Thursday 16 March 2017

Carry On Blogging Interview: Paul Taylor-Greaves

I recently caught up with Paul Taylor-Greaves who not only runs the wonderful Timevault Podcasts but also blogs away at Seaside Scribbler. I wanted to ask Paul more about how he got into podcasting, his views on Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and of course the Carry Ons, not to mention his soft spot for a certain Ms Carol Hawkins...

- First of all I'd love to know how you came to start your wonderful podcasts in the first place?

How long have you got?! Well, back in the Nineties myself and a friend ran a short lived fanzine called Cadmium2, named after the lethal radiation leak that wiped out the crew of Red Dwarf. We’d always liked writing about our favourite subjects (Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Babylon 5 etc) and this seemed like a good way of getting that to a wider audience. I was already writing for a Doctor Who fanzine called Metamorph, so it wasn’t much of a stretch. Anyway, this came to an end after a couple of years and we didn’t think much more about it. Then in 2007 podcasts were just starting to take off and one of us suggested we should revive the old Cadmium2 idea as a podcast. So both us, along with my brother, Mike, recorded a pilot, to see if we were any good. It was diabolical. Really and truly awful, never to see the light of day. We all agreed that we would never, ever do it again. Four months later we launched in May 2007. Cadmium2: The Podcast was born.

I have always been an enormous fan of British TV, film and radio and it seemed like a good focus for the show. The idea was to watch and review every episode of Doctor Who, in order, from the beginning. With two shows a month, we’d do one Doctor Who and the other would cover something else from Britain’s massive back catalogue. Three and a half years later, there was an acrimonious, Beatles-style break up, only without the fame and money and the podcast came to an end after 82 shows. However, in that time we covered not only the first 191 episodes of Doctor Who (41 stories, 1963-1968) but also Timeslip, The Stone Tape, The Tomorrow People, The Box of Delights, Nebulous, Red Dwarf, Withnail & I, Children of the Stones, Ghostwatch, Blake’s 7, Captain Scarlet, The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Hot Fuzz, The Avengers, The Slide, The Mighty Boosh, She-Wolf of London, Ultraviolet, Dead Set, Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde, Dark Season and Robin of Sherwood!

We were proud and faintly astonished that something originally intended as a hobby for us ended up with listeners all over the world, who were not only interested in what we had to say but also tracked down the things we covered to experience them for themselves. What more could you want? Well, as it turned out, our listeners wanted us to carry on. So, after about six months of emails and Facebook requests, Mike and I returned in February 2011 with TimeVault and we’ve now been going for six years - longer than the podcast we spun off from. As the original Cadmium2 podcasts are no longer available, we’re re-doing the first four series of Doctor Who whilst continuing the chronological viewing, so that we have a complete set for this podcast. I still can’t believe we’ve been podcasting for ten years. During that time I’ve got married and had children!

- You are also a blogger at Seaside Scribbler. How did you get into blogging and what in particular do you like to blog about?

I have been blogging for as long as I’ve been podcasting, however I am a terrible blogger. I start a blog, get bored of it, delete it, and start another, get bored of that, delete it and start another, and so on until the universe explodes. I like writing but unless you have an audience to comment on your articles and have a debate with, it all seems a bit pointless – and as there are now millions of blogs out there it gets harder to find that audience. These days I write when the mood takes me, which might be days, weeks or months apart. Seaside Scribbler I only started in March this year, so it has only a few posts on it. I’ll see how long I can this one up for! I’ve decided to write about books I like, TV, film, radio, whatever takes my fancy at the time, really. I’m going to repost an old one I did about Ingrid Pitt soon. I wrote it the day after she died and, when originally posted, it got thousands of hits. As no-one knows about my new blog it might get three this time around :D.

- I love your podcasts on both Carry On Cruising and Carry On Abroad. Were they fun to do and why did you pick these holiday-themed films?

Thank you very much. They were great fun to do, unsurprisingly, as they’re both such great films. We picked those because we knew we were releasing them fairly close to each so we themed them as Holiday Carry On’s from extreme ends of the series, showing the difference between the humour as the decades passed. Unlike the main podcast, which is where we watch something, then record our thoughts and opinions, we did the COs as DVD commentaries. This was because there are quite a few things we’d like to cover that don’t necessarily lend themselves to that level of discussion or analysis. The Avengers is a perfect example of this. We recorded two shows in our house style and the problem we found was that as each episode is standalone and there is little to no character development, all we ended up doing was commenting on how good the leads were and how good or bad the story was – and you end up saying exactly the same things about every episode. You don’t have many places to go with it and it’s quite dull to listen to. A commentary lets you pick up on particular moments, gaffes in the production, highlights of script, design or performance – and you can riff on things spontaneously that you can’t in the other format. The Carry On’s are absolutely perfect for this.

- You recently blogged about the plans for a new Carry On film. I think we have similar opinions on this project. Why do you think reviving the series is a bad idea?

Ah. Well, as I say in the blog ( I think that the type of films that the COs are don’t lend themselves well to being rebooted in the 21st century. They were a window onto the decades they were made in. The films from the 50’s are markedly different in tone from those made in the 60’s, which are also different from those made in the 70’s. There’s nothing to suggest that a modern revival of the series couldn’t reflect contemporary mores and manners, except for the fact that humour in today’s society has to tread so very, very carefully. In a modern world where everyone’s opinion can be broadcast across the world in a nanosecond, and knee-jerk offence can be generated even faster, I can’t see how the Carry On‘s can be brought back now without diluting what they were. Humour has changed so drastically too. What was considered a bit saucy back in the day is so tame by 21st century standards that if you tried to emulate it, it just wouldn’t be accepted. The alternative would take it in a direction it was never meant to go. Also, unless you’re able to find a cast that will come back time and again for a series of films, building up the loyalty and familiarity the original cast had with the audience, I don’t see how it could work.

There is a lack of originality in films now that is frightening. And it’s all about money rather than creativity, which is why all these old, successful films are getting modern reboots; cashing in on audience nostalgia without having to create something new. For me the Carry On’s are a lifelong love and no matter how hard they try to recreate that magic, they won’t, because it happens by accident. Anyway, if Carry On Doctors actually happens I’ll eat the Pocket Essentials Book of Carry On; a penalty for me for being cynical and a service to mankind, as the fewer copies of that dreadful book there are knocking around, the better for everyone.

Short Trips: How The Doctor Changed My Life, published by Big Finish.
- I can see from your website that you are big fans of all things sci-fi. For someone who has never, ever seen Doctor Who (sorry!) can you explain the appeal?

Well, actually I’m not a big fan of all things sci-fi at all. I watch very little sci-fi (if by that, you mean spaceships and all that stuff) but Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 were two shows I grew up with as a child and they have stayed with me ever since – although I don’t watch 21st century Doctor Who as I find it rather overblown and poorly written, despite excellent production values and superb choices of lead actor. But that’s a long conversation for another time!

I think the appeal of Doctor Who is the go-anywhere-do-anything nature of it. You can tell practically any story you like within its format- and it has done! There is also a wonderful sense of inclusion, particularly in the original 1963-89 run. The TARDIS could land on your street and the Doctor and his friends would cheerfully whisk you away for thrilling adventures. That appealed very much to me as a six year old in 1979. It still does!

- Quite a few Carry On actors have appeared in Doctor Who over the years. Do you have a favourite guest star and why?

Bernard Bresslaw gives an amazing performance as Varga, the Ice Warrior, especially considering he is under all that makeup and costume. Totally against what you expect him to be playing and he’s great.

Joan Sims is my favourite CO actor, unfortunately she didn’t enjoy her guest part in the series, and it shows.

- You have also recorded some James Bond commentaries. What makes you such a fan of these very British blockbusters?

Well, my dad got me into Carry Ons, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 and Bond when I was very little – so you can blame him! There is something about the British attitude to stories that appeals to me more than, say, US dramas. I always struggle to pinpoint what it is. Not a very helpful answer, sorry! 


- Hammer Horror films are also among your favourites. I've been fortunate enough to interview Valerie Leon and Madeline Smith who both made Hammer films. Do you have a favourite Hammer film?

I’ve loved Hammer films since I was about 12, so that would be about 1985. I defiantly live in the past when it comes to TV and film. My DVD collection spans 1934-2016 and the largest section is between 1950 and 1979. I just prefer the way they made things back then. My favourite Hammer is… hmm… that’s quite tricky. I’ll give you a Top 5 so I can avoid giving a straight answer. In no particular order: Dracula A.D.1972, The Plague of the Zombies, Twins of Evil, The Devil Rides Out and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

- Why do you think the Carry On films are still so popular so many years after they were made?

I suppose the question is really, are they still popular? They’re popular with people like you and me who grew up with them, but are today’s kids getting hooked like we did? I’m not sure. For me, they remain a firm favourite because they are funny, cheeky, smutty and warm. The principal was simple: life is a joke, let’ have a good laugh about it. Never taking themselves – or anyone else – seriously was part of the appeal. I watched Abroad last night and underneath all the collapsing roofs, short skirts and randy middle-aged men, is a story about a group of desperately unhappy people rediscovering the fun in life and their love for each other. Look at the way Vic and Cora change over the course of the film. Beautifully done. There are quite a few COs that have that extra dimension that gets ignored by snobby critics and I think that’s a shame. Also, if you want a good, hard double entendre, they’ll happily give you one…


- You've mentioned you have a bit of a soft spot for the lovely Carol Hawkins - when did you first discover her work?

Doesn’t everyone? Who are these people and why haven’t they been given a good talking to? Funnily enough, I can’t remember when I first saw her. I was quite young when I saw her in Blake’s 7 and Carry On Abroad but I must have been about 13 when my hormones kicked in. Since then I’ve managed to see her in pretty much everything she’s been in that’s been made available to buy – and quite a few things that haven’t! I even like Not Now Comrade which, let’s be honest, is a terrible film. Unless you have a glass of wine or two first, in which case it’s a 70s classic!

- What's your all-time favourite Carry On film and why?

That’s tough. There are so many to love. If I had to give an answer or be nailed to a tree, I would say Cowboy. It’s a tremendous piece of work with everyone firing on all cylinders. Is it Jim Dale’s finest CO performance? I think it could well be. Angela Douglas is terrific and the scene between her, Joan and Edina Ronay fighting in Marshall’s bedroom may be my favourite CO moment of all time.

- Finally, please tell me you plan to record more Carry On commentaries! And if not, why not?!

Yes, we do! In fact we’re hoping to get another couple in for this year. We have several nice pairs lined up (ahem): Sergeant/England, Camping/Behind and Nurse/Matron, as well as doing some standalone ones.

Our podcast website is where you can listen and/or download our episodes - and you can find us on iTunes by searching thetimevault (all one word).

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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