Tag Archives: Doctor Who Obituaries

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.

Richard Davies – Welsh Character Actor – RIP 1926-2015

RICHARD DAVIES RIP

Richard Davies
Richard Davies

The accomplished and much loved Welsh character actor Richard Davies has died at the age of 89. Balding, with a gap tooth and distinctive accent he was best known for his appearances as Mr Price in the ITV sitcom Please Sir! (starring John Alderton). That said, and despite an ever detectable twinkle, he was an actor of more skill and gravitas than a quick perusal of his comedy credits might initially suggest. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan he was destined for a life in the mines (which he entered aged 14) before packing his bags for London in order to try to make it as an actor. It’s fair to say that he did.

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Held hostage with Bonnie Langford in Delta and the Bannermen.

His one encounter with Doctor Who came in 1987 – the production team needed someone with a lightness of touch to play a genial Welshman in the Sylvester McCoy story Delta And The Bannermen. It’s unlikely that Davies was anywhere other than top of the list when it came to casting that particular role. It’s a story with an odd tone but whilst Don Henderson is a genuinely villainous presence it is Davies who best straddles the show’s mixture of comedy and drama. It is easy to believe that his character is an old soldier and his innate authority when he commands Henderson to spare Bonnie Langford’s Mel contrasts nicely with the humour with which he plays the scenes where he discovers the true nature of the TARDIS. It’s a skilful performance, perfectly judged.

Burton Burton – as his Doctor Who character was called – was just one small role in an illustrious roster of parts. He played real life Victoria Cross recipient Private Jones in the classic film Zulu (1964), bravely holding off the invading hordes alongside fellow actor Denys Graham (as another Private Jones!). This good, solid supporting role came after a number of small parts in films such as A Run For Your Money (1949) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). He subsequently turned up in Oh, What A Lovely War (1969) as the butcher in Steptoe And Son Ride Again (1973) and was, inevitably, in the 1972 film version of Under Milk Wood (and it would be impolite to have expected otherwise).

It was on the small screen, however, that he made the biggest impact, and he had an especial gift for comedy. As well as his stint throughout the entire run of Please Sir! he played the incompetent private eye Gimble in the first series of Bob Block children’s comedy Robert’s Robots (1973), Clive in three series of Bill Maynard vehicle Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt (1973-1977), as the Chancellor Of The Exchequer – a desperately sane counterpart to Peter Jones’s bonkers wannabe superhero Prime Minister – in Whoops Apocalypse (1982) and as Stan Evans opposite Robin Askwith in Bottle Boys. He even managed to make a mark in one-off appearances including the harassed Mr White in the famous The Kipper And The Corpse episode of Fawlty Towers (1979), as a trade union official in Yes Minister (1980), as Clive Jenkins in the Not The Nine O’Clock News skit of Question Time, and as a man with horrible memories of Victor Meldrew in One Foot In The Grave (1992).

Coronation Street's Hopkins family.
Coronation Street’s Hopkins family.

It is worth mentioning that there was plenty of drama alongside the comedy, and he cropped up in many programmes – notably a semi-regular role in  Z-Cars (a memorably oily turn as the informant Sloan, 1963-65), as well meaning but frustrated teacher Mr Black in Dennis Potter’s Where The Buffalo Roam (a Wednesday Play in 1966), Angels (1975/80), To Serve Them All My Days (1981), mini series The Citadel (1981), Big Deal (1985) and And The Beat Goes On (1996) as well as a number of different one off roles in the same series that testified to his versatility : five in No Hiding Place (from 1964), and three each in Softly, Softly (from 1966) and Dixon Of Dock Green (from 1967). He was a series regular as Idris Hopkins (corner shop proprietor and husband to Kathy Staff’s Vera) in Coronation Street (1974-75) and as Max Johnson in Taff Acre (1981).

Private 593 Jones - not to be confused with Private 716 Jones (or any of the other ones). Zulu (1964).
Private 593 Jones – not to be confused with Private 716 Jones (or any of the other ones). Zulu (1964).

A perusal of the characters he played finds a number of Taffys,  an Owen Owen to go with his Burton Burton, many a Dai and a Jones or two, but if the roles he played were occasionally stereotypes he always brought something more to them than might have been on the page and his performances were never lazy. Indeed, for a generation or two of viewers he was part of the televisual furniture, a reliable and welcome performer whose appearances always put a smile on the face.

He passed away of the 8th October after a battle with Alzheimers but, according to his daughter Nerissa, he “lived with fun to the end”.

Lines that could only have been said by Richard Davies (and were):

“At times like this, I often wonder what Nye Bevan would have done, and I’m convinced he would have shat in his pants.” – as Clive Jenkins on Question Time (Not The Nine O’Clock News)

“Yes, and if that’s no good, we’ll try the one up by the prophylactic emporium.” – as Mr White in Fawlty Towers

“Meldrew… Victor Meldrew! God, he was a pillock eh? There’s a big drawing of him on the wall of the girls toilets. Oh yes, you’d remember him Steve… he was a right bastard… I gave him my hamster to look after one holiday and when I got home his cat had eaten it. Tried to palm it off as a suicide.” – as Billy in One Foot In The Grave.

“Now, let me try and get this right. Now, are you telling me that you are not the Happy Hearts Holiday Club from Bolton, but instead are spacemen in fear of an attack from some other spacemen, and because of the danger, you want me to evacuate the entire camp?”
and
“Oh, by the way, can we have space buns and tea afterwards? Or don’t they drink tea on Mars?” – as Burton in Doctor Who – Delta And the Bannermen

He is survived by his actress wife Jill whom he met in Rep (it would have been their 60th wedding anniversary on October 28th), their children Nerissa and Glen and four grandchildren.

RICHARD DAVIES – 25th January 1926 – 8th October 2015

With thanks to Nerissa Davies.

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.