PETER DAV­I­SON

the Fifth Doc­tor’s He­roes & in­spi­ra­tions. there’s sur­prises!

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Some­thing of the Doc­tor clings to Peter Dav­i­son. Per­haps it’s the straw panama he’s wear­ing as he en­ters a Rich­mond pub to meet SFX. The hair is sil­ver now, the jaw­line flecked with stub­ble, but you can still catch the boy­ish Time Lord who kept evil at bay with the com­bined power of cricket, de­cency and cel­ery. When he wryly flashes his re­cently ac­quired bus pass it feels like a glitch in the space-time vor­tex.

At 65 he’s just writ­ten about his life – “Orig­i­nally I was go­ing to call it Peter Dav­i­son The Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Vol 3: The Doc­tor Who Years,” he grins – and he’s clearly in a re­flec­tive mood. What bet­ter time to share his he­roes and in­spi­ra­tions?

“As you get older, your life frag­ments,” he tells SFX. “You re­mem­ber all these things but you can’t re­ally re­mem­ber the or­der they hap­pened in…”

We’d ex­pect noth­ing less from a Time Lord.

SPENCER TRACY

I grew up in the early days of BBC Two, and all day long they used to run black and white films. I used to love the old Hol­ly­wood stars, peo­ple like Spencer Tracy and James Ste­wart, be­cause it seemed to me that they just made ev­ery­thing theirs. You never ques­tioned that Spencer Tracy was short and a bit sort of square look­ing. He was just bril­liant. I ad­mired that abil­ity he had: he didn’t ap­pear to be do­ing any­thing but you had an eye into him. You al­ways un­der­stood where he was com­ing from.

ROBERT HARDY

When I did All Crea­tures Great And Small I used to lis­ten to Robert Hardy, talk­ing so won­der­fully about tim­ing and work­ing with all these amaz­ing peo­ple like Olivier, and I just felt so hope­lessly in­ad­e­quate. He was fan­tas­tic to me. He re­ally was one of my big­gest sup­port­ers and wanted the part of Tris­tan to be big­ger. So that in it­self made me feel bet­ter. He used to drive him­self nuts. He never did the same thing twice. It was al­most pot luck what you got. You might get a bril­liant take from him or you might get some­thing that wasn’t as good as any­thing he’d done in re­hearsal. And he knew that, so he’d get re­ally cross with him­self, if he felt he’d done too much. Whether it was big or small, whether he’d shout a line or whis­per it to me, it was al­ways bril­liant. He was prob­a­bly my big­gest in­flu­ence in terms of style, although I didn’t try to copy him. He’s to­tally unique.

Robert Hardy was prob­a­bly my big­gest in­flu­ence in terms of style. He’s unique

PROCOL HARUM

My sis­ter in­tro­duced me to pop mu­sic. But she was a bit tame – she was into Elvis Pres­ley and Cliff Richard and peo­ple like that. I re­ally got into it, I sup­pose, with flower power. That’s when I re­ally switched on to it. I was very much a week­end hippy. I had the air­force coat and the kaf­tan and the beads. And I had these aw­ful, pa­thetic side­burns, like an M1 down my chin. And Procol Harum were my band. I re­mem­ber lis­ten­ing to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and think­ing, “This is the great­est thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” I used to write songs – I’d learned to play the gui­tar, and so I would try to em­u­late Procol Harum and the San Fran­cisco groups. I recorded a cou­ple of things, but it was clear to me that I was not cut out to be a mu­si­cian in the gig­ging sense. I was aware that there’s a huge prob­lem – no one wants to hear an ac­tor sing, re­ally. It’s very dodgy mix­ing act­ing and singing. Den­nis Water­man syn­drome clicks in im­me­di­ately. You just think, give me a break. No one’s go­ing to go out and buy a sin­gle or a song be­cause I’d writ­ten it, un­less it was so damn good that it over­came that. It’s an im­ped­i­ment. You might get some kind of deal be­cause you’re known but no one will buy the record be­cause you’re known!

AMER­I­CAN CRIME FIC­TION

I never read at all at school. I just didn’t read. Giv­ing me a book to read was like giv­ing me an ex­cuse to put it down. But then when I be­came an ac­tor for some rea­son I started reading ev­ery­thing I could get my hands on, whether it was English clas­sic nov­els or Amer­i­can crime fic­tion. I got into Dashiell Ham­mett and Ray­mond Chan­dler, and then Ross Macdon­ald and Ed McBain. I like peo­ple like Michael Con­nelly now. I don’t know what it is about Amer­i­can crime fic­tion – it started off with this love of the hard­boiled de­tec­tive, which is de­fined by Ham­mett and Chan­dler. I just like them. They’re easy to read but in their own way they’re quite lit­er­ary. And also the fact they’re cool in the way I could never be [laughs]! These char­ac­ters walk into these very dodgy sit­u­a­tions and they’ve got all the smart re­marks.

AN­DREW DAVIES

He wrote A Very Pe­cu­liar Prac­tice. We didn’t need to change a sin­gle syl­la­ble or piece of punc­tu­a­tion. I re­alised when I read him that I’d

if there was an ego, it was Jon per­twee, but i was quite happy to de­fer to him

never re­ally done a re­ally good script. I mean a re­ally good script. We were do­ing this scene – I think it was with Rose Marie [Bar­bara Flynn] – and it was one of those speeches that ended with three dots. So I did this line and David Tucker, the di­rec­tor, stopped me after­wards and said, “That sen­tence you did to­day. It’s got three dots at the end. I think you’re only play­ing two…” That was the level at which we ap­proached the script.

DAVID BOWIE

He was fan­tas­tic. I still think Hunky Dory is one of the great al­bums of all time. He was in a dif­fer­ent class. What­ever he was do­ing, whether it was the glam stuff or the stuff that came later, he was just bril­liant. I saw Bowie on the bill with Tyran­nosaurus Rex at the Royal Fes­ti­val Hall [in 1968]. He didn’t sing – he was do­ing mime! It was the weird­est thing. It was about Viet­nam or some­thing. I don’t know what the hell it was. I just re­mem­ber think­ing, “Who is this guy?!”

TONY BENN

If you lis­tened to Tony Benn, if you read his di­aries – and the di­aries are amaz­ing – he never puts a foot wrong. This is a man who came from a very priv­i­leged back­ground. He gave it all up, be­cause he be­lieved ab­so­lutely in his prin­ci­ples. I don’t think I can be like him. I think I’m too self-in­ter­ested. Some of the in­ter­views he gave to­wards the end of his life were just so mov­ing. He held on, he was prin­ci­pled, right to the end. I think you have to be.

PA­TRICK TROUGHTON

I started watch­ing Doc­tor Who with Wil­liam Hart­nell. And I loved him as the Doc­tor. I knew he was leav­ing, and rather than can­cel the se­ries they an­nounced that this other ac­tor was tak­ing over, who I didn’t know at all. I re­mem­ber sit­ting down to watch that first Pa­trick Troughton episode with such bias that I was go­ing to hate him, that I was go­ing to hate the pro­gramme – and by the end of it I just re­mem­ber think­ing, “This is fan­tas­tic, he’s just amaz­ing.” He seemed to cap­ture ev­ery­thing that was re­quired. He had this vul­ner­a­bil­ity, which I tried to bring back into the pro­gramme, but he also had a slightly dan­ger­ous quality to him, which I don’t think I did man­age to bring back. I think I was just too young or in­ad­e­quate to do it. So the con­trary el­e­ments I loved. He was slightly enig­matic – there was a dan­ger­ous quality to him. Not to put Wil­liam Hart­nell down at all, but Pa­trick Troughton cre­ated some­thing that was greater than what was there be­fore. I got to know him later – he was just so or­di­nary, in a way. The first con­ver­sa­tion I had with him was about his veg­etable patch, which seemed to be ex­traor­di­nary even when I was hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. It must have been when we were do­ing All Crea­tures Great And Small. I just re­mem­ber think­ing, “I can’t believe I’m talk­ing to Pa­trick Troughton about his veg­etable patch…” Was it sur­real for me to act along­side him in “The Five Doc­tors”? Not as much as I thought it would be. [Pro­ducer] John Nathan-Turner kept me apart from the oth­ers be­cause he was afraid there would be too many egos fly­ing around the set. What he prob­a­bly meant was that I would be swamped by the com­bined forces of Troughton and Per­twee… I re­gret that we didn’t meet up un­til so late on in that story. It’s just that one scene. If there was an ego, it was Per­twee, but I was quite happy to de­fer to him – I didn’t have any prob­lem with that at all. You re­ally felt that he thought [Per­twee im­pres­sion] “I’m the Doc­tor!” Pa­trick Troughton kind of stole the show by not be­ing like that!

Is There Life Out­side The Box?: An Ac­tor De­s­pairs by Peter Dav­i­son is out now from John Blake Pub­lish­ing.

Spencer Tracy was nom­i­nated for a record nine Best Ac­tor Os­cars. A fine en­sem­ble (in­clud­ing dog) in All Crea­tures Great And Small.

The cel­ery un­der threat in Who story “Arc Of In­fin­ity”.

Procol Harum were named after a Burmese cat.

One of the many, many faces of David Bowie. Pa­trick Troughton brought new di­men­sions to the Doc­tor’s char­ac­ter.

Labour politi­cian Tony Benn on the cam­paign trail.

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