Wednesday 15 November 2023

Look Who's 60: Part 1

The world’s longest running science fiction television series is 60 year old next week. “Doctor Who” made its debut on 23rd November 1963 on BBC1. Americans may recognise the date as the day after President Kennedy was assassinated.

For most of those 60 years, particularly since the 1970s, “Doctor Who” has had a massive queer following. It has also had a massive queer presence in its production team, going all the way back to the very first episode. In this, and 2 more articles to follow, I’ll be listing 60 of the lgbt+ contributors to the series and it’s expanded “Whoniverse”.

The three lists that appear over the next week will cover the entire 60 years history of the series. I’ll select significant contributors in chronological order. It won’t be a complete chronology because some years will be left out to make way for multiple individuals who have made a significant contribution or connection in one year. You’ll see what I mean when you read the lists.

Each list will contain 20 names. Many individuals have come back to work on “Doctor Who” more than once. Generally, I will list them according to their first involvement. There may be a lot of “Doctor Who” references that you many not understand. For this I apologise in advance. I’ve tried to keep most references as non-specific as possible.

You may become aware of the scarcity of female names in the first lists. This a reflection on British broadcasting in the mid-20th century. Most people involved in broadcasting were male. It is also a case of not having enough information available on the sexuality of female contributors, even actors, in those early years. 

1) Waris Hussein (b.1938) – Director. Indian-born Hussein directed the very first episodes, “An Unearthly Child”, and the 3 episodes that completed the first story, known today as “The Tribe of Gum” (episodes had individual titles in those days and weren’t replaced with overall story titles until 1966). Hussein returned to direct the “Marco Polo” story in 1964. He has appeared in many “Who” related documentaries, and has spoken about his sexuality.

2) Robin Phillips (1942-2015) – Actor. Played Altos, a major character in the 6-episode story “The Kays of Marinus” (1964). In 1975 he went to Canada as Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival Theatre, Ontario. He became a Canadian citizen and continued to act and direct. In 2005 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

3) Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012). Composer of the incidental music for the 4-part story “The Aztecs” (1964). A renowned composer for television, film and concert hall, Bennett was knighted for services to music in 1998.

4) Max Adrian (1903-1973). Actor. Played King Priam of Troy in “The Mythmakers” (1965). Although a highly respected Shakespearean actor, Adrian excelled at farce, and became a familiar face on UK television in the late 1960s in the first series of “Up, Pompeii!” with Frankie Howerd.

5) Michael Sheard (1938-2005). Actor. Played Rhos in “The Ark” (1966). This was the first of many appearances in “Doctor Who” up to 1988. In “Pyramids of Mars” he played the brother of Bernard Archard (below). He also played in “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (he played Hitler).

6) Bernard Archard (1916-2008). Actor. Played Bragan in “The Power of the Daleks” (1966). He returned in 1975 to play Prof. Scarman, in a memorably chilling performance in “Pyramids of Mars” alongside Michael Sheard (above).

7) Victor Pemberton (1931-2017). One of the people whose involvement in the programme covers many roles. His first involvement was as an actor in “The Moonbase” (1967). He was Story Editor for “Tomb of the Cybermen” (1967), Assistant Story Editor on “The Ice Warriors” (1967), He wrote “Fury From the Deep” (1968), in which he invented the Doctor’s iconic sonic screwdriver, and the vinyl LP and audio cassette drama “Doctor Who and the Pescatons” (1976). He novelised both of his stories. His partner in the 1960s was David Spenser (below).

8) David Spenser (1934-2013). Actor. Born David de Savan in Sri Lanka, Spenser played Thomni, one of the main Tibetan monks in “The Abominable Snowmen” (1967). He had been a well-known child actor in the UK on radio. He later went on to be an Emmy awarding-winning producer.

9) Alan Rowe (1926-2000). Actor. Another returning actor over multiple Doctors. His first appearance was in “The Moonbase” (1967) (with Victor Pemberton, above, both playing characters taken over by the Cybermen). Rowe returned in leading roles in “The Time Warrior” (1973), playing the boss of Bella Emberg (no. 12 below), “Horror of Fang Rock” (1977), and “Full Circle” (1980), which introduced new companion Adric (played by Matthew Waterhouse, no. 19 below), His life partner was Geoffrey Bayldon (no.18 below).

10) Ronald Allen (1930-1991). Actor. Allen is most famous in the UK as one of the lead actors in the television soap opera “Crossroads” (1971-85). His first appearance in “Doctor Who” was in “The Dominators” (1968) playing the main eponymous villain. He returned in 1970 to play space centre controller Cornish in “The Ambassadors of Death”.

11) Nicholas Bullen (1946-2020). Costume designer. Bullen designed the costumes for Patrick Troughton’s final two stories, “The Space Pirates” and “Wargames” (1969). As the designer on the latter he is responsible for designing the first costumes for the Time Lords.

12) Bella Emberg (1937-2018). Actor. Best remembered as a great comedy actor, most memorably as Blunder Woman, Bella made her “Doctor Who” debut in two non-speaking roles as a nurse in “The Silurians” (1970) and a kitchen worker in “The Time Warrior” (1973).  She returned to play Mrs. Croot in “Love and Monsters” (2006), and played her again in “The Runaway Bride” (2006), though her scene was cut from the broadcast version.

13) Geoffrey Toone (1910-2005). Actor. Although Toone appeared in the 1965 Peter Cushing film “Dr. Who and the Daleks” (1965) playing one of the Thal leaders, he will always be remembered for his portrayal of High Priest Hepesh in “The Curse of Peladon” (1972).

14) James Culliford (1927-2002). Actor. Though he didn’t play a major character, Culliford appeared in the first episodes on “Frontier in Space” (1973) as a space pilot. Shortly after recording his episodes he suffered a stroke. Culliford was the life partner of Alfred Lynch (see part 3 of the list).

15) Tony Beckley (1929-1980). Actor. He played one of the creepiest villains of the Tom Baker era (1974-1981), Harrison Chase in “The Seeds of Doom” (1976). His character favoured plants over animals and was not averse to throwing people who angered him into his compost-making machine.

16) John Nathan Turner (1947-2002). Producer. Popularly referred to as JNT, Nathan Turner was one of the most significant and influential people in the final years of the classic era. Although he had worked on the series since the 1960s, his first on-screen credit was a Production Unit Manager on “Horror of Fang Rock” (1977) (guest-starring Alan Rowe, above). In 1980 JNT became producer (before the term show-runner was used) and stayed at the helm until the series was cancelled in 1989. A charismatic character, JNT saw the introduction of three Doctors. His life partner was Gary Downie (below).

17) Gary Downie (1946-2006), Production manager. JNT’s life partner began working on “Doctor Who” as Assistant Floor Manager on “Underworld” (1978). He remained a member of the production team until the series was cancelled in 1989. His last credit was a Production Manager on “Dimensions in Time” (1993), a 2-part mini-episode made for the series’ 30th anniversary featuring many former Doctors and companions. It was produced for the BBC’s annual charity telethon “Children in Need”.

18) Geoffrey Bayldon (1924-2017). Actor. My generation will always remember Bayldon as Catweazle, a bumbling hermit wizard magically transported from the 11th century to the 20th in the children’s series of the same name (1970-1). His performance led many people to hope that he would one day be chosen to play the Doctor, and it is reported in some places that he was actually considered by the production team on several occasions. Instead, Bayldon’s only appearance in “Doctor Who” was in “The Creature From the Pit” (1979), in which he played a character not unlike Catweazle.

19) Matthew Waterhouse (b.1961). Actor. The youngest actor to play one of the Doctor’s companions, and his inexperience showed. He played Adric, a mathematical genius, for “Full Circle” (1980) to “Earthshock” (1982), becoming the second companion (after Katarina in 1966) to be killed off on-screen. Waterhouse appeared in several cameos afterwards (as illusions), and has starred in a few Big Finish audio dramas. He is also the first companion-actor to come out as gay.

20) Anthony Ainley (1932-2004). Actor. Ainley received much praise and admiration from fans for his portrayal as the long-awaited regeneration of the Doctor’s arch-enemy the Master in the closing moments of “The Keeper of Traken” (1981). I attended a big Doctor Who convention a few months later and Ainley’s surprise appearance on stage resulted in the only standing ovation of the whole convention. His last story was “Survival” (1989), where he became half-cat, which was referred to in the BBC Centenary special episode “The Power of the Doctor” (2022).

That concludes today’s list. The next 20 names will be revealed on November 19th.

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