Anthony Ainley, who died just a few years ago, had quite a hard task taking over the role of the Master, as he acknowledges in this early interview. I met him once, back in the 1990’s when I used to go to conventions. I forget where we were, but a friend and I were in the queue for breakfast on the last morning, and somehow got talking to Ainley, who was in the queue ahead of us. He was very friendly, and as he walked off, he said we should join him to eat. A few minutes later, we noticed him sitting alone in the corner, at quite a large table. We thought he wanted to be alone, but we also worried that he might think we were ignoring him, so we went and joined him. It was fun, although he did seem to excuse himself pretty quickly after he was finished eating. Still not sure if we got the social niceties right on that one, but anyway, here’s the interview:
“I was lucky enough to be in ‘The Pallisers’, which was a big production BBC series. John Nathan-Turner was working on that. He remembered me and later asked me if I’d like to play the part of the Master. It’s an added hazard doing parts somebody else has done. The obvious risk is that you may be compared; thought not to be as good as, that sort of thing… Nevertheless, I don’t think I was ever in real trepidation, because the Masters is such a good part and such a joy to do. At the back of my mind, there is always the thought that everyone enjoyed Roger Delgado’s portrayal, but that just means I’ve got to be pretty darned good in return.
“I believe that if you are tackling an acting job, a lot of it has to come from you, from your gut reaction to the script. You have to feel for your instincts in tackling any dramatic role, really. It mean, if it all came externally, none of it from you but from what people are trying to impose upon you, then I think it is nowhere near as interesting to do. I don’t really like to talk about acting, but I do feel that if it comes from you, then it will be real, it will be exciting and it will be believable.
“What’s interesting is the kind of letters one gets from ‘Doctor Who’ fans. On the whole, they are very intelligent… and they tend to know more about the part than I do. As an age group they all tend to be under thirty. What surprises me is that they tend to be over twenty and a fifty-fifty mixture of male and female. I’m not playing a heart-throb figure so I don’t get a large female outpouring in terms of the content. Roger was charming, I’m not – you can’t help that. You’ve either got charm or you haven’t and I haven’t got much!”