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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

Find out about the amazing facts in fiction, and discover the truth about what's really going on in the World around us...

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:46

Frank Maher

Actor, Stunt Co-ordinator and double for Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner ...

 

After serving in the Parachute Regiment during the war, Frank Maher worked as a stuntman and actor on many of the ITC action adventure shows. An expert in all forms of fighting, he became a master at crashing cars, falling from great heights and leaping through windows.

A stunt man on The Avengers, he played roles in three episodes opposite Honor Blackman. When Diana Rigg took over as Steed's assistant he appeared as Nicholls in You Have Just Been Murdered, ultimately impaled on a scythe by Emma Peel.

After working on Man in a Suitcase he acted as the stunt co-ordinator for both Department S and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

As well as Roger Moore’s stunt double in The Saint, he played Kraft in The Paper Chase and Rip Savage in the two-part story The Fiction Makers. Two years later he doubled for Moore a second time in The Persuaders!, and appeared in the episode The Man in the Middle.

Forging a long association with Patrick McGoohan after being his stunt double in Danger Man, Frank teamed up with the actor for The Prisoner.

As stunt director on the series, responsible for the action sequences and choreographed fight scenes, he played Number Six in the episode The Schizoid Man and appeared as a Gunman in Living in Harmony.

When he retired from stunt work, after working on Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, Frank spent his time writing adventure novels.

Frank died peacefully in July 2007.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:42

Andrew O'Day

Exploring the reality of television science fiction ...

 

Born in Birmingham of dual British and American nationality, Andrew O'Day spent his childhood in Washington DC, Oxford and Milton Keynes. A firm Doctor Who fan after the transmission of BBC2's "The Five Faces of Doctor Who" season in the Autumn of 1981 and Longleat's "20 Years Of A Time Lord" Convention two years later, he edited the fanzine "Doctor Who Times", then "Sci-Fi Times".

Studying at William Shatner's Alma Mater, McGill University in Montreal where the Students' Union building was named after him, Andrew met Forbes March who was staying in the same Hall of Residence. Best known for playing Jesse Kilman in Mutant X, Forbes helped him get a job researching aspects of culture for The Professor's Page in the Halifax newspaper "The Chronicle Herald".

Awarded a BA in English Literature from McGill, Andrew returned to Oxford to take an MA in Text and Performance Studies at King's College, London in association with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. One of his instructors at RADA was Gregory de Polnay, best known to Doctor Who fans for his role as D84 in the highly acclaimed 1977 story "The Robots Of Death" starring Tom Baker.

Andrew has since completed a PhD thesis at Royal Holloway, University of London on science fiction television. Entitled "Borderline Discourses: Meta-Textuality in Television Science Fiction", the thesis provides a thorough investigation of reflection on genre, ideology, and narrative structure in The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Doctor Who and Douglas Adams' The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

 

He has also co-written the book Terry Nation, with Dr Jonathan Bignell, Reader in Television and Film and Director of the Centre for Television Studies at the University of Reading. Published by Manchester University Press in 2004, the book focuses primarily on Nation's science fiction work for Doctor Who, Survivors, in which civilisation is decimated by a deadly viral strain, and Blake's 7.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:24

Jeremy Dyson

The little-seen member of The League of Gentlemen ...

 

The 'reclusive' co-writer of The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson met Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton while studying for a Philosophy degree at Leeds University.

Starting out on the London Fringe, the quartet played at the Edinburgh Festival in 1996 and, when they returned the following year, won the Perrier Award and were signed by the BBC.

Introduced to a wider audience when the award-winning On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen aired on Radio 4, the bizarre inhabitants of Royston Vasey arrived on television in 1999, winning an RTS award, BAFTA and the Golden Rose of Montreux for Best Entertainment.

While the other members relish portraying the freakish characters, except for the odd cameo role Jeremy Dyson stays behind the camera, co-writing the show and, since the second series, taking on the role of assistant producer.

Outside of The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy has co-written an episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) with Mark Gatiss, and written and directed the short film The Cicerones. Writing fiction since 1987, his books include the short story collection Never Trust a Rabbit, Darkness Bright and The Essex Files, co-written with Mark Gatiss.

A keen musician, Jeremy plays with the band Rudolph Rocker, described by the NME as "so good we missed the last bus home," and recently joined Joby Talbot of The Divine Comedy for the musical ghost story, The Same Dog, at London's Barbican Concert Hall.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:23

Jack Douglas

A stalwart of the Carry On movies, Jack has featured in many TV series, including The Goodies, The Shillingbury Tales and The Good Old Days ...

 

Best known for his appearances in the Carry On films and television specials, Jack Douglas was born into a theatrical family and produced his first show at the age of fifteen.

Showing no interest in performing until an actor was taken ill and he took his place, Jack Douglas learnt his craft playing stooge to the likes of Benny Hill and Bruce Forsythe before forming an act with Jack Baker.

One night, with Baker locked out of the theatre, Jack Douglas was forced to go on alone. Fidgeting nervously infront of the bemused audience, the character of Alf Ippititimus was born.

As Alf he began a long partnership with Des O'Connor that saw them through pantomimes, summer seasons, and numerous television shows before an impressive performance on the Royal Command Variety Show and an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

A recognisable character actor, Jack Douglas appeared in Carry on Matron in 1972 and stayed with the series until the final Carry on Columbus in 1992. After appearing in an episode of The Goodies, he became a regular on Joker's Wild and played Stanley Pickersgill in Not on Your Nellie. A role in The Shillingbury Blowers led to him reprising his character in The Shillingbury Tales and the further spin-off, Cluffy, alongside Bernard Cribbins.

With many stage successes to his credit, Jack Douglas has also penned the musical, What a Performance, based on the life of entertainer Sid Field.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:21

Galton and Simpson

Writers Ray and Alan were responsible for shows like Hancock and Steptoe and Son ...

 

Born a year apart, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson first met at Milford Sanatorium in 1948 while undergoing treatment for T.B. and decided to collaborate on comedy shows for the amateur radio room used for occupational therapy.

Avid listeners of Take It From Here and The Goon Show, they wrote four scripts entitled Have You Ever Wondered. After leaving the sanatorium, Alan was asked to write a show for his church concert party. He contacted Ray, and by 1951 the pair were writing professionally for the BBC.

During the next decade the pair established themselves as one of Britain's most successful comedy-writing partnerships. Working from an office over a greengrocer in Shepherd's Bush along with a crowd of writers that included Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, they met Tony Hancock and in 1954 Ray and Alan started writing Hancock's Half Hour.

Running for 101 episodes until its final broadcast in 1959, by 1956 the radio show transferred to television with 63 episodes screened before it ended in 1961. After their Sid James vehicle Citizen James, the pair moved on to write the BBC Comedy Playhouse. From the sixteen episodes emerged Steptoe and Son, starring Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett as the two rag-and-bone men.

Over the next twelve years Steptoe and Son ran for eight series on television and five on radio. Like Hancock's Half Hour before it, the format was sold world-wide, most successfully in America where Sanford and Son topped the ratings for five years.

After adapting Gabriel Chevalier's novel Clochemerle for television, they wrote the BBC series Casanova, starring Leslie Phillips, Dawson's Weekly and seven plays for The Galton and Simpson Playhouse before Alan decided to take a sabbatical. In 1995 they got back together to update eight of their classic scripts for the first of two series of Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's .... Three years later BBC Radio 4 celebrated the 50th Anniversary of their partnership by broadcasting four of their comedies, specially adapted by Ray and Alan, in The Galton and Simpson Radio Playhouse.

Amongst their film credits are The Rebel, starring Tony Hancock, an adaptation of Joe Orton's play Loot, and two Steptoe and Son features. For the stage they collaborated on the revue Way Out in Piccadilly and adapted Rene d'Obaldia's The Wind in the Sassafras Trees, starring Frankie Howerd, which successfully transferred from London to Broadway.

The recipients of numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild, Ray and Alan were recognised with OBEs in the Millennium New Year's Honours.

In 2002 the BFI ran a special season culminating in the launch of a new book to commemorate forty years of Steptoe and Son, written in conjunction with Robert Ross.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:16

Bernard Horsfall

A regular guest in the worlds of Doctor Who, and familar face from a huge range of Cult TV series ...

 

Guest-starring in the Cult TV shows The Saint, Department S, The Persuaders! and three episodes of The Avengers, Bernard appeared in four Doctor Who adventures directed by John Maloney.

He played Gulliver in the 1968 story The Mind Robber, a Time Lord in The War Games, which marked Patrick Troughton’s last outing as The Doctor, and appeared as Taron in Planet of the Daleks opposite Jon Pertwee. Playing Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin, his battle with Tom Baker is one of the most violent scenes in the history of the series and drew strong complaints from Mary Whitehouse.

Amongst his numerous television credits, Bernard portrayed Sir Christopher Hatton in Elizabeth R and Dr Philip Martel in Enemy at the Door, set during the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, Rankin in The Jewel in the Crown, the Prime Minister in For the Greater Good, and Peter Dobson in Nice Town.

After roles in Minder and Between the Lines, he played Harland in The Return of Sherlock Holmes's The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke, and the elder Crawford in David Pirie's Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes.

On the big screen he played Campbell opposite George Lazenby’s James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, then went on to appear in Gold and Shout at the Devil for director Peter Hunt. More recently he played General Edgar in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and Balliol in Braveheart.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:15

Sally Geeson

The young female star of Bless This House ...

 

 

Beginning her television career with guest roles in the anthology series Detective produced by Verity Lambert, and the ITC shows Strange Report and Man in a Suitcase, Sally Geeson is best known for her role as Sally Abbott in the ITV sitcom, Bless This House.

Created by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, Bless This House starred Sid James and Diana Coupland as Sid and Jean Abbott, trying to bridge the Generation Gap between themselves and their teenage children; Mike a work-shy liberal, played by Robin Stewart, and Sally, who embraced the principles of Free Love. With the addition of the neighbours, Trevor and Betty, the sitcom handled the standard comedy situations with gusto.

Produced and directed by William G. Stewart, now familiar as the presenter of the quiz Fifteen To One, Bless This House became one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1970s. Running for six series, the show also earned a film version directed by Carry On director Gerald Thomas with Terry Scott and June Whitfield as the Abbott's neighbours.

Sally began her film career in 1969 with The Oblong Box. An adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial directed by Gordon Hessler, she appeared as Sally Baxter, maid to Christopher Lee's Doctor Neuhart and Vincent Price's Sir Julian Markham. The next year she played Sarah in Cry of the Banshee, also directed by Hessler and starring Price as the witch-hunter Lord Edward Whitman.

In What's Good for the Goose Sally starred as the free-spirited hippy, Nikki, who opens Norman Wisdom's timid assistant bank manager's eyes to the era of Free Love. She appeared as Jackie in Mr. Forbrush and the Penguins, starring John Hurt as a biologist who tries to impress a girl he has been chasing by studying a penguin colony in the Antarctic.

Sally also appeared as Lily in Carry On Abroad, set at the Spanish resort of Elsbels, and Debra in Carry On Girls in which a seaside town tries to boost its image by holding a beauty contest.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:11

Roy Skelton

Star of Doctor Who and Rainbow ...

 

Leaving school to tour England with the National Association of Boys Clubs' Travelling Theatre, Roy Skelton trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before working for various repertory companies around the country.

While acting in the West End, Roy appeared on television as Lampwick in Pinocchio and the BBC's Music for You and Quick Before They Catch Us. After voicing Mr Growser in the puppet version of Toytown, he worked on Picture Book as the voice of Sossidge the Dog, Take a Chance on Me and Rubovian Legends.

Roy's association with Doctor Who began in 1966, as the voice of the Monoid in "The Ark" and the Cybermen in "The Tenth Planet". Though Roy would be called upon to voice the computer in "The Ice Warriors" and later "The Krotons", he made his mark as the voice of the Daleks. From the seven-part "The Evil of the Daleks" through to "Remembrance of the Daleks" in 1988, he worked with all seven Doctors.

In 1971 he eventually appeared in Doctor Who as Norton in "Colony in Space". In "Planet of the Daleks", as well as voicing the exterminating aliens he played one of the invisible Spiridons who only appeared when he died. Cast as James in "The Green Death", he also played Chedaki in "The Android Invasion", and the ancient King Rokon in "The Hand of Fear".

While working on Doctor Who, Roy was contacted by the producer of Rainbow. The actor who had voiced Zippy for the pilot decided not to continue with the character and Roy was asked to take over. Expecting the job to last no more than a couple of weeks, instead the role lasted for twenty years during which time he also voiced George, wrote over 100 scripts, and recorded "It's a Rainbow" in November 2000, a chart success, with a subsequent dance compilation album including an incredible version of Zippy and George's version of the Weather Girls hit "It's Raining Men"! He also played various roles in the spin-off, "Take A Chance".

After returning to the Daleks in Comic Relief's Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, Roy played Henry Swift, Balberith, and The Vauturm in BBCi's animated webcast "Ghosts of Albion".

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:10

Peter Tuddenham

Heard but not seen as the Blake's 7 artificial intelligence ...

 

 

Beginning his career in weekly repertory on Hastings Pier, Peter Tuddenham entertained the troops during the Second World War as a member of the Army's "Stars in Battledress". Back home, he won a part in Ivor Novello's "The Dancing Years" and, following stints in West End revues and farces, worked with Noel Coward in "Ace of Clubs".

Finding his way into radio, Peter acted in the long-running series "Mrs Dale's Diary" and "Waggoner's Walk", numerous literary adaptations, and original dramas including the Blake's 7 radio drama, "The Sevenfold Crown".

On television, he was the voice of the computer in the Doctor Who adventure "The Ark in Space" and the alien Mandragora Helix in "The Masque of Mandragora", both starring Tom Baker as the Doctor. A decade later he returned to play the voice of Brain in Sylvester McCoy's first adventure, "Time and the Rani". Before that Peter famously voiced the artificial intelligence in Terry Nation's Blake's 7. Giving each computer a distinct personality, he played Zen aboard the Liberator, the testy Orac and the obsequious Slave aboard the spaceship Scorpio.

In person, he appeared as Jack Godfrey in The Nine Tailors, starring Ian Carmichael as Dorothy L Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey, the Campion drama "The Case of the Late Pig", with Peter Davison as Albert Campion and Brian Glover as his manservant Magersfontein Lugg, and played the Priest in P D James' A Mind to Murder. He played Doctor Rendel in The Lost Boys, based on J M Barrie's relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies family, and was reunited with Paul Darrow in the psychological drama Maelstrom.

Along with guest roles in Nearest and Dearest starring Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel, Only Fools and Horses, and One Foot in the Grave, Peter appeared in The Onedin Line, Bergerac, two episodes of Tales of the Unexpected and The Bill.

An authority on East Anglian dialect, he helped the players with their Suffolk accents for the Glyndebourne Opera Albert Herring and regularly works as a dialect coach for Anglian TV. The subject of a MythMakers DVD from Reeltime Pictures, the interview with Peter is hosted by none other than Orac himself.

Peter died peacefully in 2007.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:08

Mark Gatiss

A member of The League of Gentlemen, Mark has also played in Doctor Who ...

 

Best known as one quarter of the comedy team The League of Gentlemen which started life on the London Fringe before transferring to radio, television and the stage, Mark Gatiss has also been heavily involved in post-television Doctor Who.

Along with penning several Doctor Who novels he has written and appeared in new audio adventures from Big Finish Productions as well as The Zero Imperative, The Ghosts of Winterborne, Unnatural Selection and The Devil of Winterborne for BBV Video Productions.

The interviewer in Bidding Adieu, a video documentary of Sylvester McCoy filming the Doctor Who television movie in Canada, in 1999 he appeared as The Doctor and various other characters in the specially recorded interstitial sequences for the BBC's Doctor Who Night.

As well as the multiple inhabitants of Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen, Mark has appeared in Spaced, Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible and In the Red.

He played the police inspector in Drop Dead, the first episode of the updated Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, and co-wrote with Jeremy Dyson, Two Can Play at That Game, the final episode of the second season.

In 2002 he appeared in The Cicerones, co-written and directed by Jeremy Dyson, provided voices for the animated Comic Relief film The Legend of the Lost Tribe, featuring Robbie the Reindeer, and has recently finished filming Sex Lives of the Potato Men.

 

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