October 24th, 2019


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Is There Life Outside The Box? An Actor Despairs, by Peter Davison

Second paragraph of third chapter:
The following morning, we meet early to drive to a TV interview happening just up the road, and I'm thinking about making it back to the hotel in time for breakfast. I'm forgetting that this is Australia, a big country, and just up the road is actually a two-and-a-half-hour drive in the heat to the Pinnacles, admittedly a beautiful alien landscape, where they have put a three-quarter-size TARDIS which I can't stand too close to for fear of exposing its lack of stature. The next day I fly to Adelaide for more interviews, and then our first show in the Entertainment Centre. The production team are ahead of me, working hard, and I arrive only two days before the show, in time to meet with Paul Bullock who's directing the Spectacular, to see if he'll agree to my Adelaide 'jokes'. We did the Symphonic Spectacular tour last year, and I think we make a pretty good team.
I met Peter Davison and his wife Elizabeth Morton at Loncon in 2014, and was just a bit starstruck. This was at the pre-Hugo reception, where he was attending in case The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot won (I had voted for it, mainly because it is very enjoyable but partly because I am briefly visible in it at about 08:03, but it didn't win).

I chatted to them for a few minutes, and then Elizabeth's phone rang; it was David and Georgia, who had been dropped at the wrong end of the ExCel building, so I went off to get them.

I've read a lot of celebrity memoirs, including Doctor Who memoirs, by now, and this really is one of the most entertaining of them. There are some major surprises as well, of which the first is that his father was black - or anyway, mixed-race, from Guyana (then British Guiana). Obviously his English mother's genes won out in terms of skin and hair colour, but you can clearly see the resemblance from the pictures below.
The book is told as a series of flashbacks in chronological order, as seen from a tour in 2015-2016. Young Peter Moffett did appallingly badly at school - “Perhaps my greatest triumph was managing to fail CSE woodwork. As my teacher, Mr Bidgood, said in his state of shock: ‘All you have to do is recognise wood.’” He studied at Central, but it took a long time for his career to get going; a brief appearance in The Tomorrow People was followed by a dry spell, and then suddenly in 1978 he hit the big time as junior vet Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. The extent to which this was cult family viewing in the late 1970s and early 1980s cannot be exaggerated; as the world around us appeared to be going to hell, here was a lovely nostalgic visit to a gentler past, where young Tristan was frequently brought up short by his older brother Siegfried (as played by Robert hardy), genially observed by James Herriot (Christopher Timothy).
When he was named as the fifth Doctor in November 1980, it was the first item on the BBC news that evening, ahead of some bloke called Reagan being elected to something or other. It did not last; after Doctor Who, and the subsequent successes of A Very Peculiar Practice and Campion, he had a very slack decade and a second divorce, and his personal life and career only really picked up again around 2000. But now, particularly with the renewal of fannish interest in his earlier years, it sounds like things are on track again.

The anecdotes are great fun, told with a combination of acute observation (mostly sympathetic) of his fellow actors, and self-deprecation (sometimes brutal). When we met in 2014, I asked if he had written anything other than The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, and he said that the only other script he had done was for his video message to Gallifrey 22 in 2011:
I don't know if that was completely true then, or if it's still true now, but based on those dramas and this book, I hope he tries some more writing. It's good stuff, and you can get it here.