At the end of the year I always to a video tribute to those people from the Doctor Who universe who have left us. I had trouble uploading this so it didn’t go up on New Year’s Eve as hoped. Anyway, it is here now, and I hope it does its job.
I was very saddened to learn of the death of Terence Bayler.He was a fine actor: tall, handsome, with soulful eyes and a slight warble to his voice which could suggest plummy aristocracy or a hint of melancholy. He often played upper class toffs or British officers so I was shocked to discover, when I was invited to his home in 2013, that he retained the kiwi twang which gave away his working class New Zealand roots. I spent a delightful afternoon with him and his lovely wife Valerie, herself a talented actress (who also makes very nice muffins).
He was of course best known for his brilliantly funny contributions to Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and for the key role of Macduff in Polanski’s bloody take on Macbeth (1971). He appeared in everything from Rutland Weekend Television (1975/76) to Lipstick On Your Collar (1993) via Upstairs Downstairs (1975) and had an enviable stage career too. He also told me my favourite Cyril Shaps anecdote ever.
He was nothing like most of the parts he played – he was extremely self effacing, down-to-earth and softly spoken. Unfailingly polite too – always ringing to thank one for an encounter or card or note. His approach to the profession was interesting too – he wasn’t an actor for any reason other than he figured that he could earn a living doing it. He was as happy in the garden or making things out of odds and ends as he was anywhere else.
I liked him a lot. I had contacted him because he played twice in Doctor Who, as a slave who met a sticky end (he was amused that a fan wrote to him about playing “the doomed Yendom”) in 1966’s The Ark opposite William Hartnell and as Major Barrington, one of his many military characters, exuding decency and stiff-upper-lipped resolve with just the right level of pathos in The War Games (1969). Both characters don’t get past a single episode but both performances are good and it’s nice to have him pass through the show playing such different roles.
I have gone into further detail in my Guardian obituaryhere, but there is no place for the more personal reminiscences in such a piece. I found Terry to be such a kind and gentle man : I was extremely touched to see him and Val waiting outside the Garrick theatre after my performance there. I’m blessed and flattered to have had such encounters with people whose work I have admired over the years – though it makes moments like this all the sadder. My condolences to Val and to his family (his daughter Lucy is an actress who had a four month stint in Eastenders as Elizabeth Beale in 1988 – and popped up again recently as a different character).
My 2013 interview with Terry can be downloaded for free from Big Finishhere.
It’s been very actor heavy of late so it’s time to delve behind-the-scenes to an era rather under-represented in the Who’s Round lexicon : the 7th Doctor’s.So there are plenty of stories about that turbulent time on the show, the regular cast who were extremely popular with the crew, and making space and time against the clock and for tuppence ha’penny.
This fellow has also worked on many other landmark BBC productions, as we only touch on those because his Doctor Who memories are so legion and detailed. It’s nice to have someone shedding light on these particular stories.
REG WHITEHEAD RIP – The First Cyberman dies, but his legacy encompasses more than his Doctor Who milestone…
Reg Whitehead, the actor who played Krail, the Cyberman who explains their origins during episode two of The Tenth Planet (1966), has died at the age of 83.He played another Cyberman – Jarl – later in the story, as well as featuring in the famous close-up which was our first view of the silver giants at the end of the opening instalment. He played Cybermen again in The Moonbase (1967) and Tomb of the Cybermen (1967) and also took centre stage for another popular monster’s debut by being the man inside the suit of the first Yeti to appear at the climax of the first part of The Abominable Snowmen (1967).
“The first ones were terrible – they chafed you, they were totally impractical. You couldn’t bend down. They were the most uncomfortable, smelly, disgusting costumes that ever the Beeb managed to make,”he told me a few years ago with a chuckle. And he should know – he was the “Ground Zero” Cyberman, working with designer Sandra Reid as she tried the costume out on him before the suits were finalised and filming began.
Discomfort aside he enjoyed working with both of his Doctors.William Hartnell, on his swan song, had a little fun with the young thespian. “He wasn’t a well man but he did have a lovely thing that he did with me. He said to me ‘Call yourself an actor? ‘I said ‘I try to become one Bill’. He said ‘Alright, if you can do this I’ll call you an actor.’” Reg laughed as he recalled Hartnell tap-dancing across the studio and back again, landing back in his starting position. “‘Can you do that?‘ [asked Hartnell]. I said ‘Not a chance,’ and he said ‘Well that’s the trouble with you youngsters today.’” He enjoyed working with his successor Patrick Troughton whom he described as “a lovely guy and – even up till now – one of the very best Doctor Whos there was.”
Despite his input into their original creation he was happier with the more streamlined and less cumbersome costumes that were created for the Cybermen in their second and third stories.“There was no question that they would have to redesign them, [for The Moonbase] but it [the discomfort] was still dire, it really was.” Having been a monster in Doctor Who he felt it difficult to be taken seriously by the production team as an actor outside of the costume but he did make a friend on The Moonbase. He and Frazer Hines shared a love for horses and the two of them would monitor the racing and betting in between rehearsals. On Tomb of the Cybermen he got friendly with Deborah Watling and took her out on a date.
The Yeti was costume was equally uncomfortable but “for five days we sat in a bus and watched the rain pour down” because there was location filming in Wales. “The day the bus pulled up and we were finally going to do the shoot. It was about 6 o’clock in the morning and there – lo and behold – was a tent which had been pitched during the night. I was told, to go and shake the guy ropes and see what happened. Two German students hurtled out of the thing and ran off as fast as their legs could carry them!”
He didn’t return to Doctor Who after The Abominable Snowmen. “I was doing other things. In the theatre mainly – the theatre was my greatest love anyway so I would always look there for my living” – but even that came to a stop.
“Pure luck,” is how he describes his move into the marketing of executive toys which led to his move away from acting .“A guy parked his van outside my flat and I said “Do me a favour, you couldn’t move your van could you?”. He said “I know you” and it turned out that he was an actor – Simon Prebble – and he came down and said to me, “I’d love to get you involved in this product here [in the van]. Within days I had been to the liquidator who had been involved with the company, Scientific Demonstrations, and I bought the bits and pieces for £500.” The “bits and pieces” included Newton’s Cradle, the famous swinging sphere construction used to illustrate the conservation of momentum and energy and which went on to decorate many a corporate desktop. “Five years later we sold it to the Americans. It’s responsible for pretty much everything you can see around you,” he said, indicating his handsome Newbury home, filled with charming, well-chosen paintings emphasising his enjoyment of the countryside and equine pursuits.
With a newfound financial freedom he managed to combine his love for racing with his business acumen and became a celebrated and successful racehorse owner. He still missed acting, though: “You never lose it – to walk away from it, it’s horrid.”
Born in Warwickshire in December 1932, he had got into the business when, having been in Canada for four years he entered a talent competition.The prize was a year’s drama training in London which he saw as a free ticket home. Having done that training he worked in rep and eventually broke into television, where his other credits included two consecutive episodes of Z-Cars as Detective-Constable Cropper (1963) and roles in the Power Game (1966 ), The Avengers (They Keep Killing Steed, 1968), The Saint (1969) and the Nigel Kneale play Wine of India (1970).
Reg died peacefully at home on March 11th at the age of 83.Stable owner Barbara Coakley paid tribute: “Reg was a lovely, kind man and great character. He was a very loyal owner and a great supporter of the yard, popping in regularly and meeting up in the local on Friday evenings for the racing crack.” There was a thanksgiving service for him a few weeks ago – trainer Richard Phillips was there to bid farewell to his friend, known in their circles as ‘Uncle Waggy’ : “A great character, the church was packed to say goodbye to one of life’s good guys. There were many smiles and laughs, just as Waggy would have loved there to be.”
As for his place in Doctor Who history: “It’s something I don’t bring up too often but it’s incredible how many people come up to me. Kids who were amazed – the look of awe on some people’s faces is amazing. It’s good fun to remind people sometimes – yeah, I was a Cyberman once.”
“I think that it was good television and it stands up well even today”
He is survived by his wife Linkie (who, on a personal note, is a very classy lady who couldn’t have been more charming when I visited them back in 2012) and by Deighton, a son.
This one was a long time coming, as I had already visited the gentleman once. On that occasion he asked not to be recorded as he felt his voice was weak. We then chatted for 3 hours after which he said “Oh, we should have recorded that!” Still, it meant I got to visit him all over again and that was an absolute pleasure because he has great recall and the most exquisite manners.
He has probably worked with all the major UK comedians of the 20th century.He also has more than a little tie with the Fifth Doctor’s favourite sport. His Doctor, however, was the first. His brush with an alien invasion wasn’t his only connection to Doctor Who and he tells us about encountering a script editor in rep, a drunken Odysseus turning nasty and considering oneself lucky to have worked on such a variety of different things.
Because having each individual podcast listed is making my podcast page way too big I’m dismantling it but retaining the info here on my blog. There is a much better resource for this info, including links to all the charities, on Bog Finish’s page here. Thanks to Ian Atkins for doing such a sterling job on it that makes my poor effort redundant. Click on the Episode number to get to its download page.
Apologies for the lack of photos but my Mac isn’t playing ball at the moment.
Episode 25 – Doreen James This lady dressed to impress: but it was others she was putting the clothes on, providing distinctive costumes for two stunningly good Tom Baker stories. So we get the goss on a bespoke housecoat, a companion who wore clothes particularly well, and possibly the finest hat in Doctor Who‘s history. All that and a chat about Dobbin from Rentaghost too. Chosen charity: Medical Aid For Palestinians (MAP).
Episode 26 – Viktors Ritelis A rare interview with a man whose directing credits stretch from Colditz to Home And Away, but who was even further behind-the-scenes on 1960s Doctor Who when he was right hand man to the prolific and acclaimed Douglas Camfield. He discusses winning over William Hartnell, shaving an actress and the differences between working in Australia and the UK. Chosen charity: The Heart Foundation.
Episode 27 – Ray Lonnen and Tara Ward Another husband and wife – one who appeared with Jon Pertwee and the other with Peter Davison. Between them they have hundreds of credits but diversity too : Tara is a best selling writer, whilst Ray has played the lead character in some seminal TV. Ray and tara talk about falling in love at the right time, being animal lovers and, oh no, The Myrka! I am still in touch with Tara and saw them both again after this – Ray sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2014 and it was a sad duty but an honour to write his obituary for The Guardian. Chosen Charity: Cancer Research and PDSA.
Episode 28 – Peter Straker Destiny Of The Daleks had already been done but who cares? Peter has never done an interview about Doctor Who before and has a terrific time over a bottle of wine (or two) discussing singing, wearing a dress for Freddie Mercury, and not being available for a second visit to Doctor Who‘s universe. Chosen charity: MacMillan Nurses.
Episode 29 – Bob Mills He didn’t do an awful lot in Doctor Who but his memories are pretty detailed. Beyond that though, Bob has plenty to talk about as he gives us an insight into the life of a walk-on, then his completely unrelated move into stand-up as the alternative circuit blossomed. Topics include his Dad’s near miss with stardom, running the wrong way in battle, and the strangest comedians you’ve never head of. Chosen Charity: Make A Wish Foundation.
Episode 30 – Zoe Wanamaker A relatively quick chat with one of the country’s leading actresses, but there is still time for plenty of chuckles from her as she discusses cosmetic surgery, the Globe Theatre and unfulfilled ambitions. And there’s even space to squeeze in a very cheeky message for the fans. Definitely my most nervous contribution to the Who’s Round oeuvre. Chosen charity: The Globe Theatre.
Episode 31 – Vernon Dobtcheff If you could distill Essence Of Actor into one human being, then this prolific performer (“the patron saint of the profession” – Rupert Everett) would be the result. He discusses a career in several languages, always being the 29th choice for a role, and suddenly having access to “senior parts”. A wonderful addition to the canon and a most enjoyable conversation with a delightful man. Chosen charity: Unicef.
Episode 32 – Simon Fisher-Becker A one scene cameo was successful enough to make this man become a popular returning character. Simon, who has embraced the Doctor Who Universe, regales us with tales about always seeing the same faces at auditions and does a tour de force of a message to Doctor Who fans in the first Who’s Round to be conducted in front of a (very small) audience. Chosen Charity: Parkinson’s Society, St Christopher’s Hospice and Compaid.
Episode 33 – David Weston A true man of the theatre who worked with Doctors One and Four in the show but recently brushed with Seven on stage all over the world. Topics for discussion include acting being a “rather sad” profession, Julian Fellowes and going on for Derek Jacobi with no help from a director whatsoever. Chosen charity: Crohn’s Disease.
Episode 34 – Ben Peyton A vocal contribution only, and no credit, yet this open and friendly actor was the lead villain in a Matt Smith episode. He was also a regular in The Bill and talks candidly about his demise in the infamous Sun Hill fire, plus auditioning for an ever shrinking part in Band Of Brothers, acting with Paris Hilton, and retiring in his 30s. Chosen charity: The Meningitis Trust.
Episode 35 – Dan Starkey Everyone’s favourite Sontaran sidekick, Dan Starkey has moved from guest actor to much loved semi-regular, appearing in a number of key New Series episodes. There’s more to him than Sontar-Ha though, as this talented mimic talks phonetics, tongue action (or lack of) and being a fan of the series he became a star of. Chosen charity: Leonard Cheshire Disability and Compaid.