Splendid Chaps: 50th Anniversary Tribute To Doctor Who

Doctor Who is an integral part of British culture and this month the ACMI will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who with a Live in the Studio session with Splendid Chaps, a live Doctor Who podcast series created and hosted by comedian Ben McKenzie (Dungeon Crawl), writer John Richards (Outland, Boxcutters) and co-hose Petra Elliott (The Vagina Monologues, Othello).

“So far I’ve managed to get dressed and drink some coffee. That’s all I’ve managed to do so far really,” laughs Richards. It’s a Monday afternoon and Richards has a bright and enthusiastic disposition despite it being early in the morning; he’s here to discuss the most important event for any Whovian: the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, The Day of The Doctor starring Matt Smith (Womb,  Party Animals), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Captain America: The First Avenger, Death Comes to Pemberley), John Hurt (Alien, V for Vendetta), David Tennant (Doctor Who, Casanova) and Billy Piper (Secret Diary of a Call Girl). In fact, it was this 50th anniversary episode that inspired the creation of Splendid Chaps.


“It was Ben’s idea,” explains Richards. “It certainly came out of nowhere. I had known Ben for a while, but we still hadn’t worked on anything together. We used to go on what I called ‘nerd dates‘  — where you meet up to talk about Doctor Who and things.” Until one day, Ben turned around and said: “‘You do a lot of podcasting and I do a lot of events, let’s do a live podcast for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who because we’re both complete nerds. We weren’t sure there was an audience for it though.” But this little detail didn’t deterred the duo, who dove into the timey-wimey-ness of Doctor Who with absolute fervour.


Splendid Chaps is a monthly live podcast that started in January this year and is dedicated to analysing and questioning the doctors within Doctor Who, there have been 11 doctors so far, and encouraging the discussion of popular motifs and themes within Doctor Who (i.e. race, gender, feminism, science, fictional tropes, etc) with a panel of guests and hosts Ben McKenzie and John Richards, and co-host Petra Elliott. For those who are ignorant of the phenomenon of Doctor Who: it's is the longest running family science-fiction show in history and it follows the adventures of the doctor, an alien from the planet Gallifrey, and his adventures through time and space with his (often) human companions. These adventures often see the doctor battle adversaries such as the Cybermen, a species of sociopathic metalloid humans who are bent on ‘upgrading’ humans, and the Daleks, salt-and-pepper-shaker-looking creatures from the planet Skaro who’s dogma is uncannily similar to that of the Nazis. The series has often been a platform for budding UK actors to propel their career from — David Tennant, Tom Baker and Karen Gillan — and screen writers such as Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat.


“They’re kind of weird — ‘nerdy Tonight show’ is the phrase that we’ve used [to describe Splendid Chaps],” jokes Richards. “They’re quite intellectual discussions though. They’re also full of jokes and I wasn’t sure there was an audience that wanted that, but there has and it’s been really successful. It’s been great meeting all these people wanting to hear people make jokes while discussing religion and Doctor Who or the role of women in Doctor Who.”


It’s a relatively known fact among Tumblr users, and geeks of the internet, that Whovians are very thoughtful people, often analysing and writing verbose essays discussing the storyline of Doctor Who and where the series will go in future. A recent favourite among the internet has been ‘The Impossible Girl’, Clara Oswald. “I thought most of the theories about what Clara was turned out to be more interesting than what she actually was,” divulges Richards. “My favourite theory was that the doctor was really bad at telling humans apart and [was] like: ‘There’s a hunch of people who look a bit similar.’ [Which is plausible, as] there’s so many people Doctor Who who look like other people in Doctor Who.”


However, contrary to Richards’ wishes, the doctor was not face-blind, rather, his companion Clare Oswald, also affectionately known as Oswin, was trapped in the timeline of the doctor in a martyr-like sacrifice to save the doctor from his own fate: his death. This is a trope that has become more recently criticised within Doctor Who: the sexualization of the women in Doctor Who and the romantic relationships between the doctor and his companions.


“Normally we have two halves [to Splendid Chaps] and the audience writes down the questions in the break,” says Richards, explaining how the show normally operates. “The funny thing about the last two shows, which were looking at Doctor Who and sex and Doctor Who and women, there were so many questions that they ended up shaping the second-half of the show. For the ACMI one, there no break in the middle. We’re going to try and ask questions beforehand on Twitter and Facebook and on our website, so people can send in their questions about the Matt Smith era, about the way the future is future is represented in Doctor Who and Doctor Who in general, and we’ll use some of that to help shape the discussion. We’re not even in the studio for this Live in the Studio, we’re in cinema one. We’re going to have a TARDIS [Time and Relative Dimensions in Space] and a Dalek — it’s going to be great!”



You can catch Splendid Chaps: 50th Anniversary Tribute to Doctor Who at the ACMI on Thursday November 21. Tickets are available through ACMI and you can send your questions in for Splendid Chaps through splendidchaps.com.