Archive for the ‘Companions: 1st Doctor’ Category

Maureen O’Brien (2009)

January 3, 2010

Here’s Maureen O’Brien, during a rare convention appearance, discussing her time as Vicki in the 60’s. It’s long been noted that she didn’t have a particularly good time on the show, but she seems enthusiastic here, and it’s interesting to hear that apparently they’d play the theme music before recording an episode, in order to get in the mood!

I’d never seen ‘Doctor Who’. I didn’t know anything about it. It was a job, I didn’t know… I just went in, said hello to my fellow actors and there we were. I was very happy with them, and I think they were quite happy with me. But in the first week, I thought ‘I’ll never learn this, I have one week!’, and in those days of luxury, if you were working in the theatre, you had six weeks’ rehearsal, nowadays you’re lucky if you have two, but in those days it was good. So I thought ‘How can anybody learn this in a week? It’s not possible!’. With Jacqui and William, and Bill as far as I recall, the script was gone by the afternoon of the first day and I thought ‘Oh dear God, how am I going to cope?’, and I tried and I did actually learn it. By the second week, I suppose you were more relaxed, down went the script, you knew it. Of course you did tend to say more or less the same thing in every episode, if you were playing Vicki

The others were absolutely wonderful to me. I do remember that Carole Ann Ford came on my first day of rehearsal, to say hello and good luck and ‘I had a lovely time, I hope you do’. I was terribly surprised, it hadn’t really occurred to me that… I mean, I wasn’t really into all that, I thought it was very nice. And having been in series after that, you realise how important it is for the regulars in a series to be nice to the people who come in, because it’s nerve-wracking to go in for one or two or three episodes of a series, and if the family, the regulars, ignore you or are horrid to you in some way, it’s even more nerve-wracking

I always thought we did it Monday to Friday in the rehearsal room, and recorded it on Saturday, but Russell (William Russell)… I did a commentary thing the other day with him on one of these newly-released DVD’s, for ‘The Space Museum’, and he said no, we did it on Friday, we had four days’ rehearsal! And we actually went to Riverside Studios and rehearsed with those enormous video cameras trundling around on Friday, and recorded it on Friday evening at seven o’clock. The music would start up, the theme tune, it gave you a… it’s that music, it’s so amazing, it did kind of give you a lift, it made it feel special and you were off.

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William Russell (1990)

October 17, 2009

Here’s William Russell telling DWM about his time as Ian Chesterton, one of the first companions, as well as his first ever convention experience. He also discusses the RSC production of ‘A Clockwork Orange.

“Acting was something I enjoyed doing as a young boy. I found myself drawn towards it. I kept it up when was in the Air Force and organised entertainments for other people. Then, after I left university, I went into rep and continued from there. I think I was rather typecast at first as the dashing young lieutenant or RAF officer, who always seemed to get killed.

“After ‘The Adventures of Sir Lancelot’, I had a marvellous offer from the BBC to star in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ in a great twenty-week series. Then I was offered ‘David Copperfield’, which was still live at Lime Grove, followed by ‘Doctor Who’. Verity Lambert got in touch with me and after various conversations, I went along to meet the rest of the cast.

“We formed a very happy little group. I was very impressed with Billy (Hartnell), he was a true professional. He had all the switches in the TARDIS marked out exactly in his mind. He had the idea of the Doctor always getting my name wrong. Billy wasn’t at all like the Doctor off set, he was just a very professional actor who did his job in his own way.

“We were pushed around a lot sometimes. One of the things we’d always argue about on the studio floor was that certain writers were making us say things that we felt our characters would not say. Eventually we got a script editor, Dennis Spooner, who co-ordinated with the writers and kept an eye on things. We liked to talk a lot about how our characters would develop.

“I remember ‘Marco Polo’ going on for quite a long while, and being under quite a lot of pressure. Despite that, we all enjoyed it tremendously – in fact, we rather enjoyed all the historical stories. Dressing up in the appropriate costumes was always great fun and it looked very splendid. The script was very good, and that contributed to the all-round enjoyment; it concentrated more on the characters, their development and the narrative and so, I think, the story was told in a believable way.

“We didn’t like Carole Ann Ford leaving at all, but we got used to it. In the theatre, people leave all the time and it’s not such a turmoil, you feel they are going on to another job, that’s all. Maureen O’Brien came in and she was a good actress, but she was very different to Carole. I didn’t find her as ‘unearthly’ as Carole was, as regards to looks. I think Maureen looked a more ordinary sort of girl. Out of all the assistants I’ve seen, I think Carole was the only one to have that strange, unearthly quality about her.

“After three years, I think I was getting into the nine to five mentality of it all, and I needed a change. Jacqueline Hill and I left together, and Billy was absolutely furious. We heard stories that he wasn’t really happy with the show after we left, and Verity left soon after that as well. Sadly, I never saw Billy again after leaving the show. We all kept in touch by letters and the occasional Christmas card, but we never actually saw each other again. I have seen Jackie from time to time but Verity became more of a close friend of mine. I hadn’t seen Carole until a ‘Doctor Who’ convention a few years ago.

“I thought the convention was all rather strange and I must admit I found it curious, to have such a passion for something I’d done so many years ago, but I soon discovered the fans are as sane as anyone else. It’s strange to me, because my life has moved on and I’m constantly doing other things. I often find myself at a loss of what to say to people, because they know more about the programme than I do. I’m astonished and very flattered. Even now, people still write to me saying they enjoyed the show very much, and asking for a signed photo. If you think about it, a lot of people are seeing it for the first time and so it has the same effect on them as it did all those years ago. It’s very wonderful to have played a part in that.

“Doing ‘Doctor Who’ didn’t really affect our lives that much at the time. We all got up early, drove into London and rehearsed and then went home; life went on, and we didn’t have much time to attend fetes, although I did do a few public appearances. I finished the show and then went on to do something else. At the time, we used to get requests for photos; nowadays, people send me great lists of questions which I can’t answer because I really can’t recall the show in that much detail. I do wonder what else there is to say about it all. I enjoyed attending the one convention I’ve been to, and I have been invited to others, but there’s very little I feel I can contribute.

“Doctor Who had a very positive effect for me, really, because it was a very successful programme and I enjoyed doing it very much. Anything that gets your name around can’t be too bad. I’m lucky in my work, because I flip between television, film and theatre, so I don’t, in a sense, capitalise on anything I’ve done on screen. I seem to do a few years of nothing but television, and then I go back to the theatre.

“I’m very proud to be a member of the RSC. It’s something in which I believe. It’s very easy for people to attack it, saying it doesn’t earn its keep, but the service it provides is wonderful and worth every penny. It has a huge turnover in plays and entertains a great many people. It bring the theatre to so many people who wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in plays. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ sold out after only three days, and is appealing to a much younger audience. We’ve tried to be innovative with it, and keep faithful to the book while making it as exciting as possible. Most people remember the film but that’s a different medium. I can remember the shock and the controversy surrounding the violence in the film. Today, people don’t seem to be shocked by the violence in the play. I think that’s an indication of how society has become accustomed to violence on the screen.”

Jean Marsh (1990)

October 13, 2009

Here’s Jean Marsh talking about her roles in ‘Doctor Who’, ranging from short-lived 60’s companion Sara Kingdom to ‘Battlefield’ in the original show’s final season.

“I can’t really remember my first ‘Doctor Who’ part, as King Richard’s sister, although I knew Douglas Camfield directed it. Then he asked me to play this ‘Avengers’-style space pilot or something. I don’t know how I ever did it because I spent most of the time laughing along with Bill Hartnell and Peter Purves. They used to send me off the set and say I could only come back when I’d calmed down, which I never did.

“The whole thing looked very glamorous and good on television, but in the studio I thought it was a disaster. Knobs would came away in your hands and the Daleks weren’t exactly impressive to see in real life. But I really enjoyed doing the series because it was so exciting to make, and the best work you do are always the ones that are the most fun.

“I had a wonderful death scene, filmed before I did anything else in the story. I was aged to death, which was done really well. I remember a darling old lady playing my final moments, but dressed in this slinky Space Police outfit and looking really good in it!

“Although I was only in that one, very long story, I always gets lots of fan mail about it. I was so pleased to do another one, playing a wicked queen in the last series. The story was called ‘Battlefield’ and I got to be very wicked but actually very intelligent and rounded, as characters go. I’m very grateful for that.”

Adrienne Hill (1986)

October 9, 2009

Adrienne Hill’s Katarina was the first companion to die in the original series, getting suck out of an airlock after just two stories. Here’s a brief extract from a DWM interview in which she discusses her time on the series.

“The first part I auditioned for was the part of King Richard’s sister, Joanna. That was for Douglas Camfield. Ironically, Jean Marsh eventually got the part. He then called me back a few months later to appear in the Dalek story. I was actually introduced in the Trojan War story, in the last episode. There were some brilliant people in it – Frances White, Barrie Ingham, Max Adrian… they’d been doing it for about a month before I arrived and it was all wrapping up. I can remember going along for the last episode and being terribly impressed.

“I had lunch with Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves and they told me to expect the tight schedule and how to cope with Bill Hartnell. He was nice to me as I told him that this was my first television work and he took me under his wing to guide me. You really had to be on your toes with him, though, because he would often forget his lines and we couldn’t re-shoot things. You had to be prepared to help him out of a situation. Of course, all I ever said was ‘What’s happening, Doctor?’.

“I’m in this chamber, struggling for my life, screaming my head off. Amazingly, not laughing, because there’s this unbelievable line ‘No, Katarina, not that button!’. It was very hard for us to keep a straight face. We were falling about in rehearsal… and then the clip cuts off just before the marvellous death scene, when I did press the button and we were jettisoned into space.

“They cut my best lines about knowing I was destined to die by reading signs and portents. My death was done on a trampoline, with the camera below us. I was jumping up and down to give the impressoin I was floating away through space. I was terribly proud of that – it was actually done before the Trojan stuff. Jean Marsh and I recorded our deaths on the same day, although they were weeks apart when on TV!”

Jackie Lane (1988)

October 3, 2009

Here’s Jackie Lane, who played Dodo for about a year with William Hartnell’s Doctor, talking about her experience with the show. She tells DWM how she originally auditioned for the part of Susan, and how Innes Lloyd ended up dropping her from the show rather unceremoniously, although she later got her revenge.

“I remember auditioning for the past of Susan, back in 1963. When I realised that it was going to be a long running part, I said I didn’t really want to read for the part. I don’t know if they would have offered it to me, but anyway, Dodo came along a couple of years later when I was more prepared to tie myself down to a television series. I was cast by John Wiles but he gave up being the producer after my first story, and Innes Lloyd took over.

“It was very friendly – although poor Bill Hartnell had put up with a lot of cast changes over a short space of time. It was really beginning to get to him. We got on very well, although I wouldn’t say I ever really knew him that well.

“Dodo was very much a Sixties character – I think I was one of the first girls on television to wear a mini-skirt. Because I am so small, it was quite difficult to find trendy clothes in my size, but I selected this Dylan cap and that really started the character off for me.

“I think (Innes Lloyd) had definite plans for the series which neither Steven nor Dodo really fitted, and half way through my first year I was told that Dodo was to be written out. I would have liked a dramatic ending and my farewell just two episodes into ‘The War Machines’, and not even on camera but in reported speech, was a bit of an anti-climax. Still, I got my revenge. I now run a voice-over agency and Innes Lloyd once asked me to find him work. I reminded him that he had once sacked me from ‘Doctor Who’ and said a very firm ‘no’!”

Carole Ann Ford (1984)

September 27, 2009

Here’s Carole Ann Ford talking about her time as one of the first companions, Susan. He discusses the team atmosphere that existed on the show back then, as well as her favourite and least favourite stories, and her feelings about returning for ‘The Five Doctors’.

“Bill Hartnell was lovely. There was a great team feeling. We were in contact with David Whitaker and Mervyn Pinfield all the time. It was a great big cumulative business – a much more chummy, family-type business than I think it is today, possibly because it’s such a big production now.

“The part I was originally offered ended up being something completely different, and if I’d known I was going to be asked to do the lady I finished up doing for a year, I wouldn’t have been quite so happy to do it. I was doing another television play, and up in the control box was not only the director of the programme I was doing but also Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein. I’ve never asked her what she was doing up there, I presume she was just a friend of the man directing it. Whether or not she said to him ‘I’m looking for someone for this part’ and he said ‘Well come and have a look at this girl’, I don’t know. Anyway, they saw I was a good screamer and offered me the part.

“It never had to be made up to time, but we certainly used to put some of our own ideas into it simply because of continuation of character. When you are doing it for a long period like that, inevitably new directors come in whoc don’t necessarily know every aspect of your character, and there are writers to come on to the programme likewise, and so you have to change things when you know your character just wouldn’t be doing this.

“The mix of stories was fantastic – the science-fiction ones were great, the historical ones were wonderful. I suppose the historicals came out slightly better. John Lucarotti was a great writer. My favourite story was ‘Planet of Giants’. The sets were superb – you almost didn’t need to act. Mind you, there were ones that I wasn’t so keen on, such as ‘The Edge of Destruction’. We went mad for two episodes, and I think that was simply because none of us knew what it was all about – we just didn’t know what we were doing. And not only because it was so quick – it was frankly so weird and whenever we asked why we were behaving in a particular way we were just told to get on with it and say the words!

“It was a tiring schedule on the show. We often recorded them as if they were live, without any breaks for nearly twenty-five minutes. The air conditioning wasn’t very good in the studios and we really sweated our heads off and the TARDIS console would keep going wrong because of the heat. I would have been happy to have left earlier.

“We all had a great deal of fun doing ‘The Five Doctors’. Richard Hurndall was marvellous, spooky actually. He hasn’t recreated him – he hasn’t tried to do another William Hartnell and yet somehow or other he looks so much like him. I suppose that’s John Nathan-Turner’s doing, actually – casting him, knowing the sort of performance he’d give. John is lovely – everybody gets on well with him”.

Maureen O’Brien (1990)

September 27, 2009

Maureen O’Brien’s Vicki was the first new addition to the original cast, replacing Susan after the first two second season stories. By all account, her time on the series wasn’t entirely happy, mainly because of the press attention, but here she talks about working with William Hartnell, and the arrival of Peter Purves. Incidentally, Maureen O’Brien is now an successful novelist.

“A wonderful acting teacher, who had taught me at Central, called Harry Moore, had moved out of teaching and gone as a producer to the BBC. I got a telegram from him out of the blue saying ‘Chance of TV work. Ring me’. I was an extremely innocent person, which I still am to some extent, and I rang him and said ‘But Harry, I’ve already got a job’, and he said ‘Darling, don’t be silly. They’re looking for a new girl on ‘Doctor Who’. I’d never seen ‘Doctor Who’, although I’d heard of it. I didn’t watch TV in those days, I didn’t have time for a start and I didn’t think of television as anything serious – I mean, the theatre was what was serious. I no longer think that, by any means – quite the contrary, in fact. I suppose in those days I was a little theatre snob.

“Anyway, I came up to see Verity Lambert, then went back and carried on at the Everyman (theatre in Liverpool). Then I was called back for a camera test. I came to London and stayed with Harry and his wife, and decided, for my test, to do a piece from ‘Member of the Wedding’, for which Harry coached me. I did this piece for the teest and they offered me the job. I was extremely happy working at the Everyman, but I’d met the man I was eventually to marry, and he was in London. We were by now together and I wanted to get down to London to be with him, so I thought ‘Well, I’d better take this job’. And I did.

“To me it was just a job, it didn’t seem important. They’d said ‘Keep it dark, don’t tell anyone’, and of course I didn’t, though I couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. Then suddenly there were journalists knocking on the door at seven in the morning and Michael and I had to climb out of the back window, as there wasn’t a back door! It was absolutely terrifying and I just didn’t know what I’d let myself in for. I had no idea it was so enormous and such a great cult. It was a terrible shock to me and I couldn’t really cope with it at all.

“They weren’t paying me enough to travel by taxi everywhere, so I used to get the tube like everybody else. I would sit there and people would talk about me and just stare. Sometimes they’d approach me, but a lot of times they’d simply talk about me, while I sat there as though I was behind a TV screen. It was a devastating experience. I hated the loss of anonymity – the ordinary person’s right to walk down the street and be like anyone else. Nine tenths of my pleasure in this world is just looking at people and observing and enjoying what goes on. I couldn’t do that because I had to keep my eyees down or otherwise I was going to be accosted.

“(Doctor Who) was pretty unrewarding from the acting point of view. The first week, I remember, I thought I couldn’t possibly learn the words in five days and I couldn’t understand how everybody else – Bill Hartnell, Jackie Hill and Russell Enoch got rid of their scripts on the second day. I thought ‘How on earth will I ever learn it?’. Of course by the second week, I was putting my script down on the second day, too. You got so used to it – the words were more or less alwas the same, anyway. In fact, it was very easy to learn and was no sweat from the work point of view. The scripts were so predictable, I used to sit there saying ‘This is so boring, why don’t you…?’, but nobody took any notice of me. I looked about twelve years old and I used to take the scripts very seriously, you see. They must have thought I was crazy!

“Bill Russell and Jackie were wonderful to me and took care of me. Carole Ann Ford was terribly sweet to me too, although she had left. She came in on my first day to say ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’. I was very fond of Bill Hartnell too. The rest of us gave him a feeling of security and we did have to look after him – I certainly did. My job really, since the acting was no sweat, was to laugh Bill out of his rages and tantrums, which I did thoroughly, and enjoyed! He’d get very tetchy, but that was just Bill’s personality, that’s how he was. Any word of more than two syllables was a bit of a problem for him.

“I remember we used to have picnics together. We did the series at Riverside Studios and I don’t think there was anywhere to eat there, so we used to take turns bringing in these marvellous hampers. Someone would do the salad, someone the fruit, someone else the roast chicken and so on. Then we’d all sit in Bill Hartnell’s dressing room and enjoy our rather grand picnics. We were very close with all the team. Douglas Camfield we were terribly fond of – he ran on a very fast motor, I recall. Chris Barry was nice, Richard Martin was a darling man. Verity was always around, and she was wonderful to me – tremendous. It was lovely. And Dennis Spooner was very, very good. We were always pleased when it was one of his.

“The most enjoyable thing about it was the other actors, and we had some good ones, including Hywel Bennett playing some underwater creature and all painted gold. Now I get all these letters saying ‘I know you hated Doctor Who’, but I didn’t. I disliked the job, but I loved the people, all the nice actors and nice directors. Peter Purves joined us later – he’d come in to play this Texan on a roof somewhere, and because we all knew that Jackie and Russell were going, the hunt was on for a new chap. Bill and I agreed that this guy would be great and we went to Verity. So that’s how Peter arrived.

“I really only remember bits. I remember my first episode in which I was supposed to be extremely fond of a monster, which was then killed. I remember some giant ants, which were rather clever, but I don’t remember the Daleks at all. There was one story where there were these dear little things called Chumbleys, which were sort of little metal things that were jelly-like in that they wobbled. They were very sweet. And inside the Chumbleys, working them like pedal cars, were dwarfs and midgets. They were very nice and, of course, never having grown beyond five-foot two, I had a great fellow-feeling with them!

“I think I was pretty much dying to get out from the start, really, once I knew what I’d got myself into. I’d made it absolutely clear that I didn’t want to go on. I spent a year out of work after ‘Doctor Who’, because i had a very bad agent at that time, who didn’t know anything about theatre. The fact was, I could have done anything in the theatre having come out of ‘Doctor Who’, because they can use the name and you can do tours and things, but I was too innocent to know that. And I couldn’t be employed on TV because I was still see as Vicki from ‘Doctor Who’. So I went and taught as a supply teacher at a girl’s school in Kennington, using my Central teaching diploma.

“I was saved by Frank Hauser, who ran the Oxford Playhouse. He was doing ‘Volpone’ with Leo McKern and Leonard Rossiter and he’d never seen ‘Doctor Who’, or even heard of it. He offered me a part as Leonard Rossiter’s wife, Celia. That then transferred and I was spotted in it and offered a season at Chichester. I went into the area I wanted to, although it was all rather establishment stuff, and what I really wanted to do was be at the Royal Court doing new Edward Bond plays and things like that. I’m now doing the sort of work I’ve always wanted to – new plays written by living people. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do Shakespeare and Chekhov, I love that too, but the theatre is about what is happening now. Museums have their place, you’ve got to have them and they’re great, but the theatre is not a museum.

“I don’t know why I did (Children in Need). They phoned me up and I agreed and thought ‘What have I done?’. I was terribly nervous and nearly didn’t go, but I did and it was nice to see Peter (Purves) again, and Patrick, who I’ve worked with a lot – and of course Carole Ann Ford. I’ve never seen the programme since I’ve left and I can’t understand its appeal. I still get tons of letters and questionnaires as long as your arm. They ask me questions I just can’t answer.”

William Russell (1985)

September 26, 2009

Yesterday we had Jacqueline Hill (Barbara), and today it’s William Russell, who played Ian in the first couple of seasons of the original series. He talks about the cast getting together for the first time, about working with William Hartnell, and about Carole Ann Ford being the first to leave.

“I think Verity Lambert wanted someone who could not only play the part as she envisaged it, but who was also used to the pressures of live television and long production schedules. I had both on my side, because although most live serials didn’t last longer than three months, I’d been in filmed series with production going on for nearly a year. There was a certain type of stamina needed in those days – a lot of nerves to deal with that rush of adrenalin before a live or semi-live performance. It was much more rewarding, and much more like being in the theatre, and it gave a show an edge which recorded drama lacks.

“Getting back to ‘Doctor Who’, I was contacted by Verity who said she wanted to meet to discuss a part in a new serial she was doing. I went along to talk to her about it and got myself into a lengthy discussion about the series, what it was about, what my character was supposed to be doing in the whole set-up and roughly what the other details about it were – how long the engagement would be, etc. Eventually, all was agreed and I signed my contract, which was interesting as the BBC had an escape clause whereby had the series been a flop they could have dropped us at any time, whereas we were bound to keep to our side of the bargain. I have to admit that none of us thought that ‘Doctor Who’ would be around for a very long time, except Billy Hartnell, who had the kind of confidence in the project that the star needs to have.

“I remember meeting Bill, Jackie and Carole Ann for the first time and being very impressed with Billy. I was well aware of his track record in British films, as I had been a part of that industry myself, making about a dozen up to the time I did ‘Doctor Who’. But Billy was a super actor, adept at playing tough parts and famous for his marvellous performance in a film called ‘The Way Ahead’, directed by Carol Reed. I hadn’t met the two girls b efore, but after the first nerves we got on famously. The BBC couldn’t afford to have large casts, so most of the dialogue and action fell on our shoulders. It made us a close bunch.

“We would have a week’s rehearsing for each episode and on the Friday before the next day’s studio recording, Verity and Mervyn Pinfield, and David Whitaker, would all come along to see what was going before the cameras the next day. There was a lot of collusion in the first weeks and a fair amount of committee-writing. Certainly, Verity and David were on hand more often than was later the case.

“Billy was especially thorough in working out his character and the way he would relate to the rest of us. He worked as a great professional, ironing out the smallest of details and embellishing where possible. He tried to understand the TARDIS as far as he could and he devised a way of operating all the switches to keep continuity. He thought of little touches, like always getting my name wrong, and he was keen to develop a kind of protective friendship with Barbara, coupled with a rivalry between the Doctor and Ian.

“(An Unearthly Child) was a very weird set-up – they took us right the way back to the Bronze Age, or somewhere around then, and the script was all about these cave people. They had to talk virtually in grunts, which made the whole thing almost impossible to rehearse. Once in the studio – that was one thing – but out in rehearsal, with all the actors and actresses in their ordinary clothes, it just fell apart because it sounded too funny for words. We collapsed all through the week, which is perhaps the reason why we played it extra serious in the recording.

“We actually filmed the first episode twice, because Sydney Newman looked at our first efforts and simply said ‘Do it again’. Sydney was the boss and the series was his baby. We all knew that, and we all knew we were on the line. Verity and her team were working themselves into the ground and we, the actors, liked to think we weren’t letting the side down. In those days it certainly wasn’t glamourous – we rehearased anywhere and everywhere, so long as it was near the BBC’s Shepherd Bush premises, and that often meant we’d be freezing to death in a church hall somewhere. I remember one place where the roof was leaking and we had to put buckets out to catch all the rainwater.

“I don’t think we ever meant to convey anything more than a close friendship (between Ian and Barbara). That was there in the first story, but it was more guarded. The situation which the teachers found themselves in naturally drew them closer together. I don’t think there was ever any idea that they might be in love or falling in love or anything like that. Jackie and I made it our business at the beginning to work out very carefully how we would fit into it and how long it would take before we got used to the life on offer. I’d hate to just get the script and have to do it without that process of developing the interpretation – that’s what being an actor is all about. I was lucky with our second script editor, Dennis Spooner, who was very sympathetic to actors and would instruct his writers well, telling them what was out of character.

“I have to confess that the Daleks took time to grow on us, and we weren’t especially taken with them when they were first unveiled. But they were very effective on screen – my daughter was absolutely terrified by them. You needed a lot of ingenuity to work with the Daleks and it helped if you got on with the men who pushed them around from inside. It all came back to the business of taking the fantasy situation with the utmost seriousness, so that the right mood would be conveyed to the audience. The Daleks provided me with the first indication that our programme was going to be really successful. I bought a copy of the Evening Standard one day and inside there was a cartoon showing General de Gaulle as a Dalek. And that was that.

“I liked ‘Marco Polo’ and I think that was extremely well-written, exciting and diverting as well as having a bit of history on the educational side. I was actually behind one of the stories, as we had a lot of contact with Verity and David and we knew they were always on teh look out for stories and ideas, so I suggested the idea of doing a serial set in the French Revolution, which, lo and behold, became a reality. The historical stories were always fun, because it gave us the opportunity to dress up and really enter the period. I remember doing ‘The Romans’, which was fun, and another about Richard the Lionheart (The Crusade), in which the director wanted me to let my arm get covered in ants – I said ‘Under no circumstances’, and that was that, they had to get a stand-in.

“With ‘Planet of the Giants’, they got very ambitious and literally filled the studio with as many of these outsize props as they could fit in, including a giant telephone and a box of matches. The matches themselves were rather dangerous as they were bulky and could bump you on the head if you dislodged them. We used a process called back projection, where we were placed against a giant screen onto which was projected film of this cat trying to turn us into his lunch. That was another fun one which we enjoyed doing.

“I think we were all aware that once the series had established itself, it would run for some time, but I don’t think we were ever intending to see it through to the end regardless. Carole (Ann Ford) was a young actress who, understandably, wanted to do other things, and so we were sad but not especially surprised when she left us. I think Billy felt it the most – he was certainly very annoyed with Jackie and me for throwing the towel in, and I heard that he didn’t like being without the original line-up at all, especially as Verity left too.

“Maureen O’Brien joined us, and I have to say we didn’t like Carole having left, so Maureen was faced with a very difficult job at first. But she was and is a most accomplished actress, so she managed the change-over very well. She was a lot more down-to-earth than Carole was, but they were trying to ring the changes, which was a good thing for the series, a necesary one.

“(Jacqueline Hill) and I both came to the same decision (to leave) at about the same time, and we gave Verity plenty of notice. I think it twas her plan to write us out together, although that was obviously the most logical, neat way to do it. My memory is a little blurry as to how they actually disposed of us, although I do remember being taken all around London’s sights for the closing shots. Actually, Verity and Billy between them tried very hard to keep us on but that was it, we’d done two years. I had to go, because the whole ‘Doctor Who’ job was turning into a grind, the spark had gone out of it for us, and I wasn’t inspired enough to put all I felt I should do into it. What we started in ‘Doctor Who’ is not so very surprising when you consider the talent of someone like Verity Lambert, or the impact that Billy made with audiences everywhere.”

Jacqueline Hill (1984)

September 25, 2009

As Barbara Wright, the late Jacqueline Smith was one of the first occupants of the TARDIS, following Susan Foreman into the junkyard at Totter’s Lane back in November 1963. In this old DWM interview, she talks about getting the role at a party, about her time on the show, and about her return, as a different character, in the Fourth Doctor story ‘Meglos’.

“I was at a party one evening and the usual bunch of friends were there. I’d known Verity Lambert socially since she had joined the ABC television company for whom both my husband and myself had done some work. She was one of Sydney Newman’s proteges, and by this stage she had transferred with him to the BBC, where she had been asked to become a producer. Anyway, this party came at just the right point for me, because Verity was in the process of casting the regulars for her new television serial ‘Doctor Who’. We talked about it, and shortly afterwards, she offered me the part of Barbara Wright, which I was more than happy to accept. Because of this good beginning, Verity and I always got on well. Making that number of programmes every year meant that it helped to ease the burden of doing so many.

“I think nearby everybody, including the BBC, under-estimated ‘Doctor Who’s appeal. We had quite long-running contracts which bound us up initially for a year, but which had a number of clauses which meant that they could drop you or the series, or both, whenever they felt like it. So in effect they had the best of both worlds. Looking at the show’s durability now, it’s a quite amazing phenomenon, although it was an excellent idea, particularly for the time. I think he has managed to last so long because it has this ability to change and develop, it’s never the same, so nothing gets too boring or familiar.

“By the end of a series one did begin to get very tired, but they would usually try and write the scripts to accommodate you, so that one week Carole Ann or Bill Russell would have more to do, and on occasions they’d even write us out for a couple of weeks so we could dash off for a holiday. We were so on top of each other, in those tiny, tiny studios, that bad tempers would have been a disaster. I got on particularly well with William Russell. He shared my sort of approach to acting and liked to get on with the job with the minimum of fuss. I’ve worked with him since, doing a lot of rep abroad, in France, and I’m hoping to work with him again soon.

“Carole Ann Ford and I enjoyed a very easy relationship, although we didn’t keep in touch after she left the series. She was very busy being a mother and our paths just never seemed to cross. However, I did see her again recently at a ‘Doctor Who’ convention and I enjoyed that very much. She’s really quite well known at these conventions, I gather, whereas I’ve only done the one. They’re quite amazing. How so many people can still appreciate what we did all those years ago in a tiny black and white studio really astonishes me I suppose it’s unique.

“It all goes back to the success of Bill Hartnell as the Doctor, I should imagine, and we always got on well. He would get very annoyed with the way things were done if he thought they were being done the wrong way, but he cared so much about the programme and I think it showed. He particularly enjoyed all the comeback from children, and I grew quite fond of him. I think he was sad when we left. I know I was.

“All I knew at first, all I was actually told, was that my character was a very learned history teacher and that I was there to represent the Earth point of view when we went back in time and did the occasional serial set in the past. I found that quite easy, as I liked history and those historical stories appealed to me anyway. Everything else I had to put in myself, and this meant taking it up with either Verity or the director concerned. I think there were times when I said ‘Barbara wouldn’t say this or she wouldn’t do this’, and they were usually very good and listened to me on those points because I knew the character better than anybody else.

“I had quite a good part in ‘The Daleks’, and in a series like ‘Doctor Who’ one tends to remember that. We were all absolutely fascinated with (the Daleks), it became very easy to suspend one’s disbelief when acting opposite one of those things, and that helped make the whole thing that little bit more polished and exciting. I remember Carole Ann Ford bringing her young daughter to the studios one day, and her daughter trying out the Dalek for size. They have that irresistable appeal, that does make you want to try them out for yourself. There were others I liked – the Sensorites were unusual, for instance, and the Mechanoids were interesting too, but overall it still has to be the Daleks. One could almost put up with the lessened part to be in one of those Dalek stories, because they were such fun to make.

“The other reason for remembering that story is much sadder. We were in the studio on the night that the news of President Kennedy’s assassination came through. It was devastating and everybody was  very, very upset. I don’t think, looking back, that anyone today can quite understand all that Kennedy had meant to the western world, and when he was killed the last thing anybody wanted to do was get on with acting out a fantasy in a confined studio. I don’t think anybody stayed behind after the recording for the customary drink.

“I always preferred the historical stories, because I was given a bit more to do in them. In the science fiction stories, it was the monsters and weird characters who tended to take over, and all the girls tended to have to do was look frightened and get lost in a gloomy passage or two. I adored all the dressing up that went with doing the historical stories, and they were much more colourful for us because the historical sets were so gorgeous to act in.

“I think I liked ‘The Aztecs’, and the one about the Crusaders, best. In ‘The Aztecs’ I had the most magnificent headdress, which was terribly difficult to balance, but which looked superb and made me feel very regal. The story itself was extremely clever and it was a fascinating period. I suppose I liked it above all the others because that was the one in which Barbara was most important to the storyline. I liked ‘The Crusades’ for similar reasons, and also because I greatly enjoyed working with Douglas Camfield on that one. ‘The Romans’ was another which was great fun to do. It had Derek Francis in it. He used to make me laugh all the time and we got the chance to play ‘Doctor Who’ all out for comedy, which was fun.

“Shooting ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ on location was hardly what you’d call a massive amount of location filming, and the location itself was just around the corner from where we recorded the studios in Hammersmith. We had very little time to do it in, more or less one take only, so it was just as bad as working inside. I can recall very clearly filming the sequences in and around the famous landmarks of London, because we shot them first thing in the morning, as soon as the light came up – on a Sunday too! That was even more arduous because we had to run along pushing this wheelchair, which I can tell you soon lost its novelty value.

“I certainly wasn’t asked (to be in the film Dr. Who and the Daleks), partly because I was hardly a top box office name but most of all, I expect, because all my time would have been taken up making the series itself. I never had much time to watch myself in the series, although obviously I saw the occasional one or two. I haven’t seen it now for quite a long time, and besides it’s virtually a different programme now, it’s moved on so much. Science-fiction isn’t really my own taste as far as entertainment goes.

“The good thing about Barbara was that because she was older than most of the girls since, the writers were more hesitant about making her look silly, or scream too much. That side of things was largely left to Carole Ann Ford, which is why she left earlier than Bill Russell and myself. Naturally Maureen O’Brien felt very nervous when she first arrived, but nobody was out to be unpleasant and that initial, understandable feeling quickly wore off. I think we got on very well, although it was strange not having Carole around at first. Maureen didn’t really enjoy her time with the series, though, because she inherited Carole’s role of screaming all the time, which luckily for me I retained the better of the two female parts. It was more or less her first big television part and I think it was a bit of a rude awakening.

“(William Russell) and I decided to leave virtually as a mutual thing. We’d done two years of it, which was a strain and there wasn’t a lot more we could do with it either. Everything that we wanted to do in the series had been accomplished and we felt, and I think Verity sneakingly agreed with us, that it was time for the series to try and see if it could do something new. As for the question of going together, well, it all just seemed to come together at the right time for both of us. I think it had always been felt that Ian and Barbara, who had this slightly romantic side to their relationship, should go together much as they came – back to the London they left. They wrote us out well. They took us all around the centre of London to get some shots of us ‘back home again’, which were later shown in the last episode. For the last live action filmed piece, we went back to, guess where, glamourous Hammersmith.

“We did ‘Meglos’ in different studios, and of course television had moved on in leaps and bounds so that the technique was completely different. The special effects were a lot more dominant. It was recorded entirely out of order and there was nobody working on the story who could remember as far back as me – which was something of a humbling experience. I did enjoy it very much, though, mainly because the part I played was so very different to the calm and unflappable Barbara. It was a happy reunion with a show that was really only the same show by name alone.”

Michael Craze (1993)

September 7, 2009

Here’s a transcript of a short interview with Michael Craze, who playe Ben. Along with Anneke Wills’ Polly, Ben was the first companion to witness a regeneration, and here he talks about his first impressions of Patrick Troughton.

“By the same token that it wouldn’t have been anything without William Hartnell starting, I don’t think it could have carried on with anyone but Patrick Troughton. He was one of those actors where you knew his name, and then you thought ‘Of course I know Patrick Troughton, who did he play?’. Pat always played characters, you’d never recognise him in the street from his roles before ‘Doctor Who’. He was well-known in the business, and then when people said ‘Don’t you remember he was in so and so?’, you went ‘Oh, of course he was’.

“You could have put all sorts of other people in the role and I think it would’ve sunk like a lead balloon. I think it was the devotion and the real integrity and the insight that Pat brought to the character that allowed it to carry on. He wasn’t just saying the lines, the emotion came with it. He might suddenly change the position of an object if he was fiddling, and you’d respond, which is good acting because it’s instantaneous and you’ve got to be able to do that.

“I remember him struggling to start with, with the character, because in the very beginning he had this imagined character of the cosmic hobo and he was struggling to find the level for it. When he started, he had the big tall hat and the whistle, and I could see him working within himself to see how far he could go, and how far his mannerisms… internally I could see him working at it, which was the mark of a very good actor, the Stanislavsky thing of working the character out. And he was doing this in rehearsals. And Anneke and I used to tease him, and say ‘Oh take that bloody hat off, for God’s sake’. Once he got over the initial trauma of creating the character, I think he settled in very well.

“It was hard work because although it was fun, it was very strict because it had to be right. He was very professional in that he insisted everything was right, the props were right, but it was light-hearted because he wasn’t strict like William Hartnell. He loved company, he loved young people, or younger people, he wasn’t that old himself. And he was just a great fun person. Everything could be turned into a joke. He was a humble person, he didn’t mind making mistakes, he didn’t mind other people making mistakes, he was just a very nice person. Not at all egotistical or anything, he was one of the guys and we all got on together”.