DOCTOR WHO - THE BERNARD HOLLEY MEMOIRS (2008)

Obviously this is the most extraordinary programme I have ever appeared in. Who would have believed when I recorded The Tomb of the Cybermen more than 40 years ago that we would still be writing and talking about it and that it would be available to play in peopleís homes. To me, at the time, it was simply a most welcome job at the start of my television career.

I remember very little about the actual filming of "Tomb" although I was delighted to work with, to me, the very famous Patrick Troughton and his delightful sidekicks Fraser Hines, and the lovely Deborah Watling. I also remember it being sunny in the gravel pits and that everyone was very charming and helpful. I look at those scenes in the gravel pits now and it appears to me I am a bit of an outsider watching from the wings as these lovely actors went about their paces. The studio scenes I remember a little more clearly but again I was aware that I was a TV beginner and I watched every scene with great interest picking up as many "technique" tips as I could. Coming from the theatre I was conscious of how natural the acting had to be. Again watching the episodes now one is reminded how much television effects have moved on. Slightly wobbly control panels are fairly obvious!

As every dedicated "Who" fan will know I died at the end of the first episode and was just lying on the floor during the opening credits of the second episode. To me it was a marvel that I should be paid another episode fee for just appearing as a dead body! Televison, I thought, this is the life for me!!!

When the second episode was transmitted my son, aged 2, looked at me and then at my prostrate body on the screen and said, "Thatís Daddy!" Thereafter, as I appeared more and more on the box, he would always say he had two daddies, one at home and one on television.

Not so long after "Tomb" I appeared in the great classic series "Z. Cars" and really learned television craft.

In late 1970 I decided to move on from Z. Cars and whilst having a quiet drink in the BBC club I was approached by a television director I had worked with many times, Michael Ferguson.

Michael handed me a pile of scripts and asked if I would like to play the Axon man in a new Dr Who four parter, The Claws of Axos.  I read and enjoyed the script and liked the challenge of doing something just a little different.

Iíd already met Jon Pertwee, a lovely man and a surberbly elegant Dr Who, in my travels around BBC Television Centre and I had known Nicholas Courtney for a few years - we worked together in Repertory Theatre at Northampton. Katy Manning, a delightful Dr Who companion was also lovely to work with.

There was, of course, the make-up!!!!   It was expertly applied by Jan Harrison and Rhian Davies and quite a time it took too.   Luckily, the eyes, which were half ping pong balls, were not fixed until just before recording time so vision was not really a problem.

The biggest problem was removing the stuff after we had finished.   The programmes were recorded weekly and it seemed to me that I spent the entire time between episodes discovering little bits of gold over my neck and face, maybe on the eye lids, or maybe behind the ears. I remember recounting this problem in a newspaper interview only to receive a rather extraordinary letter from a gentleman who told me that he regularly modeled covered in gold and silver paint and went into frank and lurid detail of how he removed the paint from every orifice! Interesting!!

Just days after finishing in Z. Cars I did an episode of Elizabeth R and during rehearsals for the scene where Babington was being tortured on the rack I walked on to the set, complete with Elizabethan garb but wearing my Z. Cars cap and said, "Excuse me, sir, are you in for a short stretch!". I then repeated this in Dr Who when in a quiet moment, fully dressed as Axon, I approached Jon Pertwee, wearing the cap over the golden curls and said, "Excuse me sir, Iíd like to Axos you a few questions!" Both these gags kind of stopped the show!   I also remember a small incident in the recording when dear Roger Delgado was handcuffed and the props man lost the key! Roger managed to handle the whole thing with his incredible sense of humour.

I wish I could remember more about the making of these two classic stories, in fact I wish Iíd kept a sixties/seventies version of a "blog" detailing the rehearsals and recording of the programmes but at the time these were just jobs and nobody realised the effect they would have around the world.

In many ways this was a golden era of television. The sets might have been wobbly but the huge plus for actors was plenty of rehearsal time. Nowadays every drama is rehearsed then immediately filmed.   In the sixties, seventies and eighties the scheduled allowed for a few days rehearsal so actors were very well prepared. Whatís more we all got to know each other creating a marvellous working atmosphere, not only for the cast but for the crew as well.

Finally, my overwhelming feeling about Dr Who is the huge pleasure it still gives to so many people. For 45 years it has thrilled, intrigued and fascinated viewers around the world and long may those little faces be watching from behind the sofa!

Bernard Holley, April 2008.