Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interview With Big Finish Designer, Mark Plastow

When David Tennant's Doctor uttered that line "You were my Doctor!" in Time Crash, he was speaking for many of us who grew up with Peter Davison as the earliest Doctor they remember (well almost for me. Logopollis is the earliest story I recall and that is mainly because I was transfixed by the 4th/5th Doctor regeneration scene at the end). For Mark Plastow of Big Finish it is the same. Well almost; "It would be easy to say Peter Davison, because he was the Doctor I grew up with, but if I'm honest, I don't have one." he says. Adding, "Or perhaps I should say they are all my favorite. To me, each actor to take on the role had brought something different and exciting to it. I genuinely love the fact that the programme actually celebrates when it is just about to lose its lead actor!" Although he was definetly hooked on the show from the early eighties "I don't really remember a time when I wasn't a fan of Doctor Who. I grew up watching Peter Davison, I can still remember the excitement of hearing THAT theme tune. Of course it was transmitted on weekdays back then, and there were always great discussions at school the day after. It was also responsible for my first forays into creative expression. Much to my mother's exasperation, I painted my bedroom door blue in an effort to make it resemble the TARDIS!" For those who don't know, Big Finish is an audio production and publishing company that have been doing missing adventures of the good Doctor, those stories set in Doctor Who's past that never got broadcasted or are set between broadcast adventures. Original actors from the series have been involved, inc all five surviving Doctors from the Classic Series; Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann. They also do spin-off ranges and other cult series now gone such as Blake's 7 and Sapphire and Steel. A delight for those into Cult TV and Sci-Fi who grew up in the 70s and 80s. It has had such luminaries as Mark Gatiss writing for them and one leading figure is Nicholas Briggs who does the Dalek voices in the TV series among other things. Mark enjoys the work there; "Watching a Big Finish audio being recorded is definitely one of the best things. It can all get a bit surreal, watching actors you feel you have grown up with swapping anecdotes in the Green Room between scenes." It also has a family feel "I suppose the most unexpected, is just how lovely everybody at Big Finish is. That may sound like I have to say that, but it really is true! It is such a dedicated and talented group of people, who have an absolute passion for what they do. I feel honoured and proud to be part of it." So how did Mark get involved? "I had been listening to the Big Finish stuff from the very beginning, and have watched the company evolve with interest. Doing what I do, it's fun to see how the product packaging has changed as well as the dramas themselves. As my skills improved, I thought, 'I can do that.' So I put together a small portfolio of stuff and sent it to them. I was incredibly lucky with my timing, because it just so happened that they were on the lookout for someone to take on the in-house design duties at the time. I was then very much thrown in at the deep end, and had to hit the ground running..." So what is the most enjoyable and least enjoyable thing about his work? "Personally, the least enjoyable thing for me is getting started! I can have an idea rattling around in my head for days, and mentally build a picture of what I want to achieve. By the time it comes to put pen to paper (or graphic tablet), it feels slightly daunting to have to do justice to what was in my imagination... The most enjoyable is having created something that you are really proud of. There is a glorious feeling of achievement when all the various elements of a design come together well, and getting to play around in the Doctor Who sandbox is enormous fun too." Imagery is always vitally important for any story and the more important the better. Mark's favourite from the TV series is "The Caves of Androzani" ; " I vividly remember watching this at the time, and being unbelievably terrified of Sharaz Jek. So much so I actually had to leave the room on several occasions. It's amazing that this was broadcast in an early evening slot, I mean it really is quite a brutal bit of storytelling. I was pleased to see it top the DWM poll recently. " And there was me finding the Black Guardian the most unnerving! But Mark does not have a favourite story out of the ones he has worked on with Big Finish; "I don't think I can single out a specific story. Getting to read the script in advance is highly satisfying, working out which elements are best to use for a cover. There is some really fantastic stuff coming up... Vortex magazine is an absolute joy to put together. There tends to be a bit more freedom for me in terms of typography and composition. It is defiantly something that is continually evolving. It is produced on an incredibly tight deadline, and there is an element of exhilaration in getting it finished on time! I am really proud of it." Mark has also just started life on Twitter and is down as "Sugary Tea" which is a cause of some curiosity; "Well... I'm a huge fan of Blur, and my favorite album of theirs is 'Modern Life is Rubbish'." he explains "There is a song on it that references sugary tea, and for some reason, it struck me as quite a good moniker!" And life is better for many people with tea. For those who want to know more about Big Finish, you can find their company website here

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