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Interview: ‘Radio Free Skaro’s’ Steven Schapansky


Steven RFSSteven Schapansky not only has a second name that you have to type out very carefully (and then double and triple check) but is also one of the three hosts of Radio Free Skaro, a weekly ‘Doctor Who’ podcast that makes walking to work on a Monday slightly less horrifying. He also co-hosts The Memory Cheats, in which a classic Who story is randomly chosen each week for he and Josh to chat about as well as their age-addled memories will allow. It’s ace, even if they were both COMPLETELY WRONG ABOUT ‘GHOST LIGHT’. I emailed Steven a bunch of questions- THIS BUNCH:

When did Doctor Who first lay it’s cold, clammy hand upon your shoulder and refuse to loosen its grip?

I first saw Doctor Who when I was about 8 or 9. It was on a friend’s TV for just a very few seconds, and involved Tom Baker walking around the TARDIS console. Oddly enough, that was enough to get me to seek it out and I started watching it fairly regularly over the next couple years. But it was Season 18, and particularly “Full Circle”, that got me hooked. Tom Baker’s regeneration at the end of “Logopolis” genuinely shocked me. It was a formative moment of my childhood. I’ve never looked back.Doctor_Who_Full_Circle

Doctor Who fans hate a lot of things with a fiery passion about the show they love; what’s a generally derided element (story, Doctor, monster, outfit, WHATEVS) that you actually think is ace, skill and super nifty?

You know what I genuinely love? OB videotape. No, it’s not as nice as film, but Doctor Who locations were usually only shot on 16mm, not the much cleaner 35mm, so it didn’t look that good to begin with. At least OB videotape was consistent, and I love watching The Mysterious Planet, not entirely sure which scenes were shot on location and which weren’t.

Was there ever a time that you wandered from the one true path? I know when I went to University suddenly I was more interested in things like beer, sleeping as late as possible, and watching Neighbours twice a day than buying every copy of DWM, or completing my VHS collection.

I honestly never have. I’ve never not cared about Doctor Who, but for a few months in the late 1990s, I didn’t go out of my way to watch it. Does that count?

RFSRadio Free Skaro is one of the highest profile Dr Who podcasts, but what on Earth made you start the thing in the first place all those hundreds of episodes ago?

My co-host Warren and I worked side by side in a boring job at a TV station in the early 2000’s, and we were delighted to discover that we were both Doctor Who fans. He suggested that we could do a “podcast” about Doctor Who (I had never heard of a podcast then), and a few months later, we just started blabbing about Doctor Who for an hour a week. It took us a couple of years (and an additional co-host, Chris) to finally figure out what we wanted to do with the show, and now we’ve been going for eight years. Eight years! It looks ridiculous when you see that number in front of you.

Is there anyone you’ve yet to interview who you’d love to get on the show?

Oh my heavens, yes. The obvious ones are Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies. We’ve tried on several occasions to get RTD, and we’ll continue to do so. Peter Capaldi sounds like he would be a fascinating interview, as well. Because of my love of Season 18, Christopher H Bidmead has long been a target, too. 

timeSay three nice things about Timelash.

1) Colin Baker
2) Tinsel
3) Er…hand puppet aliens?

Do you have a favourite Dr Who writer from the first fifty years of the show? You can include Big Finish or Who novel writers!

I hate that Robert Holmes makes this such a slam dunk, so I’ll go with either Steven Moffat or Chris Boucher. Moffat constantly surprises and entertains me, and we were robbed of the prime years of Boucher, with the best parts of Blake’s 7 being his input. 

It’s a sad fact that one day soon ‘The Memory Cheats’ podcast will come to an end, are you at all tempted to tackle, say, ‘The Memory Cheats: The RTD years?’

After eight years of Radio Free Skaro (with no end in sight), the idea of a finite podcast is appealing to me. But you never know. My co-host Josh and I might miss it enough to want to carry on! 

Next time a McCoy era story comes up, can you make Josh say nice things about it?

No promises.

 romWho’s your Doctor and companion? You can choose more than one, if you’re weak.

Mary Tamm. Oh, Mary. She was my first companion when I was 8 or 9 and had a massive crush on her before I even had any idea why I should have a crush on her.

Doctor? I was all about Matt Smith for the past four years, but now I am so excited for Capaldi, he’s my favourite before I’ve even seen a full episode of his. No pressure, Peter.

Favourite New Who episode/episodes, and why?

The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone is hands down the best two-parter, and possibly the best story period, done since The Caves of Androzani. Horror, intrigue, tension, comedy,stunning direction, and brilliant performances, including the very first episodes shot with Matt Smith as the new Doctor. He was electric.

girlIs there a Dr Who story, or character, whose popularity makes you scratch your head?

The Girl in the Fireplace. The Doctor’s love affair with Madame de Pompadour comes out of left field, a week after he almost professes his love to Rose in “School Reunion”. And the Doctor just leaves Rose and Mickey on that spaceship full of clockwork droids while he “takes the slow path” with Pompadour! He also completely forgets how the fireplaces work and condemns her to a lonely death as a result. And then everything in that story is forgotten the week after. It’s inconsistent nonsense. 

It’s not all about the TV show, what’s your favourite bit of non-television Who ‘stuff’?

“Doctor Who: A Celebration”, written by Peter Haining for the 20th Anniversary was my first big book about Doctor Who and was my first step into a larger world. 

advLet’s assume magic is real and not only can you now fly and turn some wine into even more wine, but you can pick any two Doctor’s, living or dead, to team up for a new episode; who’s it gonna’ be, hm?

William Hartnell and Matt Smith, purely to see a real life re-creation of THAT scene from “An Adventure in Space and Time”. 

What baddie that has yet to be featured in the modern series would you like to see back? No, you can’t go the easy option and say The Kandyman, pick something else.

Sil would be awesome in the new series. He was never actually properly evil towards the Doctor, just greedy about his own interests. I think he should enlist the temporary help of the Doctor in a dispute with the Collector from “The Sun Makers”.

Are there any missing or partially missing stories you’re hoping will turn up next?

All of them! Who would have put “The Enemy of the World” at the top of their most wanted list before we saw it and realized how incredible it really is? Maybe “The Space Pirates” as actually awesome. Who can tell?

 caveFavourite classic series story/stories and why?

The Caves of Androzani, for all the (many, many) reasons that everyone else has written and talked about its greatness since 1984. Maurice Roeves doesn’t get enough credit, though, as he was magnificent as Stotz, so there’s one more reason why it’s the best story ever made. 

Congratulations, you’ve just been put in charge of Doctor Who and can make whatever changes you want to it; so what’s your big move? Strand the Doctor on Earth again? Cast a Woman in the title role? Bring back K9, but also add his nephew, Scrappy-K9? Or something else..?

I think it would be fun to do a season where the Doctor has lost the TARDIS, and he has to spend a few episodes trying to track it down. Part treasure hunt, part Key to Time season, part Red Dwarf VI.

RTDNeil Gaiman would have been a writer on many Who fans fantasy wish list; is there anyone you’d be interested to see tackle an episode?

Yes – Russell T Davies! I think it would be great to have him write an episode without the yoke of the entire show itself on his shoulders.

 Okay, plug something:

I only have podcasts to plug, it seems. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to them, we did profiles on each producer’s era leading up to the 50th anniversary last year on Radio Free Skaro, with guests such as Rob Shearman, Toby Hadoke, John Williams, Richard Molesworth, and so forth. Episodes 383-387, 389-393 of Radio Free Skaro. And thanks for listening!

Radio Free Skaro | The Memory Cheats


Author: Matthew Stott


2 thoughts on “Interview: ‘Radio Free Skaro’s’ Steven Schapansky

  1. Hail Schapansky!My kind of Doctor Who fan,scrupulously respectful of anybody who has contributed to Doctor Who’s history whatever his preferences and heroically creating podcasts for seemingly forever.Too sensible and decent to be involved with social media mobs carrying burning torches and chips on their shoulders.Thanks for this interview and not encouraging discussion of lego and sport.

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