Knowing the Score: We chat with Segun Akinola

Imagine being told you had the job of a lifetime while standing in the liquor section of your local supermarket.

Doctor Who’s latest musical composer, British-Nigerian Segun Akinola, chuckles when he tells that story and you know he will be dining out on it for years to come.

“I was in the wine aisle when I got this call from Chris – there was a lot of background noise,” he said. And though it was offered, there was no chance that Segun was going to take the call later – because let’s face it, when you get a life changing phone call you hang up!

“It was really surreal. I was just walking up and down the aisle thinking I should just buy the mulled wine and go home.”

The phone call was the end of what had been a long audition process which included putting together a piece of music for the show – a piece that obviously impressed both Chris Chibnall and fellow Executive Producer Matt Strevens ,as it became the Doctor’s theme.

And so it was that the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumni was chosen to replace the beloved Murray Gold, who had been the man behind the music of the show since it returned. And with him he has brought a new sound to the program using everything from Punjabi musicians (recorded at Abbey Road) to dub-step and music to evoke the US in the ’50s.

They were big shoes for Segun, who had initially learned the piano and drums at an early age before turning his attention to composition, graduating from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with first-class honours and the National Film and Television School with an MA in Composing for Film and Television, before being part of the BAFTA Breakthrough Brit program in 2017.

And while his selection was a surprise for fans, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work with the BBC,” he explained and so when he was asked to audition it was not entirely shocking.

“But it’s not every Wednesday morning you find out you are being considered for Doctor Who.”

A meeting with Matt Strevens and Skyping with Chris Chibnall and it became apparent that they already knew his work on Black and British: A Forgotten History and Exhibition Volcano and he felt “welcome from the start” despite not really being a fan of the show.

“I hadn’t really watched Doctor Who – I always knew about it, it is such an important part of British Society,” he explained.

“I knew about it musically, I knew about Murray Gold and what he’d done with bringing this great orchestral sound to the small screen.

“But I didn’t have anyone in my social group saying, ‘watch it’.”

Of course, as he went through the selection process he began to watch and is now a fan.

However, coming from the outside may have helped the young composer, who explained that both Strevens and Chibnall wanted him to put his own stamp on the show.

And this brings us to what is probably the most talked about part of his tenure so far – the reimagining of the theme song and THAT beat drop. Preparing for this interview, that was the question that kept coming up – ask him about the beat drop in the theme song.

Segun laughs and explained that even in the early meetings it was very apparent that Chris and Matt had the same idea he had – taking the theme back to the original, while they were also very keen to put his own stamp on the shows music and make it his own.

“They said we have people who know all about the music – bring some of yourself to them,” Segun explained.

“I always thought that if anything was going to be done to the theme song then I was thinking you had to go back to the original, which I did. But that beat-drop, that’s me, that’s who I am. I used it a few times in the first few episodes.”

And while he dropped his signature beat drop through the middle of the season, listen out for more as we head to the end – which he was still working on during this interview in late November.

And the other big question – will we see his music at big orchestral concerts like his predecessor? Well while there are no plans, the affable 20-something said it was something he’d love to see in the future – and given the different types of music used in the show this series, it would be another big challenge (something he seems to relish).

New Year’s Day is Special in 2019

CHRISTMAS will be late this year – well in the world of Doctor Who at least.

Doctor Who Magazine confirmed this year’s Christmas Special won’t be at Christmas at all but will come to the world on New Year’s Day.

The ABC is yet to announce if that will include us (though of course, that will be 2 January here anyway).

“We don’t have confirmation yet on the broadcast details for the special,” the ABC publicity department spokeswoman said when contacted this morning.

“But I’ll let you know once we do.”

A Doctor Who Christmas Special has been a regular part of the BBC Christmas Day schedule since the series returned in 2005.

The series peaked in 2007 when Kylie Minogue joined the Tenth Doctor in Voyage of the Damned watched by 13.3 million viewers. The 2017 Christmas special, Twice Upon A Time, marking the regeneration from Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, was watched by 7.92 million.

The New Year’s Day episode marks the end of Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the Doctor. The only other recent New Year’s Day Who screening second part of The End of Time in 2010 which attracted 12.27 million viewers.

The official synopsis for the special is as follows:

As the New Year begins, a terrifying evil is stirring from across the centuries of Earth’s history. As the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz return home, will they be able to overcome the threat to planet Earth?

The episode has been written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Wayne Yip.

Barrowman back Down Under

JOHN Barrowman has a soft spot for Australia – he’s been here four times in the past year and if he has his way he’ll be back again in 2019.

The actor who brought the iconic Captain Jack to life in the Whoniverse, before playing DC supervillain Malcolm Merlin in Arrow is here Australia, for Supanova. Last week he took Adelaide by storm (building his own Tim Tam Jenga with husband Scott) and this weekend it will be Brisbane’s turn.

Our chat by phone is “timey wimey”. It’s 5.16pm on 23 October in Palm Springs and after 11am Sydney time on 24 October. He’s quick to point out I’m talking to him from the future, instantly relaxing both of us in a way neither probably feels.

This is one of two days off he has before he comes to Australia (perhaps before he takes time off for Christmas and downtime in January, and I’m on deadline for other projects). And yet here we are chatting like old friends who have never met – he is in an interview just what you see on stage – friendly, funny and totally natural.

He’s keen to talk about Australia, the continuing love out there for Captain Jack and how teenaged girls see his Malcolm Merlin as a father figure, even though he’s definitely no poster-child for perfect parenting.

We start with Australia and his four trips to this country this year.

“We like Australia, we think it’s a fun place to go,” he admits when I ask why.

“We are going to be in Adelaide and Brisbane for Supanova and my husband Scott is going to be planning the itinerary for our week off.”

This trip is very much a family affair, with John and Scott being joined by John’s sister author Carole Barrowman for both events.

And it’s not all Pop Culture festivals for the versatile and bubbly Barrowman – the man is an entertainer with a capital E. He sings, dances, presents and acts and earlier in the year he brought his musical talents to this country and he hopes to be back.

“Having done such a successful show in Melbourne we are looking to do it around other cities,” he said.
“The Centre where we performed is interested.

“We are yet to solidify dates but if it does happen then it will be in the year.”

And maybe it will be a chance for Barrowman and husband Scott to do a bit more house hunting in Australia.

“When we were on the Gold Coast we looked at a high-rise,” he explained. While the couple decided against that particular place, he hasn’t ruled out buying something here in Australia.

“That was just the Gold Coast. Never say never – we haven’t ruled out buying something in Australia.”

The Glasgow-born star has been spotted at Southbank in Brisbane and several places around Adelaide since arriving in the country, clearly enjoying our weather and our hospitality.

However, it is back to work now with a series of panels across the weekend including with his former Torchwood co-star Gareth David-Lloyd, who joked that John wouldn’t enjoy sharing a stage – and while that is probably not true, it is true that John Barrowman, who is fresh from filming in Vancouver and also has a role as the bad guy in the new Fireman Sam movie, loves a stage.

“I know what I was put on this planet to do and that was to entertain people,” he laughed.

“That’s why it comes easily,” he says of his over-the-top and often event-stealing panels at Cons. And don’t expect anything other than to have fun when you go to see him, he sure will.

“People can expect more or the same,” John said.

“I don’t plan anything… I just let it happen.”

And one thing he has made no secret in wanting to happen is more Captain Jack.

Is it more likely now that former Torchwood Showrunner Chris Chibnall is Who’s main man?

“If I was asked I would do it,” John said (and has said many times in the past).

“It’s up to Chris, it’s his show and as we’ve seen so far he is doing a brilliant job with Jodie and the new companions!

“He was our showrunner on Torchwood, he has a great track record and he knows Captain Jack really well!”

You can catch John Barrowman, his sister Carole and Gareth David-Lloyd at Supanova in Brisbane this weekend and, fingers-crossed, coming to a stage near you early next year.

Vale Doctor Who Producer Derrick Sherwin, 1936-2018

He was a Doctor Who jack of all trades, but Derrick Sherwin, who died on 17 October at the age of 82, will be best remembered as the man responsible for creating UNIT.

Producer Derrick Sherwin died after a long illness.

Producer Sherwin worked on Who writing scripts, producing the series for the transition between the second and Third Doctor, and even appeared in one scene, playing a Car Park Attendant in the 1970 story Spearhead from Space.

But his real legacy came in 1968 when he created the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce or UNIT for the story The Invasion.

Born in 1936, he worked first in theatre before moving into television in 1958 and appearing in the show Duty Bound. His early work in dramas including as Here Lies Miss Sabry, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, United! and Armchair Theatre.

He joined Who as Assistant Script Editor to help the incumbent Peter Bryant who was preparing to take over as producer. It was a baptism of fire as he was immediately charged with rescuing a number of scripts which were not ready for production. He told Doctor Who Magazine.

“It was just before Christmas, and I was landed with a great pile of scripts that had to go into production immediately after the holiday break.

“The director had sent them back and said he wouldn’t do them. Pat Troughton had thrown a wobbly – they really were appalling! That set the pattern for the first three months. It was a real baptism of fire.”

He took over as Script Editor for the 1968 story The Dominators and later that year had the chance to write his own story from scratch. The result was The Invasion, the Cybermen story that set up the pattern for the series for much of the next five years. Sherwin felt the series had become too fantastical, with different monsters every week. He wanted to give the series a more grounded approach and saw as his inspiration the 1950’s Quatermass stories. To help achieve that he took a character created for the story The Web of Fear, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, promoted him to Brigadier, and created UNIT around him.

Sherwin moved into the role of producer for the last Patrick Troughton story, The War Games, which also featured his ex-wife Jane as Lady Jennifer, and was responsible for casting the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and overseeing the series move from black-and-white to colour.

He left the series after Spearhead in Space moving on to produce the series Paul Temple and later The Man Outside and Perils of Pendragon.

But that was not the end of his love for Doctor Who and when the show was under threat of cancellation from the BBC he offered to buy the franchise and produce it independently however he was turned down.

Sherwin died on the 17th October after a long illness.

Scottish Miss Makes Big Finish

Everybody’s favourite Scottish Miss is set to return with a brand new audio series from Big Finish.

The new adventures will see Michelle Gomez return to her role as Missy and will be available from the DWCA Shop in April 2019.

Missy heads to Big Finish for an adventure or two of her own.

There will be four new adventures: A Spoonful of Mayhem by Roy Gill, Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated by John Dorney, The Broken Clock by Nev Fountain and The Belly of the Beast by Jonathan Morris.

Gomez told Big Finish she was excited to bring everyone’s favourite “delightful devil” back to life so fans can hear more of what she is really capable of.

“I was very excited to return to Missy’s world via the medium of audio because along the way I’ve always had a lot of fun with Missy; her voices and her rhythms. I absolutely love capturing it and distilling it down to the word on the page,” she explained.

“I’m absolutely delighted! She’s such a ridiculously brilliant character, and hopefully, that earns her that moment in the spotlight.

“To find myself centre stage with these Missy adventures is thrilling – I’m very grateful.”

And (while evading the Doctor’s clutches) Missy will encounter another enemy of the Doctor as she crosses paths with the Meddling Monk played by Rufus Hound.

Missy adventures producer David Richardson said to expect the unexpected.

“Missy’s own series is just like the Time Lady herself – anarchic, funny, unpredictable and wildly imaginative,” he told Big Finish.

“It’s absolutely glorious to have Michelle returning to the character at Big Finish, and our recording days have been filled with so much laughter.

“And we haven’t even met face to face yet! Michelle’s busy filming the new Sabrina series in Vancouver for Netflix and so we’ve been pairing studios down the line; Michelle thousands of miles away while we’re in London synched up with her. It’s been a joy to make. And just wait until you hear the collaboration of Missy and the Meddling Monk!”

Gomez will additionally be reprising her role as Missy in the fifth series of The Diary of River Song, joining TV Movie Master Eric Roberts, Geoffrey Beevers’ decayed Master and Derek Jacobi’s War Master in a series of adventures opposite Alex Kingston. The series will be available to purchase from the DWCA Shop in early 2019, with the Missy boxset available shortly after.

New image and episode synopses released

THE excitement is ramping up to eleven (or is that 13?) as the countdown continues to the new series with the synopsis for episodes one and two and a new image released this week.

The new image features the whole TARDIS team in suitable action poses while the supporting BBC press release offers up some brief comments from Chibnall, Whittaker and Bradley Walsh (who we’re of course all about to know better as Graham O’Brien).

It also reiterates that the first episode will be called The Woman Who Fell To Earth while the second is The Ghost Monument.

It is now less than a month until the new Doctor hits Australian screens (big and small) on Monday, 8 October.

“Finally – Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor is about to crash land on to the nation’s screens,” Chibnall said via the latest release.

“It’s thrilling to think, in the next few weeks and months, there will be children encountering Jodie’s Doctor in the next few weeks who’ve never seen the show before. She’ll be forever their Doctor: you never forget your first.

“Alongside Jodie, we have a delightful ensemble of new characters for the audience to fall in love with, led by the incomparable Bradley Walsh.”

The synopsis for Episode One – The Woman Who Fell To Earth is as follows:

We don’t get aliens in Sheffield. In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O’Brien are about to have their lives changed forever, as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city?

Guest starring Sharon D Clarke, Johnny Dixon and Samuel Oatley. Written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs.

We have also learned the name of the second episode: The Ghost Monument (which will also star veteran British actor Art Malik). The synopsis follows:

Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough, in a hostile alien environment , to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo?

Guest starring Shaun Dooley, Susan Lynch and Art Malik. Written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Mark Tonderai.

Chibnall went on to describe what we could all expect from the new series.

“You can expect emotion, you can expect action and adventure and monsters and far ­off planets and huge alien vistas,” he said

“You can expect a lot of humour, a lot of warmth and some great characters.

“Four great new friends for you to meet as they go through past, present and future and meet some incredible people from history and go and battle on alien planets and fight threats closer to home.

It’s really a whole array of different stories. Ten individual stories that show off the range of the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends but also of the show as a whole. I hope you can expect everything you’ve ever loved about Doctor Who.

“More than anything, it’s hopefully incredibly entertaining and I think this series has something for absolutely everyone. If you’ve seen Doctor Who before I hope we’re going to be giving you all the stuff you love. If you’ve never seen it before, this is the place to start and I think you’re in for a rollicking ride.”

Asked to describe the new series in a sentence Bradley Walsh proved less than succinct.

“This new dawn for Doctor Who will be ground­ breaking and exciting and fantastic and unpredictable and beautiful and timeless,” he said.

“I’m telling you now, this is going to be so brilliant. Jodie is fantastic! She works so hard and is so enthusiastic. She leads from the front and she’ll trailblaze for a lot of other shows. The new series of Doctor Who in a sentence is forward thinking, innovative, bold and brave.”

Whittaker herself was asked what the themes of the series would be.

“Friendship and loyalty and survival. All things that are very human, interlaced with things that are very far from human and familiar. It’s a very inclusive world,” she nominated.

“When I watch TV and film I want to feel engrossed and excited, particularly in this world and genre. Doctor Who in itself is its own genre. I suppose you want it to feel like a roller coaster ride!”

Hines sight for Jamie

IT is more than 50 years since Frazer Hines first donned a kilt, fine-tuned his Scottish accent and met the Doctor – it’s an event that not only continues to influence his life but a lot of other people’s too, and in surprising ways.

Hines, 73, is still a Doctor Who fan favourite, touring the world going to conventions and still working – and in fact he will be in Australia this month doing both.

He is set to appear at Supanova Sydney from 15-17 June at the Sydney Showground and will appear in Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from 29 June to 8 July and then Sydney’s State Theatre from 13 to 22 July.

“If I had known how successful it would be I would have kept the props, but back then it was just three years in a kids show,” he laughed.

“I was supposed to be in it for two episodes set in the Highlands. I didn’t have to read for it – I just had a five-minute discussion over a cup of coffee.”

However, the producers and BBC viewers liked what they saw in those two episodes and after a lot of fan phone calls to the channel, he was asked to join the TARDIS crew permanently, spending the next three years from 1966 to 1969 having too much fun traversing time and space with Patrick Troughton, who he described as “a lovely man”.

Having already shot his final scene for the show, he was called back for a reshoot and instead of standing there with the other Highlanders waving the TARDIS goodbye, he got in, commencing a three-year run on the show that would finally conclude with 1969’s The War Games. It changed his life and, years later after seeing a rerun of his departure story, that of one particular American fan.

It is part of folklore now that Arizona writer Diana Gabaldon saw a rerun of The War Games and something fired in her brain. The resulting book – her first – was released here in Australia as Cross Stitch in the early ’90s. It became a worldwide best-seller, spawned a long series of novels and in more recent times, a television show which is now seen all around the world. It is of course Outlander; the novel’s lead character Jamie Fraser is named for Frazer’s Jamie McCrimmon.

And Frazer said it was amazing experience to know that his legs in a kilt had inspired such a worldwide phenomenon.

“She told me she saw me in Doctor Who as Jamie and was still thinking of my legs in a kilt the next day at church,” he laughed because the rest, as they say is history.

“She sent me the book while I was working on Emmerdale, I was still young enough to play Jamie, I took it to my bosses at Yorkshire Television, but they said it would be too expensive to make.”

Instead, more than two decades later Outlander has made the current “Jamie”, Sam Heughan, a worldwide star.

But Frazer didn’t miss out entirely, playing Sir Fletcher Gordon in one episode back in 2015.

“Ten to 12 episodes might have been nice,” the affable Frazer quipped, saying it was an honour to know that his time as Jamie had inspired such a massive hit.

“I just wish Diana Gabaldon would pay my mortgage off,” he laughed. “I have certainly paid off hers and probably Sam Heughan’s too, it is so big around the world, everywhere… Brazil, America, Australia.”

Not that Frazer can really complain, he is still getting work in his 70s and still obviously loving it – including his latest pantomime gig here in Australia – a gig that came about in a very modern way.

“I’ve known the pantomime director Bonnie Lythgoe for years – I just happened to pop up on her Facebook profile a few months ago and told a joke and she said oh my god I forgot you had such a great sense of humour and asked me to come down for the pantomime,” he said.

“I think it will be my thirtieth or at least 29th pantomime – I love it. It is such a great introduction to theatre for children.”

Frazer will play Sleeping Beauty’s father, King Louis, with Australian stage royalty Rhonda Burchmore taking the role of the wicked fairy godmother Carabosse and comedian Kev Orkian playing Silly Billy. It is the fifth panto produced in Australia by Lythgoe after the nationwide success of last year’s The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Cinderella in 2016, Aladdin and his Wondrous Lamp in 2015 and Snow-White Winter Family Musical in 2014.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster for both the Sydney and Melbourne shows. Supanova tickets can meanwhile be purchased from Moshtix, where you can hear Frazer’s other stories – including the time he worked with Charlie Chaplin – and don’t forget the DWCA will have a booth at the event, so you can pick up a DVD or two for Frazer to sign!

Following both the panto and the con, Frazer said he would be heading up to the Solomon Islands for a week to visit the scene of World War II’s battle of Guadalcanal before heading back to Britain.

Frazer Hines set for Supanova.

Classic Who set to Twitch

SEVEN weeks, seven doctors and a whole lot of Daleks -social video service Twitch is set to launch a Special Viewing Event for Doctor Who fans.

Twitch announced they are joining forces with BBC Studios for the first-ever digital broadcast event featuring the Classic Doctor Who series.

So that’s more than 500 episodes from the 26 series airing worldwide during the seven-week period. Starting 29 May (or in Australia’s case 4am 30 May) tune in each week Monday to Friday at 11 am PDT to catch episodes on Twitch.tv/TwitchPresents.

BBC Studios Director of Digital Sales and Business Development, Nick Coulter was excited about the partnership.

“We are constantly looking at ways to reach new audiences and make it easier for fans to engage with our most popular shows,” he said.

“Doctor Who, in particular, has a great tradition of pioneering new technologies, from early VHS all the way through to the new digital services of today. Twitch is another great example of this, as a brilliant service with over 15 million active daily users, we are thrilled to be able to offer them the chance to indulge in the Classic Doctor Who series and celebrate its amazing 54 year legacy of excitement and innovation.”

As part of the event, leading UK digital content creators The Yogscast are producing a series of shows that will introduce each Doctor. With a cast of Doctor Who screenwriters, experts, fans, and even a former companion, the Yogscast’s Turps and resident Doctor Who expert and High Roller’s player Matt Toffollo will discuss why modern audiences should watch Doctor Who. Each 20-minute episode will provide a brief summary of the stories, including the actors, monsters, famous phrases or production gaffes to look out for. With first-hand knowledge from former companion Katy Manning and writers Bob Baker and Paul Cornell, the shows will give insight into the series alongside the humour and irreverence viewers expect from the Yogscast.

“Doctor Who and its clever take on sci-fi exemplifies the type of adjacent content to gaming that has resonated with the Twitch community,” Jane Weedon, Twitch Director of Business Development said.

“By presenting this iconic BBC show in a new interactive format, it is a fun new way to bridge several generations of Doctor Who fans, while building a new generation of them.”

For more information on the Doctor Who episodes that will air on Twitch, visit the Twitch blog.

And if you want to own the Classic Who episodes and watch them any time you like (with extras and without ads) don’t forget to head to the DVD section of the DWCA Shop where you can purchase the eps – http://dwca.org.au/products-page/dvds/