The secrets of 1970s Doctor Who revealed in newly discovered photos
Treasures from the Radio Times Archive tell us a little more about the Time Lord's arch-enemies, the Master and Davros.
It’s the third in our monthly run of Doctor Who-related rarities from the Radio Times Archive celebrating the 60th anniversary – and this time we present an unexpected discovery that takes us back exactly 50 years.
On Saturday 24th March 1973, BBC One aired Episode Five of Frontier in Space, a fondly remembered six-part adventure starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor.
Radio Times has long had a set of black-and-white images from Episode Four, and they have been published far and wide across the decades. But last year, a full “new” reel of photos covering the fifth episode were found in the personal collection of the late Don Smith, our much-missed friend and long-time staff photographer.
Frontier in Space was set in the far future, and the pictures show the Doctor and his companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) trying to avert a galactic war between the empires of Earth and Draconia – a crisis instigated by the wicked Master, played by Roger Delgado in his final appearance in the role.
Don Smith took the photos on Wednesday 1st November 1972 during camera rehearsals in Studio 3 at BBC Television Centre in London. Also depicted are the Draconian Emperor (John Woodnutt), the Draconian Prince (Peter Birrell), the President of Earth (Vera Fusek) and General Williams (Michael Hawkins).
One small but intriguing detail is revealed for the first time by the pictures. The Master often used aliases (Emil Keller, Reverend Magister, Professor Thascales etc), but in Frontier in Space he was posing as the unnamed Commissioner for Sirius Four.
However, although never spoken or seen on screen, a specific name was dreamt up by the production team. And that name was G R Xsathos – legible in this close-up detail of a document bearing the Master’s fake credentials, held by actor Michael Hawkins.
This month we also come forward in time to March 1975, 48 years ago when the Tom Baker classic Genesis of the Daleks was playing out for the first time on BBC One.
The Radio Times Archive has long retained a set of photos for the fourth episode, but again we’ve recently recovered another whole set from Don Smith’s collection. These were taken during the recording of Episode Two, on Tuesday 28th January in Studio One at Television Centre.
They show Davros (Michael Wisher) on the “Ext. Shattered Wall” set where he was demonstrating his prototype Dalek’s weaponry for the first time. Sadly, there are no shots of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, who was on the periphery of that scene. But the reel does include Tom Baker’s Doctor and his companion Harry (Ian Marter) in the Kaled bunker with one of Davros’s scientists, Ronson (James Garbutt).
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A close-up detail of one photo of Davros reveals some intriguing details. First, this is perhaps the only picture in existence to show Michael Wisher’s own left hand, which he always tucked out of sight in his lap while performing as the withered Dalek creator.
Also, in his gloved and made-up right hand, he’s holding a small valve with a cable. What purpose did this serve? Perhaps it was Wisher’s means of activating Davros’s third eye. It was supposed to flare blue whenever he was agitated but wasn’t particularly visible on screen and often malfunctioned as the production rolled on.
With thanks to Radio Times head of heritage Ralph Montagu and photo archivist David Carlisle.
Next time: Jon Pertwee in pink…