Mervyn’s Shower Surprise

This months guest blog is from Mervyn Robinson himself:

Now that the first instalment of my memoirs have been released to the general public, I can finally talk about how exciting it’s been for me to relive a key episode from my life in the 90s with the likes of the lovely Sophie ‘McCoy’s-Ace-in-the-hole’ Aldred and Stuart ‘voice-of-Tom’ Grant!  I’ve been writing stuff down for weeks, actually, but before it was released the writer/producer Steve Broster kept censoring me. Apparently there was an NDA involved at some point early in the process, which it turns out doesn’t actually stand for Nineties Doctor Adventures.

So, now that I’m allowed to write about how much fun, and above all, culturally significant, the whole experience has been, I thought I’d use this opportunity to set a couple of facts straight about what really happened during the production, and why I don’t think I upset the so-called “real actors” by being over-familiar and making inappropriate suggestions.

For example: the scene where I surprise Tracy in the shower, as played by Sophie.  I did suggest to Sophie that we method act this scene and do it for real, but only because I really wanted to know what it would be like to surprise an attractive lady in the shower – you know, so that I could inject further realism into my performance.  When I said this to Broster he didn’t seem to believe me for some reason.  “But I thought this actually happened to you? It’s in your memoirs, isn’t it?”  
“Mate” I said, “I’ve basically forgotten it – there’s so many Tom memories in my head there’s no room for anything else.” 
Sophie pointed out that Method acting was more about finding memories that had the same emotional resonance as the experience one was trying to convey, so I used this technique when we did the scene.  Apparently, during the first take, at the point where I surprise Tracy, I shouted out “Mum!” which made Broster think the whole Tracy story was made up and it had happened with my mum instead.  “Why don’t we call your mum up and get her to shower in front of you if you’re interested in method acting?” was his snarky question.  “Because she’s 72 now, so it wouldn’t have the same effect,” I said, “and anyway she’s dead!”  That shut him up alright.  She’s not really dead, but I don’t see how he’s going to find that out.

Anyway, never mind about all that – I had a fantastic time, particularly listening to the frankly astonishing Tom voice of Stuart Grant.  Once or twice I closed my eyes and imagined I was in the presence of the great man.  This did make me miss one or two of my lines, which got me into trouble with Broster again.  “Just open your eyes and read the bloody lines!” he shouted.  Inspirational director.  Not.

Steve Broster (centre) records the shower scene with Sophie Aldred and Mervyn…



Guest blogger Pete Wallbank takes us through the process of creating our fabulous cover.

I used to do rather a lot of Doctor Who based artwork, but not for a quite a while (it’s a long story as to why I no longer paint the man – or woman – in the ‘Blue Box’), so it was with some trepidation that I even considered working on this project, originally sounded out to me by Mr. Richard Molesworth, colleague and friend of writer and producer Steve Broster.

After initial reservations, I was won over by the fact that it wasn’t entirely a Doctor Who project – and armed with this information I set about talking to Steve about what was required. After a number of conversations I was then able to start creating initial art concepts.

All initial ‘roughs’ were created by free hand drawing with a Wacom Cintiq in Photoshop which enabled me to manipulate the final files if changes were required.

After several concept drawings, we finally arrived at the idea of featuring central character Mervyn as the focal point, together with various different story elements which included actress Sophie Aldred and a ‘Doctored’ Mark Reynolds. I tried very hard to be faithful to Steve’s original intentions – after all, its important to deliver the client’s requirements even if obviously you want to include your own signature ideas.

Pete’s final preliminary drawing

The finished original art was created using traditional materials, in this case Acrylics and Prismacolor pencils, together with fine brush upon a heavy weight hot pressed watercolor surface. The experimentation of using a new surface on this occasion proved not to be entirely successful, as the whole job was made hard going because of this.

So there you have it! On the ‘Cover’ section of this website you can see various stages of the process: one piece of cover art from start to finish for The Man from Venus, or as I like to call it ‘The Man from Norton Canes’ – Whilst working on this job I learnt that it is indeed a small world in that Steve Broster had lived and grown up in pretty much the same part of the world as me. If only I’d known!!!

Comical nostalgia…

A visit to an old haunt has sparked a few memories for Steve Broster…

In ‘The Man from Venus’, one of the characters works behind the counter at Nostalgia and Comics, “Birmingham’s premier film, TV and comic shop”, as Mervyn (our central character) likes to describe it. Our story is set in 1994, when it was still an independently run shop, three years before it was bought out by Forbidden Planet. 

In the 22 years since then, N&C has managed to keep its Indie vibe, and it’s always a good place to visit when you’re in the area. It’s not the shop I remember from my younger days – there’s rather too much in the way of action figures, and I couldn’t see a Doctor Who section at all when I popped in today. 

I did have a chat with the chap behind the counter – they’ve just finished a referb, and will be doing a grand re-opening on April 13th, offering discounts on all of their stock. But the big news is that it will not be called Nostalgia and Comics for much longer, which I’m really rather upset about. With WH Smiths having recently moved premises, N&C was literally the only shop still standing and recognisable from my formative Birmingham shopping years in the late 1970s and early 80s.  

a bulging bag of goodies, circa 1994

Nostalgia and Comics started out as a tiny shop in the long-demolished underpass next to its current location. It was founded by market stall holder and comic fan Phil Clarke, who had been getting a supply of cut-price American Marvel and DC comics from someone he knew at Greenham Common US airbase. 

In fact, there were two key Sci-Fi shops in Brum at that time – Andromeda Bookshop was the other one (firstly on Summer Row, but then moving to Suffolk Street Queensway). I met Douglas Adams there, and Terry Pratchett on several occasions (while obtaining signed books as surprise presents for my wife!), and it was the one place from which you could buy niche fanzines, in their rather claustrophobic upstairs section.

When I got into the Birmingham Doctor Who scene around 1985, there was a period of two or three years when you could go into Nostalgia and Comics at around midday on a Saturday, and be guaranteed to bump into a familiar face or three. A bit of chatting, perusing and buying would be followed by a visit to ‘the Crown’ pub around the corner, for more chatting, a game of pool and a few pints of Springfield Bitter (in my case – other drinks were available. Our crowd was partial to a Lager Top, a Snakebite or a Pernod and Black!). 

Nostalgia & Comics also co-ordinated the Doctor Who aspect of the Keep Birmingham Tidy day on Chamberlain Square in May 1986, and a group of us were involved in manning the N&C stall or dressing up in monster costumes (Nostalgia and Comics had a selection of props and costumes they’s bought at an auction, including a full Mandrell outfit!). Special guests that day included Patrick Troughton and Bonnie Langford.

When I came to write the original ’The Man from Venus’ script in 1994, it seemed entirely appropriate that the key character of Tracy should be working behind the counter in ‘Nostalgia and Comics’. The place has been such an integral part of being a scf-fi or comic fan in Birmingham over the last 40 years, and I was keen to play tribute to it. By the time of our release date the place may no longer be called ‘Nostalgia and Comics’, but the spirit of the place will live on. 

Adventures in Audio

A few words from actor Mark Reynolds:

I often hear my fellow actors talking about the plays they have created and are putting on in performance spaces. It always therefore struck me as a voice artist; why not create your own audio? The opportunity has arrived thanks to Steve Broster.

I had the good fortune to meet Steve a few years ago when he was filming me for an undergraduate medic training video. I can’t remember why I did it but for some reason I lapse into my Jon Pertwee voice. During the tea break Steve asked me if I liked Doctor Who. Just a bit, I admitted (I haven’t missed a broadcast episode of the programme since 1973 and it was indeed watching JP as the Doctor that inspired me to become a performer). I then realised who Steve was as he had filmed so many documentaries for the original run of WHO DVD releases sitting on my study shelf. Guess what, we hit it off and became friends.

Steve and I enjoyed working together on some corporate voice over work and our thoughts kept coming back to making audio. We’ve enjoyed a lot of lunches and a lot of curry nights and a lot of plots and plans and I am so delighted that we have arrived at this point and The Man From Venus is finished and soon to go live.

Steve has worked so hard on this project; in its inception, creating an audio script from a film screenplay and filling the demanding roles of both producer and director.

Mark Reynolds recording ‘the Man from Venus’

From my point of view I have been fortunate to be able to utilise many of my different voices in this project, from small cameos to my long held dream of finally using my Jon Pertwee voice on audio. There is even a nod to my other performance inspiration, Peter Sellers in my main featured role as Dr Voorhaven. It has been great to work with such a delightful team of actors and we had a lot of fun together on the recording days.
So we have our product and now I must help to work hard to publicise and market it. If you enjoy full cast sci-fi audio adventures that are in turns both dramatic and humorous, then The Man From Venus is for you.

It’s ‘Who’, isn’t it..?

The story so far…

My latest project is now available to buy from Audible, Amazon and iTunes. It’s a brand new audio sci-fi comedy/drama called ‘The Man from Venus’. I could say I’ve been working on this since last July, but I might also legitimately claim to have been working on it for 25 years! The idea of a full-length sequel to the Mervyn Robinson mockumentary ‘A Day in the Life of a Doctor Who Fan’ came about in 1994. While sinking a few pints with good friends Steve Roberts and Paul Vanezis, they persuaded David Harley (Mervyn’s co-creator and the man who plays him!) and myself to revisit the character.

I wrote the first draft of the script in early 1995. The project attracted the interest of Andrew Beech of Dominitemporal Services, who ran the main British Doctor Who Conventions at the time, and who had also just co-produced the ‘Downtime’ spin-off film. As ‘A Day in the Life…’ had been a popular Saturday night component of various conventions between 1990-95, he saw the potential in such a venture…

Furthermore, in 1996 I had a completed film script ready and was introduced by friend Richard Batsford to a potential producer. Unfortunately, due to the seemingly insurmountable challenges involved in trying to make an independent film, it never got off the ground. However, the would-be film producer and I have now been happily married for almost 21 years!

With the project having been shelved, conceivably forever – flash forward to 2018. While working with the voice actor, Mark Reynolds, and looking for an audio project to produce, I remembered ‘The Man from Venus’.

Having spent a couple of months adapting the script for audio, I set about assembling my brilliant cast including David Harley – the only person who can truly bring Mervyn to life – who was keen to revisit the character. My original casting idea for key character Tracy was Sophie Aldred, in 1995 best known for playing Ace alongside Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor Who. I got in touch with Sophie, who remembered enjoying ‘A Day in the Life of a Doctor Who Fan’ and, so, enthusiastically joined the cast. I approached Emma Campbell-Jones, best known to the Doctor Who community as Cass, the space pilot in the Paul McGann 50th Anniversary mini-film ‘The Night of the Doctor’, who is playing Vanessa. Mark Reynolds plays (among other parts) the shady medical man Dr Voorhaven, and Ray is played by Alex Edwards, a talented young actor who was nominated for Best Actor at the RTS awards for his role in the popular short film ‘Titanic Love’.

We also have superb mimic Stuart Grant on board. In his professional acting debut, he delivers an outstanding performance as Tom Baker.

Mark Reynolds and Stuart Grant in classic Doctor Who pose!

With the project approaching completion, I’m so excited to make ‘The Man from Venus’ available for people to hear. Hopefully its blend of humour, drama and sci-fi will hit the right chord. After all, as Mervyn likes to say, “Time and tide waits for no fan!”.

Steve Broster, writer and director