Friday, 28 September 2007

Interview - Fanboy Mastermind (Part Two of Two)

(Matt) How does NZ fandom compare on the world scene? Are we really very different from, say, British fans? And how come?
(Jon) I think the main difference between us and UK fans is that they get a more stable and regular diet of Who—eg. repeats on satellite TV, the books are readily available and they get to attend at least two conventions a year where they can meet stars from the show. They are rather spoiled because of this.

It is relatively easy to travel around the UK because they have such a splendid train system. This enables fans from all over the country to amass at these conventions. In New Zealand we don not have the same ability to get around the country to attend any sort of organized event, and as a result they don't get organized! Only local events seem to keep the interest alive.

We have been very privileged to get to see people like Tom Baker only because of circumstances rather than by design. Sadly, Baker has had to pull out of attending the 'Conquest II' convention in Auckland next year.

That's a great shame. And a blow for NZ fandom no doubt. Do you think the series itself will ever come back as new, or even repeats to New Zealand (as TVNZ no longer holds the rights)?
Ooo, tough question. If the show comes back to NZ screens it will probably be as an early weekend morning filler. I'd be very surprised to see it in prime time. Of course, the new Prime station or Sky's TV channel could be the new home for Who in NZ.

Will the show come back? It's possible, but I doubt it will happen before the turn of the century. Personally, I'd prefer to see a series of irregular TV movies (four a year?) rather than a twenty-two episode series. The idea of several two hour movies is more appealing as it gives scope for bigger and more epic stories.

If the show was to return full time, chances are it will adopt the now familiar concept of a story arc. There are very few SF TV shows nowadays that don't have some form of story arc in them (it's a very Nineties concept!). Doctor Who has previously used umbrella themes (Key to Time, E-Space) so the concept is not new.

What did you think of the telemovie and the new DWM regeneration?
From a production point of view the movie couldn't be faulted. It was a beautifully crafted piece of film with great direction from Geoffrey Sax. Sadly, the script didn't live up to expectations (but it was a darn sight better than some of the earlier scripts as seen in The Nth Doctor book). I've seen the film five times now and I still can't work out what's going on in the last few acts!

As for the DWM regeneration, I kinda expected it had to be a hoax. It's very healthy, I think, to give fandom a kick in the pants like this from time to time!

How about the BBC Books? As products of the BBC are the new books canon, and what do you think of them?
Technically, the books are a product of BBC Worldwide Ltd., which is a merchandising wing of the BBC, whereas the programme was made by BBC Drama, so there's no real reason why the two should even be considered part of the same continuity! But then of course the 1996 TV movie was co-produced with BBC Worldwide, so bang goes that line of thinking!

The subject of canonicity is one I prefer not to get too involved in, having already had my fingers badly burnt saying they aren't canon in the rec.arts.dr.who newsgroup!

Besides, it's all very good and fine to think about and then decide what is and what isn't canon, but unless you actually do something constructive with it, there isn't really much point in choosing, is there!

But, no, I only consider the TV episodes to be canon. That is not to say, however, that I don't enjoy other aspects of Doctor Who, such as the books and the comics. I read the books for enjoyment, not because I need a new fix of Doctor Who adventures; I don't need the books to be canon. I only get the books for my ever-growing Doctor Who collection. And with two new books a month, the pile of unread novels just grows and grows!

I've read only fourteen of the BBC books so far (a mix of both Eighth and past Doctors); some I've liked, some I've hated. I don't like Paul Leonard or John Peel's work, for instance, but I love Lance Parkin and Justin Richards' stuff. And before you ask, I have no intention to write one! While I do have some ideas, I don't have the time or the ability to write a novel.

You stole the questions right out of my mouth! Apart from Who, what else do you do outside of fandom?
I work for the National Bank; have been employed with them for fourteen years (although some times it feels like forever!). In terms of non-work interests, obviously there is my Doctor Who connections, but I should point out that I am a fan of general SF. I belong to a local SF club here in Hamilton. I love all SF films and TV. I don't get to read as much as I'd like to. (Probably 'cos I have far too many Doctor Who books still to read!)

I also collect merchandise. I have zillons of videos, plus books and magazines about movies and SF shows. In my overall collection I have novels, scripts, annuals, activity books, view-master slides, non-fiction reference books, film posters, lobby cards—I could go on but I don't want to bore you! I have a few rare items. My oldest Doctor Who collectible is the 1964 Radio Times with Marco Polo on the cover. But the oldest book in my non-Who collection is dated 1899. It'll be 100 next year!

What are your other science fiction interests? Why do you place Doctor Who at the top?
I think this was answered in the last question. My interests cover most media SF: Babylon 5, The X Files, Blakes 7, Thunderbirds, etc. And yes, I'll admit to watching and liking Star Trek! I'm looking forward to the new film, due either Boxing Day, or Easter next year—I'm not sure which. I am also very much looking forward to the new Star Wars films. There is just so much new SF on TV that it almost gets impossible to keep up with it all and still have time to sleep!

As for placing Who at the top, I think it's because it has such a rich continuity that is both complex and simple at the same time, and that makes it so much fun. Other long running series like Star Trek also have continuity structure but with Trek it is all spelled out for the viewer. Who still has a lot that is still a mystery. But now I find that I enjoy the behind-the-scenes analysis more than I do watching the show.

Why did you fold SF On Screen?
There are two reasons. Firstly, the idea of SF On Screen was that it was intended to act as an introduction to the TV shows and movies that were due to appear on NZ TV. The episode lists are a combination of stuff I get off the internet ad from the various SF magazines that I subscribe to, so I was pretty much up to date. But trying to predict what new shows TVNZ and TV3/4 were going to screen in the new year proved a nightmare. Neither broadcaster was prepared to divulge advanced screening information, so SF On Screen was either too early with info (Space Precinct has still not been shown in NZ!), or too late (Dark Skies screened before I had covered it). I simply got frustrated with this.

Secondly, for the past two years I've been working on a rather complex Doctor Who-related project which has taken up a lot of my spare time. I had to simply make a decision not to continue with the newsletter. It is possible—just possible mind!—that I will resurrect the newsletter some time in the future. We'll see.

Sorry, but its probably time we called it a day. That deadline is getting close! Last question—What is your most embarrasing moment (that you're willing to share!)?
One that springs to mind is when I phoned a friend to wish them a Happy Birthday only to discover that not only was I month late, but I had also phoned the wrong person ...! I guess you had to be there.

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