Want to know more about the life of 1980s Doctor Who producer, John Nathan-Turner? A new audio drama tells the details of his final years alongside his partner (and Who production manager), Gary Downie, as Nathan-Turner battled addiction and Downie fought cancer.
The drama is written by Paradise Towers and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy scribe, Stephen Wyatt.
Here’s the synopsis for Me & Him & WHO:
He was the youngest Producer of Doctor Who. Or was he?
As he, himself, said, ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story’.
His name was John Nathan-Turner and, having worked bis way up the Doctor Who career ladder via since 1969, he took over as producer ten years later and set about putting his highly stylised mark on it.
Not only did he cast three Doctors – Peter Davison’s Fifth, Colin Baker’s Sixth, and Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh – but he also cast a whole host of memorable companions to go with them.
In fact, the BBC’s finale of Jodie Whittaker’s time as the Thirteenth Doctor, became somewhat of a celebration of those eras that John Nathan-Turner produced. Not only featuring the return of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctor, but also sizeable roles for Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) with a cameo from Mel (Bonnie Langford).
However, John Nathan-Turner became so synonymous with the television show, because of his ability to court the press and placate the fans, that he delayed moving on until it was too late.
When the show was cancelled in 1989, he was left out in the wilderness, struggling to channel his flamboyance into anything else, and with the nasty side of the fan base turning against him and his decade-long tenure on the series.
Towards the end of his life, he tried to write his autobiography but always fell at the final hurdle, whether it was because of his partner, Gary Downie’s cancer, or his own drink-related illness, or just a reluctance to bite the BBC hand that once fed him.
In his final few years, before passing away at the young age of 54, his relationship with friends became toxic because of his partner’s wicked turn of phrase and no holds barred approach to saying what he thought. We find them, both supporting each other and belittling each other in what appeared to be a love/hate relationship but was in fact an enduring and endearing romance.
In a sometimes bleakly comic tale, we see this two-man support network crumble and be rebuilt, with the desire always to be back in the limelight and put on a show. Any show. But the show we hear is the backstage gossip of a fading producer who’s still looking for his final Norma Desmond-esque close-up.
Me & Him & WHO will be released in early December 2022 as a limited CD edition, with a digital version available mid-2023.
Writer Stephen Wyatt said:
“My mum and dad lived close to John and Gary in Saltdean. I used to drop in on them for tea and cake (latterly vodka and orange) and so in the bleak period after John left the BBC, I got to know them quite well.ME AND HIM AND WHO has a sad story of illness and decline to tell but I’ve tried to do justice also to John and Gary’s wit and resilience as well as the deep affection they had for each other behind the squabbling and the bitchery.”
Aside from knowing John and Gary, Stephen, of course, knew Nathan-Turner and Downie, but also made good use of Totally Tasteless, Richard Marson’s biography of the producer.
“Stephen has caught the poignancy of John and Gary’s later years without losing the humour. Great performances too. It seems to capture much of their humanity (as well as the egos and occasional hubris) and set it all against the context of the Who history we all know.”
Playing the role of John Nathan-Turner is actor Christopher Guard (Bellboy in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy), who explains:
“Playing John Nathan-Turner was the latest beautiful twist in my surreal relationship with John and Dr Who. ‘Becoming’ him was at once almost impossible and yet some how inevitable. In some ways I had nothing in common with John,yet I always felt I understood him. Like me, he had a rebel soul. If someone said you can’t,he invariably would. Feisty,fabulous, fearless JNT. It’s been a privilege inhabiting his wild,wilful, wondrous world.”
Producer, director, script editor, and friend of the DWC, Barnaby Eaton-Jones, says:
“To tell the story of the last few years of John Nathan-Turner’s life, when he didn’t seem to be able to catch a break (and his partnership with Gary Downie appeared to have alienated a lot of his friends), was too delicious a drama not to delve into. Although it is obviously bittersweet, in that JN-T –as he was known – didn’t get the reappraisal and love that he deserved for his time steering Doctor Who’s TARDIS, there’s also that sense of hope that he always had that his next big project was just around the corner. The occasionally toxic mix of Gary’s waspish views and JN-T’s robust rebuttals is played out against the backdrop of a deep need for each other’s support and love, as well as their desire to be the life and soul of each other’s party. Until the drink runs out and the lights get turned off.”
Me & Him & WHO is available to pre-order now from AUK Direct.