This isn’t the one you’ll be expecting if you listened to last week’s instalment which kicked off my chat with Mark Ayres. That’ll wend its way to your ears next time.
We are reaching the end of the project of course so the countdown element is important – more important than my notes are legible so I had accidentally assumed this conversation came later in my quest that it did. So I’ve hastily cut it together and put it in its rightful place in the canon.
It’s a good chat with a director responsible for many classic episodes of Doctof Who. I hope you enjoy it:
Due to Big Finish having other audio fish to fry later in the week the latest edition is a tad early. Although I had vowed to avoid conventions as much as possible, reasoning that (a) it was cheating a little and (b) the interviewees would be a bit “Who”-ed out, I nonetheless couldn’t resist during the 50th Anniversary event at the ExCel Arena. And so I grabbed a couple of illustrious folk (the first being Maureen O’Brien who has already hit the airwaves) whom I had not met before to help me to polish off some of the few remaining stories.
I had a late Tom Baker adventure in my sights and was able to grab a distinguished gentleman associated with it whose pedigree outside of the series is also rather serious. We didn’t have long and therefore it is literally a snatched conversation, so there’s room for the first half of another – more traditional – interview, which will conclude next week.
Continuing the removal of the individual episode blurbs from the Podcast page and placing them here instead, for reasons of tidiness…
Episode Eleven (2nd April 2013)The Keys Of Marinus Special What do you do if you get a Doctor Who story that doesn’t have a DVD Making Of and that not one, but four people involved with the production of it are happy to speak to you? That’s right, you produce an hour long special edition featuring the director, two monsters, and an actor who has never spoken publicly about his work on the show until now! Chosen charities: The Red Cross, Mind, Cancer, YMCA (extra long edition, four interviewees, so more charities than normal, but deserving ones).
Episode Twelve (16th April 2013) Clive Doig and Paul Cole Perhaps the merriest Who’s Round yet : red wine is spilt, honest opinions tumble out, and we turn the conviciality up to 11, managing to polish off a fair few Hartnells, plus a bonus snippet of Troughton as well. Two interviewees for the price of none, and by the time it’s over, it has been everybody’s round! Chosen charity:The Cinema & Television Benevolent Fund.
Episode Fourteen – (24 April 2013) William Dudman A fascinating insight behind-the-scenes from film cameraman Bill, who shot most of the effects sequences during the McCoy years but also has first hand knowledge of a Troughton classic for good measure. He also had major input into Star Cops, Blackadder and The Two Ronnies, and tells all about those as well. Chosen Charity: Crisis.
Episode Fifteen – (29th April 2013) The Savages Special Another Hartnell special; this time it’s an adventure entirely missing from the TV archives and two of its guest stars provide their memories of working with William Hartnell, Peter Sellars and Douglas Camfield. It got quite noisy, sorry, but worth it to hear from two such distinguished veterans. Chosen charity: Ellen House Hospice For Terminally Ill Children.
Episode Sixteen – (1st May 2013) Barrie Ingham This delightful and enthusiastic thespian’s career was still taking him to London, New York and Hollywood on a regular basis when we spoke. He was impressively passionate about Doctor Who and we talked about our hopes of lost episodes turning up, shaving chests and getting betting tips from the Doctor. Sadly Barrie passed away in January 2015 and I consider it a great privilege to have had the opportunity to enjoy his charming company, even if it was only over the phone. Chosen Charity:Medicins Sans Frontieres.
TOM BAKER ERA LIGHTING DESIGNER AND MUCH ADMIRED “GENIUS” PASSES AWAY AT HOME.
Duncan Brown, the highly respected BBC studio lighting designer who worked on four Doctor Who stories has died – this news comes just after the airing of a new series episode that could be seen as a sequel to his very first credit on the show, the hugely acclaimed Genesis Of the Daleks (1975).
Brown was one of the finest lighting directors to have worked on the series.Genesis Of The Daleks benefits hugely from his creation of an alien battlefield sky for the studio rendered exteriors and his use of shadowy corridors for the Daleks to advance through. His final story, The Leisure Hive (1980), is one of the most remarkable looking stories in the entire classic run, the hive itself a mixture of eerie greens and soft pinks depending on the exact location, and Brown makes great use of shadow again as the duplicitous Stimson stumbles about blindly as he is stalked by a half glimpsed Foamasi. He also lent his expertise to The Android Invasion (1975) and The Robots Of Death (1977) and features on the DVD documentary Genesis Of A Classic in which producer Philip Hinchcliffe singles his work out for special attention. Describing the production’s aim of having the Daleks emerge from the gloom and shadows Hinchcliffe reflected that “that takes a very good lighting director because that means there’s more work to be done in the studio recording time. It needs someone with an artistic sensitivity but also someone that can work quickly and do it.”
Looking back on his work, Brown admitted that “I was surprised just how good it looked. [It] stood up well”. With characteristic modesty he described his job as being one of physics and engineering and that if there was anything artistic about what he did then it came from interpreting the script. “If the writer’s pleased – that’s the most important bit.”
Margot Hayhoe, who worked with Brown many times over the years in her capacity as Assistant Floor Manager and Production Manager paid tribute to him today saying “I always enjoyed working with him, he had a great sense of humour and always lit with great artistry, quickly and with no fuss. Among other shows, I mostly remember him from To Serve Them All My Days. He had a mischievous twinkle. He carried a portfolio of screen shots of his work compared with prints of Old Masters which he used as reference. As the saying in lighting went for many LD’s ‘Everyone a Rembrandt’. One of my great regrets when most of the Dramas I worked on became all film productions was the fact that I was unable to work with such a delightful person.”
Producer Albert Barber (Grange Hill) who first worked with Brown on Playschool recalls: “Duncan was always kind, helpful and had a smile of encouragement whether you were green and inexperienced or older and perhaps wiser. Always a joy to work with as you knew it would be one area that you wouldn’t have to worry about and that quiet, confident style would in turn make for a good team production. He was a terrific man, mentor and professional. I liked him very much.’
Roy Gould, director of the Brown lit Oh, Doctor Beeching! (1995-97), had worked with him many times over the years when he was AFM and production manager on many David Croft comedies : “One week he came into the David Croft’s office when I was the PM and asked me if he could try something out on the next recording of Hi-De-Hi – I said that David and I trusted him completely and to go for it. When I arrived in the studio that Friday, I looked up at the staffroom set and saw 3 or 4 bits of poly[styrene] clipped to the top of the set at various angles and some Bacofoil stapled on some of the flats. I looked at the lighting grid and noticed that he had hung just one light. When he saw me he asked his assistant to turn off the Workers and bring up the staffroom lighting – the one light came on and and its beam bounced from the Bacofoil to one bit of poly to another: the set was lit perfectly. With one lamp! Genius. Adored the man.”
Brown’s many other credits includedMadame Bovary (1975), When The Boat Comes In (1976), The Duchess Of Duke Street (1976/77), Pinocchio (1978), Top Of The Pops (1978), Are You Being Served (1983), Eastenders (1986), Johnny Briggs (1987), Bread (1988), A Bit Of Fry And Laurie (1989), ‘Allo ‘Allo (1989), You Rang M’Lud (1988-90), The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin (1996) and Death Of A Salesman (1996).
Duncan Brown died at his Surrey home on September 14th. He is survived by his wife Kaye, their daughter, and grandchildren.
Doctor Who is back on air tomorrow so it’s appropriate(though entirely coincidental and completely unplanned) that we talk to someone who works on the show even today and in a key capacity. A last minute technical problem meant that I had to hurriedly improvise so the sound isn’t great – but it has been hugely improved thanks to the kind assistance of Nick Randell and David Nagel who generously answered my Facebook cry for help.
There’s plenty to discuss as we whip through a huge bunch of Matt Smith episodes and much else besides with a most charming and erudite communicator. You can hear the interview here:
There was no way I was going to let Milton Johns be edited down to the usual half an hour or so – so he’s been given a two parter and this is the conclusion. What a gent he is – he later showed me around the Garrick Club, regaling me with glorious stories about all of the actors depicted in various paintings. Plus we bumped into Johnny Dennis who had contributed to an earlier Who’s Round by phone, so it was nice to finally meet him. One of my favourite days doing the project I have to say.