Doctor Who - Documentary s02e15 Episode Script

My Grandfather, the Doctor

Most Doctor Who fans will know that the first Doctor Who had a granddaughter on screen, Carole Ann Ford.
But in real life, he had a real granddaughter, me.
Essentially, when I was first at school, my grandfather was a Time Lord.
We were told, initially, not to talk about it at school.
My mother didn't want us to appear to be bragging and neither did she want us to be teased.
So, we were supposed to be To not mention it.
Which was fine to begin with, but then he'd been asked to open the local hospital fete in Pembury, where we lived as children.
And it was a little difficult to hide it after that because he arrived in full Doctor Who regalia.
Not in a TARDIS but in an open-top car.
And there was lots of cheering and it was all great fun because he absolutely adored doing these public appearances.
And so, really, the cat was out of the bag then.
So, all my school friends knew about it.
I do remember being asked for my autograph, which was terribly exciting.
And it was fun to be made a bit of a fuss of on the day of the fete.
They didn't live that close to us.
They lived in Sussex.
So I didn't see him because most of the time he was actually working.
He was away shooting pretty much, as far as I know, 48 weeks a year.
But I was, obviously, very conscious of him playing Doctor Who because Saturday afternoons, everyone sat round watching the television with great excitement.
And, of course, I wasn't scared because I knew it was my grandfather.
One of the most exciting things I did when I was a kid, was visit the studios when they were shooting the Menoptra.
The Zarbi and the Menoptra.
I was taken there.
I don't remember anyone really being there, apart from my grandfather though.
So whether I was just left in his care, I don't know but I remember sitting in the dressing room and sitting in the makeup room which was terribly exciting to a kid, watching the makeup and watching him have his wig put on.
I remember then being in the studio when they were doing some shooting and just thinking how incredibly busy everyone was.
Lots of wires everywhere and I was told to keep out of the way.
I remember the huge ant costumes and how heavy they were.
And these rather strange-looking people wandering around with great, big wings, the Menoptra.
My brother also visited the studios but because he was a bit younger than me he doesn't really remember as much about it.
But he visited when the Daleks were being shot, which was terribly exciting.
I don't mind admitting, my boy, that that thing gave me a start.
Coming face to face to it again.
One of the things that used to happen in the playground to both my brother and I, was the knock-knock joke.
So everyone used to come up to us and say, "Knock, knock.
" "Who's there?" "Doctor.
" "Doctor who?" And then peals of laughter and everyone thought it was a great joke.
There's not much you can say to that when you've had it said to you umpteen times.
But it was quite nice having that connection with a programme which was so, so popular.
It really did go down well with children and I know that perhaps it was one of the first programmes that had a huge fan following.
And I know my grandfather would sometimes get letters from whole schools.
He'd get a letter from a teacher and then 20 or 30 letters from the children.
And I know that he believed the fan base was really important for a programme like this which had been largely aimed at children and families.
And he was very assiduous, with my grandmother's help, at replying to all the fan mail.
So I was very conscious of the fact that it was a popular programme.
And that other children saw Doctor Who as a really iconic figure, really.
One of the interesting things I found about watching many of my grandfather's performances in old films, was that apart from the fact he had a huge range I mean, he really was very good at comedy.
He spent a lot of time playing the tough sergeant and the tough character in uniform.
He used to really research his roles and he had a huge attention to detail.
When he was given the role of the sergeant in The Way Ahead, he went off and trained at a training camp with the sergeants.
So he knew how they behaved and took roll-call and things like that.
He really was quite obsessive about detail with his characters and wanted to make them as believable as possible, which made him probably a bit obsessional when he was working.
But I think it means his performances still stand up today.
Playing the tough sergeant in The Way Ahead got him lots of good notices and then he sort of reprised the role in Carry On Sergeant which was a send up of The Way Ahead.
Alongside the quite tough sergeant roles he did, he also sometimes played tough crooks.
One of the very good films which still is shown frequently today is Brighton Rock where he plays Dallow, I think the character is.
Pinkie's sidekick.
There's an edge to that film which must have been quite shocking in those days.
Again, his character's got a lot of intensity, and he was able to play those roles because he wasn't from a posh background.
He was often called upon to play the same sort of character which I think is slightly frustrating after a while, if you keep doing it.
When he was offered Doctor Who, I think he jumped at the chance because it was something completely unique.
He could create a character from scratch that had no parameters, really.
It would have been very easy to send up a character like that or to make it unbelievable because, after all, he was in a fantastical box that had wobbly scenery and everything around it, but he had an attention to detail and he brought that to the role of Doctor Who.
He made the TARDIS real for him.
He worked out what every button, every switch did on the console, so that he could use it realistically and repeat what he did in each series so that the children couldn't pick him up and say, "That button doesn't do that.
" He knew that young audiences would be very particular, very sure of what they were watching.
Yes, we shall find that out.
And I'm sure you will agree with me there are several things that we would like an answer to.
Perhaps, it wouldn't have grown into such a big thing if he hadn't been so careful of the fans.
I think one of the things about being so meticulous about his performance, possibly made him quite difficult to work with.
Anyone who is a bit obsessional and very meticulous will annoy those who are a bit more happy-go-lucky and a bit more casual about the way they do it.
Whether it was because he had to concentrate that hard to create that reality for himself or whether he just got frustrated with actors who didn't take it as seriously as he took it, I don't know.
In researching his life, one of the things We knew that he was illegitimate, but I was able to find out much more about that.
He had no real father-figure around at all until a mentor, who was an art critic, an art connoisseur, came into his life when he was in his teens.
I think that the insecurity of being illegitimate when he was young and teased and having no father figure around and, for much of his time, no mother around 'cause he was fostered out, must have led to an awful lot of insecurity on his behalf making Which in many ways explained to me the difficult aspects of his character that people had.
And perhaps also why he wanted to be an actor because an actor is often motivated to take on other characters because they don't have any confidence in themselves.
I think the fact that Doctor Who is still successful and even entrancing even more children today would just have thrilled him so much.
I think he took the part seriously, he loved the character.
He owned it and he was very proud of the character.
I think he'd be so thrilled to know how successful it is now.
There's a story my mother told me that, when they were in a pub at one point, my grandmother and my grandfather, somebody came up to him, and I think it was during the Doctor Who years, someone came up to him and said, as if it was a prediction, "The best is yet to come.
The best is yet to come.
" And I know it had a profound effect on my grandfather.
And my grandmother mentioned this to my mother, that it was as if the success would be greater later on and it's something my mother has always remembered.
And perhaps, somebody had a prescience that the character would live on.