Tag Archives: Doctor Who obituary

SONIA MARKHAM RIP – Hartnell make-up designer dies

SONIA MARKHAM RIP

Sonia MarkhamSonia Markham, who was the make-up supervisor of Doctor Who for the majority of the Hartnell era has died at the age of 78.

Her connection with the show began early on when she was a make-up artist on The Sensorites (1964), assisting Jill Summers, and she continued in that capacity until promoted to senior designer on for the second production block, beginning with The Rescue. During her tenure her responsibilities included Kevin Stoney’s distinctive look as Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Masterplan (1965/66), ageing Ewen Solon as tribe leader Chal in The Savages (1966) and applying series star William Hartnell’s wig, an act she was photographed performing by the Daily Mirror in a series of memorable behind-the-scenes shots. Her final credit for the show was on The Smugglers (1966).

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Guest star Ewen Solon was barely recognisable under Sonia’s make-up for the Doctor Who story The Savages (1966).

Sonia Markham was born in 1938, the daughter of the actor David Markham and radio dramatist Olive Dehn. She was the eldest of four daughters – respected actress Kika (Edward & Mrs Simpson, A Very British Coup) is the widow of Corin Redgrave; Ace of Wands star Petra played Safiya in the Doctor Who story The Crusade (and so was made up by her elder sibling); the poet and dramatist Jehane is the widow of Only Fools And Horses and Rise Of The Cybermen actor Roger Lloyd-Pack.

After Doctor Who she worked on The Three Musketeers (1966), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1967), and Dombey and Son (1969).

Sonia with William Russell, Joe Greig, Toby Hadoke and Ray Cusick on the DVD commentary recording for The Sensorites. Photo: Simon Harries.
Sonia with William Russell, Joe Greig, Toby Hadoke and Ray Cusick on the DVD commentary recording for The Sensorites. Photo: Simon Harries.

Having given up her career in television she retrained as a psychotherapist and counsellor and campaigned for humanitarian and environmental issues. She and her husband wrote to The Guardian in 2015 highlighting their opposition to government plans to charge for demonstrations and signalling their intent to join the forthcoming Climate Change march. She also contributed to the DVD commentaries on her stories The Sensorites and Planet of Giants and was happy to give interviews about her time on the show.

She married Ernest Rodker, her long term partner, in 2002. He survives her, as do their two sons Oliver and Joel.

Sonia G Markham 1938 – 2016.

With thanks to Anneke Wills.

Photos copyright © Simon Harries.

FRANCES PIDGEON RIP – actress and Lennie Mayne’s widow dies.

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Frances Pidgeon photographed by Ken Russell in 1956, the year she married Doctor Who director Lennie Mayne (© Topfoto)

The actress Frances Pidgeon who appeared twice in Doctor Who has died at the age of 84. Her first role was an uncredited one, as the non speaking handmaiden of Queen Thalira in The Monster Of Peladon (1974). Her second role was more substantial, as Miss Jackson, the assistant to Professor Watkins in The Hand Of Fear (1976). The uniting factor of these two stories was director Lennie Mayne, to whom Pigeon was married until he was lost at sea in an accident in 1977.

Born in Epsom in May 1931, the tall, athletic and beautiful Pidgeon was a ballerina and dancer in musicals : an early appearance was in 1947-48 in Alice In Wonderland at the Shakespeare Memorial theatre (later the Royal Shakespeare Company) at Stratford-Upon-Avon. Mayne was an Australian who also began his career as a dancer and the pair worked together on stage, notably in 364 performances of Cole Porter’s musical Can-Can at the Coliseum in the West End in 1954/55. They married in 1956 and had twin girls in 1964.

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Pidgeon demonstrates an “Alternative Use For A Hip Bath” in another of Russell’s experiments in still photography (© Topfoto).

In 1956 she was picked by Ken Russell to be the subject of various photographs he took which showcased her beauty and married it with surrealistic props – in one her bare legs emerge from beneath a tin hip bath, in another she wears a lampshade as a skirt. She and Russell had danced together at the London Theatre Ballet and hung out together at the Troubadour coffee bar.

On screen she danced in Love From Judy (1953), many episodes of On The Bright Side (1959) with Stanley Baxter and Betty Marsden, This Is Bobby Darin (1959), Die Kleinste Show Der Welt (1960), Up Jumped A Swagman (1963)  Were Those Days (1969) and and episode of Omnibus about the waltz (1969). She also choreographed a sequence for an episode of Are You Being Served? (1976) and an Alan Plater penned Play Of The Week in 1978 called Night People (1978).

She was one of the supporting ensemble in the Mike Yarwood and Lulu vehicle, the series Three Of A Kind (1967) and gradually began to take small roles on television, often in productions directed by her husband such as Doomwatch (1971/72) and The Brothers (1975).

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Pidgeon as Miss Jackson in Doctor Who’s The Hand Of Fear.

There is no particular of nepotism here because Mayne – a universally adored figure – surrounded himself by people he knew when he was working, whether he was married to them or not. The number of productions in which Pidgeon and Mayne’s names also intersect with those of Denys Palmer, Rex and Pat Robinson (Patricia Prior) or Laurie Webb (all of whom appeared in Mayne’s The Three Doctors) are numerous and comprised a mutually supportive and respectful unit of artists and friends. The Robinsons and the Webbs lived very close to Mayne family as well and helped to provide a support network for Pidgeon after Mayne’s tragic death.

She had been in ill health for some time and passed away earlier this month. The twins survive her.

FRANCES PIDGEON 1931-2016