Twentieth Anniversary Documentary

William Hadcroft

August, 2002

We all know about Audio Visuals, the non-profit-making fan-produced adventures made by the likes of Gary Russell and Nick Briggs in the 1980's. However, not everybody knows about the American equivalent, the DWADs, that is the Doctor Who Audio Dramas produced by Everlasting Films. While the AV guys went professional with Big Finish Productions and made 'proper' Doctor Who, the EF team have continued with their not-for-profit, just-for-fun adventures, and I'm astonished to discover this year marks their 20th anniversary!

I had been toying with the idea of sampling some of these stories for quite a while, but with no idea of what to expect, I decided to chance their documentary The Making of an Audio Series. And I wasn't disappointed.

These people have taken their show from ad-libbing by detailed story synopses in the early 80's to acting with properly written scripts in the new millennium. They are on to their fourth Doctor and production plans are afoot to take them up to their 25th anniversary.

The documentary itself follows the history of the series in considerable detail. Actors and writers discuss their contributions, there are clips galore, and CD sound quality is near perfect. The packaging is quite something too. For an amateur job, it doesn't half look professional.

The bloopers section was pretty meaningless to me, as I had no idea how the scenes were supposed to sound, but I did find companion Dara's leaving scene quite touching, and the regeneration clips interesting, despite my barely knowing the characters!

Thanks to the advent of the Internet, Everlasting Films now have a more international appeal. Apart from the original source material being British, BBV/BBC Books author Paul Ebbs cut his writing teeth with this team (as well as producing his own Season 27 range), and documentary writer/producer Robert Dunlop now serves as the DWAD's British distributor.

The two discs make interesting listening and are a good intro to the series. In fact, I've ordered a play entitled The Hidden Menace...

William Merlock

May, 2002

I must admit Iíve always been one to enjoy a ďbehind the scenesĒ look at things, so when Argolis Productions announced that they would be putting together a documentary on the Doctor Who Audio Dramas, I was immediately interested. Doubly so, I suppose, because the ancient history of the DWADs, the pre-Series C years, are shrouded in mystery, and Argolisí Robert Dunlop promised a look at these earliest years.

Despite my anticipation, this documentary was even better than expected. Iíve listened to it three times now, and it holds up well even under such repeated exposure. The first CD of this two-CD set largely covers the first two of the DWAD Doctors, Vincent Savage and David Segal, and includes commentary by both. Mr. Segal, being the initial creator of the DWADs, provides particularly interesting information and insight on those early years. The first CD includes several clips of older episodes, bloopers from the Segal years, and some interesting discussions and anecdotes about conventions and about some of the castsí favorite scenes. It ends with an interesting clip from a cancelled David Segal story.

The second CD covers the Jeffrey Coburn and Jym DeNatale Doctors; as DeNatale is just beginning his (hopefully long) reign as the DWAD Doctor, it is the stories of the Coburn years that receive most of the attention. It is in this section that the documentary really shines. You can really get a sense that the DWADs are a true labor of love for these cast members. For instance, listening to Sheri Devine talk about her last episode playing the companion Dara was a very moving experience. Listening to Ms Devine, to Jym DeNatale, Rachel Summers, Thomas Himinez, David Segal, and Peter Hinchman (who also narrated the documentary perfectly) discuss the way they approach the making of these episodes, from script writing and editing to acting and directing to post-production, itís easy to see why the DWADs are so good. I was particularly impressed at how professionally the DWADs are run. This may be a non-profit enterprise, but it's run very seriously.

And hats off to Robert Dunlop who put the documentary together. Technically, it is nearly flawless. The music that was used provided exactly the right atmosphere and the relative balance between the level of the music and the individual speaking was right on. I was particularly impressed with one technique used primarily on the second CD: while a cast member was speaking, a DWAD scene would be played quietly in the background. While this might sound distracting, it worked perfectly. The contents of the documentary itself were well chosen and pieced together nearly flawlessly, and the script itself carried the commentary and audio clips very well.

The most difficult part of this review, it seems, is coming up with suggestions for possible improvement. The only thing I found really wrong with the documentary was that the second CD was all one track; at 70+ minutes long, it was difficult to skip around to various parts of the documentary when I wanted to re-listen to particular comments. The first CD was 6 or 8 tracks, and this would probably have been a good number to divide the second CD into as well. The only other negative comments I noted were (1) the occasionally poor sound quality in some of the older clips, but thatís an unavoidable side effect of the longevity of the DWADs; and (2) the documentary script had the occasional rough spot that might have been smoothed over a little.

So, yes, I liked this documentary, liked it a lot. I would highly recommend it to any fan of Everlasting Films, and to anyone interested in the making of audio dramas in general. At over two hours, it never loses oneís interest and really gives one an interesting glimpse at twenty years in the life of an audio series.

Last updated: Thursday, August 8, 2002