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No Official Umbrella, by Glyn Jones

Glyn Jones was an actor, writer and director, who was born in South Africa in 1931 and died in Crete in 2014. This 700-page autobiography recounts the high and low points of his career, somewhat rambling in places, name-dropping of course, but mainly complimenting those who did him favours of various kinds over his long career or noting with satisfaction that he spotted this or that star on his way up (Peter Firth, Paul McGann). The parts about his South African childhood and early acting career are fascinating; the story of his most frustrating failure, a play about the Connaught Rangers' mutiny on 1922, is very moving; the assembling of his letters home from teaching trips to the USA rather less exciting. It is a bit of a shame that he did not run it past a thorough editor - a bit more structure would have done the reader a world of good, and a half day with Google would have filled in some of the frustrating blanks.

Jones hit my personal interests in two respects in particular. He was the script editor for Here Come The Double Deckers in 1969-70, and is credited with writing or co-writing 9 of the 17 episodes of the show - in fact he probably really wrote them all, that being the role of a script editor in those days. I excerpted the pages of the book about Double Deckers here.

But he is also one of the very few people to have both appeared as an actor in Doctor Who, and written a story. (The others were Victor Pemberton in Old Who, Mark Gatiss in New Who, and I would also count Noel Clarke who wrote an episode of Torchwood.) He appeared in the early Tom Baker story The Sontaran Experiment as one of a group of stranded astronauts (who all had South African accents):


But earlier on he wrote the William Hartnell story The Space Museum, a four-part story where the second, third and fourth episodes are about the overthrow of a rather dull despotic regime, but the first is a real work of genius, one of the spookiest Who episodes ever and a good candidate for being one of the best single Hartnell episodes. Here it is:



Glyn Jones reflects on this experience as follows:





There are a few later references to Who in passing, mostly to his novelisation of the story (in which he Tuckerised at least two of his friends). It's a good perspective on how brief his engagement with the show was in a long career. And in general the book is a good read if you skip some of the later chapters.

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