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I'm the show's Time Lady (2013)

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Director Fiona tells how she worked with four Doctors during nearly 20 years of involvement with the hit series


FIONA Cumming has a Doctor Who CV to be proud of, boasting credits with the first, second, third and fifth Doctors. Indeed, when Peter Davison made his debut as the fifth Doctor in 1981, it was Fiona, who grew up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, who was directing the story.

But Fiona first worked on the show in 1965 as an assistant floor manager on William Hartnell tale The Massacre.

Fiona, now retired and living with her husband and former Doctor Who production manager Ian Fraser near Wigtown, was a teacher at Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow before she joined the BBC.

She said: "I can remember in 1963 when the kids came in, talking about this brilliant TV show they had seen on Saturday night, and I said, 'What do you mean, it's set in a police box?' "Then, in 1964, I went to the BBC as a relief assistant floor manager. I was put on to Doctor Who's The Massacre in 1965. Peter Purves was William Hartnell's assistant and the director was Paddy Russell, who had a great reputation."

A couple of years later, Fiona worked on Patrick Troughton's second adventure.

She said: "By 1967, I became a production assistant on The Highlanders with Pat Troughton, which is one of the lost stories." h " But she still has a piece of film showing her with the clapperboard.

Fiona said: "I loved working with him and teamed up again in 1969 with The Seeds of Death. I had worked on Dr Findlay's Casebook with him and greatly admired him as an actor."

In 1972, she worked on her next Who, with Jon Pertwee, in a story called The Mutants. Over the next few years, she moved on to directing dramas.

Fiona was delighted when she returned to the worlds of Doctor Who, launching Peter Davison in the title role in 1982 story Castrovalva.

But she didn't think that the show's new star was bothered with the level of expectation being thrust upon him after succeeding Tom Baker.

Fiona laughed: "I think the pressure was on me because, until then, I had been doing an awful lot of classical stuff, it was the first story of a new Doctor and it was an area that I hadn't really worked in for so long.

"And the cult that has developed around Doctor Who was under way.

"Peter was absolutely terrific, a real joy to work with, and we kept the feeling of family on the show, which was extremely important. He had been doing particularly well on All Creatures Great and Small, and he already had a big following, and I thought it was a brilliant piece of casting to take a younger man and make him the Doctor.

"Nowadays, it's far more common with the likes of David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor.

"But back then, the Doctor had always been an older man, with Bill Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. He showed it worked."

Fiona was back directing two stories i th h ' 20th in the show's season, the first being Snakedance, which featured the TV debut of Martin Clunes.

She laughed: "I knew the character of Lon would only work if you could equate him with being a spoiled brat who was totally self-centred, because of his extreme youth.

"You didn't want to dislike him but he was totally objectionable. And Martin hit the spot, beautifully."

Later that year, Fiona directed another story, Enlightenment, and then took the Doctor overseas for 1984's Planet of Fire, which was shot in Lanzarote.

The location came about by chance after Fiona sent producer John Nathan-Turner a postcard from a family holiday.

She explained: "We were on holiday in Lanzarote. I sent JNT a postcard saying, 'Location fabulous, troglodytes willing - how about it?' I took photos of the vistas and out of that came Planet of Fire.

"The heat was quite punishing and it was not the most comfortable shoot!

"I went back and did a remake of it for the DVD and realised the footpaths we had used in 1984 were now just for the scientists working there."

Ian Fraser Production manager 1986-89 BEING shadowed by Iraqi security guards and Daleks causing a security alert in London were among many incidents that ensured Scot Ian Fraser enjoyed working on Doctor Who in the 80s.

Ian, from Dunfermline, was involved behind the scenes in ensuring that Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy made it to screen.

He worked as production manager on Doctor Who stories between 1986 and 1989.

His first work on the series was on the Terror of the Vervoids segment of the 1986 story The Trial of a Time Lord, starring Colin Baker, which marked Bonnie Langford's debut in the series.

Ian recalled: "If I remember correctly, we had Honor Blackman in that show. And we also had Bonnie - the best screamer in the business."

When fellow Scot Sylvester McCoy took over the TARDIS the following year, Ian was back on Doctor Who, in a story named Paradise Towers.

Ian said: "We were recording it at the home of an Iraqi diplomat and, everywhere we went, there were always armed bodyguards about. There was a special kind of feeling to it all."

Ian worked on Doctor Who in its 25th anniversary season and was delighted to work with the Doctor's oldest foes in 1988's Remembrance of the Daleks.

He said: "I just adored working with the Daleks. I remember the first time I saw them going up the stairs, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

"Once, we were filming under Waterloo railway bridge in London, having a battle with a big explosion and a load of smoke.

"The policewoman with us had a call on her walkie-talkie saying that a bomb had gone off at Waterloo.

"She was trying to tell the HQ that it was not a bomb but Doctor Who filming.

"The message did not reach the emergency services and the London fire service came roaring through the smoke.

"The look on the faces of the firemen as they came face to face with the Daleks was something to see."

Now retired and living near Wigtown, Ian said: "There was a real joy when working on Doctor Who - people didn't get upset or uptight about it all - it was just a joy to be working."

Christopher Eccleston The Doctor - 2005 5 WHEN the Time Lord returned to our TV screens for the 21st century, it was critically acclaimed Christopher Eccleston who played the ninth Doctor. s the ccleston contrast His take on the part was a total to his predecessors, using his own Manchester accent, and his costume was far more down to Earth than of the more outlandish garb worn other Doctors.

me some by Eccleston's Doctor was scarred after surviving the Time War with the Daleks in which all other Time Lords perished, making him more detached than the other Doctors.

Eccleston decided to move on after a year in the part. er Colin Baker The Doctor 1984-86 Paul McGann The Doctor - 1996 Paul McGann's official announcement as the eighth Doctor came in January 1996, when the BBC revealed he was to play the Time Lord in a one-off TV movie, which it was hoped would lead to a new series for broadcast in the USA. nt y to ad USA.

But despite attracting 9.1million viewers in the UK, American ratings weren't high enough to commission the series.

the nce me r Although he was only the Doctor once on TV, McGann has gone on to become one of the most popular Doctors after returning to the part for an on-going series of original audio adventures from Big Finish Productions, with Sheridan Smith as his companion Lucie Miller.


GRAPHIC: DALEKMANIA Ian Fraser worked with fellow Scot Sylvester McCoy on 1988's Remembrance of the Daleks DOCTORIN' THE TARDIS Fiona Cumming worked with third Doctor Jon Pertwee, pictured right on a visit to Glasgow THE JOY OF SIXTH Colin Baker, Doctor No.6, with Nicola Bryant as Peri in 1986, on location for The Trial of a Timelord YOUNG GUN Peter Davison was just 29 when he was cast as the fifth Doctor

ACTION! Fiona Cumming on location with a clapperboard for The Highlanders in 1966

COLOURFUL COMBO Colin Baker with co-star in Bonnie Langford in 1986

BACK IN TIME Fiona Cumming in Lanzarote, where she directed a 1984 story

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  • APA 6th ed.: (2013-11-23). I'm the show's Time Lady. Daily Record p. 6.
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=I'm the show's Time Lady | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/I%27m_the_show%27s_Time_Lady | work=Daily Record | pages=6 | date=2013-11-23 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 May 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=I'm the show's Time Lady | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/I%27m_the_show%27s_Time_Lady | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 May 2019}}</ref>