Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Courtney’

Terrance Dicks and Nicholas Courtney (1993)

September 11, 2009

Here’s a transcript of a brief 1993 interview with Terrance Dicks and Nicholas Courtney, talking about ‘The Three Doctors’ and ‘The Five Doctors’.

Q: Terrance, why was ‘The Three Doctors’ put together?

TD: It was an anniversary show, and we wanted to do something special. And an idea that had come up again and again from fans was, why not have all the Doctors together? So we dismissed it at first, and then suddenly we thought maybe that’s not a bad idea and we contacted them and they all wanted to do it.

Q: How did they get on with each other?

TD: Well, William Hartnell, the oldest, only made a quite small appearance because he was not very well and had to be pre-filmed. You might say that there was a certain rivalry between the second and third Doctors, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, which worked well.

Q: The Brigadier had to play peace-maker a few times?

NC: Well he had to try to calm the Doctors down, Pertwee and Troughton. Of course the Brigadier was horrified, he’d been used to Patrick Troughton, then Jon Pertwee came along, and then both of them!

Q: What happened in the twentieth anniversay, when there were five of them?

NC: ‘The Five Doctors’, well most of the stuff I did in ‘The Five Doctors’ was with Pat Troughton. By then, the Brigadier was used to the face-changing.

Q: Terrance, you actually wrote ‘The Five Doctors’, tell us about the complexities of writing that?

TD: It was very difficult. You have five leading actors, and you had to give them all a leading role and make them feel important, and of course you’ve got Peter Davison who’s the current Doctor. I paired them off. Nick was mostly was with Patrick Troughton, and they’ve got that wonderful double act, you know, and I would pair off a companion and a Doctor. So there were only really two ensemble scenes, one at the beginning, and then they go off and attack the problem, and one at the end, the walk-down scene as they say in pantomime. Nick said goodbye to them all.

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.

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.