This is an edited transcript from the 1993 Panopticon convention appearance of Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning. Among other things, you’ll learn which was the only story Katy didn’t like (Jon agrees), and there are some nice stories about Roger Delgado.
Q: It would be true to say, Jon, that you are the current Dr. Who, with your series on Radio 5.
JP: That’s correct. I’m not the only Doctor to be Doctor twice. Who was the other one? Colin Baker, correct. He did a very short session on radio.
Q: Did you enjoy doing it?
JP: Oh enormously. It was wonderful, I mean, having the old Brig back and having Liz, Liz Sladen and Peter, who is the most evil villain in the world. He’s a bastard. And he’s one of the gentlest people you could meet off stage, he wouldn’t say boo to a carpet slipper, he really wouldn’t, but he’s a terrible, terrifying man.
Q: Was it fun getting back together again?
JP: Yes. This all started because when we heard that ‘Doctor Who’ was unlikely to come back on television, I suggested to Dirk Mags, one of our finest radio producers that I’d done, maybe some of you heard, ‘Superman’ on radio, and I liked working with him enormously, and I suggested to him ‘Why don’t we put Doctor Who out on radio?’, and he said ‘Well, it’s a good idea, if it’s not coming back on television it’ll be one way of getting it back’. And he had a talk with the heads and as usual with the BBC they were very fast, it took them two years, and they agreed it would be a good idea to put ‘Doctor Who’ on radio. But by that time Dirk Mags was busy on other things, but he delegated a brilliant young producer, and thank God it was absolutely brilliant. And when we were talking about the set-up to it, he said ‘Well who’s going to write it?’, and I said ‘Get someone who knows about the programme, who knows about the construction of the programme’, and we both said ‘Well what about Barry Letts?’, would Barry do it? Barry, as you all know, used to be my producer for many years doing ‘Doctor Who’, and of course he’s been an actor, and of course Barry wrote some of the finest ‘Doctor Who’s under various pseudonyms because he was forbidden by the BBC to write anything, so he did it as Guy Leopold which was a mixture of two names, and I enjoyed Barry’s more than practically anyone’s, so I said get Barry.
Q: It must have felt right having a Barry Letts script, with Liz, with Nick…
JP: Yes, right in. And of course with Maurice Denham in it too, a wonderful, wonderful elderly actor. And Maurice said, he said ‘You know, dear boy’ – you can’t see his teeth, he’s worn them all out with his pipe – he said ‘You and I did our first broadcast here in BH together 51 years ago’, and I said ‘Don’t be so ridiculous, I’m not that old’, he said ‘Oh yes you bloody well are’. He was absolutely right, we had done a radio show 51 years before at BH, 51 years to the day, and he produced the clipping from the Radio Times to show it, it was a programme by John Putney, the great poet. He said ‘It was absolutely wonderful, that’, and I said what were you doing before that, he said ‘Oh, I was working at BH, I was working here’, I said ‘What were you doing?’, he said ‘Installing the elevators’, and he was, before he was an actor, he was an elevator installor.
Q: Looking back over your career, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
JP: Oh yes. I wanted to have a much bigger film career, I like cameras, I have, as Michael Caine put it, he has a love affair with the lens. You can see what he’s thinking through his eyes, and I have that to a degree too, I have a rapport with the lens. I like film work, I like the medium of pictures, and I made in the 50’s and 60’s an awful lot of movies and I would like to have gone on to do… I was under contract with ABPC with George Cole, and unfortunately George walked out of his contract just as we were about to do a big picture called ‘Baby in the Battleship’ which some of you may have seen, John Mills eventually played it. I said ‘Well if George is gone, who am I going to play with?’ and they said ‘You’re not’, they got two other people and that was the end of my contract with ABPC which was a shame because that really cattled me in the film industry for many years.
Q: I mean up to the time that you played Dr. Who, the characters you played were loud, were humerous. Was ‘Who’ the first time you played straight?
JP: It was, really, because I remember Shaun Sutton, who was the head of programmes at the time and a dear friend of mine, he asked me to do it, I said ‘Well let’s have a bite of lunch’, we had lunch, and at the end of lunch he said ‘Well will you play it?’, I said ‘Let me think about it’, he rang me up the next week and said ‘Do you want to do it?’, I said ‘How about another lunch?’, we had another lunch and he said ‘So, do you want to do it?’, I said ‘How about dinner next week?’. After about three meetings I said ‘Well I’ll play it, but how do you want me to play it?’. He said ‘As Jon Pertwee’, and I said ‘Well who the hell’s that?’, because I didn’t know who Jon Pertwee was, I’d never played myself, I’d hidden under a green umbrella all my life, like Peter Sellers, my friend Peter Sellers used to do…
Q: Was that conscious, hiding under characters?
JP: Yes, I was frightened to come out. I mean, when I did plays like ‘Girl in My Soup’, which was a straight role, in England and America, I wore thick horn-rim glasses as a sort of cover, something to hide behind. I always wanted to hide, like Peter wanted to hide.
Q: Did you ever hide in the streets? I mean if you went out shopping, for example?
JP: Oh no, that’s a very different thing. I never did that. I used to dress up. Occasionally I’d dress up in dark glasses and go like that (mimes being blind), and people would help me. Got me very good seats on the train.
Q: So looking back at ‘Doctor Who’, there must have been some happy years of your working life?
JP: Oh yes, I loved it. I loved Friday night particularly, when the cheque came. And regularly too, ’cause we did an awful lot of them in those days. Yes, it was five very happy years indeed.
Q: Everyone you talk to from your time on the programme says it was a happy time, everyone was friends, everyone got on.
JP: Yes, well I insisted on that because there were so many shows that you’d been watching for years where there are regular teams, and usually those people are so cliquey, they don’t communicate at all with the guest artists who come in. Like on ‘Coronation Street’, they’d say ‘No, you can’t sit in that chair, get out of that, that’s Emily’s chair’, and with my team, with the Brig, and John Levene and Katy and Liz and all our team, I used to say to them ‘Now listen, when our guest artists come in you make a real fuss of him, make him a cup of tea, make sure he’s got a chair, really make a fuss of him’, and it worked, worked like a dream, and we had laughs, we laughed our way silly through the whole thing. In fact Barry used to get terribly cross, he’d say ‘Well what have you done today?’, and I’d say ‘We had a dart-throwing competition out the window’, and Barry said ‘I’m furious about this’, he ticked me off, and I said ‘You’re wrong, by doing that we’ve got great good humour in the company and we can get much more done, so tomorrow we can work late and nobody’s going to say a thing’, and they didn’t. We had this great rapport and feeling with our guests.
Q: That’s how it comes across. It’s nice to know that it really was true.
JP: Anyone seen ‘Return to Devil’s End’? The tape? Well you’ve seen that, when we all got back together again, we were all terrified because we thought we wouldn’t remember anything, and then Nick came out with this book of photographs and he said ‘Do you remember this?’, I said ‘Oh yes, that was when Bessie was going along the road and there was this funny thing where someone was pushing her from the back and fell under the wheels’, and of course we were off. Each photograph brought back memories. We could have made a film about nine hours long, I think.
Q: Was that an enjoyable experience, going back there?
JP: Yeah, it was lovely. Going back to, what was it called… Albourne.
Q: A lot of people rate ‘The Daemons’ very highly, it’s one of the most popular…
JP: It’s my most popular, yes. My favourite.
Q: Roger Delgado, let’s have a little word about Roger Delgado. Were you really good friends?
JP: Roger was one of my greatest friends, yes. We were enormously… the most extraordinary man, Roger Delgado, there was another example of a man who looked absolutely terrifying, with that beard and those eyes, and yet he would not say boo to a chickflit. He was the most nervous man about everything, I mean when we did ‘The Sea Devils’ putting Roger on one of those boats, those little jet boats, he nearly died. And someone said ‘Come on, Mr. Delgado’ and the director said ‘Shut up!’. He said ‘What’s the matter, guv?’, he said ‘It’s a miracle we’ve got him on the thing at all’. And when we put him in that immersion tank and sank him in the sea, I mean he really died a million deaths. I’ve often said this before, he was incredibly cowardly but therefore the bravest man I’ve ever known in my life. I would do these things joyfully because I’m a complete berk. I’ve been gadget-mad all my life, I fly, I’ve raced speedboats, I’ve raced motorcars, I’ve raced motorbikes in my lifetime, and so I loved all that. Roger hated it. His idea of a wonderful life was for us all to go out and have dinner, or eat at his house or mine, have a great dinner, drink several bottles of wine, put his carpet slippers on and then drink a bottle of port. That was a really dangerous evening and a good one.
Very sad, of course you know what happened, he was making a film out in Turkey, and the film company car… the plane was diverted, so the film company car didn’t pick him up, and being Roger he didn’t want to miss out on anything so he took a taxi and the taxi driver who drove him was a complete idiot and he drove him over a cliff and he was killed.
(At this point, Katy Manning joins).
Q: When you first got the job as Jo, when you first met him (Jon Pertwee), what were your thoughts?
KM: I thought he was frightfully tall, and because I’m very short-sighted I didn’t actually see what he looked like. I got to the waist, and I often wondered what the top bit looked like. And when I finally got to put my glasses on, and I saw what he looked like, I thought ‘Yes, I’m going to like this job’.
Q: And did you?
KM: Yes, I did. I had the most wonderful three years and Jon was extremely kind to me. I loved doing ‘The Daemons, we had the best time doing ‘The Daemons’. I mean this might sound stupid, but I loved every minute that I worked. I really did. I have the fondest memories of everything that we did and we all got on frightfully well together. I mean I loved ‘The Daemons’ and I liked the very first episode that I was in. There was one I didn’t like, and it seems to be very popular, and I really didn’t like it, there’s only one, and I always get the title wrong…
JP: ‘Day of the Daleks’? It was one of the Dalek ones. We were surrounded by Daleks. Two Daleks. It was terrible, they said ‘There’s an invasion of Daleks, and they’re surrounding this house with all these Commonwealth presidents’, and they surround the house, I said to the director ‘Well where are the Daleks?’, he said ‘Over there’. There were two. I said ‘How do you surround a house with two Daleks?’. He said ‘Well you shoot them, then you move them, you shoot two more’.
KM: They were Daleks with very large personalities. I mean it was just one of those stories that I was never happy with how it worked –
JP: Nor me.
KM: But apart from that… and I liked ‘The Curse of Peladon’, that was fun…
JP: With Pat’s son in it.
KM: That’s right, David Troughton. Every single one was great.
Q: But there must have been moments when you thought ‘I can’t stand this any more’?
KM: Never. No. Oh, once! Can I tell this story? It was Jon’s fault. We didn’t actually have a row in three years, except for once and Jon was being very impatient that day, and it was all over reading a map. Do you remember what you did?
KM: We’d had a lovely time in the car, we’d made up a whole opera about brussel sprouts… such mature and grown-up people… and Jon hates brussel sprouts, he loathes them… and I can’t remember how we got into it, but Jon was very cross with me because I wasn’t reading the map right.
JP: You were reading it upside down.
KM: Yes. Now I don’t think it’s fair to mock the afflicted, do you? Jon was being very unreasonable about me reading the map upside down, and it was probably the wrong map anyway, and I couldn’t find where we were going, and I got really distressed by this, and he actually had his first go at me. And all these people who had worked with us for all this time saw this first row going on, and in three years that’s not bad.
Q: Was it hard work?
KM: Arguing with Jon? Impossible. You can’t win. You don’t argue with this man. Never. You go into it knowing you’re going to lose. He’s bigger, he’s smarter –
Q: Jon, do you go into this knowing you’re going to win?
JP: Of course I know I’m going to win, yes.
KM: As soon as I’d look at Jon and say ‘I know I’m 100% right’, this big smile would come on his face and I knew I was wrong.
Q: Jon, you came back for ‘The Five Doctors’, ten years ago. Katy, would you ever come back if you were asked, if there was ever a new series?
KM: What the hell would you do with Jo? Five years ago, I’d have said no, but now, if I had to come back as Jo I think I would, but only if they let Jo come back a certain way. I would not come back and say ‘But Doctor, enough of your knavish tricks’, no. But Jo, I tell you what, she left him, the one she went off with, she got halfway up the Amazon, she said ‘This is not going to work’, so I would only come back if (a) she was no longer married, and (b) she could be somebody that many years later.
Q: What would she be, though?
KM: Well there’s a nice question. Everybody write in their answers.
I think the greatest thing the Brig ever said to me, when I questioned him deeply, about the way he used to underline his script in many different colours… and whenever you’d say ‘Brig, it’s your turn to speak’, he’d say ‘No, can’t be, I haven’t underlined it’, and I finally asked him why he did it. He said ‘The red is so that when somebody asks me a question, I know that I have to answer’, so in other words if the Brig didn’t have it underlined he didn’t answer your question… the workings of the man’s mind, do you remember all those incredible coloured pencils?
JP: I remember them very well, yes.
KM: And I went to the pub with him once, and I felt so sorry for him! I always sort of saw he was alright with his Bovril in the afternoon, but at lunchtime do you remember he didn’t come with us, he went to the pub –
JP: He went to the pub and had his three pints, that’s right.
KM: Three pints exactly.
JP: Well he’d had four breakfasts!
KM: He was so sweet, he said ‘Nobody ever comes to the pub with me’, and I looked at his little face and I thought ‘Oh dear’ so I went to the pub, which I find extremely boring, and I sat with him the whole lunchtime. He’s just the loveliest person to work with in the world, isn’t he?
JP: Yes. You can’t throw him. It didn’t matter how hard we tried to really screw him up, you couldn’t. Where he was playing the doppelganger, you know two roles, with the black patch over his eye, and what I said was ‘What we’re going to do is we’re all going to dress up as the Brig’, so we all put black patches over our eyes, and we had our backs to him, and he came in and said ‘Now look here, Doctor’, and I thought that would break him out completely, but he just went straight on, you simply couldn’t throw the Brig.