Doctor Who at Newton's laws of television

Philip Madoc

An interview by Richard Amphlett, Robin Hall and Matthew Newton

A picture of Philip Madoc
Philip Madoc was born on 5th July 1934 in Merthyr Tydfil. He was educated in Wales, followed by a spell in the University of Vienna before entering RADA. But Philip hadn't always wanted to become an actor. "I think it might have been an interest laterly in my teens when I joined a dramatic society at school and the one play that they did in my last year was Macbeth. I played it, for whatever reason, and found it very enjoyable, but I didn't take it seriously as an actual career. So I went on and eventually became an interpreter, because language was my main interest. Then one day I decided to try acting, since if it failed I could go back to the linguistic field, or try something in diplomacy."

Over the years Philip seems to have established a reputation for playing villains. "Certainly initially I rarely played heroes because there was still this tradition that heroes were six foot tall. Certainly if you had a voice that wasn't high and dark eyes then there was a feeling that were set out to play the villains of this world. I didn't ever argue with that, because they were more or less the best parts."

Philip's first involvement with Doctor Who was as the villainous Ashton in the second Dalek film. "I only remember that because I was the only one who was dressed properly! Everyone else was in rags. He was a market trader, or something in line with the Daleks. Of course, he has his comeuppance in the end because nobody can be in line with the Daleks and survive - they have no conscience. I remember that part of it very well."

At the time of the interview Philip's appearance in "The War Games" had just been released on video. How did he feel about this? "Well, I must go and have a look at these, as I've never seen them. I went to the BBC video launch in North America a few years ago. I didn't know until I got there that it was because of my involvement with Doctor Who. I was told that a particular one was such a high seller in the States that they invited me there as a guest - they were particularly fond of me as a villain.

"I've gathered that a lot of people, such as Frazer (Hines) have been to the States for conventions, and they've often asked why I don't go and I have no answer. I wonder if its because they've never asked a villain out. I'd love to go".

In "The War Games" Philip played the chief villain, the War Lord. "I wore those glasses for that one, didn't I? At the end he was dispersed to all corners of the Universe. That was deliberate, not to kill him off because they wanted to bring him back, like the Master. But I couldn't make it, so it wasn't to be." Philip also knew his fellow villains in this particular story, namely James Bree and Edward Brayshaw. "Edward went back to New Zealand, only coming back to do silly things with ghosts [Rentaghost]."

Philip Madoc as the villainous War Lord

It has been said many times that Solon in "The Brain of Morbius" was Philip's favourite role in Doctor Who. Was this true? "Yes, there's no doubt about that. That's the one they keep on repeating and you get a minor cheque for it. I liked it very much at the time because the script was very incisive and amusing as well - I liked the combination of the two. There was a lot of tension in that story and the lines were very good. Certainly, generally people enjoy it. I haven't ever seen it. I liked some of the classic things that reminded you of Frankenstein; the creaking of the huge doors and lines like "Do come in, you can't walk abroad on a night like this..." "

"The Brain of Morbius" was originally available on video in a heavily edited form. "That disappointed me. Some said it was not fit for video - I thought that was rubbish. It was all in the style of Doctor Who. There was the suspension of truth but at the same time there was enough truth in it to take it with you."

Philip appeared opposite two Doctors. "I enjoyed working with Patrick Troughton because I liked him anyway. I thought he was splendid. I knew him for many years afterwards, until his death. I didn't know Tom Baker, so it was just a case of coming together and working professionally, although it seemed to work."

Philip's last appearance in Doctor Who was as Fenner in "The Power of Kroll". It has been said that Philip thought he would be playing Thawn, the villain of the piece. Was this true? "There was confusion, certainly. I did actually turn up on location on the Fens thinking that I was playing that. Something had gone wrong somewhere."

Given the chance, would Philip like to appear in Doctor Who again? "Well, I don't really know. I've never thought about it. If it were as I remember then I don't see why not. There always potential in the series; it was always so much superior to shows coming in from abroad, although I not so keen on what it's been like recently. I was always interested in it, but after "The Power of Kroll" nobody offered me anything in it. That happens, that's the way careers go. At the time it may have been because David Maloney was there, who I worked with a lot, and people knew you more then which is why you get asked. That's the way the profession works."

But what about playing the Doctor himself? "I've been asked that before. It's an interesting question. It's always asked by Doctor Who societies. It's never been asked by the BBC though!".

Originally published in Think Tank issue 9 (May 1990). Philip Madoc was interviewed at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton in April 1990.

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