Sean Carlsen

You may not know the name, but Sean Carlsen has been a regular across the Whoniverse for most of the past decade, appearing in such gems as Torchwood series 2 episode Sleeper (by James Moran) and the Gallifrey series for Big Finish, not to mention a handful of other audio titles.

Sean also played a policeman in David Tennant’s first full episode as the Tenth Doctor, The Christmas Invasion, in 2005. However this wasn’t the first time that the two had met each other; when we spoke, Sean recalled encountering David at an event. “What a nice guy! We sat and chatted for a while, and all the time I thought `have I met him before?`… it wasn’t until I was on the train home when I realised I’d seen him in [pre-Doctor Who BBC drama in which Tennant starred] Blackpool!”

Besides these on-screen appearances, however, Sean has played a key part in a couple of Big Finish’s spin-off series over the past few years – every Doctor Who fan’s dream! Spotted on stage by (Big Finish head honcho) Jason Haigh-Ellery, Sean was given a couple of CDs (“I remember one was Sword of Orion and the other was the first Charley Pollard one, Storm Warning, about the R101 disaster. I thought they were cracking!”) and invited to send in a showreel.

Unfortunately, however, Sean was overlooked for some time, mainly thanks to his material being misplaced and remaining unrecovered until Big Finish moved offices. It wasn’t long before then-producer Gary Russell was in touch, offering Sean a role in 2004’s The Natural History of Fear alongside Paul McGann and India Fisher.

It turns out following further discussion that as Doctor Who fan himself (“I used to buy DWM in the 1990s”) Sean was a big fan of the Eighth Doctor. “I really love Paul McGann’s Doctor. I think the TV Movie was much maligned, it had a lot going for it… the script wasn’t the strongest but everything else like the design and the feel of it and the Doctor above all else was great, I loved his Doctor!”

“If that had been my only association with Doctor Who I could have died happy having it on my CV – that would have been great. To work with Paul McGann was great – he was a really nice guy… we had a break during recording and we were talking about plays and I mentioned a play about the First World War and it’s a subject that I’m passionate about and he’s very knowledgable about, and he suddenly came alive. Of course he was in (classic BBC serial from 1986) The Monocled Mutineer which was something I watched as a boy and I had to pinch myself: here I was in a studio with the guy!”

Thankfully, Sean was already in mind for something else… “We were in the pub afterward, me, India, Gary Russell and Conrad [Westmaas, audio companion C’rizz] and India turned to Gary and said `Sean was really good you could use him again!` And Gary uttered in his inimitable manner `hmmm` and I thought that was that!” Yet a few months later Gary Russell called Sean offering him a part in a new serial – picking it up at his local post office, Sean couldn’t believe it: “I didn’t realise it was the entire series he had offered me!”

In his hands were four scripts for the first series, and it seems Gary Russell had omitted to mention that he was offering Sean a regular role in an audio series with some of his childhood heroes – Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and Mary Tamm – not to mention John Leeson! “I couldn’t believe it – here I am working with these guys!

“I just felt very fortunate and privileged and I still feel that and appreciate Big Finish and Gary using me. It’s a job I love doing, I’m working with people I grew up watching and respect, and in that respect Gallifrey was just terrific!”

Playing the shady yet admirable Coordinator Narvin, Sean has become a staple ingredient of the sprawling political machinations of Gallifrey, challenging Romana, sending Leela on errands and generally making his presence felt. A new fourth series of Gallifrey is released in March 2011, five years after the third. So why the wait?

Doctor Who - Gallifrey cast photo“As you know, season three ended on a controversial cliffhanger – a lot of fans said `you can’t leave it there!` But it was never Gary’s intention to leave it there – he intended to do another series but the more busy he was with BBC Wales and Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures and so on, the less likely it seemed it would happen.”

“I was at the Regenerations convention at Swansea last year and Gary came up and said `I might have some work for you` and I said `Oh what’s that?` and he said: `a fourth series of Gallifrey!`”

Recorded in September and November 2010, the series features episodes from David Wyse “a big Doctor Who fan” and Gary Hopkins, as well as a script co-written by Gary Russell and Scott Handcock.

Interestingly, Gary Hopkins has also previously contributed an episode of I, Davros, another Big Finish series in which Sean has appeared. It’s interesting that Sean Carlsen has appeared in some of the more politically-toned Big Finish productions rather than the standard Doctor Who action adventure releases.

“Yeah, I only just realised this recently myself! Obviously Gallifrey is political and I know The West Wing was a big influence on it and obviously I, Davros is quite a political story in its own way as well, and The Natural History of Fear is very Orwellian and has shades of 1984.

“I’m just happy to do anything Big Finish put my way, but certainly with Gallifrey I absolutely love doing and from time to time I’ve been lucky enough to do a Doctor Who from time to time, such as the one with Paul, and I’ve done one with peter and just recently we had the Sixth Doctor in Gallifrey so that just leaves Sylvester doesn’t it?!

“And Tom Baker of course!”

Available this month from Big Finish, Gallifrey Season 4 can be purchased on CD or MP3 from

(Many thanks to Sean Carlsen and David Richardson for their help with the interview.)


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