Author, comedian and Who fan Toby Hadoke has set out to interview somebody from every single Doctor Who story! Steve O'Brien investigates
"My first thought was, 'Well, I can't do everyone,'" Hadoke tells SFX , "but then I reasoned that perhaps I could spend the 50th year trying to get a first hand anecdote from every story. That way I'd have something to aim for which would get my arse into gear."
With so few fresh telly episodes in Doctor Who 's golden anniversary year, Toby Hadoke's Who's Round podcasts have been a welcome tonic. Hadoke has become one of the Who world's most cherished fanboys since his one-man comedy gig Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf debuted in 2006. Since then there's rarely been a DVD commentary that hasn't been pepped by his knee-weakening knowledge of Who lore, and he's found a regular home in the Special Features section, fronting documentaries on John Levene, HAVOC and The Sensorites among others. If the IMDB was made flesh and wore a hat, it'd look like Toby Michael Hadoke.
So, in between his stand-up work (he runs Manchester's XS Malarkey Comedy Club) and his unrelenting employment by 2Entertain, this was to define Hadoke's 2013 - the mission to interview someone linked to every Doctor Who story in turn, from "An Unearthly Child" to "The Name of the Doctor". Quite a task.
"Sometimes, I can't believe I'm doing it," Hadoke tells us. "But I am doing it, and it's a constant surprise. By nature I'm quite shy so approaching people is agonising. I hate cold calling people - it fills me with dread. I suspect in five years I'll look back and think, 'What the hell was I doing!?'"
The aim was not to fall back on the over-interviewed first-thought candidates for each story. So no Doctors or companions, no Terrance Dicks or Eric Saward. Instead, Hadoke would cosy up with some of the less heralded Who personnel, from guest actors to writers to vision mixers to costume designers to the poor, sweating thesps under the monster make-up. What emerges are not only newly aired anecdotes and fresh insights into the making of classic Doctor Who , but also illuminating profiles of people whose careers often never reached above-the-title levels of success, but whose life stories are every bit as compelling, if not more, as their more Sunday supplement-friendly colleagues.
"Chatting to character actors is my natural game and early on I ran the risk of it being rather a thesp heavy affair," Hadoke admits, "but I'm glad to say that I've gone the extra mile and secured a number of production personnel - with one interview leading to another contact which had a domino effect of me being put in touch with an increasing number behind-the-scenes folk. A PA from 'The Ice Warriors' found my website and so we met up. She was still in touch with one colleague who did loads of episodes, so then I met her, and she put me in touch with Margot Hayhoe, who was Production Assistant on lots of stories. Margot clearly enjoyed the lemon drizzle cake I bought her during our interview as she's gone out of her way to put me in touch with people, being considerate enough to about my list of uncovered stories and suggest someone from each and every one!"
All this doesn't mean that Who's Round is allergic to the odd stellar name. One of Hadoke's early grabs was Kevin McNally, who - 29 years ago - was Lieutenant Hugo Lang in Colin Baker's debut story, 'The Twin Dilemma', and who is now an ever in-demand character actor with titles such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Spooks under his belt. And there's another international TV a-lister in the pipeline, but Toby's not giving away that one just yet.
"When I got Kevin it seemed ridiculous to have such an illustrious fellow in my midst and just talk about 'The Twin Dilemma'," he laughs. "So they have become, essentially, spoken word testimony from people who have worked in the entertainment industry over the past 50 years, but who happened to have appeared in Doctor Who ."
What have been Hadoke's favourite moments so far?
"Actually, some of the most fascinating stories came from a man who doesn't even remember the one episode of Doctor Who he was in but was forced to serve in the French army when he was younger, which led to my favourite tale to date," he says. "Apart from that, I got a jolly anecdote about Milo Clancy's teapot, confirmed a hunch I had about a particular guest actor, and discovered that one McCoy guest star does a mean Boris Johnson impression!"
So far Hadoke estimates he's recorded around 78 interviews, though some are "very short, five-minute chats grabbed on the hoof". Even though Hadoke is well connected now in the world of Doctor Who and calls many of its cast and crew personal friends, most of the interviewees for Who's Round are people Hadoke has never encountered before. "For 'The Sensorites' I've grabbed the one person we couldn't get for the DVD which I'm very proud of," he says. "I've also had a 'yes' from a couple of people with a huge profile outside of Doctor Who but I don't want to jinx them as they're not in the can yet. Who's coming up that I'm excited about? I was amazed to get Rex Robinson - Dr Tyler from 'The Three Doctors' amongst others, and his wife Pat played Mrs Ollis in the same story and they were lovely. William Hurndell who played Ike Clanton in 'The Gunfighters' has led something of an international playboy life which is fascinating, and then there's Sue Upton who worked behind the scenes from Pertwee to Davison and who has never been interviewed before - goodness knows why not as her recall is fabulous!"
Hadoke is well aware that if the experiment is a success, it has to be completed by 31 December 2013. "I'm doing well," he says, "but I need to make serious inroads into the new series if I am to prosper. Because everyone involved is still very, very busy, that's proving to be an especially tough nut to crack. I've had loads of agreements but then the trail has gone cold as people, presumably, start working on something else and suddenly don't have the time! So I'm crossing my fingers there!"
You can check out Toby Hadoke’s Who’s Round at the Big Finish site . Steve O'Brien can be found on Twitter as @MrsSteveOBrien .