After a few months off during which I have slept and stuff, Who’s Round is back… and it’s about time (etc etc).
It’s certainly about time we had a Doctor.Most Doctors have been interviewed loads, so of course I have gone for one with a unique claim to the Gallifreyan throne. He’s actually been involved in the programme in practically every medium possible, this fellow, and has worked with more than one of the “other” Doctors. Oh, and Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellan and the bloke who played Varan in The Mutants. They’re all here, in the 200th edition (blimey) of this ridiculously time consuming podcast. These will be back to their weekly release schedule and there’s a fantastic mix of familiar faces and hitherto un-interviewed folk from the history of Doctor Who, all of whom have fascinating stories about their times with and without our favourite programme.
Peter Thomas – actor from missing William Hartnell story The Savages – dies.
Peter Thomas, who played Captain Edal in The Savages, has died at the age of 80.He had worked with Christopher Barry prior to the making of the story and so was in the director’s mind when it came to casting the chief of the security forces on the unnamed planet where all is not what it seems. With Frederick Jaegar, ostensibly the story’s lead villain, spending much of the action impersonating William Hartnell’s Doctor it is Thomas who provides most of the thuggishness. He’s the enforcer and easily the story’s most unpleasant character – and unusually, he survives at the end, in a story which has no fatalities. Thomas had to undergo golden facial make-up but that wasn’t his biggest problem on the show: “Bill Hartnell and I did not get on that well in The Army Game – I fell out with him during rehearsals. He used to shout, and if you forgot a line or miscued him he would tell you! Literally in our last episode of Doctor Who I think he forgave me: in the final scene, owing to the pressure of work instead of “Grab him and strap him to the trolley” I said “Strab him and grap him to the trolley” – but it did get a laugh even from Bill Hartnell.” The finished result wss good though – the audience research report for The Savages finds the viewers singling out the performances of Hartnell and Thomas for the most praise.
Thomas trained at LAMDA from 1952 and upon graduation did a short stint in rep at Lancaster before National Service (the RAF) intervened. Having done his duty (and performed onstage in RAF variety shows and stage productions while he was doing so) he returned to the theatre and then broke into television where he made something of a career of playing bad guys. His TV roles included Probation Officer (1959), Walk A Crooked Mile (1961), Z-Cars (1962), No Hiding Place (4 different characters 1962/65), The Plane Makers (1963), No Cloak, No Dagger (1963), The Avengers (three times – 1966/67/68) and Big Breadwinner Hog (1969) with Peter Egan, whom he had encouraged to become an actor when Egan was a young lad. In this excellent but very violent series Thomas is unmissable as a leather clad thug with a teddy boy quiff and a flick knife.
After the film Tales From The Crypt (1972) and an episode of Crown Court (1976) he disappeared from the acting profession for about thirty years due to the unfortunate illness of his wife. Having established himself as an onstage comedy stooge (he worked with Hancock, Benny Hill, Graham Stark and Jimmy Jewel) he had to turn down 35 weeks touring alongside Bob Monkhouse – such a commitment was impractical with two young children and a terminally ill partner and so he made the difficult decision to sever ties with his agent and accept no more offers.
In the early 80s he started a production company, and he kept his hand in the performance side of things when he provided the voice overs and the occasional presentation spot for the corporate videos that they made. Approaching the age at which most people retire, and with his children now grown up, he began to work professionally as an actor again and was very proactive in getting his own work – doing short films and modelling shoots whenever he could, and creating a character called Mr Grumpy.
In 2013 his face adorned the London underground as part of the Turn2US charity campaign, one of many posters he featured on in recent years (he also showed up for the NHS carers recruitment campaign and the Oxford Hearing Centre). He also contributed to advertising campaigns for Heineken (a James Bond/Skyfall tie in) and French Netflix. This sort of work was a callback to the 60s when he had a high old time appearing in adverts for all sorts including Don Carlos Cigars, Remington Razors, Rich Tea Biscuits, Black & Greens Tea, Guinness and Bilslands Bread. He was also an able guitarist and folk singer.
He was happy to be associated with Doctor Who, and kept up with it over the years:“It was caught the atmosphere of the 60s – and when they brought it back years later it was an instant success. One of my favourite Doctor Whos was Jon Pertwee and in the newer versions it has to be David Tennant. It was a good show”. Peter recently joined me and Kay Patrick to discuss The Savages for one of Fantom Films’ forthcoming Who Talk releases: he was sprightly and full of memories so the news of his passing was as surprising as it was saddening..
With thanks to Paul Dunn.
Peter Thomas took part in a Who’s Round which you can listen to here.
You can see my video of the Doctor Who names we lost in 2016 here.
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.
A key contributor to a story who didn’t appear on its DVD release,this villainous fellow turns out to be charming, chatty and slightly eccentric – and all the more interesting for it.
My friend Peter and I drove to the coast in order to spend a windsweptafternoon over a pint or two with this gent whose career has taken him to Canada and back, via three iconic entertainment stands : Doctor Who, Thunderbirds and James Bond.
So big thanks to Peter for putting the miles in, and thanks too to Mark Wright or facilitating an introduction.Have a listen to this latest episode here.
I was very excited about this one because I have always been very intrigued by the story of a guy who plays three very small roles (respectively Guard, Guard and Second Vardan) in Doctor Who and yet is a memorable and moving guest lead in another sci-fi classic, Sapphire & Steel, in the most haunting of all their adventures (Assignment Two, The Railway Station). He was also very nearly one of Blake’s 7 (which leads to one of the funniest stories in this weeks addition) and takes an enthusiastic trip down memory lane from his stunning London apartment where I was a very grateful guest. The episode is available here.
I’d like to put in a good word for Paul and Dexter at Fantom Films at this point – my latest guest is one of many with whom they have recently put me in touch.I occasionally dig to the odd Cybermen for Fantom too so it’s a very equitable arrangement – but they’re great guys and I very much enjoy comparing notes with Paul about the latest possible whereabouts of a Monoid or the excessive demands of a Functionary with ideas above his station.
I think I’ve been a bit remiss with my updates, so don’t forget to check out some of my other recent interviewees.There’s a timely chat about the demise of BBC Three as well as one of Doctor Who‘s more recent landmark stories with Lawry Lewin here. Let’s not forget Mr Ollis from The Three Doctors either: in his 90s ebullient Welshman Laurie Webb is nothing like his monosyllabic screen incarnation and recounts, with great glee, stories of working with Ivor Novello, Angela Lansbury and Tony Hancock. And then there’s the mighty Henry Woolf giving me a real feeling of job satisfaction as we discuss his superb performance as The Collector in The Sunmakers, just a small entry onto a CV that brings him into close contact with Pinter, Pete & Dud and Peter Brook among many others.
So plenty to catch up on, and all for free (but donations to the charity are appreciated).
The latest Who’s Round was actually conducted at the request of the interviewee.He has a special charity he would like to make you aware of. He has a heartfelt and moving story and highlights something most of us know nothing about but some of us could help with : and not necessarily with cash. Go to The Anthony Nolan Trust to find out more.
When you’ve done that have a listen tothis interview which runs from Pertwee to Baker and has first hand insight into what it is like to be an iconic villain AND a much loved companion. And there’s a charming account of a career that has enjoyed an extra blossoming relatively late and takes us all the way to Broadway but always with wry humour and self deprecation.
Thanks to Sue Cowley for setting up the interview.