As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 7 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 31 Jan 2013

Sylvia Syms 1934-2023Bookmark and Share

Friday, 27 January 2023 - Reported by Marcus
Sylvia Syms as Mrs Pritchard (Credit: BBC)

The British actress Sylvia Syms has died at the age of 89.

Sylvia Syms was a star of British cinema. She appeared in a number of iconic movies including Ice Cold in AlexNo Trees in the Street, Victim, and The Tamarind Seed.

She appeared in Doctor Who in 1989 playing Mrs. Pritchard in the Seventh Doctor story Ghost Light

Sylvia Syms was born in South East London in 1934.  At the age of five World War II broke out and she became one of the thousands of children who were evacuated from London, moving first to Kent and then, in 1940, to Monmouthshire in Wales. She later recalled the trauma of being separated from her mother, who was to die of a brain tumour when Syms was just 12.

At 16, she suffered a nervous breakdown and contemplated suicide but, at the insistence of her stepmother, had psychotherapy which helped her through the crisis.She trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

After graduating she quickly moved into filmmaking earning plaudits with her second role, playing the delinquent daughter of  Anna Neagle in My Teenage Daughter. The following year she had a key supporting role in the kitchen-sink drama Woman in a Dressing Gown, for which she was nominated for the Bafta for best British actress

A couple of years later she was appearing alongside John Mills in the war movie Ice Cold with Alex. She later played thwannabe singer Maisie in Expresso Bongo. By 1960 had worked with Flora Robson, Orson Welles, Stanley Holloway, Lilli Palmer and William Holden.

In 1961 she played the wife of Dirk Bogarde in the film Victim. The movie dealt with homosexual activity, then unlawful in the United Kingdom, and the movie is thought to have helped change the law. In 1963 she played Tony Hancock's wife in The Punch and Judy Man. Another comedy followed with The Big Job alongside Sid James, Dick Emery, and Joan Sims.

She was again nominated for a British Film Academy award for the 1974 film The Tamarind Seed where she starred with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. In 2006 she played The Queen Mother in the Stephen Frears film The Queen

From the mid-seventies onwards her main work was on Television appearing in many supporting roles. In 1991 she portrayed Margaret Thatcher in Thatcher: The Final Days for Granada.  She played Marion Riley in the ITV comedy-drama series At Home with the Braithwaites and in 2007 joined EastEnders for a short run playing dressmaker Olive Woodhouse.

Her last role was in the 2019 series Gentleman Jack, where she played Mrs Rawlinson

Sylvia Syms died peacefully on Friday at Denville Hall, a care home in London for those in the entertainment industry.

She is survived by her two children, Beatie and Ben Edney who said

Our mother, Sylvia, died peacefully this morning. She has lived an amazing life and gave us joy and laughter right up to the end. Just yesterday we were reminiscing together about all our adventures. She will be so very missed.

 





FILTER: - Obituary

Chris Boucher 1943 - 2022Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 11 December 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Chris Boucher

The writer Chris Boucher has died at the age of 79.

Chris Boucher contributed three stories to Doctor Who, all of which were transmitted in 1977 and starred the Fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker.

His first contribution was the story which saw the introduction of a new companion Leela played by Louise Jameson. The Face of Evil.  Leela was conceived as an intelligent but uneducated savage who would be educated by the Doctor. 

This story was followed by one of the most acclaimed stories in Doctor Who's cannon, The Robots of Death a 'whodunnit' set on a futuristic mining machine. Later in the year, his final story was Image of the Fendhal

Although Chris Boucher never wrote for Doctor Who again his contribution to British Television is impressive. Immediately after Doctor Who he became the Script Editor for the BBC's new science fiction series Blake's 7. It was a role he was recommended for by the Doctor Who script editor Robert Holmes. 

Boucher served as Script editor for the entire run of Blake's 7 and also wrote several stories including the dramatic final story which saw the deaths of all the main characters. 

He was the Script Editor for the second series of the detective series Shoestring show in 1980 before he moved on to the police series Juliet Bravo. Staying with police series he script edited the series set on the island of Jersey, Bergerac from 1983 until 1987.

In 1987 he created his own series combining his knowledge of both Police series and Science Fiction with Star Cops, seen by some as a replacement for Doctor Who. Nine episodes were made with a tenth being canceled due to industrial relations problems. 

Other work included episodes of The Bill for Thames Television and the Jim Davidson comedy Home James. He also wrote a number of Doctor Who books featuring the character of Leela. 

The death of Chris Boucher means that no writers for Doctor Who from the 1960s or 1970s now survive. 





FILTER: - Obituary - Classic Series

Shirley Coward 1934 -2022Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 10 December 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Shirley Coward (Credit: BBC)

Shirley Coward, the woman responsible for creating the first regeneration effect in Doctor Who, has died at the age of 88.

Shirley Coward was a Vision Mixer for BBC Television for over 30 years. She worked for the Corporation in the days when most programmes were either transmitted live or recorded 'as live'. 

At the time, the role of the Vision Mixer was vital as they were the person who operated the Vision Mixing desk, the piece of equipment which controlled which camera or video source was fed to the recording machine or transmitter. It's a role that has almost disappeared in TV drama but is still vital in live television programmes, such as Strictly Come Dancing and News programmes. 

Following a Camera script written the director, it was the Vision Mixer that set much of the pace of the programme, a job that demanded absolute accuracy. Many mistakes made in live television recordings could be glossed over but it was difficult to hide a cut to the wrong camera.  

Shirley Coward worked on many productions for the BBC including many episodes of Doctor Who, and in October 1966 she found herself rostered to work in the BBC studios at Riverside on the final episode of the first Doctor's final story The Tenth Planet

At the end of the story, William Hartnell collapsed before regenerating into Patrick Troughton.  No clear plan had been made as to how to achieve this transformation, with one thought being that Hartnell could just cover his face with a cloak before it was removed to reveal Troughton's face. 

Coward suggested to Director Derek Martinus, that they could take advantage of a fault on the second bank of her vision mixing desk, which was causing the incoming image to break up. By using this distorted effect, and mixing between banks of the Vision Mixer,  Coward could produce a much more spectacular regeneration effect.

In an interview for the BBC DVD release of The Tenth Planet Shirley Coward explained how the effect was achieved. 

It was my job to do the mixes so we had a fluent transition face from William Hartnell's face into Patrick Troughton's. The first I knew about it was when I arrived in the studio, but nobody was exactly sure how they were going to do it. 

They knew roughly what they wanted, they wanted one face to come through the other. It was a matter of the studio engineers and cameramen all trying out things. We discovered that the actors cheekbones matched, which helped us enormously.

We had William Hartnell on one camera and Patrick Troughton on another and through the B bank of the Vision Mixing desk, which was breaking up,  we could make Patrick's face break up and William's face break up

 I started with William Hartnell's face, absolutely straight on the A bank, then slowly mixed to the B bank where I had his face, exactly the same shot, breaking up. I then mixed on the B bank to Patrick's face breaking up and then mixed slowly back to the A bank where I had Patrick's face absolutely straight. 

Shirley Coward worked on at least 44 episodes of Doctor Who. As the woman who created the first regeneration, it was fitting she Vision Mixed the 25th-anniversary story, The Five Doctors, which saw the return of the First Doctor, albeit played by a different actor. 

Other productions she worked on include Bomber Harris, EastEnders, The River,  All Creatures Great and Small , Talking Heads, In Sickness and in Health, Three Up Two Down, Galloping Galaxies!, Dear John, )Tenko, Juliet Bravo, Titus Andronicus, Only Fools and Horses, Last of the Summer Wine, By the Sword Divided, The Two Ronnies, Rentaghost, Ever Decreasing Circles,  Aladdin and the Forty Thieve, Don't Wait Up, Just Good Friends, Butterflies, Dombey & Son, Yes Minister, Terry and June, To the Manor Born, To Serve Them All My Days, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, The Enigma Files, Blake's 7, Secret Army, Rings on Their Fingers, Pennies from Heaven, Survivors, Blue Peter, The Tragedy of King Richard II, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The Canterbury Tales

First Doctor Regenerates | William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton





FILTER: - Obituary - Classic Series

Bernard Cribbins 1928-2022Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 28 July 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Bernard Cribbins

The actor Bernard Cribbins, one of the most beloved actors of his generation, has died at the age of 93.

Bernard Cribbins played Wilfred Mott, the grandfather of Donna Noble, in the fourth series of Doctor Who. He appeared in the 1966 Movie version of Doctor Who, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. playing Tom Campbell

Former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies, who cast Cribbins in the series, led the tributes to the actor. 

He knew everyone! He’d talk about the Beatles and David Niven, and how he once sat on the stairs at a party impersonating bird calls with T H White. Then he’d add, I said to Ashley Banjo last week… 

He loved being in Doctor Who. He said, ‘Children are calling me grandad in the street!’ His first day was on location with Kylie Minogue, but all eyes, even Kylie’s, were on Bernard. He’d turned up with a suitcase full of props, just in case, including a rubber chicken.

And what an actor. Oh, really though, what a wonderful actor. We once took him to the TV Choice Awards and sent him up on his own to collect the award, and the entire room stood up and cheered him. That’s a lovely memory.

He’d phone up and say, ‘I’ve got an idea! What if I attack a Dalek with a paintball gun?!’ Okay, Bernard, in it went!

He loved Gill with all his heart; he mentioned her in every conversation we ever had. A love story for the ages. I’m so lucky to have known him.

Thanks for everything, my old soldier.

A legend has left the world.

 
Bernard Cribbins began his professional career at the age of 14 as a student at the Oldham Repertory Theatre, remaining there for eight years with a break to do his National service in the Parachute Regiment! From Oldham, he went onto work in rep at Manchester, Liverpool and Hornchurch.

His first West End appearance was in 1956 at the Arts Theatre playing the two Gromios in A Comedy of Errors; this was followed by leading roles in the West End.

He co-starred in the revue And Another Thing at the Fortune Theatre His recording of a song from the show entitled Folksong reached Number One.

This chart success prompted the release of two more comic songs Hole in the Ground and Right Said Fred, both of which reached the Top Ten. Cribbins was incredibly proud that the former was chosen by Noël Coward as one of his Desert Island Discs

His long Television career began in 1956 in The Black Tulip followed by playing Thomas Traddles in David Copperfield. 

Very quickly Cribbins became known for comic character acting with appearances in three Carry-On films. 

His most famous movie role is often considered to be that of Albert Perks in the 1970 version of The Railway Children

Regular appearances on the BBC series Jackanory endeared Cribbins to a whole generation of children, who had the delight of Cribbins reading out such stories as The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit and The Emperor's New Clothes. He appeared in 114 episodes of the series, more than any other presenter.

His bond with children was cemented by his voice work on the animated series The Wombles, where his gentle storytelling enchanted generations of all ages. 

Cribbins would often appear as a guest artist in well-known series, Appearances in The Avengers and Coronation Street were followed by a show-stealing appearance in Fawlty Towers.  

His first link with Doctor Who came in 1966. He was cast as Tom Campbell in the big screen version of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He was playing the role played by William Russell in the TV series, alongside Peter Cushing as Doctor Who. It was a masterful performance full of comedy and pathos.  

It would be nearly 40 years before he made his debut on the television version of Doctor Who. He was cast as Wilf in the 2007 Christmas special Voyage of the Damned. It was a small role and expected to be a one-off. However, the character was so successful he was brought back in the 2008 series and given a back story as Donna Noble's Grandfather. He appeared in six episodes in the series cementing his place in Doctor Who history. His role in the Tenth Doctor's swan song The End of Time was vital, providing the reason for the Doctor's regeneration. 

Cribbins worked well into his 90's including many appearances in the CBeebies series Old Jack’s Boat.

Cribbins was married to Gillian McBarnet in 1955 until her death last October. In 2011 he received the OBE for services to drama.

Bernard Cribbins's death was announced by his agent this morning. . 

 

 





FILTER: - Obituary

David Warner 1941-2022Bookmark and Share

Monday, 25 July 2022 - Reported by Marcus

The actor David Warner has died at the age of 80.

David Warner was well known for his many appearances in film and television during a career spanning 60 years. 

He appeared in Doctor Who in 2013 playing Professor Grisenko alongside Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in the story Cold War.  In 2009 he lent his vocal talents to the series playing Lord Azlok in the animated Tenth Doctor story Dreamland, as well as playing many roles for Big Finish. 

Warner also made many appearances in the Star Trek franchise appearing in the films Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part Chain of Command episode.

David Warner was born in Manchester in the North West of England in July 1941. He trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. 

His professional debut came in 1962 at the Royal Court Theatre playing Snout, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963 playing many roles including Hamlet.  

His film debut was in 1963 playing Blifi in Tom Jones, while early television roles included playing alongside Bob Dylan in the play Madhouse on Castle Street. He became known for playing villains including in films such as The Thirty Nine Steps, Time After Time, Time Bandits, Tron and Hanna's War. 

In 1976 he played opposite Gregory Peck in The Omen, where he played photographer Keith Jennings, one of a number of appearances in horror films. 

Other roles included parts in The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Straw Dogs, Cross of Iron, Holocaust,  A Christmas Carol, Portrait in Evil, Titanic, and  Mary Poppins Returns. 
 

David Warner died on Sunday at Denville Hall, a care home for people in the entertainment industry.

His family confirmed his death in a statement. 

Over the past 18 months, he approached his diagnosis with characteristic grace and dignity,

He will be missed hugely by us, his family, and friends, and remembered as a kind-hearted, generous, and compassionate man, partner, and father, whose legacy of extraordinary work has touched the lives of so many over the years.

Warner is survived by his partner Lisa Bowerman, his son Luke and daughter-in-law Sarah.





FILTER: - Obituary

Ann Davies 1934-2022Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 28 April 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Ann Davies (Credit: Chuck Foster)

The actress Anne Davies has died at the age of 87 

Ann Davies appeared in five episodes of the 1964 first Doctor story The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Davies played Jenny, the freedom fighter who teamed up with Barbara to try to reach the Dalek mines and defeat the Daleks. She was asked to dye her hair blond for the studio sessions of the story so as to contrast with the two female leads. For the earlier location filming she wore a balaclava. 

Davies appeared in many British television programmes during her long career, including parts in Grange Hill, EastEnders and The Bill. 

She was married to actor Richard Briers for over 50 years until his death in 2013. The couple appeared together in many productions including the comedy Ever Decreasing Circles and  the film Peter’s Friends. 

Ann Davies' death was announced by her agent  on Tuesday, She is survived by her two daughters Katie and Lucy Briers.





FILTER: - Obituary

Sonny Caldinez 1932-2022Bookmark and Share

Friday, 15 April 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Sonny Caldinez

The actor Sonny Caldinez has died at the age of 89.

Sonny Caldinez appeared in 17 episodes of Doctor Who between 1967 and 1974. 

Born in Trinidad in 1932, then part of the British West Indies, his large and imposing frame saw him win many parts in film and television. 

His first appearance in Doctor Who came in 1967 when he played Kemel in The Evil of the Daleks, working with Jamie to free Victoria Waterfield from the Daleks.

Later the same year he played Turoc, The Ice Warrior, in the debut story of the Martian invaders.  He would return playing Ice Warriors in three more stories, The Seeds of Death in 1969, The Curse of Peleadon in 1972, and The Monster of Peladon in 1974.

Other TV roles included parts in The Champions, Jackanory Playhouse, Mind Your Language, Sexton Blake and the Demon God and The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Fim roles included parts in The Man with the Golden Gun, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. 

Sonny Caldinez died on Tuesday 12th April. 

 





FILTER: - Obituary

June Brown 1927-2022Bookmark and Share

Monday, 4 April 2022 - Reported by Marcus

The actress June Brown has died at the age of 95.

 

June Brown appeared in the 1973 Third Doctor story, The Time Warrior, playing Lady Eleanor.

She was most famous for creating the role of Dot Cotton in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, playing the role between 1985 and 2020. 

June Brown was born in Suffolk in 1927. She trained at the Old Vic Theatre School in London. 

She was a familiar face on British TV throughout the 1960's and 1970's appearing in shows such as Dixon of Dock Green, ITV Television Playhouse, Coronation Street, Z Cars, General Hospital, The Prince and the Pauper, and The Duchess of Duke Street. 

She joined the cast of EastEnders in 1985, recommended to the producers by fellow star Leslie Grantham,  She played Dot Cotton, mother of 'nasty' Nick Cotton until 1993, returning to the series in 1997. In 2008 she became the first soap actor to carry an episode single-handed, a performance which led to a nomination for a Bafta award.

She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2008 Birthday Honours and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to drama and to charity. 

June Brown was married twice. She is survived by her six children from her marriage to her second husband Robert Arnold, who died in 2003





FILTER: - Obituary

Lynda Baron 1939-2022Bookmark and Share

Monday, 7 March 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Lynda Baron (Credit: BBC Studios)

The actress Lynda Baron has died at the age of 82.

Lynda Baron was best known for playing Nurse Gladys Emmanuel in the BBC Comedy series Open All Hours. She took part in 7 episodes of Doctor Who, one of the select few who appeared in both the original and the revived series. 

 

Lynda Baron was born Lilian Baron in March 1939 in Urmston, Lancashire. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dance and after graduating worked in reparatory theatre and in London's West End. 

It was hard work because you were constantly doing one drama, rehearsing the next one and learning the lines of the one after that. It was a great education and I am so glad to have gone through that."

Her first television appearance was in 1958, appearing in Theatre Night, the BBC series of 45-minute extracts from plays. Small roles followed including playing June in The Rag Trade and Madame Kronstadt in the thriller Breaking Point. 

Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in the 1966 story The Gunfighters. Baron played the role of narrator. Out of vision, she sang The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon to guide the audience through the plot. 

May small roles on television followed including parts in Z-Cars Her big break came in 1976 when she was cast as Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, opposite Ronnie Barker and David Jason, in the BBC TV sitcom Open All Hours. As the object of corner shop owner Albert Arkwright's affections, Baron was a vital part of the team, appearing in all four series of the show. 

She told The Sunday Post

Working with Ronnie Barker and David Jason was unbelievable - two great actors in a brilliantly scripted sitcom. There was never a day when we did not have a great laugh ourselves and that carried on when Still Open All Hours became a series

The success of the series led to many more comedic roles including parts in Last of the Summer Wine,  Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt, Grundy and A Roof Over My Head.

Her second role in Doctor Who came in 1983, playing Captain Wrack, one of the Eternals, in the last two episodes of the Fifth Doctor story Enlightenment

In the 1990's she played Auntie Mabel in the 1990s BBC children's show Come Outside and played Grandma in the pre-school series Fimbals. Other appearances included roles in Doctors, The Upper Hand, Come Outside, Coronation Street, Down to Earth, Fat Friends and Chasing Shadows.

In 2000 she played opposite Bernard Cribbins in the BBC One drama Down to Earth about a couple who move to a farm in Devon.

Her third appearance in Doctor Who came in 2011 alongside Matt Smith playing Val Cane in the story Closing Time.

At Christmas 2013 she reprised her most famous role, playing Nurse Gladys in a one-off sequel to Open All Hours called Still Open All Hours. The show was watched by over 12 million viewers, almost a 40% share in audience figures on Boxing Day, and its success led to a series being commissioned. Baron would return to the role for a further 12 episodes. 

Throughout her career, she made many stage performances. In 1987 she was in the West End version of the musical Follies, and later appeared in the stage version of 2007's In Celebration alongside Orlando Bloom. Other theatre shows included An Inspector Calls, Stepping Out and The Full Monty.

She was nominated for a Bafta Award in 2011 for her role in The Road To Coronation Street, a one-off drama about the early days of the soap, playing actress Violet Carson. 

She was still working at the age of 80 appearing in the film Dream Horse, about a racehorse breeder

Lynda Baron's death was announced by her agent who said

Her iconic roles were loved by all generations, she was a leading light of our world.

We extend our deepest condolences to her daughter Sarah, her son Morgan and all her family,

 

 





FILTER: - Obituary

Henry Lincoln 1930-2022Bookmark and Share

Friday, 25 February 2022 - Reported by Marcus
Henry Lincoln

The writer Henry Lincoln has died at the age of 91.

Henry Lincoln was the last surviving writer to have worked on Doctor Who in the 1960s. He wrote three Doctor Who stories, co-creating The Yeti and the character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. 

He was a best-selling author writing The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the book which later inspired Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

Henry Lincoln was born Henry Soskin in London in 1930. He studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. As an actor, he was a regular on television from the mid-1950s appearing in programmes such as  Our Mutual Friend, Spy-Catcher, Strange Concealments, The Avengers, The Barnstormers, The Saint, Z-Cars, and Man in a Suitcase. 

He started writing in the 1960s writing an episode of The Barnstormers as well as starring in two episodes. 

In the 1960s he formed a writing partnership with Mervyn Haisman and together they were commissioned to write a six-part story for the second Doctor. The result was The Abominable Snowmen which saw the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria battle The Great Intelligence and their robot servants The Yeti. The story was so successful the team was immediately commissioned to write a sequel, this time bringing the Yeti into the claustrophobic world of the London Underground in The Web of Fear.

The story introduced a new character in the form of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart played by Nicholas Courtney. Not only was the story highly regarded but the new character caught the imagination of the producers and would return the following year, albeit with a promotion, and become a regular throughout the Pertwee years. 

Henry Lincoln and Mervyn Haisman's third outing with the Doctor was not so successful. Their six-part story, The Dominators would cause a permanent rift with the BBC following an argument over who owned the characters The Quarks. The story was rewritten and reduced to five episodes resulting in the writers asking for their names to be removed from the credits. The story was transmitted under the pseudonym Norman Ashby

In 1969 Lincoln was traveling in France when he became intrigued by the local story of a great treasure being hidden in the region. His research lead to a series of documentaries for the BBC and a book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail which became a bestseller in 1982, co-written with Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent. 

Some of the ideas put forward in the book were later used by the author Dan Brown in his bestseller The Da Vinci Code. A High Court case against Brown, taken by his co-writers, failed. 

Lincoln returned to the subject of ancient hidden treasure in a series called The Secret, which screened in 1993.

In 2003, Lincoln was awarded an Honorary Knighthood in the Militi Templi Scotia order, in recognition of his work in the fields of sacred geometry and Templar history. 

 

 

 

 

 





FILTER: - Obituary