Doctor Who - Documentary s13e02 Episode Script

Remembering Douglas Camfield

NARRATOR: Douglas Camfield was a television director, one of the many who brought TVdrama series and serials to life in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
He died in 1984, aged just 52.
And it's now 28 years since his last major work was transmitted.
Yet for TVprofessionals and enthusiasts and Doctor Who fans in particular, he's still remembered as standing out among his peers for the energy and lightness of touch he brought to his productions.
He was born in India and adopted by English parents at a young age.
As a teenager, he wanted to work for Walt Disney.
And after studying at the York School of Art, he decided to pursue a career in film.
But National Service soon intervened.
Douglas himself was very proud of the fact that he'd been a subaltern.
I don't know whether he was in a Scottish regiment, I'm not sure of that.
JOGGS CAMFIELD: He was a Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment, I believe.
He was also training to be in the SAS.
But had an ankle injury at quite a late stage in that process.
So I think he was quite interested in taking the army thing further.
NARRATOR: In 1955, the birth of Independent Television gave rise to a host of production vacancies at the BBC, as their staff defected to ITVin droves.
At the age of 24, Douglas joined the BBC as a trainee assistant film editor.
I met him when I was a call boy, a runner, in the early '60s.
He had just started directing.
I mean, imagine, he must've been about 24.
I don't know, he was very young.
But anyway, in the '60s he started directing, and he'd done quite a bit before he came to do Doctor Whos.
NARRATOR: Douglas was production assistant to the very first Doctor Who director, Waris Hussein, and worked on the first serial, directing some of the film sequences himself.
Low-budget serials like Doctor Who were often used as a testing ground for young talent.
And Douglas had impressed producer Verity Lambert sufficiently for her to bring him in to direct the final episode of "Planet of Giants" the following year, when the original director, Mervyn Pinfield, was unavailable.
Douglas's foot was now very much in the directorial door.
And Verity Lambert gave him two historical serials to direct in 1965.
The Devil's horde, Saracen and Turk, posses Jerusalem, and we will not wrest it from them with honeyed words.
With swords, I suppose? Aye, with swords and lances, or the axe.
You stupid butcher! Can you think of nothing else but killing, hmm? I particularly liked Dougie Camfield as a director because Probably because he directed the first serial I did and he gave me a lot of confidence and he was very helpful.
Yes, perhaps we should find a village whereby we can convince this young upstart of the true facts.
Oh, great, Doctor.
I'm all for that.
But there is one thing that bothers me.
Oh, yes? What is it now? Well, how come you chose such an unusual design for your ship? A police telephone box? Is that right? I liked the attention that he gave to our performance.
And of course, he did "The Master Plan", which was this massive long thing.
That was great fun to work with him on.
NARRATOR: "The Dalek Master Plan" ran for an unprecedented 12 episodes during late 1965 and early 1966.
It required two writers but just the one director.
DALEK: The time destructor is now completed.
It only requires the core to be fitted.
We had good directors, but I think Dougie was Yeah, he stood out.
He was the one that we thought, "Oh, great.
Dougie's doing the show.
" That was really super and looked forward to that.
NARRATOR: Douglas's work on Doctor Who brought him to the attention of other BBC producers and, from 1966, he began to broaden his portfolio.
He worked for producer Graeme McDonald on the BBC's Thirty-Minute Theatre, and for Alan Bromly on Breaking Point and Watch the Birdies before becoming a regular director on Z Cars in 1967.
He returned to Doctor Who in 1968, during Patrick Troughton's time, directing two serials which introduced UNITinto the series.
He still had a residual sort of love of things military and that crept in.
I'm sure he loved having the UNI scooting around in their Jeeps, you know, their Land Rovers.
NARRATOR: Douglas had got into the habit of regularly rehiring from the same group of actors.
During his career there were a group of two dozen or so artists from whom he would routinely pick five or six to appear in just about anything he directed.
He did have a set company, if you like, of artists that he used to enjoy working with, and whose work he appreciated.
He sort of gradually built up a kind of a repertory company of actors that he could rely upon, who would deliver.
His heart was so big and his loyalty was massive.
Once you were in his stable, he never let you down.
John Challis appeared in, I think, two or three different productions of my father's.
Michael McStay would have the same thing to say, as would Walter Randall, who's no longer with us, but a very, very good friend of the family, and Ian Fairbairn, the same, from Doctor Who, and other shows.
There was quite a few of them that my dad liked, John Levene being, again, another.
They would probably be good for a scene or two, whatever my dad was working on, if he could fit them in.
These were also his friends, to some extent.
So, we'd often go round to Dougie's and Sheila's house and there'd be this little repertory company of actors.
NARRATOR: John Levene first worked for Douglas as a yeti in "The Web of Fear", which also introduced Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier.
Both would emerge from Douglas's circle of actors to become Doctor Who regulars during the Jon Pertwee years of the early 1970s.
I didn't know then that he'd figured out that this man was worth watching and indeed, as you can gather later, that he actually gave me the part of Benton.
NARRATOR: John Levene also appeared for Douglas in an episode of the Detective series produced by Verity Lambert.
Douglas was now becoming a key director in the BBC's Series and Serials departments.
During 1968 and 1969, he continued directing Z Cars, episodes of Paul Temple and Out of the Unknown.
Meanwhile, on Doctor Who, a pattern had emerged, in that the serials directed by Douglas were consistently among the most popular and this continued with "Inferno" in 1970.
"Inferno"gave Douglas a chance to cast his wife, Sheila Dunn, in a leading guest role.
The couple had first met on the set of Garry Halliday in the early 1960s and later got to know each other when Douglas was working on Z Cars.
I've often wondered how it felt for Douglas to have his own beautiful wife, whose name was Sheila Dunn, but I believe in "Inferno" she was Petra Williams, the assistant to the villain.
Professor Stahlman, we'll be switching to robot controls in 49 minutes.
Thank you.
And I did jokingly say to Sheila, because she knew I had a bit of a ribald sense of humour, I said, "You slept with the director to get this part.
" And she said, "Yes, I did.
" NARRATOR: But the happy experience soon turned into a nightmare for Sheila, when Douglas fell ill during the production.
I can remember "Inferno", of course.
It is indelibly imprinted on my heart, because we nearly lost Douglas.
My father's health was an issue for him.
From the age of about 25, he had an ailment called atrial fibrillation, which meant that his heart beat faster than it should.
So he took medicine for that from around that age.
And it did get in the way of his work a couple of times.
I knew he wasn't well, but I just thought he was being overworked, like most of the BBC people are.
Barry Letts completed some scenes for him while he was in hospital.
Probably the biggest effect of it, certainly I remember from his perspective, was that he didn't like the idea that he was a risk for people.
And he didn't like the idea that he couldn't be relied on to complete a project.
There was rumours he had a pacemaker, which he never did, and I remember that used to kind of annoy him that he perhaps was tarred by that professionally, when, really, I would like to think he had more energy than most.
NARRATOR: Douglas quickly recovered from the heart scare but decided to move away from Doctor Who onto other series in the early 1970s.
He was now a freelance director.
Although he continued working for the BBC on The Lotus Eaters, Sutherland's Law and further episodes of Paul Temple.
But he also worked for Thames Television.
They were linking up with Euston Films, making primarily all-film series.
There was very little film being used in BBC drama.
Dougie was certainly one of the directors who knew how to tell a story through film.
NARRATOR: For Thames, Douglas directed on episodes of Public Eye, Special Branch and also on the hit series Van der Valk, where he made an immediate impression on the story editor.
I knew Holland quite well.
So Robert Love, who was the producer, invited me to go with the next director While one director was working, I would go with the next director and look over the locations and everything.
So, as well as being story editor, I was doing that.
It was great fun.
And I remember having a great time with Douglas when we went on the recce, and I think it was the first time I had met him.
I remember he brought his family over.
His wife Sheila and his son Joggy, who's today a record company executive.
And then subsequently, when I came to do Doctor Who, there he was.
NARRATOR: By 1975, Douglas had begun work on The Sweeney, one of the most successful drama series of the 1970s.
He thought he'd left Doctor Who behind, but a new production team had taken over.
And Robert Banks Stewart was one of the new writers they had brought on board.
I think he'd had enough of the show.
I've said this before, it was a very, very stressful show to produce.
Very complicated, and done in a short space of time, mainly in the studio.
I think that when I took the show over, I did bring a sort of enthusiasm.
The show took on a slightly darker, more scarier I think that was the era when kids were known to hide behind sofas and all the rest of it, and I think that would certainly have appealed to him.
NARRATOR: Douglas returned for two Doctor Who serials under Philip Hinchcliffe.
The first being "Terror of the Zygons", an alien thriller set in the Highlands of Scotland.
HINCHCLIFFE: Dougie was obviously a very good sort of action director.
There was quite a lot of UNIT story in "The Zygons", so he seemed a natural choice for this one.
JOGGS CAMFIELD: There was a time when I organised a class trip.
I didn't organise it myself, I was seven.
But I would have had a class trip organised on my behalf to go to BBC studios, and I think it was actually on "Terror on the Zygons".
Some of my classmates came with me and we went on set and to the viewing gallery and all that kind of thing.
So, certainly in terms of his career, and how it coincided with my age, growing up, the Doctor Who years would have been very, very exciting for me.
The power drainage has jammed the door.
It is the Doctor! I was very flattered because Douglas wanted to do my work, because he then wanted to do the next series that I wrote, "The Seeds of Doom.
" Now, Mr.
Keeler Oh! NARRATOR: For "The Seeds of Doom", Douglas renewed his acquaintance with Graeme Harper, who'd worked his way up from call boy to production assistant.
We were at a house called Athelhampton.
It was the first day of a location shoot.
I went up to Barbara Lane, who was the costume designer at the time, at about 6:00 in the morning and said, "I would love to have something military to wear "and I'd like to give Douglas something as well, "because I think he'd really enjoy We're doing a UNIT day today "and I think he'd really enjoy being a commander.
" So, she said, "Okay, I'll see what I can get.
" So she came up with these two jumpers, military jumpers.
One was a lieutenant colonel with pips for the lieutenant.
And the other was a regimental sergeant major.
Well, I don't What do I know? I mean, I've never been in the army.
I didn't know what was what.
So I go on to the set when he arrives, and said, "Douglas I've got a nice present for you," and he went, "What are you giving me?" And then I said, "This is for you two.
" And I gave him his jumper, and he went, "Ah!" And he looked at this marvellous jumper, this khaki jumper that he was now going to wear for the day.
He went off to put his jumper on and I put mine on.
And I remember there's a moment in my brain that sees this image of me in this kind of, near a maze, a lovely maze in this garden, standing on some stones in the garden, waiting for him to come to say what he wanted to do with the first set-up.
And he came, he turned around, he walked down and he looked at me, down through the garden, looked at me, and said, "What?" And I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "How dare you!" And I thought he was serious.
And I said He said, "You're wearing the lieutenant colonel, "and I'm the sergeant regimental sergeant major?" And I, by accident, had given him the wrong jumper.
It was absolutely delightful.
JOGGS CAMFIELD: "Seeds of Doom" I remember very well, largely because of the wrap party.
The wrap party was on Halloween.
At the end of the day's filming, particularly if we were on location, for example, Dougie knew how to relax and have a good time.
And he was quite a good guitarist, so, you know, there'd often be little sing-songs at the end of a shoot with us all gathered round.
I remember the cast and crew all dressed up, and my mum made me a wizard's outfit with a lovely cardboard black pointy hat.
And so I got to the party, obviously quite excited to be there and to be a part of that.
And then Tom Baker put the Doctor's scarf round my neck.
So, I was a wizard with Doctor Who's scarf round my neck.
And obviously, as a seven-year-old, that was a pretty good look.
NARRATOR: "The Seeds of Doom" was Douglas's last work on Doctor Who as a director, but he also hoped to write for the series.
He definitely had an interest in writing.
He was a keen writer.
I think I know more of that from the later years of his life, because, you know, I was getting a little bit older then, but I know that he had a couple of unmade film scripts that he wrote.
And I think there were some TV ideas as well, one of which is well-documented.
It was about the French Foreign Legion, which he wanted to make for Doctor Who.
HINCHCLIFFE: "The Lost Legion", I think, was about the French Foreign Legion.
And ever since I'd got to know him on the show, he was sort of bending my ear about this idea.
He said, "I think this would make a really good Doctor Who.
" And you know, actually, it is a nice idea.
You know, all the colour of the French Foreign Legion.
You could shoot it in sand pits and quarries.
So, you know, there was good sense to it, but he wasn't primarily a writer.
But I think he gave such sterling service, that I thought, "Well, you know, I ought to give him a go, really.
" So, he sort of had a go at this Beau Geste kind of story.
We gave it careful consideration.
He worked very hard on it.
Bob Holmes had a really good look at it but it just didn't really quite pan out.
NARRATOR: And so it was that Douglas's involvement with Doctor Who came to an end in 1976.
But in the years to come, he was rarely out of work.
He directed episodes ofThe Onedin Line and more episodes of The Sweeney for Thames before being recruited for a new film series being developed by Philip Hinchcliffe for the BBC.
Target was the first all-film series that had ever been made at the BBC and yet somehow, I had to fashion a production that was fast-moving, could make very, you know, quick decisions at the end of a filming day.
Dougie was absolutely essential as one of the key directors on that.
I thought that the job he did on "Big Elephant" was fabulous.
I'm serious.
I mean it.
I've got something to sell.
I mean it! What do you mean? You buy me a pint and I'll tell you a wee story.
Hang about.
I mean, that's a really, really good piece of television direction.
NARRATOR: After two episodes ofTarget, Douglas directed the very first episode ofThe Professionals for London Weekend Television.
He followed this up with a Blakes 7, and several episodes of Accident for the BBC, and Danger UXB for Thames, before Robert Banks Stewart got back in touch.
STEWART: When I came to do Shoestring, I was in no doubt whatever that I wanted Douglas Camfield to direct the first episode.
And he rang me up and said, "Oh, I love the script," which, of course, was very flattering since it was written by me, "And I'd love to do it.
" And so, off we went, and he did a wonderful job.
There was this scene in a ruined, a football-hooliganised train compartment, laid up in a sidings, and Douglas shot that beautifully.
And who does this wrong ear belong to? STEWART: Shoestring was a bit of a cartoonist, and every time he was questioning people, he was scribbling.
But this time, he did it in condensation on the window.
And I remember that was Douglas's idea.
His contribution to Shoestring was tremendous.
I mean, Shoestring leapt into the number one Sunday night, virtually from that first episode.
I mean, you can imagine the pleasure that gave me.
And Douglas.
NARRATOR: Douglas directed three episodes of Shoestring in all.
In 1981, he took on a rather different BBC project.
The Nightmare Man was a four-part serial for BBC Scotland, starring James Warwick and a young Celia Imrie.
I have quite a lot to thank Dougie for, because he took a chance on me.
At least we might have more idea of what we're up against.
I know what we're up against.
A vile killer that tears its victims to pieces.
God knows what we're going to find when this is finished.
I had to play Fiona, who was a Scottish pharmacist, and we pretended that Port Isaac in Cornwall was the Highlands of Scotland.
And actually, it doubled very well, I thought.
And convinced a lot of people.
I can remember him sort of clambering up and down cliffs very agilely and it was quite extreme weather, which was perfect for our story, 'cause it had to be quite mysterious and fake fog everywhere, but it looked pretty horrifying, I think.
(MAN SCREAMING) He used to have a musical instrument, which I think was an ocarina or some small wind instrument.
I'm not sure where he got that from, might have been Morocco.
We went to Morocco probably around 1980, something like that.
Very kind of folk-sounding instrument.
He obviously found it was sort of therapeutic.
And in between takes, he would sit there playing this.
I hadn't thought about ocarinas for probably 20 years, until I got here today.
So, yes, he did play an ocarina.
NEWTH: He was always immensely courteous.
Everybody was introduced to everybody else on the set.
Some extra had been brought in to play a corpse and he insisted that she was introduced to everybody.
And then ended up by identifying her by saying, "And this is Melanie, the corpse.
" (CHUCKLES) I can see him now, actually.
He had that gentle face with surrounded by fluffy grey hair and a beard, I think he had, when I knew him.
Kind eyes and very calm, actually, for a director, 'cause, well, it's not often the case, but I think people have an idea that a television director's going to be ranting around the place.
He never did that.
He was very persuasive, he knew what he wanted and it was a wonderful experience, actually.
Especially for my first lead part, which was so important.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, Robert Banks Stewart had set up a new BBC film series to replace Shoestring.
Set on Jersey, Bergerac had been an instant hit.
And although Douglas never worked on the show, he did have a hand in a key casting decision for the second series.
And that was because I was at Douglas Camfield's last-night party.
He gave a party in his house when we finished filming.
And at that party was an actress called Celia Imrie.
And she had just played a wee Scottish chemist in a thriller that Douglas had done.
Robert Banks Stewart was invited and that's how I was cast in Bergerac.
So, double thanks to Dougie.
I wish I could thank him myself now.
I wanted Douglas to do Bergerac, because his episodes of Shoestring had been very successful, but he'd I think if I'm correct, he was very tied up on his own series about the Foreign Legion, Beau Geste.
NARRATOR: Barry Letts, who was now producing the BBC1 Sunday classics, had decided to dramatise the PC Wren novel for transmission over the autumn of 1982.
There could be only one choice of director.
JOGGS CAMFIELD: He loved the book.
I've still got three copies of the book.
He had a signed copy of the book, which I have.
Column, halt! - Corporal, send lookouts.
- Yes, Chef.
My father was quite up on French history and there would've been all the dressing up that went with Beau Geste.
Douglas Camfield, director of Beau Geste, the emphasis is on realism here.
I mean, you live this, don't you, really? Morning, noon and night.
And according to my wife, I dream it as well.
Oh, dear.
I shout out orders in French during the night.
I've got two French flintlocks here, which would pick off a Touareg at about, oh - Two-hundred yards? - Two-hundred metres, yes.
I shall make my way out into the desert and face the ravening hordes of Touaregs.
Don't fall over the sand dunes.
Do me best, and I hope I don't bump into Doctor Who, either.
- Bye.
- Bye-Bye, Douglas.
I think the story just caught his imagination.
Probably as simple as that.
(GUNSHOTS) It was a lifelong passion, I think, to get that to the screen, so I remember him being very fulfilled when he did that.
NARRATOR: Shortly before Beau Geste, Douglas had made a break-through when he was chosen to direct an American TVfilm adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, whose stellar cast included Julian Glover, Sam Neill, Anthony Andrews, and James Mason.
That was a great project for him.
He was really, really very pleased to be doing that, and he definitely wanted to be doing more of that epic, grand-scale stuff.
NARRATOR: In 1983, Douglas directed Missing From Home, a six-part BBC drama serial, and he was preparing to direct another classic serial for Barry Letts the following year.
The Prisoner of Zenda was going to be his next project.
I think he was just into the planning stages.
It was an obvious way to go, following Beau Geste.
For him, and again, it was a story that I know resonated with him, and that he was excited to be getting stuck into.
NARRATOR: But in January 1984, Douglas's life was tragically cut short.
I can remember my partner coming into the bedroom one morning and saying to me, "You'll never guess who's died.
" I said, "Who?" And she said, "Douglas.
" It was completely out of the blue.
There was As much as he'd had his health issues, he hadn't actually had anything that had flagged up what was going to happen.
"He had some friends in last night and he felt slightly unwell "and he went upstairs to bed and he died.
" Douglas, if I remember rightly, died on a Friday.
And by the Saturday or Sunday, Barry Letts had phoned me.
He knew that he I wasn't his best friend but I was a good friend of Douglas's and Barry knew that, and I'm guessing he spent an evening ringing Douglas's mates, telling them the sad news.
He was as full of his usual energy as ever and excited and still very driven, in a work sense.
And there was nothing to suggest that he was going to die, so, yeah, huge shock.
In terms of memories of my father, just he was a great dad.
We've talked about professionally, personally, you know, my childhood was nothing but a lot of fun.
We used to do a lot of playing soldiers in Richmond Park, hiding around amongst the bracken at Richmond Park, or he would We would take toy soldiers up there and we had a couple of garrisons of toy soldiers and a huge plastic box of all sorts of military paraphernalia.
So, there was quite a lot of that going on.
He was intense enough about work for it to be a part of our home life, but it would always be fun for me and it would always be made interesting and colourful.
So, when actors would come around of a weekend for Sunday lunch, you know, I would kind of There would be a mix of probably a little bit of glamour, having recognised people off the TV, but they were always there in a social capacity.
It was a great mix as a kid.
It was a lot of fun.
He loved music, he played the guitar, fancied himself as a flamenco guitarist.
Didn't look too much like a flamenco guitarist, but if you closed your eyes, he could definitely pull it off.
So, we had fun with that as well.
I play the guitar as a result of that as well.
What's great about my dad's work and how he conducted himself I think probably is just as importantly as that I can still meet people today that have a desire to tell me how much they admired him, and of his contemporaries People speak very highly of how he was a little bit different and how he kind of brought energy and new ways of looking at how to get things done.
I tell you what made Douglas Camfield stand out from all of his peers, not just at the BBC, but at ITV and London Weekend in those days, was pure creative energy.
He really was that kind of action director who really kicked arse and really made it exciting.
But he also could direct Romeo and Juliet if you gave it to him.
And you would have the most beautiful, poignant, stunningly brilliantly shot but addressed piece of drama.
I think he was a very clever and very underrated More appreciated when he left us, really.
I mean, he was an extraordinary director.
And really, I suppose an inspiring leader.
Most of the people who worked on his shows sort of really enjoyed it because they just loved the atmosphere and the fact that he was a sort of born leader, really.
It's lovely for me to hear that off his contemporaries.
And again, I meet people occasionally, if I get into a conversation about Doctor Who, people that are aficionados of Doctor Who, he's regarded very highly in that world in terms of what he did on the show, which is, again, great to hear.
So, this is a long, long time after his death, so it's very nice to still hear that stuff about him.
I think it's very likely that Douglas might well have gone on to direct movies.
I mean, he was that good.
And if not that, then I think the BBC would probably have had work for him in like single films, as they were then becoming called, rather than plays.
Feature films would've been hopefully where he would've ended up.
I think for what would've been the last 15 years of his career, 15-20 years, I think, that he envisaged and hoped that there would be a lot more of that kind of stuff.
I'm sure he had a career ahead of him which didn't, sadly, happen, but remembered, you know, with great gratitude.
Especially by me.
I was very proud of him when he was alive.
I remain so now, many, many years after his death.
Great father.