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The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners, episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting halfway through 1986’s Trial Of A Time Lord, and then covering the tumultous unseating of leading man Colin Baker, the casting of his successor Sylvester McCoy, and the making of McCoy’s three seasons as the Doctor. Nathan-Turner’s continuing association with Doctor Who, even after the show was no longer being made, is covered, as are his thoughts on the show’s future (a few years before Russell T. Davies’ new series was announced) and some of its more vocal fans.

Review: A bit closer to what I was hoping to hear from The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, the second volume of the former Doctor Who producer’s audio memoirs still comes in for a landing wide of the mark. Like the first volume, this one concentrates too much on story-by-story anecdotes in a way that doesn’t pause for breath and doesn’t allow for a more elaborate exploration of JN-T’s opinions of any particular event. Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners,episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting as a studio floor assistant in the Patrick Troughton story The Space Pirates, through his work as production unit manager, through his rise to the position of producer at the end of Tom Baker’s reign. At the end of the second disc, “JN-T” discusses the 1985 cancellation/hiatus crisis and the beginning of production on The Trial Of A Time Lord.

Review: I’ve had both 2-CD volumes of the late John Nathan-Turner’s memoirs sitting on the shelf for some time, but they sat there until a recent listen to fellow Doctor Who producer Barry Letts’ memoirs spurred me to listen, contrast and compare. As with the two wildly different epochs of Doctor Who itself, trying to compare the two showrunners’ memoirs is an exercise involving apples and oranges. Continue reading

Who And Me

Who And MeOrder this bookStory: Doctor Who producer Barry Letts (1923-2009) narrates the story of his own beginnings in TV and theater, from second-string actor to writer to producer of one of the BBC’s most popular series during its first seasons in color starring Jon Pertwee. This first volume, featuring Letts reading his own memoirs, covers his early career, his first Doctor Who directing gig (Enemy Of The World starring Patrick Troughton) and his eventual ascension to the chief creative mind behind the series. Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons are covered in depth, including many remembrances of Pertwee himself and his co-stars, the introduction of Roger Delgado as the Master, and more.

Review: I had Who And Me sitting on the shelf for a long time before former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts died in October 2009, but I just hadn’t listened to it; Letts has already been interviewed, and has written up anecdotes about his time working on Doctor Who, and has done enough DVD commentaries…I wasn’t sure there was anything new to tell. Who And Me proved otherwise. Continue reading

Looks Like Another Brown Trouser Job

Looks Like Another Brown Trouser JobOrder this bookStory: In a series of recordings culled from his series of one-man lectures in the 1980s, Monty Python star Graham Chapman talks about life before, during, and after his years with the seminal British TV comedy troupe, including a painful stint with the Dangerous Sports Club, an extreme sports outfit (before that term was even invented) that brought bungee-jumping into the public eye (and certainly right into Chapman’s). Chapman also discusses his battles with alcoholism, his close friendship with The Who drummer Keith Moon, and the inevitable censorship battles that have followed his brand of outrageously silly humor.

Review: I was surprised to see this CD appear so long after Chapman’s death (in 1989, just one day short of Monty Python’s 20th anniversary) – one would have thought that interest had long since waned, and it almost begs one to ask “Why now?” The answer is simply because the man’s humor is still relevant – and still quite silly, thank you. For those of us who didn’t get to take in Chapman’s college lecture tour in the ’80s, this is the next best thing. (There’s also a DVD available, of which more in a moment.) Those accustomed to Chapman’s outrageously iconic Python characters may be surprised to find that the man himself, while still quite silly, can be surprisingly circumspect. Continue reading

The Actor Speaks: Paul Darrow

The Actor Speaks: Paul DarrowOrder this bookStory: Best known as the gravelly voice, stony face and acid wit of unscrupulous genius Kerr Avon from the cult favorite BBC SF series Blake’s 7, Paul Darrow talks about his career – both Blake-centric and otherwise – as well as reaching the age of 60, playing the role of Elvis Presley on stage, and performs several short dramatic scenes written especially for this presentation.

Review: Though it might seem, on the surface, to be a slightly silly idea to combine listener-submitted Q&A sessions with dramatic readings, this fourth entry in MJTV Productions’ The Actor Speaks CD series really, upon further reflection, gives you what you’d get from a really good convention appearance – except you can have that experience in your headphones rather than in a crowded convention center. As usual, Darrow is engaging and gracious when faced with the usual barrage of Blake’s 7-related questions, even though some of them have been asked before. (To give credit to the show’s producer and presenter, Mark Thompson, there did at least seem to be enough foresight to realize that the fans who would be this product’s target audience would be well-acquainted with the most frequently asked questions, so the Q&A material tends to venture further afield, or at least presents familiar questions with a twist.) As usual, Darrow demonstrates that he’s put an awful lot of thought into what made Avon tick – and what could continue to make him tick in any continuations of the story. Continue reading

Feel This Audiobook

Feel This AudiobookOrder this bookStory: Comedians Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo dispense relationship advice both plentiful and disturbing, using the rather unfortunate model of their own failed celebrity romance as the basis of their words of wisdom. Stiller later goes off on tangents involving new-age affirmations and an attempt to discover himself on a cross-country trip. Garofalo takes well-earned potshots at the Hollywood concept of what makes people attractive.

Review: Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo’s vocalization of their own Feel This Book self-help spoof does a rare thing – it exceeds the potential and enjoyment of the original medium when performed vocally. Continue reading