An Adventure In Space And Time - Jamie Glover and Jemma Powell Interviewed

Meet Jamie Glover and Jemma Powell, alias original Doctor Who cast members William Russell and Jacqueline Hill - pioneer companions Ian and Barbara - in An Adventure In Space And Time ...

What appealed to you about this project?

JG: It was a great script and it’s a great idea. It’s one of those ideas where you think “Why has no one done this before?” It could just be a boring trudge through a corner of history, but of course because it’s by Mark Gatiss it’s witty and sharp, it’s funny, it’s unexpected. And it’s a great chance for us. What a challenge. It’s also very nice to sit in the make-up trailer or the costume van and go “Well, there’s no argument about what we wear, because he wore that! That’s what he looked like!” It is daunting, but there are going to be a lot of people making sure that we stand in the right place. And we have the advantage of course that there are references – before any shot we can make sure that we get it right.

Did you go back to the DVDs to pick up cues on the performances?

JP: Yeah, we’ve been sent all of the material, so it’s kind of like “Oh, did she have her right arm up then? And was she holding her hand like that?”’ I’ve never played a character who’s a real life person. I think that’s really fun. You want to do it justice, especially because Jacqueline’s not alive anymore. I feel like it’s a tribute to her. We were saying this on the first day of shooting a couple of weeks ago, when we drove up to the BBC. We were all the original characters and we were all in a car. We were like “This is how they must have felt in the ‘60s when they did the original Doctor Who !” It was kind of weird.

And are you playing dual roles in a way? You’re playing the actors – and also the actors playing the characters…

JP: Yes, exactly! I find it really confusing, because sometimes I’m Jacqueline and sometimes I’m Barbara. There weren’t any interviews online with Jacqueline, so it was making that decision of “Do you think she really was quite like Barbara, or was she very different?” I made the choice to make her quite similar, so the hair’s quite similar and the way she speaks is quite similar.

JG: It is daunting. William Russell is still very much around and he was there at the readthrough – which was not at all terrifying! It was quite scary, actually. He’s an absolute delight – I would say that, but he really is, and very, very encouraging. He hasn’t said this to me but they must all be delighted and astonished that here they are, 50 years later, because of something which was, I’m sure, one of many illustrious jobs that he was doing at the time. Little could he have known that 50 years later…

JP: In the readthrough everyone was applauding. We went round the table and said who we were and who we were playing – they’ve got cameos in it, which is really nice. It was really interesting talking to them. I asked Carole Ann, who played Susan, what Jacqueline was like, and she said that she was often mistaken for being quite aloof and cold, but actually she was just shy, and that when she was confronted by an uneasy situation she would just go quite rigid. Which is what I do! So that’s quite easy.

Is it quite a fine line to navigate between impersonation and finding your own performance?

JG: With something as well documented as this you have to say “Well, this is what he did,” and then you have to find your own way to get there, rather than “This is how I’m feeling it and then everyone else slots in around that.”

JP: It’s from the outside in, rather than the inside out.

JG: God, I’m certainly not going to try and do an impersonation. I’m not skilled in that way. But you have to see what he was thinking and how he inflected a line, and why he inflected it that way.

JP: Also you’ve got to lay on top of that the fact that they were under a lot of pressure at the time to get it done in that hour and a half, so maybe at times they’re a little bit out of character as well, because they’re thinking “I’ve got to get to the next position!”

What are your personal memories of Doctor Who ?

JP: I just always remember it being on in the background. I never followed it but it was just always there. It’s like the music of EastEnders and Top Of The Pops . They always reminded me of when my mum went out and it was the same with Doctor Who . Where I live there’s an old police box on the side of the park, and every time I pass it I’m like “That’s so Doctor Who !”

JG: It’s completely in a British person’s DNA, isn’t it? It’s completely inextricable from anyone of a certain age. It’s absolutely part of the soundtrack of their lives, and like everybody else I hid behind the sofa at the Cybermen and the Daleks. Tom Baker was really my Doctor – end of Jon Pertwee, into Tom Baker. It’s impossible to be a British person and not have some awareness of Doctor Who . It really is that strong, isn’t it? It’s like the Queen or Prime Minister’s question time.

You’re recreating the first episode, “An Unearthly Child”. What did you make of the original?

JG: It’s television of a different nature now, isn’t it? They would rehearse for a week and then they shot the first episode in an hour and a half.

JP: And they shot it in real time, so often not everyone is in the flashback sequences because the other two characters are running around the set to get in position for the next scene. That’s why Carole Ann is often just in the flashback sequences, because we’re on to the next scene. And often they stumble on their lines, because they only had a certain number of takes…

JG: They had four takes, I think, four edits that they could go back and change. That’s completely unthinkable for television today. I think television now is aspirational to film, whereas then I suspect it was aspirational to theatre. Obviously there are going to be pros and cons with each thing, and as you say they do stumble on their lines, but there’s a kind of live feeling, an electricity about it. A shadow goes across a face – nowadays they’d go “Cut! Shadow!” But on they went.

JP: It makes it much more exciting, I think. Much more like theatre. You’re kind of on the edge of your seat, thinking ‘What’s going to happen next?’

Some of it is a shot-for-shot recreation...

JG: I think it has to be, because you’re not dealing with an uninvolved fanbase, are you? There are going to be people who’ll say “I think you’ll find that actually his tie was not that dark…”

Meeting you in full costume and make-up is a little unsettling, because you look so much like the people you’re playing. Was that rather weird initially when you arrived on set? Were people looking at you in a curious way?

JP: I think people do look at us like that… There was that anticipation of “Who’s going to play these characters?” But I think we’re given too much credit – I think the costume designers and the hair designers and the make-up designers should get way more credit! We’re just a vessel!

JG: I suppose that response is better than (dubious) “Hmmmm…”

JP: Yes! “Why have you been cast?” (laughs)

Jacqueline Hill was quite a striking figure…

JP: She was very beautiful, but then when she plays Barbara she’s a schoolteacher…

JG: Tweedy…

JP: I’ve seen the suit that I’m wearing and it is quite frumpy… but that’s fun. I can do frumpy! (To Julian) But you’re a dish! I was reading about the original character descriptions and you were originally called Cliff. It said “Cliff. A dish.”

JG: Excellent! God, when was that word last used…

JP: Can I just read you the original descriptions? I wrote them down… (consults phone) So I was originally “Miss McGovern, mistress of the girl’s school, timid but capable of courage, modest, with plenty of normal desires!” And you’re “Cliff, master at the same school, physically perfect… a dish! Brave, in a diffident way!”

JG: Well, there we are… who else could possibly play it? (laughs)

Nick Setchfield

An Adventure In Space And Time is on BBC Two on November 21 at 9.00 pm