Posts Tagged ‘William Hartnell’

William Hartnell (1960’s)

October 19, 2009

Here are some brief quotes from William Hartnell, talking about his fear of travelling to the moon and the fan letters he’d get from children asking for help with their maths homework.

“Space travel? Quite honestly, it scares me to death. I haven’t the slightest wish to get in a rocket and zoom through the stratosphere. Somebody else can be the first man on the moon. It doesn’t interest me at all. I do, however, believe that there is life on other planets – and that they know we’re here but haven’t got the technology to get through.

“We did ‘Doctor Who’ for forty-eight weeks a year but I loved it. I couldn’t go out into the street without a bunch of  children following me, like the Pied Piper. People used to take it terribly seriously. I’d get letters from boys swotting for exams, asking me complicated questions about time ratios and the TARDIS. I couldn’t help them. A lot of the script writers used to make the Doctor use expressions like ‘centrifugal force’ but I refused. If it gets too technical, the children don’t understand and they lose interest. I saw the Doctor as a kind of lama, one of those long-lived old boys out in Tibet who might be anything up to eight hundred years old but only look seventy-five.”

Heather Hartnell (1983)

October 1, 2009

Here’s a very touching interview with William Hartnell’s widow Heather, talking to DWM back in 1983 about her husband’s time on the show, including his public appearances and, sadly, the illness that forced him to retire. At the end, there’s a very nice little story about a solid gold TARDIS…

“I will always remember that first telephone call. Terry (William Hartnell’s son-in-law and agent) phoned me up from London saying that he was coming down to the cottage because he had this most incredible script that he wanted Bill to read and tell him about. ‘I don’t know what he’s going to say, but it’s for a children’s serial’. I was a little taken aback and asked if it was a tough guy part. ‘No, it’s an old man with long white hair, an old professor who’s a bit round the bend’. Well, I said ‘Bill will love it’, but Terry still remained a little apprehensive. Anyway, he turned up that evening with the script. Bill took it and sat in absolute silence, reading it through from beginning to end, and eventually said ‘My goodness, I want this part!’. He saw immediately that there was something so different about the whole idea, and once he had got the part he loved it from the very beginning.

“The only thing that I was sorry about when he started was that they made him a rather grumpy old man. He was furious that the school master and mistress had discovered the TARDIS and got into it, he was absolutely livid and the fact that he took them off on that first trip was really noting but spite! Bill would have liked to put more comedy into it, and to some extent tried with his coughs and splutterings. But even so, he loved it from the very beginning and had absolute faith in that show and was completely hooked on it from reading that very first script.

“I was so pleased that more or less the last thing that he was able to do should be something that has lasted and lasted throughout the years. He put a lot of himself into it, because Bill has always been the sort of person that didn’t suffer fools gladly and that came out very strongly in the character of the Doctor. Bill, of course, always adored children. I think he should have had a family of about six, instead of one daughter.

“One of Bill’s favourite stories was ‘Marco Polo’. In fact, it was one of his ideas. At one time they were walking around asking everybody for ideas, and that was one of them. Mind you, he enjoyed doing so many of them. His one regret was that the programme was in black and white, because of the costumes, they were so colourful. Like all actors, he loved dressing up and it seemed such a shame that the viewers couldn’t see all those wonderful sets and costumes in all their glory.

“The first Dalek story I remember there was a bit of trouble over. It was in the script that when the Dalek was incapacitated or exterimnated, they were to have some oozy blood coming out of the base of the machines and a lot of them, Bill included, said ‘No, that’s too nasty for children’, so they cut it out. After that, Bill used to really enjoy the Daleks, because they were something for him to hate. In a way, they were the real black monsters of the time because, then, we hadn’t had bad Time Lords brought in. So the worst enemy that he ever came across were the Daleks and he really enjoyed fighting them and he knew the kids loved the Dalek series.

“One of the two films was made while he was still playing the part on TV, and although he would have dearly loved to have had the role of the Doctor in it, he just didn’t have the time. The programme was on for forty-eight weeks of the year, and when his four weeks holiday came, I can tell you, he jolly well needed it. By the time the second film came along, his ill health prevented him from working anywhere.

“I’ll always remember he opened a big annual fete at Pembury Hospital in about ’64, ’65, and a great friend of his had a lovely pre-1914 war car, a real veteran. Anyway, this friend drove the car into Tunbridge Wells where he met Bill, who had changed into his Doctor’s costume complete with wig, stick and cape that the BBC had lent him. Bob pulled up in this open tourer and Bill got in front and I in the back, and off we set for the hospital. By the time we had gone three odd miles to the fete, there was a stream of kids and cars and bicycles behind us. It was fantastic. We went into the grounds of the hospital and everybody went absolutely mad. They made more money that day than they had ever donebefore or since on their open days.

“When the time came for Bill to leave the show, purely because of his ill health, it broke his heart. Having told the press that it was going to run for  five years, he was determined to play it for five years. But he coldn’t remember his lines, plus his legs were beginning to give way at times. Between the end of 1966 and when he made ‘The Three Doctors’ in 1972, he got progressively weaker mentally and physically. That’s the awful thing about arteriosclerosis, as the arteries close up the flow of blood is not only weakened to the limbs but to the brain as well. When he did ‘The Three Doctors’, he couldn’t remember a single line, but he was still able to read it. The BBC were ever so good over that.

“With Patrick Troughton taking over the show, we were delighted, because Bill had suggested him for the part and he was number one choice of the namese that came up. We’d known Pat for years, he’s a darling person. But after a time, Bill stopped watching it, because it upset him emotionally. Even so, he was very pleased with Jon Pertwee’s interpretation. He hardly saw any of Jon Pertwee’s stories, but was tickled pink to think that the show had gone on and when he did ‘The Three Doctors’ he glowed again as if it had taken ten years off his illness.

“My most precious possession is a tiny little solid gold TARDIS that Bill had made. He designed it himself and went to a top London jeweller, and had it made on a gold chain complete with a tiny, green emerald for the light. It’s my most precious possession because I know it is the only one in the world.”

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)

Anneke Wills (2007)

August 16, 2009

This is a transcript of parts of Anneke Wills’ interview with Mark Ayres on the audio version of ‘The War Machines’. Her autobiography, ‘Self Portrait’, which she discusses, was published in 2007 and is definitely worth reading for the insight into 60’s London.

Q:  Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you joined ‘Doctor Who’?

A: 1966 was actually an amazing year for me because I had done a tremendous amount of telly. Plays of the week were the great bits of drama and I had done three that year, cracking parts, and I had done ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Likely Lads’, so I’d been very busy that year and then I got the part in ‘Doctor Who’, so 1966 was definitely the year of Anneke.

Q: And how did the ‘Doctor Who’ part come up?

A: Erm… went along for the audition, knowing that it was for a part in ‘Doctor Who’, but not knowing that it was to play the companion. I didn’t know that. And then when they got back to my agent, they said ‘Okay and this is for a regular part’, so then I was over the moon, you can imagine.

Q: Was there any doubt about going into a long-running show like ‘Doctor Who’?

A: Never, because you needed the work, you know? As an actor, the bottom line is you always need the work. So you say Yes and figure it out later.

Q: And your character was going to be a bit of a departure from the assistants that had gone before you?

A: Yes, I think it was absolutely their conscious decision to have a sort of 60’s chick and I came ready with my own clothes.

Q: And most of the previous girl assistants had been granddaughter type figures to the Doctor, apart from Barbara who was a teacher, and you came in as a kind of sassy character who’d give him a bit of lip back.

A: And with very short skirts. And very long eyelashes batting away. So that was a conscious decision of theirs to say ‘Alright, we want to move the companion into being more of a sexy kid’. Yeah.

Q: Setting a trend for years ahead.

A: Setting a trend, so actually I was the first in a very long line of very lovely women, I have to say! (laughs)

Q: You came into ‘Doctor Who’ from a background of film shows like ‘The Avengers’. Was it very noticeable that ‘Doctor Who’ was of a much lower budget?

A: Well of course the format was totally different because ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’ were filmed, so you were doing that at Elstree, and ‘Doctor Who’ was this tight little live performance that you did on a Saturday, and you had to rattle through not making too many mistakes and get to the end, so it felt very much like theatre, in a way, like a live performance that you do all in one go, so it’s much more frightening. Yes, the money was tight, but the money was always tight. Everything I’d ever done for the BBC, the money was tight. I did ‘The Railway Children’ and this was an eight-week, big BBC children’s drama and it had a lot of people taking note of it, and I had a costume that didn’t fit, so I had these nasty scratchy cuffy things that didn’t fit! They couldn’t afford… this came from Berman’s and it didn’t fit me! You can’t imagine that happening nowadays. And that wasn’t the case with ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’, you know, this was proper filming and you had a proper make-up and wardrobe department that had money to spend. They bought me nice shoes and bags and things.

Q: Tell us a bit about the production team of the time, Innes Lloyd etc. How hands on were they, did you see much of them?

A: I tell you, Innes Lloyd never laid his hands on me! He never did! But as actors, of course, we were second-class citizens, really, we weren’t told anything, we weren’t asked anything, we just turned up and did our rehearsing and our acting. Even when we switched Doctors, we were the last to be told. I was aware of Bill Hartnell’s irascibility, because my hubby had played the Toymaker before and so I already knew that he was liable to go off on one, so you had to watch him. So there was that element in rehearsals of having to be careful of the old man and having to treat him gently, so that was a little tense. Rehearsals were not as fun as they would become later, with Patrick Troughton, I have to say.

Q: There was none of the star system that there is now? It was really just ‘Stand there, say that’?

A: Yes, although as time went by you could start to change lines to make them work for you, because then you were an established character, and you could say ‘Polly would say it like this’, and they’d allow a little bit of that. But there was no time for discussion, because you had to get this show on the road in a week.

Q: Now, there are edicts saying you can’t say ‘Death’ and ‘Killing’ in shows aimed at children, but ‘The Smugglers’ had some very dark moments. Did that ever occur to you back then?

A: The attitude was very different. I don’t think we discussed it. Amazing, really, how without awareness we were, in a way. One of the things I do remember, because this was a new thing for me, was that passers-by would see that we were filming ‘Doctor Who’ and there was immediately this feeling of bon homie… but this was new for me, working in the exteriors.

Q: What was Michael Craze like to work with?

A: He was a pal. He was a chum, and he was a pal. He was a pal forever, and we got on very well and we were a team, the two of us. I think in the beginning we supported each other, because working with Bill was tricky so we supported each other.

Q: What about your personal support staff, like Sonja Markham on make-up and Daphne Dare on costumes?

A: Sonja Markham is actually Roger Lloyd-Pack’s sister-in-law, I’ve known her ever since. Daphne Dare was wardrobe. As I said before, I came ready-made, you see, because the BBC wardrobes did not have the kind of costumers which I was already wearing. My normal clothes were Mary Quant, Ozzie Clark, so I was very determined that I would wear my own clothes.

Q: It amazes me how much of yourself you brought to Polly.

A: I think that if you’re given the chance, you bring it as close as you can to yourself because that makes it real. It’s no good me trying to be someone other than who I am, you know, so when nobody’s looking… in the beginning, Polly is supposed to be a debutante, and without saying anything to Innes I thought this was a bit of a cliche, Ben is the cockney and Polly is the posh bird, and they make a friendship, and actually if you notice over the months that we were working together that was kind of toned down. And you want to make it as real and interesting and fun as possible, and in a way when nobody’s got any time for you… you know, they’re busy trying to figure out how the War Machines are going to work, or how the Cybermen are going to die and so forth… you have to get on with making your part of the script as real as possible.

Q: When you started, how long did you think you might stay with it?

A: Do you know, I have a feeling that we did the first four, and we weren’t even sure, because we weren’t sure about Billy, you see, because he wasn’t well. So everything was up for grabs, we didn’t know that we would be continuing, we certainly didn’t know, you know, that we would go on with a new Doctor. That was unheard of, that was un-thought of. So we didn’t know, we were just floating along hoping that things would go, because we need the money, as an actor. It was a job!

And the other thing is that it was just a job, it wasn’t a big deal like it is now with Billie Piper and the press. It was just a job. It was fun to be in ‘The Avengers’, it was fun to be in ‘The Saint’, it was fun to be in ‘Doctor Who’, but then of course it’s a complete mystery and a magic thing that I’m sitting here with you, today, 43, 44 years later still being involved with it. A complete miracle.

Q: One you’re pleased about?

A: Absolutely. I consider it a total honour to be asked to do these narrations, telling the story again, listening to the little voices. What I hear is how young we sound. We sound so young. But it’s lovely to be involved.

Q: You’ve been revisiting this part of your life quite a lot lately, what with writing your book…

A: Yes, I’m just in the middle of writing my autobiography so there’s a website set up there, because I’m going to do it self-publishing because there’s been quite a lot of rubbish written about me over the years so when I heard the words ‘full control’ I thought ‘Yep’, so it’s going ahead in full fettle at the moment and should be coming out this summer, so watch this space. The first book will go from childhood to the mid-60’s, because it was an extraordinary time to be in the world, to be in London, and so many of the old established rules and laws and ways of being were being thrown out the window.

Q: Were you very aware at the time that you were involved in such an exciting time when things were changing, or did you just live it?

A: You just lived it. In the 60’s, all the wonderful people that you met, Peter Cooke, John Lennon, all these people that you actually met. You didn’t just talk to John Lennon like it’s just someone you met, your heart is pounding when you’re talking to John Lennon, but it was an exciting time to be around and meet these luminaries.

Q: But you were a luminary yourself…

A: I don’t see that. Just a jobbing actor, trying to get work, but I did happen to actually befriend a lot of these very prominent people. Brilliant and talented people. Exciting times.

Peter Purves (2006)

August 7, 2009

Another interview about the early years of the show, this time it’s Peter Purves talking to Mark Ayres about William Hartnell, who was apparently a fan of curries! Purves obviously got on well with Hartnell and sheds some light on his ‘irascibility’; it’s also notable that Purves is very knowledgeable about not only ‘Doctor Who’ but British TV and acting in general. This is another transcript, from an interview conducted by Mark Ayres that you can find here.

Q: ‘The Savages’ was your swansong as Steven, and also the last of your missing stories, coincidentally. How do you look back on your time as Steven?

A: More fondly as time has gone by. When I left… I was unhappy to leave it, actually, I didn’t particularly want it to stop there, but the policy of the programme had changed and they’d decided that they were not going to keep the companions onboard for longer than a year, or so I understand. In fact I think they did the same with Jackie as they did with me, they didn’t keep her much longer, I think she only did one more serial after I left, and I think Michael Craze who took over from me only did a year, but then Frazer came and I think he stayed much longer, I think he stayed about three years, something like that.

But now I remember it quite fondly. The things that I didn’t like about it, when I’ve more recently gone to the occasional convention – as you well know, I don’t like them, I don’t go to very many, in fact I’m not going to go to any more, I’ve finally determined that I can’t be bothered to be honest, it sounds awful but I just don’t like looking backwards all that much. But I have seen a number of clips that I hadn’t like when I made them, and I’ve seen them since and thought “Oh, that wasn’t so bad”. In particular ‘The Gunfighters’, which I always hated, deep down I had this sort of passionate dislike for it. I really hated it when we made it, I don’t know why, because now when I’ve seen it, it really is quite good, it has some things, it’s got a certain charm, it’s very quirky, it’s very odd.

But in general I have some very fond memories of the show, I mean I loved the people that I worked with, some very nice people, nice directors. Bill, I got on with like a dream, I was one of the few people who seemed… I loved Jackie, I thought she was splended, I loved Maureen O’Brien, directors like Dougie Camfield, I mean really nice people, so yes, I think “fondly” is probably the fairest way of describing it. And the historical stories were the ones I liked best, we did ‘The Massacre’, which was a wonderful story written by John Lucarotti, we did ‘The Myth Makers’ which was based on Troy, these were wonderful historical, or mythical stories. We did the invasion of the Vikings coming in to Northern England, but that was sci-fi as well because that was ‘The Time Meddler’. But the historical ones I liked, the mechanical ones I didn’t, I wasn’t fussed about the gadgets and I wasn’t fussed about the Daleks and the Mechanoids and so on, they didn’t interest me a great deal.

Q: That’s heresy!

A: Oh, I’m sure! It is heresy, and I’m a heretic.

Q: Talking earlier, you said you were trained in rep, which is just the best training an actor can get.

A: I think it probably was. I didn’t go to drama school, but I was lucky enough to be asked to join a repertory company in the north of England, in Barrow-in-Furness.

Q: And it stood you in good stead, I’d imagine, for ‘Doctor Who’, which was pretty much round the year, wasn’t it?

A: It was. I can’t remember how many weeks off we had, maybe ten, but it was a weekly thing, I did 44 episodes, so that’s eight weeks off in the year.

Q: A bit like a weekly rep in itself.

A: In itself it was, but only half an hour long. Plays could be as long as two hours. Then you really could struggle, it depended how big the part was. It was comparatively easy for me in that respect, but it was a new medium for me, I’d done a few television plays, I’d played bit parts in all the series that people got involved with back in the 60’s, you know ‘Z Cars’, ‘Red Cap’, ‘Court Martial’, ‘Gideon’s Way’, ‘The Saint’, you played in all those here and there, ‘Z Cars’ was the big one. I even did an episode of ‘World of Wooster’ with Ian Carmichael, that was about 1964, something frightening like that.

Q: I’d have thought that stood you in good stead for ‘Blue Peter’.

A: Certainly. ‘Blue Peter’ we did live, without an autocue, half an hour a week, ten past five, full rehearsed, vision mixer cutting on words, it was scary stuff, we had to be very precise.

Q: So as a work experience you look back on it with a great deal of affection, obviously.

A: Oh yeah, and when you consider, there were only three channels, and BBC2 hadn’t been going that long, and if you got a job in a regular series you were a very lucky person. I’ve always considered myself to be a lucky person in that respect. I’m not saying I don’t feel I deserved the part, and again following on with ‘Blue Peter’ and ‘Kickstart’ and ‘Crufts’ and all these things that have been part of my life, but again I’ve always felt that I was lucky and it wasn’t a god-given right. Maybe I was good enough, I like to believe I was, but no it’s a tough old business to succeed in so if you get your head above the parapet you’ve not done too badly.

Q: Looking back on ‘The Savages’ a little bit, did you think that was a fitting leaving for Steven?

A: Oh, I loved it. Chris Barry directed it, and Christopher was an absolutely lovely man – is a lovely man – and I thoroughly enjoyed working on that one. I always thought it gave the opportunity for Steven to come back, I always thought it would be rather nice if they did a follow-up serial at some point where the TARDIS comes back to the planet where Steven was left in charge and he’d really screwed it up. Gone egomaniac, whatever, just gone way over the top and, you know, been a very bad Emperor, King, I can’t remember what they left me there as, I was definitely the boss man. Anyway, I thought it could be really funny if he’d screwed up the lives of the people there and the Doctor had to come and put it all right, that could have been a good thing.

I haven’t done any proper acting in years. I’d love to.

Q: I was going to say, have you been tempted?

A: I’ve been tempted, but no-one offers. It’s just one of those things, and if someone offered me a part, I’d take it. But it just doesn’t happen. I’m known as myself, and I’ve had a very nice and successful career. I’ve presented all these different shows, and I’m proud to have done that. I presented all the BBC’s darts coverage for about seven years, and odd little bits. We did a show called ‘Driver of the Year’ for three years, very interesting series, it’s never really varied. But the acting career hasn’t really been there, but of course going away and doing a short tour of something tends not to be as lucrative as doing a bit of telly, so one tends to do the telly. But as I say, if I was offered some acting, I’d seriously consider it.

Q: Tell me about William Hartnell. You got on with him very well.

A: Oh, I got on with him extremely well. He liked me immensely, I don’t know why, but he was very generous to me, always gave me little acting tips. He’d been around a long time, had Bill, and he’d had some successes and some failures, very honest about things that had worked for him and things that hadn’t and invariably he, you know, I think he just enjoyed the company, and at lunchtime when we broke and he’d take me over to Bertorelli’s for lunch, invariably he would pay. My wife and I repaid him at the time, you know, we used to invite him round for a curry or something, he liked his Indian food as well. But he was just very friendly and nice with me, he confided in me, he told me the things he was happy with, the things he wasn’t happy with. I watched him being truly irascible with so many people, and think “Oh Bill, please no”. It wasn’t my place to say “I don’t think you should do that, Bill”, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly, if he felt that people were not up to the level required, or not doing the job seriously or properly then he would get at them.

The problem was at this time he was not terribly well. He was reaching a point where his memory was going as well, so he was making mistakes and that made him even more angry, he hated the fact, he knew he was making mistakes and he didn’t like it. So there were reasons behind the cussedness and the awkwardness. There were one or two directors he got on with so well, I mean he always loved Dougie Camfield, he thought Dougie was one of the greatest directors and he may well have been. And he got on extremely well with Paddy Russell, who directed ‘The Massacre’, but he could be awkward, I watched him being awkward. He stepped out of line many times but he stepped in line a lot of times.

Q: He’d done some terrific work, I mean ‘Brighton Rock’…

A: He was a great actor, no question. I mean he created definitive characters. His sergeant in ‘Carry On Sergeant’, those sort of comedy roles. And funnily enough he didn’t have the greatest sense of humour in that respect, he wasn’t a comedy actor, but he was an actor who played comedy with truth, and so it was funny, it worked. I had a lot of time for Bill. He did ‘This Sporting Life’, wonderful part, which he claimed got him the part in ‘Doctor Who’, Sydney Newman suggested… I think he auditioned several times for it, or was seen several times for it before he got the part. But it was actually his performance in ‘This Sporting Life’ that won them over.

Q: You were saying about his irascibility, that he wasn’t very well and he was making mistakes. It’s interesting, I think, that he turns that into part of his character, the irascibility, you can actually see it sometimes.

A: I think that’s true. I think more than anything, though, the quirkiness, the sort of “Hmm hmm”, all these little bits that no-one would have ever scripted, were him thinking, trying to work out where to go next. But it was all part of a character, it was consistent, I just think it got a little bit more, a little bit less controlled, as he became less able to remember his lines properly.

Q: But he did define that character.

A: For me he’s the only Doctor. Isn’t that awful? I mean, far better actors than he have played it, but for me that was the character, the original character was the Doctor and it’ll never be anyone else for me. Patrick Troughton I think is probably a far finer actor than Bill ever was, but because he followed Bill directly, for me he could never really be the Doctor. And Jon was just a totally different character, Jon Pertwee, whom I knew very well, I was a friend of his, and I enjoyed some of what he did as the Doctor, but he was never the Doctor. And the same with Colin Baker, I directed him, very nice, we got on extremely well, but again that’s not the Doctor. The nearest, for me, is Sylvester, Sylvester McCoy, he has that total quirky oddness about him.

Q: A slight dangerousness to the performance as well.

A: Yes. Yeah, well that’s true, I mean Sylvester came through the Ken Campbell school of acting and that way, if it’s not dangerous it’s not worth doing, which I suppose is a very interesting way of looking at things. That’s possibly why I see him in a similar sort of vein.

Q: You have to remember William Hartnell, he laid the foundations for a character that, 43 years later, is still going stronger than ever.

A: I just find that remarkable, I mean none of us had any idea. Although when I joined it had done 80 episodes, I did 44, so 120-odd episodes it had done by the time I left the serial, and that was in 1966. Scary.

Rex Tucker – Director (1995 interview)

July 29, 2009

This may be the final interview conducted with the man who was originally slated to direct the very first ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘An Unearthly Child’; although that never came to pass, he was instrumental in the creative decisions surrounding the show’s inception, and later directed ‘The Gunfighters’ (damn, I hope series 5 of the new series has a western episode).

My copy of the interview is a page torn out of a fanzine, so I’ll have to dig around for the exact source, but it’s page 34 of something and as with everything else here, expect a rush of scans asap. It’s very short, which is a pity because Rex played such an important part in the creation of the series.

Q: What do you remember about ‘Doctor Who’?

A: That was a difficult one because there was conflict about the script. The writer was against the producers and I wasn’t sure who was going to win out until we got to filming, which was on, I think, a studio set at Lime Grove that was very old-fashioned, to the point of being almost impossible to use. I remember feeling very much that we were out in the sticks.

Q: Verity Lambert was a very young producer, and female, which must have been unusual thirty years ago?

A: She was very good, but yes, she was a fish out of water. She proved herself very quickly and I have nothing but the greatest respect for her.

Q: What about William Hartnell? What do you remember about him?

A: Bill was very professional. He seemed to get on very well with the other cast, who were all very young. They were great friends by the time we finished shooting the first serial.

Q: Did you watch ‘Doctor Who’ after you worked on it, and do you think it could ever be a big hit again?

A: I watched it a little. Tom Baker was very good, I’d have liked to have worked with him. I thought all the actors were very good, although the scripts were terrible. I’d have torn them up and refused to make them. I’m sure it could be a success again, it’s a strong idea, it just needs good writers and good directors.

William Hartnell

July 28, 2009

There are relatively few William Hartnell interviews concerning his time on ‘Doctor Who’, and most of them are puff pieces intended for promotion. This interview is based on various comments pulled together, and as such is less of an interview and more of an overview of his comments on the programme.

“I was so pleased to be offered Doctor Who. To me kids are the greatest audience – and the greatest critics – in the world.

“It may seem like hindsight now, but I just knew that Doctor Who was going to be an enormous success. Don’t ask me how. Not everybody thought as I did. I was universally scoffed at for my initial faith in the series, but I believed in it. It was magical.

“Before the part came along I’d been playing a bunch of crooks, sergeants, prison warders and detectives. Then, after appearing in This Sporting Life, I got a phone call from my agent. He said, “I wouldn’t normally have suggested you work in children’s television, Bill, but there’s a sort of character part come up that I think you’d just love to play.

“My agent said the part was that of an eccentric old grandfather- cum-professor type who travels in space and time. Well, I wasn’t that keen, but I agreed to meet the producer.

“Then, the moment this brilliant young producer Miss Verity Lambert started telling me about Doctor Who, I was hooked. I remember telling her, “This is going to run for five years.” And look what’s happened.

“We did it forty-eight weeks a year in those days and it was very hard work. But I loves every minute.

“You know, I couldn’t go out into the high street without a bunch of kids follwing me. I felt like the Pied Piper.

“People really used to take it literally. I’d get letters from boys swotting for O-levels asking complicated questions about time-ratio and the TARDIS. The Doctor might have been able to answer them – I’m afraid I couldn’t! But I do believe there is life on other planets – and they know there’s life here but don’t have the technology to get through.

“Doctor Who is certainly a test for any actor. Animals and children are renowned scene-stealers and we had both – plus an assortment of monsters that became popular in their own right. Look at the Daleks. They started in the second series and were an immediate success.

“At one time (in late 1964) I thought we might extend the series and I suggested giving the Doctor a son and calling the programme The Son of Doctor Who. The idea was for me to have a wicked son. We would both look alike, each have a TARDIS and travel in outer space. In actual fact, it would have meant that I had to play a dual role when I `met’ my son.

“But the idea was not taken up by the BBC so I dropped it. I still think it would have worked and been exciting to children.

“Memories? There are so many. There was the occasion when I arrived at an air display in the TARDIS and the kids were convinced I had flown it there! On another occasion I went by limousine to open a local fete. When we got there the children just converged on the car cheering and shouting, their faces all lit up. I knew then just how much the Doctor really meant to them.”