Thursday, 6 October 2011

Oh crumbs! It's Terry Molloy!

Since page one of The Scarifyers, Terry Molloy has brought inept paranormal investigator and terrible author Professor Edward Dunning to life. But he's best known for playing milkman Mike Tucker in Radio 4's long-running drama serial The Archers, and for the role of Davros, creator of the evil Daleks, in Doctor Who. In real life he is neither a milkman nor a crippled alien genius, but a winning combination of both.

When you first read the part of Professor Dunning in The Scarifyers, was it immediately obvious how you’d play him?

The great thing about a really good script is that when you receive one and read it, the characters jump off the page and bite you in the.. er.. on the nose!

Without trying to ‘big up’ Simon and Paul, in the case of the Scarifyers I was instantly immersed in a world I could see peopled by characters that simply had unique vibrant ‘life’!

Dunning was instantly recognizable to me although I couldn’t at first say for why or for whom. It was only after I listened to The Devil of Denge Marsh that the penny finally dropped…. Dunning is the natural descendant of a character I created in my very first professional job back in 1968. Then, however, he was called Mr. Spectrum, the keeper of the Rainbow Box for the Rainbow Queen – a bumbling old professor who enlisted the help of the children in the audience to help mend a broken rainbow and save the Queen - in a children’s theatre production that had been written by the master of the art – Brian Way.

He just came back to life in my imagination as soon as I read the script for The Nazad Conspiracy that had been so cleverly written by Simon.

You seem to enjoy playing him. Are you fond of him as a character?

I love playing Dunning, he has all the childlike qualities of a true innocent coupled with all the enthusiasm and naïve excitement for ‘the chase’ along with a complete ineptitude at being heroic. He makes heroes of those around him - be it Lionheart, ‘Thumper’ Crow, or even (to a lesser degree) the other Fantasists – and has a unnerving belief in the goodness of everyone and expresses that in his total trust of what they say, which turns into a perplexed puzzlement and sadness when they show themselves to be less than what he thought them to be.

I have now to freely admit that of the many characters and persona I have inhabited on stage, TV and radio… Dunning is without doubt the closest to my real self beneath the mask that as actors we so often put on! Oh Crumbs!!!

Your biography says that you were born in 1947 into a Tyneside theatrical family... were you forced into the acting profession?

Absolutely not! My father was vehemently opposed to my entering the theatrical profession when it was mooted by my Mother – “That child will be a ‘clown’ over my dead body!” he stormed – which proved sadly prophetic as he died when I was just 16. He wanted me to enter a ‘real’ profession and become a Doctor or a Vet or follow him into the RAF as a pilot. I actually thought this quite a good idea until my 'O' Level exam results proved I had about as much idea or aptitude for science as a penguin!

You studied Music and Drama at Liverpool in the mid 1960s, moonlighting in a soul band at The Cavern Club. Tell us more!

I had done well in music while at school so, not having achieved a drama school place, I headed north to Liverpool where as you say I spent a lot of time between lectures playing in a soul band in most of the clubs around at the time – yes, including The Cavern! I played Baritone and Tenor Saxophone and seriously considered becoming a musician, but being an innately lazy individual I knew I would have to work really hard to be as good as I felt I possibly could be as a musician and so I turned to acting instead as it seemed easier… and had more days off! And so Dunning was born!!

In 1973 you joined The Archers as milkman Mike Tucker. Nearly 40 years on you’re still playing the part, during which time Mike has lost various parts of his anatomy. Is he the unluckiest milkman (in the west)?

‘Mike’ has been a part of ‘me’ virtually all my working life… he is an uncomplicated son of the soil who believes in an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, he suffers fools with not much gladness at all and usually only opens his mouth to change feet! For all his failings he is a good egg at the core, but so unlucky at times. In fact we used to joke that the only way to make Mike a millionaire would be to start him off as a multi-billionaire… as he would probably lose most of it fairly quickly. He has mellowed with age and now seems settled and content with his curvaceous new wife Vicky…. but will that last? Who knows!

You formed the Archers fan club, Archers Addicts, and now seem to spend a lot of time touring the world on various Archers cruises. This seems like a terrific wheeze on your part...?

Archers Addicts came into being in 1991 after I approached the BBC with an idea to have a fan club for the Archers run by the cast producing a newsletter and organising events for the listeners to the programme over and above the interaction they got merely by tuning in every night. The Beeb agreed that we could set up a Ltd Company separate and independent of the Corporation and for many years a small core of us worked day and night (for no real monetary reward) attending Agricultural shows, organising dinners and visits to the studios in Birmingham for fans, and generally chasing our tails. The culmination was setting up the NIA in Birmingham in 2001 for the 50th Anniversary of The Archers and producing a whole day event for many thousands of avid listeners to attend and meet up with the majority of the cast.

From there we moved to working with quality partners and linked up with Fred Olsen’s cruise line to present a flavour of the Archers as added value to their Arts Club (now called Vistas) cruise programme and take a few cast members on their ships for a couple of cruises each year to show the passengers how we record the programme. Yes, it has been a lovely way for me to see and experience parts of the world I would probably never have been to otherwise, however it is also surprisingly hard work with each cruise taking many months of preparation, planning and organisation to set in place!

Another interesting career footnote was being a member of the "hit squad" in Beadle's About. Happy memories?

Ah… Beadle’s About! A time of stress, very early starts and spending each day flying by the seat of your pants, as we never really knew how things would go until the subject of the scam appeared. Usually in a foul mood, if the research had been done well, so that we could just keep them off balance enough to develop the story until it was time for Beadle to enter and reveal himself. There were a few near misses in terms of things going belly up and one stunt which totally backfired when the subject who (having indulged in an overlong alcoholic luncheon) found the idea of his prize country garden in Hertfordshire being turned into a commuter heliport for London, complete with the noisy landing of a real Air King Helicopter, highly amusing and offered to crack open a bottle! An expensive production howler!

1984, and you take over the role of Davros, creator of the Daleks. How did you get the role?

The role fell into my lap courtesy of Matthew Robinson who had just been directing me in a series for TVS set in a local radio station – Radio Phoenix. He approached me to ask if I would take on the role, as Michael Wisher (who was the original ‘Davros’) was not free to do it. I watched the tapes of Genesis of the Daleks and agreed to have a go… and then they kept asking me back!

I won’t say it was the most physically enjoyable of jobs… the mask and chariot were hard work… but it was certainly a lot of fun to do and wonderful to be part of a programme that had already begun to achieve cult status.

They modeled a new mask for me, which required me to have a head mould made, and a new chariot - which was not the marvel of electronic wizardry it may appear! Four by two timber, two 12 volt car batteries to run the electric lights… all on something like a supermarket trolley base that always went in the opposite direction to the way you wanted it to go… and me squeezed in and dragging it around with my toes trying to make it look like a smooth glide!! The sweat began to pour – believe me!! Nearly 30 years later and I am still playing Davros, but thankfully now on audio with no mask or chariot to contend with!

Like Mike Tucker, Davros doesn’t have a lot of luck, but still seems to be with us. What’s the appeal of Davros? His charm? Good looks?

For me the appeal of playing Davros has been exploring the way he thinks and especially in his relationship with The Doctor. At its best it can be a wonderful and complex mental chess game between two creatures of equal intelligence who recognise the similarities in each other and yet play against each other’s weaknesses to try and win the battle…. though never the war!

In the four part audio miniseries I, Davros we explored the journey Davros made from boy to monster and in setting down the cannon of his early life I felt we had shined a light on how genius can, by the force of both nature and nurture, be overtaken by psychosis and teeter on a pin head toward possible madness. Every time I play him I find something new... and that is the greatest excitement for an actor!

For those who picture you as either a one-eyed milkman or one-eyed alien genius, can you confirm that actually you bear an uncanny resemblance to Eric Clapton? (and have two eyes)

Apparently that is the case! Having appeared in an episode of Casualty, I was asked by Harry Hill the very next week to appear in the closing credits of his TV Burp show (apparently they thought I bear this resemblance to Eric Clapton) wearing a hospital gown, attached to a drip and playing guitar as we segued from ‘Layla’ into the Casualty Theme!!! I tell you, my street cred with my children went up 1000% after that!!

It is spooky though that both the characters I am well known for - Mike Tucker and Davros - each have only one eye! I can confirm however that in real life I am binocular in my visual acuity…! Oh Crumbs! Dunning is always lurking round the corner isn’t he?

And finally, tell us something about Terry Molloy we don’t know…

In 1997 I joined a building team that went out to the north of Zambia as part of a charity project for six weeks and helped construct (with – at that time - absolutely no building experience on my part but by dint of hard graft) a large administration building from the ground up (including making the bricks from concrete dust and rubble). I believe the building is still standing!

And you can find out even more about Tezza at his official website:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Garen Ewing: "I once covered a sheet in 20 versions of Lionheart's head"

If you've ever wondered why Lionheart wears a trenchcoat whatever the season, why Dunning looks perpetually worried, or why Harry Crow sports a pipe, then Garen Ewing is the man to ask. The writer and artist behind the acclaimed comic book The Rainbow Orchid, Garen has drawn the cover illustrations for The Scarifyers since day one. As Nicholas Courtney once said, "It looks like Tintin!"


How did you decide upon the look of Lionheart and Dunning?

Drawing realistic likenesses isn't one of my strongest skills, but re-checking the original brief I see it was suggested the characters of Dunning and Lionheart just needed a slight resemblance – which definitely helped! So, really, it was dictated by Simon's instructions – Lionheart to look like an older, greyer, version of the Brigadier in a trenchcoat, and Dunning to resemble a professor in glasses and a tweed suit.

I think for the first Scarifyers story, The Nazad Conspiracy, I read the script before drawing the cover, but I'm not sure that I heard the actual recording until much later (and I loved it when I did). I think I heard the music first, in fact, and that was very inspiring for the right atmosphere – brilliant. For the more recent adventures I've just been given some of the main story elements and then I usually ask Simon a few annoying questions if any clarity is required!

Do the characters get easier to draw as you go on?

Not really! I think Simon's become a bit pickier about their appearance – as he rightly should – perhaps due to knowing the actors personally, or maybe because he has a clearer view from afar, and that has kept me on my toes. Lionheart has been subject to quite a few re-drawings (once I covered a sheet in about 20 versions of his head to try and 'find him' – one of them looks more like Saddam Hussein than Nicholas Courtney). I've generally found Dunning easier, though I didn't quite get him right first time for The Magic Circle. It's all a bit subjective, but the most important thing is that Simon is happy with them – they're his characters.

Do you have a favourite Scarifyers cover?

Usually, when I've just completed it, I think the finished drawing is terrible – purely because I'm too close to it and know every little line inside and out – it's the same with pretty much all of my work. But as the point of creation fades I start to think it's okay and then, eventually, I grow to like it. I'm used to that now, so don't mind the initial 'terrible' phase! There's something about every Scarifyers cover I like. If I had to pick one I think it would be a toss-up between For King and Country and The Devil of Denge Marsh. I might go with King and Country, for today anyway.

Do you have a favourite Scarifyers story?

You can count me in as a true fan of The Scarifyers and I really do like them all. I particularly enjoyed The Curse of the Black Comet, and The Secret Weapon of Doom was great too – they do get better and better. I haven't heard The Magic Circle yet.

 Listeners often comment that the covers look like Tintin. Please explain why!

I'm a big fan of Franco-Belgian bande dessinée, particularly those in the ligne claire (clear line) style, such as Hergé's Tintin, Jacobs' Blake and Mortimer, Chaland's Freddy Lombard etc. Quite a few years ago I decided to presumptuously add myself to that school of art, and so that's how I draw – it feels very much my 'home' style. I think The Scarifyers is probably a bit closer to Blake and Mortimer – it would make a great comic strip, actually!

For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading The Rainbow Orchid, can you explain what it is? Where did the inspiration for it come from?

The Rainbow Orchid is a 1920s-set adventure story in the mould of the comics I've just mentioned, except it's British, of course. It's published in the UK by Egmont, who also publish Tintin, and it's basically the story of historical researcher Julius Chancer and his quest for a mythical and rare orchid in order to win a competition and save an ancient title and estate – mixed in with lots of other stuff to complicate matters.

I started it in the late 1990s when I realised I didn't want to work 'for hire' on other people's comics, characters and ideas, but wanted to put all that hard work (comics are hard work!) into my own thing, for my own enjoyment. So I scooped up all the things I loved – Franco-Belgian comics, classic lost world adventure (by the likes of H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.), silent films, history, multi-threaded plots, and turn it into a comic. Comics at that time had become very dark and 'adult', and I wanted to write something that anyone could read, enjoyable for kids and adults alike – a great big adventure story.

What comics did you grow up reading? What were the biggest influences on you?

Asterix and Tintin were the mainstays of my childhood comic reading. The main influence I got from them was the meticulous attention to detail and the totally immersive environment, which is something I strive for now with The Rainbow Orchid. I loved the Euro-album format, and would search out anything like that. I was also obsessed with war comics and went through phases with 2000AD and superhero comics for a bit. In the early 1980s I subscribed to Warrior and discovered Alan Moore, another big influence, though perhaps less obviously so due to the style in which I draw.

Your work features on a stamp, which is quite an honour. How did that happen?

I ask that question myself – how did that happen?! In 2005 I was commissioned to do the poster for the musical Return to the Forbidden Planet for the licensors, Josef Weinberger. Then in 2009, I think, I was approached by a design company who were putting together a stamp set of musical theatre posters for Royal Mail and they'd whittled it down to eight designs, including my Forbidden Planet one. It took a while but the stamps eventually came out in February of this year. A nice thing to have on my CV!

You’re an expert on the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Why?

I was researching my family history and discovered that two of my ggg-uncles served with the 72nd Highlanders in that campaign – one of them was the regimental piper and piped the Scots into Kandahar after the famous epic 300-mile march from Kabul to Kandahar. I got more and more fascinated by the whole thing and started a website for my research, writing articles and helping others with their research. Next thing I knew I was being invited onto BBC Radio 4's Making History with Sue Cook as their expert on the topic. I've got an enormous collection of material and really enjoy the research, though it's had to take a bit of a back-seat recently due to my comic work.

You started The Rainbow Orchid in 1997, and three volumes later it’s all coming to an end next year. How are going to cope?

Well, it doesn't quite end with volume three. Straight away after that I have to do a cover and get together some bonus material for the collected edition (out in October 2012) and then I'll look towards the next Julius Chancer adventure, which is pretty much all plotted and ready to go. I won't take 10 years to finish it this time (it'll just be a single volume for a start).

And finally, tell us something we don’t know about Garen Ewing...

I've been asked that question before and supplied the fact that I have no belly button. But as that amazing fact has been published and therefore is no longer an unknown, I'll have to think of something new... My first job was for Neil Gaiman's dad, packing vitamins in his health food shop – how's that?

You can find out more about Garen and The Rainbow Orchid at

Thursday, 1 September 2011

David Benson: "I am heir to the Benson and Hedges smoking fortune"

From The Nazad Conspiracy's drunken lout General Warlock, to camp Satanist Aleister Crowley in The Devil of Denge Marsh, to the reanimated head of Oliver Cromwell in For King and Country, to egomaniac American billionaire DD Denham in The Curse of the Black Comet, David Benson has played twenty-four parts in The Scarifyers. And those are just the ones we can remember. When he's not appearing in The Scarifyers, which is most of the time, he's performing one-man shows as Kenneth Williams, popping up on TV as Noel Coward in Goodnight Sweetheart, and can be currently spotted at the National Theatre opposite James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors. What a show-off.

How did you get involved with The Scarifyers?

I can’t remember. I didn’t audition. I have never had any work as the result of an audition, until recently. It’s always because someone asks me. I think this one came about because Simon Barnard, then producing audio documentaries for BBC Radio 1, remembered me. I had done a couple of taxing voice-over sessions for him, one about the decline of the British film industry, in which I played both Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams, having an argument. Then I did another one in which I played Superman, so he must have reckoned I could turn my voice to anything.

What’s been your favourite Scarifyers role?

Oh, undoubtedly Alistair Crowley. Did you know he was known as The Wickedest Man in the World? You did? Oh sorry. You are obviously much better educated than you look. Anyway, I like that part very much; it appealed to me at once. I had to dig deep to find my inner anti-Semitic, drug-obsessed bisexual Satanist but when I did, I was able to unleash it and allow it to go way over the top in several Scarifyers episodes. When I read the first Crowley script I heard Ernest Thesinger’s voice, so that’s how I play it. He played Dr. Pretorious in Bride of Frankenstein you know. And in The Old Dark House he played a man called Horace Femm. I hear he is coming back for a much-delayed return to The Scarifyers, this time in a central role.

I also enjoyed General Warlock very much, all the Policemen, which means only one Policeman since they all have the same voice; and I adore Arthur Nesbitt. I have always enjoyed playing elderly men, and have felt since childhood that there was an old man, scratching to get out – and every year he gets a bit closer to the surface. Now that could be an excellent Scarifyers plotline!

David Benson isn’t even your real name, is it? Why did you change it to Benson?

I am heir to the Benson and Hedges smoking fortune and had to change my name in order to collect the money. No, really, in truth, I was wanted for murder on three continents and thought that changing my name to Benson would be the best way of eluding Interpol. No, really, the actual, actual truth is that when I was getting my last passport, the officer said ‘Are you bent, son?’ and I said ‘Yes,’ and the name kinda stuck. No, really, REALLY truthfully, the truth is that Equity already had a David Hodgson and you can’t have two Equity members with the same name so I renounced Hodgson, a ludicrous Cumbrian appellation that no-one can spell or hear properly over the phone, to Benson, a family name on my father’s side. Apparently we are related to Archbishop Benson, a Victorian God-botherer who fathered eight children all of whom turned out to be what we would now call ‘gay’ and whose wife ran off with the wife of the previous Archbish. What a family!

You had your first big success with Think No Evil of Us: My Life with Kenneth Williams at Edinburgh in 1996, aged 34... what on earth were you doing before then?

I spent a lot of time idling, noodling, day-dreaming and wondering how to get into show business. Acting is the only thing I have ever been able to do well and I have always felt it was my calling but it took me years to get to it. I went to Uni, left and was lost, went to Edinburgh in late 1985 to ‘find myself’ and eventually did. I lived there for fourteen years, mostly washing dishes and working in a bookshop. In 1990 I began working, through a chance encounter, with a radical theatre director named Jeremy Weller who had just started the Grassmarket Theatre Company. The first show we did was about the homeless world of Edinburgh and the company consisted of me, two other actors and a teeming cast of homeless men, old and young, who played themselves – brilliantly and unforgettably. I played the Warden of the hostel they lived in. It was called GLAD and it won awards and toured in Europe, with the same cast. It was an incredible experience, and one I will always be grateful to Mr. Weller for. I did four more shows with him and then decided, at 34, that the time had come to create my own work.

You’ve performed one-man shows as Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howerd, and Noel Coward. You also do the voices of the entire cast of Dad’s Army. Is there anything, or anyone, you can’t do?

Yes, you. Actually I find it almost impossible to impersonate someone to their face. It’s generally easier when they are dead, as most of them are. Last year I wrote a show in which I played a living person, Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was on Pan Am 103 which was bombed over Lockerbie in 1988 – a great man, he should live forever. The gift for impersonation is a shallow but tantalizing one, as I discovered at school where playground evocations of teachers and television favourites like Dick Emery, Ronnie Barker and Leonard Rossiter won me favour. The first impression I remember doing was of Charlie Chaplin when I was eight. They used to show his early shorts on telly and I loved them and him immediately. There was a lot of impersonation back then, Mike Yarwood having cornered the market: everyone impersonated Mike Yarwood’s impersonations of celebrities, including many professionals like Lenny Henry and, probably, Rory Bremner, though I doubt he’d admit it. When I was ten I discovered The Goon Show and became totally obsessed with the voices, especially Peter Sellers. Kenneth Williams too was an obvious vocal hero. I loved anyone who could do things with their voice.

You also do a bit of work on the side for some company called Big Finish. Any favourite plays you’d like to mention?

Well, of course I love doing the Iris Wildthyme series with dear Katy Manning, who has become a great friend of mine. I play a stuffed Panda and Gerard Hoffnung was the role-model for the voice. The first thing I did for them was at the invitation of an old friend, Mark Gatiss who wanted an Orson Welles for his production Invaders from Mars. I was working in an office at the time and was deeply grateful for the work. There were all sorts on that job: Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, Mark Benton, someone else… I had never heard of any of them and was embarrassed to be told that Pegg was a huge star. Even bigger now, of course!

Last year you got rave reviews and sell-out audiences for your Edinburgh play Lockerbie: Unfinished Business, which on the face of it might not have seemed a sure-fire hit. Were you surprised?

Yes, very. It was a risk, to take on such a serious subject after a string of frivolities; though I should say that all of my shows have some depth to them I hope, a bit of emotional texture. When it comes to choosing an idea to develop into a show, I just take whatever is on my mind at the time and Lockerbie came unexpectedly to the surface as a possible project. I have long known about Jim Swire and his heroic and dogged pursuit of justice for his daughter and the other 269 people murdered. What I find excruciating about the story is how nakedly and cynically successive governments have lied about who did the bombing and done all they could to cover up the truth. I find it shocking beyond belief and I hate these politicians for continuing this massive injustice. So it was a natural thing for me to write a show about it and I put a lot of my own anger into the performance. However, I did not think it would be of interest to many people, so I was delighted and amazed by the reception it got – and still gets on tour.

What’s Nicholas Lyndhurst like?

Very nice, professional. Knows his job and gets on with it. He was charming to me, a newcomer entering the frightening new world of mainstream telly comedy.

What’s James Corden like?

Amazing. Wonderful to work with because he has intelligence, excellent taste and judgment in performance and a great combination of professionalism and pleasure in his work. I feel extremely lucky to be up there doing my one scene in One Man, Two Guvnors with him. We play to a packed house every night, 940 people, which is amazing for me, so used to schlepping around the country on my own playing small theatres and relatively small audiences – all of whom I adore of course and look forward to seeing again soon!

Tell us something we don’t know about you...

I’m gay.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hello, Good Evening and Welcome

So we've decided to start an occasional blog, for all the bits that don't fit on the news page, messageboard, Facebook page or elsewhere. And to kick things off here's an interview with co-writer of The Scarifyers, Mr Paul Morris...

How did you first get involved with The Scarifyers?

I’ve known Scarifyers creator Simon Barnard for many years, and we’ve been trying to write things together for most of that time, initially with little success. Then in 2005, out of the blue, he asked me to meet up with him one lunchtime to discuss his latest idea. So I got the train up to London and made my way to the swanky bar that Simon had chosen, and sat as he talked me through his tale of two old men battling a reincarnated Rasputin. At that stage it was called Department Zero, and the story was very sketchy, but I could see that it had promise. And one of the most promising things about it was that Simon was proposing to produce the story himself, from script to CD, which meant that unlike any of our previous efforts, this was guaranteed to lead to something.

Such was Simon’s faith in the project that he asked me to go off and think of ideas for the second story while he was finishing the script for what became The Nazad Conspiracy. I did give him a few comments on the finished script, and a handful of my lines are in the finished version, but other than that it was entirely Simon’s work from beginning to end, which I think is a very impressive achievement. I try not to let him know that, though.

Your first story was The Devil of Denge Marsh. Where did the idea come from?

Initially all I had to go on was that Simon wanted something “sci-fi” to contrast with the supernatural tone of the first story, which I translated as meaning that there would be aliens behind it all this time rather than ghosts. I also sat down and made a list of interesting things that had happened in the late 1930’s in case any of them suggested a story. My dad suggested the invention of RADAR – which was actually slightly too early for 1937 – and then my wife suggested the Acoustic Mirrors on the south Kent coast – which, as a precursor to RADAR, were even earlier. However, the image of these spooky concrete monoliths looming out of the foggy marshes was such a great one that I didn’t want to let a few facts get in the way, so I decided that in the Scarifyers world they weren’t mothballed in the early 1930’s but were instead taken over by an eccentric millionaire for mysterious reasons of his own. It seemed obvious to use Alastair Crowley again as he was so much fun in Nazad, but once we’d gone down that road the story twisted away from science-fiction and back towards supernaturalism (and eventually towards Lovecraft, whose work was a peculiar mix of the two). I wanted Sebastian Malherbe to be an old foe of Crowley’s to reinforce the idea that Crowley is a kind of hero in the Scarifyers world, and for plot reasons he also became an old enemy of Lionheart’s.

There were a few ideas that had to be dropped, though, as we were still experimenting with what exactly The Scarifyers was. It originally started in Whitechapel police station and featured both Chief Inspector Fang and Doctor Slither, but eventually I junked all that as the story was taking too long to get started. I also thought about including Colonel Black, who had been mentioned at the end of Nazad, but somewhere along the way we decided that it would be better to keep him as an unseen figure, so he was replaced with Caulfield-Browne - who’s a lot more fun in that supervisor role, mainly because he’s so useless at it. (On which note, Colonel Black’s non-appearances eventually started to annoy me as it felt more like a loose-end than an in-joke, which is why I brought him into Secret Weapon just so we could get rid of him.) And lastly, Simon was for a while quite insistent that the story would feature fish people, but I thought it was a terrible idea so I quietly dropped it. Knowing him, he’ll probably do it one day.

Why did you introduce elements of the Cthulhu Mythos into the story?

Yet again this is an idea that I can’t take any credit for (I’m sure there must be something in that story that I thought of myself…) It was once I’d decided that the ultimate threat should be a giant tentacled monstrosity from another dimension that Simon suggested we make it a creature from Lovecraft. I’d never read any Lovecraft at that point, so I went off and did some research, including reading an entire short story collection to get a feel for the language and the atmosphere – most of which I then ignored in favour of parodying The Wicker Man. I think the creature was briefly Cthulhu himself, then Yog Sothoth (a name I knew from a song by The Fall), before Simon suggested that Shub Niggurath would be a good choice as there never any stories dealing specifically with her, so we could basically do want we wanted. I know that Lovecraft fans are acutely aware of all the glaring mistakes we made, but believe me, it could have been even worse. Especially bearing in mind that I later found out that Simon’s only knowledge of Lovecraft comes from playing the role-playing game ‘Call of Cthulhu’.

In the story you introduced Dunning’s writers group, The Fantasists. Were they based on anyone in particular?

Ah! At last, something that was entirely my idea. I knew there must be one… Well, it’s not much of a secret that The Fantasists are loosely based on the Inklings, which was a similar group that existed in the real world at around the same time and whose best-known members were J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis. From the outset I wanted to explore the world of Dunning’s literary life, and put him in this context seemed like an obvious idea. To make it both funnier and easier to write I decided that the Fantasists should all be terrible writers, as we’d already established Dunning to be.

It would be too samey if they were all fantasy writers, though, so in the end I just made Arthur Nesbitt a fairly straight parody of Tolkien and then created a few more characters who weren’t based on specific Inklings but instead on combinations of other writers from other genres. Wally Webber is inspired by Frank Richards and all the other writers who slaved away for decade after decade churning out short stories for boys’ magazines, though his work is more in the style of H Rider Haggard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. As a kind of nod to C S Lewis’s religious bent, I made him a vicar. Cheesewright seems to inhabit a space somewhere between HG Wells and all those writers of science-fiction potboilers from the 1940s and 50’s, but for no apparent reason with the personality of an egregious Yorkshireman.

Do you prefer writing for certain characters?

Right from the start, when I was making suggestions about the script for Nazad, I felt a certain affinity with Dunning, and set about making him even wetter and fussier than he was originally. I may even have been responsible for his catch-phrase “Oh Crumbs”. Anyway, ever since then, when we get to the point in the story where our heroes get split up, Simon takes the Lionheart scenes and take Dunning’s. It makes sense, as Lionheart – and now Harry Crow – talks in quite a clipped, abrupt style, which suits Simon’s writing, whereas Dunning is considerably more waffly, which suits mine.

I should feel proprietorial about Caulfield-Browne, as I invented him, but for some reason Simon has ended up writing most of his appearances since Denge Marsh – which is good, as it’s broadened the character out beyond being just the PG Wodehouse rip-off that I imagined. However, I’d like to take him back under my wing – Caulfield-Browne, that is, not Simon – and stick him in a really Wodehousian situation, such as a Gentlemen’s club (though, being The Scarifyers, it would have to be a sinister Gentlemen’s club), to see how he behaves. And maybe I will.

Basically I enjoy writing the more verbose or pompous characters, such as Harry Price from King and Country, and sarcastic villains like Montague Blake in The Magic Circle. I also had great fun with Oliver Cromwell, despite the fact that it was entirely Simon’s idea to write him as an “oafish Brian Blessed” – something I’d never have thought of in a million years. But this is probably why Simon keeps me around - he’s not particularly good at that kind of character as he has a very limited vocabulary.

After Denge Marsh you collaborated on further episodes with Simon. How do you write together?

We get together on a regular basis in a nice quiet pub and discuss all things Scarifyers. If someone has an idea for a story we’ll talk around it until it starts to solidify into a storyline, and then one of us – usually Simon – will take it away and write it up. Because we both have day-jobs, it can take months or even years for the germ of an idea to get to this stage, though we are getting better. Anyway, once the outline has enough detail to almost qualify as a scene breakdown, we go through it with a red pen and decide who’s writing what. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to govern this process, apart from the fact that, as I said earlier, I get the Dunning scenes while Simon gets Lionheart (and also, oddly, any “drunk” scenes. For some reason, he’s extremely good at writing those – I guess he’s just had enough practice).

We both rewrite and polish each other’s work, until we’re both happy with it - though Simon always insists on having the final say, for no better reason that that it’s his idea, his company and his money.

Do you have any say in the casting?

I’m allowed a say, but whether Simon listens or not is another matter! No, we talk about casting endlessly, so I’m sure my ideas filter into his brain eventually, but the only piece of casting I can remember that came directly from my suggestion was Gabriel Woolf in For King and Country. It was obvious that he would be a superbly sinister Matthew Hopkins, but it was only after seeing him being very silly indeed on a Doctor Who DVD extra that I realised he could also play the dual role of the comical Inspector Natterjack, and after that he was, in my mind, the only man for the job.

As for the casting of the non-guest-star roles from our repertory company, Simon normally draws up an initial list and I’ll certainly make suggestions if I think someone would be especially suited to, or unsuited to, a particular role. This is particularly useful if I’ve written a part with someone’s voice – usually, to be honest, David Benson - in mind.

What are the recording days like?

They’re great fun, for everyone except Simon. Oh, and Toby, the sound engineer. The cast get to lounge around in the green room nattering among themselves when they’re not needed, and they usually let me sit with them, in exchange for making occasional cups of tea. Simon, however, has to spend the entire day locked in the studio; the schedule is always so tight, due to the appalling length of our scripts, that he can’t afford to relax for a second. Poor bloke.

When Nicholas Courtney passed away recently, was there any question of the Scarifyers ending?

It was certainly a possibility. It was something we discussed when Nick first became ill, but we didn’t really want to think about it at the time. We spent a long time hoping that he would make a recovery, as he had after his earlier stroke. It wasn’t until it became sadly obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to record another story that we were forced to make a decision, and we both felt that there was plenty more that we could do with the Scarifyers, but only if we could do so without tarnishing the memory of what we’d done with Nick. David Warner was our only choice for a successor, and if he hadn’t said agreed to do so you probably wouldn’t be reading this now, as we may well not have carried on.

What’s your favourite Scarifyers story?

Ooh, difficult. Denge Marsh seems to be very popular with the fans, and I think it’s because it is at heart quite a traditional story, with a nice uncomplicated plot and a consistently spooky atmosphere. I think we’ve written much better stuff since, but something about the combination of elements that make up the story is very satisfying. For King and Country is also very good – it has some of our scariest stuff, such as the Matthew Hopkins apparitions in the first episode, and some of the funniest with Oliver Cromwell. And, of course, Black Comet is also very funny. I think my favourite might be Secret Weapon, though, as we managed to keep the tone consistently good-natured thoughout, and I think it’s just very listenable. Of course, The Magic Circle might also be a contender, but it’s a little too new to be sure!

Can you tell us what the future holds for the Scarifyers?

I don’t think we’re going to tinker with the formula too much, as we seems to have developed a following who think we’re doing the right thing, but also because I think we’re providing something unique(ish) – the combination of comedy, action, detective, horror, sci-fi and supernatural elements that we’ve stumbled across is something no-one else seems to be doing, possibly for good reason. (The Jago and Litefoot stories produced by Big Finish are the closest I can think of, and they’re great.)

We have constantly been asked if we can up our release rate, by fans frustrated that we only pop out one story a year, and it’s possible that we may finally be able to do so. We have some extravagant plans for 2012 which, if they come off, might mean that in the space of the eighteen months starting with Magic Circle we will release as many Scarifyers stories as we did in the previous five years…