This latest dispatch from the Reeltime Pictures’ archive takes us back to the 1970s courtesy of a selection of interviews with many of the prime movers and shakers responsible for bringing the iconic Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who to the screen. Across two DVDs we’re able to spend some time in the company of writers, directors, and actors – the majority of them tragically no longer with us – who guide us through their career highlights and, of course, their experiences working on the BBC’s enduring family sci-fi staple.
As ever the meat of this release can be found on the first disc and here we have a trio of interviews with writers who provided some of the most memorable scripts for the Pertwee era, with the added bonus that two of the featured writers were rarely interviewed during the early days of Doctor Who fan appreciation and who rarely appeared on Convention panels. With Bob Baker having passed away towards the end of the last year, there’s inevitably a certain poignancy in seeing him, alongside fellow 'Bristol Boy' writer Dave Martin, in fine form as the pair amiably discuss their careers and their contributions to Doctor Who which include, of course, well-remembered '70s serials such as Claws of Axos, The Three Doctors, and The Hand of Fear. Equally interesting are chats with Robert Sloman, an underappreciated scriptwriters responsible for Doctor Who’s “one with the maggots” aka 1973’s The Green Death and who co-wrote the series favourite The Daemons (1971) alongside then-producer Barry Letts under the pseudonym Guy Leopold and Louis Marks whose Doctor Who writing carer stretched from 1964 to 1976, his Pertwee-era credit being 1972’s Day of the Daleks, which brought back the Time Lord’s most formidable enemies after a five-year absence.
Disc Two includes an interview with director Tim Combe (Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Mind of Evil) and a cherishable chat with long-time incidental music composer Dudley Simpson (who passed away in 2017 at the ripe old age of 95), in retirement at his home in Melbourne. Simpson’s chat rambles amiably – his career was long and even more illustrious than fans may realise – and the thirty-odd minutes that pass before he even reaches his years on Doctor Who is yet another reminder of a long-gone and much less manic age of film and TV production. The final ‘Flight Through infinity’ feature delivers off-stage chats from a 2008 convention with supporting actors such as Shirley Cooklin, David Spenser, Prentis Hancock and man-mountain Ice Warrior actor Sonny Caldinez, who sadly passed away as this very review was being prepared.
We’ve said it before but it always bears repeating. Reeltime interviews might not have the slickness and visual trickery that more contemporary efforts might be able to offer but that’s really not the point; these are straightforward, no-nonsense, face-to-face chats that allow the interviewee the time to wander through their careers – their Doctor Who work is sometimes just a very small part of their CVs – and, as we’ve observed before, they offer us a window back into the past to allow us to hear directly from the talented creatives whose work shaped the myth of Doctor Who and who are no longer around to share their experiences today.