Archive for the ‘Companions: 2nd Doctor’ Category

Wendy Padbury (2009)

February 15, 2010

Here’s Wendy Padbury, Zoe in the late 60’s, talking about her work as an agent and, in particular, how she first met a young actor named Matt Smith, who she signed up and who… well, you know the rest!

“I’ve always been a massive supporter of the National Youth Theatre in London, which is a school where kids from all over the country go and perform. They do a course, you can’t be more than 20 or 21. They do productions in London. And they were doing this production of a very difficult play, called ‘Master and Marguerita’, which is quite something for kids to take on. They varied in age from 14 to 20. And I went along to watch, and there was this guy onstage, I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and I thought ‘He is absolutely fantastic, this boy’, and he was playing a very, very gay character – nothing wrong with being gay! – but he was so outrageously camp, and you had to think that if someone’s that camp, how difficult is that going to be for other work?

“So I decided, after the show, to go to the bar and wait for all these kids to come out and just see, and he – Matt Smith – came out, and he quite clearly was not gay. In fact, every girl who came out was going ‘Hi, Matt’, they adored him… So I went up to him and I said ‘Hi, Matt, you don’t know me but I’m an agent and I don’t know what your plans are for the future’, because a lot of kids at the National Youth Theatre aren’t there to become actors in the future, some are there just to have the experience in their youth. So I asked Matt and he said ‘Yeah’, and I said ‘Well I’d love to have a chat with you’, and he said ‘I’d love to’, so we arranged to meet the next day.

“And the next morning, I went into the office and I said to the girls ‘There’s this gorgeous boy coming in, you’re going to love him’, and in walked Matt Smith and he is gorgeous, he’s quite quirky-looking but he has that ability as a young man – this is a girl thing, by the way – to actually sit in front of you and look at you, and you’re the only person in the room. That’s a very attractive quality. And he’s charming and intelligent and bright. And while he was there, I said ‘I’d love to take you on’.

“I then wrote to his university, because he was doing a university course, because – and this is what happens for actors, it’s always about timing – the very next day, the casting director from the Royal Court called me up and said ‘Help us, we’re doing this play, we’re looking for an actor who can be about 16, do a New York accent, and obviously is really good’. I said ‘I’ve got Matt Smith’, she said ‘I don’t know who that is’, I said ‘Well you won’t, he only came yesterday. I have no photos to send you, no CV, nothing’, and she said ‘I don’t care, I want to meet him’. I think they were so desperate, they’d have taken my mother. So I phoned Matt and said ‘Can you do a New York accent?’ and he said ‘Yeah, I can, actually’, so I said ‘You’ve got an appointment on Monday’. He got the script, worked on it over the weekend, and went on Monday. He probably hadn’t even left the building when they phoned and said ‘He. Is. Fantastic’, and of course he got the job.

“He was amazed, I mean, how lucky to get that job straight away! He’s done the National now, he’s done so much work, he worked with Billie Piper… and I’ve never had a young client like that before, where nobody knew him, and my job was to take casting directors to meet and see clients that they don’t know, and I’ve never stood at the National before, surrounded by casting directors, with them saying ‘Oh my God, he’s brilliant, where did you find him?’. And the rest is history, really.

“I live in France now, so it takes a while for news to filter through. I got a phone call from someone, actually it was Charlie, saying ‘Have you heard about Matt? Have you heard about the new Doctor Who?’. I said ‘No’, they said ‘It’s Matt’. I went ‘Oh my God!’, I couldn’t believe it! I know people have concerns about his youth, but there’s no question about his talent and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll do a brilliant job. So I hope you’ll be gentle with him, because I think you’ll love him, I really do.”

Wendy Padbury (1986)

October 2, 2009

Here’s Wendy Padbury talking about joining the show as Zoe, the temptation to remain for Jon Pertwee’s first season, and her subsequent role in the ‘Seven Keys to Doomsday’ stage play.

“I auditioned for ‘Doctor Who’ along with the rest of the world and his wife! I went and queued with all these girls. I think about a week later I was called back and then the week after that, with fewer and fewer other girls each time. It got down to about half a dozen of us and then it was almost like a screen test. We were sent a page of dialogue to learn, and the test was done at Lime Grove – it may well have been on the set of another story. We were given a mark to stand on and you had to say these lines of dialogue, which didn’t actually make sense, as they weren’t out of anything. The first one was a laugh line, the next was a sad line, the next tears – all these emotions in a page of dialogue!

“A couple of days later I got a phone call from my agent saying ‘They’d like you to do the job, so I said ‘All right then, that’s wonderful’. An hour later she phoned me back. I’d already been for another interview for the film of ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, and I’d got that as well! For the next forty-eight hours, I gave my agent hell. I kept phoning and saying ‘I’ll do Doctor Who’, with her saying ‘Are you sure?’. I’d say ‘Yes’, and then I’d think about ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, how good it could be, and I’d phone back and say I’d changed my mind. This went on and in the end I think she said that ‘Doctor Who’ would probably be better in the long run, so ‘Doctor Who’ it was.

“Tristan de Vere Cole directed ‘The Wheel in Space’ and he was a great help, because obviously I was the new girl and scared. I looked to him and he helped me a lot. The other nice thing about ‘Doctor Who’ was that with each story, it wasn’t just a new director coming in, it was a new everybody, so after that first one, I wasn’t the new girl, I was the old girl! I liked Zoe to start off with, because I think she was slightly different from a couple of the others, who screamed a lot. She was an astro-physicist and was supposed to know what was what – she was fairly intelligent. Sadly, I think with each consecutive story it was watered down, until I became a screamer again.

“I liked the Ice Warriors – they really gave me the creeps. I don’t know why. I’d sit in make-up with the guys who played them having coffee, and waiting for their make-up to go on, which took hours. But as soon as we started recording one, they really gave me the creeps.

“We never went anywhere terribly glamorous. We did go to Brighton rubbish dump, which was really nice! It was always nice to go away filming, though, it gave you time to think, because it’s much slower, much more like rehearse / record. Everyone was cold – we were filming in constant rain for ‘The Krotons’. There were rats crawling around that you wouldn’t believe! I had a mini-skirt on and my dresser used to bring her fur coat. There was a little bottle of brandy in the pocket, which believe me you needed – it was freezing.

“I remember very little about ‘The Dominators’. I remember Ronnie Allen and I remember the director, Morris Barry. I found him a bit suffocating – we weren’t really allowed to come up with any ideas on that one, we were just told to get on and do it.

“The Mind Robber was my favourite story – there were lots of problems with the script and Frazer got chicken pox and it was all so hectic we just ploughed through it all. But Emrys James was wonderful, and so was David Maloney, who directed lots of my episodes. I really loved that one – I remember the toy soliders, the forest of trees which were like a maze of letters and the set where everything was white.

“I really thought as Pat and Frazer were going, it just couldn’t be the same, so I thought it was an ideal time to leave, really. I’d had no set idea of how I wanted to do it – I can’t even remember how one was contracted at the time. I think we had various contracts along the way and the three of us came to an end at the same time.

“Seven Keys to Doomsday was pretty spectacular. It was very, very technical. Probably now, with shows like ‘Time’, it wouldn’t be that impressive, but for then it was quite an amazing show, and Trevor Martin was a lovely Doctor. There wasn’t a lot of time to rehearse, which was a bit of a problem. There were loads of things that could have gone wrong. We used hundreds of back projections and once started, they couldn’t stop. They were all operated on word cues, so you knew if you forgot the line and you didn’t give the poor guy who started the machine the cue, then forget it! Unfoartunately, we didn’t last long. I’m sure we would have run longer had it not been a bad time in the West End – IRA bombs were going off and coachloads were cancelling as people became too frightened to come into town. It was sad, because we knew we had a good show and we were going to go on tour, but we never did”.

Deborah Watling (1988)

September 30, 2009

Here’s Deborah Watling, Victoria in the Patrick Troughton era, talking to DWM about Daleks, Yeti and Ice Warriors, as well as the reasons she wasn’t able to be in ‘The Five Doctors’.

“I left school after doing my O-levels, all of which I failed miserably, and then went to stage school. Three weeks later I walked out. I didn’t like it at all – I thought their methods of teaching were awful, too many people in the classes, that sort of thing. I then got myself an agent and went straight into television with a play about Lewis Carroll in which I played Alice. That was it, I was started – a combination of wanting to act and a lot of luck!

“I went to see Innes about a part in the show a year or so before I got the part of Victoria, but he thought I was too inexperienced at the time. (After being cast) it took about a week to lose my first nerves, but Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines were wonderful, like a lovely family sending me up rotten.

“I was only told that Victoria was a Victorian girl wearing a Victorian dress and that her attitudes were to be correspondingly conservative. It was largely left up to me, in other words, but as I remember she came out rather nicely in the end. I did watch the show for a few weeks before I joined the cast, on Innes’ suggestion, so as to get the feel of it. My predecessor Anneke Wills looked as though she was having fun, so I was quite happy. I think I had two months between accepting the part and actually starting work.

“We weren’t told that ‘Evil of the Daleks’ was to be the last Dalek story. But I did so love the Daleks – they were very funny with those sucker things in front, really quite extraordinary. I didn’t enjoy some of the special effects scenes in that one, though – they used this latex stuff on the exploded Daleks which smelt disgusting! I found it very involving – fascinating to be working with all those monsters and the fantastic storylines. I was also learning a lot; it’s all about television technique, a useful lesson for me early in my career.

“We went all the way to Snowdonia for the Yeti one and to Margate for ‘Fury From the Deep’. We were in Covent Garden for ‘The Web of Fear’, and in my first one we went and did night filming at Knebworth House. We used to work six days a week to produce one episode, including filming, so as you can imagine it was pretty tiring. The Yeti were so cuddly and wonderful. We really did have a lot of fun with them. On location, they used to fall about all over the place and would end up out of control, rolling about until everybody pitched in and helped the poor actor inside to get out.

“One thing we did slowly and consciously was traumatise Victoria up to the point she left. I didn’t want her always to be screaming – I wanted her to be quite tough as well. She had to be – anyone would – to be chased by all those monsters! I loved all the Victorian stuff but you couldn’t really run about in it a lot. It wasn’t practical. I loved dressing up, have done ever since I was a child, and the scenes gave me ample opportunity. The Victorian gear really went with my image, since Victoria was the archetypal heroine, always screaming. They don’t scream so much now, but I was stuck with the nickname Leatherlungs!

“We were filming ‘Fury From the Deep’ on my birthday, and it was in the depths of winter as usual. Pat and Frazer knew it was my birthday, so during a take when I was supposed to be standing still they came up to me and gave me the bumps. We were using loads of foam in that story, and after they’d given me the bumps they threw me straight into it. I was covered from head to toe in the stuff, and not just foam but sand as well, all in this freezing cold and on my birthday too!

“Gerry Lake was a director we had a great time with, because he had such a lovely sense of humour and was also able to discipline us well. (Her father Jack Watling) looked so funny in that costume with that stupid gun that our first scene took five takes to perfect, because at first we just fell about laughing. By ‘The Web of Fear’, I’d got used to him and the rather strange thought of acting alongside him. I think I’d said to them ‘How about using my dad?’, because he said ‘Thanks kid, you’ve got me some work!’. I thought he was brilliant. I think he’d make a good Doctor, actually, I really do.

“For ‘The Ice Warriors’, when Bernard Bresslaw, who was playing the Ice Warrior, was in costume, the suit was made so that he couldn’t see. We were in these ice caves all made out of polystyrene, which looked fine on screen but awful in real life, and he was meant to be dragging me off to some dungeon or something. Of course, as it turned out I had to lead him, because he was virtually blind, so I kept whispering as low as possible and not moving my mouth, ‘right, left, right, left’ and once he went left when I said right so he went straight through the wall. The entire polystyrene cave collapsed on top of us, and that, as they say, was the end of that!

“I knew that I’d like to do a year when I joined. I also knew that they’d have liked me to do more than that, but I decided to go. I thought it was time, so I gave three months notice. You see, I’d learned a lot about television and I felt I had to get out and into the theatre to learn something about that. They did try pretty hard to keep me on – I was already in the next six storylines – but no, I had to go. It was terribly sad, like the end of an era for me.

“John Nathan-Turner approached me to do ‘The Five Doctors’, but then ‘The Dave Allen Show’ came up. Shortly after I had accepted this in favour of the special, the series was cancelled, the lot. As a result, I lost out on both things and I was very annoyed. But I would return as Victoria if asked.”

Frazer Hines (2005)

September 17, 2009

Here’s a transcript of part of a short interview with Frazer Hines, talking about his first meeting with Patrick Troughton, about getting exhausted during ‘The Mind Robber’ and about rope ladders in the Doctor’s pockets.

“The first time I met Patrick was ‘Smuggler’s Bay’. It was originally called ‘Moonfleet’, a famous book, but the BBC had a thing called ‘Moonstrike’ at the time so they changed it to ‘Smuggler’s Bay’, and Patrick played an old smuggler. And the day before filming began, I’d actually put my hand through a plate glass window, and I turned up with these great bandages on, and they tried various things to hide it, and they were covered up with an old workers’ glove. Years later, when I saw Patrick for ‘Doctor Who’, the first day of filming he said ‘How’s the hand?’. He remembered. And that was the sort of man he was.

“There was one story, I think it was ‘The Mind Robber’, there were only three people in it, and a couple of monsters, and we still had the same twenty-four minute script to learn and we went to Peter Bryant and said ‘We can’t cope, the workload is too heavy for three people’, so they cut those episodes down, they cut about four minutes thirty off those episodes. They either cut our stuff down and made more robots, but I remember there was a mini-strike, we physically couldn’t do any more. It’s difficult to do a three-hander, you can do it if it’s a ten-week shoot, but if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s too much work.

“Whatever (Patrick) did, if he put his hand in his pocket and said ‘Jamie, I have a rope ladder here’, you could believe, ‘Yes, that Doctor would have a rope ladder’. His character was whacko, but believable, you never went ‘Oh no, he wouldn’t have that in his pocket’, you actually believed, and I think it was Colin Baker who said ‘If it wasn’t for Patrick, the rest of us wouldn’t have got the part’, because if Patrick, when he got the part, when he took over, if he’d made a dog’s breakfast of it, it would have gone another series and then folded.

“He blew his top once, with Padders and I, because he had this long speech and he kept fluffing it on the third line. Once an actor starts to corpse, it’s very difficult. I said ‘Patrick, you’re paid a fortune to learn these lines, I’m paid to get the girls watching and Padders is paid to stop the Dads doing the gardening, Patrick you’re paid to say these lines’, so then he did the speech again, he got over the line, he looked at us, then he dried on the next line.

“‘The War Games’ was our last story, ten episodes, and as I recall we knew we were leaving, the three of us, but it wasn’t maudlin, it was still the same happy, jokey atmosphere, and I can’t recall, even when we finished the last scene in the studio, I think it was Lime Grove, I don’t remember us all bursting into tears, which is strange when you’ve had three happy years. The strange thing is, we didn’t see each other (after that), I saw Pat a couple of times, then I did ‘Emmerdale’ and there I was, up in Yorkshire. So I don’t recall us walking out of that studio with a heavy heart going ‘That’s it, it’s the end of an era’.

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”.

Wendy Padbury (1992)

September 4, 2009

There’ll be a longer Wendy Padbury interview in a few days, but until then here she is talking about getting the role of Zoe, her fondness for Patrick Troughton and, of course, her memories of practical jokes on the ‘Doctor Who’ set.

“I was sent by my agent as a horribly out of work young actress to interview for the part of Zoe, along with probably the rest of London, all those of us who were sort of five foot nothing and young, which led then to a recall and another recall and another recall until they whittled us down to about six of us, and we were sent a script of just a page of dialogue which had just one small speech. Every single emotion that you could possibly imagine. And each girl had to learn this piece, and we went to the studio and recorded it, and the camera was just on our eyes and I can remember we had to stand on a spot and we couldn’t move, and it was all on the eyes, good job it wasn’t on the knees because my knees were knocking. And they chose me!

“I didn’t personally have any reservations whatsoever, for the simple reason that Pat Troughton was and always has been my very favourite actors, especially as a child. I used to watch him in all those Sunday afternoon dramas, and the thought of working with Pat was brill. And then the character itself was such fun, from what I’d seen of ‘Doctor Who’ before I went into it the girls tended to scream a lot and Zoe wasn’t quite like that to begin with. She was this very clever astrophysicist, she just wasn’t a screamer, she was able, especially in later episodes, to say to the Doctor ‘Leave this to me, I can sort this out’. She did do a fair amount of screaming, but she was great to play. I think in ‘The Wheel in Space’, my first story, Eric Flynn called Zoe ‘all brain and no heart’, which I thought was great!

“One of the most embarrassing moments actually happened during rehearsals of one of the Cyberman stories, I think I’d had a late night and I came into the rehearsal room not looking my best. Pat, Frazer and I were sat down learning our lines for a scene, and I was wearing a kilt, quite a short kilt, and Pat and Frazer sat either side of me. I have to say here that we were rehearsing in a church hall, which is quite relevant to the story. So we sat down, and because I’d had a late night I sort of nodded off, and suddenly I got two elbows in my ribs, with Pat and Frazer either side of me, saying ‘Quick, quick, you’re on!’, and I shot out of my chair and they’d undone the kilt, so I shot into the rehearsal room in my knickers. I was so embarrassed, I ran out of the doors and bumped into the vicar. I curtsied and ran into the ladies toilets.

“I remember the end of ‘The Wheel in Space’ really well, because it was when I went off to join Patrick and Frazer in their adventures. And Patrick was trying to put me off, really, he put that thing on his head where the thought processes came out and onto a screen, and he said ‘I’m not sure you’ll want to come with us, Zoe, have you ever heard of the Daleks?’. I think having met the Cybermen, she’d have loved to have gone anywhere after that, to meet anything.

Frazer Hines (2008)

September 3, 2009

Here’s an extract of Frazer Hines talking about his time working with Patrick Troughton. You can hear the original here. It’s interesting to hear him suggest that Troughton’s cough was his way of stalling for time so he could think of his next line, which is similar to suggestions that William Hartnell used to say ‘Hmm?’ a lot for the same reason.

Q: You joined in Patrick’s second story and carried through to the very end. Was that because you two worked well together?

A: I don’t know, it was up to the people upstairs, they could have written me out after six months, a year, or whatever, but they must have realised the chemistry was working. I think I’m the longest running male assistant. I’d never have left, I was having so much fun, but I had an agent at the time who was saying ‘You must leave, you’ve done three years of television, you need to do films’, and Patrick’s wife at the time was saying (to him) ‘You’re a much better actor than children’s teatime television, you should be doing bigger things’, and I still say to this day, if he hadn’t had that woman nattering in his ear, they’d have had to shoot us and drag us kicking and screaming out of the TARDIS, we’d still be there now.

Q: Patrick’s time is rather under-represented by complete stories, the vast majority of his are either entirely missing or only partly complete.

A: Yeah, it’s amazing, but last year Wendy (Padbury) and I were doing one of the DVD’s, and we said ‘I wonder what this would cost to produce today?’, and one of the lads produced this huge old solicitor’s folder, tied up with pink ribbon, blew the dust away and read out ‘Well Frazer you were on £64 an episode, Ronald Leigh Hunt was the guest star, he was on £120, the whole show cost £20,000’… And I thought, well why didn’t they keep the show? They kept the paperwork so they could say ‘Well last time you worked for us, Frazer, you only got £64!’.

Q: And you were in ‘Silver Sword’… A lot of your body of work is missing, isn’t it?

A: Yes, (I was in ‘Silver Sword’) when I was about nine or ten, I think. That was with Shaun Sutton, who was head of children’s television later during ‘Doctor Who’s time.

Q: C.E. Webber wrote it –

A: Ian Serraillier wrote it.

Q: Yes, but the dramatissation was by C.E. Webber, who was one of the writers who was going to be involved in ‘Doctor Who’ when it started but wasn’t in the end.

A: Oh really?

Q: How did you get that job?

A: I’d worked with Shaun Sutton before in a thing called ‘Huntingtower’, a John Buchan novel. I didn’t have a terribly great part, I was playing Napoleon, a little fat boy. And he remembered me, I didn’t audition for it, he just rang up my agent. I did another thing for him called ‘The Long Way Home’, and I worked with him and David Goddard quite a few times, and David Goddard went on to be one of the first producers of ‘Emmerdale’, which is how I got that part.

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

A: They said ‘How would you like to be in six episods of ‘Doctor Who’?’, Shaun Sutton knew I could do a Scottish accent. No audition, no reading. Innes Lloyd was a lovely man, sadly missed, he was a gentleman, a real gentleman of television. He was an ex-Navy man. I always remember him picking me up at location one day (during ‘The Highlanders’), saying ‘Come back with me, don’t go in the mini-bus’. He had a little VW beetle, we were driving back, he said ‘Well, Frazer, you’re settling in okay, how do you fancy joining the old TARDIS crew for a while, maybe another year?’

Q: It worked so well, didn’t it?

A: That’s right. I was only supposed to be in for six episodes. In fact we  filmed at Farnham Common, where we filmed a lot of stuff for the BBC, I waved goodbye to the TARDIS crew, and that was it, me and my laird and Hannah Gordon. And then around episode three they decided to keep me on, so we had to go back and film me going into the TARDIS, and waving goodbye to my laird and Hannah Gordon.

Q: Hard work?

A: It was hard work, because we shot it almost as live at Lime Grove, and when that red light went on at night you could shoot maybe three scenes in one go. Whereas now they’d shoot all the interior scenes of the TARDIS in one go, all the baddies in one go, we would shoot it as live from page one, right through to the end in story order, which they don’t do now. And they didn’t have the wonderful tape editing facilities they have now, and so if something went wrong in scene three they couldn’t cut it and say ‘We’ll go from there’ so we’d have to go back to the first scene, and so the pressure to do that, and luckily we’re all theatre-trained, but the pressure to do that was enormous.

Q: So you’d get all the hi-jinks out the way in rehearsal?

A: Yes. We found that if you tried to be serious from day one, by the fifth day when tiredness is setting in… You know, people get the giggles when they’re under pressure.

Q: Patrick was notorious, I think, for getting the meaning across but not entirely sticking to the script. Was that difficult?

A: No, I mean I’m a bit like that. It’s like a stage play, you learn the story first, then you learn the lines because your brain knows the story. A lot of actors who’ve learnt it parrot-fashion go on stage and then one day they dry up, whereas I would just think of another word and say it. You don’t throw people, because you’re working with good people. On ‘Emmerdale’, if you were supposed to say ‘Let’s go to the Woolpack’, and you said ‘Let’s go to the pub’, there’s a couple of actors who’d say ‘No, sorry, you’re supposed to say Woolpack’… I think soaps are very good like that, you just learn and paraphrase a lot. But with Patrick, he’d always do that little cough, and I think that was his brain going ‘What’s next?’

Q: When you did ‘Emmerdale’, was it like ‘Doctor Who’ or was it filmed set by set?

A: Set by set. You’d do all the filming one week, then all the studio. One director tried to do all the studio stuff first, we said ‘No, you’ve got to do the filming first’, so what happened? We did all the studio first, a lot of scenes of people coming into the farm, complication, it’s suddenly raining. We’d already done dry scenes, so we couldn’t film. You did the filming first so there was continuity, you could wet your shirt, your jacket in the studio. Luckily, we were all sort of stage trained, so we were used to doing twenty-five pages in one go, whereas in television nowadays four pages is quite a lot.

Q: Do you have any favourite memories from working on ‘Doctor Who’?

A: Yes, working with Patrick… I tried to get him into ‘Emmerdale’, but the producer said ‘Oh no, I’ve heard about you two’. At conventions, people say ‘How can you remember so much?’. I think if you’re having happy times, you remember, if it’s a sad time, your memory tries to erase it. I had such happy times. Never once did Patrick and I, or Wendy or Deborah, have a cross word. Those three years in ‘Doctor Who’ were the happiest years I’ve had in acting. Sixteen years in ‘Emmerdale’, sure, but those three in ‘Doctor Who’, working with Patrick, were the happiest. And Patrick, God bless him, in a book said ‘The happiest time I’ve had in my life was working with Frazer Hines’, which brought a lump to my throat.

Anneke Wills (2007)

August 16, 2009

This is a transcript of parts of Anneke Wills’ interview with Mark Ayres on the audio version of ‘The War Machines’. Her autobiography, ‘Self Portrait’, which she discusses, was published in 2007 and is definitely worth reading for the insight into 60’s London.

Q:  Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you joined ‘Doctor Who’?

A: 1966 was actually an amazing year for me because I had done a tremendous amount of telly. Plays of the week were the great bits of drama and I had done three that year, cracking parts, and I had done ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Likely Lads’, so I’d been very busy that year and then I got the part in ‘Doctor Who’, so 1966 was definitely the year of Anneke.

Q: And how did the ‘Doctor Who’ part come up?

A: Erm… went along for the audition, knowing that it was for a part in ‘Doctor Who’, but not knowing that it was to play the companion. I didn’t know that. And then when they got back to my agent, they said ‘Okay and this is for a regular part’, so then I was over the moon, you can imagine.

Q: Was there any doubt about going into a long-running show like ‘Doctor Who’?

A: Never, because you needed the work, you know? As an actor, the bottom line is you always need the work. So you say Yes and figure it out later.

Q: And your character was going to be a bit of a departure from the assistants that had gone before you?

A: Yes, I think it was absolutely their conscious decision to have a sort of 60’s chick and I came ready with my own clothes.

Q: And most of the previous girl assistants had been granddaughter type figures to the Doctor, apart from Barbara who was a teacher, and you came in as a kind of sassy character who’d give him a bit of lip back.

A: And with very short skirts. And very long eyelashes batting away. So that was a conscious decision of theirs to say ‘Alright, we want to move the companion into being more of a sexy kid’. Yeah.

Q: Setting a trend for years ahead.

A: Setting a trend, so actually I was the first in a very long line of very lovely women, I have to say! (laughs)

Q: You came into ‘Doctor Who’ from a background of film shows like ‘The Avengers’. Was it very noticeable that ‘Doctor Who’ was of a much lower budget?

A: Well of course the format was totally different because ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’ were filmed, so you were doing that at Elstree, and ‘Doctor Who’ was this tight little live performance that you did on a Saturday, and you had to rattle through not making too many mistakes and get to the end, so it felt very much like theatre, in a way, like a live performance that you do all in one go, so it’s much more frightening. Yes, the money was tight, but the money was always tight. Everything I’d ever done for the BBC, the money was tight. I did ‘The Railway Children’ and this was an eight-week, big BBC children’s drama and it had a lot of people taking note of it, and I had a costume that didn’t fit, so I had these nasty scratchy cuffy things that didn’t fit! They couldn’t afford… this came from Berman’s and it didn’t fit me! You can’t imagine that happening nowadays. And that wasn’t the case with ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’, you know, this was proper filming and you had a proper make-up and wardrobe department that had money to spend. They bought me nice shoes and bags and things.

Q: Tell us a bit about the production team of the time, Innes Lloyd etc. How hands on were they, did you see much of them?

A: I tell you, Innes Lloyd never laid his hands on me! He never did! But as actors, of course, we were second-class citizens, really, we weren’t told anything, we weren’t asked anything, we just turned up and did our rehearsing and our acting. Even when we switched Doctors, we were the last to be told. I was aware of Bill Hartnell’s irascibility, because my hubby had played the Toymaker before and so I already knew that he was liable to go off on one, so you had to watch him. So there was that element in rehearsals of having to be careful of the old man and having to treat him gently, so that was a little tense. Rehearsals were not as fun as they would become later, with Patrick Troughton, I have to say.

Q: There was none of the star system that there is now? It was really just ‘Stand there, say that’?

A: Yes, although as time went by you could start to change lines to make them work for you, because then you were an established character, and you could say ‘Polly would say it like this’, and they’d allow a little bit of that. But there was no time for discussion, because you had to get this show on the road in a week.

Q: Now, there are edicts saying you can’t say ‘Death’ and ‘Killing’ in shows aimed at children, but ‘The Smugglers’ had some very dark moments. Did that ever occur to you back then?

A: The attitude was very different. I don’t think we discussed it. Amazing, really, how without awareness we were, in a way. One of the things I do remember, because this was a new thing for me, was that passers-by would see that we were filming ‘Doctor Who’ and there was immediately this feeling of bon homie… but this was new for me, working in the exteriors.

Q: What was Michael Craze like to work with?

A: He was a pal. He was a chum, and he was a pal. He was a pal forever, and we got on very well and we were a team, the two of us. I think in the beginning we supported each other, because working with Bill was tricky so we supported each other.

Q: What about your personal support staff, like Sonja Markham on make-up and Daphne Dare on costumes?

A: Sonja Markham is actually Roger Lloyd-Pack’s sister-in-law, I’ve known her ever since. Daphne Dare was wardrobe. As I said before, I came ready-made, you see, because the BBC wardrobes did not have the kind of costumers which I was already wearing. My normal clothes were Mary Quant, Ozzie Clark, so I was very determined that I would wear my own clothes.

Q: It amazes me how much of yourself you brought to Polly.

A: I think that if you’re given the chance, you bring it as close as you can to yourself because that makes it real. It’s no good me trying to be someone other than who I am, you know, so when nobody’s looking… in the beginning, Polly is supposed to be a debutante, and without saying anything to Innes I thought this was a bit of a cliche, Ben is the cockney and Polly is the posh bird, and they make a friendship, and actually if you notice over the months that we were working together that was kind of toned down. And you want to make it as real and interesting and fun as possible, and in a way when nobody’s got any time for you… you know, they’re busy trying to figure out how the War Machines are going to work, or how the Cybermen are going to die and so forth… you have to get on with making your part of the script as real as possible.

Q: When you started, how long did you think you might stay with it?

A: Do you know, I have a feeling that we did the first four, and we weren’t even sure, because we weren’t sure about Billy, you see, because he wasn’t well. So everything was up for grabs, we didn’t know that we would be continuing, we certainly didn’t know, you know, that we would go on with a new Doctor. That was unheard of, that was un-thought of. So we didn’t know, we were just floating along hoping that things would go, because we need the money, as an actor. It was a job!

And the other thing is that it was just a job, it wasn’t a big deal like it is now with Billie Piper and the press. It was just a job. It was fun to be in ‘The Avengers’, it was fun to be in ‘The Saint’, it was fun to be in ‘Doctor Who’, but then of course it’s a complete mystery and a magic thing that I’m sitting here with you, today, 43, 44 years later still being involved with it. A complete miracle.

Q: One you’re pleased about?

A: Absolutely. I consider it a total honour to be asked to do these narrations, telling the story again, listening to the little voices. What I hear is how young we sound. We sound so young. But it’s lovely to be involved.

Q: You’ve been revisiting this part of your life quite a lot lately, what with writing your book…

A: Yes, I’m just in the middle of writing my autobiography so there’s a website set up there, because I’m going to do it self-publishing because there’s been quite a lot of rubbish written about me over the years so when I heard the words ‘full control’ I thought ‘Yep’, so it’s going ahead in full fettle at the moment and should be coming out this summer, so watch this space. The first book will go from childhood to the mid-60’s, because it was an extraordinary time to be in the world, to be in London, and so many of the old established rules and laws and ways of being were being thrown out the window.

Q: Were you very aware at the time that you were involved in such an exciting time when things were changing, or did you just live it?

A: You just lived it. In the 60’s, all the wonderful people that you met, Peter Cooke, John Lennon, all these people that you actually met. You didn’t just talk to John Lennon like it’s just someone you met, your heart is pounding when you’re talking to John Lennon, but it was an exciting time to be around and meet these luminaries.

Q: But you were a luminary yourself…

A: I don’t see that. Just a jobbing actor, trying to get work, but I did happen to actually befriend a lot of these very prominent people. Brilliant and talented people. Exciting times.