Here’s an extract of Frazer Hines talking about his time working with Patrick Troughton. You can hear the original here. It’s interesting to hear him suggest that Troughton’s cough was his way of stalling for time so he could think of his next line, which is similar to suggestions that William Hartnell used to say ‘Hmm?’ a lot for the same reason.
Q: You joined in Patrick’s second story and carried through to the very end. Was that because you two worked well together?
A: I don’t know, it was up to the people upstairs, they could have written me out after six months, a year, or whatever, but they must have realised the chemistry was working. I think I’m the longest running male assistant. I’d never have left, I was having so much fun, but I had an agent at the time who was saying ‘You must leave, you’ve done three years of television, you need to do films’, and Patrick’s wife at the time was saying (to him) ‘You’re a much better actor than children’s teatime television, you should be doing bigger things’, and I still say to this day, if he hadn’t had that woman nattering in his ear, they’d have had to shoot us and drag us kicking and screaming out of the TARDIS, we’d still be there now.
Q: Patrick’s time is rather under-represented by complete stories, the vast majority of his are either entirely missing or only partly complete.
A: Yeah, it’s amazing, but last year Wendy (Padbury) and I were doing one of the DVD’s, and we said ‘I wonder what this would cost to produce today?’, and one of the lads produced this huge old solicitor’s folder, tied up with pink ribbon, blew the dust away and read out ‘Well Frazer you were on £64 an episode, Ronald Leigh Hunt was the guest star, he was on £120, the whole show cost £20,000’… And I thought, well why didn’t they keep the show? They kept the paperwork so they could say ‘Well last time you worked for us, Frazer, you only got £64!’.
Q: And you were in ‘Silver Sword’… A lot of your body of work is missing, isn’t it?
A: Yes, (I was in ‘Silver Sword’) when I was about nine or ten, I think. That was with Shaun Sutton, who was head of children’s television later during ‘Doctor Who’s time.
Q: C.E. Webber wrote it –
A: Ian Serraillier wrote it.
Q: Yes, but the dramatissation was by C.E. Webber, who was one of the writers who was going to be involved in ‘Doctor Who’ when it started but wasn’t in the end.
A: Oh really?
Q: How did you get that job?
A: I’d worked with Shaun Sutton before in a thing called ‘Huntingtower’, a John Buchan novel. I didn’t have a terribly great part, I was playing Napoleon, a little fat boy. And he remembered me, I didn’t audition for it, he just rang up my agent. I did another thing for him called ‘The Long Way Home’, and I worked with him and David Goddard quite a few times, and David Goddard went on to be one of the first producers of ‘Emmerdale’, which is how I got that part.
Q: How did you get the part in ‘Doctor Who’?
A: They said ‘How would you like to be in six episods of ‘Doctor Who’?’, Shaun Sutton knew I could do a Scottish accent. No audition, no reading. Innes Lloyd was a lovely man, sadly missed, he was a gentleman, a real gentleman of television. He was an ex-Navy man. I always remember him picking me up at location one day (during ‘The Highlanders’), saying ‘Come back with me, don’t go in the mini-bus’. He had a little VW beetle, we were driving back, he said ‘Well, Frazer, you’re settling in okay, how do you fancy joining the old TARDIS crew for a while, maybe another year?’
Q: It worked so well, didn’t it?
A: That’s right. I was only supposed to be in for six episodes. In fact we filmed at Farnham Common, where we filmed a lot of stuff for the BBC, I waved goodbye to the TARDIS crew, and that was it, me and my laird and Hannah Gordon. And then around episode three they decided to keep me on, so we had to go back and film me going into the TARDIS, and waving goodbye to my laird and Hannah Gordon.
Q: Hard work?
A: It was hard work, because we shot it almost as live at Lime Grove, and when that red light went on at night you could shoot maybe three scenes in one go. Whereas now they’d shoot all the interior scenes of the TARDIS in one go, all the baddies in one go, we would shoot it as live from page one, right through to the end in story order, which they don’t do now. And they didn’t have the wonderful tape editing facilities they have now, and so if something went wrong in scene three they couldn’t cut it and say ‘We’ll go from there’ so we’d have to go back to the first scene, and so the pressure to do that, and luckily we’re all theatre-trained, but the pressure to do that was enormous.
Q: So you’d get all the hi-jinks out the way in rehearsal?
A: Yes. We found that if you tried to be serious from day one, by the fifth day when tiredness is setting in… You know, people get the giggles when they’re under pressure.
Q: Patrick was notorious, I think, for getting the meaning across but not entirely sticking to the script. Was that difficult?
A: No, I mean I’m a bit like that. It’s like a stage play, you learn the story first, then you learn the lines because your brain knows the story. A lot of actors who’ve learnt it parrot-fashion go on stage and then one day they dry up, whereas I would just think of another word and say it. You don’t throw people, because you’re working with good people. On ‘Emmerdale’, if you were supposed to say ‘Let’s go to the Woolpack’, and you said ‘Let’s go to the pub’, there’s a couple of actors who’d say ‘No, sorry, you’re supposed to say Woolpack’… I think soaps are very good like that, you just learn and paraphrase a lot. But with Patrick, he’d always do that little cough, and I think that was his brain going ‘What’s next?’
Q: When you did ‘Emmerdale’, was it like ‘Doctor Who’ or was it filmed set by set?
A: Set by set. You’d do all the filming one week, then all the studio. One director tried to do all the studio stuff first, we said ‘No, you’ve got to do the filming first’, so what happened? We did all the studio first, a lot of scenes of people coming into the farm, complication, it’s suddenly raining. We’d already done dry scenes, so we couldn’t film. You did the filming first so there was continuity, you could wet your shirt, your jacket in the studio. Luckily, we were all sort of stage trained, so we were used to doing twenty-five pages in one go, whereas in television nowadays four pages is quite a lot.
Q: Do you have any favourite memories from working on ‘Doctor Who’?
A: Yes, working with Patrick… I tried to get him into ‘Emmerdale’, but the producer said ‘Oh no, I’ve heard about you two’. At conventions, people say ‘How can you remember so much?’. I think if you’re having happy times, you remember, if it’s a sad time, your memory tries to erase it. I had such happy times. Never once did Patrick and I, or Wendy or Deborah, have a cross word. Those three years in ‘Doctor Who’ were the happiest years I’ve had in acting. Sixteen years in ‘Emmerdale’, sure, but those three in ‘Doctor Who’, working with Patrick, were the happiest. And Patrick, God bless him, in a book said ‘The happiest time I’ve had in my life was working with Frazer Hines’, which brought a lump to my throat.