Posts Tagged ‘Jon Pertwee’

Tom Baker (post-1996)

October 9, 2010

Here’s a brief quote from Tom Baker, talking about Jon Pertwee. Short, I know, but worth it because there aren’t too many examples of him talking about other Doctors:

“I only met Jon Pertwee for the first time at the changeover shot in his last episode. So up till then I had no knowledge of him.

“Later I met him in various sound studios where we doing voice overs or commentaries and so on. Also I met him on several occasions at Sci-fi conventions. He was always very glamorous and charismatic and he obviously felt I was a bit peculiar.

“I used to tease him by pretending I was earning huge fees. This made him pink up a bit. But he was the generation ahead of me so there was a gap too wide for us to become friends.

“But I respected him and greatly admired his Worzel Gummidge series. I was sorry to hear of his death although envious of the manner (he died in his sleep). He did not know the fear of dying”.

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Jon Pertwee (1985)

October 4, 2009

Here’s Jon Pertwee talking to DWM about his time on the show, including his thoughts on the character of Liz Shaw, his favourite (and least favourite) monsters, and his return for ‘The Five Doctors’.

“In my opinion, Caroline John didn’t fit into ‘Doctor Who’. I couldn’t really believe in her as a sidekick to the Doctor, because she was so darned intelligent herself. The Doctor didn’t want a know-it-all by his side, he wanted someone who was busy learning about the world. Although Caroline and I worked well together, I don’t think it did the series any harm when she left, incidentally to have a baby, and not because she was sacked or anything melodramatic like that.

“I remember when we were filming in some BBC training premises for ‘Spearhead From Space’, I went for a little walk about the place, being perennially inquisitive. I found, in the course of my walk, a little Victorian bathroom with the most amazing Victorian bah and shower. I went rushing back to Derek Martinus and said ‘Look what I’ve found – we’ve got to use it’. He came along, agreed it looked supuerb, and we used it.

“The tattos were a little mistake from younger and more foolish days. I always thought it was quite amusing to have the Third Doctor, who was so pre-occupied with being the archetypcal gentleman, displaying a nice big piece of arm adornment – and nobody said anything when filming, so they were seen on screen. Perhaps people were frightened of offending me so early on in my time!

“I was very fond of the Ogrons, who were wonderful, because they were so big, even I was terrified of them. I was also extremely pleased with the Draconians, who were the most beautiful pieces of work. I remember one of the worst were the Primords in ‘Inferno’, which was partly directed by Douglas Camfield. The whole filming was going very nicely, we all thought, the script was a good one, full of frightening bits for the audience, and lots of action for the Doctor. Then they unveil these ridiculous werewolf things with great false teeth and fur-covered rubber gloves. They were awful. I remember asking Douglas if he was serious about using them, and although I don’t think he was very happy about it, it was too late to do anything about it. Olaf Pooley, who was playing the main villain in the story, caused a great stir when he refused point blank to be made up as one of these things, and I have to admit, I saw his point.

“I was delighted to appear in ‘The Five Doctors’ and I thought it was a great shame that Tom declined to take part. Of course, it would have been nicer to have had a bit more to do, but that was necessarily a problem, considering the amount of characters Terrance Dicks was trying to cram in. Generally, I thought I was done justice, and I told John Nathan-Turner then that I wouldn’t mind coming back to do the odd special occasionally.”

Barry Letts (Various)

October 1, 2009

Here are a few Barry Letts interviews, from various sources, edited together. He talks about working with Patrick Troughton, about the brief ‘Moonbase 3’ series he worked on with Terrance Dicks, and about the time Mr. Pastry almost became the Fourth Doctor.

“While we were making ‘Enemy of the World’, Patrick Troughton said ‘They’ve asked me to sign up for another year of ‘Doctor Who’ and I don’t know what to do. This once a week pace is really killing me’. We were so pushed for time, I had to use doubles for the long shots of Patrick, Frazer and Debbie on film because they were in London recording while we were down on the south cost. It was a ludicrous situation. So I said to Patrick, ‘Why don’t you say you’ll do another year, but then suggest that everybody would produce much better shows if they cut down the number of them and had gaps between each story to do the filming. I think he went back and suggested this, but of course by this time the next season was already down on the schedules and it was too late. Nevertheless, the planners decided it was a good idea and set it up for the following season, with the connivance of Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, with the idea of the Doctor being confined to Earth so they could make use of ordinary locations.

“There had been a change of attitude on the show that I picked up and encouraged strongly, which was to move away from science fantasy towards an emphasis on science fiction. They sound similar, but there’s a technical difference. Science fiction, as far as I’m concerned, is a very clear cut genre which in effect says: let’s take one assuption in terms of science which can possibly be extrapolated from present day tendencies, or which is outside present day knowledge. Then, given that as our promise, stick very closely to what would happen in reality and what is factually possible in terms of real world science. In other words, you can’t bend the rules as you can in fantasy ‘The Daemons’ came close to it, I must admit, but all the time – and it was the theme of the show – we were saying ‘Is it science, or is it magic?’. Everybody else was shouting black magic, but the Doctor was saying ‘No, it’s not, it’s science, the alien science of the Daemons’.

“Some people thought the changes were a pity. Verity Lambert, for example, felt that, as far back as the Troughton era once it had been shown where the Doctor came from – the story of Gallifrey and so on – the show lost a lot of its poetry and ambiguity; all the mystery that was so much a part of its beginning was now gone. This is certainly a point of view, but I think that although it had been a lovely show when it started, if it had stayed exactly the same it certainly would not have lasted so long. One of the reasons ‘Doctor Who’ has gone on for so long is that it has developed and gone in a new direction every so often.

“One of the first things I did editorially on ‘Doctor Who’ was to alter the ending of ‘The Silurians’. If you remember, it was the sequence where the Brigadier blows them all up. Now in the script, after the Brigadier has done this act, the Doctor says something like ‘What a terrible thing to do, think of all that they could have taught us, think of the science they’ve got that we haven’t’ and so on. To me that was wrong, and I had it changed to ‘But that’s murder. Just because a race has green skin doesn’t make them any less deserving of life than we are’. It’s an enormous help in the structing of stories to have a point or a theme to the whole thing.

“For a long time they just wouldn’t give us the go-ahead for Jon’s second season, and when they eventually did it was the end of January or later, which was very late for getting in the scripts. It was, I believe, Jon Pertwee who saved the show, simply because he was rapidly very popular. When we were casting Jo Grant, I told the agents I was after a youngish girl, preferably attractive, a very good actress with a strong personality and able to speak even the dullest lines with a vivideness. I saw about sixty girls, writing a two-hour audition piece for the six or so who were short-listed. Katy Manning was the last girl to arrive, resembling a nervous sparrow, puffing away at cigarette after cigarette and absolutely covered in rings. I told her it was far, far too late, but she begged to be allowed to do it, so I agreed, thinking that she certainly seemed worth it. And although we had some great girls up for it, including two ‘Avengers’ types, Katy was the one who got it.

“The Master was always planned as a regular, and Roger threw himself into it. He was especially keen on the idea of having a pair of very tight black leather gloves, which he had learnt were very sinister when he’d been playing Gestapo agents in other productions. He perfected a way of putting them on, and I have to say we were all very impressed.

“During ‘The Three Doctors’, poor Bill Hartnell couldn’t remember things from one moment to the next, because of his debilitating illness. We used cue cards which we plastered about for him to read from – something he managed very professionally. Then, while we were down shooting the quarry stuff, we sidestepped during one day’s filming and took that one shot of Hartnell picking a flower in his garden.

“We asked Frazer Hones to come into the studio for the last episode, which was recorded in January. All it was, was for him to appear in the final part where the Troughton Doctor was saying goodbye – we wanted Jamie to materialise in full kilt and say something like ‘Doctor, will you hurry up’,and then to promptly vanish with Patrick. It was just a gag cameo, really, and we left it open for Frazer to do it, right up until about three days before we went into studio. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t fit it in with his commitments to ‘Emmerdale Farm’.

“Terrance Dicks and I, before ‘Day of the Daleks’, had endless discussions about this whole question of the time paradox; what happens if you go back in time and shoot your grandfather before he’s met your grandmother? So, from that, you can’t be born because your father was never conceived, and if that is true then how could you shoot your grandfather? And if you didn’t shoot him, then you would be born, in which case you would go back in time and shoot your grandfather – and so on… In a word, time travel is impossible and so we had to think of reasons that would make it seem possible. This was particularly true where you had action taking place in two parallel times.

“If you remember, in ‘Day of the Daleks’ the guerillas were coming back from the future to the present day in repeated attempts to blow up a peace conference. While this was going on, the Doctor had gone ahead into the future to try and sort things out there, and so you had action going on in two places at the same time. Now why, we wondered, should these events be going on co-incidentally? Why if you travel forwards in time for a day and then come back, do you find a day has elapsed in your time too? It isn’t necessary at all – you could come back the day before if you wanted, surely?

“This difficulty really got on top of us and, having had it at the forefront of our minds for so long, we eventually had Jo Grant say to the Doctor ‘Why don’t we go back to the day before and get it right this time?’, to which there is no real answer. So what the Doctor in fact said was ‘Ah well, that’s the Blinovitch Limitation Effect’, and when Jo said she didn’t understand, the door opened and in came the guerillas. So we never explained the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, but it provided us with a way out of time paradoxes.

“Visual effects saw in the script for ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ the requirement for a twenty foot monster which they then made in the customary way. They produced a man-sized dinosaur suit which was so heavy when worn that in order to support the weight of it, the head had a ring bolt through it, fixed to a line attached to the ceiling. Therefore the actor inside could only move within the narrow radius allowed by the length of the line. After that, they used CSO (Colour Separation Overlay) to make the creature seem large beside Jon Pertwee, and it wasn’t until a while afterwards that it dawned on everyone that there was no need to have gone to all the time and expensive of building a full-sized suit They could have achieved exactly the same effect using a puppet two feet tall, operated by rods.

“The Master’s departure was screwed up. We were all very, very sad that the ending went wrong – if he had been coming back, it wouldn’t have mattered. What was supposed to happen was that the great blobby monster you saw in the quarry was supposed to appear in the corridor. The Master is clearly seen to escape in the confusion. But because we ran out of time in the studio, we never got the shot of the monster, so there was no explanation of why the Ogrons were rushing around like demented schoolboys and why the Master just vanished. The phrase for what happened is ‘complete cock-up’.

“When we were casting Sarah-Jane, I told everybody that I wanted somebody who was attractive, a very good actress, with a very good personality in her own right, and cheap. It became something of a joke among the agents and so on, although I’d specified the same before Katy arrived. One of my colleagues, Ron Craddock, was the producer of ‘Z Cars’ and he came to me one day and said ‘Why not see this girl Lis Sladen, I’ve used her twice in ‘Z Cars’ over the last year, in two completely different parts, and she was superb in both’. I already had a shortlist, but Lis came in and got it – ironically, the last girl I saw, just like Katy.

“Terrance Dicks and I got offered the chance to do a more adult science fiction serial, partly because I had wanted to leave by the end of the previous season and was persuaded to stay with this as the carrot, and also because we were looking for a direction in which to go after ‘Doctor Who’. It was clear that our term on the show was coming to an end anyway, so if ‘Moonbase 3’ had taken off that’s what we’d have gone on to. It didn’t work because we never had enough time, what with working in ‘Doctor Who’ at the same time – we just didn’t want to miss the opportunity. It was also the reason why I hadn’t directed for one whole season, and why there was a gap between ‘Carnival of Monsters’ and ‘Planet of the Spiders’. Normally I’d have directed ‘The Time Warrior’.

“Lennie Mayne treated ‘The Curse of Peladon’ just the same as if he’d been working at the National or the Royal Court. It was as real to him as that, and it enraged him if he thought someone was slacking or taking on the attitude that this would do because it was ‘only Doctor Who’. After he’d finished work was a diferent matter. He’d have a few and laugh along with everyone else.

“I don’t think ‘Doctor Who’ should be a vehicle for any form of overt political viewpoint, however laudable. I think our audience was intelligent enough to make the connection, it was still there to be made. The real reason Bob Baker and Dave Martin didn’t like the changes to ‘The Mutants’ was more to do with the fact that writers rarely like change, full stop. All that CSO was in there to stretch our resources to the utmost. I wanted us to take the technology by the throat, and not the other way around. It was hard on the actors and it was certainly hard on the production teams. We used to sweat a lot of blood over the CSO, but it gave us what we’ve got today and there’s no need to apologise for that.

Mr Pastry

Mr Pastry

“(Regarding a replacement for Jon Pertwee) Richard Hearne was one of those actors with a magic touch. Indeed, for years following his celebrated ‘Mr Pastry’ series he would open fetes and carnivals as Mister Pastry. I invited him along for discussion about his possibly being the new Doctor, but we established quiet clearly that this was impractical as his interpretation of the part would be to play it like Mister Pastry: a doddery old man.

“If it had been an older man, then Harry would have been on-hand to do the physical stuff like fight scenes. As well, I had a fondness for the ‘Doctor Who’ stories which had a boy and girl companion, like Ben and Polly, or Jamie and Zoe. I thought the addition of a secondary male character would alter the style of relationships we had established with Jon’s stories. It goes back to our initial uncertainty over the new Doctor’s age.

“Because the audience has not yet accepted the new Doctor, their sympathies are with the characters they know and they are identifying with these characters as they react to the new and eccentric Doctor. In ‘Robot’, the old characters – the Brigadier, Benton and Sarah – are there to reassure the viewing public that they’re still watching ‘Doctor Who’, and it was a fun situation to see their looks of shocked horror as they tried to come to terms with this new, wildly erratic figure.”

Robert Holmes (1985)

September 23, 2009

Robert Holmes was one of the most important contributors to the original ‘Doctor Who’, and if he was still around today he’d probably still be writing the occasional episode.This interview is from an old DWM.  The Autons and the Sontarans were among his most famous creations, and both have been resurrected in the modern version of the show.

He’s probably best remembered for his time as script editor in the mid 1970’s, covering some of the most popular Tom Baker stories, and he wrote or  co-write (sometimes uncredited, sometimes under a pseudonym) stories such as ‘The Ark in Space’, ‘The Sunmakers’ and ‘The Deadly Assassin’.

In fact, in the recent DWM poll to find the most popular episodes of all time, he wrote three of the top ten: ‘The Caves of Androzani’ (number 1), ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ (number 4) and ‘Pyramids of Mars’ (number 7). He was also script editor for ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ (number 3) and ‘The Robots of Death’ (number 9). Not bad going 🙂

Even though I’ve cut parts out, it’s still a long interview, so I’m going to split it over two posts. Part 2 will be up in the next few days, there may be something else in-between. Anyway, enjoy:

“I sent ‘The Krotons’ in, not as a ‘Doctor Who’ story but I sent it to the drama department as a story called ‘The Space Trap’, for inclusion in a series they were doing of four-part science-fiction thrillers, because I thought it was a suitable idea. Then I got a letter back from Shaun Sutton, the Head of Serials at the time, saying that they had decided to discontinue this series and he’d passed the idea on to ‘Doctor Who’. And I never heard any more about it. Three years passed and we were moving house and when I was clearing out my desk I came across the thing and thought ‘Well that’s not too bad’, so I rehashed it specifically for ‘Doctor Who’ and sent it in again. Terrance Dicks was script-editor by then and he commissioned it.

“(The Space Pirates) was originally intended as a four-part story, but at the last minute became a six-parter when one of their other six-parters fell through, so I went back and reworked some of it. I remember that the germ, that got me going on it, was this odd captain type chap in his battered space vessel who, every time it went wrong, kicked it or hit it was a beer bottle and got a result. I can’t remember too much about it, but my wife insists it is better than any of the others I’ve done.

“The cast (of Carnival of Monsters) never met! I can’t remember the reason, but I was asked to make it cheap – though I was told afterwards that it worked out quite expensive. So I decided that the way to write it was to do it in two sections: the onboard ship section and the people outside the machine. Only the Doctor and Jo passed in between. They shot that with the shipboard stuff done in the first session in the studio, and the outside recording two weeks later. It was quite a different and amusing idea to have this peepshow – my favourite bit was when the Doctor got out of the TARIS at the beginning and started talking to the chickens!

“I had been a script editor on other programmes about three times – I must have done probably about seven years editing in the last twenty-five years – I edited ‘Shoestring’ and ‘Knight Errant’, and they even asked me to edit ‘Blake’s Seven’ later. So I was quite used to the idea of script editing and I had written for ‘Doctor Who’ for some time, and had developed ideas on how I would like the show to change. Basically I thought it was over cluttered with characters – all the UNIT people – and I wanted to get it back into space because it had been stuck on Earth for such a long time. I also wanted to toughen it, try to make it more adult – to widen the audience and incorporate the mums and dads. I had Mary Whitehouse and Shirley Summerfield and ‘great’ people like that raising questions in the House of Lords when ‘Terror of the Autons’ was done a few years previously, so I think that was indicative of the way my mind worked anyway! I don’t think fantasy violence is at all damaging to children, and as I explained to Jean Rook and everybody else, if they think they have a sensitive child then don’t let it watch these programmes. It’s not up to television to cater for the minority of kids who might be influenced.

“I trailed Terrance Dicks for about three shows, including ‘Death to the Daleks’ and ‘The Monster of Peladon’. What that really meant was that as I worked on these shows, Terrance came in twice a week, poked his head round the door and asked ‘How are you doing? The aspirins are in the top right-hand draw!’ and cleared off again! And then I got him to write ‘Robot’ as he claimed it was traditional for a departing script editor to write the first episode of the next season! Good excuse, wasn’t it?

“(Season 12’s stories) were entirely ours. As I said, I got Terrance to do the first one, and then I asked John Lucarotti to write the next one, ‘The Ark in Space’. He was living on a boat in Corsica at the time and there was a postal dispute so the scripts came in – after I’d outlined the sort of story we wanted – a bit later than expected. When the second episode came in, we could see it was veering off the course that we wanted but it was too late to do anything about it. Then when the last bit came in, Philip (Hinchcliffe) said ‘We can’t use this thing – we’ve eighteen days to get it right’. That was just before the director, Rodney Bennett, arrived. So I took it home and totally rewrote it. It had my name on because I totally rewrote it. Wherever possible, though, I tried to keep the original writer’s names on the credits – unless it was 100% me. If not, as with ‘The Brain of Morbius’, we used pseudonyms.

“A similar thing happened with ‘Pyramids of Mars’, again a total rewrite. I commissioned Lewis Grieffer – I knew him from old and that he had an interest in mythology. He had written some science fiction before for ITV, but then he had to go into hospital and then had to go to be a television chairman in Tel Aviv or something. Anyway, the scripts arrived late and again we couldn’t get him to do rewrites quickly enough, not all the way from Tel Aviv, in the style we were looking for! I also got the impression that poor old Lewis had never actually got to see ‘Doctor Who’ because it was quite different from the series’ pattern and the Doctor’s character was odd and everything. So, I wanted the mythology and I wanted a re-run of ‘Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb’, or one of those, so I had to rewrite it. He didn’t even give me the story basis of Egyptian mythology – I got all that from a book! His story veered all over the place and wasn’t anything to do with Egyptian mythology. I wanted Horus, Sutekh etc. ‘Pyramids of Mars’ was, I think, his original title – he was very into pyramids.

“It was Philip (Hinchcliffe)’s idea to do ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and we decided I should write it. He said it would be good to explore this place we’ve never been to – home of the Time Lords. Lis Sladen’s contract was up and we decided to see if we could do a story for the Doctor without a companion, just as a rest. It was also the first story, if you discount the Master, that we struck the ‘received law’ that every ‘Doctor Who’ story had to have a monster. There were no monsters and ‘The Deadly Assassin’ was very popular. It aroused a lot of anger among the traditionalists, but that’s alright.”

Jon Pertwee (1990)

September 18, 2009

This is another transcript, it’s two radio interviews with Jon Pertwee, which I’ve merged. He talks about his family, about being hired to play the guitar and sing ballads in ‘Doctor Who’, and about ‘Worzel Gummidge’.

Q: Do you enjoy travelling?

A: Yes, because I’m a great wriggler. I never stick with one specific thing in show business, I started riding the Wall of Death when I was sixteen, on a motorbike, and I worked in the circus. Then I was in repertory theatre, which took me all over the country. Then I was in the Navy, then I worked in vaudeville. When that died I went into cabaret, and that took me all over the world, I worked in New Zealand, America. I don’t like nightclubs because there are too many people and they’re too ill-mannered.

Q: Is there one thing that really stands out?

A: Well, yes, when you’re getting out there in front of a cabaret audience, you know within half an hour if you’ve got them or not, and if you’ve got them then to hold them for an hour and a half is a great challenge and enormously rewarding. There are no venues left in England for cabaret.

Q: Did you come from a show business family?

A: Yes, indeed, my father was in Hollywood, as a scenarist, my brother Michael Pertwee is a playwright and scenarist, and my cousin Bill – do you have ‘Dad’s Army’ in America? No, I suppose not, it’s too English. It wouldn’t travel very well, I don’t think.

Q: You’ve mentioned that your father was great friend of Leslie Howard?

A: Yes, my father wrote many of Leslie Howard’s early films, and I remember as a small boy living in our home in Devonshire, Leslie Howard came down to spend a holiday with a rather charming lady, staying in a hotel not far away, Merle Oberon. A very beautiful lady, much appreciated by Leslie Howard. My cousin married Laurence Olivier, so I lived with him when I was training as a student, in his house in London. My grandmother was an opera singer, my aunts were with Gilbert and Sullivan. Dame Edith Worth was my aunt.

Q: How did ‘Doctor Who’ come about?

A: My specific role? Well I was involved in a radio show called ‘The Navy Lark’, which was the longest-running radio show in the history of broadcasting, and it went all over the world, including the United States. I’d be interested if you could find a longer-running show, we ran for eighteen and a half years. I know ‘The Easy Aces’ ran a long time, but not that long. We ran eighteen and a half years, Leslie Phillips and myself and an English comic actor called Ronnie Barker who’s now a very big star, and one of the cast said ‘Why don’t you put yourself up for Doctor Who?’. I said ‘Why would they want an eccentric, long-nosed comic to play Dr. Who?’

I called my agent and mentioned it, and there was a very long pause on the other end of the phone. I said ‘I’m sorry, forget it’, and he said ‘No, no, I don’t think it’s a very good idea but I’ll try it’ so he rang up and spoke to the BBC and the producer of ‘Doctor Who’ said ‘Well who are you suggesting?’ and he told them, and there was a long pause, and equally long pause, and my agent said ‘I had exactly the same reaction’, and he said ‘No, the reason I’m so staggered is that his name’s the second on our short-list’, and I had been for two years. They’d been considering me for two years and I didn’t even know it.

I think Dr. Who was more or less me. The first one I did, I played for laughs. I had a dreadfully funny scene where I put on various hats. My original producers gave me the job because they wanted me to play the guitar and sing ballads.

Q: In the programme?

A: In the programme, yes. Pat Troughton played his penny whistle, so they thought I could play ballads, but no, we got rid of all that?

Q: Looking at the enormous popularity of ‘Doctor Who’, is it down to the individuals who played him, or is there a magic we don’t see?

A: No, there’s a magic that you do see, pure escapism. People are sick of the kitchen sink and they want to escape.

Q: And typecasting doesn’t bother you?

A: Yes it does, it bothers me very much indeed. I no longer wish to carry everything on my shoulders, I don’t necessarily want to be a leading man any more. I want to do what my friend Leslie Phillips has done so brilliantly now, he’s stopped being the sort of silly-ass light comedian.

Q: Taking on very challenging and serious roles.

A: Absolutely, and brilliantly too. That’s what I’d like to do, and I’m having a devil’s own job to persuade young director that that’s what I can do. And they say ‘Oh, Doctor Who’ and I say ‘Hang on, what’s the connection between the elegant dandified folk hero science fiction figure and the filthy old scarecrow with a carrot for a nose?’, and you remind them and they say ‘Oh yes, but it’s a cult thing’. Everything I’ve done has been culty. ‘The Navy Lark’ was culty.

When I was making ‘Doctor Who’, if anybody thinks I was making a lot of money, they’re crazy. I think I got £350 for an episode. That’s for a week’s work, and I couldn’t do anything else. When I was doing ‘Worzel Gummidge’ I could do some personal appearances at the weekend.

Q: There’s a wonderful Blue Peter clip from 1973 where you introduce the Whomobile, and it looks so tacky.

A: Oh, but I assure you it wasn’t tacky at all, it was superbly put together. Absolutely magnificent, it was the best-looking thing you’ve ever seen in your life. Everything worked, apart from the ejector seat, the computer worked, enough for photographically, when you pressed the button, all the lights flashed. It did nearly ninety miles an hour, it was very very fast. It was designed by a man named Peter Farris in Nottingham, and he did it in two mouldings, and it stopped the traffic wherever it went. We had to put it on a low-loader because people ran into it while they were looking at it.

Q: Patrick Troughton was obviously a friend.

A: Yes, we did ‘The Three Doctors’ and ‘The Five Doctors’. He was a magical man, he was a kook, he was strange, he wasn’t like other fellows. He was an ad-libber actor. I remember when he came in on my show, and he was a guest, and he was underneath the TARDIS and he was doing something, the cue was ‘I can’t find the circuit’, and he said ‘Oh where is the wretched thing?’, and I said ‘What?’, he said ‘Come on, I’ve given you the line’, I said ‘No you haven’t, he said ‘Well it’s near enough’ (laughs), I said ‘No it’s not, I’m Dr. Who now, I know you did that when you were in it’. He was wonderful, very free, I loved to watch him.

Q: Actors of your generation seemed to be very much larger than life figures.

A: Yes, I suppose they were, well certain types of actors. Roger Delgado was a brilliant actor, very hypnotic eyes. ‘Doctor Who’ is OTT, you can’t be serious, Daleks with sink plunger and egg whisks. It’s very hard work. I didn’t play Dr. Who right over the top, I played him straight.

Q: One of the newest stars of British television is ‘Worzel Gummidge’, isn’t he?

A: About eight or nine years ago I was doing a crime quiz show called ‘Whodunnit?’, which started in America, but you made a terrible mistake in America, you see our programmes, you say ‘That’s good’, you buy the programme, and instead of showing it to your audiences, you put your own people in them and you alter all the dialogue. We won’t let that happen with ‘Worzel Gummidge’. Worzel’s a mangled word, it’s a kind of turnip.

Q: What is the difference between British and American comedy?

A: I think it has heart. It’s not cold. We’re not one-liners, we’re situation comedy people. I can’t tell a one-liner, but I can tell a joke that lasts four and a half minutes.

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.

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.

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.

Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison (1983)

August 17, 2009

This is one of the best multi-Doctor interviews around. To mark the show’s twentieth anniversary, three of the four surviving Doctors got together on the BBC’s ‘Nationwide’ show. It’s defintely worth watching the clip, because part of the joy is the interaction between them, especially Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee.

Q: Jon, the Doctor always gets away with it. Is that some deep philosophical message, the triumph of good over evil, or is it ingenious fun?

JP: It’s his brilliance! It’s his brilliance and his experience, is it not Patrick?

PT: Oh yes! What are we talking about? Yes! Brilliant, yes!

Q: We must ask him a question because he’s been waiting. Patrick, the character as you saw it, would you like to tell me about that?

PT: Yes. Well it took me time to see the character because I had to follow Billy, and that was the first follow. And it was a question of doing it differently, really, because you couldn’t do it the same. So we had various ideas, first a kind of captain with one of those Victorian… (mimes a hat)

Q: It was the late 60’s when you did it, wasn’t it? I thought that was a Dr. Who of its time, because you had a kind of Beatles haircut, didn’t you?

PT: It probably was, yes. There was a thing about that, actually, because Mike Craze and Anneke, when they saw my wig in make-up –

JP: What wig?

PT: I had a wig, originally, in make-up, they saw it, they said ‘No, we are not going on’, I looked like Harpo Marx.

JP: That’s where Tom got the idea.

PT: So they whipped it off and they dressed my hair like a Beatle.

Q: Peter, it’s now unashamedly for adults, isn’t it, because they’ve put you on later.

PD: Well I don’t think it’s unashemedly for adults, I think it’s always had a fairly adult audience, and I think they tried to give it an extra boost by putting it on in the week, and it’s certainly increased the viewing figures.

Q: Jon, do children still stop you in the street? Do they still think you’re Dr. Who?

JP: Yes, when they don’t think I’m Worzel Gummidge.

PT: Have you seen his Worzel Gummidge? Fantastic.

Q: But do they believe that you’re some sort of supernatural being?

JP: Yes. They say ‘Hello Doc, I wonder if you could help me out with a little bit of trouble’.

PD: But it’s quite extraordinary, because the day after it was announced that I would be Dr. Who, I was called Dr. Who in the street.

Q: They stopped calling you Tristram?

PD: Yes, they did, that ended it. But before I’d even appeared, you know, people were so used to the idea, they even thought they’d seen me, they said ‘I watch you every week’, they were watching Tom!

Q: But it has to be frightening, doesn’t it? (to Patrick) I mean you’re sending it up –

PT: I don’t! I’ve never sent it up in my life! It’s a different attitude to a desperately dangerous situation.

PD: When you’re doing it, you can’t send it up. When you’re in rehearsal, you can’t afford to send it up.

PT: We might do it here.

Q: Have any of you any regrets about doing it? Has it ruined your lives?

ALL: No!

JP: Good heavens, no.

PT: Absolutely not.

JP: The repeats are marvellous.

Q: Listen, it’s been worked out that the Time Lord, he can regenerate himself thirteen times –

PT: Hey?

Q: It’s very mathematical. Listen, 45 years more he’s got to live. What I want to know is, when is a woman going to be Dr. Who?

PD: That depends on when I give up, don’t you think?

PT: What a good idea.

Jon Pertwee & Katy Manning (1993)

August 16, 2009

This is an edited transcript from the 1993 Panopticon convention appearance of Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning. Among other things, you’ll learn which was the only story Katy didn’t like (Jon agrees), and there are some nice stories about Roger Delgado.

Q: It would be true to say, Jon, that you are the current Dr. Who, with your series on Radio 5.

JP: That’s correct. I’m not the only Doctor to be Doctor twice. Who was the other one? Colin Baker, correct. He did a very short session on radio.

Q: Did you enjoy doing it?

JP: Oh enormously. It was wonderful, I mean, having the old Brig back and having Liz, Liz Sladen and Peter, who is the most evil villain in the world. He’s a bastard. And he’s one of the gentlest people you could meet off stage, he wouldn’t say boo to a carpet slipper, he really wouldn’t, but he’s a terrible, terrifying man.

Q: Was it fun getting back together again?

JP: Yes. This all started because when we heard that ‘Doctor Who’ was unlikely to come back on television, I suggested to Dirk Mags, one of our finest radio producers that I’d done, maybe some of you heard, ‘Superman’ on radio, and I liked working with him enormously, and I suggested to him ‘Why don’t we put Doctor Who out on radio?’, and he said ‘Well, it’s a good idea, if it’s not coming back on television it’ll be one way of getting it back’. And he had a talk with the heads and as usual with the BBC they were very fast, it took them two years, and they agreed it would be a good idea to put ‘Doctor Who’ on radio. But by that time Dirk Mags was busy on other things, but he delegated a brilliant young producer, and thank God it was absolutely brilliant. And when we were talking about the set-up to it, he said ‘Well who’s going to write it?’, and I said ‘Get someone who knows about the programme, who knows about the construction of the programme’, and we both said ‘Well what about Barry Letts?’, would Barry do it? Barry, as you all know, used to be my producer for many years doing ‘Doctor Who’, and of course he’s been an actor, and of course Barry wrote some of the finest ‘Doctor Who’s under various pseudonyms because he was forbidden by the BBC to write anything, so he did it as Guy Leopold which was a mixture of two names, and I enjoyed Barry’s more than practically anyone’s, so I said get Barry.

Q: It must have felt right having a Barry Letts script, with Liz, with Nick…

JP: Yes, right in. And of course with Maurice Denham in it too, a wonderful, wonderful elderly actor. And Maurice said, he said ‘You know, dear boy’ – you can’t see his teeth, he’s worn them all out with his pipe – he said ‘You and I did our first broadcast here in BH together 51 years ago’, and I said ‘Don’t be so ridiculous, I’m not that old’, he said ‘Oh yes you bloody well are’. He was absolutely right, we had done a radio show 51 years before at BH, 51 years to the day, and he produced the clipping from the Radio Times to show it, it was a programme by John Putney, the great poet. He said ‘It was absolutely wonderful, that’, and I said what were you doing before that, he said ‘Oh, I was working at BH, I was working here’, I said ‘What were you doing?’, he said ‘Installing the elevators’, and he was, before he was an actor, he was an elevator installor.

Q: Looking back over your career, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

JP: Oh yes. I wanted to have a much bigger film career, I like cameras, I have, as Michael Caine put it, he has a love affair with the lens. You can see what he’s thinking through his eyes, and I have that to a degree too, I have a rapport with the lens. I like film work, I like the medium of pictures, and I made in the 50’s and 60’s an awful lot of movies and I would like to have gone on to do… I was under contract with ABPC with George Cole, and unfortunately George walked out of his contract just as we were about to do a big picture called ‘Baby in the Battleship’ which some of you may have seen, John Mills eventually played it. I said ‘Well if George is gone, who am I going to play with?’ and they said ‘You’re not’, they got two other people and that was the end of my contract with ABPC which was a shame because that really cattled me in the film industry for many years.

Q: I mean up to the time that you played Dr. Who, the characters you played were loud, were humerous. Was ‘Who’ the first time you played straight?

JP: It was, really, because I remember Shaun Sutton, who was the head of programmes at the time and a dear friend of mine, he asked me to do it, I said ‘Well let’s have a bite of lunch’, we had lunch, and at the end of lunch he said ‘Well will you play it?’, I said ‘Let me think about it’, he rang me up the next week and said ‘Do you want to do it?’, I said ‘How about another lunch?’, we had another lunch and he said ‘So, do you want to do it?’, I said ‘How about dinner next week?’. After about three meetings I said ‘Well I’ll play it, but how do you want me to play it?’. He said ‘As Jon Pertwee’, and I said ‘Well who the hell’s that?’, because I didn’t know who Jon Pertwee was, I’d never played myself, I’d hidden under a green umbrella all my life, like Peter Sellers, my friend Peter Sellers used to do…

Q: Was that conscious, hiding under characters?

JP: Yes, I was frightened to come out. I mean, when I did plays like ‘Girl in My Soup’, which was a straight role, in England and America, I wore thick horn-rim glasses as a sort of cover, something to hide behind. I always wanted to hide, like Peter wanted to hide.

Q: Did you ever hide in the streets? I mean if you went out shopping, for example?

JP: Oh no, that’s a very different thing. I never did that. I used to dress up. Occasionally I’d dress up in dark glasses and go like that (mimes being blind), and people would help me. Got me very good seats on the train.

Q: So looking back at ‘Doctor Who’, there must have been some happy years of your working life?

JP: Oh yes, I loved it. I loved Friday night particularly, when the cheque came. And regularly too, ’cause we did an awful lot of them in those days. Yes, it was five very happy years indeed.

Q: Everyone you talk to from your time on the programme says it was a happy time, everyone was friends, everyone got on.

JP: Yes, well I insisted on that because there were so many shows that you’d been watching for years where there are regular teams, and usually those people are so cliquey, they don’t communicate at all with the guest artists who come in. Like on ‘Coronation Street’, they’d say ‘No, you can’t sit in that chair, get out of that, that’s Emily’s chair’, and with my team, with the Brig, and John Levene and Katy and Liz and all our team, I used to say to them ‘Now listen, when our guest artists come in you make a real fuss of him, make him a cup of tea, make sure he’s got a chair, really make a fuss of him’, and it worked, worked like a dream, and we had laughs, we laughed our way silly through the whole thing. In fact Barry used to get terribly cross, he’d say ‘Well what have you done today?’, and I’d say ‘We had a dart-throwing competition out the window’, and Barry said ‘I’m furious about this’, he ticked me off, and I said ‘You’re wrong, by doing that we’ve got great good humour in the company and we can get much more done, so tomorrow we can work late and nobody’s going to say a thing’, and they didn’t. We had this great rapport and feeling with our guests.

Q: That’s how it comes across. It’s nice to know that it really was true.

JP: Anyone seen ‘Return to Devil’s End’? The tape? Well you’ve seen that, when we all got back together again, we were all terrified because we thought we wouldn’t remember anything, and then Nick came out with this book of photographs and he said ‘Do you remember this?’, I said ‘Oh yes, that was when Bessie was going along the road and there was this funny thing where someone was pushing her from the back and fell under the wheels’, and of course we were off. Each photograph brought back memories. We could have made a film about nine hours long, I think.

Q: Was that an enjoyable experience, going back there?

JP: Yeah, it was lovely. Going back to, what was it called… Albourne.

Q: A lot of people rate ‘The Daemons’ very highly, it’s one of the most popular…

JP: It’s my most popular, yes. My favourite.

Q: Roger Delgado, let’s have a little word about Roger Delgado. Were you really good friends?

JP: Roger was one of my greatest friends, yes. We were enormously… the most extraordinary man, Roger Delgado, there was another example of a man who looked absolutely terrifying, with that beard and those eyes, and yet he would not say boo to a chickflit. He was the most nervous man about everything, I mean when we did ‘The Sea Devils’ putting Roger on one of those boats, those little jet boats, he nearly died. And someone said ‘Come on, Mr. Delgado’ and the director said ‘Shut up!’. He said ‘What’s the matter, guv?’, he said ‘It’s a miracle we’ve got him on the thing at all’. And when we put him in that immersion tank and sank him in the sea, I mean he really died a million deaths. I’ve often said this before, he was incredibly cowardly but therefore the bravest man I’ve ever known in my life. I would do these things joyfully because I’m a complete berk. I’ve been gadget-mad all my life, I fly, I’ve raced speedboats, I’ve raced motorcars, I’ve raced motorbikes in my lifetime, and so I loved all that. Roger hated it. His idea of a wonderful life was for us all to go out and have dinner, or eat at his house or mine, have a great dinner, drink several bottles of wine, put his carpet slippers on and then drink a bottle of port. That was a really dangerous evening and a good one.

Very sad, of course you know what happened, he was making a film out in Turkey, and the film company car… the plane was diverted, so the film company car didn’t pick him up, and being Roger he didn’t want to miss out on anything so he took a taxi and the taxi driver who drove him was a complete idiot and he drove him over a cliff and he was killed.

(At this point, Katy Manning joins).

Q: When you first got the job as Jo, when you first met him (Jon Pertwee), what were your thoughts?

KM: I thought he was frightfully tall, and because I’m very short-sighted I didn’t actually see what he looked like. I got to the waist, and I often wondered what the top bit looked like. And when I finally got to put my glasses on, and I saw what he looked like, I thought ‘Yes, I’m going to like this job’.

Q: And did you?

KM: Yes, I did. I had the most wonderful three years and Jon was extremely kind to me. I loved doing ‘The Daemons, we had the best time doing ‘The Daemons’. I mean this might sound stupid, but I loved every minute that I worked. I really did. I have the fondest memories of everything that we did and we all got on frightfully well together. I mean I loved ‘The Daemons’ and I liked the very first episode that I was in. There was one I didn’t like, and it seems to be very popular, and I really didn’t like it, there’s only one, and I always get the title wrong…

JP: ‘Day of the Daleks’? It was one of the Dalek ones. We were surrounded by Daleks. Two Daleks. It was terrible, they said ‘There’s an invasion of Daleks, and they’re surrounding this house with all these Commonwealth presidents’, and they surround the house, I said to the director ‘Well where are the Daleks?’, he said ‘Over there’. There were two. I said ‘How do you surround a house with two Daleks?’. He said ‘Well you shoot them, then you move them, you shoot two more’.

KM: They were Daleks with very large personalities. I mean it was just one of those stories that I was never happy with how it worked –

JP: Nor me.

KM: But apart from that… and I liked ‘The Curse of Peladon’, that was fun…

JP: With Pat’s son in it.

KM: That’s right, David Troughton. Every single one was great.

Q: But there must have been moments when you thought ‘I can’t stand this any more’?

KM: Never. No. Oh, once! Can I tell this story? It was Jon’s fault. We didn’t actually have a row in three years, except for once and Jon was being very impatient that day, and it was all over reading a map. Do you remember what you did?

JP: No…

KM: We’d had a lovely time in the car, we’d made up a whole opera about brussel sprouts… such mature and grown-up people… and Jon hates brussel sprouts, he loathes them… and I can’t remember how we got into it, but Jon was very cross with me because I wasn’t reading the map right.

JP: You were reading it upside down.

KM: Yes. Now I don’t think it’s fair to mock the afflicted, do you? Jon was being very unreasonable about me reading the map upside down, and it was probably the wrong map anyway, and I couldn’t find where we were going, and I got really distressed by this, and he actually had his first go at me. And all these people who had worked with us for all this time saw this first row going on, and in three years that’s not bad.

Q: Was it hard work?

KM: Arguing with Jon? Impossible. You can’t win. You don’t argue with this man. Never. You go into it knowing you’re going to lose. He’s bigger, he’s smarter –

Q: Jon, do you go into this knowing you’re going to win?

JP: Of course I know I’m going to win, yes.

KM: As soon as I’d look at Jon and say ‘I know I’m 100% right’, this big smile would come on his face and I knew I was wrong.

Q: Jon, you came back for ‘The Five Doctors’, ten years ago. Katy, would you ever come back if you were asked, if there was ever a new series?

KM: What the hell would you do with Jo? Five years ago, I’d have said no, but now, if I had to come back as Jo I think I would, but only if they let Jo come back a certain way. I would not come back and say ‘But Doctor, enough of your knavish tricks’, no. But Jo, I tell you what, she left him, the one she went off with, she got halfway up the Amazon, she said ‘This is not going to work’, so I would only come back if (a) she was no longer married, and (b) she could be somebody that many years later.

Q: What would she be, though?

KM: Well there’s a nice question. Everybody write in their answers.

I think the greatest thing the Brig ever said to me, when I questioned him deeply, about the way he used to underline his script in many different colours… and whenever you’d say ‘Brig, it’s your turn to speak’, he’d say ‘No, can’t be, I haven’t underlined it’, and I finally asked him why he did it. He said ‘The red is so that when somebody asks me a question, I know that I have to answer’, so in other words if the Brig didn’t have it underlined he didn’t answer your question… the workings of the man’s mind, do you remember all those incredible coloured pencils?

JP: I remember them very well, yes.

KM: And I went to the pub with him once, and I felt so sorry for him! I always sort of saw he was alright with his Bovril in the afternoon, but at lunchtime do you remember he didn’t come with us, he went to the pub –

JP: He went to the pub and had his three pints, that’s right.

KM: Three pints exactly.

JP: Well he’d had four breakfasts!

KM: He was so sweet, he said ‘Nobody ever comes to the pub with me’, and I looked at his little face and I thought ‘Oh dear’ so I went to the pub, which I find extremely boring, and I sat with him the whole lunchtime. He’s just the loveliest person to work with in the world, isn’t he?

JP: Yes. You can’t throw him. It didn’t matter how hard we tried to really screw him up, you couldn’t. Where he was playing the doppelganger, you know two roles, with the black patch over his eye, and what I said was ‘What we’re going to do is we’re all going to dress up as the Brig’, so we all put black patches over our eyes, and we had our backs to him, and he came in and said ‘Now look here, Doctor’, and I thought that would break him out completely, but he just went straight on, you simply couldn’t throw the Brig.