Friday, 30 August 2013

Interviews Interview with Dalek Operator - Barnaby Edwards

Interview with Dalek Operator –
Barnaby Edwards

I suppose my first question has to be – were you the Dalek responsible for ‘killing’ Jack Harkness in the Doctor Who episode ‘The Parting of the Ways’? And also the Dalek responsible for zapping the 10th Doctor as he ran to meet Rose in the deserted street in the episode ‘Stolen Earth’?

Barnaby: Guilty as charged - on both counts. I nearly got the Doctor that time, too!

I imagine Daleks to have this tick list, so many points for exterminating a human but maximum points for zapping a Timelord, like truckers have for traffic cones and hedgehogs and Sunday drivers!

Barnaby: We’re on a reward scheme, like air miles.

When I was researching about you, I found that not only are you an actor and writer, director but also an artist. Your website where I found a lot of your artwork is brilliant by the way, my ultimate favourite is ‘African Journey’, it’s such a fresh piece, I’m not sure why I like it, I just do, it looks so relaxing and peaceful, and there looks to be a story unfolding just by looking at it. I’ve now narrowed it down to which type I want, so now to save up.  Have you always had an artistic flair? What was the first piece you created and is it on the website?

Barnaby: I’ve always drawn and painted. I studied art at school and went on to do Fine Art at university, along with French. I’ve had several reasonably large exhibitions and numerous commissions. I also occasionally lecture on art techniques and art history, though not much lately as I’ve been too busy. Art is my first and strongest love - I could give up the acting, writing, directing and all the rest, but never art.

When did the website start and can you tell us more about it and your favourite pieces of artwork?

Barnaby: I have two websites, actually: and . On the first, you can browse a small portfolio of my work and contact me to commission original pieces or buy existing works. On the second, RedBubble, you can buy prints, cards, postcards, posters and calendars of my work. Rather than select my favourite pieces, I’ll select a few representative works instead, to give you a flavour of my stuff:

This is a pen and ink piece, semi-inspired by John Masefield’s children’s novel The Box of Delights. I’m a big fan of wintertime and fairytale, so lots of my more illustrative work revolves around those themes.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of life drawing and portraiture. This is a pencil study of a dancer friend of mine, Dean, who has a sickeningly perfect physique.

I lived in Paris from 1989-1990 and whilst there I met a wonderful old actress who’d starred in movies by Jean-Luc Godard and other nouvelle vague directors. She was writing a book of fairytales and wanted a couple of illustrations to entice a publisher. I did this one for her. I was very much into stained glass at the time, so I borrowed the leaded-pane style for this pen and watercolour design. I’m delighted to say that the book was subsequently published, although without any illustrations at all.

I’m extremely fortunate to live only half an hour from Dartmoor, one of the most beautiful places on Earth (I think). I’m often painting or sketching the unusual rock formations there. This is Hound Tor, executed in oil on canvas.

I love taking photographs, too, and this 2014 wall calendar has twelve of my photographic studies of ancient Cornish sites. You can select what month you want the calendar to start with, so make sure you don’t accidentally get an out-of-date one!

How did you get involved in Doctor Who?

Barnaby: I was at drama school with my fellow Dalek operator, Nicholas Pegg. He knew Gary Russell (former editor of Doctor Who Magazine), who knew Kevin Davies (director of the BBC anniversary special, 30 Years in the TARDIS), who had just hired Nick to play his Cyberleader. One thing led to another and Nick managed to get me a job operating the Daleks alongside him. A decade or so later, I returned the favour.

I follow you on Twitter and I love the comments every time Question Time is aired.  Although I’m not politically minded enough to join in with the banter I do find your arguments against certain issues on the show quite validated. Were you always good on the debating teams in college or school and have you ever appeared on Question Time as a guest or in the audience and what things really irk you?

Barnaby: First of all, I absolutely love Twitter. Of all the manifold forms of social media, Twitter suits me best. If your readers want to follow me, please do - - although they should be aware that I tweet a lot of inconsequential nonsense most of the time! As for Question Time, I must admit to being a teensy bit addicted. The programme is supposed to be a forum for serious political discussion, but lately it’s become a gladiatorial arena showcasing the massive ignorance of various low-rent media muppets. That said, it’s a lot of fun to tweet along to. I’m not particularly a political animal, nor do I wish that everyone adopt my views, but I do enjoy the cut and thrust of political debate. Things which irk me, aside from the near-ubiquitous mendacity of politicians and tabloid journalists, are inequality (women’s rights, LGBT issues, the unemployed, pay differentials and so on), education (university fees, tweaking exam results, uneducated politicians interfering in the syllabus et al), health (I’m a passionate supporter of the NHS), the BBC (one of the best things about Britain) and The Daily Mail (one of the worst things about Britain).

You have another website called Textbook Stuff when did that start and how many audiobooks have you been involved in as narrator and putting together?

Barnaby: I created Textbook Stuff - - because I wanted to produce a new sort of audiobook: the full unabridged text, but enhanced by sound design and music. I own the company and have produced a dozen or so titles so far with some of the audio world’s finest readers: Martin Jarvis, John Sessions, Miriam Margolyes, David Soul and others. It’s hard to explain just how Textbook Stuff releases differ from standard audiobooks, but here’s a podcast interview I did with David Soul about his reading of five Edgar Allan Poe short stories (there’s an extended extract from he finished audiobook at the end of the podcast):

I saw in the Press that you were involved in the Dick Barton radio play, how much fun was that?  I remember the radio plays back in the 70’s (I think), it’s always the music I remember first, and we’d always be heading off on our holidays, or a day trip in the car with my Dad and Gran and family.  Will these plays be available on CD at some point?  Who did you play in the drama?

Barnaby: The Dick Barton thing was an absolute joy to do! It was a live re-creation of one of the original scripts, with Tim Bentinck (from The Archers) as Dick and Terry Molloy (Davros, no less) as his sidekick, Snowy. There were lots of other great voice actors, too. We all wore period costumes and performed it in front of a live audience, with the sound effects being created live on stage as in the early days of radio. It’s supposed to be coming out on CD and download, released by AudioGo.

Are you still involved in Doctor Who as a Dalek as noting the new ones look slimmer I wondered if they were now operated purely from radio controls, I didn’t think there’d be as much room inside them as there appeared to be in the older models?

Barnaby: Radio control? How very dare you! Don’t worry, that’s what lots of people think. The Daleks have always been - and remain - manually operated. You sit inside, pull them along with your feet, waggle the gun stalk and sucker with your arms, turn the head and adjust the eyestalk with your hands. For certain sequences, the BBC uses a remote-controlled Dalek head, but there’s still an operator inside moving everything else. As for working on the show, I’m still doing so, yes. I’ve done every Dalek episode since the series came back in 2005. I’m also in the 50th, which means that I’ve been a Dalek operator for 20 years now!

Do you have your own Dalek, as in one in your own home?

Barnaby: Little toys people have given me? Yes. A full-size one? No - they cost thousands of pounds!

Despite playing a Dalek have there been any other creatures you’ve played in Doctor Who?

Barnaby: I play a mysterious Hooded Figure who approaches the Doctor in a tea room in The Prequel to Asylum of the Daleks. It was nice to use my own voice for a change!

Which of the Doctor Who aliens and monsters have you loved watching, aside from the Daleks?

Barnaby: I’m a big fan of the Zygons.

Acting, writing and directing audio plays your interest seems to be around the 5th, 6th 7th and 8th Doctor Who era, are they your favourite Doctor?

Barnaby: I’m lucky enough to have worked professionally with every Doctor from the 4th to the 11th and I love them all. Is that diplomatic enough?

What is it about the Doctor Who Universe that you like so much that from being a Dalek within the show you write more stories for the show?

Barnaby: I grew up watching Doctor Who and it’s become a part of who I am, along with Sherlock Holmes, ABBA and those old black-and-white Tarzan movies. As a format, it allows for endless invention whilst providing a solid framework on which to spin your webs of fantasy.

Have you any stories, plays that are all your own work that you can tell us about, and are you currently working on any new works at the moment?

Barnaby: I’m currently in post-production on two Doctor Who audios (which I directed) and am preparing three more Textbook Stuff releases. For the last eight months, I’ve been mostly reading audiobooks for Audible - you can check out my titles here:

In terms of my own plays, I recently wrote, directed, produced and acted in a new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, starring Tom Baker, Nicholas Farrell and Tony Haygarth. Check it out here:

Questions from the fans

Pauline Howard:  What was it like being inside a Dalek? Bet you could not see where you were going most of the time?

Barnaby: The visibility is very poor indeed - an envelope-sized slit in the Dalek neck ring, covered with mesh and gauze. As for what it’s like being inside a Dalek, I’d advise you to sit on a swivel chair with a broomstick under either arm and a dustbin on your head - that gives a fair idea of the whole operation!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, quite a diverse guy in his work! I've been following him on twitter for a while, but had no idea how many different things he's doing. Wow! :)