Doctor Who Alumni Team Up For British “Paintball Expendables”

Last week, I got Tony Lee chatting. Like really chatting. Chatting so much that I’ve come away with an hour of fast-paced rat-a-tat audio recorded on my phone.

Normally, after an interview, I transcribe the subject’s words verbatim, do the necessary formatting and post pretty much intact. I couldn’t possibly do that with Tony. Not if I still wanted to have fingerprints at the end of it.

Still, a lot of what he said has to remain secret for now. Exciting stuff. Stuff I’ll get to later, when the time is right.

But here’s what I can share now.

Thanks to his work writing the IDW comics series, Tony Lee has spent a lot of time at Doctor Who conventions, and therefore a lot of time in the company of other Doctor Who associates. Amongst them was Frazer Hines, the longest serving companion in the history of the show.

Lee said:

Frazer was Jamie in Doctor Who so obviously he does a lot of the conventions. We found ourselves, often, in the same airport lounges, and we just chatted, got to know each other. So we’ve known each other for a while now.

And while Frazer has done a lot on stage, and has been getting back into film lately, he was saying that he wanted to do some more film work. And he pointed out that there were a lot of other folk who had the same problem – all of the younger performers coming up and taking all of the roles. So I suggested “Why don’t you make your own film? Why don’t you come up with something that will get you all together?”

Hines agreed that this was a good idea, but he didn’t have a whole film in mind – just one detail. That he’d like to ride a horse.

So the specifics fell on Lee, and he drafted up the first version of what is being called, for now at least, The Mild Bunch. That title should tip you off that there’s something of a Western vibe at work here…

I spoke to Hines to clarify some of what Tony told me and he gave me the go ahead to name some of the other attached cast members.

Also from Doctor Who, there’s the sixth doctor, Colin Baker; from Only Fools and Horses – and Doctor Who story Seeds of Doom, there’s John Challis; and then there’s Vikki Michelle, formerly of Allo Allo.

And then there’s… some other names we’ll get to at a future date. When ink has dried.

Hines made the cast’s enthusiasm clear:

They all want to start shooting tomorrow! They’re ready to go. You’ve got four names there, with big fan bases, and we know the fans want to see them back in action again.

He’s not wrong.

I’ve had a breakdown of the whole plot, but I daren’t spoil it. In a nutshell, though, it’s about a group of 1981 paintball champions reuniting now, in 2012, when they’re supposed to be past their prime. And they stand up to some… disruptive younger elements. Yoots. Here’s the beginning of the big pitch:

The Magnificent Seven… paintball champs of he Middlesex and Hertfordshire Paint Ball League. These guys were the best, unbeaten, top of the league – until they broke up acrimoniously. Incredibly acrimoniously in fact, over twenty five years ago. After one single incident, they never met up as a group again.

Until now

…and now the rusty gun must be holstered. The tin badge must be shined. But will our Magnificent Seven ride again?

There’s a wild west frontier town – in the UK. There’s a saloon. There’s a face off at high noon. And there’s an awful lot of paintball pellets being let loose in some clever, crafty action sequences.

It’s an actual proper action film, it’s a drama, and in part, it’s a character comedy. It’s about a lot more than nostalgia, too – Tony has taken care to actually dig into some thematic material about ageing, trans-generation clashes and the dangers of pride. It’s more Unforgiven and Big Chill than The Expendables in some ways, but there’s a lot of fun adventure stuff too, particularly once the first act is done setting everybody up.

Hines has been thinking of this project as a possible TV endeavour – a one-off comedy drama, and those are the possible co-producers he’s been speaking to; there is, as Tony was at great pains to point out, also real possibility of Mild Bunch being a feature film – and there have been talks with co-producers on that front also.

I spoke to Hines about a gentlemen of his seniority carrying off the action demands of this film:

Oh, I’m fine. You should see me playing Cricket – I slide and dive all over the place.

It’s going to go a little beyond a game of Cricket with Mild Bunch, of course.

More developments are due soon. Watch this space.