Archive for the ‘Colin Baker’ Category

Colin Baker (1986)

September 22, 2009

Here’s another Colin Baker interview, this time conducted shortly before ‘Trial of a Timelord’ was shown. From his comments about Mel, he seems to be about a week into the schooting schedule for ‘Terror of the Vervoids’. He also discusses violence in ‘Doctor Who’ (which was receiving a lot of criticism at the time), his friendship with Patrick Troughton and his desire to have the Brigadier return to the series.

Q: How did you prepare yourself for the role of the Doctor?

A: John Nathan-Turner lent me a lot of tapes; of Pertwee, Toughton, and Hartnell, and Baker mark one. I watched the tapes, not with a view to copying any of them, but simply to assimilate what it is that is the Doctor, that is, in addition to whatever the actors bring to it. But it is very much a part that depends on the personality of the actor. Producers cast because they see something in you that they want to bring to it. But I did have meetings with John and the script editor and the Head of Series and Serials, and I said what I thought I could do, and what I’d like to do in addition to that, and they seemed to like that. I wanted to bring unpredictability to it, and I wanted to highlight the fact that he was not an Earth person, and that he came from this place called Gallifrey, and therefore he was not going to behave in the way human beings would expect him to behave. I wanted to do things quite deliberately – like not crying when a person dies, but being extremely angry about other things.

Q: Did you consciously try to make your portrayal almost the opposite of Peter Davison’s?

A: No, not consciously the opposite of anybody. I didn’t decide on my Doctor as a result of the previous ones at all, really. I did what I would do, no matter who had played it before. Presumably, any contrast was dictated by the choice of me. Obviously, I am different from Peter. Peter is a much more introspective person, much more of a matinee idol sort. I’ve tried to get little echoes of my predecessors; Hartnell’s irascibility, the disrespect for authority of Troughton, the derring-do that Pertwee had, Tom’s irreverance and weirdness, and Peter’s innocence and honesty.

Q: What story did you most enjoy doing?

A: I most enjoyed doing ‘The Two Doctors’, because of working with Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines. Pat, I’ve adored for many years, and I’ve known him for a long time. I was best man at his son David’s wedding, and I shared a flat with David for ten years, so I’ve known Pat off and on, and always admired his acting, and adored his Doctor, so to actually work with him was a special treat.

I was a bit in awe, actually, but that was dispelled in a couple of days, and Frazer also is a delight. Frazer and I got on extremely well, and we larked around a lot, and Pat treated us like an affectionate… I’d say father… but he’d be offended. No, I’ll say father anyway, because he calls me Miss Piggy at the moment; I call him Gonzo.

Q: Which story have you least enjoyed doing?

A: I suppose it was ‘Timelash’, which never quite gelled for me. I thought it was actually much better than it was going to be. I thought it worked extremely well. Pennant (Roberts) did a good job on it. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it, it’s just that of that particular series, it was the one that didn’t work for me. I don’t think that the Doctor’s element was as strong as I’d have liked.

Q: Who are your favourite enemies?

A: My favourite enemy is the Master, because Sherlock Holmes has his Moriarty, and while most monsters have no particular desire to destroy the Doctor, the good thing about the Master is that it’s a personal matter, so there’s great opportunity for confrontation. I would like, and haven’t yet had, a really thundering good Master story. I would also love to work with the Rani again. She was a wonderful adversasry. But after the Master and the Rani, I would say the Daleks and Cybermen come joint second, along with Sil, who is in the new season.

Q: What do you think of Mel?

A: We’ve only done a few days so far, so we haven’t quite worked out who we are, and what we are, but I think it’s going to be excellent. I think Melanie’s been conceived as being a little more ‘up and at ’em’ than Peri, and less complaining than Peri was, and in fact in a certain sense the situation is being reversed, in that she’s so keen that I’m the one who is saying ‘Hey, hey, just a minute, shouldn’t we think about this?’

Q: Would you like to have more than one companion?

A: I think the problem with having more than one companion is that it makes it extremely difficult for the writers to maintain a narrative, because you have to have a separation between the Doctor and one companion, which means that you’ve got two threads. I thought, for instance, that Turlough was a fascinating character, and I’d love to work with a character like that. With someone as strong and definite as him, then you would be all right having more than one.

Q: Would you like to meet the Brigadier in a future story?

A: I’d love to meet the Brigadier. I know Nick Courtney well, having met him at many conventions, and he’s worked with all the Doctors. I think it would be very sad if that was not continued. I know that JN-T says that he cannot conceive that Doctor number six will not meet the Brigadier, so I’m sure at some point it will happen.

Q: Do you think the programme has become too violent?

A: I didn’t think it was, but I can understand that others would miss the point, when the violence they complained of was in ‘Vengeance on Varos’ in particular, which was a programme saying ‘Violence is bad for you’. I can understand that some people would miss that message and just see hte violence. The good thing about ‘Doctor Who’ is that it does carry messages. Behind every story, if you look for it, and particularly if it was written by Robert Holmes, it’s usually making some other point. I think the tolerance of violence on television goes with swings of the pendulum, and we have to go with whatever is publically acceptable.

Q: How long do you intend to stay with the programme?

A: I think that’s probably in other peoples’ hands, rather than my own. Say the choice was mine; when I started doing this, I said that Tom Baker’s record of seven years was awfully attractive. I’ve done it three years now, even though we’ve only done two seasons, and I’m enjoying it. So I see no desire on my part in the near future to stop; also, I’d like to beat the episode tally! In order to do that at the present rate, I’d take about twenty years, because in Tom’s day they were making twenty-six episodes a year, now we’re down to fourteen.

Q: What are your feelings about the twenty-third season?

A: I’m very excited by the new season. The trial has a great many twists. The three stories are all very diferent stories, and there are also interconnections in them. There are lots of layers, and it’s very, very complicated, which I rather like. I like things you can’t understand. I think we have to get away from viewing figures. The BBC is about providing television for everyone, not necessarily at the same time. You can have seven million people watching one programme, and then going and doing something else, and another seven million watching the next one. The BBC has stood for quality for so long, it would be a shame to allow it to be watered down.

Colin Baker (1987)

September 17, 2009

Here’s a pretty angry Colin Baker talking to ‘The Sun’ in 1987 about his sudden removal from ‘Doctor Who’. He’d hoped to remain in the role for a number of years, so to get the boot after just two fairly short seasons was clearly a shock.

“I couldn’t take (being sacked) in, it was such a shock. I’d fought so hard for the show, I was stunned. What I couldn’t accept is that Grade didn’t have the guts to tell me man-to-man. If I knew why I was sacked then I would feel better about it all. But I got fobbed off with excuses about Grade thinking three years as Dr. Who was long enough. The fact is I only made 26 episodes before he cancelled the show. When it started again there were only 14 episodes. Hardly a long run, is it? All I wanted was a proper explanation. Many people believe, as I do, that I have been treated shabbily.

“Grade didn’t want me to say I had been fired. My boss, Jonathan Powell, the Head of Series and Serials, said that the BBC would stand by any statement I made. He strongly suggested to me that I should claim to be leaving for personal reasons. They actually wanted me to come back and do four more episodes, just so I could be killed off and fit in with their plans! I told them what they could do with their offer.

“I’m by no means a rich man from ‘Doctor Who’ because they never repeated any of the shows I did. I earned around £1,000 an episode and I was paid by Australian and American television companies who bought the show. But all the promises of extra money from spin-offs didn’t really materialise. Only small amounts of money dribbled in. But I was happy in my job and I was convinced that I was a good Dr. Who – certainly on an equal footing with my predecessors. I would have liked to have carried on for a good few years, and I believe that’s what should have happened.

“How could they expect viewing figures to rise when (Trial of a Timelord) was slotted in at such a bad time? Even so, five million viewers isn’t so bad. The Wogan show doesn’t do much better than that, but you won’t find Grade moaning about a show that’s his brainchild. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from the viewers. Fans have made the job really worthwhile.

“I can honestly say that working on ‘Doctor Who’ was one of the happiest working experiences of my life. It was a fantastic team and there were always plenty of pranks. Once, when the production team discovered I was terrified of spiders, they set me up. I arrived in my dressing room to find they’d festooned the place with massive plastic spiders, even to the extent of filling the loo with them. There was never any bitchiness on the set – unlike a lot of BBC series.

“There have been times when I felt like just throwing everything in. I have considered selling up and moving to a little place in Cornwall. I wouldn’t mind running a corner shop and leading an ordinary life. I honestly do still dream that Grade will turn up on my doorstep and say it has all been a terrible mistake, but I realise that this will never happen now.”

Colin Baker & Nicola Bryant (1992)

August 25, 2009

This is a transcript of Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant at the Visions convention in the US in 1992. It’s a long one, but it covers a lot of ground, including the fan crusade against John Nathan-Turner, the bizarre attempt to sue the BBC for not making ‘Doctor Who’ in the 90’s (!) and the lack of interest some people on the show had for even the most basic matters of continuity.

Q: What have you been doing since ‘Doctor Who’?

CB: (laughs) Well I’ve been doing a lot of theatre. The only television was something I did for the Children’s Channel, which is a cable / satellite channel in the UK, but nobody’s seen it because nobody’s got cable / satellite in England. And I did one episode of ‘Casualty’, which is a sort of ‘Hill Street Blues’ in a hospital, but I’ve been doing theatre, seven or eight plays one after another. I did ‘Run For Your Wife’, I just finished ‘Death and the Maiden’, which is a 1992 Olivier Award winner, which is the same as your Tony awards here – not with me, the good ones left and they got me. It’s actually on stage right now in Wolverhampton with me in it. Tricky, that, isn’t it? But they have these things called understudies.

That play finishes tonight, so I then go back to England on Sunday night, Tuesday I drive up to Sunderland where I’m putting on a show as a production company, at the Sunderland Empire, presenting, trying to write, I’m doing all the linking stuff for it. That’s on next Thursday, to celebrate the fact that Sunderland’s now become a city, my company was asked to put a show on. Then on Sunday I start rehearsing for a pantomime, ‘Dick Whittington’ in Weymouth from the 9th of January, then I’m open to offers.

17th January we’re both filming with Bill Baggs to finish off the latest of his ‘Stranger’ films, that’s a trilogy. or a multi-gy, we hope, lots and lots of them. The BBC owns ‘Doctor Who’ so no-one else can make that, but Bill Baggs is a resourceful fellow and he’s written a series about a man called the Stranger, who travels through time and space with a lady called Ms. Brown, played by Nicola Bryant! And we battle evil people who happen not to be Daleks or Cybermen. It’s a very neat way of continuing without… It’s video only, it’s not broadcast.

Q: What about Nicola in the past five years?

NB: Um, what have I done?

CB: Well that’s enough about Nicola.

NB: Notice some things never change. The first thing I did after ‘Doctor Who’ was going to the West with a play with Patrick Macnee, called ‘Killing Jessica’, and it was originally a TV movie shown in the US called… (pause) I’ve forgotten, which is very clever of me. Anyway, so I did a West End show for about six months, then I went and did a season at Chester, a variety of roles, ‘Come on Jeeves’, upper-crust characters, a whole of things, then I did ‘Blackadder’, the Christmas special, then to the West End for a very political play about the Falklands, four characters stating their opinions about the war and none of them really budged on their opinoin, and the play didn’t fall on any particular side, so depending upon the politics of your audience on any particular night, you were either very popular or in a lot of trouble. I’ve done lots of other theatre, the most recent of which was a nine-month tour of ‘The Great Gatsby’, playing Daisy Buchanan, which was the first time that play had been done in England.

Q: How did you get the part in ‘Blackadder’?

NB: At the time I  auditioned, I was playing Honey in ‘Who’s Afraid of  Virginia Woolf?’, and Honey has a particularly odd laugh, she just laughs hysterically from one crisis to the next, and when I went to the audition Ben Elton wasn’t there but he’d left a message with Richard Curtis that he wanted someone who could do a funny laugh. A lot of it was improvised during rehearsal, it wasn’t in the script. So I said I was playing Honey and I gave them Honey’s laugh, and they liked that. Then in one rehearsal Ben Elton came in and said ‘I’ve decided it should be something like a machine gun’ that you can’t switch off, you just press the button and it starts. He wanted something that would get on your nerves. I kept going off to the ladies’ loo and coming back, saying ‘How’s this one?’ and eventually I came back with this high-pitched soprano machine gun that he thought was right for the character, and he started writing bits about the ornaments falling off the shelves and things like that. A lot of that was improvised.

Q: Both of you have done mostly theatre since ‘Doctor Who’, is that because you’re typecast?

CB: (laughs) It’s entirely because I’m typecast. Typecasting isn’t anything to do with audiences, really. Audience, I find, will accept anybody in anything, they quite like seeing people in other things. What happens is producers don’t want their new piece prejudiced by preconceptions about whoever’s playing that part, so if you’ve played something very high profile on television, it tends to be qutie some time before you get any more television. And my Doctor was very specific, he wasn’t a kind of, well you wouldn’t fail to notice him… so the end result is I don’t get offered much television. Also unless you’re under contract, television tends to be quite short, a week or two, whereas theatre is often six months. As I have a young family to support, I have to go with that. That’s the reason. If you ask me which I prefer, I much prefer television. I know that’s not what actors normally say, they like to get the buzz of the live audience, well I like the buzz of going home at night and seeing my family. I enjoy working in television studios, I enjoy working on a bit and getting it right, or as right as you can, then moving on to the next bit.

NB: I had a lot of offers for screaming American teenagers when I left ‘Doctor Who’. Every part that had a screaming American teenager landed on my door. And I was very lucky to get ‘Blackadder’, because a lot of casting directors think I’m American, and it goes the other way because they might want an American but they go ‘No, we don’t want her, we’ve found out she’s English’, so you can get caught between that sort of problem and the fact that ‘Doctor Who’ is a rather strange show, in that they think it’s a children’s show, yet it’s under drama, and if you’ve made yourself a large-size character (laughs) it’s very difficult to break that image. These casting directors most of the time won’t take the time to meet you and discover you can do many other things. As Colin says, it’s not the audience’s fault, and it’s not the same in America. In England it’s ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve seen them before’. It’s a different attitude. I do love doing theatre, but I like doing something different every time, not just the character but the medium.

Q: Has it caused any regrets, doing the part in ‘Doctor Who’?

NB: No.

CB: No, I wouldn’t be asked to do all these plays if I was ‘Doctor Who’. I mean it’s a two-edged sword, it’s slowed down my rate of… before I did ‘Doctor Who’, I used to do television all the time, but as soon as you become identified with something then you’re stuck for a while. But soon I’ll be an unknown face again, which will be quite useful.

Q: Tell us about John Nathan-Turner, because there are these right-wing fanzines that blame him for all the problems with ‘Doctor Who’.

CB: Well I have extremely strong opinions about that, I feel very very sympathetic towards John because what he’s done for the programme is ten times what anyone else has done for it. There’s a tiny, tiny coterie of fans who are very frustrated because they’ve never been producer of the programme, they’re mainly in Britain, but there are two or three that I could name but won’t, in the UK, who have made it their lifetime job to do everything they can to sabotage John Nathan-Turner, and I think it’s miserable, petty, ghastly behaviour and I think they’re worms that ought to be trodden into the ground. (laughs) Don’t mess around, Colin, tell them what you really think.

But John was the producer for a very long time, and he’s responsible for it being over in the US and he came over and marketed it, he always cared about the fans, he always made sure people like myself and Nicola came to conventions when our first inclinations were that we weren’t too sure about it. He persuaded people like Pat Troughton, who never wanted to talk about the programme, who found out he loved it! And John kept the programme on the air in Britain, he was the only person fighting for it. Witness the fact that now he’s been ousted, there’s nobody in the BBC who’s waving the flag.

But those same people are still campaigning to get rid of the little bit that John’s still doing, he’s working on the videos and they’ve orchestrated a sort of hate campaign based on his choice of videos now! It’s so stupid, and it’s all jealousy, simple jealousy. I think the right-minded fan… it’s like all vocal minorities, they can swamp the majority, which covers a wide range of opinions, I’m not saying that everyone agrees with everything John’s done, of course he’s made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes, you’ve made mistakes. But they’ve said ‘Doctor Who has become a pantomime’. One article said that once. I don’t see men dressed up as women, that’s pantomime, I don’t see terrible jokes, apart from mine, and that’s my choice, not John’s. John is a friend and for a while he shrugged it off but now it’s beginning to get to him. If some people want to make someone unhappy, that’s up to them, but I think the rest of us should make sure that’s not allowed to continue. I rest my case.

Q: They seem to be unable to divorce personal opinions about the man from thoughts about the programme.

CB: Yes, and he’s set himself up, being involved with the programme for ten years, there’s an awful lot of stuff there to criticise, or to praise. Other producers came in for three years, didn’t give a hoot about the programme, and popped out again, and they’re kind of safe because they haven’t done anything controversial.

NB: He took all the risks.

CB: I think the fact that the BBC gets these very irritating letters from these fans less likely to bring the programme back rather than more likely.

Q: What do you think about this idea of them suing the BBC for not making ‘Doctor Who’?

CB: It’s ridiculous. You can’t sue an author for not writing a book you like, nor can you sue the BBC for not producing a programme you like. It’s a bizarre nonsense. It’s simply a matter of law, you can’t sue a company for not making a programme you like.

Q: Do you think the public stations in the US, and the Sci-Fi Channel and PBS and cable stations, could have any influence, by saying that the overseas sales are strong?

CB: No, sorry, I once had dinner with a nice man called Ray Kraft, alas no longer with us, who was president of Lionheart Films. He said to me, at the end, ‘Colin, when you go back to England could you tell Michael Grade we need more episodes? You’re making 22, we need at least 52’. I said ‘Hang on, I have no access to Michael Grade’. A lead actor in the US will probably know the guy in charge, that doesn’t work in the UK, actors are employees. I have no say with the top brass, and if I meet them it’s only for a nod at a cocktail party and they probably haven’t got a clue who I am.

If you bear in mind that the BBC is an organisation that annually has received more from ‘Doctor Who’ than it’s cost to make it, it’s got 28 years of product to sell, any other organisation would have a vested interest in keeping it going. But because the income doesn’t go back to the programme, it goes to the general BBC coffers and is spread very thinly, so the programme-making arm of the BBC has no incentive whatsoever to make more of it. You also have producers there who have projects, and if there are ten of them coming and saying ‘I want to make this’, and there’s no-one coming saying ‘I want to make Doctor Who’, then there’s no-one batting for it.

Q: Do you think the plans to make the Doctor a less likeable character might have been a mistake? And do you feel that during the hiatus, you were very vocal and you were ousted because of that?

CB: To be honest, I wasn’t that vocal, it’s one of those things that’s been perpetuated by fan magazines. I didn’t really speak out, maybe I should have done. Actually, I was quite careful not to criticise anyone for the simple reason that I didn’t want to be hampered with the baggage from that, so I don’t think that’s a reason. I think it’s more casual than that,  I don’t think any attitude towards me caused any of the decisions anyhow. I don’t think they were aware of my existence!

I thought it was quite exciting to have a character who was a little inaccessible, a little enigmatic. I don’t know if you have this experience in your life, but I have it in mine, the people who are my best friends are the ones I didn’t like much at first. Some of them I loathed at first. There’s a book called ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I don’t know if you’ve read it, there’s a character in that called Mr. Darcy who for the first two thirds everyone thinks is the villain, they think he’s a deeply selfish swine because he doesn’t go around wearing his virtues on his sleeve. And I think those characters are very interesting, and I wanted to play the Doctor like that.

Q: I think a lot of people liked that in the character. Your Doctor seemed more personally violent at times, and I didn’t have a problem with that, but some fanzines did.

CB: If the character was just slightly different all the time, but basically the same, if you have twelve versions of yourself, as we discovered with the Valeyard, who’s a kind of interface between two versions we discovered, there are going to be different qualities. It’s more interesting.

Q: Isn’t it true that every new Doctor has a period when they have to be accepted?

CB: Oh yes, I mean the hardest job was poor old Peter after seven years of Tom. Tom being such a strong and particular Doctor, I mean every interview I get with non-fans has ‘Where’s your scarf?’, but Tom was the only one who wore a scarf. But the scarf’s so associated with a lot of peoples’ idea of what ‘Doctor Who’ is about. So Peter has a tough job there, actually, which is why he chose to play it totally different. You have to overcome, in that case it was a generation of children. A young child will have seen as his Doctor only Tom Baker for about six years, and suddenly it changes. Nobody likes change.

Q: A lot of channels, when they start showing ‘Doctor Who’, they start with Tom Baker.

CB: Well I suppose they thought they couldn’t start with black and white. You can’t start a show in black and white. They had seven years of Tom Baker to get the show started.

Q: Do you know anything about the lost season, in particular the unknown story of ‘Penecasata’?

CB: All I know is that I read ‘The Nightmare Fair’ and thought it was a damn good story. I knew there was an Autons in Singapore story. And that’s all I know!

Q: They’ve been novelised, some of them. But not ‘Penecasata’.

CB: (‘The Nightmare Fair’) got as far as a full script. I read the ‘Nightmare Fair’ novelisation and I enjoyed it, having been very excitied when I read the script for it.

Q: There have been comments that one of the problems with ‘Trial of a Timeload’ was that it was confusing for the actors. Was that true?

NB: No, it’s not confusing for the actors because we film in bits anyway. One day we’re filming a sequence where you go into the TARDIS, and the next day you’re shooting a scene that relates to something you shot two weeks earlier. As an actor you’re always working in bits, and it’s up to you to keep a track of the story. I think the only problem of making it bitty was that as a programme you’d just get into a drama sequence, then you’d get thrown back out again into the trial. Whether that was the best thing, I don’t know, but it definitely wasn’t confusing for the actors.

CB: I was very confused by it, but I had a very different problem, especially in ‘Mindwarp’ because there was a point when I said to Eric Saward, the script editor, ‘When I’m tying Peri to this rock and threatening to torture her, am I doing it for some subtle reason of my own, because I think I’m being watched or whatever, or because I’ve been affected by the mind probe, or is the Matrix lying?’. Those were the three alternatives as I saw it. He said ‘I don’t know, you’d better ask Philip Martin’, so I got in touch and gave him those three alternatives, he said ‘I don’t know, Eric wrote the trial stuff, all the Matrix stuff was added after, by Eric, you’d better ask him’. So I went to John Nathan-Turner, he said ‘Oh, whichever you like’. This is the level of involvement at the time. Eric was going through his own problems at the time, disagreeing with John Nathan-Turner on all sorts of things. I felt that was all very sloppy, it was all cobbled together a bit. The stories were written independently, and the trial theme was put on top. I felt it was the Matrix lying, so I really was torturing Peri. But it was very difficult. You expect the writers to know what’s happening, but that’s not always the case.

NB: It’s like finding out later that suddenly I ended up being married to Yrcanos, when we were never playing that. You think ‘I might have played a couple of scenes slightly differently if I’d known that was what was happening’, and it’s not the way the script was written, it’s not the way either of us were playing it.

Q: You can tell it’s hacked on the end.

CB: That was my fault. I said ‘No mention is made of whether what happened to Peri is true or false’, and they said ‘Well what do you want?’, I said ‘I want to know your intentions’, they asked me! And I said ‘Well I’d like Peri to survive because I like her and she can come back’!

Q: You said the other night that the BBC probably won’t bring back ‘Doctor Who’, but they’ll probably bring back something to replace it. How would you feel if that something was ‘The Stranger’?

CB: I think there’d be absolutely no point the BBC bringing back ‘The Stranger’, because if they’re going to do that, they might as well bring back ‘Doctor Who’. Whatever fiction we all put together for the purposes of avoiding litigation, the similarities are so close that they might as well use the property they’ve got. I wasn’t the one who said they’d bring back something to replace it, I think they’ll bring back ‘Doctor Who’ or something totally different.

NB: It’s like the attempt at ‘Star Cops’.

CB: Every now and then the BBC have dabbed in sci-fi. They did a series called ‘Moonbase’, they did two or three series of it, I never see it shown now.

Q: It was destroyed, that’s why.

CB: Oh was it?

Q: The BBC wiped it all. Speaking of development of the Doctor, how did you get the part in ‘The Ultimate Adventure’?

CB: Well I got the part because when they decided to do it, they approached all the Doctors, a kind of blanket approach, and I think at the time two of them said ‘Yes’, that was Jon Pertwee and myself, and because Terrence Dicks who wrote it had worked with Pertwee he was keener to write for Pertwee, so they went down the Pertwee path, as it were. But just as it was beginning, Jon said that three months was his maximum, and they wanted to get six months out of it, so they asked if I wanted to do the rest of it. I said ‘Yes, I would’, so I met up with Terrence Dicks, who asked me what alterations I’d like, and it struck me there was no point making any, if he could trust me to change a few lines here and there that were hyper-Pertwee, as it were. Things like ‘reversing the polarity of the neutron flow’, and even then I just changed it to ‘reversing the linearity of the proton flow’ as a little homage.

The only change I made was that I had all the lines that Pertwee had written all over the set rubbed out, because I  could remember them. Sorry Jon. And I developed a different relationship with Zog, I think Jon felt that Zog was a little furry alien who was a companion, he was extremely cute, and I think Jon felt it was distracting from his charm as the Doctor so he tended to ignore it. But I thought there was potential for humour with Zog, so we built up a relationship.

Q: Nicola, as Peri you had a lot of screaming to do. How do you feel about Ms. Brown, is she more like the character you’d like to have been as Peri?

NB: When I first auditioned for Peri, the description was ‘tall, blonde, leggy Californian’, so I said ‘Yeah, I can play that!’ (laughs), but the character wasn’t very well formed and as the auditions went on over a few months I finally got to read the first draft of ‘Planet of Fire’. I thought she was obviously an intelligent young girl, extremely unhappy family background, young, naive, but a spunky little kid. So I thought there was a good chance of taking this somewhere, because (a) it was the beginning of her growth period mentally, and if she starts out as a courageous kid she’s obviously going to expand from that, and I liked the fact that in the very first story she was giving the Master what-for, and I thought ‘this is good’. And I expected the character to develop from that.

But by the time I got into my second season, they just harped on about the bickering between the two of us, and the language thing, and stories popped up like ‘Timelash’ and they seemed to forget where the character had come from. I was much happier with ‘Trial of a Timelord’ because at least they acknowledged that time had moved on and their relationship had changed, because if they’d gone on the way they were going they’d have killed each other, or she’d have said ‘for God’s sake, get me out of here’, or Colin would have said ‘get out’, because there was no reason for them to stay together. That seemed to get lost. But I would have taken her in a different direction if I’d been in the driving seat.

Q: And Ms. Brown in the Bill Baggs stories?

NB: Yes, it’s a little closer to what I would have done. Especially in the second story, she’s a little more intelligent, it’s not a case of… she’s dealing with situations herself and using the Doctor in a different capacity. And the story that we’re filming at the moment is extremely interesting, and I can’t reveal why, but it gives us a chance to form something new.

Q: You mentioned making script changes in stage productions. Did you have that power in ‘Doctor Who’?

CB & NB: No!

NB: I think I got about three words changed. I got ‘mincer’ changed to ‘meat grinder’, I remember that was a long saga, that took three weeks, I would say ‘I’m sorry but you don’t say mincer in the States, you say meat grinder’, and they said ‘no-one in England will know what a meat grinder is’, I said ‘Well cut the lines, I’ll say something else’, and it was like the whole thing about saying ‘cop’ when I’m American. And then there were times when we’d say ‘I can’t say this, because four stories ago we established that I never knew this’, so when he says ‘Shut the TARDIS door’, I can’t do it if I haven’t been shown. And most of the time they’d listen to you, but it was always ‘How annoying of you to remember that’.

CB: I remember once, at the beginning of ‘Trial of a Timelord’, being whipped into the court and I said to Eric Saward ‘last time we met the Timelords, the Doctor was the president of Gallifrey, wasn’t he?’, and he said ‘Was he?’, I said ‘Yes, I remember Peter being made president in The Five Doctors’. He said ‘So?’, I said ‘Well all he has to say is I’m the president of Gallifrey, sod off all of you’. So he said ‘We’ll put a line in if it makes you happy’, so they put a line in ‘You’ve been deposed’. But it happened by chance, I knew very little about the history of the programme, there should have been more thought going into it, I thought. I didn’t often get lines changed, but I got lines put in, most of them puns. It was agreed that my Doctor would be allowed to make awful puns.

NB: The only thing I got put in was something that came up in the BBC canteen at one point, we were talking about the budget and John Nathan-Turner said one of the things we got a lot of letters about was that it was very obvious that we built two corridors and ran between them. And I said ‘Well why don’t you stick a line in about it?’, and he said ‘Like what?’, I said ‘Well every time you go somewhere, the companion says All these corridors look the same to me’, and that way it was part of the story, that’s why they got lost!

Q: Did you also get very little input into your costumes?

CB: (laughs) No, Nicola chose hers.

NB: Madonna copied me years later. I was very happy in my first costume, it was very sensible. I was in cotton clothing, but the press made such a big to-do about me being in a bikini, big centre-spread in the ‘Daily Star’, and the ratings shot up and I think John Nathan-Turner thought he’d found a good thing so I didn’t get dressed again, really in ‘The Caves of Androzani’, which was ludicrous because there we were filming in Lanzarote in October, and then in November we’re filming the next series and it’s minus two or three, Peter’s in two layers of thermals and I caught pneumonia and got  frost-bite. And I wasn’t happy running around in shorts all the time, because that had nothing to do with the character that I started out with. I imagined sneakers and jeans and sweatshirts and T-shirts, you know.

Q: Sophie seemed to do pretty well.

NB: Yeah, well I think we went through a sudden fashion change as well. Suddenly we went in for this much more masculine dressing for women. A whole change of fashion happened, so I think it was much easier to choose another young person and let her make a fashion statement. If the press had just ignored it, I think I would have gone into jeans and T-shirt. When I auditioned, that’s what I wore. Then when it came to the press release, John Nathan-Turner said ‘Wear something clingy and short’, I said ‘I don’t have anything like that’, and he said ‘Don’t you have anything that clings to you?’, I said ‘I’ve got a leotard’, he said ‘Wear that’! It was the only thing I had. So I wore that for the press release, and John very kindly handed me this bag as I went to get changed, it was cotton wool. He’d brought me a load of cotton wool to pad my bra out because he thought there was nothing there. Which was rather funny when I put the leotard on, gave him a surprise.

CB: I was asked what I’d like to wear, and I said I’d like something black, a bit austere, ruffled sleeves, long black coat, black trousers. They said ‘That’s the Master, really’. So then John said ‘I think it should be really tasteless’, and he kept coming up with these designs and it’s quite trick for a designe, because you want to do things that are tasteful. Poor Pat Godfrey kept coming up with design after design, and in the end this collection of clashing materials came together and that was chosen. I never cared for it very much, but I was on the inside looking out, I didn’t have to look at it, you did.

Colin Baker (1986)

August 17, 2009

This is Colin Baker’s 1986 appearance on ‘Wogan’, covering such topics as lucky underwear, American ‘Doctor Who’ fans and people mistaking actors for the characters they’re playing.

Q: You’re not scared of monsters, are you?

A: No! I’ve been to the BBC canteen. Nothing can frighten me!

Q: Are any of your family scared? I know you have small children, do they look out for you?

A: The one who’s most frightened is my own wife, who actually wouldn’t come to the studio when we had Daleks there. She’s a grown woman and should know better, but she’s terrified of Daleks, and I told her that, you know, they’re not always real. Occasionally there’s one with a little man running around inside.

Q: Why is the old TARDIS a blue police box? I’ve never really understood why.

A: Well 23 years ago when it started, William Hartnell arrived in London in his police box, the TARDIS, and it had this thing called the chameleon circuit, and it didn’t work properly. It was supposed to make the outside of his time machine look exactly right in his surroundings. So in London, fine, but then the chameleon circuit broke and it’s been stuck like that ever since.

Q: Speaking of you as Colin Baker, you weren’t actually going to be an actor, were you?

A: Well, I always wanted to be, but when I was 18, I was shy and I said ‘I’d like to be an actor, please, Daddy’, and he said ‘Wouldn’t you rather be a lawyer’, so I said ‘Mmm, okay’, so I did that for five years.

Q: Then you went and joined rep, did you?

A: Then I went to drama school, I did my stint five or six years around reps.

Q: Hard, was it?

A: Yes. Well, I’d love to say we did twice weekly, but we didn’t, the worst I think was one play for two weeks, but we had our moments.

Q: Is it true, like many actors, you have your little chiblits and superstitions?

A: Is chiblits a posh word for knickers? When I did my first appearance on stage, I noticed that everyone else had their little things that they put around them on the dressing table, their lucky bits and pieces, so I thought that I had to invent a lucky bit and piece of some kind, so I said ‘These are my lucky knickers’ and everyone said ‘Oh, yes, lucky knickers’ and I kept them thereafter.

Q: Now the first time you leapt to fame was in that marvellous series ‘The Brothers’, in which you played a very nasty piece of work, didn’t you?

A: Yes. The readers of one of the national newspapers voted me the most hated man in Britain. I was chuffed at the time. How naive can you get?

Q: And did the public occasionally confuse you with your character?

A: I was attacked occasionally. The less violent ones were the little old ladies in supermarkets who prodded me and told me to leave Edward alone and don’t be mean to Jennifer. But I did actually get physically attacked by an irate driver once who took exception to the way I was driving and said ‘You’re that…’ and I said ‘Yes’, thinking he’d say ‘Oh, I love your work’, but no the first came straight through the window and into the face, and he marched off and got into his car. And I apologised for hurting his hand. He was a big man. A tooth came out.

Q: Men who play villains get a lot of fan mail from women, don’t they?

A: Yes. I got a fair amount. Funnily enough I get more now for playing the Doctor than I did then.

Q: In America, ‘Doctor Who’ is a cult series, isn’t it?

A: Yes. It’s not known to the man in the street, I mean I can walk down the street in New York and nobody will say ‘Aren’t you the Doctor?’ but it’s shown on the public service networks at eleven o’clock every night.

Q: There are ‘Doctor Who’ conventions. Do you go over to America?

A: I do. Those who watch it are potty about it. I mean, here you might get 1% of the people who watch the programme are Fans with a capital letter, but over there 90% of the people who watch it are besotted by it, so you go to conventions in various places, university towns, and thousands of people turn up to touch the Doctor’s hem.

Q: Isn’t it funny that after the sophistication of ‘Star Wars’ and special effects, ultra sophisticated, that this ‘Doctor Who’, apart from having an appearing and disappearing box, the effects aren’t all that good… what do you think the real appeal is?

A: I think that’s part of the appeal, actually. It’s very English, it’s always been plasticine and bits of string and you can’t summon up some piece of high-tech equipment to get you out of a situation, you have to rely on ingenuity. And because the budgets… you know, a special effect in ‘Star Wars’ would pay for an entire series of ‘Doctor Who’, but I think sometimes that can work to our benefit and I think it would be a mistake now for ‘Doctor Who’ to try to compete with the high-tech series.