Patrick Troughton ("Dr. Who")


On Saturday 21 March 1986, the Highway Hotel in Concorde, New Hampshire was host to the
Doctor Who Festival and Exhibit Tour. Fans paid $12 (or $15 for reserved seats at the front) to
watch The Two Doctors – weeks ahead of it being broadcast on Channel 11. They also got to meet
the Second Doctor himself.

For an hour, actor Patrick Troughton discussed his time as the Doctor and his career more
generally. Jeff Lyons, then a journalist for WCFR Radio, recorded the whole thing and posted a sample on YouTube. He shared his recording with me to use in Doctor Who 50 Years Issue 3: The Doctors (Panini UK Ltd, October 2013). But, with Jeff's kind permission, here's the full transcript...

(NB I couldn't always hear exactly what other people said.)

[General hubbub]

All images by Jeff  Lyons
PATRICK TROUGHTON: Who wants to ask one first? Right, there we are.

[Does he like doing conventions?]

Well, I do want to do things like this. And I've done things like this for about four years. I started doing it because I was blackmailed into it by [then Doctor Who producer] John Nathan-Turner. (AUDIENCE LAUGH) It was emotional blackmail.

[We're going to print all this.]

I don't care. (AUDIENCE LAUGH) He knows. Um. Emotional blackmail and he made me turn up at Longleat for the convention there where they expected I think it was 15,000 people and about 45,000 people turned up. It was an absolute shambles. Um. That's when I started. Since then I've been doing it a lot and I enjoy it very much. There, that's your question. Yes?

[Which of the other Doctors was your favourite?]

I don't know. The favourite one I've worked with... I didn't really work with Billy [Hartnell] in The Three Doctors because he was not well at the time and he was just in a sort of bubble in a time loop and they filmed him beforehand. So I don't know what it was like to work with him, except of course that I did transmogrify from him in the first place, lying on the floor, but I didn't really have much contact with him except in the pub afterwards. The next one was Jon Pertwee. Well, yes, Jon. Old Pertwee and I, we've got a very good rapport really – we hate each other. (AUDIENCE LAUGH) We hate each other in public and as Doctors we hate each other. You see, we're all different aspects of the same personality, and the same person. I'm not particularly fond of his personality in the stories. We're the best of friends off-stage. So that was fun. That all started on The Three Doctors, really. It sort of built up: a nice, splendid antagonism. Then what was the next one? That was...

[The Five Doctors.]

The Five Doctors? Well, I wasn't really with Peter much, although I'd worked with him in All Creatures Great and Small, yes. And he's a lovely chap, he's marvellous. And then there was... Who was the other one? I haven't worked with Tom at all because Tom didn't want to play in that and he was busy doing theatre or something so I don't know about Tom at all, although we get on all right in the brief times I've met him. And of course Colin, who is absolutely super. Colin and I are on the same wavelength. We have a lot of sense of fun, you know. And I enjoy working with him very much indeed. I think that's about it really, of the Doctors. Yes. Anyone else? More questions, yes?

[Future TV or film plans?]

Yes, rather. I'll tell you what I've just done and that was all last year I was doing a thing called The Knights of God for Southern Television. It's a long adventure story about the aftermath of a civil war in England in 2020. There's very little that's futuristic about it because it was such a terrible war that there's no petrol and no tanks or aircraft. There's the odd helicopter and just conventional weapons. And a dreadful lot of sort-of fascists, a dictatorship, have take over called the Knights of God and we are the freedom fighters. I lead the freedom fighters. The chap who... Have you heard of Blake's 7?

[Lots of 'yes'.]

Well the chap who plays Blake in that was the freedom fighter in Wales and I was the one in the Midlands, the head one. It's a sort of parallel to the King Arthur legend, 'cause I'm Arthur and the baddie is Mordred. Although nothing of that is brought into the story except our names and so it's left to the audience to sort of twig, you know? So that's great. That's coming on in England in the autumn and over here, I hope, perhaps next year. I hope so. It should sell very well, I think.

Then I've got one situation comedy, which is three months of this year - that's starting in July – and three months of 1987 starting in July of that year. A thing called The Two of Us. I play a grandfather to the boy, and the boy and the girl live together and the boy wants to get married and the girl doesn't. It's just that, really. But we did a pilot and they loved it. I like it because I'm playing myself for the first time really, ever – I think. No, I played myself once before in a thing called Jury which we did. But that's marvellous because it's solid work for me for two years - although it keeps me away from these lovely conventions for three months of the year. (AUDIENCE LAUGH) And that's an audience show. You know, it's rather fun really although a bit terrifying at times. Yes?

[What sort of practical jokes did you play on set?]

We never played practical jokes, ever! Never. No, all right. But they're not mentionable. Oh, we occasionally embarrassed poor little Debbie Watling. On one occasion we were waiting to make an entrance out of the TARDIS on the set, on the taping day. I looked at Frazer and Frazer looked at me, and Debbie was between us. About five seconds before our cue, we ripped her pants down and made our entrance. So she came on giggling and spluttering, and smoothing herself down a bit. That was one of the things. And I used to have a thing for... I had a handkerchief in my pocket, a pocket handkerchief, and I sometimes used to – on the rehearsals, not the actual show because it would have meant we would have had to retake – bring unmentionable items out of my top pocket to wipe my brow instead of a handkerchief. Things like that we got up to, you know. But you've got to do something in three years because we were on every Saturday and it was very hard work. It relieved the monotony a bit. Yes?

[How did he feel doing The Omen compared to Doctor Who?]

Hmmm. Well, every part is different. And if the script is good and vivid you just get lost in that, you know. So you can't really compare any of them. It was lovely playing the Doctor for three years because I had a young family growing up and being a very happy and pleasing sort of part, you carry it home with you, obviously. So that was very nice. But The Omen was very short. I think we were only shooting it for a couple of weeks. A bit at the American Embassy in London and at Bushey Park, no Bishop's Park in Putney. So that was fairly quick – but it was a marvellous part. I went up for another part, the archaeologist in Palestine. That was the part they wanted me to play and I went up for it. And I said, “I don't like this part; I like this other part”. And they said read it so I read it and they said “Oh yeah, you play that one”. So that was that. It was a much better part. So how I felt was, “Oh boy, what a super part”. That was it really. Wonderful. It was a bit painful, of course. Someone has there hand up...

[What are your feelings about the missing episodes from your time as Doctor Who?]

Oh, that have survived, you mean? Oh, I've got very great feelings – yes, I'm livid. I'd love them all to have survived. That would have been wonderful. It's very sad, really. There are a whole lot of bits and pieces of the other ones but not complete. It would have been wonderful but some idiot in some film library decided to mix 'em all up and burn them, I think. I don't know why. It was just clearing... The shelves looked a bit untidy, you know, and they thought, “Well, we'll put those in there and we'll chuck those away”. It was a mistake really and terribly sad. But I believe there are whole lots all over the world which fans are keeping close, which we hope one day will come to light. Yeah?

[What is your favourite story?]

The Mind Robber, I think. Yes, I think it was a very ingenious story. It was a very difficult one to do: I had a lot to do in it, and thrown in in the midst of a, you know, very hard schedule it was a lot to do. But it was worth it as it turned out - although we grumbled a lot at the time, I seem to remember. But it was a very ingenious story. It was good.

[Stuff about first episode.]

Really? What was that? I can't remember that. You'll have to remind me – it's 20 years ago, you know, for me. I know we had some rather naughty things we used to do in that one. It was with Emrys Jones, wasn't it? He was the... Well, Emrys wasn't really the baddie. He was the victim of this horrible brain thing that was sucking all the thing out of him.

[You had some very funny lines.]

Yes, sometimes one did. It was a very weird thing altogether. We landed nowhere, which was very weird, and then out of this nowhere came these extraordinary sort of white robots, going Brrpt! Brrpt! It was so exciting.

[The Dominators was down one episode.]

Really? Yes, you learn something every day! I know it was very difficult to create the nothingness in the studio because it had to be, obviously, a back cloth which had to extend along the floor too. It was very tricky to make it absolutely nothing but they did succeed in the end.

[Did you have Colour Separation Overlay then?]

Er, no – we were in black and white. We did colour separation on The Box of Delights, which has just been on over here. That was blue I think we used. Sometimes you use green, sometimes you use blue. Question from somewhere else. Yes?

[Was there any hint of the coming hiatus when working on The Two Doctors?]

He didn't. It was like a bolt from the blue because we made that show, what, two years ago? And we were making it, what, ooh, August two years ago. And there was no suggestion of that at all. It was only a lay-off, you know. When Jon Pertwee took over from me, they changed gear from doing every Saturday to doing only six months of the year. I don't seem to remember any sort of outcry at that. Mind you, I'm not surprise at Jon. Old Pertwee was probably very pleased at a bit of a break. But I don't remember that and this time, you see. Anyway, your question was did we have any feeling. No, we didn't know. Because that fellow, what's his name, the new chap – yes, Grade – he hadn't been appointed, had he? Obviously, when a new chap comes he wants to reorganise things a bit and so on – and why not? It isn't off: it's not going to off. Don't worry about that. I know it isn't.

[How different was The Two Doctors to film from Doctor Who in the 60s?]

Yes, for one thing we were on, I think I am right in saying, we were on telecine, our black and white, not tape as far as I remember. I may be wrong. Which is a different technique altogether. The Two Doctors was filmed on location in Spain, which was mixed in with video in the studio – television cameras in a studio. So it was quite different. Jon's era started colour. Yes?

[A recent London Times article verifies that the last episode of Colin's new season is being left unnwritten in case the BBC want to kill it.]

It's not true. The Times got it wrong. It was a misquote. John Nathan Turner's answered that one. No, it's not true. They start making this new lot in a week, I think. There's going to be a sort of thread right the way through, continuity right the way through them. I don't know what it is and I'm not going to say if I did but they are going to be linked in some way, apparently, which will be nice.

[Was there meant to be a sequence at the end of The Mind Robber where the Master is sent back to Earth?]

I can't remember. It's too long ago. I can only remember Emrys Jones sitting there, when we're finally brought to him by these creatures. ... But I seem to remember a farewell for Emrys. He did go home, didn't he? I can't remember now.

[The next story was The Invasion so we didn't see him go home.]

Was that the Cybermen invasion? That was a good one. What a pity you see that that's been lost.

[Only two episodes are missing.]

Mmm, yes. It might be worth showing. It's of interest to fan clubs but it's not really good enough to be shown on public TV, really.

[More on Emrys Jones and how it ends.]

I've got a vague memory of that, yes. Anyone else, from a different direction? Yes?

[In two years it will be the 25th anniversary. Will you come back again?]

I hope so!

[That would be three appearances in five years.]

Yes, that'll be all right. Oh, the 25th. Oh, well if we all joined in, of course I would. That would be fine. I like to pop up perhaps once every two years, really. Ideally. Not more than that at home because you know, I've got to make my living as a character actor, obviously. Although it doesn't matter quite so much as it used to for me in England, it's a different sort of slot. But I would love to. Whenever I'm asked, I'd love to. Yes?

[Is it easy to fall back into the role of the Doctor?]

It was easy. It was easier, this last one, The Two Doctors, mainly because I had Frazer with me. It would have been even better with Wendy as well, that would have been lovely – or Debbie. But to have Frazer, it was extraordinary – the years just fell away. Looking at it, I'm a little slower and greyer but it was lovely. It was easier than in The Two Doctors – I mean in The Three Doctors – and  The Five Doctors because I wasn't with Frazer then, I was with the Brigadier and Old Pertwee, who of course I'd never been with before. No, with Frazer was marvellous. He's going to be over for a convention, I think in New Brunswick – at the end of May, is it? I think we're all coming over – it's going to be a super one, yes. He's a marvellous chap, Frazer. I started acting with him when he was 12, in a thing called The Queen's Champion, a sort of cloak and dagger thing, you know – swashbuckling. I used to do a lot of that before I got a bit more lazy. (BIG LAUGH) You know, all that sword fighting and horse-riding.

[Are you doing anything special for your birthday next week.]

Not really, no. I shall be arriving home. I arrive home Monday night and I shall be jumped on by my lovely dogs. That will probably be it. I don't know, we'll probably go out for a meal or something.

[Do you watch your old programmes?]

Er, yes I do. It's very useful for me. Now that I've got... I've got one video. Which one is it? The Seeds of Death. To watch me 20 years ago is quite an education, really, because I'm that much quicker mentally in the part. It's very necessary, if I'm going to do more of them... In fact, I really wish that one had been available before I tackled the Three or Two of Five, really. It would have been a great help because you can't resurrect it exactly to that extent. It's very difficult. So much has changed. I take so many different parts all the time. You have to search way back in your mind. And also the scripts are... When I was doing it, obviously all the writers were writing particularly for me, so it fell into a pattern and was obviously easier to act. Whereas, although people like Robert Holmes and so on did write for me, in the more recent ones I had to do a lot of work to try and remember what it was all about. Who wants to ask one? Anyone? Yes?

[Would you like to play a villain?]

Not as another character but I want to play a monster – anonymously, so that nobody knew. Something like one of the Muppets, one of those great big ones with huge teeth. I'd love to play one of those. And it would just be in the Radio Times and TV magazines 'monster by monster'. I'd love to do that, very much. But I don't think it would work coming back. You couldn't do it, not really. They'd keep on saying, “I seem to remember this guy, I've seen this face before”.

[What do you remember of working with Jane Seymour on Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger?]

Jane got sworn at most of the time by the director. I thought she was jolly good. I hadn't met her before. My wife had met her because her daughter grew up at school with Jane in Richmond, and I think she was very briefly with one of Richard Attenborough's sons. I think I'm right. Which didn't last. Oh, it was lovely. I thought she was a smashing girl. I thought, watching her... Put it this way: when I saw the film, I thought, “Oh yes, this is going to be a film star”. But working with her, nothing particularly came over which made you think, “Oh my goodness, this is going to be great”. But seeing the result, I did feel that. I think that a lot of, especially lady, stars turn out like that. When you're working with them, you feel there's mistiming or that's not very good. Then you see it and think, “Oh blimey” - so that's lovely. You know what I mean? They seem to know it instinctively. In the end, of course, they get there and that's that.

[What do you make of that film?]

I enjoyed it very much, working on it. I thought the story was a little weak. I'd done Jason and the Argonauts many years before, I played blind Phineas with the Harpies, if you remember – the chap who played for the Harpies. That was a super story. Of course, it's a classical – a classic story – and it was really well made. But that was wonderful and Ray Harryhausen really went to town. But I thought the actual story of this wasn't as strong as some of his. I couldn't be all that thrilled in what they were actually after and what they achieved but it was enormous fun to do. Anyway, very effective. It was great fun. We had, what, three weeks in Spain and in a beautiful national park north of Madrid, a beautiful alpine part of the park at the foot of the Guadarrama mountains, full of butterflies which I adore and alpine flowers which I adore. And then nearly, ooh, two months in Malta, I think, which was smashing, wonderful. Yes?

[Do you have a favourite acting medium in stage, TV or film?]

Not the stage. I don't like the stage. I prefer television and film. Of the two, I don't know, I like television because it's a mixture of both. I very much like video when they do a whole story, a whole play, on OB cameras because there you get rehearsal first, in the rehearsal rooms, for quite a long time. You have long takes when you go on location with the unit and also you're filming in actual locations not studio. Which is better, although I find that watching them the sound isn't quite as good. They can never seem to get the sound quite as good as you can in a studio. But really, I got into television in 1948 at Alexandria Palace and I did 15 years' live television in play after play after play. One could in those days because if you got in on the ground floor, it was such a new medium that the directors would tend to cast actors who'd done it before so that they'd didn't have to bother about teaching them how to do it and what to expect, because they'd got their work cut out with this new medium. They didn't want people that they had to worry about. So you tended to be cast over and over again, which suited me fine. I did years of it. Then, when it was not live any more, that was a great relief because, boy, you had to be young to do live television. You really did. But it was marvellous. So I tend to stick in the same medium because if the work comes in you take it. Especially when you've got... Well, I had two families at that time. You tend to say, “Oh, thank you very much. Yes, I want to work.”

I wouldn't mind doing farce. I was offered a part in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Chichester this year, but it clashed with the situation comedy I'm going to do so I couldn't do it. But if it had been in London I might just have done that. That would have been fun, I think. It would be nice to hear an audience there and have the clapping afterwards, as I haven't had that for about 40 years. That's why I love coming here. You have an audience and can actually hear that somebody has liked you, which is fantastic. But in television you never hear that. You do the show, have a drink afterwards, say goodbye to everyone, unwind and go home. That's that. Yes?

[Your episodes of Doctor Who are not shown much in US so fans haven't seen them and you get less of a turn-out. Does that depress you?]

I'm delighted. The fans do see them, you see. They get hold of them. We won't say how but they get hold of them, so they have seen quite a lot of them. But the general public haven't. And that's because they are in black and white. It took a long time for the companies to agree to do black and white. First of all, I think they put them after 11 o'clock, with the horror movies, because we were black and white. (Laughs) Any more? Yes.

[Did you ever think the show would go on so long?]

No. I thought when I took it over it would last six weeks, quite honestly. I thought that would be it. I thought after three years with Billy that it was getting played out. Some of the stories were beginning to get a bit thin and so on. When they asked me, I thought, “Oh blimey, are they really going to try and resurrect this and go on with it?” What on earth could one do about it? I just didn't see myself... I had no idea how to play it, you see, when they started asking me. I knew they didn't want an imitation of Billy but I'd no idea how to play it. I was completely nonplussed. And so I wasn't very enthusiastic to start with. But they wooed me over a week and the money went up every day, and then I said yes. (Laughs) Of course, I thought “Even if it lasts for six weeks, it will be fantastic”. And there we are. And here we are, 20 years later.

[Fan has heard that The War Games including Gallifrey was to wrap up the series if it didn't carry on.]

Oh, really? I suppose that was when they heard that Jon Pertwee wanted to play the part! No, I mustn't go on about Jon too much – he's a lovely man and we get on very well. Let's have someone who hasn't asked a question. Somebody else. Anyone else? Anyone who hasn't asked something. Right. Anybody. Yes, what?

[Your relationship with the Brigadier is more mellow in The Five Doctors.]

More mellow?

[A little bit.]

I didn't have much to do with the Brigadier before. As far as I remember, it was the second Yeti, in the Tube – the underground railway – wasn't it? I think I had a sort of... Ah... I think I sent him up a bit, didn't I? I think I had lines like, “Oh, the Brigadier, blazing away as usual with useless weapons”, or something like that. No, I think you're right. I don't think the relationship had developed script-wise but it certainly did in The Five Doctors, very nicely. I'm not surprised, because I am very fond of Nick and we get on very well.

[Which were your favourite monsters?]

Oh, the Androgums. You don't know about them, do you? Do you know about the Androgums? Ah, well, all will be revealed this evening. Yes.

[Did you like being an Androgum?]

Well, as a matter of fact, human beings are quite delicious, yes. Properly cooked, mind you.

[Did you ever aspire to be a musician?]

I never aspired to be one, no. I regret terribly that I didn't go on learning piano. I gave it up when I was about 12 and I regret that – and always will do – because I'd love to be able to sit down and play piano.

[But you played recorder.]

Well my son taught me that. He was aged eight – no, about six, I think. He was at primary school and I wanted to relate to the younger members of the audience as well as to the mums and dads, as a new approach to the part: to include the really small ones as well, because I knew they watched and I knew they were scared stiff. I thought, “If I can bring in something which will relate to them, it will be a good thing”. My son taught me to play a simple tune which they were playing at school at the time. All the schools were playing it, I think. He taught me how to do that and I worked it into the first episode. I think that most of the directors after that tried to stop me doing it but I continued for a while and it seems to have stuck so that's very nice. I'd love to be able to play an instrument but I can't really. If I work hard at the recorder it's not too bad. Yes?

[Why is the show still going?]

I think it's the brilliance and the original idea that here is this incredible time machine – we could have that door shut, couldn't we? - which is just a box, a police telephone box. You open the door and go inside and the inside is much bigger than the outside. Vastly bigger. Just that one fact alone means that you have limitless stories. I mean, there's been lots of stories of moving around in time – or not lots, I suppose. HG Wells and not too many others. But this was a wonderful idea and it has an absolutely electric effect on the British audience. A brilliant idea.

[Can you see it running out of steam?]

Well, new people keep on being born, don't they? I don't see why, if new people keep on being born, why it should ever really go down the drain. Perhaps if the BBC dropped it one time they might sell it to another company, a commercial company. I don't see why not. They'd have to sell the rights and everything. Or even an American company. Who knows? It's a possibility I suppose. They'd ask an awful lot of money for it, I've no doubt.

[Re hiatus, BBC's reply was that no programme could be a 'fixed institution'. Should Doctor Who be thought of as a fixed institution?]

Well, it is. Whether I think it ought to be or not, it is. I don't see why not. I mean, we have radio serials which have been going longer than Doctor Who. We have The Archers and, on television, Coronation Street. We've got the EastEnders, which is probably going on for about 50 years from the way it's taken off. I don't see why not. People like the same thing. As long as the standard keeps up. It's very difficult, obviously, to keep the standard of stories going up but I would have thought, with computers helping authors with plots there should be no limit to the number of stories they can produce – I imagine. I think it will go on. It is an institution, whether we like it or not. I don't think they'll drop it, I really don't. I'd be very surprised.

[Question about standards and whether Doctor Who would be better if Troughton was in it now.]

Oh, I'm not going to say that – oh, no no no. It always depends on the writer, always. You can't get away with bad writing. No actor can. The only way that an actor can get away with bad writing is to talk loud and fast which is what, if I've got a bad script, I do – a bit louder and a bit faster than usual. But no, no: it's always the script. It's very hard work if the script is not good – and very easy if it is. Here, you were gonna ask one.

[About bringing the Daleks back for his first story.]

Is that what they did? When I started, you mean? Ah, no I think that was just to help me, probably, because it was a fairly daunting thing to have to do, I mean, to make a success of it and for it to go on. It was great help to bring back a very popular monster. Because you see there hadn't been many Dalek stories with Billy – not many. There'd been the original one, there'd been the Marie Celeste and one where they fought a war with things called...

[A fan corrects him.]

Was it? Oh. (Laughs) He knows more than I do. I can't remember. So no, I think it was a help. Quite honestly, I was far too concerned with the way I was trying to play the thing and how it was going to turn out than anything else. They mucked me wig up, too. They gave me a Harpo Marx wig, which incidentally both Pertwee and Tom have adopted, which I think is rather funny. And indeed Colin! I had this beautiful wig. I looked just like Harpo Marx in it and on the first day of shooting Anneke Wills and Mike Craze, who were my boy and girl companions, took one look at it and said “No! You're not going on like that!” And there was a great crisis. So they had to take it off and we had to make some sort of hair do in about a couple of hours before the show. Well, it was the Beatles' time so we went for the Beatles and that was that. So that's how that happened. It didn't really answer your question did it? Oh yes, it did, about the Daleks. Yes, I think it was a help, really. And there was one more with the Dalek I had.

[The Evil of the Daleks.]

Yeah, that was a good story. That was a great one, as I remember, when Debbie joined. Yeah. She would feed the “flying pests”, wouldn't she, the sparrows? The Daleks didn't like that. And then we tamed three Daleks by putting something nasty in their brains. Marius Goring put something nasty in their brains. I think they were called positrons, weren't they? Something like that, which he inserted in their brains. And all the way through rehearsal, Marius – who was one of the biggest practical jokers in the business – got away with saying instead of positrons, “we inserted these suppositories” in the brains of the Daleks, all the way through rehearsal until the very last minute, when somebody noticed and said “isn't that word supposed to be positrons?” Marius said, “Oh yes, how funny.” Anyone else? Yes.

[When the Doctors press the TARDIS buttons, are you told what to press?]

No, we make up our own. We've each got our own method because each TARDIS got modified. Mine was fairly primitive and I had a different sequence to Billy. I never really watched Billy's. You see, I didn't know I was going to play the part all the years I watched Billy with the family. I didn't really notice what he was doing except for pushing various things. So no, I made it up meself. We had various things for taking off or closing the doors.

[Did you use the same sequence in your stories?]

Oh yeah, we kept to that. Frazer always reminded me which that was, in no uncertain way. Always trying to do it himself. I always had to go (slap) stop it.

[Is it a good part?]

Doctor Who? Rather, yeah. Not half. People get very possessive about it. Colin wants to go on forever.

[What if you came back?]

I don't think I could come back. I think it would be a mistake. I don't think I'd be asked to come back. I think it will probably be an African lady, I should think, next. Almost certainly. Or eventually, anyway. Or a Chinese lady. That'd be fun. Hmm...  Any more for any more? Yes?

[Is it good going to conventions and thinking about the past?]

I love it, yes. It's a nostalgia trip, isn't it, really? And it's an ego trip for me. As I say, to come here and have people cheering you and all the rest is absolutely wonderful. After all, one is an actor and when you start out as an actor it's the sort of thing that keeps you going, really. As I say, in television and film you never get that and it's absolutely wonderful. They're very genuine. They're not rubbish. It's a very genuine feeling which is marvellous. But I've noticed that about American audiences anyway. I'm not flannelling, I'm not being patronising, but I came over in 1939 to a dramatic school which was a sort of summer stock company at East Hampton on Long Island in the John Drew Memorial Theatre. I had some lovely parts, obviously. We did a swap: it was the Woodhouse scholarship, I think, and an American student went over to the Embassy School of Acting and I went over to the John Drew Memorial Theatre. And I had some lovely parts. The first one was Snobson in Fashion. Do you know Fashion? It's an American old-fashioned musical, a Victorian musical. Anyway, it was a marvellous sort of Uriah Heap part and straight away you felt the difference between an American audience and an English audience. You got the feeling that an American audience, directly the curtain goes up, they sit forward in their seats and are eager to be amused or join in. Whereas an English audience, almost invariably, sits back and says, “Now bloody well amuse me”. You know. And you feel that. It comes across the footlights. And that's not flannel, it's true. And that's the feeling here.

[break in recording]

- on this visit and then we go to Trenton, tomorrow. We go to Trenton tomorrow and do one on the Sunday at Trenton. I think we stay in Princeton and do it at Trenton or vice versa, I can't remember which. They're being seen, all my old ones there, so they'll know far more of my Doctor than people here will. Billy's are being shown at the moment here, aren't they? And mine are coming on afterwards. So. (SIGH) Oh. That all, then? Yes?

[What was your least favourite story?]

Of the Doctors? The least favourite one? Gosh. I can't really remember. Quite honestly, one was working at such a pitch. We had two and a half day's rehearsal and then we taped, then the weekends we were filming – every other weekend. And we were doing that every Saturday of the year except August when we had a holiday. And so you didn't really have time to say “This is a good one” or “This is a bad one”. You know, you were like a squirrel on a wheel.

I think that it's generally recognised that The Krotons wasn't particularly a good story. I think it was written... shoved in to replace something, as far as I remember. Frazer knows more about this than I do. He's always on about this and correcting me about it. But I have a feeling that was thrown in a bit. Although it's a bit – well, you can judge it for yourselves when you see it – I think the story itself was a little weaker than some of them. But they vary. You can't go on writing really good stuff forever. It is all there and so on. It's impossible. This is a monster one has created and has to be fed, nearly 24 hours of the day now, television. It's a nice monster, though.

[What did your family think when they found out you'd got the part?]

Well, they were delighted, I think. My wife of that time was not a great television viewer. She loved ballet and live theatre and television was not one of her favourite mediums. I do confess that she was delighted more for the family because a) it was regular work for me for three years at least, which is a huge thing for a freelance actor, obviously, with a family, and it meant we could educate the children privately, which we did on the proceeds. It was a great thing. So I think she was more pleased domestically. Because it's a very dodgy business this one, you know, and I – touch wood – have been lucky because I play a wide range of parts. But if you don't, you have to wait until your part turns up and you can wait for, ooh, nearly a year sometimes and then suddenly you'll be away again. So it is a bit dodgy. So I think that was probably the reaction.

[What about your children?]

Oh, they were tickled pink. They thought it was great.

[Did they make suggestions?]

I don't remember that. It's a long time ago you know. They were so young. They're all grown up with children now.

[Did they used to hide behind the sofa when they were watching?]

NHPTV reports on the event
Ah, yes. I think so. The only reaction I remember was something quite different which was when I played the dwarf Quilp in The Old Curiousity Shop. My young son Mark, who was even younger then, he was about three I think, he sat and watched all the way through this terrible villain, this dwarf. And at the end of the last episode where Quilp slips off in the fog into the Thames and drowns, and just his top hat swirls round in the muddy water, you know, he stood up and strode to the set and shook his fist and said, “And jolly well serves him right!” So that was nice.

Have I got to go?

[We're going to have to steal you for an interview with Channel 11...]

Okay, darling. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

[Ends with a plug for Doctor Who on Channel 11, on Saturdays, and for the Doctor Who Fan Club who made this all possible.]


[Thanks to Grace Lessner at New Hampshire Public Television, Jeff Lyons and Andrew Ledger.]


  1. I am pleased to have been able to provide this transcript. - Jeff Lyons


Post a Comment