|Was there an AV Conspiracy? (Part One) by Leo Garet|
The following article was sent to Sloth from what he can only assume to be a forged address, since all attempts at tracking down its source have failed. The e-mail stated that this first apppeared in the November/December 1998 issue of "Timepieces", an obscure, but scholarly British fanzine. All attempts to track down a copy of the issue (or any issue for that matter) have also met with failure. In the interest of exploring the ideas raised in the article, and in the hope of finding a resolution to the mystery, we have decided to reprint it here as-is.
WAS THERE AN AV CONSPIRACY?
by Leo Garet
Upon first discovering the sheer number of pseudonyms employed by Nicholas Briggs during the period he worked on "Audio Adventures in Time and Space" (a surprisingly popular British fan-made tape series set in the "Doctor Who" universe - see sidebar), many people are apt to wonder just where Mr. Briggs managed to find the time. Indeed, the truth runs much deeper than any fan of the series might expect. Quite simply put, Nick Briggs wasn't just the AV's hardest working team member, he was its only team member.
There never was anyone involved in the AVs except for Nick Briggs. All the voices, all the scripts, all the artwork, and all the music were actually done by Nick under his various pseudonyms (or Nick-names as he preferred to call them).
Well, to be fair, that's not entirely true. There was the experimental artificial intelligence unit (code-named AInsworth and Nick-named John) which was loaned to him semi-permanently by MI6 in order to perform certain, unspecified tests.
Early on, Nick had cleverly managed to convince British Secret Intelligence that AV was, in fact, a high-tech firm, based in Surrey where the best and the brightest had been assembled to create ultra-monarchist propaganda which could be delivered at a sub-conscious level. The plays were simply one such system of delivery. The AI helped with the day-to-day operations at Audio Visuals.
Surprisingly, the whole deception could very easily have fallen apart way back in the late 80s. The amateur series had begun to generate a certain level of good buzz within the fan community, and, as a result, the media came calling. Would Nick cut his losses and run? Most people would have, but, for Mr. Briggs, the game had taken on a life of its own.
Nick spent the night of October 23rd 1986 hammering out detailed profiles for each of his creations. Writing up dozens of mock interviews for each character, he sent them off to the various fanzines around the world using yet another pseudonym. Desperate for any news of the AVs, the inexperienced fanzine editors [including this one - ed.] accepted these prepared interviews, submitted by one B.S. Elliot, without question.
As for the mainstream British press, Nick agreed only to do phone interviews, claiming that it would ruin the magic of the AVs were people to actually see the faces behind the voices. Or, as Nick put it in one such interview: "We don't want people to be limited in their perceptions of what these characters look like. Why go to all the trouble of describing a Temperon if the audience are only going to envision it as looking like David Sax."
But when "Doctor Who Monthly" insisted on doing a major spread for it's Winter Special, Mr. Briggs just couldn't resist. His clever solution? To people his small home studio with actors hired to play the roles of his various alter egos.
Nick paid these actors using some of the money which had been earmarked for the upkeep of John, the AI. The transactions were administered through a numbered account, registered in the name of one Warren Martyn, the supposed president and CEO of AV Technologies.
Fortunately, he had named one of his key identities after a child actor whom he'd seen back when he was only a boy. This was Gary Russell. Of equal fortune for Nick, was the fact that Russell, now far too old to play Dick on TV, was ready and willing to take on what he would call "the most challenging role of his life".
After an initial spending spree, it soon became obvious that the money wouldn't see him through the year at the rate he was parceling it out. Once again feeling imminent discovery breathing down the back of his neck, Nick hit upon the only workable solution he could think of: He would hire a core group of actors who could then cover all of the other roles by claiming that they were actually their own pseudonyms. After all, If Nick could do it for real, then why couldn't these young actors pretend to do it?
The plan was a success. The photo shoot went over better than he could ever have hoped, but Nick knew that he had created a monster in order to slay a dragon. For now he had to maintain, not only his own fiction but that of the other actors as well. Production slowed to a crawl, and his script for the ten-tape epic, "Hallucinomatrix", proved to be completely unworkable. What was he to do?
As a way of deflecting some of the blame from himself, he decided to move Gary Russell into the producer's position. Among the changes which "Gary" was to announce would be the edict that AV would start to release their plays only when they were completed to the "team's" satisfaction.
Gary also took a particular interest in the AI, and asked if he could take charge of it. Nick who had found AInsworth to be more trouble than he was worth, gladly gave his consent.
In spite of this, however, Nick was still extremely confused, and it began to seep into his writing more and more regularly. He could hardly remember exactly who he was supposed to be at any given moment, and could often be heard to snarl to himself the words which would become his vitriolic mantra for the next several years "I am just us!". It was only a matter of time before the inevitable breakdown.
It all came to a head while taping a "Myth Makers" interview with Mary Tamm late in 1991. Having spent the previous thirty two hours piecing together a script entitled "Nick Briggs Kills 'em All! All of 'em, I tell you!", an apparently psychotic Briggs, began to fall to pieces.
According to one ReelTime crew member who claims to have been present during the taping, a disheveled-looking Mr. Briggs slumped onto the set ten minutes late, took one look at Ms. Tamm, asked her why Tom Baker hadn't married her, then proceeded to bray "like a demented foghorn" directly in the poor woman's face.
At first Ms. Tamm was taken aback by Mr. Brigg's extremely odd behaviour. However, when the interviewer began to accompany his vocalizations with a series of increasingly lewd hand gestures, Ms. Tamm quickly switched into a defensive mode.
"I don't know where she picked it up", claims one crew member, recalling the event, "but she just delivered this wicked series of high smart kicks dead centre onto Nick's skull. It was just one after the other. Bam!Bam!Bam! Like that."
The force of Ms. Tamm's repeated blows eventually knocked Mr. Briggs from the raised set. The former "Doctor Who" star hopped down after the cowering interviewer and proceeded to pummel him "as if she were giving him a smack for every letter of the alphabet and then some."
"We would have tried to stop her ourselves", claims another ReelTime crew member, "but she had this real dangerous look in her eyes. Plus we all thought that Nick really deserved it after all he'd put us through over the years."
Bootleg videos of the incident are constantly rumored to be circulating throughout fandom, though no one can be found who has seen a copy.
"If anyone has the original, it'd be Nick's yes-man Gary (Russell).", points out one former ReelTime crew member. "He was always hanging about the set in those days - him and that creepy robot of his. Most of us thought he was blackmailing Nick, even then. If he has the tape, then he's certainly got the leverage he needs."
Ms. Tamm eventually left the set in a dazed state. A few days later, suffering from "exhaustion", she would voluntarily check herself in to a chic suburban London clinic.
Where Mr. Briggs had once stood tall and strong, she had left a crumpled and bloodied heap. After a time, an ambulance was called, and Briggs was taken off to hospital.
This was to be the beginning of the end for the once proud Mr. Briggs. Whatever sway he may have once held over the small troupe of meek actors, was all but dissipated as he hovered between life and death in the tiny private hospital room.
One even wonders why he didn't simply allow himself to slip gently into that good night. Perhaps he feared the revelations which might come upon his death.
Whatever his inspiration may have been, the bent and broken mastermind was far from finished. Within a week he was on his feet again. At three weeks he was walking. And by five, the speech centres of his brain had fully recovered.
Briggs eventually discharged himself from the hospital and immediately set to work on wrapping up the AV series forever.
By late 1992 the task had finally been completed. It had been a long, excruciatingly slow process, but the tapes for "Justyce" were at last going out in the mail. For the first time in nearly ten years, Nick was able to put the horror of the AV experience behind him.
But the monster - the monster which he had worked so hard to create out of thin air - simply refused to die.
(end of part one.)
[NEXT MONTH, IN PART TWO OF HIS SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE FEATURE, LEO GARET DETAILS NICHOLAS BRIGGS CONTINUING CONNECTION WITH THE VIRGIN AND BBC NOVELS, BIG FINISH PRODUCTIONS, AND HOW HE FINALLY GOT BACK AT MARY TAMM BY CREATING AN AUDIO SERIES BUILT ENTIRELY AROUND LALLA WARD - THE SECOND ROMANA!]
|Audio Visuals : Audio Adventures in Time and Space|