WARNING: the introduction to this interview contains some adult concepts.
Okay, so I’m reading, in that bastion of parochial gossip, council in-fighting and mediocre arts reportage known as The Manly Daily, that there is a Doctor Who-related show coming to Sydney called Doctor Who Inside the TARDIS. It will feature
Colin Baker, the sixth Doctor and Sylvester McCoy, the seventh Doctor, as well as Katy Manning, who was Jo Grant, the assistant to the third Doctor Jon Pertwee and who, I believe, has lived in Manly for the last few decades, give or take. But what really grabs me is that the show is being MC’d by Tim Ferguson, who used to be part of my favourite musical comedy trio, the Doug Anthony Allstars.
In fact, this won’t be the first time Ferguson and Manning shared a stage: way back in 1994, my favourite media eccentric Maynard F# Crabbes (it’s a play on the name of the character ‘Maynard G. Krebs’, from a show I’ve never seen called The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which featured Bob ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Denver as the beatnik or hippie or something called Maynard) hosted a live variety show at a club called Kinselas. The show was called – wait for it – Fist Me TV (“because,” Maynard explained to me in an interview at the time, “everybody fucks but not everybody fists”) and it was being filmed as a pilot with some idea of trying to sell it to television. “Yeah, right,” you’re thinking, “who honestly believes that they could market a live variety show on television and call it Fist Me TV?” Well it never did get to television, but don’t gloat so knowingly just yet – shortly thereafter the rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson (Roy & HG) got their own live variety show on television. It was called Club Buggery. Some other philosopher can tease out the ramifications of the differences between fisting and buggery, particularly as they may pertain to humour (or a lack thereof) as this has been a distracting enough tangent as it is.
At one of the performances of Fist Me TV, the Doug Anthony Allstars shared the bill with Katy Manning and Barry Crocker. Although Crocker has been Manning’s partner since 1989, he also has a history with the Allstars: he sang lead on their rendition of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (one of several featured on the Andrew Denton-hosted show Money or the Gun – but that really is a whole other story).
So, anyway, after all of these inter-related bits of trivia made themselves apparent in my brain, I decided I wanted to interview someone about this, and thought that it would be as good an excuse as any to catch up with Tim Ferguson. I gather that his role is largely that of a ‘Dorothy Dix’ – setting up the questions like a parliamentary stooge, in order to let the Right Honourable Minister for Whatever to shine in giving the rehearsed answer. Not that this is a bad thing: that’s how the recent Goodies tour was structured, right down to the clips and the radio play, and it worked a treat!
Here’s a transcript of the interview. Why not listen to the recording of it, underscored with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s original Doctor Who theme? You can find an MP3 here. A shorter version went to air on ABC NewsRadio on the morning of the first performance. If you are interested, here are the tour dates.
Demetrius Romeo: Hi Tim, how are ya?
TIM FERGUSON: Oh, good!
Demetrius Romeo: I wanna talk to you about this Doctor Who thing that’s going on.
TIM FERGUSON: Well the Doctors are here. We’ve been rehearsing the last couple of days. They are, as you know, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and we’ve just been putting this little puppy together.
Demetrius Romeo: How did you come to be involved in this project?
TIM FERGUSON: Well I think I was outed as a science fiction fan long ago and so I guess the guys who came up with the idea thought that they could call me and I wouldn’t hang up. In fact I would begin stalking the cast. Already I have eight autographs from each of them. Whenever I see a Doctor with nothing to do I grab something and make him sign it. I figure a guy has to make a buck out of this.
Demetrius Romeo: What have you had them autograph?
TIM FERGUSON: Well, there was a plunger, of course, t-shirts, underpants, baseball caps – you know, the usual.
Demetrius Romeo: Uh-huh. Good, good. Now, Katy Manning’s involved in this as well.
TIM FERGUSON: You bet! Lively, vivacious Katy Manning is one of our three guests. She’s going to be telling the stories of what it was like to be a plucky companion to Jon Pertwee.
Demetrius Romeo: In addition to telling stories, there are also clips being shown…
TIM FERGUSON: Yeah! We’ve got all sorts of clips from right across the series. All the monstors and creatures and evil doers… The Master, of course, who really picked a good name for himself. I mean, if you are going to dominate the universe, you don’t want to just be called ‘Basil’. “I am Basil…” You want to be able to say, “I am the Master” so that right off the bat, once people have met you, they have an idea of basically what your role is going to be in the universe.
Demetrius Romeo: Now, speaking of ‘roles in the universe’, in a way, you’re the Master – of ceremonies.
TIM FERGUSON: Yes, ‘The Master’… of ceremonies.
Demetrius Romeo: Not ‘The Basil’ of ceremonies.
TIM FERGUSON: No, unfortunately, he’s much funnier than me. It’s my job just to ask the Doctors questions, keep things moving. I’ve been co-writing a radio play; an original premiere performance of a radio play will be happening starring both Doctors, Katy Manning and myself. That’s part of our second act. We’ve just completed writing the thing and I think it’s very dramatic. It’s terrifying; it’s scary.
Demetrius Romeo: Excellent! Now, Sylvester McCoy, to me, always struck me as a very different Doctor because he had that other career before he became a Doctor that was kind of more cabaret and vaudeville.
TIM FERGUSON: Yes, he did study to become a priest. And I think he started from a young age, studying that. I think he said he began at eleven and finally gave that away. Oh, you’re talking about the vaudeville stuff! Of course! After the priesthood he became very much a clown on vaudeville stages of London, the West End… He can play the spoons. He did an act where he stuffed ferrets down his trousers.
Demetrius Romeo: I remember an act where someone got a nail nailed into their nasal cavity…
TIM FERGUSON: That was him! In the Secret Policeman’s Ball.
Demetrius Romeo: That’s right.
TIM FERGUSON: A guy has to have a hobby, and when you’re not being a Timelord you have to think of ways to pass the time, I guess.
Demetrius Romeo: Now, I’ve got to ask you, Tim, being a science fiction nut and all, what do you thing of Doctor number nine that’s currently on our screens?
TIM FERGUSON: I love Christopher Eccleston. I think he’s doing a great job. He’s a bit kooky, he’s a bit groovy, he’s a little bit nerdy… and Rose, his plucky companion, is terrific! She’s enthusiastic, asks a lot of questions: just what you want from a plucky sidekick.
Demetrius Romeo: Now is there anything you’ve learnt from this that you didn’t know before, being a science fiction buff yourself?
TIM FERGUSON: I didn’t know that Colin Baker had a different pussycat badge on his jacket every episode.
Demetrius Romeo: I didn’t even know he had a pussycat badge! I’m just a day-tripper.
TIM FERGUSON: That’s right, it’s been quite a revelation. I have to go back over the tapes.
Demetrius Romeo: Tim, thanks very much.
TIM FERGUSON: Okay. And no ferrets were killed in the making of this interview.
Demetrius Romeo: Excellent.
TIM FERGUSON: Thanks Dom.
Demetrius Romeo: See you, mate.