The shabby treatment of a fine actor and an even better man.
James, along with many other LGBT figures including several trans people, sign a letter asking Stonewall to reconsider its hardline, extremist position on transgender policies. The letter called on Stonewall to "acknowledge that there are a range of valid viewpoints around sex, gender and transgender politics...acknowledge specifically the conflict that exists between transgenderism and sex-based women’s rights and commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate, rather than demonising as transphobic those who wish to discuss or dissent from Stonewall’s current policies.":
Nothing controversial there, you might think. But if you are new to this debate, you may not know how vindictive, cruel and homophobic trans rights activists can be for even the slightest digression from the orthodoxy.
'Doctor Who: The Home Guard' announced for release in November 2019. This will be James Dreyfus’ second released performance in the role of the Master, following “The Destination Wars”, December 2017. (We stress 'released' because Big Finish record these productions years in advance and we believe there is at least one unreleased episode featuring James as the Master.)
'The Home Guard' also stars Elliot Chapman, who we’ll come back to shortly.
Dreyfus is front and centre in their publicity and Big Finish aren’t shy about his participation at all at this stage. The few negative comments about him on these posts don’t provoke any reaction or response from Big Finish either.
Note that the dissent/uproar is fairly muted at this early stage. Gareth Roberts (another gay man) being dropped by the BBC Books anthology hadn’t yet happened. After that, these issues were much more visible to both Doctor Who fandom and also the public at large. (Liam: It’s certainly what brought me into the conversation. If I read these threads at the time, the word “terf” wouldn’t have even registered with me).
Doctor Who: The Psychic Circus announced for release in February 2020. Dreyfus is still being promoted as a selling point by Big Finish. They appear to have completely ignored any of the dissent from their March announcement but the Gareth Roberts debacle has happened since then and trans rights activists really aren’t happy that Big Finish are continuing to work with Dreyfus. (A lot of this stems from a lack of understanding that most of these recordings were completed months, if not years, beforehand.)
Here’s the Twitter announcement, where Dreyfus himself wades in.
The Facebook announcement, which has much less in the way of outrage in the comments (which probably says a great deal about the type of people who loiter on Twitter vs. Facebook).
I remember there being a great deal of comment on Twitter outside of this actual announcement thread as well, people saying they didn’t feel “safe” buying Big Finish product anymore and the like.
It was in response to this outcry that Big Finish released this statement the following day. It remains their only public statement on the matter.
Furthermore, it was this that prompted Elliot Chapman to post the following about Mermaids.
Mermaids is the 'charity' that once advised a mum to force her son to live as a girl, worked with a doctor who escaped to Spain when it was discovered she was prescribing hormones to underage kids , and whose marketing manager tried to have a trans woman arrested for 'transphobia'.
Big Finish won’t respond any further to demands and enquiries from fans, so after that, it’s tumbleweed for a few months.
The Home Guard is released, alongside another title, “Daughter of the Gods”. Big Finish’s website announcement heavily profiles the latter title, along with the artwork, and barely mentions the Dreyfus-starring “The Home Guard”.
Here too is before-and-after cover art for both The Home Guard and The Psychic Circus. While both retain Dreyfus's image, his name has been removed from the guest cast list of the final products in both instances.
So by now, it seems pretty certain that Big Finish aren’t going to be working with James anymore.
It’s at this stage also that Elliot Chapman confirms that he’s made his donation of his full “equivalent” fee to Mermaids - as well as imploring his followers to do the same! - and also announced he’ll no longer be playing Ben Jackson for Big Finish.
Though he stresses this decision is not connected at all to the Mermaids donation and the reasons for that, it’s difficult to draw any other conclusion. He was one of the first actors Big Finish used to “recast” a TV character on account of the original actor having passed away. It was something they were reluctant to do for years out of respect to surviving cast members but eventually decided to take the plunge a few years back and Chapman’s rendition of Ben went down very well indeed. So it seems odd that he’d pack it in lightly.
Big Finish announce January 2021 release for “Masterful” - a celebration of 50 years of the Doctor’s arch-villain starring every living actor to have portrayed the role on TV and in Big Finish audios… except Dreyfus.
That just about completes the story, except to say that “The Psychic Circus” was released as scheduled in February 2020, but with very little fanfare and social media posts avoiding the use of any imagery including Dreyfus. And Dreyfus, having since returned to Twitter after a bit of a break, seems to have confirmed he’ll not be doing any more work with Big Finish.
Liam, who helped assemble this timeline, says "There will be at least one more title to come at some stage, with James starring alongside Tom Baker. It could be a couple of years before it appears, but it will be worth watching the outrage froth up again from people who don’t understand it’s been in the can for years, and also to watch how they promote it without mentioning him in the publicity."
Remember this is all because he signed a letter asking Stonewall to "commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate", something they flatly refused to do. If you are shocked by the disgracefully shabby treatment of a gay man, please consider putting your name alongside his.