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Room 101


A Sci Fi Worlds Interview with Nick Redfern

After my Doctor Who piece came out in issue four of Alien Worlds, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that UFO and Cryptozoology author Nick Redfern thought it was "excellent," which really made my day because I've read and enjoyed so much of his work over the years. So, following the success of my Sci-Fi Worlds interview with Nick Pope (where I got Pope's take on Doctor Who and other cult shows) I thought it might be interesting to do another interview in a similar vein with the "monster hunter," himself.

So how did the die hard zombie fan react to my questions about the cult of Doctor Who, Roy Thinnes' Invaders, and the zombie renaissance of recent years? Read on and find out...

Richard Thomas: First thanks for agreeing to do this interview so soon, its not that long since our Room 101 interview so its much appreciated.

Nick Redfern: No probs!

Richard Thomas: When I was about five or six my dad bought me a two video pack of the 1975 Tom Baker stories The Sontaran Experiment and Genesis of the Daleks. After that I soon started watching Sunday morning repeats on UK Gold. Can you remember how you first became a Doctor Who fan?

Nick Redfern: I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of Doctor Who; as I don't think I've actually watched it since Tom Baker finished, aside from one or two episodes of the new series in about 2006. I saw the one with Peter Kay and the guy out of Hustle, and I thought that was a very good one. I did enjoy it as a kid, and particularly with Jon Pertwee. I can't really remember much of it now, just a few fragments of certain episodes from the time. Thirty years ago is a long time! I'm sure I got interested, though, like most kids of my age back then, from watching it at teatime on a saturday night.

Richard Thomas: Growing up in the 1990s I'm from the generation of children that was cheated out of having their own Doctor by the BBC. (Unless you count the 1996 Paul McGann TV Movie.) Who was your favourite Doctor growing up and what do think made him unique compared to the others?

Nick Redfern: I'd definitely say Jon Pertwee. He was flamboyant and adventurous, and a bit eccentric, and had an old vintage car he drove around in; and I liked those aspects of it all. He wasn't a typical James Bond-type; and that was good. There's way too much lazy thinking in TV, where people won't take a chance, and many of the characters are very stereotypical, and I think the character of Doctor Who has always been the exact opposite of this. Jon Pertwee's was a very memorable Doctor Who. I don't remember the people who came before him, and never really watched it after Tom Baker. Of the couple of episodes from the latest series I've seen, I thought it was pretty good.

Richard Thomas: The Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker years are often considered the golden age of Doctor Who, what are some of your favourite stories from this era and why?

Nick Redfern: I remember the Sea Devils one, one with Daemons, and one set at Loch Ness. I suppose I remember them mainly because of my interest in Cryptozoology. Plus, I'm not really much of a fan of sci-fi; and have never been interested in things like Star Wars; Battlestar Galactica; etc. If I ever watch sci-fi, it's mainly conspiracy-type sci-fi set on Earth, like The X-Files, The Invaders, Kolchak etc, which is probably why I liked - and remember - these specific episodes and stories of Doctor Who.

Richard Thomas: For me the scariest thing about the Daleks and the Cybermen is the fact that both species were originally humanoid beings much like ourselves. This is a bit of a weird question but with the transhumanist movement and futurists like Ray Kurzweil talking about a nearing "Technological Singularity" do you think we have anything to fear from Davros-like mad scientists on Earth?

Nick Redfern: I actually remember Davros well; because when I was at school we had an old wrinkled teacher who looked just like him! LOL. And that's what we nicknamed him. As for having things to fear from similar, real-life scenarios like this, I'd say that as technology and medicine progresses, it's vital that it's kept in check. Yes, we definitely need to advance as much as possible in a positive way; but we also have to ensure we don't cross the line into darker areas, such as down the road to "designer children" and things like that where so-called modifications might start to be made at the genetic level. Our scummy leaders might like a whole nation of identical, subservient types born out of a test-tube, but we definitely need to stay away from all that.

Richard Thomas: If the Daleks and Cybermen ever wiped each other out for good who do think would emerge as the new Doctor Who king of monsters?

Nick Redfern: How about the Chupacabras?

Richard Thomas: As a monster hunter yourself, if you were ever asked by the Doctor Who production team to suggest or even invent a new adversary for the series what do you think it would be?

Nick Redfern: As above, I'd say the Chupacabras. Having been on several expeditions to Puerto Rico looking for it, I don't think for one minute that the Chupacabras is really some sort of pet or secret experiment of aliens. I think those theories are all laughable bollocks. But that scenario, of a vicious alien Chupacabras coming to Earth, and maybe finding its way to Britain, would be a very good one for a fictional TV show. If the production team want help, I'm here!

Richard Thomas: From the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster to Erich Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods, Doctor Who seems to have borrowed a lot from Cryptozoology and Ufology. As a successful author in both these fields what are your thoughts on this?

Nick Redfern: I think it's actually very cool. There are a lot of people in the fields of Ufology and Cryptozoology who whinge and moan when the subject is portrayed on TV, because they get very self-righteous and pompous about how they think it should be shown on-screen. I've even seen people complain when a fictional TV show changes - for example - some aspects of a famous case, such as Roswell. But these people need to get lives; they need to lighten up, and realise that TV-fiction is simply that: an entertaining story and nothing else. People should be able to watch a show that totally fictionalises a real event - if it's presented as fiction, and everyone realises that's what it is. As far as specifically crypto on TV is concerned, I love Primeval. I always watch that show. In fact, I'd say - for me, at least - it's the best paranormal type fiction show since when The X-Files was at its height. I particularly liked the last season finale with the Mammoth on the M25; that was a good one.

Richard Thomas: As well as the paranormal Doctor Who has also taken a lot of inspiration from cult sci-fi and horror films. I understand your a big zombie film fan, what do you think it is about them you like so much and what is your favourite zombie film?

Nick Redfern: I'm not sure I could say this or that is my definite favourite; it would depend on the mood I was in at the time. But, yeah, I love zombie films. I have a huge collection of them. I think, for me, and like a lot of people, part of the appeal is the whole apocalyptic nature of the stories. It's interesting that since the late 60s, zombies have been tied with end of the world type themes. But before that, you never really saw that. Rather, before then, it was just zombies here or there, and in a relatively normal setting. But, today, you rarely - if ever - see a zombie film that isn't connected to the end of the world, or some huge disaster. The two have become interconnected. But I like that.

Plus, I like the fact that in many zombie films, it's the zombies who win. I cannot stand zombie films that have happy endings. I much prefer to see the stars either get eaten, or get infected themselves LOL. I think part of the appeal too is that slow, deliberate walk the zombies have - particularly in the older films. That relentless slow march stays in the mind. Although I do think today's "running zombies" are cool too. As for my favourites, I'd say the old Hammer film, Plague of the Zombies: that's a really good one. Obviously, Night of the Living Dead. I also thought the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead was great.

28 Days Later was a very good one (although technically they aren't zombies, but are still alive and just infected with the "Rage Virus"); but I hated the ending of 28 Days Later. It was far too upbeat. They should have all got infected too. I don't wanna watch a zombie film where the hero and his girlfriend ride off into the sunset and everyone's happy. I want to see them get bitten, change, and then go on a zombie attack themselves. Or just get eaten and die in pain as the zombies tear them apart. A good night's entertainment! And I thought that Shaun of the Dead was excellent! It's difficult to do really good zombie-comedy, and Shaun is definitely the best example of how to nail it.

Richard Thomas: George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is one of my favourite films. Why do you think Romero's Dead films are so popular compared to other zombie films including remakes of Romero's original trilogy by other directors?

Nick Redfern: Well, I think he really cornered the market, and defined that whole aspect of the zombie outbreak leading to the collapse of civilisation, and he did it very well and in a unique way. I was a bit disappointed with Land of the Dead. But I liked his latest Diary of the Dead. He made a name as the definitive zombie filmmaker; and that will always be the case too, and that's great. He deserves it and earned it. But, in saying that, there have been some other very good ones. I love Italian horror films, and there's been a lot of good stuff come out of that whole genre too. It's not really zombies, but one of my all-time favourite horror films is Carnival of Souls (the 60s original.) That's a great film. As is Night of the Demon and Dead of Night.

Richard Thomas: The last few years have seen something of a revival in the zombie genre with films like 28 Days Later and its sequel, I Am Legend and Romero's fourth and fifth Dead films. Why do you think we've had this sudden rash of apocalyptic zombie films?

Nick Redfern: Well, I think it's pretty simple: part of it is that filmmakers and studios see a successful film or theme, and they follow a similar path, whatever the subject matter. If someone makes an apocalyptic zombie film and it's a big hit; then others follow suit. Same with werewolf films; or war films, or gangster films, etc. I did not like I Am Legend at all though. It wasn't terrible; it was just okay. But I was hoping for more than okay. Will Smith played the survivor role well. But I think we should have seen much more about the build-up to the disaster, how the virus spread, etc. The ending was wrong; and should have been very bleak; and not one that gives hope to people. Zombie films should never give any hope of any kind. Zombie films should be relentless right up to the last shot.

Richard Thomas: Your also a big fan of The Invaders, a 1960s X-Files-esq series starring Roy Thinnes as man desperately trying to warn the world about a covert alien invasion already underway. Why do you think your such a big fan of The Invaders as opposed to more well known series from the 60s like Star Trek or The Avengers?

Nick Redfern: Well, I'm more into conspiracy type TV things than sci-fi; and even though The Invaders was technically sci-fi, it was more about paranoia, conspiracies, cover-ups and dark secrets here on Earth. Frankly, TV shows with futuristic spaceships, with laser guns, and with people running around in silver suits on far-off worlds bore me shitless.

Richard Thomas: The Invaders seems to have been influenced somewhat by paranoid 50s films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Quatermass 2. Are you a fan of these or other paranoid sci-fi at all? And what do you think of the parallels with David Jacobs' theories presented in The Threat?

Nick Redfern: The Quatermass films were pretty good; and particularly Quatermass and the Pit. Yeah, I like to watch paranoia-type sci-fi. They Live was one I would put into that category which I enjoyed a lot. I also liked Lifeforce, from 1985, which blended sci-fi and a zombie outbreak in London. That was a very weird one, but an intriguing story, too. That's an interesting question re Jacobs. I actually see nothing positive about abductions; and see it all in a very negative light - as far as our role in abductions is concerned. Cattle being used is the term that comes to mind for me. All this stuff about how it's for our own good, and will help us, is crap. Whoever or whatever the kidnappers are, they have done nothing at all to help us - ever. If I ever see one of those little black-eyed bastards and I have a gun, I will blow it's head off. That's the way to welcome these creatures that do nothing but use us, exploit us, penetrate our airspace and suspiciously lurk around military bases for whatever reason. To me, they aren't a direct threat in the sense they are going to wipe us out. I think it's worse: we might be like cattle: reared and used.

Richard Thomas: As someone who writes about UFOs and related subjects have you ever felt a little like the character played by Roy Thinnes in The Invaders yourself?

Nick Redfern: LOL. A bit! I do get around a lot doing investigations and travelling about; and on-the-road investigations have a lot of intrigue and adventure attached to them. So, yeah, in that respect. But, unlike the David Vincent character in the show, I've never been shot at by aliens or been on a UFO! Maybe one day though!

Richard Thomas: I understand you had the chance to meet Roy Thinnes once. How did you meet? And did you manage to get his take on UFOs or anything like that?

Nick Redfern: Yeah, I did; and he's a really cool guy. We met at a TV shoot about 3 years ago. He was very down to earth, no ego, and was happy to chat and hang out. Yes, he's very interested in UFOs, and knowledgeable too. There's a few other people from TV sci-fi I've met too, and who were cool to chat with, and who were refreshingly completely lacking in all that Hollywood "don't talk to me" bullshit. One was Dean Haglund, who played Langly - one of the Lone Gunmen - on The X-Files. Like me, he's a big Ramones fan, and we had a good chat about music and stuff. The other was Chase Masterson, from Star Trek, and a lot of sci-fi films, who I hung out with for a couple of days last year.

Richard Thomas: What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any new books or has anything grabbed your attention recently?

Nick Redfern: I'm working on a couple of books: one on a US Government think-tank that investigated alien abductions back in the 80s. Also, a book on mystery animals of Staffordshire, such as sightings of big-cats, phantom black-dogs, etc. And I have a book coming out later this year that I think you will find interesting titled Sci-Fi Secrets, which is a study of how the worlds of official secrecy and sci-fi have crossed paths.

Richard Thomas: Sci-Fi Secrets sounds excellent, hopefully we'll be able to do another interview on that sometime. Thanks again.

Nick Redfern: Cheers Richard; you're welcome.

Richard Thomas, BoA UK Correspondent and Columnist.