Category Archives: Doctor Who

ROBIN PHILLIPS RIP

d01-1e-026Robin Phillips, who played Altos in 1964’s The Key’s Of Marinus, has died at the age of 73. A friend of the director, John Gorrie, he was brought aboard to assist the TARDIS crew as they struggled to complete a task (discovering the whereabouts of s series of hidden micro-keys) which they had to compete without being able to rely on the presence of the Doctor (as actor William Hartnell had a two week holiday booked). He is essentially the romantic lead, sharing action duties with William Russell’s Ian, and showing some real grit when facing down the evil Voord as they threaten the object of his affections, Katharine Schofield’s Sabetha.

As David Copperfield
As David Copperfield

Born in Haslemere, Surrey, on 28th February 1942, he left school at 15 but studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school, and appeared there at the Theatre Royal making his professional stage debut in a season which found him playing Konstantin in The Seagull and Romeo in Romeo And Juliet. Other Bristol productions between 1959 and 1961 included The Clandestine Marriage,and  The Long, The Short And The Tall and he also appeared at the Chichester festival and Oxford Playhouse. In 1962 he broke into television and as well as Doctor Who he clocked up the usual fare that a capable young actor would hope to accrue on his CV – Compact (1962), The Saint (1965), The Avengers (1966), The Forsyte Saga (1967 – star Nicholas Pennell and he would collaborate again in the theatre) and the title role in David Copperfield (1969).

It is for his work as a director that he will be best remembered (he had first dabbled at Bristol), notably his role in revitalising Canada’s Stratford Theatre in Ontario. Prior to relocating to Canada he had directed in the UK for the Hampstead Theatre Club, the RSC and Chichester. There was initially some press resistance that a relatively young Brit  should be taking over a Canadian theatre but he managed to erase what he described as the “twirling, spinning and shouting” that dominated productions and instead create work that was more modern in style and thus easier for the audience to absorb. He lured British theatrical greats such as Maggie Smith (he considered his working relationship with her to be the deepest he had in the business) and Brian Bedford to work alongside fine Canadian actors like Martha Henry whose admiration his working methods quickly provoked.

Robin Phillips - acclaimed director.
Robin Phillips – acclaimed director.

According to actor Barry McGregor “one of the great qualities that makes him what he is is that he teaches as he directs – that is so exciting.” He made “everyone feel valued and important to a production” felt actor Marti Maraden.

He was artistic director there from 1975 to 1980 and directed 40 productions, including a sensual Measure For Measure in his first year, followed by Antony And Cleopatra (with Smith and Bedford), A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear. He returned in 1986-87 to direct Cymbeline and The School For Scandal.

Elsewhere he ran the Grand Theatre at London, Ontario (1983-83), was artistic director at the Citadel Theatre from 1990-1995, helped found the Soulpepper Theatre in 1998 and also directed on Broadway. On the London stage in 2000/2001 he directed Jessica Lange in Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Lyric Theatre, also starring Charles Dance and Paul Rudd) and Francesca Annis in Ghosts (Comedy Theatre).

Casualty and Dynasty star Maxwell Caulfield, upon the news of Philips’ death, described him as a “borderline genius”.  Stargate: Atlantis actor Torri Higginson Tweeted “Thank you for your stories, lessons and demanding presence every second”.

Philips felt that theatre was a vocation – “We do it for reasons other than just to entertain. If we do it well we can make a huge difference to people’s lives.” He was awarded the Order Of Canada in 2005 and the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010.

He died on the morning of Saturday July 25 after a long illness and is survived by his long time partner Joe Mandel.

OLAF POOLEY RIP

olaf-pooley-06Olaf Pooley was Doctor Who’s oldest surviving actor until he passed away yesterday at the grand old age of 101.

As ever with people who have crossed paths with the famous Time Lord, there was much more to him than his 7 weeks as the obstinate Professor Stahlman in the Jon Pertwee classic Inferno (1970). That said, it’s a terrific turn – a plausible villain whose motivation is utterly believable and who never strays into caractature. Pooley was reluctant to don the make-up required to transform him into one of the monsters of the piece – a Primord (basically Lemmy from Moorhead after being bitten by a werewolf member of ZZ Top) – but this didn’t stop him from delivering an entirely committed and serious performance as the testy and driven scientist impatient to crack the Earth’s core. When the Doctor is transported to a parallel world Stahlman’s alternative counterpart is crueller and more powerful, not afraid to have pesky, interfering time traveller erased by the military regime in charge of the totalitarian state. Inferno is indisputably one of the show’s true classics and Pooley is an essential part of it’s dark, gritty and tense DNA.

Born in Dorset during the First World War he spent much of the Second in Rep at the Liverpool Playhouse and Theatre Royal, Bristol and also appeared in the very first UK production of Twelve Angry Men at the Queen’s Theatre, London. He had, though, originally studied architecture and painting and enjoyed much success as an artist, exhibiting all over the world and spending his final days, still wielding his brush, in Santa Monica.

Olaf Pooley interviewed by US TV News on the event of his 100th birthday.

He is one of a small but illustrious bevy of actors to have appeared in both Doctor Who and Star Trek (the Voyager episode Blink Of An Eye). He had emigrated to the USA in the 1980s and so much of his CV is taken up with the likes of MacGyver (1985), Hill Street Blues (1986), LA Law (1992) and Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman (1996).

His TV work in the UK began in the late 1940s and included HG Wells’ The Invisible Man (1959), Maigret (1961), The Plane Makers (1964), sherlock holmes (1965), the expert (1968), Doomwatch (1971), Jason King (1971), The Zoo Gang (1974) and The Sandbaggers (1978) amongst many others. He wrote the screenplay to the film Crucible Of Horror starring his good friend Michael Gough – with whom Pooley lived for a time, gaining the affection and admiration of Gough’s then wife Anneke Wills, aka Polly for Doctor Who, who remembered him very fondly and told me : “My dear old Ola. 101! Up in the clouds, having a drink with Mick Gough – chuckling that he made seven years more than him: both of them completely compos mentis right to the end. So it’s not sad, it’s a triumph. May we all live to be 101 and keep our marbles”.

Ben Jolly, a UK based Doctor Who fan who visited Pooley at home in April, remembers, “He was a great guy to chat to – the conversation just flowed. His son-in-law Brian said after the visit that it had been a great tonic for Olaf who couldn’t believe that three chaps from London would have an interest in him. Apparently it gave him a real lift after a period of not being terribly well.”

There is a great interview with him here – there’s a Star Trek influence on it but it’s got plenty of intersesting detail and a sense of the man’s fascinating character.

Cleric
As the cleric in Star Trek: Voyager.

 

Thanks to Paul Ballard of Fantom Films and Lori Morris.

MICHAEL HAWKINS RIP

Michael Hawkins as General Williams in Frontier In Space (1972)

News has reached me, via his widow Julia, that Michael Hawkins – who played General Williams in the 1972 Doctor Who adventure Frontier In Space – died late last year. Julia is happy for the information to appear online so I thought I’d do a quick post for the actor best known among visitors to this parish for his dignified turn as the human soldier responsible for starting a deadly war between Earth and Draconia. Mr Hawkins was also interviewed about his role on the Making Of… documentary on the Dalek War DVD box set.

A handsome actor with a refined air about him, he was more versatile than the parts he usually got suggested – note his turn as Beavis, the beleaguered subject of cruel mental conditioning in the Doomwatch episode Hair Trigger (1972). He had previously appeared in the very first episode of that series, The Plastic Eaters (1970), and his other genre roles included an aristocrat in the early scenes of Hammer’s Hound Of the Baskervilles (1959), The Avengers (3 roles from 1961), Out Of This World (1962), as a regular in R3 (1965), Thirteen Against Fate (1966), The Baron (1967), Man In A Suitcase (1968), and another military type in Survivors (1977).

He enjoyed a busy time of it on television all through the 60s and 70s in everything from Z-Cars to George And Mildred, via I,Claudius and Crown Court, with decent stints in Brett (1971), season one of The Brothers (1972), The Scobie Man (1972), King Cinder (1977) and The Devil’s Crown (1978) propping up a hefty roster of one-off guest stints.

He is often mistakenly referred to as the father of Christian Slater – there is indeed a similar hawkish profile shared by both men, and the Hollywood star’s father was indeed an actor called Michael Hawkins, but this is not he. Like many details on certain famous websites, this is incorrect, so I have not used any other information here (such as dates) given by them either – not until I am satisfied they are correct. At present I am happier to leave that information blank than propagate a mistake, though I believe Mr Hawkins was in his mid 80s at the time of his death on the 26th October last year.

This short article may be updated in due course.

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Thanks to Paul Ballard of Fantom Films.

Bernard Kay 1928-2014

Myself and Bernard at the CAA last month.
Myself and Bernard at the CAA last month.

I am very sad to report the death of that fine actor Bernard Kay.

I’ll add something personal later but for now:

The actor Bernard Kay, who starred in Dr Zhivago and was a recognisable TV face in over 100 programmes ranging from the very first episode of Z-Cars to Jonathan Creek via Doctor Who and The Professionals, has died aged 86.

Born in Bolton in Lancashire, the son of a journalist, he initially worked as a reporter for the Bolton Evening News and a stringer for the Manchester Guardian. Educated at Manchester’s Chetham’s School, when he completed National Service he studied at the Old Vic Theatre School on Waterloo Road, London (having also been accepted by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Guildhall School of Music And Drama). He used his army experience whilst making his first film, Carry On Sergeant: helpfully correcting its star Willliam Hartnell regarding drill procedure. Hartnell was not impressed and unsuccessfully tried to get him fired.

Hartnell had forgotten the incident when Kay was the lead guest star in one of the early Doctor Who adventures The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964). He returned to the series the following year to give a dignified turn as a war weary Saladin in the highly regarded adventure The Crusade (1965) and crossed the paths of later Doctors Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in, respectively, The Faceless Ones (1967) and Colony In Space (1971).

Bernard in Doctor Who.
Bernard in Doctor Who.

His most notable film role was as the Bolshevik in Dr Zhivago, a part written by Robert Bolt with Kay in mind. Other film credits included Sinbad And the Eye Of The Tiger (1977) and Psychosis (2010) but he was more at home on the small screen. One of his most acclaimed roles was as the german Korporal Hartwig in the famous Tweedledum episode of Colditz (1972) in which Michael Bryant’s Wing Commander Marsh attempts to fake insanity in order to be repatriated. Hartwig is charged with ascertaining the truth and after an antagonistic start the two develop a touching friendship as Marsh genuinely begins to lose his mind.

He was given six weeks paid leave and told to keep a low profile by the Coronation Street producers after the angry public reaction to his killing of Ida Barlow in 1961.

On stage he learnt the role of Macbeth in 24 hours to save the opening night of a production at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1952, he performed in Baghdad as Shylock as part of a British Council tour of The Merchant Of Venice and he received critical acclaim for his last stage performance in Dream Of the Dog at the Finborough Theatre. At the start of his career he had played small parts for the Royal Shakespeare Company in its early days and returned there to play Glendower in Henry IV Part 1 in 1991 but he was most proud of his performance as Danny (the Pete Postlethwaite part) in the stage tour of Brassed Off, for which he had to conduct genuine brass bands.

He won an award for the first chapter of his memoirs, describing his torrid childhood in pre-war Bolton. One of the judges for the New Writing ventures panel, which awarded him first prize, was novelist Ali Smith who described it as “wise, taut, gripping and a perfect piece of explication”.

He was married to the actress Patricia Haines who died aged just 45 in 1977. Her daughter Niki (by her first husband, the actor Michael Caine) survives him. He was found dead at his home on December 29th, although cause of death and exact date are yet to be determined.

Ray Lonnen RIP

Ray Lonnen RIP

Ray LonnenA couple of weeks ago I was very sad to learn of the death of Ray Lonnen – a fine, understated actor who took part in a couple of television shows that deserve to be remembered for a very long time: namely Harry’s Game and The Sandbaggers. I had the good fortune of visiting Ray a couple of times – most recently an evening a couple of months ago of fish and chips a chatting about his good friend Richard Shaw. Ray had showed me some paintings he had which had been done by Richard and kindly offered to share his memories of the late Quatermass actor. Ray had a lot of empathy for others and behind the considered decency that emanated from him was a twinkle and a wry sense of humour.  He and his lovely wife Tara were extremely hospitable and I had kept in touch with them since I interviewed them both for my Who’s Round project last year. They, along with their good friend Bernard Holley, came to see my West End double bill in November despite Ray being in a lot of pain. I was flattered to have known him and pleased to have had the opportunity to provide Ray’s Guardian obituary here. I can’t thank Tara enough for her help with this – her positive attitude and encouragement for others even shining through at a most difficult time for her and the family. If the world is a bit of a struggle sometimes, following Tara on Twitter is recommended – she’s an empathic person with an infectious optimism : find her at @TaraWardBooks.

My Who’s Round interview with Ray and Tara can be found here.

It’s typical of the fellow that the last contact I had from him was after he found out my other half’s name: it’s unusual and he postulated that it might have been inspired by a film of the same name. I admitted that I thought that that was the case but that I didn’t know much about it. After a short time there was an email from Ray with a link to the movie and everything about it. He was  a thoughtful man for whom nothing was too much trouble.

Rest In peace Ray.

EXCITING NEWS!

BACK IN THE WEST END!

garrick_theatre_london

Well, this is exciting : for one night only Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf and My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver will be in a double bill at the famous Garrick Theatre in London’s West End. It’s a 900 seater. My Mum’s coming, so now we only need another 800 of you to keep her company.

Garrick
We’re gonna need a bigger audience…

There promises to be a bit of an An Audience With kinda vibe, with a number of Doctor Who luminaries on the invite list. It’ll be an ideal warm- up for the 50th Anniversary as the show will be taking place just under a week before that giddy time. So put 17th November in your diary (7pm), and maybe get a ticket for that friend of yours who needs a special present to celebrate this amazing milestone for both Doctor Who and  – thanks to this performance produced by James Seabright and Lee Martin of Gag Reflex – this humble fan.

When tickets went live most of the seats in the front 10 rows were snapped up immediately, and punters from Russia and the USA booked themselves in, so you know, if you think the trip for, say, Kent, is an arduous one, you really have no excuse not to see the show which has won acclaim from press and comics (including Sarah Millican) alike. All the nice things that have been said about it are here.

Tickets are available here.