Posts Tagged ‘1st Doctor’

Verity Lambert (1983)

August 17, 2009

A short interview with Verity Lambert, shown on ‘Nationwide’ as part of the celebrations for hte 20th anniversary back in 1983.

Q: Verity Lambert was the first producer of ‘Doctor Who’ at 27. Did you ever dream that you were in on the creation of an institution?

A: No. It was commissioned to run for a year.

Q: What did you initially see the series being?

A: Well it was a series that was designed to appeal to eight to fourteen year-olds, which of course it didn’t, it appealed to everyone, which is wonderful. And the only way I could judge that, because I didn’t have any children, was to say well if it pleases me, hopefully it will please them.

Q: Looking back, what do you think is the magic ingredient that gives it universal appeal? I mean, thirty-eight countries watch it…

A: Well I think it’s the thing of being fantastical, really, never quite conforming to what you expect, and changing every four to six weeks a serial, so you change completely a locale.

Q: There’s a difference, though, between something that the audience can believe, and something that’s a bit of a send-up. The TARDIS, for instance, a spaceship that’s in the shape of a phonebox…

A: Well there’s a story behind that, because in fact it was supposed to change shape and blend in with its surrounding wherever, and of course it was found in England. But we couldn’t afford to keep changing it, so we stuck the mechanism and it remained a phonebox.

Q: In the end, they’re moral tales, aren’t they?

A: Yes, good and evil are very well defined and I think people like that.

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Anneke Wills (2007)

August 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Setting a trend for years ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What was Michael Craze like to work with?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: One you’re pleased about?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: But you were a luminary yourself…

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

Rex Tucker – Director (1995 interview)

July 29, 2009

This may be the final interview conducted with the man who was originally slated to direct the very first ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘An Unearthly Child’; although that never came to pass, he was instrumental in the creative decisions surrounding the show’s inception, and later directed ‘The Gunfighters’ (damn, I hope series 5 of the new series has a western episode).

My copy of the interview is a page torn out of a fanzine, so I’ll have to dig around for the exact source, but it’s page 34 of something and as with everything else here, expect a rush of scans asap. It’s very short, which is a pity because Rex played such an important part in the creation of the series.

Q: What do you remember about ‘Doctor Who’?

A: That was a difficult one because there was conflict about the script. The writer was against the producers and I wasn’t sure who was going to win out until we got to filming, which was on, I think, a studio set at Lime Grove that was very old-fashioned, to the point of being almost impossible to use. I remember feeling very much that we were out in the sticks.

Q: Verity Lambert was a very young producer, and female, which must have been unusual thirty years ago?

A: She was very good, but yes, she was a fish out of water. She proved herself very quickly and I have nothing but the greatest respect for her.

Q: What about William Hartnell? What do you remember about him?

A: Bill was very professional. He seemed to get on very well with the other cast, who were all very young. They were great friends by the time we finished shooting the first serial.

Q: Did you watch ‘Doctor Who’ after you worked on it, and do you think it could ever be a big hit again?

A: I watched it a little. Tom Baker was very good, I’d have liked to have worked with him. I thought all the actors were very good, although the scripts were terrible. I’d have torn them up and refused to make them. I’m sure it could be a success again, it’s a strong idea, it just needs good writers and good directors.

William Hartnell

July 28, 2009

There are relatively few William Hartnell interviews concerning his time on ‘Doctor Who’, and most of them are puff pieces intended for promotion. This interview is based on various comments pulled together, and as such is less of an interview and more of an overview of his comments on the programme.

“I was so pleased to be offered Doctor Who. To me kids are the greatest audience – and the greatest critics – in the world.

“It may seem like hindsight now, but I just knew that Doctor Who was going to be an enormous success. Don’t ask me how. Not everybody thought as I did. I was universally scoffed at for my initial faith in the series, but I believed in it. It was magical.

“Before the part came along I’d been playing a bunch of crooks, sergeants, prison warders and detectives. Then, after appearing in This Sporting Life, I got a phone call from my agent. He said, “I wouldn’t normally have suggested you work in children’s television, Bill, but there’s a sort of character part come up that I think you’d just love to play.

“My agent said the part was that of an eccentric old grandfather- cum-professor type who travels in space and time. Well, I wasn’t that keen, but I agreed to meet the producer.

“Then, the moment this brilliant young producer Miss Verity Lambert started telling me about Doctor Who, I was hooked. I remember telling her, “This is going to run for five years.” And look what’s happened.

“We did it forty-eight weeks a year in those days and it was very hard work. But I loves every minute.

“You know, I couldn’t go out into the high street without a bunch of kids follwing me. I felt like the Pied Piper.

“People really used to take it literally. I’d get letters from boys swotting for O-levels asking complicated questions about time-ratio and the TARDIS. The Doctor might have been able to answer them – I’m afraid I couldn’t! But I do believe there is life on other planets – and they know there’s life here but don’t have the technology to get through.

“Doctor Who is certainly a test for any actor. Animals and children are renowned scene-stealers and we had both – plus an assortment of monsters that became popular in their own right. Look at the Daleks. They started in the second series and were an immediate success.

“At one time (in late 1964) I thought we might extend the series and I suggested giving the Doctor a son and calling the programme The Son of Doctor Who. The idea was for me to have a wicked son. We would both look alike, each have a TARDIS and travel in outer space. In actual fact, it would have meant that I had to play a dual role when I `met’ my son.

“But the idea was not taken up by the BBC so I dropped it. I still think it would have worked and been exciting to children.

“Memories? There are so many. There was the occasion when I arrived at an air display in the TARDIS and the kids were convinced I had flown it there! On another occasion I went by limousine to open a local fete. When we got there the children just converged on the car cheering and shouting, their faces all lit up. I knew then just how much the Doctor really meant to them.”