Fascinating film and TV (and radio!) facts #89

Doctor Who's Peter Capaldi in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Benedict Cumberbatch's Cabin Pressure effect and the origin of Slartibartfast's name in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy



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We were so excited to hear that David Tennant is coming back as the Tenth Doctor for a new (audio) series of Doctor Who, we couldn’t help going back over some of our favourite audio series for a fascinating facts special. Here we go…

You’ll probably remember that Benedict Cumberbatch starred in Radio 4’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere in 2012. But can you remember who played the Angel Islington in the 1996 TV series?

Yep, none other than 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi! Check out the clip above for his performance, and hear Cumberbatch’s delivery below.

Douglas Adams’ radio series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy turned into one of the best-loved comedy sci-fi series ever. Not bad considering the BBC initially told radio producer Geoffrey Perkins that a book of the series wouldn’t work because “books and records of radio shows don’t sell.”

Being a BBC series meant that anything Adams wrote had to get through BBC Compliance – otherwise the result might have been much ruder. The name of the fjord designer Slartibartfarst for example was initially in the script as ‘Phartiphukborlz’. Adams mucked about with the syllables until he hit on the final name, “something which sounded that rude, but was almost, but not quite, entirely inoffensive.”

John Finnemore’s radio sitcom Cabin Pressure had been rolling along very nicely on Radio 4 for two series. Then Sherlock started, and suddenly its star Benedict Cumberbatch was a phenomenon.

Finnemore was initially worried about holding onto his two stars, Cumberbatch and The Thick Of It’s Roger Allam, but they both stayed with it. The biggest difference, he told RadioTimes.com, was the audience.

“The first recording we did after Sherlock started, suddenly the queue started very early in the morning, and it was obvious when I arrived for the rehearsal that the demographic had completely changed from the normal Radio 4 comedy audience,” he said. “I must admit, at that stage I was a bit worried that they had just come to see Benedict. I thought, is it going to fall flat because they’re not really interested in the story or the comedy?

“I’d completely underestimated them. They laugh in all the right places and are intelligent and lovely.”

The recording for the last ever episode broke all ticket requests for a Radio 4 show, with 22,854 applications for around 200 tickets.

In 1955, just five years after The Archers had launched as a radio series, 20 million people tuned in to listen to the episode where Grace Archer died.

22nd September, the day of the broadcast, also (coincidentally?) happened to be the day that ITV first launched as a TV channel.

The Archers is more than a match for Doctor Who when it comes to devoted fans. The BBC ran its own fan fiction page online, with users sending in their own ‘Fantasy Archers’ storylines. There is also a fan group called the ‘Archers Anarchistsx’ whose aim is to expose the ‘truth’ of the series: that it is in actual fact a “real life fly-on-the-wall documentary” and not, as the BBC would have you believe, a ‘drama’ with a “cast”.

Up until June this year, Doctor Who audio drama producers Big Finish were only allowed to create stories based on ‘classic’ Who stories (apart from the 50th anniversary). However, the launch of a new story featuring River Song paved the way for new stories featuring ‘modern’ Who characters and Doctors.

Big Finish explain on their website that their agreement with the BBC to “produce content based on Doctor Who includes storylines and characters up to and including Matt Smith’s final appearance in The Time of the Doctor.”


Sadly, that means any appearance from Peter Capaldi will have to wait… until the next regeneration.