Contemplating the Infinite*
The actor, radio producer, and occasional writer, Scott Fredericks (born Frederick Wehrly, 1943) died on the 6th of November 2017.
Although known latterly for his work with Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), a considerable number of science fiction fans will remember him for his guest roles in two iconic British shows, and for the spin-offs, crossovers and transformative works inspired by two of those stories in particular, in both of which Fredericks played his characters as bisexual. The better known of the two was the psychostrategist Carnell, whose first appearance was in the Chris Boucher penned episode of Blakes 7, ‘Weapon’. Carnell had been hired by Supreme Commander Servalan to predict the actions of various characters, in order to enable her to secretly gain possession of an innovative and deadly new device. In the course of his few scenes, Carnell flirted with both Servalan, and the decorative young officer who arrived, in Servalan’s absence, to deliver a report to her. This latter scene, apparently, deviated somewhat from the expected stage directions, to the discomfort of the actor playing the staff officer. This, of course, delighted Fredericks, who reputedly thought the added frisson greatly enhanced the effect (as did the rest of us).
The character of Carnell was resurrected by Boucher for his Doctor Who spin-off novel, Corpse Marker, in which the Fourth Doctor and Leela return to Kaldor City, which was previously mentioned in the TV story ‘The Robots of Death’, and encounter the psychostrategist subsequent to his flight from Servalan and her Federation. The events and characters of the book went on to form the basis of Alan Stevens’ Kaldor City audio series, featuring original cast members from both series’ relevant episodes along with other Dr Who and Blakes 7 alumni. Carnell featured in five out of the six plays, as well as in some of the intermediate short stories, now reproduced on the Kaldor City/Magic Bullet website (www.kaldorcity.com), and Fredericks was very supportive of the team and their subsequent endeavours.
The Kaldor City series culminated in a story, Daniel O‘Mahony’s ‘Storm Mine’, which drew heavily on ideas from the episodes that featured one of Frederick’s two Dr Who guest appearances: ‘Image of the Fendahl’. Neither Carnell nor Frederick’s Dr Who character from that story, Max Stael, feature in the audio; however this is a great excuse to mention that Fredericks again played Stael as interested in both his male and his female co-workers.
It was Carnell, however, who inspired the greater proportion of fan discussion and transformative works, appearing in a range of fan fiction and fan art as well as inspiring the recurring character, Socioanalyst Carnac, in Manna Francis’ near-future dystopia: the Administration Series (www.goodreads.com/series/51021-the- administration). Part of the joy of both Carnell and Stael is that while neither is on the side of the good guys, their moral ambiguity is a character facet entirely separate from their sexuality – something not always clear in other bad guys of the era, who were coded as queer by their stories’ writers. And that was entirely down to Scott Fredericks’ performance, sometimes against not exactly great lines in the case of his Dr Who characters, taking interactions that could have been entirely neutral and turning them into that subtle flirtation, which he was also known to do in real life.
I met Scott on a number of occasions during the first decade of this century, spending the most time with him at Redemption 2007. That was the convention of the ‘Gratuitous Space Lesbian’ T-shirts and badges, and Scott wore both at various points during the convention with his accustomed charm and poise. We lost touch somewhere around 2008/9, but I always assumed we’d meet up again through mutual friends, or at another fan event. Scott’s death leaves a definite hole in my psyche, but I have some great memories of him to look back on (not to mention all the CDs: official and otherwise, and DVDs).
* “Almost the only thing I never find boring: contemplating the infinite.” Carnell, Blakes 7 Series 2, Episode 3: ‘Weapon’