As the good Doctor himself once said, you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies, and the villains are certainly one of magic ingredients that have helped to make Doctor Who such an enduring success. However, while pages and pages are devoted to the glory of his most alien adversaries (Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels), what stands out most for me are the more human villains (or human-ish, at least), those smooth talking psychopaths who are all the more chilling for the fact that they could be sat across the room from you at this very moment.
We had the pleasure of talking with two very memorable guests stars, David Collings and Maurice Roëves.
David Collings first appeared on the show as the villainous Vogan Vorus, under some knobbly prosthetics, in 1974 adventure Revenge of the Cybermen.
Tom Baker – we got on terribly well. He was fairly outrageous and quite naughty! We spent a lot of time in the pub. He just made me laugh, and I think I made him laugh too.
His next appearance was in 1977 with The Robots of Death, and we won’t spoil the whodunit plot by saying whether or not he’s a baddie in this one! This was directed by Michael Bryant, who had also made Revenge. The BFI Screened The Robots of Death in April 2013 for the 50th anniversary…
Did they? They must be mad! Tom Baker was a very good Doctor Who, wasn’t he? Louise Jameson [who played companion Leela] and I are still very good friends. She’s a sweet, sweet lady.
It has a very interesting Art Deco design, and costumes.
I think I was dressed in a very camp way…
Michael Briant has said that he didn’t think the script was up to much…
No-one ever thought the scripts were up to much, whether they were or not!
Had Tom Baker changed by this point?
No, he was completely the same. Totally mad. Totally off the wall! He still is…I worked with him not long ago, actually.
Collings’s final Doctor Who story on television was the title role in 1983’s Mawdryn Undead.
Oh yes, that was a hoot!
One memorable cliffhanger sees him with his brains exposed.
That was pretty embarrassing, I can tell you! Going for lunch in the BBC canteen with a plate of spaghetti on your head!
Did you know what was going on in the scripts?
No, of course we didn’t! The rehearsals for that one were hilarious, because the director [Peter Moffatt] was a terrible giggler. He said ‘the producers are coming in today, we must be serious, don’t send it up, please!’, so we played it terribly seriously. That seems to have been another popular one. I’ve not seen it, I have to be honest!
Collings has also done work with Big Finish, in both Doctor Who and Sapphire and Steel audio plays, though he admits that he doesn’t remember much of the ones he’s done.
It only takes a couple of days…they’re great fun to do! It’s a lovely little studio, lovely lunches.
The first story he did with them, Full Fathom Five, saw him playing a darker version of the Doctor, one who believe that the ends justify the means.
The evil Doctor! I was apparently, at some point, one of the favourites for playing the Doctor.
As a final question, I asked Collings why he thinks the show has achieved such longevity.
Well, the kids like it, I suppose. Well, it’s not just kids who like it. It is quite bizarre…the queues that you get at these Doctor Who conventions! Some of them are a bit sad, but most of them are perfectly alright. And the ones who are sad, it’s giving them pleasure. I just think it gives pleasure, that’s all. It’s amusing. As Noel Coward said, it’s a talent to amuse. Nothing wrong with that!
Maurice Roëves only appeared once on the show, playing nasty gunrunner Stotz in Fifth Doctor Peter Davison’s swansong, and firm fan favourite, The Caves of Androzani.
I was the first British actor to do Doctor Who and Star Trek. Nobody else had ever done it! The Doctor Who was Graeme Harper [director of several Who stories, both classic and new], wonderful guy. You have a scene where the gang fall out with me, Stotz, and I go ‘are you coming, are you not coming?’, and they say ‘no, we’re going to stay here’. I had to say ‘I’m going to count up to ten’ or something like that. I said to Graeme, ‘this is old hat! Let’s just shoot them!’ He said ‘you can’t do that!’, I said ‘why not? Just shoot them!’ Some of it was banned in Australia because it was too violent! Especially the bit with the knife and the guy on the cliff top…So I walk out of shot, and there’s a shot of me leaving, but then I come back in and I do it.
With a horrible grin!
It’s great! The kids love it! I get letters now from children whose parents taped it, and they say they love that one, and that it’s better than the modern ones.
It’s so brutal, for what is effectively a kid’s show.
Well, the so-called monster (the Magma beast) was terrible! Glove puppet! Fortunately you didn’t see much of it…I think it was because it was so adult. Apparently Caves of Androzani is still voted as the best episode of the series [in 2009, out of 200 serials, it was voted best story].
Were you surprised by Robert Holmes’s script, which was quite dark?
No, not really, I just thought it was a good role.
Do you think playing the villain is more fun?
Well, in some ways. I don’t know how I started getting villains, because I wasn’t playing villains. I used to play romantic roles! For the good guys, I always look to see if there’s anything bad in their character, and for the bad guys I always look to see if there’s any good in them. The bad guys are really interesting to play.
Maurice’s appearance in one of Doctor Who’s greatest cliffhangers: