Roy Skelton provided a number of voices for the original ‘Doctor Who’ series. Along with Peter Hawkins, he was responsible for the voices of the early Cybermen. Here, he talks about working on William Hartnell’s last story (‘The Tenth Planet’), finding the right voices for the Cybermen, and working on ‘The Wheel in Space’, which was when electronic modulation was first used for the Cybermen voices.
“I first became involved as a Cyberman in ‘The Tenth Planet’. Derek Martinus, the director, I’d worked with him many times before, he rang me up and said ‘I have a new ‘Doctor Who’ I’m doing and we’ve got this creature, the Cybermen, and we’re not sure what we’re doing with it but we want a voice for it’, so I met him, he showed me the designs and we nattered between us and eventually decided that it might be a good idea to do a kind of computer voice, so it was half human, half machine. It was kind of computerised and cut. It was difficult for the actors in rehearsal because you’d be going through a sentence and they’d think you’d finished. (laughs)
“I remember very well being in the last episode of ‘Doctor Who’ that William Hartnell did and it was very sad, I remember being very sad, we all gathered round. It seemed like the end of an era, of course it wasn’t the end of ‘Doctor Who’ because in came Pat Troughton, and I was very lucky because I was in the next episode that came along with Pat Troughton in, and I remember the changeover very well, it was a mixture of joy and sadness.
“Originally the Cyber voices were done just vocally, with no mechanics at all, but by the time of ‘The Wheel in Space’ they decided it would improve the voice if there was a frequency modulator or something like that. A special palette was built, Peter Hawkins had this special palette that buzzed when he spoke. I came along for ‘The Wheel in Space’ and they didn’t have time to make me a palette, so I had to buzz without the palette. Peter and I have done an awful lot of work together, when we were doing the Cybermen there was this differentiation of voices, very often I’d hit a high tone Cyberman and he’d hit low tone Cyberman, or the other way round”.
> Roy Skelton obituary (2011)