Another month and another stellar line up of the great and the good of the Whoinverse gather to share their love for a quintessential episode in the Second Doctor’s reign – we are of course talking about the BFI Southbank screening of the certified classic The Tomb of the Cybermen – and again Radio Times’ Patrick Mulkern was on hand to capture events as they unfolded.
Now, there was a little diversion before the main events when recently outed Who fan Frank Skinner joined BFI hosts Justin Johnson and Dick Fiddy on stage.
So just how big a fan is Frank?
Well, I’ve never dressed as a Cyberman – for pleasure!
I’m the lowest of all creatures, the celebrity fan…Having watched Doctor Who all my life, I still don’t know much about him. Even now Matt Smith can do one of those looks into the mid-distance and you think, ‘He’s seen so much…’
Up next was current show runner Steven Moffat who was only too happy to talk about the moment the episode scared him away from the Doctor:
When I first watched episode three of Tomb, I was so frightened I didn’t watch Doctor Who again until Jon Pertwee! Genuinely, from my heart, this is one of the best Doctor Who stories ever made. It is absolute genius. The most frightening thing about a monster isn’t when it arrives; it’s when it’s about to arrive.
Patrick Troughton is sheer magic as the Doctor… Everything we do in Cardiff… is out of love for the show you’re about to watch. I’m never more of a fan than when I work on Doctor Who, attempting to re-create what you’re about to see.
Then to the episode itself; an absolutely terrifying masterpiece that still has the power to creep its way under your skin to this day.
A technical hitch brought Michael Troughton to the stage to share his personal experience of his father’s craft:
[Patrick was] an incredibly nervous actor. I think this is something people don’t realise. He worked from the inside out, very emotional. Unlike Jon Pertwee, for instance, who was a very technical actor. My father worked from instinct.
And then it was over; the panel of selected guests including Anneke Wills, Director Michael Ferguson and Michael Kilgarriff took to the stage to offer their opinions on their time with the Doctor.
Wills, who worked with the First and Second Doctors, spoke of how here attitude towards the First Doctor, William Hartnell had changed after reading his granddaughter’s biography:
There was so much more to Bill than I knew at the time. All I knew was this difficult, bad-tempered person who kept saying, ‘It’s not my line, it’s your line and you forgot it.’ The switch-over from Bill to Patrick was like day from night. No wonder I was completely in love with Pat, because he was simply marvellous.
It’s an opinion shared by Director Michael Ferguson, who rates Troughton as:
…by far the best actor of them all, certainly from the early period. He was a thinking, caring actor, with an enormous amount of experience.
Keeping the theme of comparing Patrick with his predecessor actor Michael Kilgarriff, who’s played several monsters in Doctor Who – an Ogron in Frontier in Space; the giant Robot; and the Cyber Controller twice (in Tomb and in Attack of the Cybermen nearly 18 years later) recalled watching Hartnell in panto in Ipswich in the 60s shortly after he’d given up the role:
It was very sad. The lights came up and there was the Tardis and out came Doctor Who, but he might as well have gone home at that point because the poor chap – well, I don’t know what he was doing in a panto. He couldn’t offer anything at all. He couldn’t sing. He couldn’t dance. The comics ran rings round him. Life after Doctor Who was not good for him.
It’s a rather introspective note to leave the celebrations on but with there can be no doubting that whatever his feelings towards the show at the end of his tenure – he helped the show become what it is today.
And that’s the pleasure of these amazing BFI screenings; the chance to look, chart the course and evaluate the collection of contradictions that go into making the show exactly what it is.
Sunday 10 March will see the premiere of the Jon Pertwee 1971 classic, The Mind of Evil in its newly coloured-restored form.
Tickets have sold out but make sure to periodically check the BFI site for updates on forthcoming anniversary screenings!