And so it’s part two of my interview with fantastic production designer Roger Murray-Leach whose work I have long admired: it was a real thrill to be able to talk to him about his work on the show and – of course – his illustrious career beyond time and space. His charity is Hope & Homes For Children. As ever it is not mandatory but if everyone who listened gave a quid on behalf of this free podcast then a lot of good causes would benefit substantially without anyone having to dig too deep.
A prime scalp in this week’s edition of Who’s Round: a very talented designer with an amazing career outside of the show and whose work on the series itself is of the highest quality. It’s a two parter and involves tales from a golden period in the Doctor Who’s history. He’s one I never thought I’d get and this interview just goes to show what can happen if you aim high.
Clifford Earl, who played the Station Sergeant in the Christmas Day 1965 episode of The Daleks’ Masterplan (The Feast Of Steven) and Major Branwell in 1968’s The Invasion opposite Patrick Troughton – both for director Douglas Camfield – has died at the age of 81. Better known in certain quarters of the outside world under his given name (Ken Earl) his achievements for real servicemen – versions of whom he often played in fiction – are worth noting alongside his not unenviable acting credits.
Camfield was well known for demanding authenticity from those he cast in uniform and he definitely got the real thing from Earl, who, in his second and best role in the show, portrays a cooly efficient Major who helps the Doctor defeat the Cybermen with a little help from companion Zoe’s calculations. After his missiles have wiped out the Cyber-fleet he compliments the mathematical genius by declaring that “she’s much prettier than a computer”. Such reflections of their time aside Earl is vital in helping to keep the drama heightened during those tense moments of the final episodes when the soldiers wait to see if their attack will succeed. His solid presence and grim determination keep the tension bubbling right up to the epic story’s climax. His turn in The Daleks’ Masterplan a few years earlier is a much lighter affair, reflecting the Christmas frippery the production team are after in this long lost one-off.
It should be no surprise that Earl had had military experience, but his was blighted by a scandal that has rightly rocked the establishment. In 1953 as an RAF medic on National Service he volunteered to be a guinea pig in order to help with work to find a cure for the common cold at the Porton Down research establishment. He was subjected to the same test as – and just two days apart from – a young airman, Ronald Maddison, who died 45 minutes after being exposed to the nerve agent Sarin. Earl and other veterans maintain that they were never told the truth about the experiments done on them and in 2008 the Porton Down Veteran’s Support Group, which Earl founded, won £3 million in compensation for the thousands of servicemen unwittingly subjected to dangerous exposure. The money, and accompanying apology from the government (but no admission of liability by the Ministry Of Defence), came too late for the many who had already died. Those like Ken who did survive suffered ill health (in his case spondylosis, liver cists, prostate and skin cancer, a heart murmur and depression) for the rest of their lives – ill health that they attributed to what had been done to them at Porton Down. He nonetheless considered himself lucky “At least I’m alive and I have had three score years and ten,” he told the BBC in 2004, “poor old Ronald Maddison got only 45 minutes”. His stoical character and dogged determination on behalf of his fellow servicemen meant that Earl was much admired, respected and liked in veteran circles.
Earl’s other television credits – many of them in uniform as either policemen or soldiers – included Scotland Yard (1959), Danger Man (1960), Bootsie And Snudge (1960/61), No Hiding Place (1963/67) Gideon’s Way (1965), The Baron, (1966) Man In A Suitcase (1967), The Avengers (1967/68), Dixon Of Dock Green (1967/69) Softly, Softly (1968/69), Department S (1969), Paul Temple (1969), Randall And Hopkirk Deceased (1970), Edward And Mrs Simpson (1978), Danger UXB (1979), Ike (1979, as Mountbatten), The Professionals (1980) and The Upper Hand (1990). On the big screen he appeared in Scream And Scream Again (1970), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Tales From the Crypt (1972) and The Sea Wolves (1980). He was also a familiar face to forces personnel as he appeared in a number of MOD training films. He later became a news reader and continuity announcer performing In-Vision for Southern Television in the 1970s and out-of-vision for TVS in the 1980s.
He is survived by his wife Beth, a son and two daughters.
Clifford Earl (Ken Earl) 1933-2015
With thanks to Robert Forknall.
Continuing my repositioning of the early Who’s Round blurbs from the Podcast page into the blog (because it was taking up a lot of space and has been superseded by the brilliant work of Ian Atkins at Big Finish – he has done a definitive list):
Episode Six: Waris Hussein
Only the first ever blooming director of Doctor Who! And a timely interview because he was fresh from the readthrough of An Adventure In Space And Time, the Mark Gatiss docu-drama about the genesis of Doctor Who. So we discuss that, being an outsider and passing up A For Andromeda… Chosen charity: Cancer Research At The Royal Marsden.
Episode Seven: Adrienne Burgess and Martin Cochrane
Two for the price of none as a pair bonded thesp couple share their memories of working on two very different scripts from the same writer (Adrienne was Veet in The Sunmakers, Martin was Chellack in The Caves Of Androzani). I talk acting with a deaf person, managing a star and boring three-shots with a delightful couple who straddle some of the more sublime and ridiculous moments of Doctor Who. Chosen charity: The Fatherhood Institute.
Episode Eight: Robert Forknall
He may only have been credited as “Guard” but this charming fellow has loads of stories about fulfilling his lifelong ambition of being in Doctor Who. From accosting the director on a train to coming out to David Tennant and chaperoning Tom Baker, the show runs through this chap’s veins and he proves to be the most enthusiastic company in what is currently the Who’s Round with the most background noise (it took place in Patisserie Valerie on Leicester Square, fact fans). Chosen charity: World Wildlife Fund or Save The Snow Leopard.
Episode Nine: Tony Osoba
One of “those” actors : a ubiquitous face who has cropped up in everything. He has appeared in iconic comedies and prime time dramas – if he wasn’t in them, they weren’t really worth bothering about. So what a treat to discuss white costumes, not being dead and the wonder of the motor car with a genuine TV icon. Chosen charity: MacMillan Nurses and Guide Dogs For The Blind.
Episode Ten: Valentine Palmer
Another recognisable character actor – he had a major role in Day Of The Daleks but didn’t feature on the DVD. Outisde who he has notched up a number of high profile credits in the 70s before getting bored and forging many different paths which ultimately took him to the John Lewis cafe near Tottenham Court Road to chat about Jon Pertwee, Jeremy Brett not being allowed in the sun, and the conspiracy theories that surround the Titanic. Chosen charity: Medicins Sans Frontieres.
This week’s Who’s Round continues my chat with George Gallaccio, whose career as a BBC producer after his days as Doctor Who’s production associate took in all sorts of classics including Bergerac, The Omega Factor and Miss Marple. He was also offered the top job on our beloved show and explains his reasons for not doing it :
I am updating my website and as Big Finish* have now put up a handy alphabetical link of every Who’s Round episode and accompanied each one with the relevant charity link, I’m taking my incomplete list off my Podcast page. Instead of wasting them I shall post them here as they may be useful for wandering web tourists. Click on the episode to take you to it: same with the charity.
Episode One (Jan 7th 2013) – Susan Moore & Steve Mansfield
7th Doctor era model makers Steve and Sue argue their way entertainingly through tales of melting heads and blue demons, but there’s time for a couple of Tom Baker story anecdotes too (ooh, and a borderline Davison – good start). Chosen charity: The Alzheimer’s Society.
Episode Two (Jan 11th 2013) – Andrew Smith
4th Doctor writer Andrew Smith – the first fully paid up Doctor Who fan to get a writing job on the series (there may have been one or two since though, you know) talks policing, reading things about himself that he doesn’t remember in someone else’s autobiography, and Max Sammett. Chosen Charity: The Lily Foundation.
Episode Three (Jan 15th 2013) – Glyn Jones
The earliest surviving writer from Doctor Who, Glyn Jones, has the other distinction of being only one of an illustrious triumvirate to have both written for and acted in the series. Glyn talks about his native South Africa, looking like the Michelin Man, and why he regrets making Xeros for boys only : and does so all the way from Crete) Chosen Charity: Forgot to ask so the default is The Psoriasis Association. (Post script: Glyn sadly passed away on 2nd April 2014)
Episode Four (Jan 26th 2013) – Ian Cullen
Ian Cullen has had an impressive career which began as a boy actor in 1952 and continues apace today. We met up in Surrey where he teaches drama to youngsters and talked colourful costumes, Jon Pertwee’s sense of humour and being killed off shockingly in both Blake’s 7 and Z-Cars. Oh, and about playing Ixta in the classic story The Aztecs of course. Chosen Charity: Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Episode Five (Feb 12th 2013) Kevin McNally
Four episodes of Doctor Who are just a tiny speckle on the CV of one of the country’s most respected character actors. He’s such a coup for this free podcast that even my 12 year old son was impressed when I showed him this picture of an illustrious thesp with whom I discussed pirates, bad acting and sex .. or to be more precise, Mr Sex! Oh, and looking like a “dream sequence char-lady” in The Twin Dilemma. Chosen Charity: forgot to ask so I’m going to nominate The Psoriasis Association as I am involved with them and they do very good work.
*(namely Ian Atkins who does the online production of the podcast)