Category Archives: News

Duncan Brown 1941-2015 RIP – Doctor Who lighting man dies


Lighting man Duncan Brown who has died.
Lighting man Duncan Brown who has died.

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.”

Duncan Brown (left) collecting a BAFTA in 1993.
Duncan Brown (left) collecting a BAFTA in 1993.

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.’

Duncan Brown and Roy Gould on Oh, Doctor Beeching! : "We stood like this many times quietly contemplating a shot," says Gould.
Duncan Brown and Roy Gould on Oh, Doctor Beeching! : “We stood like this many times quietly contemplating a shot,” says Gould.

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.”

The Leisure Hive - the alien nature of David Haig's Pangol is augmented the green hue of Duncan Brown's lighting.
The Leisure Hive – the alien nature of David Haig’s Pangol is augmented the green hue of Duncan Brown’s lighting.

Brown’s many other credits included Madame 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.

Agatha Christie – The Lost Plays

ag_lost_stories_600As I am apparently the BBC’s Man Who Interviews Elderly Actors in residence I was fortunate enough, earlier in the year, to participate in a fascinating archive release that will be available very soon. Agatha Christie – The Lost Plays is a triple bill of audio productions from the mistress of murder. I had the pleasure of chatting to their last surviving cast member Ian Whittaker, whose career took him from 27-year-old-actor-who-plays-teenagers to Oscar winning set decorator and production designer whose artistry has been seen on Alien, Howard’s End, Remains Of The Day and many, many more. He was delighted and slightly taken aback to revisit the production but, like all of these often underheard voices, full of fascinating insights about those halcyon days of broadcasting. His episode, Murder In The Mews, stars Richard Williams as Hercule Poirot and also features Monica Grey, whom I had the pleasure of visiting at home many years ago when I was a teenager and she invited me round to tell me all about her lead role in Quatermass II.

With veteran actor Ian Whittaker remembering a case for Poirot in 1955.
With veteran actor Ian Whittaker remembering a case for Poirot in 1955.

The set also features Williams playing a different role in a 1948 piece written especially for radio, Butter In A Lorldy Dish and another bespoke commission, Personal Call, which stars Barbara Lott (as it happens, a very close friend of Monica Grey’s). There are also various archival snippets and treats on the CD, including a bit of an on air disaster involving Ms Christie herself. It has been put together with loving attention to detail by Charles Norton and it was a pleasure to meet him and producer Michael Stevens after years of them being names in the “Sender” column of my inbox.

Anyone who likes vintage broadcasting and hearing things that were until recently thought lost might want to invest in this enjoyable package, which is available here.


Ken Earl (using his acting name Clifford Earl) as Major Branwell in the 1968 Doctor Who story The Invasion.

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.

Hero-Ken-Earl copy
Ken Earl bravely campaigned for those who had been tested on at Porton Down in the 1950s. Photo: BBC.

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.


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-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.

As the cleric in Star Trek: Voyager.


Thanks to Paul Ballard of Fantom Films and Lori Morris.


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.


Thanks to Paul Ballard of Fantom Films.