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The Ghosts of N-Space

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IT WOULD BE impossible to make a six-episode Doctor Who adventure for radio without a strong supporting cast. Joining the familiar names of Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney for this year's The Ghosts of N—Space are five other radio performers. Among the cast are Richard Pearce, who's back to play Sarah Jane Smith's friend Jererny Fitzoliver and Deborah Berlin -who plays 'goodie' Louisa.

"The reason my character is in it, explains Richard Pearce, "is you know Sarah Jane always used to run away and get into trouble and the Doctor had to come and rescue her? The problem the writer had was she couldn't run away, get into trouble and be rescued if she had no one to talk to. So you've got two assistants so Sarah could run away and get into trouble with Jeremy."

"I play a character called Louisa," says Deborah Berlin. "who's a very young girl who comes to an unfortunate sad ending. She has a bit of tragic life. It. all turns out fine in the end, but it's a bit tragic along the way. She is a nice girl, well-mannered, polite, quite naive, just emerging into the world."

Both of them found it a great experience to be in Doctor Who. "I loved Doctor Who as a kid." says Richard. "I used to hide behind the sofa with the rest of the nation. Jon is my favourite Doctor Who of all time, so that was a thrill to be in the show with your favourite Doctor."

"A lot of my friends were in Doctor Who and they're big fans of Doctor Who, says Deborah. "They were very surprised that I was going to be in it because it was very exciting for them. It always seemed to be one of the cult programmes. But I am now a fan. I wasn't particularly before, but an avid listener and reader now."

Although it was Deborah's first encounter with the Doctor Who universe, she slipped easily into the studio atmosphere. "It was a lovely company," she says. "Everybody was together for most of the time. It was so friendly and such a warm atmosphere. it was lovely. And Jon Pertwee was there all the time and Elisabeth Sladen was there all the time and they were so friendly. It was wonderful.

It was also useful for the cast to have writer Barry Letts there as an expert on Doctor Who and on his own script. "Oh absolutely," says Deborah. "Definitely. He was absolutely amazing. He was so helpful and he knew everything. You could ask him any questions and he always came up with an answer that was helpful. Especially for me, not knowing a huge amount about Doctor Who when I started, he was just so helpful with the history of it and different story lines that have gone on and character descriptions. He outlined my character so carefully for me that I knew more or less exactly what he wanted."

This is one aspect in which radio departs from tv. A television writer will usually be at the read through, but becomes a background figure when it comes to the actual filming. Not so with radio. "The writer's usually there for at least some of it," explains Deborah, who's a member of be BBC Radio Drama Company. "It's ice for the actor and it's probably nice or the writer because the actor can see where things are coming from and you can always ask questions. If you don't think our line's quite right, or if you don't think our character would say that you can say oh can I change this?' and they'll say 'yes' or 'no' depending on what they feel. But it is nice having the writer there. It's like a security blanket."

Richard Pearce also found it an easy atmosphere to work in. "It's a riot," he says. "Just a total pleasure. A lot of theatrical anecdotes flying around. Jon has had the most amazing career in films, radio and on stage and has worked with everybody. He's a real raconteur.

"We were a very happy cast on the first outing, on The Paradise of Death," he continues. "It just gelled very rapidly. When we came back to doing it again it was a bit like not having been away at all. It just fell into place. I'd worked with Nick Courtney a lot on the radio anyway, so it wasn't so strange meeting him. But it was very special. The extraordinary thing about Jon and Elisabeth is they haven't changed! They look just the same as they did twenty years ago, it's quite bizarre. May be they're Time Lords in real life!"


The plot of The Ghosts of N-Space is quite a complicated one, involving mysterious hooded figures which emerge out of 'Null' Space and haunt a Sicilian castle owned by a distant relative of the Brigadier. From there the Doctor travels in Time to try to stop the villainous Maximilian (Stephen Thorne) taking over the world, but he has to be careful not to tamper with history. It's a plot which many of the cast, including Richard Pearce, find difficult to explain. "It's a spooky story," he says. "It's kind of emotional as well. Because we travel back in Time, you don't want what you know has already happened to happen. But of course the Doc tor can't change anything that happened in the past:"

Deborah Berlin, however, takes the easy way out when she's asked to explain her character's role in the story. "It's so difficult to say things without giving the plot away," she says. "I really don't want to because it's such a good one. She's there in the thick of things and she has a boyfriend in it who's also in the thick of things and they're parted by circumstances... It's quite exciting."

The radio productions obviously build on the success and popularity of the television Doctor Whos. Deborah says The-Ghosts of N-Space lives up to the programme's long pedigree. "Wonderfully," she says. "I personally think it's definitely equalled the television production. It worked excellently on radio, it leaves so much more to the imagination. It definitely works much better.

"There's an added dimension on radio where I think the listener probably has to work harder," she continues. "But then the actor has to work harder as well because you have to conjure everything up with your voice and the listener can interpret things in their own way. For example, they don't know what Louisa looks like. For one person I can he a six foot blonde, for another person I could be a five foot brunette. It's such a wide scope it adds something that a visual media couldn't."

"It's all down to the imagination of the listener," agrees Richard Pearce. "The listener is actually doing a lot of the work for you. In their head they are creating the picture, so there's a great freedom in it. I would think it would be harder on television because you've got the picture there. In radio you've got to imagine and create, so we [as actors] are just pointing the way."

Doing as told

Jeremy's role in pointing the way is very much determined by what Sarah Jane is doing in the story. "Jeremy does as he's told," Richard explains. "He's..." — he thinks for a second — "He's a bit of a... nurd. He's an upperclass twit. He means terribly well, but he's quite selfish, especially concerning his own appetite, having breakfast rather than rushing off and saving the planet. He, however, has a heart of gold, he's sincere and kind underneath. I hope people find him endearing and amusing. He's a bit of light relief, really."

After Richard's first appearance in Paradise of Death, he's been able to get first-hand experience of how popular Doctor Who is, even on the radio. "I got invited to a Doctor Who convention which was a real thrill:' he says. "That was a revelation to me. 1 had no idea there were thousands of fans out there. I was interviewed by a hall full of people."

The tremendous success of Doctor Who is something which has underlined the radio productions from the start. Deborah Berlin says they were very aware that they were following in the footsteps of a programme which has generated its own traditions and ground rules. "You are more restricted:. she says. "but not in a bad way. [You have] to follow the book or the tv series slightly more closely because people know the story back to front and they would be Uncomfortable if you deviated from that:'

The Ghosts of N-Space is likely to be welcomed by millions who have been Without new tv Doctor Who for six years. The cassette sales of its predecessor, The Paradise of Death, outsold Madonna in its first week. So if that's anything to go by, Take That! better watch out!

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  • APA 6th ed.: Killick, Jane (issue 76 (March 1996)). The Ghosts of N-Space. TV Zone p. 22.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Killick, Jane. "The Ghosts of N-Space." TV Zone [add city] issue 76 (March 1996), 22. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Killick, Jane. "The Ghosts of N-Space." TV Zone, edition, sec., issue 76 (March 1996)
  • Turabian: Killick, Jane. "The Ghosts of N-Space." TV Zone, issue 76 (March 1996), section, 22 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Ghosts of N-Space | url= | work=TV Zone | pages=22 | date=issue 76 (March 1996) | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=2 March 2024 }}</ref>
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