who convention back in 1977. The world’s first! It’s all my fault!” laughs Keith as he takes a break from his latest video-editing project.
“I was part of the original group of people who set up the Doctor Who Appreciation Society in 1976. I’d been to Science fiction conventions and fantasy cons had been running for quite some time. it just seemed a shame to me that there wasn’t really anything happening for Doctor Who fans.
“Because we had a society and we had a membership, I think it’s fair to say it was my suggestion to the rest of the executives, "Why don’t we organise our own convention and see how it goes?" At that time, we had no idea what kind of response we’d get. We organised it in a church hall in Battersea where I live, and we had two Doctors, the producer at the time, Graham Williams brought the current Doctor, Tom Baker along with Louise Jameson (Leela) and we also had Jon Pertwee. It was an amazing experience.”
In the meantime, Keith began working in television as a Videotape manager for the BBC and later a Distribution Manager for Channel 4 where he gained valuable experience around video production and marketing.
A thirst for new challenges saw Keith progress from the convention stage into the world of video production. In 1984, Keith founded Reeltime Pictures to produce corporate and business television, as well as several Doctor Who spin-off dramas and the launch of the Myth Makers series.
Among the early Myth Makers to be interviewed were John Leeson (the Voice of K9). Michael Wisher (Davros), Carole Ann Ford (Susan) and Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier). Eventually Myth Makers would also feature in depth interviews with The Doctors themselves including Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee,
“It really was a question of having a complete hit-list of everyone that you’d ever want to work with,” says Keith, “then slowly but surely working through it and not always doing all the big names because if you did that you’d run out of interviews within a year or two!”
In the three decades Keith has produced Myth Makers, his long-time friend, Nicholas Briggs has been presenting the series. Nicholas, in the last decade has provided voices for The Daleks and The Cybermen in the latest Doctor Who TV episodes but Keith first came across Nick as far back as 1985,
“I was at a convention somewhere in the South Coast and saw Nick interviewing somebody on a panel and remember thinking, “this guy is very good!” Obviously, I am a very perceptive person (laughs). I asked him if he would be interested (in presenting Myth Makers) and we have grown through life together since. We’ve both had a successful career in the business and helped each other along as we’ve progressed.”
While Nick can be seen presenting most of the Myth Makers documentaries on the new The Doctors: Monsters ! release, it is Doctor No.7, Sylvester McCoy. that presents I Was a Doctor Who Monster, which features interviews with many original actors who portrayed monsters in Doctor Who's original run.
“I’ve always liked I Was a Doctor Who Monster,” says Keith of the documentary which was originally made back in 1996, “it was one of our better documentaries, I didn’t want it sat on its own because all these Koch Media releases are about value for money, allowing fans to collect many of our productions in one easy hit.”
So, five further documentaries presented by Nicholas Briggs also make up The Doctors: Monsters! set.
“it’s a nice mix of people who played monsters telling a bigger story,” continues Keith, “There’s Ray Cusick who created the design for The Daleks, Michael Wisher who played Davros and David Banks who was The Cyber Leader."
The collection is completed by two interviews with actors who played monsters in Doctor Who on more than one occasion.
“Jack Pitt played monsters in (The First Doctor) William Hartnell’s era,” says Keith, “It’s a really interesting interview and because it’s in this set, I think people will watch it and get an angle on working with Bill Hartnell and that monster era. There’s also Cy Town who was mainly a Doctor Who monster man in the 80s!”
The Doctors: Monsters follows on from several recent DVD releases on Koch Media featuring The Doctors own individual eras. Last years releases focused on Tom Baker and William Hartnell.
“it’s another angle on The Doctors idea and not one you’d necessarily consider as part of The Doctors set, ” says Keith of The Doctors: Monsters! “ It's one you could put on the end of the row as something else. if it goes down well, we might try and do something like The Doctors: Villains.”
- Koch Media Presents The Doctors: Monsters! Will be available on 2-disc DVD from 5th March 2018.
- Read part 2 of our interview with Keith Barnfather tomorrow.