Victor Pemberton (1980’s)

Here’s Victor Pemberton talking to DWM about working on ‘Doctor Who’ during the Patrick Troughton era, as well as his script for ‘The Pescatons’ and his enduring interest in the sea.

“We had great fun producing ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’. I remember we introduced those little Cybermats. They were entirely Kit’s idea, because he was a great scientist and a very scientifically-orientated man, and in a way they almost wrote the thing around the Cybermats. The special effects team actually built them, but they came to us for the idea. It was quite a spooky story, because all the Cybermen were in ice tombs and they came back to life – like ‘Frankenstein’. But the Cybermats were better and in those days, they would have made lovely toys and we used to play with them.

“Two of us worked on ‘The Moonbase’ with Peter Bryant, although I can’t remember who, I’m afraid. It was all about people’s veins suddenly being brought out onto their faces and I remember (as an actor) spending two hours with make-up every morning, having these ghastly veins painted on our faces. I played an astronaut on the moon, and we were exploring when something nasty overtook us and I died the most hideous death I know.

“After that I had a break, and then came back for the Dalek story. Innes Lloyd asked me back, and we did ‘The Ice Warriors’ with Peter Barkworth. None of us thought he’d do it, because ‘Doctor Who’ didn’t seem his cup of tea, but still he came. It was the same job with the Yeti story. Assistant script editor. We usually came in to do additional dialogue when the writers weren’t available. It was always last-minute hitches, and it’s quite a nerve-racking business being an editor, because you must learn to be an instant writer, especially during rehearsals.

“They asked me to write a serial called ‘Colony of Devils’. In many ways it was ‘The Slide’, the same sort of idea. But it came at a time when the North Sea gas fields were just being discovered, and I thought it would be wonderful to create a kind of sinister story around these gas fields. Natural gas being pumped out through the pipelines affected some seaweed, which turned nasty and produced this foam and gas that came through people’s gas ovens and affected them. It was helped along by two very sinister people, Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill, who became a sort of evil Laurel and Hardy, one always talking, the other silent. They were the accomplices of the kind of root centre of the nasty organic creature.

“A lot of Quill and Oak’s stuff was toned down, because they wore these boiler suits and it looked like ordinary people who knock on your door. I remember that the one who spoke was terribly polite and really quite chilling. I remember there was a Times article about ‘Doctor Who’ at that time, asking just how far the programme could go to draw the line between adult and children’s entertainment. In those days, they thought, we were scaring the pants off the kids, when in fact we were getting letters saying they loved it all – kids like to be scared. The only thing I didn’t like was that they changed the title. To me, ‘Fury From the Deep’ smelt of a Hollywood ‘B’ movie but I guess the producer, Peter Bryant, liked it.

“The man at Argo Records who did ‘The Pescatons’ was Don Norman, who certainly knew I’d done ‘Doctor Who’ before, but also knew me because his agent used to be mine as well. It was purely a matter of knowing my work and needing someone who could do it quickly. However, they didn’t really know what to do and ideas were thrashed out by myself, Don and Tom at a visit to Tom’s house.

“I feel there’s a great deal of menace in the sea. I’ve always felt so. Even as a kid, I used to stand down on the seashore at Brighton or Southend and watch – during winter – the waves smashing against the rocks and thinking it’s menacing. It’s so very big and so very wide and so very everything.

“I don’t think ‘The Pescatons’ would have worked on television. They were too big and really only for records. I did once get approach by Anthony Read to write during the end of Tom Baker’s years on the programme, but I was working at that time and sadly had to say no.”

Click here for Victor Pemberton’s website, which has a lot about ‘Doctor Who’ as well as his other work, including his successful career as an author and the time he met Laurel and Hardy.

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