Posts Tagged ‘‘Terror of the Zygons’’

Ian Marter (1984)

September 16, 2009

I’ve always thought that Harry Sullivan would be one of the best ‘classic’ Who companions to bring back for a cameo in the new series, but of course that’s impossible since Ian Marter died in 1986. These quotes are taken from a longer Richard Marson with Marter that first appeared in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ back in 1984. The actor talks about his time as Harry, his desire for a more heroic exit from the series, and plans to bring him back for ‘The Five Doctors’, which sadly never came to fruition.

“I think the part of Andrews (in Carnival of Monsters) came about because Barry Letts had seen me a couple of years before when he was casting the part of Captain Yates. I couldn’t do that at the time but Barry had obviously remembered me as the right kind of fine upstanding military type, and luckily for me I got my second chance, so to speak. It was extremely hard work technically – we spent several days on a pensioned-off Fleet auxilliary ship anchored on the River Medway, as I remember. There were a lot of special effects that inevitably always cause problems, but all the same we had a lot of laughs – it was great fun working with Jon Pertwee and Tenniel Evans. This mixture of hard concentrated work along with the lighter side of it I recalled when it came to playing Harry, I rediscovered the feeling altogether!

“They cast me (as Harry) before they knew anything about the new Doctor. I was brought in, in case the Doctor had been made much older and couldn’t handle the physical side of the series. I would have been his strong arm – a sort of rough-and-ready action type. As it was, Tom didn’t really need me there at all.

“I had been dreadfully ill for about two months, laid up in hospital and more or less at death’s door. I was only just getting back on my feet again about five or six months later when Barry asked me to meet both him and his script editor Robert Holmes for lunch. This I did, and they outlined the concept of Harry to me. It took me about three seconds to say I’d do it – I said yes with distinct alacrity!

“Although Tom and I were coming into it and Lis was already there, we never had any problems at all. Both Lis and Tom were tremendous – such generous colleagues and such a lot of fun. I think we all tried to work together as a team – which meant we were able to criticise one another and to go through an entire spectrum of suggestions, changes and compromises. There were never any bad feelings or anything like that – that would have been unprofessional.

“I did and I didn’t like the character. I responded instantly to his well-intentioned accident-proneness and his zeal for good and justice. But I did find his incompetence could become a bit of a drag. Gradually, he seemed to have less and less to contribute to the overall set-up, either for good or ill.

“The most difficult story for me was ‘Terror of the Zygons’ because John Woodnutt as our chief  villain was so funny in rehearsals and on location that I had to work incredibly hard just to keep a straight face! It was a problem that was only made worse by the fact that I was supposed to be frightened most of the time. I still howl with laughter whenever I recall John sending himself up in the past, which he modelled on the late Robert Atkins. We had some superb villains – Michael Wisher’s Davros, Kevin Lindsay’s Sontatan. But to us they were more often than not terribly funny – we’d seen them eating their lunch, or in the Robot’s case fallling over, sights the viewers were spared.

“Recently I had the chance to watch ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ with Lis while we were in Chicago, attending one of the conventions. That was great, because it was one I’d never actually seen. I thought it was good! Rodney Bennett directed it so beautifully, it came across with a lot of style.

“All the stories had their own individual virtues and drawbacks so I don’t really have a favourite. I didn’t care for my last story, ‘The Android Invasion’, one little bit. There was no real reason for Harry to be in it at all – I couldn’t see the point of it. My last scene was particularly frustrating as Harry just sort of fizzled out sitting tied up on the floor in the corner of a room. I don’t mean that as any disrespect to Patrick Newell, who made me laugh a lot and was wonderful to be with, or to Martin Friend who is an old mate anyway. They both did their best to cheer me up. My own unfulfilled wish was that Harry could have been blown up while trying to save Sarah Jane, or something on those lines – a genuinely heroic exit instead of what I actually got.

“I hadn’t decided to go. Harry, the character (and that meant me too), was dropped from the series because he had finally outlived his usefulness and was simply getting in the way. It was sad, but there you are. It was lovely to be asked for ‘The Five Doctors’, but perhaps it was better not to appear. You can’t cling on to a programme that you left nearly a decade ago. John Nathan-Turner contacted me and was very keen for me to appear, but by the time I was asked I was under contract to appear in a TV series in New Zealand. Generally speaking, I don’t think I’d ever seriously contemplate a return to the series now.

“I seem to get at least three or four (fan) letters a week, mostly from America these days but also from Australia, Italy, Canada, all over. I always reply personally with a postcard and I try to answer people’s questions if I’m not too busy. The recent letters are mostly to do with the books rather than with Harry Sullivan. The enthusiasm is amazing. (At conventions) we get grilled on all sorts of topics, they never let up. In America it’s current – they’re showing our episodes all the time again and again, so we’re not out of date there. It’s a marvellous opportunity to see Tom and Lis and everyone again too, so I find them very enjoyable as a rule.”

Nicholas Courtney (1999)

September 1, 2009

This is a transcript of parts of an interview you can find here, in which he discusses how he’d like to be buried, his experiences working with Jon Pertwee and Harry Hill, and the many times he’s worn dresses and fish-net stockings.

Q: I never realised that your mentor was Sir John Gielgud. How big an influence has he been for you?

A: Well when I was a very young actor I found him rather magical to look at and to listen to. I mean his voice is not to everyone’s choice but it was when I was young, because of course Shakespeare is my, as it were, my governor. I wish I could do some more Shakespeare and I hope I do. He was a hero of mine, he spanned such a long period from the 1920’s, 1930’s right up, and he’s still living now, albeit he doesn’t often take much work. He (Gielgud) wrote several books that influenced me enormously, on his attitude to his work and how he thought actors should comport themselves and behave, and he just became a major hero of mine.

Q: In your opinion, what’s better to do – live theatre or recording in a studio?

A: Well I think at the end of the day, probably live theatre. I started in live theatre before I went into television and films, and I think live theatre is most satisfying because you get that tremendous feedback from the audience, you get that rapport between audience and actor. One of the things that is very pleasurable for an actor, performing in comedy or tragedy of whatever, and you can feel an audience’s attention, if they’ve very gripped by what you’re trying to do. Of course in comedy, to get a laugh is lovely… and sometimes it’s wonderful, if you want to, to kill a laugh, and if you can manage to stop the audience laughing when you want to, I think it gives you qutie a sense of power. So I think having starte in the theatre, that’s my first love, but I love all branches of the profession, really. There’s something to be said for each one of them. Television is fascinating, one learns a lot. Of course my first television I ever did, I was appalling, because I was pulling too many faces. I hadn’t realised I wasn’t in the theatre.

Q: Of course it’s different when you’re doing ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’…

A: Yes, I did that one stage and I learnt a lot doing that. (laughs) That was 1980. I think, as a joke, on the last night of our tour the narrator, which is the part that I played, had a smoking  jacket but below that I had fishnet stockings. Just as a bit of a joke.

Q: You had the pleasure of working with Jon Pertwee for so many years. What is the one thing about him that people don’t know about?

A: Well I think one of the things that people don’t know about him is… Actually, we were talking about it this past weekend, because we’ve just had a big ‘Doctor Who’ convention in Coventry, which is quite near Birmingham, and we had a very successful weekend… But one of the things that I think maybe many people don’t know about Jon Pertwee is, in my view he was a very good leading man to have at the head of a company, because when we started a story – apart from the regular people who we got to know – we had our first read-through of the script, we’d then go upstairs and have some coffee, and he would make it a point with all the guest people who were with us, to find out about them, to find out what made them tick. He took an interest, and he made everyone feel very much at home. And that’s why he was a particularly good leading man. He wanted to find out about other people, and I suppose by doing that he found out more about himself. He was a very hard worker, he drove himself very hard.

Q: And you were in ‘The Mousetrap’?

A: Yes. Doing a play like that night after night for a year, you’re bound to get to a point, maybe six months in or whatever, where it becomes very repetitive and you’ve got to make sure that it isn’t repetitive because the audience has paid good money to see it, and you’ve got to bring freshness to it. You’ve got to bring fresh energy to it every night, and not amble or walk through it, because it’s very unprofessional to do that, and very rude to the audience. That’s quite a discipline. It was hard work, that, very very hard work. It was very nice for the security, to have a year’s work, but it was very hard work to try to keep fresh all the time.

Q: In the 1980’s, when you were an established film, stage and television actor, did you ever think that appreciation for the Brigadier would come back like this? Beginning with ‘Mawdryn Undead’, then ‘Battlefield’, did you think all this would happen, when you did your first ‘Doctor Who’ back in the 1960’s?

A: No, no I didn’t. When I did my first ‘Doctor Who’, as Brety Vyon in ‘The Dalek Masterplan’, to me it was another job, an engagement for four episodes, and I thought ‘Well that was fun’ and got on with it. I think the director, Douglas Camfield, more than anyone else has been responsible for my longevity in that part, because he directed me as a colonel in ‘The Web of Fear’ and then he directed me in the first Brigadier story with Patrick Troughton, and of course later with Jon Pertwee, and of course he directed me with Tom Baker as well, in ‘Terror of the Zygons’. Of course he was an army man himself, he was a 2nd Lieutenant, I was only a private, I didn’t have any ambition to be a serious soldier… and he (Douglas Camfield) saw in my performance in ‘The Web of Fear’ that I was a natural for officer material, and I told him that I’d only been a private, but he said I came over naturally as an officer type. My father was a real army officer in the first world war, before becoming a diplomat, and it must have rubbed off on me, observations of my father, and indeed observations of officers under whom I served during my national service period.

Q: So Graham Chapman’s take on the Brigadier in ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, was that flattering?

A: I’m trying to remember that.

Q: One thing that sticks out is the blacmange episode, Monty Python’s take on ‘Doctor Who’, and Graham Chapman’s imitation of you doing the Brigadier was spot on.

A: Oh, yes, I find that very flattering.

Q: And speaking of comedy takes of the Brigadier, you’ve been on TV tap-dancing with Cybermen?

A: Well not quite tap-dancing. This is a show I recorded about four weeks ago, a comedy by Harry Hill who’s got a very special type of comedy show, satirical, whacky, I don’t know very esoteric, a very particular type of comedy – incidentally, a very nice man, very charming – and the reason I got that part, and I did another part last year with another actor – and these are the leading men now who grew up with the Brigadier, so that’s great that I’m being booked by these younger people. Harry Hill called my agent and asked me to do a guest spot, and I said ‘Sure’, and I got on very well with the whole company, I had a very enjoyable three days.

I don’t exactly tap-dance with the Cybermen, it’s a very satirical programme and what happens is that Harry Hill announces that the new Dr. Who is going to be Clare Short. She’s the minister for development in the present government, and she’s a very full, large lady indeed, well fairly large anyway… and then the Brigader says ‘Well we at UNIT are thrilled that Clare Short is going to be the new Doctor’, and I have to say this with a very straight face, ‘We’re delighted that she’s going to join us and we’ve got a present for her’, and it’s a cut-glass vase, and then a Cyberman appears and breaks the glass, and the Brigadier turns to him and says ‘You always have to break things, don’t you? You can’t keep anything nice around here’, and he almost breaks into tears. It’s all comedy, it’s lovely stuff. Then later on in that show, I appear again in a sort of space send-up, space spoof. The Brigadier suddenly breaks in, fires a few shots into the air, and a puppet’s head flies off, and Harry Hill says ‘UNIT got a tip-off that someone was here’, and then later the Brigader… there’s a song, there’s a group called The Communards, pop music, well the Brigadier sings three lines of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’. So it’s a whacky show.

Q: I want to talk to you about dresses.

A: Dresses? Yes, well I did a show, a comedy show, and again this was written by a fan of the show, and it’s set in Wales, and I’m playing a sort of public schoolboy who went to the bad and his life fell apart, he was left without a penny, and the Welsh family out of the kindness of their hearts put him up, but he’s so ashamed of himself he hangs himself. So one scene I had, this guy is dead and in heaven, he likes to wear dresses, this guy, he’s a transvestite. So there’s the Brigadier in a long white gown and sipping a glass of wine and he’s happy now, because he can wear what he likes in heaven. That was a thing called ‘Satellite City’.

Q: If the royal armed forces said to you that, in the event that you pass away, we’d like to give you a full military burial, what would you say?

A: Well that would be very nice, very interesting indeed. Not that I’d be around to enjoy it! I’ve made my will, and when I go I want to be cremated and I want my ashes to be scattered, ideally in the Mediterranean sea, or any sea would do, but ideally the Mediterranean because I was born and grew up in Egypt and France and all that and I love the sea. I feel very close to water, and I feel very comfortable with water.