David Maloney directed some of the most popular stories from the original run of ‘Doctor Who’. From Troughton’s ‘The Mind Robber’ and ‘The War Games’, through to Tom Baker’s ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang’, his pedigree is right up there with the most successful directors from the original series. Here, he tells DWM about painting ponies in an aircraft hangar, trying not to draw attention to the rats at Brighton rubbish tip, and covering a Porsche with a tarpaulin to keep it out of a shot.
“I’d been on the director’s course and the head of serials, Shaun Sutton, called me into his office and asked me if I’d like to do a four-part ‘Doctor Who’ – which later became five, ‘The Mind Robber’. I remember filming for that at two o’clock in the morning at a disused aerodrome south of Croydon, in order to shoot a scene with a unicorn. The unicorn was to be played by a pony, which we were assured would be able to do all that was required, and would be white. When we arrived, we were horrified to see that it was actually a creamy brown. So in the middle of this aerodrome, in the dark, we had to paint the horse. Someone had some poster paint which covered half of it, somebody else had some blanco and make-up turned out everything they had until the horse was in all sorts of different make-up. Then we tied a horn on its head and at last filmed it.
“We all thought ‘The Krotons’ was a disaster. It replaced a comedy script by a guy called Dick Vosburgh which wasn’t working at all, so it was decided to shelve it. There is a point of no return and we didn’t want to have to cobble something together, but that’s what we ended up having to do. There was great disappointment with the way the Krotons themselves turned out. They weren’t flexible enough and they couldn’t do enough.
“As for ‘The War Games’, well I was responsible for a lot of its conception. I remember sitting in this office with Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, and the producers Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, known locally as Bryant nad May! We came up with the idea of a very long serial but after that initial decision and the choice of theme, we still hadn’t decided what theatres of war we’d go into. I went home and asked my young son what would be the periods of war he’d be most interested to look at. He said the American Civil War, the First World War and the Roman Invasion of Britain. These were the most romantic eras of war and that’s why we chose them. Malcolm Hulke wrote it with Terrance Dicks. Malcolm was always a great influence on Terry.
“The last episode was the first Time Lord script. It was a whole new concept. I had a very clever designer working on it called Roger Cheveley, now a director himself. He was very sympatico and built a great set. We filmed on the Brighton rubbish tip. As usual, there was a lot of time pressure and we weren’t going to get all the material we wanted. There was a group of make-up girls standing with their backs to this sort of cliff of rubbish. Some of us noticed that there were rats at least fourteen inches long playing behind them. We were so short of time, I put the word around not to mention this, because if the girls had seen them there’d have been havoc and we just didn’t have the time to move that police box again.
“I also remember there was an awful lot of casting to do. I cast Derrick’s wife as exactly the right type of tough English girl. There was a great need to have plenty of strong actors in it, because people kept appearing and disappearing – we needed a lot of innovation to keep the pace. I had this idea that Noel Coleman should wear these strange sort of spectacles. We also had David Garfiel, who now writes ‘Crossroads’, and the excellent Edward Brayshaw.
“I was at ITV doing an all-film children’s series called ‘Kim and Co’, when Barry Letts asked me back to do ‘Planet of the Daleks’. I was quite delighted with the effects in it, but I noticed that the style had changed markedly. Jon was very keen to keep it all dead serious, whereas all the others have used comedy as their yardstick – something I generally encouraged. I found it extremely interesting with Jon – during his period, I think the show lost a lot of its fantasy element.
“Genesis of the Daleks’ had a sort of mixed birth. It was when Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes had just taken over and Bob didn’t like Daleks at all. He apparently met Terry Nation at a party and Terry said ‘I think the Daleks should be in every season’, and Bob said ‘Oh do you?’, deciding then and there never to do another, unless the story was radically new. A few days later, he got a letter from Terry’s agent saying ‘I gather you want to do a Dalek story per season’ and so on. The only reason they did that one was because it went back and had the Davros character – a lot of which came from Bob.
“The move during that era was towards being quite frightening and violent, and I pushed that and actively participated in it. My chief designer Roger Murray Leach and I conceived all these strange images, particularly for the beginning sequence. I think all that slow motion death was a bit much in retrospect, but I did change the opening to that. Originally Terry had started it with the Doctor meeting a Time Lord in a beautiful garden. I switched that and conceived the figure of the Time Lord after the Bergman ‘Seventh Seal’ monk figure, a man cowled and with no face, playing chess on a hill with a knight. That was a direct pinch, hence John Franklyn Robbins’ costume.
“Tom Baker was a very dominant actor both physically and intellectually, so you did need to counter that. You really had to get a special actor to play against him in the villain’s part. Bernard Horsfall I’d used before as Gulliver, and just as for that part, he was what I needed in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ – big, tough and with range. Peter Pratt I chose because apart from being a very well-known radio actor, it was of particular interest to me having watched him after the war as the leading man with the D’oyly Carte opera company. Consequently he had a splendid voice.
“Louise Jameson’s Leela worried me, in that it was the first time he’d had a nubile companion in the true sense of the world – they were too close in age and strength of presence. I used to joke that there’d be an episode with the Doctor and Leela in the TARDIS and we’d say ‘Come out and have an adventure’, and he’d say ‘No thanks, I’m quite happy in here with Leela’. I always thought he should be a mentor, not an equal with his companions.
“In ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’, we were due to film in and around a set of Victorian houses in Twickenham and in a Victorian square in Wapping. We had posted letters to all the owners of the houses, asking them all if they’d please remove their motor cars because we wanted to bring a carriage through the square. When we got there, there was a Porsche still parked in full view and it was really going to ruin e verything we wanted to do, so Roger Murray-Leach, my designer, had the very clever idea of putting a tarpaulin over the car and covering it with hay. It was the first time I did a videotape outside broadcast instead of film. We used the Northampton rep. theatre because it’s still got the original Victorian flying area above the stage and we had a big chase there. Robert Holmes delivered the scripts more or less hand to mouth. He’d gone away on holiday expecting a six-parter on his desk when he got back, but it fell through and at very short notice he had to write six episodes himself. We didn’t ever start with all six scripts and we discussed it a lot between us.”