Tag Archives: Doctor Who

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

Who’s Round 150!!!

WHO’S ROUND HITS A LANDMARK

RTDIt’s actually passed the landmark as I type this but I couldn’t not have a mention on my blog that we’ve arrived at edition 150 of my podcast of interviews with Doctor Who luminaries . It’s the last of my chats with the marvel that is Russell T Davies and, in a nice piece of tidiness  the final bit of footage that I recorded in 2013 to be released. I am so pleased that people have enjoyed listening to these chats with Mr Davies as much as I did meeting the great man. We had some fabulous old gossip off mic that will stay with me till the day I die but I still think we get some pretty candid chat and all of the trademark RTD bonhomie and insight. I gave Big Finish a load of bumph so that they could do a nice feature on their website so forgive me if I steal it back and post it here because – having missed acknowledging this landmark when it happened because I’m crazy busy – I obviously need to be getting on with things. Not least plugging number 151 , but that’s for another post …

The Big Finish Website reports: “In 2013 Toby began a celebration of fifty years of Doctor Who, with the momentous task of interviewing someone from every single Doctor Who story.

Feeling Doctors or companions are a bit too easy, he travels the country meeting legends of the show’s history both in front of and behind the camera, and chats to them about both Doctor Who itself and the lives his interview subjects have led since (and, indeed, before).

These interviews are shared as podcasts from the Big Finish website, which you can download or stream here, or subscribe to on iTunes. All episodes are free, so if you’ve enjoyed Toby’s chat, all he asks is that you give a donation to a charity nominated by the interview subject.

Now, 150 podcasts later, Toby is pleased to be releasing his final interview from his initial 2013 marathon – the seventh and final part of his in-depth interview with former Executive Producer Russell T Davies. And while there are still many more interviews recorded (and more to be recorded!), we thought it was right to take this chance to commemorate Toby’s journey so far. Here are a few words from the man himself:

It’s quite funny that the last one is number 150. It’s almost as if I had a plan. I never have a plan. And if I do it never works out how I’d imagined. When John Keeffe (whom I had never met at this point) challenged me on Twitter to “interview everyone from Doctor Who” to celebrate the 50th year and I suggested instead that I get a first hand anecdote from every story I thought I’d be able to call in a few favours from the Frazer Hineses and Katy Mannings of this world and do it that way. Only when I chatted to the brilliant Kevin McNally did I think that maybe this could be of interest beyond Doctor Who. The internet helped of course, with the likes of Lisa Bowerman opening her Big Book of Actors’ Contacts and Jim Bradshaw from BAFTA making overtures to members and giving me a bit of kudos by association. Suddenly I found myself timetabling in two or three interviews a day – fitting then into my travels around the country performing stand-up comedy, writing radio plays and getting divorced.

150 podcasts later and I’ve interviewed boom operators, Voord, make-up ladies and leading actors. The biggest hit has been the Russell T Davies interview so it’s only fitting that he headlines the climax of the 2013 interviews. I actually thought that getting him was a bit of a cheat: he practically knocked off the whole of the new series for me in one go! I also thought that because he was such a game contributor to Doctor Who Confidential that people might take him for granted a bit. Wrong! The editions with him have been hugely popular and of course he is a witty and candid and engaging subject and I was so lucky to have a whole day with him. I think it was the only interview he gave about Doctor Who in 2013 and, most importantly, his charity (The Terence Higgins Trust) actually contacted him to say that there’d been an upsurge in people making donations : people who all cited the Who’s Round interview as the reason for their pledge. So thanks listeners: I’m glad that people pay attention and oblige the entirely optional charitable element of the podcast.

I could have ended it here, but there was the odd person whom I had tried to secure in 2013 who for whatever reason hadn’t worked out. So I squeezed them in. And then I found other people. And so it went on. Plus, when Capaldi’s first season aired it turned out that I knew someone involved with every episode! So I haven’t confined myself to the stories that go up to 2013 – there are interviews in the can that relate to the very latest ones. So to come there are a few writers and actors from 2014-15, some more classic series contributors and some people who have been involved with key elements of the show who’ve not been interviewed before. Indeed as I speak I am off to interview two people, both of whom were married to important people connected with the show, both of whom have voiced iconic monsters, and both of whom were on hand as a new Doctor was ushered in by an old one. And I’ve not seen or read interviews with either of them anywhere.

I hope Who’s Round will stand as an oral history of certain aspects of the entertainment industry over the past 50 odd years. I’ve spoken to people who knew Pinter, worked with Olivier, and met Ivor Novello. I’ve uncovered a fact about Meglos, drunk wine with Brian Croucher and Skyped people in New Zealand, India, Canada and the USA. I’ve been shown such generosity and hospitality from people from all walks of life who are all united by having crossed paths – sometimes very briefly – with Doctor Who. Highlights? Milton Johns and myself in obligatory collar and tie in the Garrick Club and him giving me a guided tour: every nook and cranny with its own anecdote elegantly rendered by Mr Johns; John Moreno’s extraordinary story about being court-martialled; Geoffrey Bayldon’s unprintable phone conversation with me. And so many more.

I guess that’s why I’m still doing it. I don’t get paid, in fact each one costs me, but I consider it to be a hobby which just happens to produce a product that hopefully entertains and informs others, and one testifies to the skill and dedication of the many very talented individuals who made a silly programme about a time traveling police box something rather special.’

Toby Hadoke’s Who’s Round #150 is available to download today – with Russell T Davies’ nominated charity being the Terrance Higgins Trust. Please take the time to donate if you have enjoyed an interview.”

Obituaries Round Up

OBITUARIES ROUND UP

Here is how it works – if I haven’t been asked to do an obituary of someone for a paper I will try to do a good one here. Even if I have been asked, I still might blog about them, but giving a more personal or Doctor Who flavoured slant to the piece. I was very flattered when I was asked by the Herald Scotland newspaper if they might use some of the work here and publish it in their pages. I was delighted to agree and so I tweaked my obituary of Kenneth Gilbert and it appeared in the hard copy of the paper last week. That version (different from the one on this blog) and can be found on the Herald’s website here.

This week I have been rather busy becoming a kind of literary Hayley Joel Osment: a sad duty, maybe sign of a morbid disposition, but I like to think I’m giving proper their due. And so I am pleased that Doctor Who Magazine have commissioned a lengthy piece from me about Derek Ware which will be appearing in a forthcoming issue. 

Anthony Read-2The Guardian asked me to write a piece on Anthony Read, Doctor Who writer and script editor, BBC producer, and prolific contributor of scripts to loads of memorable series. Also a very lovely fellow. He was interviewed for Who’s Round, briefly, and the results are here. His family, especially his daughter Emma, were incredible helpful and patient at a very difficult time but it has really helped the piece so my thanks to them.

He was never in Doctor Who and I didn’t know him so I am incredibly flattered to have been entrusted with the obituary of an actor I greatly admired, Anthony Valentine, and his piece came out in today’s paper and is online here. As a general note, Richard Bignell and Rob Fairclough are the sort of unsung heroes one goes to when one wants a bit of help with these things and they are always unfailingly and speedily on hand with assistance. Richard, for example, delves into his database at all hours of the day for the kind of information that is essential but often difficult to access. So thanks to them.

108693-2In related news, prolific Doctor Who extra Terence Denville, who had a pretty busy career as a character actor on stage and played small roles on TV (he received his only onscreen credit on Doctor Who as a Cyberman in The Invasion but was also an Ice Warrior in The Monster Of Peladon amongst other non-speaking bits) passed away in October.  Those of you fascinated by the political affiliations of minor Doctor Who actors may be interested to know that he stood for parliament for the National Front a few times. A friend who worked with him said that he had never mentioned it on the many times they had spent together in dressing rooms but there we go.

P1320684Finally, I was sad to find out about the death – aged 79 – of stuntman Roy Street who worked on a few Doctor Whos (Terror Of The Autons, The Curse Of Peladon, The Masque Of Mandragora) but whose impressive list of credits outshine Saturday teatime television and bestride the movie industry. I use “bestride” advisedly as he was an excellent rider and could steer two horses at once – standing with one foot on the saddle of each one and taking both pairs of reins. He could also be relied on to do driving and motorcycling and his impressive list of credits includes lots of James Bonds (including as recently as Skyfall), lots of Sharpes and comes right up to date with Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

His old buddy Derek Martin – Charlie Slater in Eastenders no less – told me: “He taught me riding, he taught me how to pull horses over. He was great. He went to Italy to film The Borgias to do his horse trick down a hill. Anyway, he got there and it turned out they wanted him to ride two horses who were shod, bear back, on cobbles. And – typical of Roy – he did it.

“Funny with Roy – whatever job he was on the first thing he’d ask about was “What about laundry money?”. Say it was even two grand a week he’d say “Does that include laundry money”. Laundry money! It’d only be about 7’6″ but he’d still want to know if it was included. Ha! He was a good man though, a good man.”

Thanks to Derek for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his stories with me.

Kenneth Gilbert 1931-2015 : Douglas Camfield regular dies

KENNETH GILBERT DIES AGED 84

Kenneth Gilbert as Richard Dunbar in The Seeds Of Doom.
Kenneth Gilbert as Richard Dunbar in The Seeds Of Doom.

Kenneth Gilbert, who played World Ecology Bureau official Richard Dunbar in the Tom Baker classic The Seeds Of Doom (1976) has died at the age of 84. Prematurely grey and with distinguished granite features, he often played authority figures, although the one he portrayed in Doctor Who found himself on the wrong side of the fence. Dissatisfied with seeing “non-entities” promoted in his place he sells the location of the Krynoid seed pod to eccentric millionaire Harrison Chase and so initiates a chain of events which nearly results in mankind’s consumption by lethal alien vegetation. He has an attack of conscience and tries to remedy the situation, leading to Chase’s famous instruction to his underling – “Scorby – get Dunbar”. Scorby doesn’t get him but the Krynoid does, and the civil servant perishes in the climax of episode four. It’s a strong performance from Gilbert who maintains a stoical dignity even when selling his soul: he had a gift for subtle underplaying which lent his characters a touch of class and made him such an essential actor for character parts.

Born in Devon in 1931, Gilbert’s early stage work included a 1957/58 stint with what was to become the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre playing (amongst others) Balthazar in Romeo And Juliet (with Richard Johnson and Dorothy Tutin), Valentine in Twelfth Night and the Priest to Michael Redgrave’s Hamlet. He stayed at Stratford for the following season playing opposite Charles Laughton’s King Lear and Paul Robeson’s Othello.

He was the principal actor at Pitlochry’s 1975 season playing Solness in The Master Builder and Richard in On Approval. For the Old Vic he  toured in Henry VI Parts I and II and Henry V (1974-1975) and played the key role of Enobarbus opposite Alec McCowen’s Antony in their 1977-1978 Antony And Cleopatra (Derek Jacobi was Caesar). Other theatre work included St Joan  with Eileen Atkins (Prospect Theatre 1977), Judge Brack to Joanna Lumley’s Hedda Gabler (Dundee 1985), Boyet in Love’s Labours Lost (Ipswich, 1992) and the title role in The Wizard Of Oz (for the RSC at the Theatre Royal, Bath 1994-1995).

Gilbert was often seen in uniform, including in this episode of The Sweeeney.
Gilbert was often seen in uniform, including in this episode of The Sweeeney.

He was a familiar face on television, appearing on the small screen as early as 1953 in The Heir Of Skipton. He kept busy throughout the 1950s and by 1961 was playing opposite William Russell’s Hamlet. Prominent roles included Friar Tuck in Wolfshead: The Legend Of Robin Hood (1969) and Harold Earle in House Of Cards and To Play The King (1990/93) and these were augmented by countless guest parts in everything from No Hiding Place (1963) to Hustle (2011) via Callan (1969), The Mind Of Mr JG Reader (1971), Crown Court (1973),  Edward VII (1975), The Changes (1975), The New Avengers (1976), Testament Of Youth (1979), Enemy At the Door (1980),  The Gentle Touch (1981), Cracker (1995) and Midsommer Murders (2003) often playing policemen, doctors or authority figures. He could consider himself to be one of Douglas Camfield’s rep of actors and worked with the acclaimed director many times including on The Sweeney (1976) and Ivanhoe (1982) : Camfield liked casting actors he knew could do the job and wouldn’t need too much direction, so his continued use of Gilbert can be taken as a mark of his quality. Gilbert also had an underused gift for comedy as well as a natural authority which mad him so useful to at bringing presence and watchability to potentially dull roles.

Kenneth Gilbert recalling The Seeds Of Doom for the BBC DVD release.
Kenneth Gilbert recalling The Seeds Of Doom for the BBC DVD release.

He almost didn’t make it into Doctor Who. As he recalled many years later “I rang the production office and said ‘Look, I think I’ve caught my daughter’s chicken pox.'” He thought this would involve taking a couple of days off but under doctor’s orders was out of action for several weeks. He could easily have lost the job but instead the studio schedule was altered to accommodate his absence – a great deal of trouble and expense in order to retain the services of an actor deemed vital to the success of the production.

He married the actress Beth Harris in 1966 and the couple lived in East Anglia for many years. She predeceased him, passing away in 2012. Kenneth Gilbert died on October 29th.

Who’s Round episode 143

TOBY HADOKE’S WHO’S ROUND EPISODE 143

imageI am a bit pleased with myself about this one. I had done a DVD documentary about this particular story which brought me into contact with many of its first cast. It would have been easy for me to call one of them. But the thing is, the interviews I had done were already in the Who’s Round mould. Time was running out though, and bizarrely there were three consecutive stories from this period that I had failed to cover.

But…

I thought I’d give it a go and instead of calling one of those actors I knew and whom I could access because they were based in London I’d instead contact someone who didn’t know me from Adam and who lived in a different continent.

And he presto – this is the result. Enjoy it here:

http://www.bigfinish.com/podcasts/v/toby-hadoke-s-who-s-round-142-october-03

 

 

 

 

Neville Jason RIP – “Androids Of Tara” actor dies

Neville Jason, who died recently.
Neville Jason, who died recently.

Neville Jason, the actor who played Prince Reynart in the 1978  Tom Baker story The Androids Of Tara has died. His good looks and bearing had an old fashioned and regal quality that made him perfect casting for the prince, a part that also required him to perform as an occasionally malfunctioning android. The serial is rather splendidly acted and whilst the likes of Peter Jeffrey and Declan Mulholland have all the fun, Jason does a fine job of giving lustre to a potentially dull part: and his innate poise and effortless charm are spot on, fulfilling exactly the needs of director Michael Hayes.

The Androids Of Tara was written to ape The Prisoner Of Zenda, which had first been adapted for film in 1937 “Michael cast me as Prince Reynart because The Prisoner Of Zenda starred Ronald Colman and Michael thought if I put on a pencil moustache I’d look like Ronald Colman,” he recalled years later. His role required that he share the screen with Mary Tamm’s as Romana. “Neville was very good in the part,” she felt “because he had that romantic hero look which was essential. He was lovely, very nice to work with.”

As Prince Reynart in The Androids Of Tara.
As Prince Reynart in The Androids Of Tara.

Co-star Paul Lavers who played his bodyguard swordsman Farrah remembered him with great affection. “He was a gentlemen: he was like a breed of actor that I’d read about – terribly, terribly well spoken, effete and very well read. He was just a joy to be with.”

Jason trained at RADA where his voice work was noted early and he received the diction prize from Sir John Gielgud: this was to stand him in good stead throughout his career. He has walk-on roles during the 1957/58 season at the RSC, carrying spears for the likes of John Neville’s Hamlet and touring with Laurence Olivier’s Titus Andronicus before joining Birmingham Rep. Other theatre roles included such romantic leads as John Worthing in The Importance of Being Ernest, Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, and Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac. He also appeared in a number of musicals.

On television he was Horatio to Barry Foster’s Hamlet (1961) and played regular roles such as Lapointe opposite Rupert Davies as Maigret (1960-63 – on which he first met Michael Hayes) and Mr Bob Turner in Emergency Ward 10 (1965). Hefty roles after Doctor Who included and Malcolm Penny in Goodbye Darling (1981) and hitman Constant Delangre in Skorpion (1983).  Other TV work included Dixon Of Dock Green (1966), Barlow (1974/75), Churchill’s People (1975), Warship (1976), Armchair Thriller: Rachel In Danger (1978), Minder (1984), The Tripods (1985) and Adrain Shergold’s TV film Ahead Of The Class (2005) with Julie Walters. He also appeared on the big screen in the Bond film From Russia With Love (1963) and Ridley Scott’s big screen debut The Duellists (1977).

A2006He had great success as an audiobook narrator. He recorded the whole of War And Peace, an epic which came in at 70 hours upon completion. The Washington Post described him as “the audiobook world’s unofficial marathon man”. And no wonder: he was a huge aficionado of Proust and abridged and recorded the whole of the massive Remembrance Of Things Past, even translating the last volume himself. The result is a 150 hour long recording available on 120 CDs. His credits as an audiobook reader were extensive and award winning, and some of those that he directed won Talkie Awards. His voice was also put to good use as a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company on three occasions and latterly he lent his tones to computer games as well.

He also co-wrote The Sculpture of Frank Dobson: his wife Gillian had opened a gallery in their Camden home in the early 1980s and still works selling modern British art and advising galleries. She survives him.

Neville Jason 1934-2015

With thanks to Malcolm Franks.