Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Camfield’

Douglas Camfield (1980’s)

October 13, 2009

Douglas Camfield was one of the most popular ‘Doctor Who’ directors, and his name has popped up numerous times in other interviews I’ve posted. Here, he talks about his work on the show from the early William Hartnell days through to the mid-1970’s, when he even tried his hand at writing a script (which wasn’t made).

The Crusade

“The Crusade was the best ‘Doctor Who’ script I ever worked on. Beautifully written, meticulously researched, and I don’t remember having to alter a single line. I enjoyed working on a costume piece because of the research involved and the challenge of trying to recreate another world in another time.

The Time Meddler

“The character of the Monk had a certain comic element that I wanted to emphasise, particularly in contrast to the Doctor. Using back projection, we were able to have huge clouds rolling across the sky like something from a Wagnerian opera.

The Daleks’ Masterplan

“The Daleks’ Masterplan was an all-time challenge… If I could cope with this, I could cope with anything! Bit of an ego trip, really. I thought the Daleks were strictly limited in appeal and I don’t understand why they became so popular… with Bill Hartnell they were dredged up in thin stories every season, so the novelty wore off very quickly.

The Web of Fear

“Originally we planned to film ‘The Web of Fear’ in the Underground itself, and approached London Transport for their permission. They wanted the ridiculous sum of two hundred pounds an hour! So, with a lot of hard work, we built our own Underground in the studios, copying from the originals. After the serial had been broadcast, we received a letter from the Transport authorities saying that they were going to sue us for using their tunnels after all, and we hadn’t been anywhere near them!


“We’re talking about the end of the world here! Armageddon! It has to be shown to be totally sinister and grim. I wanted darkness and shadows. My original plan was to direct ‘Doctor Who’s first nightmare – the sort of thing the Doctor would dream about during a bad night. We had volcanic eruptions beneath the UK and werewolves parading about the place. That sort of thing has to be frightening and it can only be made frightening if we create the right atmosphere. If it’s lit too bightly then the mood is watered down and the story loses a lot of its impact. And I felt that much of ‘Inferno’ was too bright.”

Terror of the Zygons

“There were a lot of problems on ‘Terror of the Zygons’. Massive rewrites, a so-so Loch Ness monster and otheres I’d rather not mention. Still, you can’t win ’em all. Tom Baker was a genuine eccentric, larger than life in all respects and very talented. I reckon, on balance, that he’s my favourite Doctor.

The Seeds of Doom

“For ‘The Seeds of Doom’, I cast a lovely guy named Tony Beckley as the megalomaniac millionaire Harrison Chase. He made a great villain, one of the best, and was a joy to work with. There are all these people – with the best motives in the world, I’m sure – supposedly cleaning up television. But there’s a switch on every set and the box can be turned off. I believe the viewers want more horror, not less, and the children are among our most bloodthirsty clients. ‘Doctor Who’ is a fantasy programme, a fairy tale even, and our efforts ought to be seen within that context. I reckon we trail a long way behind the Brothers Grimm.

Leaving Doctor Who

“I wanted to go out on a high note. Each time I completed a ‘Doctor Who’ serial I’d hear that there was a knockout script in the pipeline, and I’d end up on the ‘Doctor Who’ treadmill again. I’m flattered that people want me to go back, and I have thought about it a lot. But I promised myself I wouldn’t, and a promise is a promise.

“I’d been said more than once that I wouldn’t make a bad Doctor myself. ‘Doctor Who’ has grown up a lot since I started, and the series still sometimes produces the wondrous idea or the intriguing concept. It was always intended as a bit of fun, escapism, it was never meant to be taken seriously. It’s astounding that so many fans expend so much energy and interest on a show with built-in obsolescence.

Ray Cusick (1992)

September 4, 2009

Ray Cusick was the BBC designer responsible for the Daleks, although he only got the job because a colleague, Ridley Scott, was busy. Here, he talks about the reasons for some of the design changes that took place over the years, and recalls working with Douglas Camfield, who keeps cropping up in interviews, in which he’s invariably described (fondly!) in military terms.

“The designer who was actually scheduled to work on it was a person called Ridley Scott, who then worked for the BBC, in fact he worked on the next drawing board to me. But he wasn’t free to do the filming, and for continuity reasons they needed the same designed for the filming and the studio, so he was dropped and I happened to be chosen because I was free, I was spare so to say.

“With the Daleks, designers who design the sets don’t normally design the visual effects, there are designers who do that, but on the early ‘Doctor Who’s, the designers had to do both, that’s Barry Newbery, the other designer, and myself. We had to design all our props, special effects and so on. So really we were doing double the work. So what I used to do was work furiously in the office designing the sets, and in the evenings and weekends I used to design all the special effects, and the actual Dalek was conceived on a Saturday night and finally designed on a Sunday afternoon.

“I hadn’t designed anything like it before, so it was a question of feasibility and money. I was given a budget, but I had no idea how far this budget would go, so I did some sketches and showed them to the model-makers, Shawcraft Models, and they said ‘Well it is possible, if you had about ten times as much money’. So from that point on, the designs became modified.

“The creature inside was a mutation, there had been this war, a nuclear war, between the Thals and the Dals, and whereas the Thals had survived, the Dals had mutated into something horrible, and we, Verity Lambert and the director Chris Barry, we sat down and said ‘Logically, over the years, they’ve developed artificial limbs’, so they were just this brainy blob that lived inside the machine. Editorially, it was decided that it would never be shown, although I was asked by a magazine, ‘Tidbits’, if I’d draw it, and I did.

“The problem with the Dalek outside the studio… the Dalek inside the studio ran on rubber-type casters, which was great on flat surfaces. But on location, with bumpy pavements etc., they rattled like an old biscuit tin, and so Shawcraft Models went back to an idea of mine of using pneumatic tyres, small pneumatic tyres. Not a tricycle, which was my original idea, which meant deepening the skirt on the bottom to accomodate the wheels.

“I remember the director Douglas Camfield directed the whole thing like a military operation. For instance, one afternoon in the studio he said ‘It’s twenty-two and a half minutes past three, so we should be on shot fifty-two’ and he used to call me ‘Major’, he said that would be my rank if this was a military operation, and he was General Camfield. I remember filming at Ealing with all the model spaceships, that was quite a large model, that must have been about thirty foot square.
“Everyone was rushing around corridors saying ‘Oh, there’ll be Dalek films, Dalek soap, Dalek tea towels’, they thought there’d be lots of money. I was very friendly with Terry Nation and we appeared on a very famous show called ‘Late Night Line-Up’, and I remember asking him after the show ‘What about the films, Terry?’. And I never saw him again!”

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 smokingĀ  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.

Peter Purves (2006)

August 7, 2009

Another interview about the early years of the show, this time it’s Peter Purves talking to Mark Ayres about William Hartnell, who was apparently a fan of curries! Purves obviously got on well with Hartnell and sheds some light on his ‘irascibility’; it’s also notable that Purves is very knowledgeable about not only ‘Doctor Who’ but British TV and acting in general. This is another transcript, from an interview conducted by Mark Ayres that you can find here.

Q: ‘The Savages’ was your swansong as Steven, and also the last of your missing stories, coincidentally. How do you look back on your time as Steven?

A: More fondly as time has gone by. When I left… I was unhappy to leave it, actually, I didn’t particularly want it to stop there, but the policy of the programme had changed and they’d decided that they were not going to keep the companions onboard for longer than a year, or so I understand. In fact I think they did the same with Jackie as they did with me, they didn’t keep her much longer, I think she only did one more serial after I left, and I think Michael Craze who took over from me only did a year, but then Frazer came and I think he stayed much longer, I think he stayed about three years, something like that.

But now I remember it quite fondly. The things that I didn’t like about it, when I’ve more recently gone to the occasional convention – as you well know, I don’t like them, I don’t go to very many, in fact I’m not going to go to any more, I’ve finally determined that I can’t be bothered to be honest, it sounds awful but I just don’t like looking backwards all that much. But I have seen a number of clips that I hadn’t like when I made them, and I’ve seen them since and thought “Oh, that wasn’t so bad”. In particular ‘The Gunfighters’, which I always hated, deep down I had this sort of passionate dislike for it. I really hated it when we made it, I don’t know why, because now when I’ve seen it, it really is quite good, it has some things, it’s got a certain charm, it’s very quirky, it’s very odd.

But in general I have some very fond memories of the show, I mean I loved the people that I worked with, some very nice people, nice directors. Bill, I got on with like a dream, I was one of the few people who seemed… I loved Jackie, I thought she was splended, I loved Maureen O’Brien, directors like Dougie Camfield, I mean really nice people, so yes, I think “fondly” is probably the fairest way of describing it. And the historical stories were the ones I liked best, we did ‘The Massacre’, which was a wonderful story written by John Lucarotti, we did ‘The Myth Makers’ which was based on Troy, these were wonderful historical, or mythical stories. We did the invasion of the Vikings coming in to Northern England, but that was sci-fi as well because that was ‘The Time Meddler’. But the historical ones I liked, the mechanical ones I didn’t, I wasn’t fussed about the gadgets and I wasn’t fussed about the Daleks and the Mechanoids and so on, they didn’t interest me a great deal.

Q: That’s heresy!

A: Oh, I’m sure! It is heresy, and I’m a heretic.

Q: Talking earlier, you said you were trained in rep, which is just the best training an actor can get.

A: I think it probably was. I didn’t go to drama school, but I was lucky enough to be asked to join a repertory company in the north of England, in Barrow-in-Furness.

Q: And it stood you in good stead, I’d imagine, for ‘Doctor Who’, which was pretty much round the year, wasn’t it?

A: It was. I can’t remember how many weeks off we had, maybe ten, but it was a weekly thing, I did 44 episodes, so that’s eight weeks off in the year.

Q: A bit like a weekly rep in itself.

A: In itself it was, but only half an hour long. Plays could be as long as two hours. Then you really could struggle, it depended how big the part was. It was comparatively easy for me in that respect, but it was a new medium for me, I’d done a few television plays, I’d played bit parts in all the series that people got involved with back in the 60’s, you know ‘Z Cars’, ‘Red Cap’, ‘Court Martial’, ‘Gideon’s Way’, ‘The Saint’, you played in all those here and there, ‘Z Cars’ was the big one. I even did an episode of ‘World of Wooster’ with Ian Carmichael, that was about 1964, something frightening like that.

Q: I’d have thought that stood you in good stead for ‘Blue Peter’.

A: Certainly. ‘Blue Peter’ we did live, without an autocue, half an hour a week, ten past five, full rehearsed, vision mixer cutting on words, it was scary stuff, we had to be very precise.

Q: So as a work experience you look back on it with a great deal of affection, obviously.

A: Oh yeah, and when you consider, there were only three channels, and BBC2 hadn’t been going that long, and if you got a job in a regular series you were a very lucky person. I’ve always considered myself to be a lucky person in that respect. I’m not saying I don’t feel I deserved the part, and again following on with ‘Blue Peter’ and ‘Kickstart’ and ‘Crufts’ and all these things that have been part of my life, but again I’ve always felt that I was lucky and it wasn’t a god-given right. Maybe I was good enough, I like to believe I was, but no it’s a tough old business to succeed in so if you get your head above the parapet you’ve not done too badly.

Q: Looking back on ‘The Savages’ a little bit, did you think that was a fitting leaving for Steven?

A: Oh, I loved it. Chris Barry directed it, and Christopher was an absolutely lovely man – is a lovely man – and I thoroughly enjoyed working on that one. I always thought it gave the opportunity for Steven to come back, I always thought it would be rather nice if they did a follow-up serial at some point where the TARDIS comes back to the planet where Steven was left in charge and he’d really screwed it up. Gone egomaniac, whatever, just gone way over the top and, you know, been a very bad Emperor, King, I can’t remember what they left me there as, I was definitely the boss man. Anyway, I thought it could be really funny if he’d screwed up the lives of the people there and the Doctor had to come and put it all right, that could have been a good thing.

I haven’t done any proper acting in years. I’d love to.

Q: I was going to say, have you been tempted?

A: I’ve been tempted, but no-one offers. It’s just one of those things, and if someone offered me a part, I’d take it. But it just doesn’t happen. I’m known as myself, and I’ve had a very nice and successful career. I’ve presented all these different shows, and I’m proud to have done that. I presented all the BBC’s darts coverage for about seven years, and odd little bits. We did a show called ‘Driver of the Year’ for three years, very interesting series, it’s never really varied. But the acting career hasn’t really been there, but of course going away and doing a short tour of something tends not to be as lucrative as doing a bit of telly, so one tends to do the telly. But as I say, if I was offered some acting, I’d seriously consider it.

Q: Tell me about William Hartnell. You got on with him very well.

A: Oh, I got on with him extremely well. He liked me immensely, I don’t know why, but he was very generous to me, always gave me little acting tips. He’d been around a long time, had Bill, and he’d had some successes and some failures, very honest about things that had worked for him and things that hadn’t and invariably he, you know, I think he just enjoyed the company, and at lunchtime when we broke and he’d take me over to Bertorelli’s for lunch, invariably he would pay. My wife and I repaid him at the time, you know, we used to invite him round for a curry or something, he liked his Indian food as well. But he was just very friendly and nice with me, he confided in me, he told me the things he was happy with, the things he wasn’t happy with. I watched him being truly irascible with so many people, and think “Oh Bill, please no”. It wasn’t my place to say “I don’t think you should do that, Bill”, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly, if he felt that people were not up to the level required, or not doing the job seriously or properly then he would get at them.

The problem was at this time he was not terribly well. He was reaching a point where his memory was going as well, so he was making mistakes and that made him even more angry, he hated the fact, he knew he was making mistakes and he didn’t like it. So there were reasons behind the cussedness and the awkwardness. There were one or two directors he got on with so well, I mean he always loved Dougie Camfield, he thought Dougie was one of the greatest directors and he may well have been. And he got on extremely well with Paddy Russell, who directed ‘The Massacre’, but he could be awkward, I watched him being awkward. He stepped out of line many times but he stepped in line a lot of times.

Q: He’d done some terrific work, I mean ‘Brighton Rock’…

A: He was a great actor, no question. I mean he created definitive characters. His sergeant in ‘Carry On Sergeant’, those sort of comedy roles. And funnily enough he didn’t have the greatest sense of humour in that respect, he wasn’t a comedy actor, but he was an actor who played comedy with truth, and so it was funny, it worked. I had a lot of time for Bill. He did ‘This Sporting Life’, wonderful part, which he claimed got him the part in ‘Doctor Who’, Sydney Newman suggested… I think he auditioned several times for it, or was seen several times for it before he got the part. But it was actually his performance in ‘This Sporting Life’ that won them over.

Q: You were saying about his irascibility, that he wasn’t very well and he was making mistakes. It’s interesting, I think, that he turns that into part of his character, the irascibility, you can actually see it sometimes.

A: I think that’s true. I think more than anything, though, the quirkiness, the sort of “Hmm hmm”, all these little bits that no-one would have ever scripted, were him thinking, trying to work out where to go next. But it was all part of a character, it was consistent, I just think it got a little bit more, a little bit less controlled, as he became less able to remember his lines properly.

Q: But he did define that character.

A: For me he’s the only Doctor. Isn’t that awful? I mean, far better actors than he have played it, but for me that was the character, the original character was the Doctor and it’ll never be anyone else for me. Patrick Troughton I think is probably a far finer actor than Bill ever was, but because he followed Bill directly, for me he could never really be the Doctor. And Jon was just a totally different character, Jon Pertwee, whom I knew very well, I was a friend of his, and I enjoyed some of what he did as the Doctor, but he was never the Doctor. And the same with Colin Baker, I directed him, very nice, we got on extremely well, but again that’s not the Doctor. The nearest, for me, is Sylvester, Sylvester McCoy, he has that total quirky oddness about him.

Q: A slight dangerousness to the performance as well.

A: Yes. Yeah, well that’s true, I mean Sylvester came through the Ken Campbell school of acting and that way, if it’s not dangerous it’s not worth doing, which I suppose is a very interesting way of looking at things. That’s possibly why I see him in a similar sort of vein.

Q: You have to remember William Hartnell, he laid the foundations for a character that, 43 years later, is still going stronger than ever.

A: I just find that remarkable, I mean none of us had any idea. Although when I joined it had done 80 episodes, I did 44, so 120-odd episodes it had done by the time I left the serial, and that was in 1966. Scary.