Didn’t John Hurt say something like “I received the script on Friday and was on set on Monday”?
It wasn’t quite as fast as that but it was bloody fast. He was top of our list. I wrote the War Doctor script and we sent it off to John Hurt, assuming that was the beginning of a frantic two weeks of sending it off to every actor you’ve ever heard off and got Janette Krankie. And – God bless him for ever! – he said yes almost immediately. That was the first stroke of luck we had on that sodding show.
And how good was he! One moment as the Doctor and he nails it. He totally gets it. And he was lovely about being in it. I wasn’t there on his last day, but he gave a little speech and said something like: “I don’t want anyone to think I took this lightly or thought I was slumming it. This really meant something to me, to be the Doctor.” He was quite insistent, saying to me and to others: “So I am properly Doctor Who now. I am a Doctor Who. I can say it?” He loves the fact that he’s Doctor Who. Only having to stay in Cardiff for three weeks, he gets to be Doctor Who.
You enjoy all eras of the programme really, don’t you?
I had an epiphany on 1980s Doctors. I’ve always loved Peter Davison. I think he’s lovely and I don’t care who knows it. And I’ve come to really like Sylvester McCoy. His first year  is a bit of a disaster but the other two years are great. And for my son Louis, unequivocally, his favourite Doctor is Sylvester.
Has he met him?
When we were at the 50th [anniversary party] at the BFI, surrounded by the great and the good, Louis clutched my arm and said, “Dad, is that Sylvester McCoy?” “Yes, it is.” “Dad, can I meet him?” “I’m sure I can arrange that.” Later Louis says, “Please, I need to meet him.” So I get a message up to Sylvester asking him to hang around, “My son wants to meet you.” This will make you fall in love with Sylvester as the best Doctor ever.
I took Louis up and, across the room, Sylvester saw us arriving. He leapt up from a sofa – and he’s not a young man – and he spun his walking cane like the Doctor’s umbrella and said, “Louis, Louis! I’m falling over. Could you just come and help me?” So Louis rushed over and helped Doctor No 7 and he thanked him very much. He’d turned into the seventh Doctor like that [clicks fingers] and I cannot now hear a bad word about his Doctor.