Martin Jarvis appeared in ‘The Web Planet’, ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ and ‘Vengeance on Varos’. Here, he talks about TV violence, Jon Pertwee getting his nose pulled by a child, and keeping his wings on for lunch:
I remember it took an awfully long time to get the make-up on and off during ‘The Web Planet’. Daphne Dare was the costume designer, and she said to me ‘Martin, would it be alright if we don’t take your wings off at lunchtime?’. I said it was fine, anything was fine, but at lunchtime I remember going to the canteen, which was two floors up in the lift (laughs) and having to get into the lift very quickly. That was with William Hartnell, who was ill a lot. He wasn’t there very often when we were rehearsing. And then I was having difficulty with my lines because it didn’t come too naturally to me to talk in that (high-pitched) voice, and he (Hartnell) would be standing there saying ‘Come on boy, learn your lines’. But he was great, very pleasant. There was one other very nice person it it, she played the voice of the spider in the web, her name was Kate Fleming. The reason I knew her was that she’d been the voice tutor at RADA, where I’d studied, and she had this absolutely wonderful voice, perfect for a spider in a web in ‘Doctor Who’.
Jon Pertwee was the Doctor when I played a character called Butler. I wanted to do ‘Doctor Who’, because the children said ‘Daddy, can you be in Doctor Who?’ as if I could wave a magic wand, and I managed to get the part of Butler. He had to be given a christian name, because they didn’t want people thinking he was the butler. Then I did Jeeves. You know this thing about mobile phones in audiences, it’s a great problem, this happened when we were at the Helen Hayes theatre on Broadway. It was a fidgety audience, it was Saturday night, that’s always a fidgety night, for some reason Saturday night is always a difficult performance for the audience, for the actors. And in a scene, there’d been a lot of coughing from the audience, and suddenly a mobile phone went off, and I heard John (playing Bertie Wooster) say to me ‘I say Jeeves, did I hear a cellphone?’, which got a huge laugh, and I heard myself say ‘I hardly think so, Sir, they haven’t been invented yet’. And the Saturday night fidgets stopped for that night.
I joined ‘Doctor Who’ for six episodes, playing a young, slightly villainous scientist who was the sidekick to an older, more manic scientist played by Peter Miles. Somebody brought their kid to the set, we were in the middle of filming, and he sees Jon Pertwee over there in his lovely velvet jacket with his mop of hair, and the kid goes (shouts and points) ‘There he is!’ and he ran over, ‘Aaaaaaaargh!’ and (grabbed Jon Pertwee’s nose). Jon was going ‘Get him off me!’. It broke the set up for about half an hour. But I have to say that Pertwee was a marvellous man to work with. He was great. And everybody brings their own thing to ‘Doctor Who’, this is the great thing, you had Bill’s slightly grumpy, professorial style, and Tom of course, wonderfully eccentric. And the dapper, fashionista Pertwee.
Then there was Colin Baker, who I joined for a very peculiar two-parter, which was a great script, ‘Vengeance on Varos’. It was a very Shakesperean script by Philip Martin, and I played this sort of Brutus character, a very Shakesperean character – was he a weak man, was he a strong man? This was in about 1984 or 1985, and it predicted what eventually happened in television. It was a parody, and the idea was that the people who watch television have the power, and you press the red button or the blue button and the governor is voted in or out, he’s in an electric chair, a torture chair, and there were questions asked in the House (of Commons) about this episode, and whether it was suitable fare for children. I don’t know if ‘Doctor Who’ is for children, I think it’s for everyone, but there was still a feeling that this was for children, it was on a Saturday night. And Jason Connery was also in the episode, and there was a part where he was going to be hung. There was a noose, and it was quite dangerous. I don’t think it’s ever been repeated. It’s on video, but I don’t think it’s ever been repeated, because the BBC were rapped on the knuckles for it. But it was a really good script, it was actually saying what a difficult society we’re entering, it was a brilliantly prophetic script. So that’s my contribution to ‘Doctor Who’ and I’m very grateful for it.