Bill & Ben Video
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (February 2011)|
BBV was a video and audio production company specialising in science fiction drama, known for its links with the British science fiction television series Doctor Who (founder Bill Baggs is a fan, and BBV productions often feature characters and/or actors from the series). The name of the company is short for Bill & Ben Video, "Ben" being the nickname of Bill Baggs's wife, Helen.
BBV's first production was Summoned by Shadows, co-produced with the BBC Film Club. Partly as a homage to Doctor Who, of which Baggs was a fan, and partly in a pragmatic attempt to take advantage of a pre-existing audience, Summoned by Shadows was a Who-style tale of strange doings on a distant planet featuring Colin Baker as the nameless protagonist (listed in the credits as "The Stranger"). Nicola Bryant co-starred as "Miss Brown". The adventures of The Stranger ran to six videos (and two audio dramas, the second remade as the sixth video). (For more information, see The Stranger (video series).)
BBV's next effort was The AirZone Solution?, an ecologically-themed thriller about a near-future conspiracy. Released in 1993, Doctor Who's thirtieth anniversary year, it featured four ex-Doctors. Baker and Bryant starred. Successor Sylvester McCoy and predecessors Peter Davison and Jon Pertwee also appeared as members of a small group joined against a sinister conspiracy.
The Zero Imperative (1994) marked a new departure for BBV. Although stuffed to the gills with ex-Doctor Who guest stars, only one of them was actually playing the same character: the story was built around Caroline John's Dr Elizabeth Shaw, the Doctor's companion in the seventh season of Doctor Who, now depicted as an investigator for PROBE (the "Preternatural Research Bureau"). The PROBE series ran for an additional three stories; all four were written by Mark Gatiss, who later found more widespread fame as a member of the League of Gentlemen. The potentially-confusing mixture of Caroline John reprising her Doctor Who role with other recognisable Who stars playing different characters worked against the series, as did the way that Liz Shaw often seemed to be herself a different character from the Doctor Who original. (The latter problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that, although BBV had obtained permission to use Liz Shaw, they had no rights relating to Doctor Who itself - which meant that no explicit reference could be made to any other aspect of Doctor Who, including the events of the stories in which Liz had appeared.)
BBV's next series was a spin-off from two Doctor Who stories in the 1970s in which the Doctor assisted the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) in defeating the Autons, robotic invaders sent to conquer Earth on behalf of the alien Nestenes. The trilogy, beginning with Auton in 1997, recounted UNIT's battle against another Auton invasion, this time without the Doctor's aid (since BBV had obtained permission to use UNIT and the Autons, but permission to use the Doctor himself was as always unavailable). Auton was also the first BBV production to have no Doctor Who guest stars at all, after Nicholas Courtney (who would have reprised his Doctor Who role as UNIT commander Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) was forced by ill health to withdraw from the project. With Courtney out, the focus of the series was the original character of Lockwood, an enigmatic UNIT agent played by Michael Wade.
After the success of the Auton trilogy, BBV produced Cyberon (featuring a race of alien cyborgs reminiscent of the Cybermen). 2001's "Do you Have a Licence to Save this Planet?" was a comedy featuring Sylvester McCoy as the chiropodist. This spoof not only referenced previous BBV productions- but also Doctor Who itself.
BBV's last production was Zygon: When Being You Just Isn't Enough (previously titled Zygon: When Being Me Is Not Enough). In which Mike Kirkwood dreams of being a monster, he is in fact a Zygon, believing himself to be human. This story also features Jo Castleton's character of Doctor Lauren Anderson from Cyberon.
A new PROBE film will be released 15 April 2015 with Hazel Burrows taking over from Caroline John as Liz Shaw.
After a few earlier experiments, BBV began regularly releasing audio dramas on CD in 1998, under the umbrella title Audio Adventures in Time & Space. The mainstay of the CD line to begin with was a series starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred (the Doctor/companion team from the 1987, 1988 and 1989 seasons of Doctor Who) as a pair of wanderers in time and space named "The Professor" (McCoy) and "Ace" (Aldred) who so closely resembled the characters McCoy and Aldred had played on Doctor Who - even addressing each other by the same nicknames - that the BBC stepped in and their seventh outing, Ghosts, consequently introduced a number of changes to the characters that made the resemblance somewhat less close, the main one being that the adventures now featured "The Dominie" (McCoy) and "Alice" (Aldred).
The first of the Audio Adventures in Time & Space not to feature the McCoy/Aldred double act was Cyber-Hunt, the first BBV production to feature the Cyberons. A further Who-ish note was added by the introduction of an amnesic space traveler played by Nicholas Briggs, who some years earlier had played the Doctor in the Audio Visuals series of unlicensed fan audios. (He was dubbed "Fred" by one of the other characters after her pet goldfish).
BBV moved away from characters-who-might-be-the-Doctor (a field that, in any case, lost some of its appeal for fan audiences once Big Finish Productions began producing officially licensed Doctor Who audio dramas featuring the original actors reprising their incarnation of the character) and, following the success of the Auton trilogy, focussed more on stand-alone dramas featuring various Doctor Who alien races, licensed directly from the writers who created them. For some of those writers, the BBV audios have offered a chance to revisit their creations: for instance, the range includes a story by Pip & Jane Baker explaining what happened to the Rani (last seen in Doctor Who being abducted by a group of aliens that were also created by the writing pair), and a series of stories by Lawrence Miles about his history-spanning terrorist organisation Faction Paradox.
In 2002 BBV announced that they would not produce any more audio CDs, but would instead concentrate on their new DVD releases.
- The Stranger
- The Auton trilogy
- Stranger Than Fiction
- Stranger Than Fiction 2: From Script To Screen
- Bidding Adieu
Licensed Doctor Who spin-offs
- Homeland by Paul Dearing
- Absolution by Paul Ebbs
- The Barnacled Baby by Anthony Keetch
- The Root of All Evil by Lance Parkin
- The Green Man by Zoltán Déry
- Silent Warrior by Peter Grehan
- Old Soldiers by Simon J Gerard and Colin Hill
- Conduct Unbecoming by Gareth Preston
- In 2 Minds by Iain Hepburn
- The "I"
- I Scream by Lance Parkin
- Guy de Carnac
- A Quality of Mercy by Dave McIntee
- The Rani
- The Rani Reaps The Whirlwind by Pip & Jane Baker
- The Wirrn
- Race Memory by Paul Ebbs
- Faction Paradox
- The Eleven Day Empire by Lawrence Miles
- The Shadow Play by Lawrence Miles
- Sabbath Dei by Lawrence Miles
- The Year of the Cat by Lawrence Miles
- Movers by Lawrence Miles
- A Labyrinth of Histories by Lawrence Miles
Unofficial/Apocryphal Doctor Who spin-offs
- The Dominie and Alice ("The Professor" and "Ace" until Guests for the Night)
- Republica by Mark Gatiss
- Island of Lost Souls by Mark Gatiss
- Prosperity Island by Tim Saward
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Mark Duncan
- The Other Side by Mark Duncan
- Guests for the Night by Nigel Fairs
- Ghosts by Nigel Fairs
- Only Human by Mark J. Thompson
- Blood Sports by Nigel Fairs
- Punchline by Jeremy Leadbetter (Robert Shearman)
- Cyber-Hunt by Martin Peterson - featuring the Cyberons
- Vital Signs by Tim Saward
- Cyber-Hunt by Martin Peterson - featuring Fred
- Cybergeddon by Paul Ebbs
- The Stranger
- The Last Mission by Nicholas Briggs
- Eye of the Storm by Arthur Wallis (Nicholas Briggs)
- Infidel's Comet by Colin Hill and Simon J Gerard
- The Pattern by Mark Duncan
- The TARDIS Library — Full guide to Doctor Who books, videos and audios. Includes an expanded listing of BBV's Doctor Who releases, with cover images & user ratings/reviews.