Continuing our interview with Reeltime Pictures producer Keith Barnfather, Andy Howells discusses the legacy of the Myth Makers series, the ongoing The Doctors releases and Reeltime’s spin off dramas inspired by the Doctor Who TV series.
March 5 sees the release of The Doctors: Monsters, the latest DVD set featuring interviews with key figures from the Doctor Who TV series. The 2 Disc set is a value for money collection featuring the documentary I Was A Doctor Who Monster, presented by Sylvester McCoy along with five additional Myth Makers interviews presented by Nicholas Briggs.
Producing the documentaries is Keith Barnfather who, since 1984 has also been responsible for making corporate films and original Doctor Who spin-off dramas including Wartime, Downtime and most recently White Witch of Devils End.
When the original Doctor Who TV series was rested indefinitely by the BBC in 1989, there was naturally a hunger from fans for new material. Reeltime Pictures helped plug the gap with the ongoing release of Myth Makers interviews and spin-off video dramas.
Since Doctor Who‘s return in 2005 there has been a saturation of material including new episodes, DVDs, books and audio dramas to toys and games, Had this affected Reeltime Pictures Doctor Who related output at all?
“One thing we learn in our business is everything is cyclic,” confirms Keith, “So, we just pulled back and waited until things calmed down. Then, about a year and a half ago, Anastasia, my wife and partner in the business and I decided “Right, now’s the time to just start doing some more” and then the Koch Media deal came along which was just wonderful for us.”
Through The Doctors series, several archive Myth Makers interviews have been included to tell the story of each Doctors era. The latest releases featured the original Doctor, William Hartnell and arguably the most popular incumbent in the role, Tom Baker. Along with the featured Doctors, interviews with relevant companions filmed over the last three decades have also been featured, including several interviews with actors sadly no longer with us, including Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Mary Tamm (Romana) and Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan).
“There’s very much a legacy of it now,” says Keith as he reflects on the archival importance of the Myth Makers series. “When we started, we were obviously aware of wanting to create a catalogue, to keep the rights and make sure we were building the business.”
“I think it would be true to say I wasn’t aware of the importance of what we were doing until we lost Ian Marter, literally 4 or 5 weeks after we had done the interview which was a shock to everybody. I had just got the signed VHS labels back from him when I heard that he had died. It did take a long time to get over that, but it did start me thinking, had we not done that interview there would be nothing of his memories working on the programme. There’s a very short interview he did in America on a PBS station which is literally four minutes long but apart from that this is the only interview that exists.”
“Of course, as time goes by its become more poignant, we lost Jon Pertwee, Michael Craze, Mary Tamm. A lot of them had never done anything but the interviews that they did with us in any depth.”
Of the 137 filmed Myth Makers interviews, 133 have been released covering all aspects of The Doctor Who series from actors to producers and directors.
“The majority of those would never be re-released by Koch Media,” explains Keith, “You couldn’t do, for example, The Doctors: The Directors, because people wouldn’t buy it. Most general interest fans are not going to pick up a DVD featuring interviews with six people who directed Doctor Who. Really hardcore fans would, but not your average person. These are the people we are aiming at in the high street, your average Doctor Who fans. If there is such a thing – mainstream!”
While Koch Media are re-releasing Myth Makers interviews via The Doctors series, another side of Reeltime pictures is also been revisited, that of original drama.
“We’ve recently released a box set called The Daemons of Devils End,” says Keith, “which had a documentary we made right back in 1993, Return to Devils End with Jon Pertwee. We released that with a new talking heads drama featuring Damaris Hayman who played Olive Hawthorne in the Doctor Who serial, The Daemons and that’s gone down well.”
“We’re not making Doctor Who. We’re filling out the life of a character from the programme. If you choose not to want to know about that you have every right but if you’re a fan who loved that particular story and want to know about Olive Hawthorne you can do that.”
When looking at the accompanying Return to Devils End documentary, was there a temptation for Keith to re-edit it for DVD release?
“When you come to look at them, to remaster them and to put them out again there is a great temptation,” says Keith, “This is one of my personal bugbears about what people do with old programmes.”
“It’s been done with Star Trek and Doctor Who, I do personally have issue with re-editing Doctor Who episodes because I don’t believe it’s either necessary or valid because they were what they were. If you want to make Doctor Who, then make new Doctor Who. Don’t tamper with the actual programmes as they are a product of their time.
“When I watched Return to Devils End, I thought, “Oh God! I could do so much better and re-edit this,” and as I started to think about re-editing it I just pulled myself up and said, “What am I doing? I’m doing what I said other people shouldn’t do! it is what it is, I could do better now but it’s what I did then. So, I immediately scrubbed that, and it is the original programme remastered, cleaned up and the same.”
Ever keen to tread new ground, Keith reveals there’s a new drama to be released from Reeltime in November 2018 called Anomaly featuring Sophie Aldred and Beverley Cressman. In the meantime, there are further Koch Media releases in The Doctors series including a forthcoming release centred around the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy.
Keith continues, “To complete the The Doctors: Sylvester McCoy DVD we needed to get one specific interview with Angela Bruce who played Brigadier Bambera in Battlefield. Because he didn’t have that many assistants like the earlier Doctors, we wanted to flesh the Sylvester McCoy Myth Makers out to make up six interviews. We were meant to interview Angela last year but had to postpone it due to personal reasons, so we are doing it in the next few weeks,”
Each Koch Media The Doctors release also comes with an entertaining introduction from Keith and Myth Makers presenter Nicholas Briggs (familiar to many Doctor Who fans of the new series as the voice of The Daleks). Both Keith and Nicholas give an insight into the making of each video interview, usually with fun and entertaining anecdotes.
Keith concludes, “Nick was my best man at my wedding and is one of my oldest friends, so spending time with him is a joy anyway, as well as doing the intros. I’m just grateful that people seem to be interested In a couple of old farts!” (Laughs).
- Koch Media Presents The Doctors: Monsters! Will be available on 2-disc DVD from 5th March 2018.