Archive for the ‘Original Series’ Category

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.

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Nicholas Courtney (1999)

September 1, 2009

This is a transcript of parts of an interview you can find here, in which he discusses how he’d like to be buried, his experiences working with Jon Pertwee and Harry Hill, and the many times he’s worn dresses and fish-net stockings.

Q: I never realised that your mentor was Sir John Gielgud. How big an influence has he been for you?

A: Well when I was a very young actor I found him rather magical to look at and to listen to. I mean his voice is not to everyone’s choice but it was when I was young, because of course Shakespeare is my, as it were, my governor. I wish I could do some more Shakespeare and I hope I do. He was a hero of mine, he spanned such a long period from the 1920’s, 1930’s right up, and he’s still living now, albeit he doesn’t often take much work. He (Gielgud) wrote several books that influenced me enormously, on his attitude to his work and how he thought actors should comport themselves and behave, and he just became a major hero of mine.

Q: In your opinion, what’s better to do – live theatre or recording in a studio?

A: Well I think at the end of the day, probably live theatre. I started in live theatre before I went into television and films, and I think live theatre is most satisfying because you get that tremendous feedback from the audience, you get that rapport between audience and actor. One of the things that is very pleasurable for an actor, performing in comedy or tragedy of whatever, and you can feel an audience’s attention, if they’ve very gripped by what you’re trying to do. Of course in comedy, to get a laugh is lovely… and sometimes it’s wonderful, if you want to, to kill a laugh, and if you can manage to stop the audience laughing when you want to, I think it gives you qutie a sense of power. So I think having starte in the theatre, that’s my first love, but I love all branches of the profession, really. There’s something to be said for each one of them. Television is fascinating, one learns a lot. Of course my first television I ever did, I was appalling, because I was pulling too many faces. I hadn’t realised I wasn’t in the theatre.

Q: Of course it’s different when you’re doing ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’…

A: Yes, I did that one stage and I learnt a lot doing that. (laughs) That was 1980. I think, as a joke, on the last night of our tour the narrator, which is the part that I played, had a smoking  jacket but below that I had fishnet stockings. Just as a bit of a joke.

Q: You had the pleasure of working with Jon Pertwee for so many years. What is the one thing about him that people don’t know about?

A: Well I think one of the things that people don’t know about him is… Actually, we were talking about it this past weekend, because we’ve just had a big ‘Doctor Who’ convention in Coventry, which is quite near Birmingham, and we had a very successful weekend… But one of the things that I think maybe many people don’t know about Jon Pertwee is, in my view he was a very good leading man to have at the head of a company, because when we started a story – apart from the regular people who we got to know – we had our first read-through of the script, we’d then go upstairs and have some coffee, and he would make it a point with all the guest people who were with us, to find out about them, to find out what made them tick. He took an interest, and he made everyone feel very much at home. And that’s why he was a particularly good leading man. He wanted to find out about other people, and I suppose by doing that he found out more about himself. He was a very hard worker, he drove himself very hard.

Q: And you were in ‘The Mousetrap’?

A: Yes. Doing a play like that night after night for a year, you’re bound to get to a point, maybe six months in or whatever, where it becomes very repetitive and you’ve got to make sure that it isn’t repetitive because the audience has paid good money to see it, and you’ve got to bring freshness to it. You’ve got to bring fresh energy to it every night, and not amble or walk through it, because it’s very unprofessional to do that, and very rude to the audience. That’s quite a discipline. It was hard work, that, very very hard work. It was very nice for the security, to have a year’s work, but it was very hard work to try to keep fresh all the time.

Q: In the 1980’s, when you were an established film, stage and television actor, did you ever think that appreciation for the Brigadier would come back like this? Beginning with ‘Mawdryn Undead’, then ‘Battlefield’, did you think all this would happen, when you did your first ‘Doctor Who’ back in the 1960’s?

A: No, no I didn’t. When I did my first ‘Doctor Who’, as Brety Vyon in ‘The Dalek Masterplan’, to me it was another job, an engagement for four episodes, and I thought ‘Well that was fun’ and got on with it. I think the director, Douglas Camfield, more than anyone else has been responsible for my longevity in that part, because he directed me as a colonel in ‘The Web of Fear’ and then he directed me in the first Brigadier story with Patrick Troughton, and of course later with Jon Pertwee, and of course he directed me with Tom Baker as well, in ‘Terror of the Zygons’. Of course he was an army man himself, he was a 2nd Lieutenant, I was only a private, I didn’t have any ambition to be a serious soldier… and he (Douglas Camfield) saw in my performance in ‘The Web of Fear’ that I was a natural for officer material, and I told him that I’d only been a private, but he said I came over naturally as an officer type. My father was a real army officer in the first world war, before becoming a diplomat, and it must have rubbed off on me, observations of my father, and indeed observations of officers under whom I served during my national service period.

Q: So Graham Chapman’s take on the Brigadier in ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, was that flattering?

A: I’m trying to remember that.

Q: One thing that sticks out is the blacmange episode, Monty Python’s take on ‘Doctor Who’, and Graham Chapman’s imitation of you doing the Brigadier was spot on.

A: Oh, yes, I find that very flattering.

Q: And speaking of comedy takes of the Brigadier, you’ve been on TV tap-dancing with Cybermen?

A: Well not quite tap-dancing. This is a show I recorded about four weeks ago, a comedy by Harry Hill who’s got a very special type of comedy show, satirical, whacky, I don’t know very esoteric, a very particular type of comedy – incidentally, a very nice man, very charming – and the reason I got that part, and I did another part last year with another actor – and these are the leading men now who grew up with the Brigadier, so that’s great that I’m being booked by these younger people. Harry Hill called my agent and asked me to do a guest spot, and I said ‘Sure’, and I got on very well with the whole company, I had a very enjoyable three days.

I don’t exactly tap-dance with the Cybermen, it’s a very satirical programme and what happens is that Harry Hill announces that the new Dr. Who is going to be Clare Short. She’s the minister for development in the present government, and she’s a very full, large lady indeed, well fairly large anyway… and then the Brigader says ‘Well we at UNIT are thrilled that Clare Short is going to be the new Doctor’, and I have to say this with a very straight face, ‘We’re delighted that she’s going to join us and we’ve got a present for her’, and it’s a cut-glass vase, and then a Cyberman appears and breaks the glass, and the Brigadier turns to him and says ‘You always have to break things, don’t you? You can’t keep anything nice around here’, and he almost breaks into tears. It’s all comedy, it’s lovely stuff. Then later on in that show, I appear again in a sort of space send-up, space spoof. The Brigadier suddenly breaks in, fires a few shots into the air, and a puppet’s head flies off, and Harry Hill says ‘UNIT got a tip-off that someone was here’, and then later the Brigader… there’s a song, there’s a group called The Communards, pop music, well the Brigadier sings three lines of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’. So it’s a whacky show.

Q: I want to talk to you about dresses.

A: Dresses? Yes, well I did a show, a comedy show, and again this was written by a fan of the show, and it’s set in Wales, and I’m playing a sort of public schoolboy who went to the bad and his life fell apart, he was left without a penny, and the Welsh family out of the kindness of their hearts put him up, but he’s so ashamed of himself he hangs himself. So one scene I had, this guy is dead and in heaven, he likes to wear dresses, this guy, he’s a transvestite. So there’s the Brigadier in a long white gown and sipping a glass of wine and he’s happy now, because he can wear what he likes in heaven. That was a thing called ‘Satellite City’.

Q: If the royal armed forces said to you that, in the event that you pass away, we’d like to give you a full military burial, what would you say?

A: Well that would be very nice, very interesting indeed. Not that I’d be around to enjoy it! I’ve made my will, and when I go I want to be cremated and I want my ashes to be scattered, ideally in the Mediterranean sea, or any sea would do, but ideally the Mediterranean because I was born and grew up in Egypt and France and all that and I love the sea. I feel very close to water, and I feel very comfortable with water.

Nabil Shaban (2000)

August 31, 2009

Here are sections of two interviews with Nabil Shaban, Sil from ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Mindwarp’. The first part is ‘Doctor Who’-focused, and you can read the original here. The second part is from a Channel 4 documentary in which he talks about, among other things, his reasons for becoming an actor and his experience working with Derek Jarman.

“Ron Jones was searching for someone small to play Sil… he’d interviewed and auditioned many ‘dwarf” and ‘midget’ actors for the part but he wasn’t satisfied with any of them. Time was running out and rehearsals were scheduled to start within the month. Then Martin Jarvis, who had already been cast as the Governor of Varos asked if Sil had been found yet, and when he was told No, he said he knew of the ideal person. Apparently his wife had seen me in a TV show a few years previous, and reminded Martin that I could be what ‘Doctor Who’ was looking for. So as a result of Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis’ suggestion, I was invited to read a couple of scenes of Varos at an audition with Ron. At the end of the interview / audition, Ron offered me the part outright. However, I nearly didn’t make it to the interview because I got stopped by a traffic cop for carrying out an illegal motoring manouver, and because I insisted on arguing with the pug when I had no right to – I knew I was in the wrong but I don’t respect the law and I despise the pigs. He very near arrested me. However, I like to think that the ghost of William Hartnell was looking after me, as I was his biggest fan, and he planted a thought-form into the ‘Rozer’s brain and so I was allowed to continue.

“As a fan of ‘Doctor Who’ since its birth in 1963, I was extremely excited and nervous on the first day. By chance, I got into the lift with Patrick Troughton. Of course he had no idea who I was or what I was doing at the BBC, and I didn’t tell him. We just smiled at each other. I took teh coincidental encounter as a good omen. Because I was an inexperienced, untrained actor and disabled, I didn’t want to appear a dud, so I learnt all my lines before the first day. I assumed all the actors would have done anyway, well I then became embarrassed when I discovered I was the only actor to know the script word-perfect, so for the first few days I had to pretend not to know my lines, but Forbes Collins and Colin Baker saw through my ruse and Colin Baker announced that I was a swot and trying to win Brownie points from the teacher! Also, by the first day I had the Sil laugh off to a tee. I’m met a snake the week previous, and got my inspiration from watching it flick its tongue back and forth.

“I took up acting for several reasons. One, I wasn’t supposed to act. As a disabled person, it wasn’t expected of you, the best you could hope for was to be an accountant. Secondly, it’s a great form of escapism, being something that you’re not in your normal life. I’ve had the chance to playAyatollah Khameni, Haile Selassie, Jesus, Hamlet – a whole range of experiences which you wouldn’t normally be able to have. And thirdly, I like story-telling and being part of the story-telling process.

“I was able to get started as a professional actor as a result of setting up a theatre company for disabled actors. It was myself and an able-bodied guy named Richard Tomlinson set this up, round about 1979. It got going in 1980, we toured the States for a bit, went to Canada, and made a bit of a name for ourselves. We got press attention in Britain and attracted the attention of the Arena arts documentary makers at the BBC, and a combination of touring Canada and the Arena documentary allowed me to get seen. As a result, I was offered a few weeks’ stint as an actor on stage.

“The theatre I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed them for different reasons, so I wouldn’t say I enjoyed Jesus in ‘Godspell’ or Hamlet more, because they all enabled me to discover something in myself. I think it’s very hard for disabled actors and performes to get work, there’s still a lot of cliches within the arts industries and people tend to think of… for example, you get very few disabled people in leading roles, unless the script actually says ‘This person is disabled’, then they might get the role. I say ‘might’, because they might prefer to get an able-bodied person to ‘black up’, so to speak, and have that role. But generally because our culture’s very body-fascist, you’ve got to be beautiful, you’ve got to have a nicely-formed body, as a man or a woman, if you’re going to play a romantic lead, for example.

“In the case of ‘Wittgenstein’, it’s possible that Derek Jarman thought of me because we’d met before, when he was making ‘Caravaggio’. He was a very easy-going person, very open to suggestions, so I actually found it a joy working with him and it’s a great tragedy (that he died), there’s no-one to replace him.

“As a disabled person, there’s a lot to be achieved through the arts. Writing, acting, performing, it’s all about presenting mirrors of society, and the trouble for disabled people is that the mirror is one-sided, in other words we’re like vampires, the vampire’s not reflected in a mirror, and 99% of the time disabled people are not reflected in the mirrors that are presented to the people. And that’s perhaps one of the most important reasons for me being an actor”.

John Nathan-Turner (1993)

August 30, 2009

Here’s John Nathan-Turner, probably the most controversial producer in the show’s history, giving a quite wide-ranging interview about the show. He talks about working as a Floor Manager in the Patrick Troughton days, about trying to persuade Peter Davison to stay on for a fourth series, and about the real reasons for the Colin Baker era’s troubles.

Q: Going back to ‘The Space Pirates’, how did you find the production team, the atmosphere, compared to under Barry Letts, who was producer on your second one ‘The Ambassadors of Death’?

A: Well when I first worked on the show it was in the role of Floor Assistant, the most junior member of the production team, basically a kind of glorified Call Boy, my main responsibilities being getting the actors on the set at the right time. And the very first story I worked on was with Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, and subsequently two other stories with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. Now the thing about the role of the Floor Assistant is that you’re working on the floor, you don’t have headphones, you’re not aware of what’s going on upstairs, and certainly it seemed to me that what was going on down on the floor was more fun on the Patrick Troughton show. There was a tremendous atmosphere of naughty schoolboys, almost, with the last Pat Troughton and Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury all goofing around. Being serious for the rehearsals and takes, of course. Now that’s not to say that when it came to working on the Pertwee shows they weren’t fun, they were just not as much fun. I think perhaps the technicalities of the show undoubtedly had become greater. The show had moved into colour, which required greater concentration in those areas. So that’s why my chief memories of the show are of Pat’s era, towards the end of black and white era of ‘Doctor Who’, as being a very fun environment, and Jon’s era being a little more serious from upstairs.

Q: When the BBC gave you the producer’s post in 1979, you’d already proved yourself as a Production Unit Manager on ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and on ‘Doctor Who’ under Graham Williams. Did you know what you wanted to do from the start with ‘Doctor Who’, particularly with the changes to fan consciousness of the show in America?

A: I think if you’re hoping for something to happen, like you’re hoping to take over ‘Doctor Who’ as producer, then you tend to have very very tentative plans indeed, because I think the whole time perhaps you’re expecting disappointment and that it won’t happen. So I’d made only a few initial plans of what I’d do if I got to take over from Graham Williams. It wasn’t until I actually took over that I sat down seriously to appraise what it was that I actually wanted to do. I think it was a case of tempting fate too much, if I’d had an enormous list before I got the job.

Q: Recalling what Pat Troughton told Peter Davison, to not play the Doctor for more than three years, and then recalling the 18th month hiatus, the cancellation in 1989, and all that happened, do you wish you’d got Peter Davison to stay on for a fourth year?

A: Well I did attempt to persuade Peter to stay on after he’d completed three years. I think the decision that the optimum period is three years is one that’s been made subsequent to Peter’s time. I think everyone at the BBC – myself, the head of drama, perhaps even the controller of BBC1 – did attempt to persuade Peter to stay on. If that had happened, I think those questions of ‘What if?’ are very difficult to answer. One thing I know is that I really wish that I had moved on earlier, because I feel to some extent, although every actor who plays the part gets labelled by playing the leading role in the world’s longest-running science-fiction series, I feel that as producer for eleven years it labelled me more than I would like, because I don’t see my future being concerned totally with science-fiction. I actually see my career having a much broader canvas, really, so I think in terms of people moving on maybe I should have moved on earlier.

Q: On the bright side, if you come to the States you always have somewhere to stay.

A: (laughs) That’s true.

Q: Looking at Colin Baker’s era, and the official story that the show was put on hiatus for 18 months because of the excessive violence in his first year, do you wish you could change the violence level, looking back at it?

A: Well I think I have to pick you up there and say I don’t think it’s ever been said that it was taken off for 18 months because it was too violent. I think the real reason was that they needed a certain amount of money by cancelling many programmes – ‘Doctor Who’ was one of them – to establish daytime television on the BBC, and it was an attempt to suddenly demand this money because the BBC wished to pull forward their launch date because the independent companies were pulling forward theirs. So there was a sudden and dramatic attempt to get this money by cancelling a lot of shows, and this was always the reason, or certainly the reason I was always given, as to why it was rested. As for Colin’s contribution, I actually think he got a tremendously raw deal, in that he did one season, then there was the hiatus, then we came back and there were only fourteen episodes and they were in a different format, and then the decision was made to move forward with a new Doctor. So Colin never got a chance to get his teeth into the part. I think most people would agree with me that the first season of virtually every Doctor is really a very tentative one, the actor trying desperately to find a way to play the part, which after all is veyr thinly sketched, and coming to terms with the amount of themselves that has to be injected into the portrayal. So I really feel that Colin, maybe, if there hadn’t been that hiatus, would have got into a slightly higher gear that would have allowed him to mature his portrayal.

Q: He did seem to get screwed, and he did very well with the resources that he had. Was ‘Doctor Who’ put off a bit to make way for ‘Eastenders’?

A: No, I don’t think so. ‘Eastenders’ had been on the cards for a number of years. I think that where ‘Doctor Who’ got involved with ‘Eastenders’ was that after ‘Doctor Who’ was moved from its traditional Saturday slot, each year we’d be on different days. One year it’s be Monday and Wednesday, then another year Monday and Tuesday, and so on, and apart from doubling our audience during this time, which was a significant indication that those early evening drama slots could work, I think that what we were doing was really rehearsing which of the two evenings of the week would be ideal for a soap opera which had yet to be named, which was ‘Eastenders’. And the whole thing has come full circle, because this weekend in Britain there has been a programme celebrating thirty years of ‘Doctor Who’ combining the programme with ‘Eastenders’. The TARDIS arrives in London and gets embroiled with characters from ‘Eastenders’ in a two-part mini-adventure in 3D, a very exciting technology that I don’t think we’ve seen the end of. The story has all five living Doctors, twelve companions, a multitude of characters from ‘Eastenders’, and a multitude of monsters, something like twenty different monsters. And in a way there’s a certain irony that we were once rehearsing the slot for ‘Eastenders’, which by the way has just become the most popular programme in Britain, in positions one and two, it’s finally beaten ‘Coronation Street’.

Q: Fans want to know if the selection of Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush was because the BBC wanted to keep the show on track when it returned, because she was popular from ‘Crackerjack’, or was it more a matter of calming down the front office from the BBC’s point of view?

A: You’ve got a lot of mis-information there. Bonnie was never on ‘Crackerjack’, which was a programme that was cancelled when ‘Doctor Who’ was rested in 1985, and ‘Crackerjack’ never came back. I don’t think Bonnie was ever involved in that. I cast Bonnie, it was my idea, I thought she was right for the part. I also thought that bringing in someone who already had a name, as a companion, would help with publicity, to refresh people’s memory and to help with that. It was not a popular decision with many of the fans in Britain, but I think you have to keep that in perspective. Fans with a big ‘f’ who are members of the DWAS in Britain total 2,500 people, and over the years, for example when we were doing two episodes a week and getting ten million viewers, I think you have to keep the views of the Fans in context.

Q: I was speaking to Sophie Aldred, and she said that she didn’t originally audition for the role of a companion. She said she auditioned for Chris Clough, then went to you for approval, then back to Chris Clough and found out that you had just selected her in a way that required no test readings or auditions whatsoever. And she said that she owes her career success to you.

A: Well it was a weird situation in a way, because at the end of that season there were two stories both of which featured a possible ongoing character. There was a young girl in ‘Dragonfire’ and a young girl in ‘Delta and the Bannermen’, and the script editor Andrew Cartmel and I couldn’t  decide which story should end the season, and consequently the casting of these two young girls involved my office in a very major way because whichever one went out last would possibly hold the key to staying on in the show as a companion. But I’m delighted that it was Ace. I certainly don’t think that Sophie was right for the other part. I’m not saying she couldn’t have played it, but I think she was much righter for Ace, and I think the combination of Ace with Doctor number seven, Sylvester McCoy, is probably one of the most successful in the show’s history.

Q: How do you know if that chemistry will exist?

A: If you could bottle that kind of chemistry, you’d be the next multi-millionaire. I think it’s very much a kind of instinctive chemistry that happens between two people who are working together and something additional gels in front of the camera. It’s something that I think was particularly applaudable in the work that Sophie and Sylvester did.

Q: Onto the ‘New Adventures’ books, do you like the novels and their treatment of the characters?

A: I have to confess that I have limited knowledge of those novels and their characters. Not being the resident producer of ‘Doctor Who’, although I’ve just guested on this Children in Need thing, I find some of the things that have developed that I’ve read slightly odd, you know, but then I’m a sweet old-fashioned thing hankering after my old days. I think it’s right that the show should develop, and I’m not knocking what Peter Darvill-Evans does with the books, and I think it needs to go forward in order to be successful. The development of characters, situations, the whole premise of the show, I think it would be infinitely preferable if it happened on television rather than in the novels first.

Q: Sophie Aldred said that she didn’t like seeing Ace as a warmonger in the books, she wanted her to be a pacifist, but she said that she hadn’t actually read the books. I take it a lot of people from the show don’t know how the books have developed things?

A: Unfortunately not had the time, I guess.

Q: Your participation with the video releases, after the cancellation, did that help to convince the BBC that they didn’t really need to make new stories? That they could just make a buck with rehashed old stories.

A: Well, I think that’s a very simplistic view, if I may say so. I think inevitably there’s a buck to be made, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to see that the buck is going to run out pretty soon. In the UK, they release twelve complete stories each year, plus three specials, and that’s a hell of a lot of material. They’ve been doing it for a number of years, and I don’t think it’ll be long before those video releases run out. I know you get them slightly slower in the States, so they’ll hang on longer, but I really don’t think that anyone thinks it’s a substitute for making new product.

Q: When the show comes back, how would you like to see it?

A: I’ve said in print and in a docuumentary that goes out tonight in the UK that I see this ‘Children in Need’ thing as my absolute farewell to ‘Doctor Who’. Although it’s only twelve minutes, it has brought together every living Doctor, all of them in costume, all of them recording new material that’s specific to this rather than using material that was left over from a junked story, and it’s brought back so many of the companions and so many of my old team that I really feel that it’s the end of ‘Doctor Who’ for me. What it needs for the future is a new team with new ideas and a whole new aegis of taking the show forward into the next century.

Michael Grade (2005)

August 30, 2009

Just a short extract from a 2005 BBC Radio interview with Michael Grade, famously the man who axed ‘Doctor Who’ back in the 1980’s. I’m not sure he’s ever really explained why he left the same producers in charge for so long while being so sure that they were taking the wrong approach.

Q: You weren’t a big fan of ‘Doctor Who’, were you, at one point?

A: When I was running BBC1, a very very long time ago, the show was really creaky and groany, and the people who were making it, it was as if they’d never been to the cinema and seen ‘Close Encounters’ or ‘ET’ or ‘Star Wars’, and the production values, once you’d seen those movies, it didn’t stack up anymore. And I cancelled it. I became a figure of hate, I have in my bathroom at home an award from the American Doctor Who Appreciation Society and it’s a horse’s ass, in gold. I made the right decision, I have to say that when I arrived back at the BBC a few years later the first thing they told me was that they’d revived ‘Doctor Who’, and thank goodness because the production values, the scripts, Russell T. Davies’ scripts, the whole thing is absolutely magical. I love it. It’s brilliant, because they’ve brought it up to date.

Jon Pertwee (1989)

August 29, 2009

Here’s a transcript of Jon Pertwee talking to Terry Wogan in 1989. He was promoting ‘The Ultimate Adventure’, the stage play in which he reprised the role of the Doctor, but he doesn’t really talk about that -instead, the dominant theme seems to be ‘wind’, which got him expelled from RADA and blew him off course in a hovercraft while filming ‘The Sea Devils’.

Q: You’re back as Dr. Who on the stage after a fifteen year gap, are you glad to be back?

A: Oh, sure, the money’s good.

Q: Do you miss being Dr. Who?

A: Yes, I do from time to time. But I enjoyed being Worzel Gummidge too.

Q: You followed William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. What gave you the inspiration for the flamboyance?

A: The clothes? Well that was a bit of luck, really. I wanted to wear something very severe, like a suit, but they said no, that was too severe. So in order to do something for the front cover of the Radio Times I put on an old velvet smoking jacket, and a cape, and a frilly shirt from Mr. Fish, who was very trendy at the time, and stood like that on the front cover, and they said they liked it. I said ‘Well how are we going to explain it?’, so in the first story they had me go into a changing room and nick a lot of clothing from various doctors. Some doctor had a hat, some doctor had a coat, then I put them on, went outside and leapt into an old motor car, an old Vauxhall 1938 and drove off, and that eventually became Bessie.

Q: I think the programme was maybe at its peak when you were in it. Maybe the technology got taken over by things like ‘Star Wars’…

A: Yes, well we kept things pretty simple, and we kept the threats on Earth when I was there, the majority of the time anyway.

Q: Yes, you fought off a number of Cybermen in your time –

A: No I didn’t! Daleks, yes. And a giant spider got me in the end. Well, not in the end, but he got me! (laughs)

Q: Did you do your own stunts?

A: Yes. Yes, I did, much to the infuriation of Terry Walsh, my stuntman. I did everything that I could apart from falling. If it was riding motorbikes or speedboats or climbing down ladders from helicopters, I did that. If it was falling, I didn’t know how to do that, and if I broke something then everybody’d be out of work.

Q: You nearly killed half a crew once, didn’t you?

A: I’m afraid so. Well, Barry Letts, my producer, said ‘You can drive anything, can’t you?’. I said ‘Well no, not without a bit of practice’, he said ‘Well there’s a hovercraft, why don’t you have a go at that, we’ll see if we can get that into the programme’. Well we got it into the programme, but he never gave me any time to practice. I kept saying ‘Can I practice?’, he kept saying ‘Not yet, not yet, I’ll let you know when’, and he never told me until he said ‘Okay, go’, and I had to come up a river bank on the river Severn, go between two cameras and go over a stuntman who was playing an old tramp and as he lay back I went over the top of him with the hovercraft. Well I did this, but unfortunately there was a very strong wind at the time and it pushed me to the port side and I wiped out the entire camera crew. It was very dangerous, because you’ve got propellers roaring around both down there and up there, so it could be very dangerous. Barry said ‘Can you do it again?’, and he said to everyone ‘Go round the other side, go round the other camera’. They all went round the other camera, and they said to me ‘Allow for the wind’, and I said ‘Yes, I’ll allow for the wind’. So I did it again, and I allowed for the wind, but there wasn’t a wind and so I wiped out the other camera.

Q: You were born into a very theatrical family, you had no choice, you had to be an actor. Did you ever play this theatre? (referring to the studio where ‘Wogan’ was taped)

A: I certainly did, when it was the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I remember very well that I came out of the stage door one night and I’d gone very well, which was difficult in vaudeville, especially in Glasgow where they threw everything at you… but I came out, and there was an enormous Irish gentleman – there were a lot of them about Shepherd’s Bush in those days – he was leaning up against the wall and he went ‘Oi!’, I said ‘Me?’, he said ‘Come over here’, he said ‘Here you are, sign that’. I said ‘Of course, how could I resist such a charming invitation’, I signed it and gave it to him, and he threw it away! To this day I don’t know who he thought I was!

Q: Did you ever recover from this?

A: Never!

Q: You were continuously expelled from school, weren’t you?

A: Yes, I was. That’s a family trait, well not my brother Michael, he was very well behaved, but –

Q: You got expelled from RADA?

A: Yes, I got thrown out of RADA, I’m afraid. I’d refused to be a wind. There was a lady who taught Greek dancing and Greek tragedy, and I just had to go ‘Wooooo’ and I thought it was terribly expensive for my poor father to pay for me to be a wind. So I rebelled, I refused to be a wind.

Q: Didn’t Noel Coward speak highly of you once?

A: Well yes, Kenneth Barnes told me I had absolutely no talent whatsoever of any kind in the theatre, so I was in a play at the end of my season and, just before I was about to be expelled, I played two parts, I played the man who was murdered in the first act and the man who found out who murdered me in the last act, with full make-up and moustaches and so on. And at the end of the show, Kenneth Barnes said to Noel Coward, who was the guest of honour, ‘Was there anyone you thought had particular talent in the company?’, and Noel Coward said ‘Yes, very good performance from the man who was murdered in the first act, and I particularly liked the man who played the detective in the last’. (laughs) So I promptly gave him a kiss, which was a very dangerous thing to do, and I never looked back!

Q: How did you get involved with ‘Worzel Gummidge’?

A: Well when Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall asked me to do a movie that they’d written of Worzel Gummidge, of course I jumped at it, but unfortunately the movie hit the wall, they didn’t get the distribution that they wanted, or the money, so I said ‘Could you give me a pilot, cheap?’, and they gave me a pilot, bless them, and we sold it to television. The BBC turned it down flat, incidentally, they said it had no future at all (laughs), so I then took it to Thames because I knew they’d jump at it, having just done ‘Whodunnit?’ for them, and they turned it down flat too. Then there was a man called Lewis Rudd at Southern Television, a man of great perspicacity, and he said ‘I think it’s wonderful’ and we made it, and within five or six weeks we were something of a cult.

Colin Baker & Nicola Bryant (1992)

August 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What about Nicola in the past five years?

NB: Um, what have I done?

CB: Well that’s enough about Nicola.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NB: No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NB: He took all the risks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: It was destroyed, that’s why.

CB: Oh was it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CB & NB: No!

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

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

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

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

CB: (laughs) No, Nicola chose hers.

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

Q: Sophie seemed to do pretty well.

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

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

Sylvester McCoy (1996)

August 25, 2009

In this 1996 interview (you can hear the original here), Sylvester McCoy discusses the Paul McGann TV movie, British theatre and the reasons why the show was cancelled back in 1989, as well as his thoughts on ‘Search Out Science’ and ‘Dimensions in Time’.

Q: What’s your opinion of British theatre? Do you think British theatre deserves a lot more credit than it gets at the moment?

A: Well, yes, I mean it’s the perennial cry, British theatre is, in Britain, very successful in its own terms, and much loved. It depends on which government’s in power, it’s a bit like PBS over here. If you’ve got Republicans in power, goodbye PBS; if you’ve got Democrats, they might be able to scrape a little money together to keep it going. It’s the same with theatre in Britain, although because we have this long and wonderful tradition with theatre, they haven’t killed it off and they never will, really.

Q: What’s more difficult to do, classical Greek tragedy or panto?

A: Well they’re not difficult, I mean if acting is difficult then they’re all difficult, but if it’s not… They all require different skills. So pantomime you give as much, you have to give energy, high energy, because you’ve got to directly entertain the audience, you can’t relax. You need many skills to do it, it’s not an easy thing to do. When you’re doing tragedy or more concentrated theatre, the skills there are deep concentration and communication, being able to tell the story. But both… I don’t differentiate between the great classics, which I’ve been lucky to do, and the pantomimes, which I suppose a lot of people in the US think of pantomime as Marcel Marceau, but in England…

Q: More like ‘Oh no he isn’t’, ‘Oh yes he is’?

A: Yes. A whole different skill’s involved.

Q: Do you think William Shakespeare’s resurrected British film, with Kenneth Branagh?

A: Well I suppose if William Shakespeare were alive he’d be working out here as a hack in Hollywood. It’s wonderful that Kenneth Branagh, well it’s Kenneth Branagh who’s helped to revive the British film industry, a bit. Again, with a change of government and a bit of sensible tax adjustments, as they’ve done in Ireland, we’d have a very good film industry. The problem is because we’re an English-speaking country we have to compete with other English-speaking countries that make films, and one of those is Hollywood. So it needs help. I think most likely in Hollywood help is given in tax breaks to people, but they don’t do that in Britain at all. We’re not playing on a level field.

Q: Speaking of doing great things on low budgets, what are your thoughts on continuing to work with people like Bill Baggs and Nick Briggs?

A: Well yes, I was very pleased, Sophie was the one who advised me to go and work with them, because she’s done them before. The first one I did, more because it meant working with Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker and Peter Davison, I just wanted to have at least worked with a few of the other Doctors. That was the main reason I did that. Then the second time, the chance to play such an interesting villain, because he starts off not as a villain and then develops. So just in purely selfish terms, the parts were really nice that I was given.

Q: Speaking of traditions and other Doctors, tell me about Paul McGann?

A: Well Paul McGann has been a friend, I’ve known him for quite a few years, he’s a marvellous actor. What he’ll bring to it is a sense of danger, he has a wonderful sense of danger. As a film actor, he’s a bit like Laurence Olivier, in the sense that when you went to see Olivier you were never quite sure what he was going to do it. I mean, he might just explode in front of you into something amazing, and Paul McGann’s got that, like any minute now something amazing might happen, something terrible might happen. And he’s very good at comedy, he can jump back and forth. So I think he’ll be a very good actor to play Dr. Who because of those facets, he’s got lots of things he can play around with.

Q: How does it feel to pass the baton? Your Doctor’s been around longer than Tom Baker’s.

A: Well I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in this transformation, because it finished for me about six years ago and I carried on doing whatever I’ve been doing for the rest of the time, having a merry time, and I’ve had a merry time. I gave up being the Doctor. I mean I enjoyed the conventions and the other side of the ‘Doctor Who’ world, or should I say universe, so when the phone call came I was delighted to learn that it was being revived. Because I’ve got to know a lot of fans and I know it’s what they want. And for purely selfish reasons, it’ll revive interest in the earlier Doctors. So I think it’s a very good thing. So I with delight and great pride pass on the baton to a great actor who I think will be marvellous. I think I’m blessed that the other actors gave up with sadness – apart from Peter Davison – but I get to pass the baton in this way, and in such an exotic location.

Q: With things like ‘Search Out Science’ and ‘Dimensions in Time’, did you feel it was a case of the BBC leading the fans on, saying ‘We’ll bring the Doctor out when it’s convenient for us’, until about six months ago?

A: Not really, no. I mean the BBC’s a vast organisation, and within there were people who were trying to keep it alive, and I think what they were doing was trying to keep it going. It wasn’t any kind of Machiavellian plan by the people at the top. I’m a great believer in the cock-up theory, the reason why ‘Doctor Who’ finished was it was a complete cock-up by management, so those things that you mentioned weren’t in any devious way, someone just thought ‘It’d be good to have the Doctor doing this’, and I think the one we did for ‘Children in Need’ they thought might revive interest in the show within the BBC, but it didn’t.

Peter Davison (2003)

August 23, 2009

This is a transcript of part of a US interview with Peter Davison from 2003, in which he talks about his career, about typecasting, about the audio adventures (which were pretty new back then) and about advice he received from Patrick Troughton to be careful about staying in the role for too long. You can see the original video here.

Q: You come over to America to do conventions fairly often. Do you enjoy coming over?

A: Yeah, I mean it’s a work experience. When we first started doing conventions, many years ago, all the actors leapt at it, the chance to visit and do the conventions, but in many ways it’s harder work than doing the job, because there you’re playing a part, here you’re having to be yourself. Some of us aren’t that good at that. (laughs) We prefer to hide behind the mask of whoever we’re playing.

Q: Do fans ask you about other work you’ve done, such as ‘Campion’ and ‘All Creatures Great and Small’?

A: Well they ask about things they’ve seen, and the first thing they’ve seen over here (in the US) is ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, so yes, they definitely do. And also ‘Campion’, which came out under the ‘Mystery Theatre’ heading. They’re always interested in other work I’ve been doing, although I was very fortunate in the early years that I was doing a lot of stuff that was shown in America, I’ve been doing a lot of television stuff more recently that hasn’t normally appeared on American TV.

Q: You left ‘Doctor Who’ around eighteen years ago, and you’ve had an incredibly versatile career in stage and television, and even some film. If things were very different and they were making ‘Doctor Who’ now, and they only now approached you for it, how might your choices be different?

A: Well I’m still playing him in a way. I’ve no idea, is the answer… I’d be less youthful, is the honest answer, I wouldn’t be running down the corridors quite so quickly.

Q: Wiser?

A: Yes. I thought the way I’m doing it on the audio CD’s, although I’ve not consciously made it different to how I was playing the Doctor in the series, it’s necessarily different, because you do grow older.

Q: Let’s talk about the audios for a moment. After you left the show, you must have known there would always be fan interest, conventions and things, but in your wildest imaginings did you think there’d be books and audios and conventions still going on?

A: Well the audios very definitely fill a gap. I didn’t do anything connected with ‘Doctor Who’ while the programme was being made because I didn’t want to, really. I mean the thing about the audios is I think they fill a gap, and in the absence of the programme being made, which I think’s a shame, it’s nice to give the fans something. I think if another Doctor took over, if the TV series was back on and another Doctor took over, I think I’d probably stop doing the audio CD’s. I think there wouldn’t be a need for it, and I’d feel that I was stepping on another person’s toes. In a sense it fits in perfectly because all the Doctors are ex-Doctors, so we can all do our audio CD’s.

Q: Do you feel that the quality of the scripts gives you a chance to stretch…

A: No, I think they give the writers an opportunity to stretch, I don’t think they give the actors an opportunity to stretch, I mean I don’t think you can stretch the part of the Doctor very much, but they give the writers an enormous opportunity because of course you can deal in any budget you like in audio, you can put yourself in extraordinary scenes and conjure it up simply by the sound effects and the acting. From that point of view, it’s marvellous for the writes, because they can do whatever they want.

Q: Do you enjoy working on the audios because there’s no make-up, you don’t have to wear the costume…

A: Well it’s mainly that you don’t have to learn the lines. You can go in there with the script, I mean obviously you have to research it, read it a couple of times, but what I like is that it’s instant, and you can get tremendous energy on the audio CD’s.

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about the work you’re doing now, the projects you’re involved in these days…

A: Well I’ve got a couple of things going, there’s a series that’s been running at home for about four years, which is called ‘At Home With the Braithwaites’, which is about a family that wins £38m on the lottery, and how it affects them, and I play the father in that. And then recently I’ve made a series called ‘The Last Detective’, a detective show, hour-and-a-half shows, that’s currently airing in Britain.

Q: Among your contemporaries, because you do some stage work, do you get some teasing that you’re in not just one but several shows that have strong fan followings?

A: Well I’ve always been teased by people who’ve perceived me as working far too much. So yeah, I mean, when I was doing ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘All Creatures…’ and a couple of comedy series, I was on virtually every night of the week. And then I had, after ‘Campion’ and ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’, for me, a sort of quiet patch, but in other peoples’ terms it wasn’t a quiet patch at all, I was still making televisions shows and one-off programmes, and now I’m doing lots of stuff again, so I feel a bit fortunate, maybe I should hand over a few of the roles to other people but I don’t feel inclined to do that. I think the secret is that I’ve been able to move easily from one genre to another. A lot of actors get unfairly stuck in sitcoms, or very serious drama, or soap operas, and I’ve managed to dodge from one thing to another.

Q: When you took the role in ‘Doctor Who’, you’ve said that Patrick Troughton advised you to limit the amount of time you played Dr. Who, to avoid typecasting. Do you think that was good advice?

A: Yes, I very definitely had a choice to do a fourth year of ‘Doctor Who’ or leave after three, and it was a close call, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I would leave after three. I wasn’t very happy with season two of my time, we were beset by money problems and strike problems, and had I been happy at the end of season two, which was really when I had to make a decision, I might well have gone on and done a fourth season, but I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do. I mean, when I left ‘Doctor Who’ I went up for a very good part in a BBC2 classics serial and I know there was much discussion about whether I should be offered the part because I’d just done ‘Doctor Who’, and that was something that would have got worse had I done ‘Doctor Who’ for longer. I mean fortunately they did offer it to me, but I was very aware that if you stick to long to something it just takes longer to recover from it, and I think Tom found that.

Matthew Waterhouse (2006)

August 19, 2009

This is a great recent interview with Matthew Waterhouse, where he’s very genuine and honest about his experiences with Tom Baker. You can see the video here.

“I was absolutely petrified. I remember very clearly my journey on the Tube the morning of the first day and sitting there, I have never been so frightened and excited in my life. And I remember arriving at the read-through and Tom was late, so we were all sitting around the table waiting for the read-through to begin, and he stalked in, in his mac, his brown mac, and I was physically shaking. It was extraordinary. Extraordinarily frightening, a very surreal first day. But maybe since ‘Doctor Who’ is essentially surreal, that’s not a bad way to approach it.

“Tom doesn’t take prisoners, and I think the fact that I was doubtless this immensely irritating, but sweet and unaffected kid, he didn’t give me any leeway at all. It was the most terrifying day of my life. And I wanted him to love me, I wanted him to think ‘Oh what a wonderful boy, what a gifted lad’. I’ve never wanted someone to like me so much in my entire life, and that first day he didn’t really speak to me. He stalked into rehearsals, sat there in his brown coat, read the thing and sat there and smoked cigarettes… he chain-smoked them if I remember rightly. I was absolutely terrified, but it also seemed to be confirming the glamour of it as well. I think he’d be appalled to hear me say this, but to me, as a middle-class kid from commuterville, it was unbelievable. I mean, I’d never been away from my parents for more than two weeks at a time, and there I was working with this frightening man, tall, larger than life man, and I remember on the first day he didn’t really acknowledge me.

“I tried to stand near him in the pub, I remember he went to the pub at lunchtime so I went to the pub and I wanted him to see me. I think I edged a little nearer along the bar so I was only two people away from him, hoping he’d say hello to me, but he didn’t. So I went back and we got back to rehearsal, and we had to do a scene together, and he said ‘Hello, I haven’t said hello to you, have I?’, I said ‘Hi’, I thought ‘He likes me’, he smiled at me… and then I made a suggestion about something, I said ‘Why don’t we try that’, and he said ‘Why don’t you piss off?’. I thought ‘That’s not a very good start, maybe he doesn’t like me after all’, so I went home distraught, thinking ‘He’s my favourite actor in the world and he doesn’t like me, he thinks I’m horrible’. So that was my first day.

“I’m not sure what he thought about having a heroic boy in ‘Doctor Who’. I’m not sure he thought it was the bee’s knees. He’d rather have had twenty-five year old girls rather than heroic teenage boys… in fact I’m pretty sure of that because he once said ‘I hate this fucking character’, so that was a clue. I liked the character because it got me into ‘Doctor Who’ and that was enough for me. But Tom could be very sweet, he could be very kind, very generous to me, and his great quality, which I admire so much, is that he’s so funny, and out of the ordinary, and the only thing I’ve ever wanted in my life is to be out of the ordinary. I don’t want to be ordinary. I don’t know what ordinary is, but I don’t want to be it. And Tom wasn’t.

“The atmosphere on ‘Doctor Who’ with Tom was pretty fraught, there’s no point pretending it wasn’t. In some ways I think I wasn’t equipped to deal with that fraughtness, because I was too young and… stupid to deal with it. But he could suddenly be unbelievably generous. He could be very nice to me in many ways. I think jelly babies have a lot to do with it, and I think the hat has a lot to do with it, and the scarf. Of course I had a vast amount to do with the success and popularity of ‘Doctor Who’ at that time, but I think Tom also made a contribution.” (smiles)