Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Troughton’

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.

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Frazer Hines (2005)

September 17, 2009

Here’s a transcript of part of a short interview with Frazer Hines, talking about his first meeting with Patrick Troughton, about getting exhausted during ‘The Mind Robber’ and about rope ladders in the Doctor’s pockets.

“The first time I met Patrick was ‘Smuggler’s Bay’. It was originally called ‘Moonfleet’, a famous book, but the BBC had a thing called ‘Moonstrike’ at the time so they changed it to ‘Smuggler’s Bay’, and Patrick played an old smuggler. And the day before filming began, I’d actually put my hand through a plate glass window, and I turned up with these great bandages on, and they tried various things to hide it, and they were covered up with an old workers’ glove. Years later, when I saw Patrick for ‘Doctor Who’, the first day of filming he said ‘How’s the hand?’. He remembered. And that was the sort of man he was.

“There was one story, I think it was ‘The Mind Robber’, there were only three people in it, and a couple of monsters, and we still had the same twenty-four minute script to learn and we went to Peter Bryant and said ‘We can’t cope, the workload is too heavy for three people’, so they cut those episodes down, they cut about four minutes thirty off those episodes. They either cut our stuff down and made more robots, but I remember there was a mini-strike, we physically couldn’t do any more. It’s difficult to do a three-hander, you can do it if it’s a ten-week shoot, but if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s too much work.

“Whatever (Patrick) did, if he put his hand in his pocket and said ‘Jamie, I have a rope ladder here’, you could believe, ‘Yes, that Doctor would have a rope ladder’. His character was whacko, but believable, you never went ‘Oh no, he wouldn’t have that in his pocket’, you actually believed, and I think it was Colin Baker who said ‘If it wasn’t for Patrick, the rest of us wouldn’t have got the part’, because if Patrick, when he got the part, when he took over, if he’d made a dog’s breakfast of it, it would have gone another series and then folded.

“He blew his top once, with Padders and I, because he had this long speech and he kept fluffing it on the third line. Once an actor starts to corpse, it’s very difficult. I said ‘Patrick, you’re paid a fortune to learn these lines, I’m paid to get the girls watching and Padders is paid to stop the Dads doing the gardening, Patrick you’re paid to say these lines’, so then he did the speech again, he got over the line, he looked at us, then he dried on the next line.

“‘The War Games’ was our last story, ten episodes, and as I recall we knew we were leaving, the three of us, but it wasn’t maudlin, it was still the same happy, jokey atmosphere, and I can’t recall, even when we finished the last scene in the studio, I think it was Lime Grove, I don’t remember us all bursting into tears, which is strange when you’ve had three happy years. The strange thing is, we didn’t see each other (after that), I saw Pat a couple of times, then I did ‘Emmerdale’ and there I was, up in Yorkshire. So I don’t recall us walking out of that studio with a heavy heart going ‘That’s it, it’s the end of an era’.

Shaun Sutton (1992)

September 8, 2009

Shaun Sutton was the man in charge of BBC serials when William Hartnell was forced to relinquish his role as the Doctor. The show’s popularity was so great that the decision was taken to re-cast the leading role, and in this interview from the early 1990’s Sutton describes the process, including Sydney Newman’s involvement during a dress rehearsal in a basement at Television Centre:

“The producer and I were absolutely determined to have Patrick Troughton, because we knew Patrick Troughton and I had actually been a drama student with Patrick Troughton many years ago, before the war. And even back then, Patrick had those deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun, and I remember saying to him once, before the war, ‘Pat, you have the secret of eternal age’, and I thought that was a very good quality for ‘Doctor Who’.

“Anyway, we both knew he was a good actor, I’d done many television plays with him, and I wanted him, I thought he had a magical quality about him, a wizard quality, and so did Innes Lloyd. Any good actor, like Patrick Troughton, can go and get work anywhere. And the fear with a part like ‘Doctor Who’ is that you’ll not only get typed as that part, you simply won’t get work anywhere because people will say ‘Oh, no, everyone will think of him as Dr. Who’, so we did had to persuade him, and I had to persuade him on more than one occasion to come back for another year.

“Of course, we had to sell him to Sydney Newman, so we prepared a sort of parade, as it were, and we were down in the dressing room in the basement of Television Centre. And he was dressed in his first costume, which for some reason was the captain of an American Mississippi showboat. I don’t know why that was his costume. And we called Sydney down, Sydney took one look and said ‘Shaun, let’s take a walk’, and I said to Innes ‘Out of the costume’.

“And Sydney and I walked around the entire basement of Television Centre, and believe you me that is a long way when you’re getting your fortune told by Sydney Newman. By the time we got back, Innes had Patrick in the costume he would eventually wear for ‘Doctor Who’, that funny little suit and odd tie and the hat and the penny whistle. And I think it was here that Sydney actually proved himself to be a great boss, because he looked and he said ‘I still don’t see it, but if you and Innes say it’s okay, okay, go ahead’ and he stamped out and on the way he said ‘You’d better be good’, and of course he was, Patrick Troughton was one of the best Dr. Who’s, and I thought he was a marvellous choice.

“He was, in a way, a little magician, a leprechaun. There was an impish quality that wasn’t there in Bill Hartnell. Bill Hartnell, in the very first ones, had much more of that impish quality than he had in the latter ones, he became much more of a Sergeant Major, which I didn’t think was very suitable, but Pat had it all the way through, and of course he got on marvellously well with the people who worked with him. He was first rate, he was a friend for many years, I liked his eccentricity. So I was extremely sorry when he left ‘Doctor Who’ and when he died, he was a friend I missed”.

Michael Craze (1993)

September 7, 2009

Here’s a transcript of a short interview with Michael Craze, who playe Ben. Along with Anneke Wills’ Polly, Ben was the first companion to witness a regeneration, and here he talks about his first impressions of Patrick Troughton.

“By the same token that it wouldn’t have been anything without William Hartnell starting, I don’t think it could have carried on with anyone but Patrick Troughton. He was one of those actors where you knew his name, and then you thought ‘Of course I know Patrick Troughton, who did he play?’. Pat always played characters, you’d never recognise him in the street from his roles before ‘Doctor Who’. He was well-known in the business, and then when people said ‘Don’t you remember he was in so and so?’, you went ‘Oh, of course he was’.

“You could have put all sorts of other people in the role and I think it would’ve sunk like a lead balloon. I think it was the devotion and the real integrity and the insight that Pat brought to the character that allowed it to carry on. He wasn’t just saying the lines, the emotion came with it. He might suddenly change the position of an object if he was fiddling, and you’d respond, which is good acting because it’s instantaneous and you’ve got to be able to do that.

“I remember him struggling to start with, with the character, because in the very beginning he had this imagined character of the cosmic hobo and he was struggling to find the level for it. When he started, he had the big tall hat and the whistle, and I could see him working within himself to see how far he could go, and how far his mannerisms… internally I could see him working at it, which was the mark of a very good actor, the Stanislavsky thing of working the character out. And he was doing this in rehearsals. And Anneke and I used to tease him, and say ‘Oh take that bloody hat off, for God’s sake’. Once he got over the initial trauma of creating the character, I think he settled in very well.

“It was hard work because although it was fun, it was very strict because it had to be right. He was very professional in that he insisted everything was right, the props were right, but it was light-hearted because he wasn’t strict like William Hartnell. He loved company, he loved young people, or younger people, he wasn’t that old himself. And he was just a great fun person. Everything could be turned into a joke. He was a humble person, he didn’t mind making mistakes, he didn’t mind other people making mistakes, he was just a very nice person. Not at all egotistical or anything, he was one of the guys and we all got on together”.

Patrick Troughton (1986)

September 4, 2009

Here’s a transcript from Patrick Troughton’s appearance at one of the Panopticon conventions. It’s quite a wide-ranging interview, covering his initial acceptance of the role through to his decision to quit after three years.

“The telephone rang. I was in Ireland doing a film called ‘The Viking Queen’, in which I did not play the main part, and I forget who, I think it was Shaun Sutton, Shaun Sutton was at the other end of the phone with this astonishing and preposterous suggestion. It was a fairly quick way of making it die a death, I thought. As each day passed, he kept on asking and offering me more pennies for it. I had a young family, I thought ‘I could get them educated on this’, and after about a week I thought ‘Right, now I can educate the kids, I’ll do the part’. So that’s really why I took it.

“We went to Berman’s, I think it was Berman’s, and we looked through all the old rubbish, really. (laughs) We just got things out of hampers and had a look. It was sort of a ragged imitation of Billy Hartnell, I suppose, only way out. And there was a first script, which was sort of written for Billy but which was written, it struck me, for a very verbose, sort of autocratic Sherlock Holmes who never stopped talking. And I thought ‘That won’t do for me over three years of every Saturday’, so I said first of all ‘No, I don’t see the part like this, I see it really as a listener’. I think this Doctor listens to everyone, tots it all up and then makes his own decision about this.

“Then in comes Sydney Newman, and he starts talking about this cosmic hobo, who obviously doesn’t talk like an intellectual type, autocratic Sherlock Holmes at all. And I leapt at it, what a good idea, and I said ‘A man like that would be more of a listener, wouldn’t he?’, and they said ‘Yes’. So that’s how that came about, really. I was very keen on doing it like that, because to begin with I found myself playing it over the top, mostly because that’s how Sydney Newman was urging me to play it. But Shaun Sutton, who I think was a little wiser than Sydney Newman in many ways, in fact considerably wiser, he said ‘No, no, just do it in your head, old chap’, so I toned it down a bit after that and it was warmer and a bit more successful.

“And of course Michael Craze was responsible for me wearing that absurd Beatles cut, he and Anneke Wills. Just before we went on, we got down to make-up and I’d had a lovely wig fitted that made me look just like Tom Baker, actually, or Colin, and I put it on, and they (Anneke Wills and Michael Craze) both looked at me and said ‘You look like Harpo Marx and we’re not going on with you in that wig’, I said ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, they said ‘No, sorry, no’. So they took if off and started doing things, combing it and lifting it and all that, and I ended up like the Beatles, which is totally out of date. Not that that matters to a Timelord.

“When you’re a character actor you’re having to make decisions all the time, and that’s a question of gaining confidence in the part you play, and that takes the time, really. Whereas with ‘Doctor Who’, the three years of it, you weren’t learning lines, really, you were learning thoughts.

“I was delighted when (Frazer Hines) joined. I knew him way back, because Frazer… (thinks) He’s a good listener, when you’re together just with him, he’s a good listener. And he’s not a bad actor, either! (laughs) We never played practical jokes, never. I’ve never known it to happen. (laughs) There’s no time for all that. All we did in rehearsals was to play Aggravation for three years. That’s a card game. We had penny stakes on it, and we played solidly when we weren’t actually on the set. It kept your mind sane, really. You had to keep to a routine, ’cause when you’re working at that pitch you have to keep to a routine, rather like a very young child or a very old man like I’m getting. And if that routine is broken, you just want to break into tears. There was a director once who bounded in and said ‘We’re going to start rehearsals at ten instead of ten-fifteen’, and that completely ruined our life for about half an hour. (laughs) It’s an astonishing thing, you’d keep going as long as everything was just like the day before, but once it got different… it was very worrying.

“Starting again was rather like jumping on a running bus. I remember that Monday, Tuesday… Monday we read it, Tuesday rehearsed it, Wednesday rehearsed it, half day Thursday then you were on Friday. We filmed every fortnight, and in the end, Frazer and Wendy and I had a sit-down strike and said ‘We’re not going to film at the weekends, because we’re getting tired irritable’. We had a big conference, Shaun Sutton took us out for a lovely meal, tried to talk us out of it, and we said ‘No!’, and in the end the planners, those chaps up in the sixth floor with their little maps and flags all arrange in lovely patterns but who don’t know much about the actual working of a play, they changed their mind.

“You could stay with it, and they wanted me to, for as long as the BBC did it or they got tired of you. That might be at best, one thought, five years. That would have been eight years, and by then one would have been so connected with the character that getting other work would have been very difficult indeed. So that was the main consideration there. Or one could leave. Give up a fortune. And that’s what we decided to do”.

Wendy Padbury (1992)

September 4, 2009

There’ll be a longer Wendy Padbury interview in a few days, but until then here she is talking about getting the role of Zoe, her fondness for Patrick Troughton and, of course, her memories of practical jokes on the ‘Doctor Who’ set.

“I was sent by my agent as a horribly out of work young actress to interview for the part of Zoe, along with probably the rest of London, all those of us who were sort of five foot nothing and young, which led then to a recall and another recall and another recall until they whittled us down to about six of us, and we were sent a script of just a page of dialogue which had just one small speech. Every single emotion that you could possibly imagine. And each girl had to learn this piece, and we went to the studio and recorded it, and the camera was just on our eyes and I can remember we had to stand on a spot and we couldn’t move, and it was all on the eyes, good job it wasn’t on the knees because my knees were knocking. And they chose me!

“I didn’t personally have any reservations whatsoever, for the simple reason that Pat Troughton was and always has been my very favourite actors, especially as a child. I used to watch him in all those Sunday afternoon dramas, and the thought of working with Pat was brill. And then the character itself was such fun, from what I’d seen of ‘Doctor Who’ before I went into it the girls tended to scream a lot and Zoe wasn’t quite like that to begin with. She was this very clever astrophysicist, she just wasn’t a screamer, she was able, especially in later episodes, to say to the Doctor ‘Leave this to me, I can sort this out’. She did do a fair amount of screaming, but she was great to play. I think in ‘The Wheel in Space’, my first story, Eric Flynn called Zoe ‘all brain and no heart’, which I thought was great!

“One of the most embarrassing moments actually happened during rehearsals of one of the Cyberman stories, I think I’d had a late night and I came into the rehearsal room not looking my best. Pat, Frazer and I were sat down learning our lines for a scene, and I was wearing a kilt, quite a short kilt, and Pat and Frazer sat either side of me. I have to say here that we were rehearsing in a church hall, which is quite relevant to the story. So we sat down, and because I’d had a late night I sort of nodded off, and suddenly I got two elbows in my ribs, with Pat and Frazer either side of me, saying ‘Quick, quick, you’re on!’, and I shot out of my chair and they’d undone the kilt, so I shot into the rehearsal room in my knickers. I was so embarrassed, I ran out of the doors and bumped into the vicar. I curtsied and ran into the ladies toilets.

“I remember the end of ‘The Wheel in Space’ really well, because it was when I went off to join Patrick and Frazer in their adventures. And Patrick was trying to put me off, really, he put that thing on his head where the thought processes came out and onto a screen, and he said ‘I’m not sure you’ll want to come with us, Zoe, have you ever heard of the Daleks?’. I think having met the Cybermen, she’d have loved to have gone anywhere after that, to meet anything.

Roy Skelton (1992)

September 4, 2009

Roy Skelton provided a number of voices for the original ‘Doctor Who’ series. Along with Peter Hawkins, he was responsible for the voices of the early Cybermen. Here, he talks about working on William Hartnell’s last story (‘The Tenth Planet’), finding the right voices for the Cybermen, and working on ‘The Wheel in Space’, which was when electronic modulation was first used for the Cybermen voices.

“I first became involved as a Cyberman in ‘The Tenth Planet’. Derek Martinus, the director, I’d worked with him many times before, he rang me up and said ‘I have a new ‘Doctor Who’ I’m doing and we’ve got this creature, the Cybermen, and we’re not sure what we’re doing with it but we want a voice for it’, so I met him, he showed me the designs and we nattered between us and eventually decided that it might be a good idea to do a kind of computer voice, so it was half human, half machine. It was kind of computerised and cut. It was difficult for the actors in rehearsal because you’d be going through a sentence and they’d think you’d finished. (laughs)

“I remember very well being in the last episode of ‘Doctor Who’ that William Hartnell did and it was very sad, I remember being very sad, we all gathered round. It seemed like the end of an era, of course it wasn’t the end of ‘Doctor Who’ because in came Pat Troughton, and I was very lucky because I was in the next episode that came along with Pat Troughton in, and I remember the changeover very well, it was a mixture of joy and sadness.

“Originally the Cyber voices were done just vocally, with no mechanics at all, but by the time of ‘The Wheel in Space’ they decided it would improve the voice if there was a frequency modulator or something like that. A special palette was built, Peter Hawkins had this special palette that buzzed when he spoke. I came along for ‘The Wheel in Space’ and they didn’t have time to make me a palette, so I had to buzz without the palette. Peter and I have done an awful lot of work together, when we were doing the Cybermen there was this differentiation of voices, very often I’d hit a high tone Cyberman and he’d hit low tone Cyberman, or the other way round”.

> Roy Skelton obituary (2011)

Frazer Hines (2008)

September 3, 2009

Here’s an extract of Frazer Hines talking about his time working with Patrick Troughton. You can hear the original here. It’s interesting to hear him suggest that Troughton’s cough was his way of stalling for time so he could think of his next line, which is similar to suggestions that William Hartnell used to say ‘Hmm?’ a lot for the same reason.

Q: You joined in Patrick’s second story and carried through to the very end. Was that because you two worked well together?

A: I don’t know, it was up to the people upstairs, they could have written me out after six months, a year, or whatever, but they must have realised the chemistry was working. I think I’m the longest running male assistant. I’d never have left, I was having so much fun, but I had an agent at the time who was saying ‘You must leave, you’ve done three years of television, you need to do films’, and Patrick’s wife at the time was saying (to him) ‘You’re a much better actor than children’s teatime television, you should be doing bigger things’, and I still say to this day, if he hadn’t had that woman nattering in his ear, they’d have had to shoot us and drag us kicking and screaming out of the TARDIS, we’d still be there now.

Q: Patrick’s time is rather under-represented by complete stories, the vast majority of his are either entirely missing or only partly complete.

A: Yeah, it’s amazing, but last year Wendy (Padbury) and I were doing one of the DVD’s, and we said ‘I wonder what this would cost to produce today?’, and one of the lads produced this huge old solicitor’s folder, tied up with pink ribbon, blew the dust away and read out ‘Well Frazer you were on £64 an episode, Ronald Leigh Hunt was the guest star, he was on £120, the whole show cost £20,000’… And I thought, well why didn’t they keep the show? They kept the paperwork so they could say ‘Well last time you worked for us, Frazer, you only got £64!’.

Q: And you were in ‘Silver Sword’… A lot of your body of work is missing, isn’t it?

A: Yes, (I was in ‘Silver Sword’) when I was about nine or ten, I think. That was with Shaun Sutton, who was head of children’s television later during ‘Doctor Who’s time.

Q: C.E. Webber wrote it –

A: Ian Serraillier wrote it.

Q: Yes, but the dramatissation was by C.E. Webber, who was one of the writers who was going to be involved in ‘Doctor Who’ when it started but wasn’t in the end.

A: Oh really?

Q: How did you get that job?

A: I’d worked with Shaun Sutton before in a thing called ‘Huntingtower’, a John Buchan novel. I didn’t have a terribly great part, I was playing Napoleon, a little fat boy. And he remembered me, I didn’t audition for it, he just rang up my agent. I did another thing for him called ‘The Long Way Home’, and I worked with him and David Goddard quite a few times, and David Goddard went on to be one of the first producers of ‘Emmerdale’, which is how I got that part.

Q: How did you get the part in ‘Doctor Who’?

A: They said ‘How would you like to be in six episods of ‘Doctor Who’?’, Shaun Sutton knew I could do a Scottish accent. No audition, no reading. Innes Lloyd was a lovely man, sadly missed, he was a gentleman, a real gentleman of television. He was an ex-Navy man. I always remember him picking me up at location one day (during ‘The Highlanders’), saying ‘Come back with me, don’t go in the mini-bus’. He had a little VW beetle, we were driving back, he said ‘Well, Frazer, you’re settling in okay, how do you fancy joining the old TARDIS crew for a while, maybe another year?’

Q: It worked so well, didn’t it?

A: That’s right. I was only supposed to be in for six episodes. In fact we  filmed at Farnham Common, where we filmed a lot of stuff for the BBC, I waved goodbye to the TARDIS crew, and that was it, me and my laird and Hannah Gordon. And then around episode three they decided to keep me on, so we had to go back and film me going into the TARDIS, and waving goodbye to my laird and Hannah Gordon.

Q: Hard work?

A: It was hard work, because we shot it almost as live at Lime Grove, and when that red light went on at night you could shoot maybe three scenes in one go. Whereas now they’d shoot all the interior scenes of the TARDIS in one go, all the baddies in one go, we would shoot it as live from page one, right through to the end in story order, which they don’t do now. And they didn’t have the wonderful tape editing facilities they have now, and so if something went wrong in scene three they couldn’t cut it and say ‘We’ll go from there’ so we’d have to go back to the first scene, and so the pressure to do that, and luckily we’re all theatre-trained, but the pressure to do that was enormous.

Q: So you’d get all the hi-jinks out the way in rehearsal?

A: Yes. We found that if you tried to be serious from day one, by the fifth day when tiredness is setting in… You know, people get the giggles when they’re under pressure.

Q: Patrick was notorious, I think, for getting the meaning across but not entirely sticking to the script. Was that difficult?

A: No, I mean I’m a bit like that. It’s like a stage play, you learn the story first, then you learn the lines because your brain knows the story. A lot of actors who’ve learnt it parrot-fashion go on stage and then one day they dry up, whereas I would just think of another word and say it. You don’t throw people, because you’re working with good people. On ‘Emmerdale’, if you were supposed to say ‘Let’s go to the Woolpack’, and you said ‘Let’s go to the pub’, there’s a couple of actors who’d say ‘No, sorry, you’re supposed to say Woolpack’… I think soaps are very good like that, you just learn and paraphrase a lot. But with Patrick, he’d always do that little cough, and I think that was his brain going ‘What’s next?’

Q: When you did ‘Emmerdale’, was it like ‘Doctor Who’ or was it filmed set by set?

A: Set by set. You’d do all the filming one week, then all the studio. One director tried to do all the studio stuff first, we said ‘No, you’ve got to do the filming first’, so what happened? We did all the studio first, a lot of scenes of people coming into the farm, complication, it’s suddenly raining. We’d already done dry scenes, so we couldn’t film. You did the filming first so there was continuity, you could wet your shirt, your jacket in the studio. Luckily, we were all sort of stage trained, so we were used to doing twenty-five pages in one go, whereas in television nowadays four pages is quite a lot.

Q: Do you have any favourite memories from working on ‘Doctor Who’?

A: Yes, working with Patrick… I tried to get him into ‘Emmerdale’, but the producer said ‘Oh no, I’ve heard about you two’. At conventions, people say ‘How can you remember so much?’. I think if you’re having happy times, you remember, if it’s a sad time, your memory tries to erase it. I had such happy times. Never once did Patrick and I, or Wendy or Deborah, have a cross word. Those three years in ‘Doctor Who’ were the happiest years I’ve had in acting. Sixteen years in ‘Emmerdale’, sure, but those three in ‘Doctor Who’, working with Patrick, were the happiest. And Patrick, God bless him, in a book said ‘The happiest time I’ve had in my life was working with Frazer Hines’, which brought a lump to my throat.

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.

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.