The recent death of Deborah Watling, who played companion Victoria Waterfield alongside the late Pat Troughton’s Second Doctor, gives this DVD release an extra poignancy.
Watling died on July 21, aged 69, as I worked my way through the six documentaries in this excellent two disk set comprising a new introduction and six previously released Myth Makers documentaries. Sadly, Watling’s death means half of the actors featuring in this set are no longer with us.
Troughton died in 1987 and Michael Craze, who played companion Ben Jackson, in 1998. This DVD set features them in their own documentaries on Disc 1 alongside Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, who played companions Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot, feature in their own documentaries on Disc 2 alongside Watling.
The set is rounded off with a new introduction from interviewer Nicholas Briggs and Producer Keith Barnfather.
Briggs and Barnfather, which sounds like an august legal firm, are absolutely delightful as they introduce this set filmed in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these features were filmed before Doctor Who sadly left British screens in 1989, or before it returned bigger and better in 2005. It’s obvious from watching and listening to what they have to say that these are two very good friends united in their love for Doctor Who many moons ago.
“Patrick, unfortunately, we never interviewed for Myth Makers,” Barnfather reveals.
Briggs, probably better known for his work with Big Finish Productions and as the voice of the Daleks and other nasties in new era Doctor Who, fesses up to loving Troughton’s Doctor the most.
“He was the one who established, sort of, the character of the Doctor we know today,” Briggs opines. “Patrick Troughton was the prototype for every other Doctor that’s come since him.”
As well as being the name of the missing second story in the third series of original Doctor Who, Myth Makers was a series of documentaries celebrating the first seven Doctors and their companions. Each documentary featured Briggs interviewing one of the cast about their time on the show, and their career before and after it.
The Troughton documentary in this set, then, is the original Myth Makers documentary grabbed from footage of an interview conducted in Brighton in 1985 at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society convention. But this documentary is far more sophisticated than pointing the camera at the stage for 50 minutes focussed on the actor. The piece is balanced with interviews from other Doctor Who cast and crew, starting with former head of BBC TV Drama Shaun Sutton who had known Troughton before World War II.
“Even in those days Patrick had those same deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun,” Sutton offers.
“He was just a great fun person,” informs Hines. “Everything could be turned into a joke.”
Anneke Wills’ Myth Makers opens to a Mark Knopfleresque guitar solo set against an idyllic Norfolk countryside, where Wills admits to being her happiest. It’s 1993 and Wills has returned to England after years overseas, including time in a spiritual community in India. She tells Briggs her story from the comfort of a living room, the ruins of a church left behind after its parish was devastated by the Black Death, from the sand dunes on the beach at Cromer, and from the flower garden.
It’s an intimate interview, and Wills is warm and wistful.
Craze is interviewed in 1985, at the Otter Bar in the Norfolk hotel he managed, and again in the Myth Makers studio surrounded by a Dalek, Cyberman and war machine, in 1996.
“We didn’t really quite know how they were going to do it,” Crave reveals of the first regeneration from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton. “All I remember is it took a long time and in those old-fashioned days they literally superimposed the two heads on black backgrounds . . . It took a long time.”
Briggs does a Through The Keyhole intro to the Hines documentary, filmed at Hines’ home/horse stud in Yorkshire in 1994. This is probably the most relaxed of the Myth Makers interviews in this set, so it’s no surprise to learn in the introduction that Hines and Briggs are now great friends, and it’s nice to see a little of Hines’ horse stud in operation.
But the highlight is some behind the scenes footage of The Abominable Snowmen shot on location, in colour, at Snowdonia National Park.
Briggs turns to This Is Your Life for the inspiration for the opening of Watling’s Myth Makers interviews. They were conducted at Monster Con in Liverpool in 1986 on concrete pavers, with additional material shot in 1995.
“I didn’t want her to be soppy and silly and wimpy,” Watling says as she reveals she played against the script.” Of course, the girls in those days, they did tend to be like that . . . Purely because Jamie and the Doctor had to come and rescue them.”
Padbury is treading the boards with the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee at the New Theatre, Cardiff, in Superted And The Comet Of The Spoons in 1986, when Briggs catches up with her for Myth Makers. The interview is augmented with a more recent studio chat in which Padbury confirms her favourite story is The Mind Robber.
“I don’t think there was anything superficial about Pat and Frazer and I,” she says of the dream TARDIS team. “The friendship grew and working together became easier.”
The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years is, in the best possible way, like two DVDs full of top quality extras. Except there’s so many of them that there’s no room for the main feature. It’s the first time that I had seen any of this material, and it made me feel nostalgic for an era of Doctor Who that aired before I was born in 1972.