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

TOM BAKER ERA LIGHTING DESIGNER AND MUCH ADMIRED “GENIUS” PASSES AWAY AT HOME.

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.

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