All posts by Toby

Pat Gorman – Who’s “That Guy”

PAT GORMAN

“It’s wotsisname.” The instantly recognisable Pat Gorman in 1981.

In issue 537 of Doctor Who Magazine I had the opportunity to pay tribute to Pat Gorman. He was the ultimate I-Know-The-Face-But… performer – a familiar figure to TV watchers in the 60s, 70s and 80s, he gave you the nagging feeling that you’d seen him somewhere before. Probably because you had. He was a hotel guest dropping off keys in the Fawlty Towers episode The Builders (1975), he conducted surveillance in the first episode of The Sandbaggers (1978), and served with the Foreign Legion in Douglas Camfield’s BBC  Beau Geste (1982). His CV took in pretty much every small screen classic: The Saint (1963), The Forsyte Saga (1968), Adam Adamant Lives (1966-67), The Prisoner (1967),  Dad’s Army (1969), Doomwatch (1970), Dixon of Dock Green (1970), Callan (1972), Public Eye (1972), On The Buses (1973), The Two Ronnies (1973), The Tomorrow People (1975/1979), The Onedin Line (1976), I Claudius (1976), Porridge (1976), The Sweeney (1978),  Secret Army (1978-79), The Professionals (1978-82), Minder (1979-82), Hammer House of Horror (1980), Day of the Triffids (1981), Blake’s 7 (1978-81) The Young Ones (1982) ‘Allo ‘Allo (1984) The Bill (1984), Miss Marple (1985) Magnum PI (1985 – yes, you read that right, this one was shot in the UK), The New Statesman (1992), Poirot (1992/1993), and Soldier, Soldier in 1994.  And thats just scratching the surface! Most importantly to this corner of the internet, he appeared in over 100 episodes of Doctor Who across 41 stories, sometimes with a line or two, sometimes with a credit, and sometimes behind layers of make-up or latex. 

A mosaic, by the talented Ben Jolly, of some of Pat’s Doctor Who appearances: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Mission to the Unknown, The War Machines, The Abominable Snowmen, The Enemy of the World, The Invasion, The War Games, Doctor Who and the Silurians, Inferno, Terror of the Autons, Colony in Space (twice!), The Sea Devils, The Three Doctors, Frontier on Space, The Green Death.

In my DWM article, none of which I will replicate here – print media needs supporting and the issue is still available from the publishers, so please buy it if you haven’t already – I spoke to Pat’s friends and colleagues who were fulsome in their praise of him as a company member and as a person. There’s space here, that I didn’t have in DWM, for a few extra thoughts and memories from those tributes here.

When I broke the news of Pat’s passing to Doctor Who director Michael Briant (for whom Pat played a number of roles in 1971’s  Colony in Space, and was the first representative of 1972’s The Sea Devils) he said: “How very sad to hear Pat has died. He was a very important part of so many Doctor Who productions back then. A story was not complete without Pat playing some role or other.  He was the totally professional extra/walk-on and could always be relied on to do and act what was required. A very nice man and a pleasure to work with.  He made a contribution to my era of Doctor Who that was extensive and valuable. And that was why he was used so often.”

Pat turns up in the first episode of The Sandbaggers.

For AFM and production manager Margot Hayhoe Pat was extremely helpful in the productions she used him on: “I loved having dear Pat on any show as he was so reliable. He came out to Yugoslavia on [the epic 1972/73 BBC production of] War & Peace to play different soldiers as required. A great charmer, may he rest in peace.”

Production manager Sue Upton worked with him on many shows, including Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970) in which he had a hefty part as the Silurian Scientist: “He was always the number one choice to have around on set and especially away on location in whatever role – and yes, he could speak the odd scripted line too.  He was willing to do whatever was needed in whatever location or odd costume he had to wear.”

Since putting the article together I have been in touch with a few more of Pat’s colleagues, including costume designer June Hudson: “Pat loved the job. He had that chameleon quality of absorbing the character, always looking dead right in every costume he wore. If it was Pat, no worries. A sweet friendly artiste, greatly loved and admired.”

Mr Gorman is checking out of Fawlty Towers, probably because he’s got a gig somewhere else…

Love and admiration for Pat weren’t confined to the worlds of Doctor Who though. Costume designer Maggie Partington-Smith remembers his foray into Shakespeare – albeit dressed head to foot in a bear suit – in the BBC’s A Winter’s Tale (1981) “Lovely man – he nearly suffocated inside the costume but just laughed it off.” Laughter also came in Light Entertainment too, with producer John Adams recalling that he “always gave him parts as an extra because he could, if called upon, deliver a couple of lines. [Pat was] a very charming person liked by all he worked with.”

Actually, such tributes were fairly easy to come by – over the years I’ve interviewed loads of people from that era of television and they’ve always recalled Pat with a smile. Unfortunately, despite much digging, I’d never been unable to find out that much about Pat himself – Births, Marriages and Deaths records are awash with Patrick Gormans so working out which one was him was never going to be easy: I patted myself on the back that, for the DWM article, I’d narrowed his birth date down to 1930-32 and, as you’ll see, I shouldn’t have done. 

We never managed to persuade him to contribute to the DVDs or be interviewed for Doctor Who Magazine, and I had not managed to find the unedited versions of the two interviews with him I knew to have been conducted. They’re all we have really – quotes from him about working on 1968’s  The Invasion (from David Banks’ Cyberman book), and some soundbites selected for the I Was That Monster feature played before the 1993 Planet of the Daleks repeat (frustratingly I located most of the full versions of all the other interviews conducted for this programme, but not the one with Pat).

Nevertheless, it was good that DWM were still prepared to run my piece about Pat which took its cue from Eastenders actor, and old mate of Pat, Derek Martin, who described him as “the unknown soldier” of British TV. Always there, doing good work, but not many paid him much attention nor knew his name. Since the publication of the article, I have been contacted by Pat’s family, and they have very kindly allowed us to know him a little bit more.

Pat Gorman in a rare appearance as himself talking about the time when I Was That Monster (1993 – BBC1).

William Patrick Gorman was born in the East End of London on May 10th 1933 but his was a childhood blighted by sadness. Both of his parents died before he was five years old and so he was sent to live with his grandmother and so separated from his sister (who was housed by an aunt). There was no money and so he had his first brush on the fringes of show business by hanging around at the stage door of the opera house and running errands for pennies (which he would take home and give to his grandma).

Like many East End kids he was evacuated during the war, but unlike some he flourished in the countryside – he struck lucky, billeted to a farm with kindly foster parents he discovered a love for animals, wildlife and the rural surroundings that stayed with him for life.

He went back to live with his grandmother after the war and at school was an extremely proficient sportsman, particularly on the football field. His early promise found him set for a career with Arsenal but unfortunately two injuries to his knee, which resulted in his cartilage being removed, put paid to that. He still played at an amateur level though, and never lost his love for Arsenal – and his fellow extras and East End lads Derek Martin and Steve Ismay attest that even if he didn’t make it as a pro he remained an extremely talented player (they had both first encountered him playing Sunday League football at Hackney Marshes), maintaining a number of contacts in footballing circles.

Pat advertises an upcoming TV appearance in The Stage in 1978

Inevitably, thanks to time and geography, he also had contacts with the more unsavoury side of East End life: he knew gangster brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray and their rivals the Richardsons, but always kept his nose clean. Nonetheless there was one occasion when – in a case of mistaken identity – a contract was put out on his head, which was hair-raising for a few days. Fortunately the error was pointed out to the right people and Pat was able to stop looking over his shoulder.

Unfortunate potential contract killings aside, he had a fair few adventures as a young man – he served in the army after leaving school and then travelled around Canada. Without any money – but with a little help from the Salvation Army – he was an itinerant worker, mucking in as a miner and a logger, doing backbreaking work and avoiding grizzly bears. He’d planned to stay in Canada but moved back to the East End to look after his grandma when she was widowed. Whilst working at Smithfield Market he kept noticing a man who was handing out a phone number and asked what it was all about – the man represented an agency looking after extras and stuntmen and so Pat put himself forward and, after a meeting had been arranged, hit it off with the agent. 

Having been instructed by the agent to buy himself a posh suit for auditions he did so on his way to the hospital following the birth of his son. His wife Vera remembers being none too pleased when Pat turned up to the hospital with a big bundle – something she assumed was some sort of present to mark the happy moment – which turned out to be his new clobber. At the time jacking in the job on the market didn’t seem like the best decision he’d ever made either – though history now tells us otherwise.

He did’t really need to advertise so this blurred still from the set of 1976’s Rogue Male was used by Pat in the 1978/79 edition of Spotlight.

“He absolutely loved the business,” recalls Vera, and it was a business that loved him back. As well as the many, many programmes readers of this blog will doubtless always be delighted to see him turn up in, he did modelling work, adverts (often for foreign countries and unseen here) and networked his way into all sorts of opportunities.”We’ve got all these book covers” laughs his daughter Jackie “someone’s lying dead – [and it’s] Pat with a dagger in his chest or something!” Eventually he didn’t even need an agent – every production team had his number and contacted him directly, handily saving him 10% of a fee he might otherwise have had to give away. He occasionally advertised in the industry directory Spotlight, but not that often. People knew Pat and knew where to find him, and the work kept rolling in. 

Although his appetite for the business was huge, Vera says that “at work he was out there and gregarious but once he got home he was a much more quiet and private man”. Jackie agrees “There was a generous, lively side of him who did well in his work but there was the quieter side at home. He was great to have as a father.”

Pat’s name didn’t always make the credits, but here it is at the end of episode 4 of the Doctor Who story The Armageddon Factor.

As for his work highlights, Jackie is says that “I think his big love was Doctor Who. He was very proud that he had the main characters but nobody knew it was him – the werewolf, the sea monster. He sat for hours having this make-up done. He rather liked being these weird, kooky characters – it sort of appealed to a side of his nature”.

As well as playing various monsters, Pat got his face on screen a fair few times, often in featured roles – he’s the UNIT corporal warning the Brigadier about a Stegosaurus around the corner in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), a casually brutal Thal Soldier in Genesis of the Daleks (1975, “Oh kill it off, it’s too slow” he says of a lagging Sarah-Jane), and spends a couple of episodes in a time loop with John Woodvine’s Marshall as the Pilot in The Armageddon Factor (1979). They’re never parts that required showy acting, but if Pat hadn’t been any good we would all have noticed. His solidity, his earthy believability, made him invaluable in these parts – and sometimes the smallest ones with the fewest lines are the hardest to pull off. Television of that period is awash with stiff or stilted cough and spitters, but Pat had a naturalism that made him invaluable. Good acting isn’t just about vocal ability though – physical prowess is important too, and he was just as adept at wearing cumbersome monster costumes well.  It’s easy to shamble in latex, but Pat never did.

There were many, many other shows of course – he frequently illuminated the background in long running classics like Eastenders and Z-Cars: “We were tall and short haired so we fit any job” says Steve Ismay, who worked with Pat a lot, “we had many a laugh and a good drink or ten – he was always a laugh and a great friend”. In fact Pat was offered a substantial role in Eastenders but at the same time he was offered extra work on a film in China and took that because the opportunity to travel was an appealing one – “I think at the end of the day that was something he wondered if he should have taken” says Jackie, but on balance reckons it was for the best. “I’m not sure if he really wanted the limelight to be honest,” she says. “I think he quite liked being hidden behind masks and always being in the background. I think he just liked being part of the business as it were. He was in constant work and he enjoyed it.”

Both screen legends in their own way – Pat Gorman, in a rare credited movie role, as the policeman in The Elephant Man, alongside Anthony Hopkins.

His private nature certainly wasn’t a reflection of what he thought of the fans who expressed their interest. “He had so many people sending photographs and he would always sign them and reply. It was important that they got what they wanted. If they were a genuine fan who’d taken the time to contact him then that’s what he was about – he was happy, ” says Jackie. Our lack of interviews with him is another matter. “He was asked to go to so many conferences, and things for the BBC, but he wouldn’t go – that was the quiet side of him. I think he felt he couldn’t really do it. I think once he retired he stepped back from all those things.”

Pat’s last credited TV role, in an episode of Soldier, Soldier (1994)
He’s still at it. Pat, turning up in a recently rerun 1989 episode of Eastenders.

 

 

 

 

 

At home though, Jackie happily recalls that “he loved to tell stories about Doctor Who and the hairy things that happened to him at the East End. He was good fun. An incredible sense of humour, that’s something that’s very important about Pat – everybody said how funny he was. Not in a way of wanting to be funny or have people looking at him … it was just natural – these remarks would come out which were hysterically funny. He was very much a people observer as well – he was quite a character.”

Steve Ismay concurs, remembering lots of laughter with his old mate Pat “He made us all laugh – funny git, loved a giggle. I have been to many funerals with him on film – on Steptoe and Son we laughed so much we got a commendation from the director who thought we were crying!”

Ben Jolly’s second mosaic of Pat’s Doctor Who appearances: Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Planet of the Spiders, Robot, Genesis of the Daleks, Revenge of the Cybermen (twice), The Seeds of Doom, The Masque of Mandragora, The Deadly Assassin, The Invisible Enemy, The Ribos Operation, The Armageddon Factor, City of Death, Warrior’s Gate, Enlightenment, Attack of the Cybermen.

Pat passed away after a short illness in October 2018, but so long as people are watching Doctor Who he’ll always be around, even if it’s only for long enough for someone to say “oh, it’s that guy.” “That guy” is now remembered (with the correct birthdate too!) on BAFTA’s In Memoriam page, and quite right too.

Pat may not have been a star, but he was definitely part of the Doctor Who family, and news of his death has even drawn comment from the fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker. “Pat seemed always to be there,” Tom  told me last week. “We took it for granted that his good natured enthusiasm was part of the deal. He liked what I did and told me so, and I found that delightful and I suppose I agreed with him. Of course I have never left and I am sorry Pat Gorman has gone on ahead.”

“There was a sweet quality about him, as if … as if he was quite contented and happy to be in Doctor Who.”

And we were happy to have him. 

With special thanks to Jackie Finegan, Vera Gorman and thanks to Tom Baker, June Hudson, Ben Jolly, Margot Hayhoe, Katy Manning, Sue Upton, Michael Briant, Steve Ismay, Derek Martin, June Hudson, Marcia Wheeler, Ed Stradling, John Adams.

Pat Gorman, remembered by BAFTA.

JULY 2019 UPDATES

HERE’S WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO AND WHERE I MIGHT BE LURKING OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS…

First up … I’m delighted to announce that for writing work I will now be represented by the Independent Talent Group, an illustrious agency and no mistake. They represent Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jed Mercurio, Jessica Hynes, Jeremy Dyson, Patrick Harbinson and Harry Hill and so clearly needed to dilute their talent pool with an under-achiever. Onwards!

The Independent Talent Group. My new agent!

I will be be a panellist on Sarah Millican’s new Radio 4 series Elephant in the Room, joining Annabel Giles, Lucy Beaumont and Evelyn Mok and hopefully being funny enough to justify being invited on. I think I’m in episode 3, on July 11th, but am not 100% sure – listen to the whole series anyway as it is very good!

Recording Elephant on the Room at The Lowry with producer Leanne Coop, host Sarah Millican and guests Evelyn Mok, Annabel Giles and Lucy Beaumont.

I will be recording another instalment of the ongoing Radio 4 exploits of Tinsel Girl, inspired by and starring Coronation Street‘s Cherylee Houston –  this month. Not sure when it is going to be on yet.

I have had to write three Guardian obituaries in quick succession recently. We said goodbye to Blake’s 7’s Avon himself, Paul Darrow, who besides being a hugely entertaining actor whose battle-ready pose upon materialising on a planet is one of the best things ever, was also an enjoyably witty raconteur and very good company. A man with a voice that could move mountains and woo angels, Stephen Thorne was a fine actor whose eulogy at Nicholas Courtney’s memorial service was breathtaking – the only time I’ve ever been moved by the sheer quality of a voice irrespective of what it was saying.  I interviewed Stephen for my podcast, and the results can be heard here. Edward Kelsey was an interview subject in my first professionally published piece of writing – best known as Joe Grundy from The Archers he was also the first actor to appear opposite more than one Doctor Who and gave me some great stories from his time on the 1966 adventure Power of the Daleks (and I saw him again when we recorded the DVD commentary for that story a couple of years ago). So I had the privilege of spending time with all three men and enjoyed their company a lot – the acting profession owes them a great deal and I’m lucky to have been in their respective orbits.

Edward Kelsey, whom I photographed as he and Anneke Wills chatted about their memories of working on Power of the Daleks when we recorded the DVD commentary for that story in 2016.

The next Doctor Who Blu-Ray box set has been announced. It is Season 10, and this Jon Pertwee fest will feature a documentary fronted by me called Looking For Lennie in which I try to find out all I can about the late Australian director, who died in tragic circumstances and before Doctor Who fandom had a chance to get to know him. It’ll be released this month.

I go Looking For Lennie on the next Doctor Who Blu-Ray set, but will I find anything?

It’s Edinburgh Preview Season at XS Malarkey. I’ll be MCing them all and there are some really big names trying their fringe entries out before August: Tony Law, Sarah Kendall, Sara Barron,  Catherine Bohart, Adam Hess and Laura Davies are among those taking part in the next few weeks. Listings details are available at  the XS Malarkey Website.

Follow me on Twitter @tobyhadoke and I’m now also on Instagram (though I’m not convinced) at toby.hadoke: it’s currently largely pictures of a bin store I made.

APRIL 2019 UPDATE

LATEST UPDATES (April 2019)

I seem to be doing a lot of podcast interviews at the moment. Here’s one I did about Target books and other things Doctor Who and career related.

I’ve had the sad privilege of doing a couple of obituaries for the Guardian this month. One for Thunderbirds actor Shane Rimmer with whom I did a Doctor Who DVD commentary a few years back, and one for the comedian Ian Cognito who was an old mucker and a colleague I admired very much. I will also be on a forthcoming edition of The Last Word on Radio 4 talking about Cogs. 

The next Doctor Who Blu-Ray box set has been announced. It is Season 10, and this Jon Pertwee fest will feature a documentary fronted by me called Looking For Lennie in which I try to find out all I can about the late Australian director, who died in tragic circumstances and before Doctor Who fandom had a chance to get to know him.

I go Looking For Lennie on the next Doctor Who Blu-Ray set, but will I find anything?

I was very honoured to be the subject of the latest episode of Stuart Goldsmith’s highly regarded Comedian’s Comedian Podcast. I talk about the state of the circuit, some of my influences and the background of my shows – amongst quite a lot of other things (it’s quite a long conversation!). It is available here.

BBC Sounds currently has every episode of Tinsel Girl – the radio series starring Cherylee Houston about a wheelchair trying to negotiate the world of dating – available to listen to. I pop us as various people in three out of the four series. You can hear them all here

XS Malarkey won Best Comedy Club in the North for a record 15th time in this year’s Chortle Awards. We are promising a fantastic set of line-ups every Tuesday in 2019. I’ll be MCing as always and guests include rising star Sophie Willan.  Listings details are available at  the XS Malarkey Website.

Also this year…

I notice I didn’t put my monthly updates up as blog pages in Jan, Feb and March so, in brief:

I’m on the DVD commentary for The Macra Terror, which is available now.

The Macra Terror gets all animated on DVD in March…

I did a nice interview for Neil Perryman’s Perfect Night In podcast here

I present the documentary A Weekend  With Waterhouse on the Doctor Who Season 18 Blu-Ray set.

I have written a tribute to Pat Gorman in Doctor Who Magazine issue 537.

I have recorded more Fantom Films Doctor Who commentaries in their Who Talk series which feature some fascinating folk…

With William Sleigh, Jim Findley and Sneh Gupta on the Resurrection of the Daleks Who Talk.

Doctor Who In Memoriam 2018

DOCTOR WHO IN MEMORIAM 2018

Remembering those from the world of Doctor Who who have passed away this year.

Well, here I am, Maudlin McDoomyguts (thats my real name, but I had to change it because there was already one in Equity) with my annual List of the Dead.

It is an annual thing from me – just my little project to pay respect to this who illuminated my childhood (which is ongoing) and who sadly died this year. They will live forever thanks to crossing paths, however briefly, with the universe’s best time traveller.

I made the decision to include a section featuring those whose deaths were reported late so didn’t feature in earlier videos. I usually only tend to do the people who were missed off because they died at the end of the previous year but there were so many who had slipped through the cracks that I make no apology for giving them a section. I might not always to this (I mean, where do I draw the line? 1963?) but we’ll see. My video, my rules.

Derrick Sherwin, one of the many Doctor Who luminaries to pass away this year.

I owe many of those featured – Dorka Nieradzik, Peter Miles, Ian, Dow, Rio Fanning, Bill Sellars, Michael Pickwoad, Ian Dow, Pamela Ann Davy  – extra thanks because they took part in my Who’s Round project. I’d urge you to seek out those interviews if you haven’t already.

Please spread this as far and wide as you can. Thank you.

The video can be found here.

Toby Hadoke – December Updates

LATEST UPDATES (December 2018)

I’m having a quiet December writing a book and a script (and eating things I shouldn’t) and sadly my two latest plays, The Road and Going, Going, Goon have fallen off iPlayer so there’s not much to report bar…

I was recently interviewed by Stuart Goldsmith for his Comedian’s Comedian podcast. I’m now replaying the conversation in my head in the early hours and thinking about what I should have said. It will be released at some point in the future and it’s rather a privilege to have been asked.

I will be presenting The 7th Dimension (BBC Radio 4 Extra) every Saturday and Sunday, 6-7pm and midnight-1am between now and the New Year. The shows on December 29th and 30th will feature my tributes to those from the world of UK science fiction and fantasy who has passed away this year.

Some more CD commentaries for Doctor Who episodes have come out from those delightful and hard working fellows at Fantom Films. I have moderated chats with Darrol Blake, Susan Engel, Nick McArdle, Carolyn Montagu and John Lesson (with a bonus track featuring Shirin Taylor) on The Stones of Blood and with Ann Davies, Richard Martib, Carole Ann Ford, Spencer Chapman, Nick Evans, Peter Badger and Clive Doig on The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Details on these, and previous releases, here.

Who Talk: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

It’s the XS Malarkey Christmas Party on December 18th – food and karaoke and retro video games all on us, your favourite 21 year old independent comedy club in the vicinity of Oxford Road. The club then takes a break over Christmas but starts again in January 2019.  Listings details are available at the XS Malarkey Website.

Quatermass and the Pit comes is still out on Blu-Ray – a great Christmas present for your favourite admirer of classic TV (it really is one of the best TV serials ever made).  I have been working on the release, donating a large amount of photographic and audio material, as well as presenting the commentaries on all six episodes. Not many cast and crew survive, but if they do, we got them, and they have been spliced in with some recordings of my chats with those who are no longer with us. The film sequences have been remastered and they look extraordinary. It’s going to be a terrific release considering the age of the source material and is well worth a look.

I have recorded some audios for the fabulous new entertainment producers Sound of Thunder who are making some delightful original content from a great talent pool. More details here. And they gave me an apple tree, the lovely people!

 

I have also made another documentary for the Doctor Who Blu-Ray range – A Weekend with Waterhouse finds me breakfasting with Adric and getting up close and personal with the man who played him. Chris Chapman is the superb programme maker behind this and a few more productions we are currently working on for later on in the range.

With Matthew Waterhouse filming A Weekend With Waterhouse for the Doctor Who -Season 18 Blu-ray.

My Big Finish podcast Who’s Round is up and about again – recent interviews have included Clifford Rose, Janet Henfrey, Joanna Monro and David Graham. There are more to come, including a Christmas themed one with a very important member of the acting profession – the exact release schedule isn’t certain but keep an eye out here.

Oh and incidentally,  A Happy Christmas to all of you at home 🙂

(Keep an eye out for my end of year Doctor Who In Memoriam which will materialise on New Year’s Eve)

(and actually, I said it was quiet but it looks quite busy when you write it down…)

Quatermass and the Pit on Blu-Ray (commentary details and restoration pictures)

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT ON BLU-RAY

Good things comes to those who wait.

When the Quatermass serials were released on DVD some years ago, I got in touch with Steve Roberts at the Restoration Team – wizards who have done so much for archive TV releases, not least Doctor Who – to offer my services. I didn’t know Steve at all, and he didn’t know me (nor did anybody in the world of archive TV – I had yet to start talking about Doctor Who in my stand-up and so my anorak was not, at that moment in time, tax deductible). My social and professional circle then (hard to believe) was pretty Doctor Who/science-fiction far free bar a couple of notable exceptions. Life was very different. But I harboured a hope that one day my vast storehouse of Quatermass documents and interviews would find a wider audience in a professional release.

Anyway, Steve was very polite and, I am pleased to say, ensured that the photos I had offered him (which had been given to me by the actor Cec Linder and the designer Clifford Hatts) were put onto the disc and into its accompanying booklet (written by that doyen of archival arcana Andrew Pixley). There was no time or money to do the commentaries I had – in a moment of uncharacteristic boldness – suggested, but I was still grateful that I had had some minor input into what I figured would be the only release of this kind that these programmes would get. It niggled that the promised credit for handing over my treasured and unpublished photos didn’t appear (an omission that took place down the line from Steve) and that we wouldn’t have commentaries with some of the surviving cast and crew with whom I was in touch – but I understood the various practicalities and that the release we got was far more impressive than the time and budget it had been allocated dictated it should have been. On a more personal note it was my first encounter with Steve – who was a gateway drug to his colleagues all of whom I now consider very good friends, and whose input into my personal and professional life has been far more important to me than any such relative trivialities.

What terror lurks within these sealed containers? Photo (c) Charles Norton

Fast forward to 2018 and Charles Norton, another crusader in the cause of cowbwebbed classics of the cathode ray, mentioned that he had pitched a Quatermass Blu-Ray release. Knowing he is receptive to stupid ideas and that there was time to get them acted upon, I got giddy and started pushing ideas his way. He was, as ever, receptive and keen, but also realistic about the budget (if any) we would have. We ultimately looked at doing a commentary on selected episodes of Quatermass and the Pit, at one location and all on the same day. That was the only way we could really afford to do it.

We eventually did all six episodes and every single element was recorded on a different day and at a different location.

Best laid plans and all that.

Luck was on our side in some respects. One of the few (three – we think) cast members still with us, Mark Eden, is married to Sue Nicholls who is a work colleague of my partner so I knew they lived literally up the road and that we had an “in”. By a weird coincidence, many years ago I made a reference to Quatermass at a comedy gig (largely for my own amusement) on the one night Andy Murray, Nigel Kneale’s biographer-to-be, was in the crowd. He introduced himself and we’ve been mates ever since. He also lives five minutes from my house (there must be some sort of Kneale Ley line running underneath south Manchester and causing his acolytes to gather here). So that was two contributors we could nobble off without too many practical problems.

The delightful Sue Nicholls and her husband Mark Eden, who played a journalist in Quatermass and the Pit at the start of his illustrious career.

Except… neither Andy nor Mark were available on the same day. Oh well, an extra day is fine – it just meant Charles having to travel to Manchester twice but was no skin off my nose (though I shouldn’t really be taking extra days off – I could only really afford to do one day on this project. But it’s Quatermass so I’m not going to say no am I? This is why I can’t afford socks). Andy brought Hobnobs to the recording of his episode which was delightfully apposite and is a measure of the man. It’s a good job we weren’t doing the other serials as we’d have been munching on cacti and drinking black, ammoniac slime. Hobnobs are much nicer.

It was such a big budget that some of the commentary was recorded at my house. The Hobnobs aren’t mine. The Martian is.

I had just tracked down another surviving actor, Keith Banks (the third, John Hamblin, is in Tasmania : so we drew a line there although I wouldn’t have put it past Charles to jump on a plane, trailing his microphone and dropping his mobile as he did so, in order to get five minutes with him). Keith and I had exchanged letters earlier in the year and even though he is in his 90s he was an engaged correspondent and I was confident he’d participate. He was happy to but didn’t want to travel. That’s OK, one more extra day wouldn’t be a problem. Would it? Oh, but then visual effects assistant Peter Day was also happy to help but he too needed a different day at yet another location that would take some getting to (at one point Charles and I crossed a motorway roundabout with no pavement and blind corners and I realised that much as I love the serial,  if doing a seven hour round trip wasn’t a bit of a silly thing to do in its name, then perishing in the path on an articulated lorry really was).

With actor Keith Banks who played Nuttal in Quatermass and the Pit.

Rounding off the track were two people we were confident we could get on the same day and at the BBC. One of my drinking buddies in London is TV legend Clive Doig who I knew had been a cable basher on Quatermass and the Pit (“What’s a cable basher?” asked Charles and only then did I realise I had no idea). I hoped Clive would be game because he’s an entertaining fellow possessed of a sharp wit and a good memory. Ditto Dick Mills (sound assistant). Both were more than happy to oblige and I knew would give us excellent value. But neither was available to play on the same day. Sigh. So we went to Clive’s house when he was back from his holidays and, before he went on his,  did a separate recording day with Dick at Television Centre (which was the day and place that all of the recordings were originally intended to be done when the commentary plans were being laid by mice and men).

But hey, we had an eclectic line up and enough for each episode. Judith Kerr, Nigel Kneale’s widow, was also keen to take part but ultimately the dates let us down (in her early 90s, she still has an extremely full calendar and works at a rate that shames this 44 year old). A near miss and one I know Judith was disappointed about because she loves talking about Quatermass and her late husband of whom she is so proud. It wasn’t for want of trying on the part of Charles, Judith and Judith’s wonderfully helpful agent Philippa though.

Restoring the Pit (c) Charles Norton

So much for the living, what about those sadly no longer with us? Well, over the years I had corresponded with several people from the serials and three key contributors – designer Clifford Hatts, visual effects wizard Jack Kine and Production Assistant Paddy Russell – had, for various reasons, elected to record their memories for me on cassette tape. These archive interviews have now been interspersed in the commentaries with the more recently recorded conversations and so these fabulous people are represented, on the Blu-ray, by themselves. As someone so grateful to them for indulging a geeky teenager all of those years ago it touches me that they’re preserved on tape and that their voices can echo through time and speak to us today. It’s a living record of the kindness they showed a young stranger and of my enduring gratitude to them.

Add to that a bit of Nigel Kneale from a BBC interview and Peter Crocker telling us about the restoration and we have a track with various first-hand perspectives and mostly never-before-heard recollections. Only Charles’s dogged flexing of budgets and resources and his ambition to make this as definitive as possible could have made this happen. It was knackering process that eventually took us all over the country, sometimes for an interview that only lasts ten minutes – but it’s the sort of commentary I, as a consumer, would like to hear, which is the only rule one can follow when doing these things. I do a bit more of a proactive presenting job than on many commentaries though – there were various gaps which I have plugged with (I hope) interesting facts and observations which I have gathered from decades of interviews, letters, archives, paperwork and, I hope, informed insight.

I recently uncovered a stash of photos which I would have loved to have had as exclusives for my book, but the geek in me couldn’t have a definitive Blu-ray out there with a photo gallery which was incomplete because I had held stuff back for my own gain (even though I’m essentially giving away stuff I went to great time and personal expense to find). I’d even forgotten scan one picture which I had found in Paddy Russell’s things, but a delay with the authoring meant we could squeeze that in at the last minute (a little part of me – if I am honest – had hoped that my genuine mistake would have left me at least one exclusive for the book but when I remembered it and Charles mentioned the delay my conscience wouldn’t let me hold it back. Ah well. I’ve never been what you’d call commercially savvy. Buy the book anyway!).

Thanks to producer Rudolph Cartier reinserting the original film into the repeat compilation of Quatermass and the Pit, we still have the beautiful film negatives for this release. Photo (c) Charles Norton

I’ve told all this from my point of view but I’m just one – very minor – cog in the wheel (and Charles Norton has been the driver all the way – this release wouldn’t have happened nor would it have been as ambitious without his tenacity and chutzpah). In terms of the episodes themselves, Peter Crocker has done an amazing job on the restoration. Click on this link below for a before and after comparison which you might enjoy (I tried embedding it but I have no idea, I’m sorry – I find old actors, other people do clever things when pressing buttons!):

Quatermass and the Pit titles before and after restoration.

Yes, good things come to those who wait.

But do you know what? I do get a credit on the photo gallery for this, something I’ve been waiting for for many years, and looking at it, I don’t think anyone will really notice or care. And does it make me any happier deep down? Not really. A salutary lesson it not sweating the small stuff.  

I’m proud of this Blu-ray. It’s the sort of thing I’ve dreamed of but thought impossible. We have managed to store in it special memories that will now be preserved forever. It’s a sort of time capsule – maybe it it can be unleashed on the humans of the future in, say, … five million years? it’s such a powerful piece, I’m sure its effects will be undiminished.

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT WILL BE RELEASED ON BLU-RAY ON 5th NOVEMBER 2018.

The first volume of my Quatermass book will be out soon, from Miwk Publishing. It’d be out sooner if I didn’t spend a morning doing this sort of thing.

Thanks to Charles Norton for the pics and before and after comparison. All the photos copyright © Toby Hadoke.