DWCA Founder Kerrie Dougherty Awarded OAM

Kerrie Dougherty, one of the original founders of the DWCA, has had a long and interesting career outside the club which has seen her curating science fiction exhibitions, running Dalek races, writing books, and even undertaking academic work in space archaeology! One of her published papers, a case study of volunteer rocket retrieval in Australia, appeared in a Cambridge Scholars Publishing book that also had a paper on representations of archaeology in Doctor Who. Plus, she even wrote content for the Doctor Who Visual Dictionary. In 2020 her many achievements were formally recognised in the Australia Day honours list, where she was awarded a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division.

The DWCA would like to extend our congratulations to Kerrie, and to honour her have included below the interview with her that first ran back in 2016 in Data Extract 233. Thanks to Lauren Davis and Dallas Jones for conducting the interview. The image below is a portrait of Kerrie by Melbourne Based Oil Portrait artist Leo Flander.

You graduated from Sydney University with a degree in archaeology – how did you then end up working at the Powerhouse Museum?

Well, I actually went on to study archive administration, but I was always a space fanatic as well as a science fiction fan. And after I finished the archives course – this is before the Powerhouse Museum actually existed as the Powerhouse – the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences was advertising for a registration assistant for four months. I knew they wanted somebody to catalogue Sydney Observatory, which had just been taken over, but it had then been closed down as a functioning observatory and given to the museum to develop into a museum of Australian Astronomy. When I went to the interview, I made a point about the fact that I knew about astronomy, as well as having the historical and the archival knowledge. And that got me my first job at the museum cataloguing Sydney Observatory. It was supposed to be for four months and I was there for exactly 31 and-a-half years! That wasn’t too bad for a four month job!

While you were there I understand you managed to host Dalek races. How did that come about?

In 1995 we took an exhibition that was actually originally developed in Perth, called Special Effects: The Secrets Behind the Screen. And there were a couple of things I wanted to do with this exhibition, one of which was to get genuine science-fiction props into it, because the exhibition had a lot of interactive material, but not a lot of artefact material that actually related to science-fiction film and that. And of course, I wanted to try and get some Doctor Who stuff into there. I talked to the people at BBC Worldwide and persuaded them to let us have their Dalek. We did a bit of a deal with them – they wanted to have the voice circuit on it repaired, so they said they’d loan it to us if we repaired the voice circuit. So that’s what we did! If you happened to see that exhibition back then, we actually had the Dalek displayed in a nice prominent position and on a circuit it would go off and go “Exterminate! Exterminate!” and that sort of thing.

One of the things that we also do in conjunction with special exhibitions is we develop public programs to go with them. So I thought it’d be really nice if we could get them to start doing Dalek races as part of the public programs. Through the club I got in touch with various people who had Daleks and were prepared to loan them to us, so we could run a series of Dalek races at different times across the life of the exhibition. That restarted the program of having Dalek races every so often, at the museum.

What sort of care did you have to take in handling the original props?

As you would with any museum artefact. We treat everything that comes into the museum, even if it’s only a film prop, as a valuable artefact in the same way you would treat a Fabergé egg. They are handled appropriately with gloved hands – you treat them as if they were really valuable artefacts. In terms of their social history context they are really valuable artefacts.

Is there a contrast between that and holding Dalek races?

Ah, but those Daleks are fan made, so they aren’t artefacts. The difference is, with the Dalek races, that those are fan made props, so they haven’t been used in the show. With the Dalek races, the people who built the Daleks usually brought their own, which is a different thing from the BBC or Lucasfilm or somebody else entrusting their materials to us to put on display.

Is there much of a difference between curating and policing a museum of historical artefacts and a museum of science-fiction?

Curating is a particular thing that you do – policing people is what the museum security people do! But when you design an exhibition, you design it so people don’t get the chance to damage the objects. You’ve got to allow people good visual access, but at the same time you can’t allow them to touch it. And you certainly can’t give them the opportunity to steal it. One of the things that we always tried to do at the Powerhouse was to have as much on open display as we could. But then that requires you to design the exhibition so that people can’t touch the objects. With the Dalek, for example, we had that on an open display, but it was set at the back of a plinth with about a metre in front of it, so you couldn’t reach over and get to it over the barrier.

It was the BBC’s decision that people weren’t to photograph it, though. Generally speaking, you don’t allow a lot of photography, because even though one person’s flash isn’t doing a lot of damage, a million people’s flashes are going to fade textile paper. A lot of delicate materials will be faded by ultraviolet light. So you simply can’t have several hundred-thousand or several million people over time taking flash photographs of an object.

About the BBC Dalek… just some background on why they were protective. When it was brought out here, it was brought out here for the Royal Easter Show. They also had Doctor Who showbags… but then at the end it cost too much money to send the Dalek back! So they kept the Dalek. But then they wanted to use it, so they lent it to a video store in Manly. When they got it back, word came down that it was never to be lent out again because it nearly got destroyed.

When it came to us, the electronics weren’t working and they wanted our technical people to fix the electronics for it. But in fact, we also believe that in the Powerhouse collection, we now have the original ring modulator that was used to create the first Dalek voice. Because Tristram Carey, who did some of the early incidental music for Doctor Who, came out to Australia in the late seventies to do some set-up of electronic music instruments at the University of Melbourne. He then came back to Australia and decided to stay permanently. When he passed away, his collection – all the contents of his studio and everything – was donated to the Powerhouse. And among that we found a ring modulator, and the notes that were with it suggested that it was the one they originally used to make the first Dalek voices back in the Radiophonic Workshop!

You’ve also written some Star Wars books and some Doctor Who books – can you tell us about your books?

When we did the first Star Wars exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum (Star Wars: The Magic of Myth), we wanted to update the exhibition to add new material for Episode One and Episode Two, because they weren’t represented in the original exhibition, which was put together before the release of the prequels. And because we were adding this new material, that meant the labels and everything had to be written for it. Lucasfilm were really good to work with, actually, but one thing they were very protective about was the canonicity of everything that was written about Star Wars. So the labels and the text that I had to write for this additional material, to provide context to it in relation to the rest of the exhibition, they had to check that. And then their licensing person over there, who looks after all the written material, decided that he liked my writing style. So he got onto DK Books, who produced the Star Wars cutaways and visual encyclopaedias and that sort of thing, and said “look, if you’re looking for another writer, give this woman a try.” So I wrote all the Episode Three stuff for a reference book called Star Wars: Complete Locations.

Anyway, DK was obviously happy enough with my work, because when they were doing the first Doctor Who Visual Dictionary, they needed somebody take over from one of the authors who was sick and wasn’t able to take part in it. So they said, we know you’re a Doctor Who fan – would you like to do this additional work? And that’s how I got to do the original Visual Dictionary! I did several spreads, or double-page type things. To my own surprise, quite a bit of my original work has continued to filter through the different, more recent editions. And my name is still in the front somewhere, on the title page. It actually fascinates me how much of my original text from the first edition is still turning up in the most recent one. I’ll be interested to see when the next one comes out how much of it is still there! But it was just good fun working on it and it was interesting.

In some ways it was easier than doing the Star Wars books. In other ways it was harder, because the BBC actually allowed you to a certain extent to be a bit more creative than Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm wants everything to be inside what they’ve established in the canon. Whereas Doctor Who was both more restrictive in one sense – everything I said, I had to provide a source for, blah blah. But if I came up with something that they liked, even if it was my own interpretation from XYZ, then it was allowed to stay.

What about the inside the TARDIS features you had to do?

That was really weird. When you do these, you get the visual for the spread, that’s already designed. So you get a page and it’s got those pictures on it, and you’re supposed to come up with all the writing to make those features fit together. And sometimes I really wondered what on Earth they were thinking when they put together the selections of images that go on an individual page. So anyway, with this TARDIS one, the spread included this very lovely but very strange piece of artwork, which was something that they identified as being called the Time Sector. And this was supposed to be the basic structure of the TARDIS, which was something that had never been seen anywhere before. It was clearly something that they’d decided to make up for this book. But all I get is the artwork and then I’ve got to figure out how to explain it! So that was quite an interesting challenge. But it was good in one sense, because I really did have freedom to come up with explanations for what the shape meant and what the components of it were and how it related to the TARDIS. I’ll note, though, that it wasn’t used in any of the later ones. I suspect that the BBC might have decided that they weren’t happy with having that image imposed on the TARDIS. I don’t think it was something they’d completely signed off on.

Wasn’t there another one where you had to describe the Tenth Doctor’s shoes?

Oh yes! This was another one where, with some of the images, they put lines saying ”we want you to annotate something here”. This one was the anatomy of the Doctor. So all I get is the picture and the lines pointing to different parts of the Doctor and I’m supposed to come up with the annotations. But again, I wonder sometimes what the hell they were thinking when they drew these lines to different places. Because some of them, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense as to why they’d draw a line to point X. One of the ones they drew a line to in this was the shoes. What can you say about the Doctor’s sneakers!? We’re not going to say the Doctor has smelly feet! They’re not psychic paper sneakers or something, so what are you going to say about them? So in the end I wrote: “comfortable shoes for a quick escape and lots of running”. And this is what I found quite funny – with a later one of Capaldi’s Doctor, they showed his shoes, still with an annotation, but it said: “comfortable thick soled shoes suitable for running – useful when making a quick escape”. So they didn’t use exactly my original words but they kept the idea of making the shoes for a quick getaway! I just thought that was quite funny because I literally wrote the original as an off-the-cuff thing simply because I didn’t know what else to write, but it survived!

Moving back to the Powerhouse, you were the museum’s curator of space technology.  What was it like curating items knowing that they had left the Earth’s atmosphere and been out in space?

Not a lot of the items that I had, had actually left the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the items were either replicas or un-flown hardware examples. I would have killed for a lot of things that had left the Earth’s atmosphere! I didn’t always have that opportunity, but when you do have the opportunity to handle artefacts that have flown in space, it’s just very special. They don’t glow in the dark. They don’t have something that says on them “been in space”. But when you know they have, it just makes them that little bit more special to you, that they have been beyond the Earth and touched the infinite in a way that the Doctor himself does. I always liked working, when I could, with artefacts that had been space-flown.

And I believe you’re undertaking your own research into space archaeology at the moment?

Ah, no, what I actually am is more of a space historian. At the moment, I’m doing my PhD on the history of Australian space activities, which doesn’t necessarily touch on what you would formally call space archaeology, but it does delve into the political and scientific history of activities that Australia has been involved in in space and space-related areas. That’s what I’m doing my PhD on at the moment.

When you were working at the Powerhouse, was there ever an attempt at putting on a Doctor Who exhibit there?

There were a couple of different things. There was a point where we were trying to bring out the exhibit that was created in 2007-2008. We did actually look at trying to bring that out to Australia. The negotiations were moving along reasonably well, and then the BBC decided that they would do the new exhibition in Cardiff, and pulled all the licences from other people who had exhibit licences with the BBC, which included the people that we were dealing with at the time. So they were no longer able to tour their exhibition, because the BBC wanted to take all their props back to have them available for the development of the Cardiff exhibition. Similarly, there was some talk from the BBC about doing an exhibition in Australia for the 2013 anniversary. We sort of said to them, rather than 2013 let’s focus on 2015, being the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who here in Australia. So we were kind of trying to steer them towards doing that, but again for various reasons at the BBC, the whole thing fell apart so unfortunately it didn’t happen.

And now, well – I’m not there anymore and the current director would no more have a Doctor Who exhibition than slit her own throat! So I can assure you there will not be a Doctor Who exhibition anywhere in the near future.

Kerrie’s Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division of the 2020 Australia Day honours list was given for her service to astronautical history as a curator:

  • Independent space historian, curator and writer (current)

Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum) Sydney

  • Curator, Space Technology, 1983-2014

International Academy of Astronautics

  • Co-Chair, History of Astronautics Committee (current)
  • Member, Space Museums and Science Centre Committee (current)
  • Member of the Academy, elected 2012.
  • Editor, several volumes of ‘History of Rocketry and Astronautics’ (proceedings of the Academy’s annual symposium on the history of astronautics), International Astronautical Federation
  • Member, Education and Outreach Committee (current)

Other service includes:

  • Lecturer, Department of Space Humanities, International Space University, since 2001
  • Member, National Space Society of Australia and Space Association of Australia (current)
  • Most recent exhibition – From the Outback to Outer Space: Woomera1955-1980, National Archives of Australia and State Library of South Australia, 2017.
  • Author, Australia in Space, 2017 and Space Australia, 1993.

Past awards and recognition also include:

  • Recipient, Sacknoff Award for Space History, 2015
  • Recipient, Australian Space Pioneer Award, National Space Society of Australia.

Meeting Yaz – Interview with Mandip Gill

The latest season of Doctor Who has just ended, leaving much for fans to debate in its wake. There was a new Master, Gallifrey’s destruction (again) and the revelation that the Doctor has forgotten multiple lives, all lived before the First Doctor and his granddaughter ever even thought to go see the universe. One of the major players in this season was of course Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill, so while we reel from the end of the series, the DWCA has presented here the interview with her that first ran back in Data Extract 241.

Thanks to interviewer Kevin Suarez from 2SER for conducting the interview.

Was working on Doctor Who how you imagined it?

Before I got the audition, I didn’t imagine it. I didn’t know what it would be like, I thought it was worlds away from anything I would be able to do or be in. And when I got it, I was like “I actually don’t know, you can’t expect anything because it’s so random!” And it turned out to be really random and it turned out to be better than I expected. It turned out I made friends for life. I found this new series that I absolutely loved – I’ve been taught so many things while doing this series about history and about space and time and it’s just been mind-blowing.

What I love is, when we’re on set doing something, it often turns out that it looks very different when it finally gets to screen. So for the nine-month process I really enjoyed myself, but I still have now 10 episodes to enjoy with you guys because I have no idea what they look like!

Often when you do other shows, you basically know what it’ll look like, because its drama and nothing’s added. But with all the visual effects and the sound and the grading and the monsters added, it’s completely different. Now I get double the time to enjoy it.

When it comes to your character of Yaz, or Yasmin Khan, what did you want to bring to the character?

It was already written, but there was this sense of truth when we went in to the audition. There’s a lot of truth this series, a lot of drama, real connections and relationships and I just wanted to embed that into my character. I wanted her to be a three-dimensional character with lots of faces and genuine emotions. I didn’t want her to be always scared of a monster or always be upset in certain situations, I wanted to find a natural angle.

So I’d think, “we’ve been on the TARDIS for x amount of time, how would she react to this particular monster?” Then how is that different to when she first sees her very first monster or the first time she going into a spacecraft? I just wanted it to be very truthful, wholesome, and real so that every week, people were finding a new little bit of Yaz, and can go “she’s real! I can connect with her because this week she’s upset but that might not have upset her last week!” She’s been on the TARDIS a little bit longer, she’s missing her family and that really does upset her.

Team TARDIS met Rosa Parks, with an amazing exploration of the Civil Rights Movement and racism, both in the past and present. Will we see the Doctor delve into more contemporary political issues such as racism and misogyny?

Yeah, you will do. Obviously I can’t say too much but there is a few more episodes where that is touched upon, and like Rosa, there are historical episodes that touch upon issues that are still prevalent now.

On a similar note, how has it been representing British – Indians on the show?

To clarify, I’m Indian and the character I play is Pakistani. Just representing an Asian person that isn’t a stereotype, and is a three-dimensional character, an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances and is relatable, it’s really important to me. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to do it with such an amazing team of writers, working with people and directors of colour.

I’m very fortunate that I’m in a place where there is a shift in what is being created, also a shift in the stereotype of Asian people. We have amazing stories on Doctor Who, and a lot of them are not to do with the fact that Yaz is Asian – it just so happens that she is Asian – but she’s also a police officer and a young girl from Sheffield who misses her family but is excited to go on this journey. In one episode, Demons of the Punjab, I think it’s really clever how Chris (Chibnall, executive producer) touches upon her being Asian and we go back and visit Yaz’s history. But then again, not every episode is about how Yaz would react because she’s Asian. She a young girl from Sheffield who has her own issues and her own struggles on this journey. She happens to be brown.

Where (or who) in history would you like to visit (or encounter)?

We get asked this question a lot and it does change because I’ll answer it and I’ll go “I can do better than that. I have a TARDIS and I chose that.” So I’m going to settle on the beginning of time, and we go back and see how it was created and get all the facts. I know what I think – obviously people believe in different religions and sciences, so I’d like to go back and see if it was the Big Bang, see if evolution really happened, and see how we got here.

Everyone’s so hellbent on going “no, I don’t wanna go to hell! I’ll be a good person,” and me being that person, thinking that. Then I go “I don’t know where I came from!”

That’s just as interesting, exciting and scary as where I’m heading, but I know where I’ve come from.

How are the group dynamics both on screen and behind the scenes?

It’s quite similar, the dynamics, in that we absolutely get along. We’re so lucky that there was chemistry there from the offset – there was no need for us to go to dinner, or work together for a few weeks and warm to each other. We literally get on so well. We found the dynamic with our personal relationships and there’s a different dynamic in the TARDIS. For instance, Brad(ley Walsh)’s character Graham is very serious, doesn’t want to go along with it, very apprehensive, but Brad in real life would throw himself down the stairs just to make you laugh. (laughs)

We’ve seen a bit of Ryan and Graham’s family life so will we be seeing insight into Yaz’s family life?

Yeah, definitely. We visit Yaz’s history in Episode 6 (Demons of the Punjab). We meet her mum in the next episode (Arachnids in the UK) and she’s played by Shobna Gulati. So we do touch upon it just as we have touched upon Ryan’s history. I think that it’s just that everyone’s said to me that we haven’t see much about Yaz but Chris has done this natural journey You have time to breathe and we go on a journey with each character, rather than a bombardment of everybody’s story at the beginning. If it were like that, and we were forced to like these characters. It would be overwhelming. I just love the way that it’s naturally breathing, so that people feel like they know Ryan who’s developed over the last couple of episodes, and he’ll continue to develop. I was marinating in that mix, and then we go see my family and then we touch on Graham’s personal life.

It was really nicely done and it allows everyone to invest in each character and see who they like or who they may not like and that’s fine.

Doctor Who Brand Manager Edward Russell at Sydney Day Event 1 March

You may never have heard the name Edward Russell before, but you can be sure there aren’t many people who have had as much to do with post-2005 Doctor Who behind the scenes than him! Working as Brand Manager for the show from 2006 to the end of 2017, he worked on the BBC Proms, the Symphonic Spectaculars, oversaw the range of Doctor Who books, arranged photography on the show and (of course) dealt directly with the many talented people who brought the show to life.

When a guest was needed for the Christmas Special it was Edward Russell who found a way to get Kylie Minogue on board the Voyage of the Damned. When Matt Smith arrived in the role as the Eleventh Doctor it was Edward Russell that went on a bus tour with him, visiting schoolchildren across the UK. He went to multiple events, hung out with David Tennant, Lis Sladen, Peter Capaldi, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman (and many others), worked with writers and artists and photographers and was there on the set during the filming of some of the most iconic moments in Doctor Who history.

“There is almost nothing which had the Doctor Who name on it between 2006 and 2017 which I wasn’t involved in to some degree,” Edward Russell himself has stated. A wealth of behind the scenes stories, he has agreed to share them all with Australian Doctor Who fans at a one day only event on Sunday 1 March at Club Ashfield in Sydney, NSW.

Located at 1-11 Charlotte Street Ashfield, right next to Ashfield Railway Station, this friendly club promises to host a very unique Doctor Who event. The club also has an Italian Bistro and an award winning café serving wood fired sourdough sandwiches, salads, burgers and desserts. So come along for the day and meet the man behind the Doctor! The event will run from 10 am to 5 pm – make sure you don’t miss out!

Hartnell and Troughton Blu-ray Releases Confirmed

In recent interviews with Doctor Who Magazine the key players behind the Doctor Who classic series Blu-ray box sets confirmed that they were actively working on Hartnell and Troughton seasons for future release. Although they wouldn’t go so far as to confirm where the 1960s seasons might fall in the release schedule, they did mention some of the challenges they were currently tackling to bring those releases to fruition.

“Obviously, we’ve got some tricky things still coming up,” stated Russell Minton, Head of International Production Consultancy at BBC Studios and executive producer of the Doctor Who Blu-ray box sets. “Seasons from the 1960s of 40-odd episodes, with gaps we somehow have to fill. We won’t rush things; we won’t release anything until it’s the best it can be.”

Pete McTighe, content consultant on the Blu-ray box sets, confirmed there is a list they are working to, covering all seasons of the classic series of Doctor Who. “It’s really just a list of potential content for each of the 26 seasons, and the rough sequence of release. It was a lot of work to break down all of that, moving things around until they were in the right places. Now we have that information, once a season is confirmed for release we generally know what old content we have for it and then Russell Minton will decide what new stuff goes on there.”

Previously fans looking at the list of missing episodes had hypothesized that Season Two might be the first classic series to see release as a Blu-ray box set, reasoning that there were only two episodes missing from that whole season. Surely it would be easy to create animated reconstructions of The Crusade episodes 2 and 4 and have it prepped for release in no time? Alas, animation director Charles Norton pointed out it is slightly more complicated than that. “There are certain stories that are perhaps more doable than others. The Crusade is an interesting one, because it’s one we’re missing two episodes from. So you look at it and think, ‘Two episodes? 45 minutes? We’ve just done two and a half hours – 45 minutes would be easy!’ Then you actually look at The Crusade, as I did a few days ago, and you realise that there are 24 speaking characters and they all have multiple changes of clothes. There’s lots of different costumes and sets. But I’m not saying it’s impossible. Nothing’s impossible.”

Blu-ray special features director Chris Chapman did confirm however that the team is currently working on new material for future Blu-ray box sets of the 1960s seasons, commenting that the new features are “all about relationships, how these people are with one another. The stuff we’re working on for next year takes that to heart. Can we put these familiar faces in unusual situations where they provoke unexpected reactions from each other? It means we’re creating something new, not repeating the same behind-the-scenes stories.” And it would seem that Season Five is the box set they’ve been creating material for most recently. “They’ve announced the animation of Fury from the Deep for 2020,” Chapman noted. “On that, we went out to sea, flew drones above the enormous Red Sands sea fort and had people climb up it!”

Season Five, of course, still has some gaps to be filled. Stories Tomb of the Cybermen and Enemy of the World are complete, while The Ice Warriors has already had its missing episodes animated. That still leaves five episodes from The Abominable Snowmen, one episode from Web of Fear and four episodes from Wheel in Space to fill, after the promised animation of Fury from the Deep is complete. Tantalisingly though, episode one of Wheel in Space has already been partially animated, with that footage released as an extra on the Blu-ray of the animated reconstruction of Season Four story The Macra Terror. Even more tantalising is the fact that missing episode hunter and director of the Television International Enterprises Archive, Philip Morris, did actually find Web of Fear episode three in a relay station in Nigeria, only to have it go missing again during the six month negotiation period to try and have it returned to the BBC. Regarding the eternal question of whether further missing episodes have been found, Morris has always stayed cautiously silent. “Fans will just want a yes or no, haven’t you or have you. But its complex. All I can say is the wind is blowing the right way, be patient. There are no announcements in the pipeline at present. It can sometimes be the wrong thing with ongoing work and investigation. An example would be during the last announcement I was in a very hostile part of the world and suddenly I was everywhere on TV. My anonymity was compromised. Which made the team a target. So we must plan these things carefully for the greater good of the project and the safety of the personnel involved.”

While no dates are set or seasons confirmed for the Hartnell and Troughton Blu-ray box sets, new animated reconstructions are on the horizon and it has been officially confirmed that the full season Blu-ray box sets are in the works – actively being produced right now! Which is surely something for all fans of Classic Who to celebrate and look forward to!

Data Extract 245 Out Now!

The late running Data Extract #245 is out now from DWCA Publications! Originally scheduled for late December 2019, the issue will instead hit post boxes in late January 2020, but promises to have been worth the wait. It features an interview with Mark Sheppard on his role as Canton Everett Delaware III, as well as an interview with Josh Snares on the part he played in the University of Central Lancashire’s remake of Mission to the Unknown. Plus new theories from The Boffin, cosplay adventures caught by the camera of Norman Keshan, news, merchandise and reviews.

It also features the final episode in the Eleanor saga, the fan fiction strand that has been running in Data Extract since issue 228. The siege of Atlantis is underway and only the Eleventh Doctor and Eleanor Chaplette can defeat the shadows – everything depends on them, but can their bond survive the descending darkness and the end of all things? Data Extract is a magazine exclusive to members of the Doctor Who Club of Australia, so if you want a copy make sure your membership is up to date!

Zerinza Volume Three out now!

The third volume of Doctor Who fan publication Zerinza is available now as a print on demand book in both paperback and hardcover through the club’s DWCA Publications page on Lulu. It was already provided as a digital download to all DWCA members earlier this month. The publication contains all new interviews with K9 creator Bob Baker, non-fiction writer Robert Smith?, fiction writer Jon Blum and fan creators Dallas Jones and Roger Reynolds, plus (thanks to Antony Howe) interviews from the archives with Verity Lambert and Katy Manning. Also, the history of early fandom in Brisbane and a look at Bob Baker’s 1980’s opus Into the Labyrinth, a time travel show that included scripts from Who luminaries Robert Holmes, John Lucarotti and Anthony Read. To check it all out go to the DWCA Publications page.


Doctor Who Classics go digital

The digital video subscription service BritBox, which currently serves the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, has added classic Doctor Who material to its streaming repertoire as of Boxing Day 2019. The service, which streams British television series and films from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, has added 627 pieces of Doctor Who Classic era content, made up of episodes, spin-offs and documentaries. Most notably for Doctor Who fans, this includes both animated reconstructions and telesnap reconstructions of missing episodes. The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, The Ice Warriors and The Invasion were all added, featuring the surviving episodes with the animated reconstructions previously released on DVD. The most recent version of Shada, completed with animated segments for the unfilmed portions of the story, was added as one 130 minute special. The fully animated reconstructions of The Power Of The Daleks and The Macra Terror were both added, as well as The Underwater Menace, The Wheel in Space and The Web of Fear, which have been completed with telesnap reconstructions of the missing episodes. The surviving episodes of The Crusade, Galaxy 4, The Space Pirates and The Celestial Toymaker were also added, but without any reconstructions for the missing parts.

Since the launch of BritBox as a Netflix-style streaming service in March 2016, it has continued to grow in both reach and content. The addition of Doctor Who, with the range of material added thus far covering the first eight Doctors, is a major step towards creating one consistent digital platform that can house all aspects of the show’s long history. Commenting on the launch Reemah Sakaan, Group Director of ITV SVOD, stated: “We are looking forward to expanding the collection even further by working with the show creators to lovingly restore lost and previously unavailable episodes in the months to come and offering a truly exclusive experience”. All of which bodes well for further animated reconstructions, finally actively working towards the day when fans can enjoy easy access to every single episode of Doctor Who from start to finish. Although not currently available in Australia, the success of BritBox overseas will hopefully lead to its introduction Down Under in the not too distant future.



Whovians returns to Australian screens in 2020

Doctor Who fans in Australia now have twice as many reasons to rejoice as 2020 dawns – a new season with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor launches on New Year’s Day, followed soon after on the 9th of January by an all new season of fan show Whovians! Host Rove McManus shared the news with a new video, promising more fun to keep the Doctor Who love rolling for as long as possible.

Since its launch in 2017 Whovians has seen the arrival of Bill Potts, the departure of Peter Capaldi and the advent of the first female Doctor, all with commentary landing firmly on the side of fun and laughter as Rove McManus and his team of “super fans” find new ways to look at a show that truly is bigger on the inside.  The show’s head researcher, actor and comedian Patrick Magee, reflected on the show’s humble beginnings, recalling: “We had our first rehearsal, we watched Hell Bent, and we realised that everyone in it was really on board, everyone had a different role to play. So you had Bajo, who was just very strangely excited by weird things; Tegan was really good at getting jokes that would appeal to non-Doctor Who fans, which was really important; Adam was great with his theories and stuff; and Rove was great at keeping them all together. So originally I liked the idea – I thought it would be a fantastic thing for me to do, and I was really excited to be part of it – but I wasn’t sure how well it would go. And then the first episode went out, and it just went gangbusters. We were trending on Twitter, it was great.”

Actor, comedian and panellist Adam Richard shared the joys and horrors of getting to see the latest episodes before anyone else, recalling: “We would get a copy of the episode usually about a week, a week and a half before. That became less and less as we went on. Like, the copy of the final Season 10 episode that we saw had no effects in it. There were just very disgruntled-looking stagehands holding green screens, while Bill the Cyberman is crying over the Doctor’s body and a car goes by in the background. That makes it very hard to get emotionally involved. Also, the music wasn’t finished yet, so they just had music from The Dark Knight. And the final scene, which obviously was from the Christmas special, had only been delivered the day before. So there was a person standing next to a snow machine in the shot.”

The real joy of Whovians though comes from watching a group of friends nerding out over a shared love. As Adam Richard himself remembered of past seasons: “We’d always kind of geeked out. Back then, Rove was way into wrestling. We’d go out to lunch, and we’d be in a food court somewhere, and he would just rip open these wrestling toy packets and start making them fight. He’s always been deeply, deeply nerdy. He doesn’t care about the sanctity of the packaging – he likes to play with the toys, rather than keep them in there. And before this even came up, he’d started listening to the Big Finish audios, which I’m obsessed with. So we’ve always had fairly nerdy conversations about all sorts of stuff.”

Here’s to more geeking out and irreverent commentary on all things Whoniverse related when Whovians returns in 2020!

Whovians returns 09.01.20

Rove McManus and his team of super fans are also back, with Whovians, the show that asks the what, where and why of Who.

Posted by ABC COMEDY on Thursday, 5 December 2019

Vale Ian Cullen

The DWCA was very saddened to receive the news on 16 November that actor Ian Cullen had passed away at the age of 90. He was known and loved for appearing alongside William Hartnell in First Doctor story The Aztecs, as well as on audio with Eighth Doctor Paul McGann in Dark Eyes. He was also a special guest of the DWCA back in 2013 – a regular visitor to Australia when visiting his family here. By complete coincidence his last appearance in a Doctor Who related program was on the first episode of Australia’s own Whovians. As part of the program host Rove McManus was recorded running into a pub shouting “shark” to emulate Peter Capaldi’s performance when the Twelfth Doctor briefly visited Australia in The Pilot. He was as surprised as anyone when one of those in the pub turned out to be veteran Who actor Ian Cullen!

Actor, comedian and Whovians head researcher Patrick Magee recalled the moment himself when he was interviewed at a DWCA event, stating: “I remember my favourite part from the recording – it was such a surreal thing. In the very first episode, we had this idea that Rove would run into places yelling “Shark attack!” to see who would react. And we did it, and we ran into this pub, and this guy was like, “What are you filming for?”, and we told him it was a Doctor Who wrap-up show. He was like, “I was in Doctor Who”, and we were like, “No you weren’t, old man.” And then it turned out it was Ian Cullen from The Aztecs! It made no sense! Why was he in this pub at the exact moment we were filming this thing for Whovians? And he was wonderful.”

To commemorate Ian Cullen, his life and his contribution to our favourite show, we’ve reproduced here his interview with the DWCA that took place back in 2013, originally printed in Data Extract #221.

The Aztecs was just the sixth Doctor Who story to be made, so it would have seemed very much a new show that had no reputation behind it. How much were you aware of the programme before being cast in it?

Doctor Who was hardly on the radar of the professional theatre, ‘cos we were all theatre people. It was just a little children’s series which the BBC were doing, and the only people who watched it were children. The bigger actors thought it was a bit of a joke, and they wouldn’t have dreamt of going into Doctor Who. They were nervous about going into television at all. In those days, actors thought television was a step down; film actors thought their careers were over if they went into television. And we weren’t aware of Doctor Who. Doctor Who was happening in the studio as a bit of fun, but it was not considered to be important. Everybody thought it would run for six episodes and would disappear.

So how did the role of Ixta come along?

I was very lucky, because I’d been cast in a BBC television children’s series. I was playing David Balfour in Kidnapped and Catriona for 13 episodes. It was all on film, nothing in the studio, and the director of The Aztecs, John Crockett, happened to see some of it; he was watching the editing. He asked me if I’d like to play Ixta, and I said yes please! It wasn’t quite my first television role, but Kidnapped I don’t count because that was all on film. Doctor Who was my first chance to do a television play, and be in the studio for several episodes, so I grabbed it.

How have attitudes to TV changed since the ‘60s?

The big change is that back in the early ‘60s, almost everyone who was working in television had come from theatre. The writers, the directors, the actors, the costume people, the make-up people – they were all theatre people. We were accustomed to doing what we now call continuous recording, which means a show starts at the beginning and it goes through until the end, and it doesn’t stop. That’s the way it was, and that’s what people were good at. I think you’d find it difficult now to find a writer who could write a film script that could be filmed Scene #1 first and continuously record and go through ‘til the end. And almost impossible to find an actor who could learn it. Nowadays if an actor has to learn more than five lines, he gets into a panic.

Did working in theatre help you work in TV?

It certainly did help that we were theatre people, and we could therefore do continuous recording. But when you were working on television, you had to be infinitely more precise than you were in the theatre. Everything has to be in exactly the same place every time, so the camera sees it. You learn to be much more precise where you put the cup down, and with the timing, so when you pick up the cup, the camera goes with you to your mouth. When you go back into the theatre, that precision makes actors very charismatic. Instead of being a bit loose and relaxed about it, it taught us to be very precise, and that precision made theatre work much more interesting. Stage actors became much better as a consequence of working in television. It’s the opposite of what most people think.

A lot of effort went into creating some amazingly beautiful costumes and sets for The Aztecs, for something that we were only ever going to see in greyscale. Why was that?

That was precisely the reason – the colours had to be very clear, very bright, in order to get the greyscale, otherwise it just would have been black and white, and television would have been much less interesting. I still like black and white film; I love watching films and television programmes in black and white. But also, at that time, they were thinking ahead to colour television. They were very conscious of the fact that there were deep bright colours and sharp distinctions and definitions, and there were people during The Aztecs who were taking photographs and then going off and putting them on what we call a grey scale, in what was going to be a colour camera, to see what they looked like. They were working towards colour television and wondering whether it would have to be very different. In fact my wife was in the very first television play to be done in colour – a big epic called Hassan. It’s like watching a pantomime, because the colours are so bright, the costumes are so vivid. You can hardly watch it. The BBC had to learn to be more subtle with their lighting, and the colours for the costumes, when they went into colour.

The scripting and the performances in The Aztecs make it particularly theatrical. Was that a conscious thing, or just a hangover of the theatre?

John Ringham’s performance was a conscious thing. John was a friend of mine until he died, and he always hated that performance. He was bitterly ashamed of it; he thought he’d gone far over the top. But there was a big difference between actors who’d done a lot of television, like William Hartnell and Bill Russell, and even I’d done Kidnapped; and actors who’d only done theatre. And the actors who’d only done theatre tended to give theatrical performances. It does stand out, but it’s brilliant. John Crockett could easily have said, “Tone it down a bit”, but he liked it.

Whereas Tlotoxl is an out-and-out villain, in many ways Ixta’s just doing what he thinks is right. How did you approach that?

You’re quite right – Ixta was right. Ixta was the good guy, because these people had come along and were intruding in his life. They were invaders, and that’s the only point of view to play it from. There might be someone there who’s so progressive as to say, “We must communicate with these aliens”, but Ixta wasn’t one of them. And that is always the approach – whatever part an actor’s playing, even if it’s an absolute villain, you have to do it from his point of view. In your own head, you’re doing the right thing. You might be doing very bad things that you know are bad things, but your reasons for doing them are good. The one exception is Richard III, who was John Ringham’s inspiration for Tlotoxl. Richard III enjoyed being a villain, wanted to be a villain. But that’s very rare.

In Episode Four you had your fight sequence with William Russell, who had already done a few daring adventures. Facing him with a balsa wood sword, how did you take on that sequence?

First of all, you take it on because you know you’ve got a balsa wood sword, so there’s not a really strong element of danger. Then there was the attitude of, “We mustn’t frighten the children”, so it didn’t have to be too realistic. Finally, we weren’t very good at it. We had to have some fairly rapid fighting-with-balsa-wood-sword lessons from the fight director, and then we went at it very gingerly. We kept breaking the swords, it was very difficult. He cheated; I should have won.

How much preparation time did you have on the day?

All of ten minutes. But we’re taught stage fighting at drama school, and we all know the basic moves. If you watch that fight, it is the basic “over the top, down to the side, parry, down the other side, parry, in the front, parry, parry, gotcha”. It’s half a dozen basic moves, and we repeated them.

And there’s no opportunity to make a mistake because of the way it was recorded back then.

This is one of the reasons why we were slightly careful. It wasn’t careful so much because we were frightened of hurting each other, but we were frightened of making a mistake and having to cause an edit, a retake, ‘cos that was serious business.

Were there any edits while you were shooting?

Not that I recall. There must have been, in a four-part serial. Editing was very expensive, and actors who constantly forgot their words, or fluffed their lines, didn’t work a lot, unless you were William Hartnell. But if you had technical mistakes, like a camera misses its shot, or a sound technician doesn’t get the boom there in time, they always edited those technical mistakes out first. And if they ran out of editing time, they kept the actors’ mistakes in. The punishment for making a mistake was that your mistake would be watched by millions of viewers. That’s all you could think about; knowing they were going to watch you fluff your lines. But actors like William Hartnell just got into the habit of letting it go. It became part of the fun. “There’s Bill forgetting his lines again.”

Even if mistakes did go out, you’d have the comfort that it wouldn’t be repeated. But now with repeats, DVD releases, books documenting every fluffed line, etc, those performances are put under a great deal more scrutiny. How nervous does that make an actor like you?

Some actors are more embarrassed than I am. I’m not embarrassed for it, but there are some actors who get quite distressed, because there used to be a rule that the BBC or the television companies couldn’t show a programme after 15 years without your permission, mainly because people don’t want their young selves to be on television when they’re trying to get work as a 67-year-old. That’s gone – they’ll show anything nowadays. I’m still haunted by lifting the concrete slab to block the secret passage in The Aztecs. We had to act lifting, ‘cos it only weighed about 2 ounces. I acted lifting so badly; if ever I watch it again I’m always constantly aware that I’m lifting that slab so very badly. Now at the end, I dropped off the top of the temple and splattered on the cobbles. In those days the cameras were huge, and there was no way they could swing one of those cameras up in the air and film me lying dead on the cobbles. So what they did was, they repainted the floor against the wall, so the cobbles were on the wall, and then I had to go onto the wall and pose. It looks very good! Those kinds of limitations forced creative solutions to problems; there was always an answer. That was the great thing. And the answer was never money. I don’t mean that as a joke, because the directors had to find a way of doing it. This is what you’ve got to do, it’s an impossible task, there’s no way we can do it – how do we do it? And they worked it out. Whereas now, the answer is, “It’s going to cost us a million dollars, we’ll do whatever we need to do. We can sink the Titanic, we can raise the Titanic”. So the answer now is basically money. You’ve got a problem, throw money at it; but in those days, you’ve got a problem, solve it.

Do you think that because you couldn’t rely on big budgets or CGI, there was more pressure to tell a good story, rather than just throw in some explosions?

That’s certainly right. There are so many films now which are virtually unwatchable. I can almost identify all the ones that I wouldn’t want to see because I know what’s going to happen. There’ll be a lot of explosions, a lot of car chases, at the end there’s going to be a very big building that blows up and the hero just escapes by jumping out a window. The pyrotechnics have more or less taken over the industry. It’s a great excuse for not being able to write well. I think the writing industry has suffered enormously, the theatre has suffered, because there aren’t many writers now  who can write plays. I watched a play the other night that was 75 minutes, and my complaint when I came out was that it was too slow. What they had, basically, was a 25-minute play which they stretched out to 75 minutes. It’s very difficult to find writers who can actually write a play, and I think it’s disgraceful that we can’t find writers who can write films. They’re almost paint-by-numbers. The film industry’s in a sad place at the moment.

The Aztecs blew a lot of us away because it was such a strong script. It’s a shame the historical stories died out, because I can’t think of a historical Doctor Who story that’s actually bad.

It is a great shame that they didn’t want to go on with the historical ones, although the series would have ended. When I was young, one of my favourite writers was G.A. Henty, and he wrote a great series of books called I Went With Marco Polo, I Went With Francis Drake, and so on; about 40 or 50 of these books, with the whole of history laid out from the point of view of a young boy who somehow gets hooked up to the hero. I’ve just recorded I went with Francis Drake for an American radio company who are going to make all the Henty stories. I wish they were doing them on television, but it’d be very expensive. But the idea is still around, and hopefully these Henty stories might make radio popular again.

Speaking of radio, you hold the record for the longest gap between performances in Doctor Who – 48 years, from 1964 with The Aztecs until last year when you were in Dark Eyes for Big Finish, with Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. How did that come about?

Forty-eight years out of work! When I did The Aztecs, I honestly never thought I’d hear about it again. I never thought that my grandchildren would be watching it… and they don’t. It is a very exciting phenomenon. It is a great pleasure and a privilege to be here now, in Sydney, talking to Doctor Who fans. We do this quite often in the UK; I’ve done it once in America. It’s amazing to go around the world and find people who are linked by a common theme. And it’s not only a common universal theme; it’s always a very nice theme. The Doctor Who gatherings that I’ve been to, including this one, are very pleasant and happy occasions.

We’re lucky that The Aztecs is still with us, because so many episodes are missing. But some of your other work has been lost: the bulk of Emergency – Ward 10 and Z-Cars. It must be sort of galling that we have such a different attitude to television archives now.

With the benefit of hindsight, and the example of America, where they kept everything, right back to the first bit of film that was shot, it is astonishing that so many British programmes just disappeared. Back in the ‘60s, we couldn’t believe that the BBC and the other companies were not keeping programmes that they were recording. The argument was that nobody would ever want to watch it again; it’d be out of date, a police series like Z-Cars especially. The idea of Doctor Who, remember, is timeless. But police series, hospital dramas, they move on. Things change. When I was in Emergency – Ward 10, I was a brain surgeon, and I suggested to the producer that I should have my own little ambulance fitted up with equipment, so that when there was an emergency I could jump in my vehicle and perform a bit of surgery, with an operating theatre at the back. And she thought I was crazy! She said people would laugh at me. And that’s exactly what you’ve got now; paramedics buzzing around in their little ambulances. But I think the trick they miss is that for people to look back and say, “That’s the way it was” is always interesting. They’ve lost the idea of nostalgia being financially rewarding. It is a shame. But it’s also fun to think that the BBC, who wouldn’t pay the money to archive the episodes, are now spending a fortune trying to track these old episodes down, put them together and restore them. It’s ironic, really.

There was also an attitude that if you were repeating a show, you were putting actors and production staff out of work, because those were half hours where someone else wasn’t having to work to fill that slot.

I hadn’t actually thought of that. I remember, I was in a play called The Mousetrap in the West End; it was in its 17th year, and it’s now in its 61st year. I was virtually assaulted in the street by an actor who thought it was disgraceful that one silly little thriller should occupy a West End theatre for 17 years. He said you could have 50 plays on in that time. But I said to him, “Well actors are still working. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new play every month; it’s still employing a different cast every year. Actors are still working, audiences are coming to see it, and that’s what the theatre’s there for.” But he was very upset, and I’ve never come across it, but I daresay people did feel that about television repeats. But I find it very odd to believe, unless you weren’t working in television, because if you were working in television you loved repeats. You got paid for them! One of my best friends has been an actor for 70 years, and he’s never been able to get near television. He can’t understand why, and that’s something we don’t understand; why some do and some don’t.

Some actors want to do television because it can become a good pension plan, and for a lot of Doctor Who actors, you’re still being paid for the work you did near 50 years ago.

My fee, when I did Doctor Who, was £60 an episode. I couldn’t give you precise figures, but I reckon I’ve made at least 5-10 times that every year from DVD sales, personal appearances and all that sort of stuff. It just goes on and on and on, and it’s been amazing. And for the guys who played Doctor Who, it must be a great pension plan! I wish somebody would ask me to play Doctor Who.

Eventually you got into long-term roles as a regular character, which must have been a bit of a change; going from bit-parts to having the next few years plotted out in front of you.

It was a great feeling to have a two-year contract. For an actor to be told that for the next two years, you know what you’re doing, it’s wonderful. Especially if it’s something interesting and exciting. I like fast-turnaround television; I’ve done a lot of it. In 1997, Family Affairs was starting. For the first time, they were trying to do a five- times-a-week soap, and everyone said it was absolutely impossible. EastEnders could only do three, Coronation Street could only do three, The Bill tried to do four and fell flat on its face. But the ace up the sleeve of the people who were running it was that they had Reg Grundy, who produced Neighbours. They imported all the knowledge that Grundy had accumulated doing five-times-a-week television in Australia, and they took his technique, the way he ran his show, they adopted it, and it worked like a charm. We were doing five-times-a-week television without any bother at all, it was the easiest job I’ve ever had, we were always home early, we always had weekends off, and to be quite honest we could have done eight. It was the happiest two years of my life, ‘cos there was no pressure, so it was great fun.

So where does life take you now?

I’m enjoying what is in many ways the most exciting time you could have. I’ve got a marvellous family, seven grandchildren; the youngest is just over four weeks old and that’s why I’m over here, to visit her. And also having a few jobs come along. Dragonslayer was great fun; Dawn of the Dragonslayer was an American film, made on a low budget, about fighting dragons. Marvellous part, I had; I got to stick a sword in my daughter. The same people have asked me to do another one. There’s also Drake; quite a lot of radio has come along. If I was asked to do some more five-times-a-week television, I would say yes. Or do another year of The Mousetrap.

What’s been your favourite medium?

Theatre’s my favourite. In television terms I would rather do fast- turnaround television than one play. If you do a play on television these days, you have to rehearse for weeks, and that would drive me nuts. I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company and we rehearsed King Lear for six months, and I only had two lines. Then we had to play it for six months. So that sort of work, I couldn’t face again. I do a lot of teaching; I teach Shakespeare. Look up Early Shakespeare if you’ve got children, because my wife and I do the voices for that. We’ve done Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; we’re doing Macbeth next and then The Tempest. They’re great fun to do and they’re no stress. And that’s what I want at the moment – no stress so I’ve got time for my grandchildren.

Having worked with both William Hartnell and Paul McGann, how would you compare them?

It’s like trying to compare the prehistoric age with the future. It’s a totally different world, because actors are totally different. William Hartnell was actually a very important person; I don’t mean that Paul McGann is lesser, but the actual treatment, the attitude, and the way that people behaved, was just so different. I liked William Hartnell and I actually got on very well with him, we were friends for a long time, but if an actor behaved now the way that William Hartnell behaved, you’d think he was a joke. William Hartnell was very grand; he demanded a certain respect for his position and what he did and who he was, and he was very proud of his profession, and he was very aware that there were people who treated the profession lightly. He wanted people to be impressed by actors. He was like the actors of the late Victorian era, who were desperate for respectability. Whereas Paul McGann might walk in in jeans and a sweater, and say, “Mate, how are ya?” He wants to be treated as a sort of equal, thinking, “There’s nothing special about me, I’m just an actor”. That’s totally different to what William Hartnell was doing; he was saying, “I am an actor and I am special”.

What do you remember about your role in Blake’s 7?

Do you remember what I was saying earlier on about editing? That they wouldn’t pay for an edit? I got a telephone call quite late at night from a director who I’d worked with before. He said, “Ian, can you help us out? Can you come in tomorrow and do this long speech? The actor we’ve got can’t remember it, and so we’re going to have to edit”. So they sent a messenger round with this script, which I learned, and I went on and did it in one take perfectly. That’s how I got that job, and that’s all I remember about it. I turned up, I went in, I stood there, said it, and went home. So I don’t remember much about it. I knew Paul Darrow very well, we were in Emergency – Ward 10 together so he was a very old chum, but I didn’t meet any of the other cast. It was the most extraordinary experience. That was the reason for that; because an actor couldn’t learn his lines and the BBC wouldn’t pay for the edit. It was cheaper to get another actor; much cheaper than paying for a five-time edit. Roughly speaking, it cost £250 an edit and £60 for an actor. So if you’ve got an actor doing a speech and it needs five edits, forget it. Pay him off and get another one.

Was your accent in The Aztecs your choice or the director’s?

It was my choice. One of the traps of television and film is that you have to turn up with your performance worked out, and you do it. The director can tweak it, but if you turn up expecting the director to tell you what to do, you’ve had it. An awful lot of actors fall into that trap. With my performance, I kept saying, “Ee-an”, and if you listen to Dark Eyes, and this is completely accidental, but I’m doing exactly the same thing with a girl I called “Moll-ee”. It’s exactly the same trick, and I’d forgotten I’d done it in The Aztecs. It worked out well, it makes it interesting.

A lot of actors have rituals they go through, like a glass of champagne on the first performance. Have you come across any interesting rituals like that?

There are some extraordinary rituals. Jimmy Durante couldn’t perform if he saw a hat on a bed. He was doing a play on Broadway, and for a joke, one of his friends got into his flat and they put about 50 hats on the bed. And he didn’t perform, he couldn’t go on that night. He was absolutely terrified. James Stewart had a hat which he insisted on wearing in every film. If you look at any of his Western films, he’s always wearing the same hat. It was his lucky hat. He got into a great big argument with the director of The Man from Laramie, who said, “You can’t wear that hat, it’s not right”. So Jimmy said, “Well I’m not playing the part”. They had a great Hollywood standoff, with the contracted actor confronting the whole studio, and in the end the studio gave in and he wore his hat. I do a talk called The Curse of Macbeth, about superstition in the theatre and film world, and there are many very strange superstitions that actors have.

How do you think they would approach The Aztecs now, with modern technology and modern Who?

I think they’d spoil it by making it too complicated. They would be able to fly, and there’d be all sorts of explosions and battles, and there’d be superhuman beings and all the rest of it. There was something about The Aztecs; the feeling that they could come into your drawing room. There was something immediate about them, which made them believable and slightly frightening. And I think they’d lose that, probably; I can’t imagine them making something as simple as an Aztec.

Could you talk some more about William Hartnell?

We’re going back to the early days of television when everything was a bit experimental, and William Hartnell was carrying a great big load on his shoulders. He saw himself as leading this thing, and if it fell apart, it would be his fault. For that reason, he didn’t take fools gladly. Anybody who didn’t do their job properly got a kicking. He could be very irascible, but very often in television, there’s a lot to be irascible about, especially in the early days when the technicians, the directors, the producers, they were all trying things out. William Hartnell was learning a script a week, and with all the technical stuff he was trying to cope with, and the problems that he had to cope with, it’s amazing that he wasn’t more irascible than he was. I thought he was just totally professional and very much objected to anybody who wasn’t. I thought he was a great guy. I first met him when I was in a film with him; Sean Connery, Malcolm Lynch and William Hartnell were the three stars, and I had a tiny part. And on that he was quite irascible; I remember him being really cross with Sean Connery. He wasn’t easy by any means, but he was usually right. He had a lot of pressure on him, he was an elderly man thrown into a completely different world and coping with it magnificently, and I think a large part of the reason that Doctor Who is still with us is because of the footprint that William Hartnell laid down. He set the standard, saying, “This is not just a children’s series, we’re going to take it seriously as a drama. We’re going to do as well as we can possibly do”. He made everyone – including the joking BBC technicians who would rather be doing something more important – take it very seriously. And I think because he did that, it has longevity. So we owe him a great debt.

The costumes that you wore in The Aztecs were pretty outlandish. How is it wearing a cat’s face on your head?

To any actors out there, I suggest that you go and buy a mask and put it on, and see what happens to you, because it’s quite extraordinary. You put on a mask, and you take on the personality of the mask. You put a child in a tiger mask, and the child will become a tiger. So the moment that mask went on, Ixta become royal and terribly important. Before that he was less secure; he actually changes personality because suddenly he becomes The Man.

What was it like working with the companions?

The ethos in the theatre is that you get into a play, you meet for the first rehearsal, and the cast bond and become at least supportive of each other, if not great friends, for the rehearsal period and the run of the play. The moment the final curtain comes down, they never see each other again. But the feeling of friendship and family, when you’re working on a project together in the theatre, is very strong and real. In Doctor Who, the regular cast were the family, and they were looking after the rest of us. They protected us from William Hartnell! They were nice actors, nice people, they knew they were lucky to have that job, and they were thoroughly enjoying it. It was great fun to do with them; they were very happy and very pleasant. I’m still friends with Bill Russell and I’ve seen them at conventions since. They were lovely, very happy company. There was a certain feeling that Bill Hartnell was the King, and then there was the rest of us. We were all aware that we mustn’t upset Bill. We were warned, “Whatever you do, don’t forget your lines, ‘cos he’ll kill you”.

When your character in Z-Cars got killed off, it was a big shock. Were you involved in that decision?

A new producer came in, he rang me up at midnight, and he was drunk, and he said, “We’ve decided to kill you off”. It was a shock, and I was very upset. In those days it was a fairly new thing, but the pattern is now fairly set: if a soap is beginning to sag a bit, they kill somebody off, or they marry them off, or divorce them; they do something dramatic. I got short-strawed and I was killed. Good death though!

Would you ever work on the modern Doctor Who?

I would if I was asked. I’d do anything for money, dear!

Enter the Virtual Whoniverse Down Under

For decades fans have dreamt of stepping into the Whoniverse and experiencing all of its wonders and terrors first hand. Now finally that dream can come true, through the wonders of Virtual Reality in the fully immersive environment of Doctor Who: The Edge of Time. This VR game allows players the opportunity to pilot a Dalek casing from the inside, wield the sonic screwdriver and face off against the Weeping Angels. Full of action, puzzles and cinematic effects, the VR game also features Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and Nicholas Briggs as the voice of the Daleks. While the feature length game will be widely available online for those with VR headsets from 12 November onwards, a special 20 minute version will also be hosted by arcades across the world. Best of all, for once we aren’t left out in the cold here in the land Down Under, as six arcade locations across the continent plan to host the game. From Western Australia to Queensland, New South Wales to Tasmania, the door to the Whoniverse will open for the 56th anniversary on 23 November 2019 (Doctor Who Day). It will run from that day onwards, with no end date currently announced. Although bookings aren’t essential, to avoid disappointment at times of high demand it is recommended to call the arcade prior to visiting. Don’t miss out!

The Australian locations hosting Doctor Who: The Edge of Time are:

VR- ARRIVAL : 295 Albany Highway, Victoria Park, Western Australia, 6100

Free Space VR Arcade: 295 St Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Queensland, 4006

Central Coast Virtual Reality : 26 The Entrance Road, The Entrance, NSW, 2261

VRROOM Entertainment : 315 The Entrance Road, Long Jetty, NSW, 2261

VR Corner : 49 Regent Street, Chippendale, NSW, 2008

TAS-VR : Shed 3, 1 Pipeworks Road, St Leonards, Tasmania, 7250