Posts Tagged ‘Peter Davison’

Peter Davison (1981)

January 11, 2010

Here’s Peter Davison talking to Radio Times back in 1981 about his approach to playing the Fifth Doctor. Davison had big shoes (Tom Baker’s) to fill, and this interview – published shortly before he made his debut – reveals he met Baker for a drink to discuss the role, but couldn’t hear what his predecessor was saying. Nice story, hope it’s true!

The producer rang me up one day and said ‘How would you like to be the new Dr. Who?’. I was speechless. I was staggered to see it announced on the news. I really had no idea ‘Doctor Who’ was so important. I bet some of my friends thought I’d died when they saw my picture.

Tom Baker and I did meet in the bar one evening to discuss the part, and he was all set to give me some advice. But it was ‘Top of the Pops’ that night, and the noise was so furious, all I heard was ‘good luck’.

It’s a lot more than just an acting job. You take on the mantle of Dr. Who, and that kind of instant charisma that goes with the job.

I’ll be a much younger Dr. Who, and I’ll be wearing a kind of Victorian cricketing outfit to accentuate my youth. I’d like my Doctor to be heroic and resourceful. I feel that, over the years, ‘Doctor Who’ has become less vital, no longer struggling for survival, depending on instant, miraculous solutions to problems. The suspense of ‘Now how’s he going to get out of this tight  corner?’ has been missing. I want to restore that. My Doctor will be flawed. He’ll have the best intentions and he will in the end win through, but he will not always act for the best. Sometimes, he’ll even endanger his companions. But I want him to have a sort of reckless innocence.

I don’t consider it a disadvantage taking on a part that is well-known. It’s not as if you have to continue the same characterisation. You can start from scratch. I don’t overtly copy (the other Doctors), but I do bear in mind a particular aspect of each one.

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Peter Davison (1980’s)

October 24, 2009

Here’s Peter Davison reflecting on his departure from the show, telling DWM how he got the role in the first place, why Nyssa was his favourite companion, and how there were no behind the scenes arguments when he left.

“John Nathan-Turner phoned me at home one Saturday, and after he’d put the idea to me I nearly dropped the receiver. I remember Sandra (Dickinson) shouting out ‘If you’re going to be the Doctor, I want to be your companion’, and then mumbling something about having a bit of time to think it over. It took a few weeks before I finally accepted it, because I had to think about exactly what it was I would be taking on – from the effect on my career, to whether I felt I could actually do it justice. I had lunch with John, who basically persuaded me to do it. I decided, too, that after being offered it, I couldn’t have stood watching someone else play it.

“I found it a great help to film out of sequence. The idea was for me to plunge straight into the part and then to pull back a bit in ‘Castrovalva’, so that the first one we recorded was ‘Four to Doomsday’. Now, if you watch that, you’ll notice that we’re all working very hard, perhaps even forcing it a little, and that was because I was feeling my way into the part, and the others who were already there were adapting to me. It was a very tiring one to do from that respect, because we were all being careful not to tread on each other’s toes. Later on, as we became much more familiar, the whole process was a lot easier. So I was grateful we did it that way, although you’ll notice my hair grows between stories.

“I thought about the character a lot. I decided that I’d like to take elements of all the previous Doctors and mould them into one, adding a kind of innocence and impetuosity of my own. I didn’t include anything of Tom’s because he was too recent and we wanted a contrast with his very dominant figure. Another feeling was that the Doctor had become too much of a super hero figure, and that he needed to be made more vulnerable. Of all my influence, I suppose the most dominant was drawn from Patrick Troughton’s playing of the part, because he was the one I’d most watched as a kid and I admired his lighter touch a lot. But I did try to make it my own, because if I hadn’t it would have been an exercise in impersonation rather than acting.

“As far as the costume went, I came up with the cricketing motif simply because cricket is a game of which I’m very fond, and it seemed to suggest a good sort of profile. It fitted with our desire to make him young and a bit more physical in his approach, as well as being a nice link with that whole Earth ethos which the Doctor has always been so involved with. The celery was John’s idea. He just came to me one day and said ‘I think the new Doctor should wear a stick of celery on his lapel’, and so that was it. Funny, really, because I don’t much like celery and I usually ended up getting presented with tons of the stuff at conventions! It was nice that it was actually explained before I left the series.

“Frontios was excellent, an extremely well-rounded s cript that got hold of the way I saw the part of the Doctor, and made his dialogue and actions fit in with this. I enjoyed it because there was really something there to latch onto in rehearsal and make your own. If you like, it had enough there without the actors having to try to embelish a weak storyline.

“The Caves of Androzani is my favourite of all my stories. It was a terrific one in which to leave. Indeed, I couldn’t have got a better exit, and Graeme Harper was a superb director. That had a pace and a style to it that was quite unique, and I think everybody who worked on it picked up on that.

“I think my least favourite story was ‘Time Flight’, purely because of the money angle. We did some good filming for that, but by the time we got tothe studio, I think it was rather obvious that all our season’s money had more or less been spent. Performance-wise, I was never very happy with the second series. I think it got just a little bit dull, and the stories a bit over-complex. I didn’t feel that I had a lot of room to embellish the character and I think this is definitely one of the inherent dangers of doing ‘Doctor Who’ – the writers tend to latch onto your first portrayal of the part and stick with that. I think there was a conscious effort made during the third season to do something about that, which is why I felt happy about going out on top – or at least at a peak.

“I liked the character of Nyssa best of all. She seemed to me to work best in the ‘Doctor Who’ format. Now I know that she wasn’t as popular a character as Tegan, but speaking from the Doctor’s angle, I don’t think that stroppy type works as well as the more passive, ‘pass the test tube’ kind of assistant. I think if you try and break the mould then the character emphasis changes and you’re veering dangerously into the realms of soap opera. I really like that kind of gentle character that Nyssa had – it was a good contrast, and I think that she went best with the Doctor I played. That’s not to pass any kind of judgement on Janet Fielding or Mark Strickson or anyone, because we all got on tremendously well. It’s just an opinion about the characters.

“It was nice to be able to film abroad. When we went to Amsterdam, I got a lot of recognition because they had ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ running over there – but not ‘Doctor Who’. So I caused a lot of confusion I think, as well as some shock, wandering about with all that decaying face make-up. I think Lanzarote looked great in ‘Planet of Fire’, it gave that story a very polished look, which was something that I felt we could be proud about.

“I have very good memories of ‘The Five Doctors’, because we all got on so well. I think we were originally kept apart in the script, because John Nathan-Turner worried that we might not get on, or that we would start demanding a better share of the action, but as it was we all got on terrifically well. It was all a bit silly in rehearsal, of course, but then it was bound to be, wasn’t it? Luckily the director, Peter Moffatt, knew when to tell us off, and when to let us have a good laugh. I particularly enjoyed working with Patrick Troughton, and of course he has a tremendous sense of humour. About the only bad thing about it was the freezing weather on location in Wales, and a sequence where special effects were a little enthusiastic with an explosion, nearly finishing Anthony Ainley off for good!

“When I left, the press were all looking for a behind the scenes row, indeed the Daily Mail printed that I’d been given the elbow because I was too boring! Unfortunately for them, there was no row – in fact, John Nathan-Turner tried very hard to keep me on for another season. However, when I joined, I remembered meeting Patrick Troughton in the BBC car park, and him saying ‘Congratulations. Don’t stay longer than three years, though’, and I think he was right. It was very demanding, so I was too tired to feel sad when it was all finally over, but yes, one does suffer the odd pang”.

Peter Davison (1982)

September 19, 2009

Here’s Peter Davison looking back on his first season, which had just finished when this ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ interview was published.

“I was quite happy with the second to last story – ‘Earthshock’. It was well written and very pacey, and based on quite a neat idea. In some ways it was reminiscent of old ‘Doctor Who’ from way back in how it came full circle. It was very compassionate and the baddies, the Cybermen, although they were bad, were not thoroughly bad, if you know what I mean. I like the action scenes, which is why ‘Earthshock’ is my favourite. On reading it and when we did it, we established a very fast pace. Plus we had the leap from one place to another – it wasn’t all set in one location, which made it appeal to me.

“I felt, in a way, that I had to be more fallible because I didn’t want to play the Doctor as a hero as such – like, dare I say it, a Buck Rogers type figure. I was never pushed towards this, but the implication always is that if you get someone younger to play a lead part like that, you tend to try and make him dashing. I felt he should be a sort of anti-hero, not evil so much that he doesn’t go about things in the way a normal hero would.

“Doing the first season hasn’t put me off doing it for any length of time to which I’d envisaged doing it, but exactly how long I’ll do if for, I just don’t know. I will certainly give it what I consider to be a substantial time, but I think I can safely say I don’t want to break any records for duration. At the same time, though, I doubt I’ll be the shortest.”

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.

Peter Davison (2003)

August 23, 2009

This is a transcript of part of a US interview with Peter Davison from 2003, in which he talks about his career, about typecasting, about the audio adventures (which were pretty new back then) and about advice he received from Patrick Troughton to be careful about staying in the role for too long. You can see the original video here.

Q: You come over to America to do conventions fairly often. Do you enjoy coming over?

A: Yeah, I mean it’s a work experience. When we first started doing conventions, many years ago, all the actors leapt at it, the chance to visit and do the conventions, but in many ways it’s harder work than doing the job, because there you’re playing a part, here you’re having to be yourself. Some of us aren’t that good at that. (laughs) We prefer to hide behind the mask of whoever we’re playing.

Q: Do fans ask you about other work you’ve done, such as ‘Campion’ and ‘All Creatures Great and Small’?

A: Well they ask about things they’ve seen, and the first thing they’ve seen over here (in the US) is ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, so yes, they definitely do. And also ‘Campion’, which came out under the ‘Mystery Theatre’ heading. They’re always interested in other work I’ve been doing, although I was very fortunate in the early years that I was doing a lot of stuff that was shown in America, I’ve been doing a lot of television stuff more recently that hasn’t normally appeared on American TV.

Q: You left ‘Doctor Who’ around eighteen years ago, and you’ve had an incredibly versatile career in stage and television, and even some film. If things were very different and they were making ‘Doctor Who’ now, and they only now approached you for it, how might your choices be different?

A: Well I’m still playing him in a way. I’ve no idea, is the answer… I’d be less youthful, is the honest answer, I wouldn’t be running down the corridors quite so quickly.

Q: Wiser?

A: Yes. I thought the way I’m doing it on the audio CD’s, although I’ve not consciously made it different to how I was playing the Doctor in the series, it’s necessarily different, because you do grow older.

Q: Let’s talk about the audios for a moment. After you left the show, you must have known there would always be fan interest, conventions and things, but in your wildest imaginings did you think there’d be books and audios and conventions still going on?

A: Well the audios very definitely fill a gap. I didn’t do anything connected with ‘Doctor Who’ while the programme was being made because I didn’t want to, really. I mean the thing about the audios is I think they fill a gap, and in the absence of the programme being made, which I think’s a shame, it’s nice to give the fans something. I think if another Doctor took over, if the TV series was back on and another Doctor took over, I think I’d probably stop doing the audio CD’s. I think there wouldn’t be a need for it, and I’d feel that I was stepping on another person’s toes. In a sense it fits in perfectly because all the Doctors are ex-Doctors, so we can all do our audio CD’s.

Q: Do you feel that the quality of the scripts gives you a chance to stretch…

A: No, I think they give the writers an opportunity to stretch, I don’t think they give the actors an opportunity to stretch, I mean I don’t think you can stretch the part of the Doctor very much, but they give the writers an enormous opportunity because of course you can deal in any budget you like in audio, you can put yourself in extraordinary scenes and conjure it up simply by the sound effects and the acting. From that point of view, it’s marvellous for the writes, because they can do whatever they want.

Q: Do you enjoy working on the audios because there’s no make-up, you don’t have to wear the costume…

A: Well it’s mainly that you don’t have to learn the lines. You can go in there with the script, I mean obviously you have to research it, read it a couple of times, but what I like is that it’s instant, and you can get tremendous energy on the audio CD’s.

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about the work you’re doing now, the projects you’re involved in these days…

A: Well I’ve got a couple of things going, there’s a series that’s been running at home for about four years, which is called ‘At Home With the Braithwaites’, which is about a family that wins £38m on the lottery, and how it affects them, and I play the father in that. And then recently I’ve made a series called ‘The Last Detective’, a detective show, hour-and-a-half shows, that’s currently airing in Britain.

Q: Among your contemporaries, because you do some stage work, do you get some teasing that you’re in not just one but several shows that have strong fan followings?

A: Well I’ve always been teased by people who’ve perceived me as working far too much. So yeah, I mean, when I was doing ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘All Creatures…’ and a couple of comedy series, I was on virtually every night of the week. And then I had, after ‘Campion’ and ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’, for me, a sort of quiet patch, but in other peoples’ terms it wasn’t a quiet patch at all, I was still making televisions shows and one-off programmes, and now I’m doing lots of stuff again, so I feel a bit fortunate, maybe I should hand over a few of the roles to other people but I don’t feel inclined to do that. I think the secret is that I’ve been able to move easily from one genre to another. A lot of actors get unfairly stuck in sitcoms, or very serious drama, or soap operas, and I’ve managed to dodge from one thing to another.

Q: When you took the role in ‘Doctor Who’, you’ve said that Patrick Troughton advised you to limit the amount of time you played Dr. Who, to avoid typecasting. Do you think that was good advice?

A: Yes, I very definitely had a choice to do a fourth year of ‘Doctor Who’ or leave after three, and it was a close call, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I would leave after three. I wasn’t very happy with season two of my time, we were beset by money problems and strike problems, and had I been happy at the end of season two, which was really when I had to make a decision, I might well have gone on and done a fourth season, but I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do. I mean, when I left ‘Doctor Who’ I went up for a very good part in a BBC2 classics serial and I know there was much discussion about whether I should be offered the part because I’d just done ‘Doctor Who’, and that was something that would have got worse had I done ‘Doctor Who’ for longer. I mean fortunately they did offer it to me, but I was very aware that if you stick to long to something it just takes longer to recover from it, and I think Tom found that.

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.

Tom Baker (2009)

August 9, 2009

This is a brief extract from Tom Baker’s panel at the Time Quest 2009 convention. You can see more of it here, but I wanted to include this short section because of his interesting comments on Peter Davison and Ian Marter.

Q: What did you think about Peter Davison taking over from you as your successor in ‘Doctor Who’?

A: I thought at the time that Peter Davison’s choice… I must say, he’s an excellent actor, he’s done wonderful work, and I’ve often met him. We’re not exactly friends, but we’re civilised to each other. I remember thinking at the time it was a terrible error of judgement, for this reason: when Peter Davison took over from me, he was already established as having a fictional identity. Those of you who are old enough to cast your minds back, he was prodigiously successful as the vet in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, so when the children were watching I imagined the children were saying “that’s not the Doctor, that’s the vet”, so I think that was a very strange…

Although no-one has ever failed as Dr. Who, no-one has ever failed remotely, even the boy who did the film, I’ve forgotten what his name was… if you say “do you miss being ‘Doctor Who’, in a sense, with the devotion of the fans, I’ve never stopped being Dr. Who because the fans don’t want you to stop being Dr. Who. And when I go on stage, which I do occasionally, I realise whatever I’m doing that people want me to do it as Dr. Who, so when I played Sherlock Holmes it caused an absolute sensation, of course it did, because first of all Sherlock Holmes never wore a long scarf, and secondly he didn’t walk the way that I apparently did walk, in the days when I could walk, because the bonding of the fans, and here I am thirty years after the event – most of you probably weren’t born thirty years ago – it’s the power of fiction, that fiction can become part of our lives, the fantasy world of literature, films, television, stamps, whatever it is you’re interested in, and by fantasy I mean the unprovable world, religion even, and people believe absolutely preposterous things, don’t they? Absolutely believe them, emphatically.

Q: What was it like to work with Ian Marter?

A: Well he really was an absolute darling. He shouldn’t have died when he died. I do remember, in rehearsal, he had a terrible habit, he had diabetes, and if he didn’t eat things he’d get terribly irrational and somebody would give him a biscuit or a bite of a Mars bar and suddenly he seemed better. And he was living alone at the time, and I always thought, you know, to go home with that type of illness, you know feeling a bit down or whatever, was a terrible waste because he was a kind man. Not only was he gifted, but he was kind, and that’s a wonderful combination, to be gifted and kind, and he adored his children and his wife… and he came home one night and the next thing he was in a coma, and of course the terrible irony is he wasn’t discovered in time. I only have warm memories of him.

Peter Davison

July 28, 2009

In this 2008 interview, Peter Davison discusses ‘Time Crash’, the Big Finish audios, and his daughter’s role in the revived series.

This interview has been taken from the Digital Spy website.

How did you react when you were first asked to play The Doctor again in the Big Finish audio stories?

“I was fine, I didn’t think about it really. It was fulfilling a need. The BBC had effectively dropped Doctor Who and this filled a very important gap in the market. I never had a problem about going back to Doctor Who and I don’t quite understand people who have a problem going back, albeit temporarily.”

Was it easy to slip back into the role?

“I did find it very easy to slip into. You’d think it would be hard. I have aged a bit. I did worry about that, I don’t know if some of the fans do or not. You play it as I see it. In many ways, I suppose [I’m] thinking that if I had a chance to go back and do my original Doctor Who stories I’d do them again. So this is a chance to make up for any shortcomings in the original stories that we did.”

Has the character been expanded compared to the television series?
“I don’t know. There’s certainly more talking than there was in any television show. Inevitably there has to be as it’s for the radio. I certainly think the writing, as a generalisation, is better. There were some very suspect scripts we did, knocked off by TV writers who’d turn their hand to anything. Fair enough, but they weren’t science fiction fans. You do get the impression, both with the television series now and Big Finish, that they are fans of science fiction and that’s why they are doing those stories.”

 How did you find the ‘Time Crash’ experience last year and acting on the new Tardis set?

“It was a kind of weird experience really. I was dressed as my Doctor and what did strike me is that my Doctor’s outfit was really built for those awful oval sets at Television Centre – whereas David [Tennant] was cooly dressed and everything seemed to fit in with that fantastic Tardis console set in Cardiff. I felt slightly out of place, like a fish out of water. But after a while I was really getting into it and it was fine.”

 Did you ever look at Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor outfit and think ‘thank God that wasn’t me’?

“Haha! Many, many times yes! I don’t know what was going through [former Doctor Whoproducer] John Nathan Turner’s head there. I wasn’t entirely happy with mine, but mine was heaven compared to Colin Baker’s!”

David Tennant has openly stated that you were his favourite Doctor. Did you click on the set?

“Well yeah, I think we did. We were both, in a sense, in a kind of awe. I think he’s a marvellous actor. In a way, I was trucking along to his territory as well. So I felt slightly in awe of the situation I was in, he felt slightly in awe because it’s weird when you’re acting with someone who you’ve watched on television. In almost the same way, although not quite as I didn’t have so much to do with him, it was about the same way I felt when I was doing something with Patrick Troughton – who was my Doctor – on ‘The Five Doctors’. 

“But ‘Time Crash’ was such a well written piece. It worked on so many levels, commenting on the fact that David watched me when he was young, on the fact the Tenth Doctor had been the Fifth Doctor. It’s something that could, if you like, be left in that story [‘The Last Of The Time Lords’]. I was very happy and pleased to do it.”

 Has it whetted your appetite for another, perhaps longer appearance in a future story? Russell T Davies certainly likes the old mythology.

“He does to a certain extent. I would certainly be able to do it. I’m not suggesting for a moment that it would ever happen. I think it won’t happen. But I would have done it anyway. I have two young boys, six and eight, who love Doctor Who, so I sit there and I watch all the new series Doctor Whos about three or four times. And now my daughter [Georgia Moffett] is going to be in it…”

What were your feelings when she broke the news to you?

“It was a weird thing, because she went up for a particular part in it which wasn’t that big. They came back to her and said ‘we’d like you to do this, but we’d prefer you to wait another three or four months because there’s a much nicer part coming up later on that is really special and would suit you really well’. So she said she’d wait. I was very pleased for her. People think she got it because of me. I think she got it despite me. I think they had to think very carefully they cast her, as people would say ‘oh, it’s Doctor Who’s daughter’, but she’s a great actress. I’m looking forward to it.”