Friday, July 21, 2006


David Maloney and Peter Hawkins, RIP

I’ve just seen the news that both director David Maloney and voice artist Peter Hawkins have recently died. David Maloney directed much of the best and scariest of Doctor Who; Peter Hawkins was the original voice of the Daleks, the Cybermen, Captain Pugwash and even Bill and Ben. Both made my childhood much richer, and without them, I doubt we’d have the superb new Doctor Who. To cheer myself up, I’ve read reviews of the latest series by two lovely men (and you might also watch Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe tonight on BBC4, like a blog but noisier. And funny).

David Maloney was a prolific Doctor Who director, one of the most impressive as well as one of the most reliable. I wouldn’t quite call him an auteur, but you could often recognise his style, inventive but not flashy, equally suited to whatever story was put his way, scary or surreal, studio or location. Very confident in getting the best performances out of his actors to make sure telling the story always stayed centre-stage, he also had certain visual ‘signatures’ – a love of freeze-frame cliffhangers to hold a scary image in your mind and upset Mary Whitehouse, for example, willing to turn the lights down for stories that were literally as well as metaphorically dark, gas-mask motifs long before The Empty Child, and endlessly inventive in finding ways to make even the TARDIS’ materialisation look interesting (in reflection, in fog, in a slow panning shot…).

Though it’s his bleak battlefields and filmic style that come first to mind, there’s a lighter touch in much of his work, too, with frequent sardonic humour; perhaps surprisingly for a director remembered for giving Doctor Who a serious, ‘realistic’ feel, he also devised the trippiest sequences going, with his own unique brand of gritty surrealism. He was, I’m sure, the director most likely to get complaints from Mrs Whitehouse and most associated with the original series’ move towards horror in the mid-’70s, the period of the show that I started with when a small boy and I still hold most dearly to this day. So much of the joy in my life has been down to him.

Some of Mr Maloney’s outstanding pieces of work include the surreal fantasy story The Mind Robber and the grim epic The War Games at the tail-end of the ’60s. The first time I saw his craft on screen was with the slow-motion massacre that opens Genesis of the Daleks with the point that it isn’t going to glamorise war like many gung-ho stories, a point lost on many who complained about it but not on the many who put it among the best stories in Doctor Who’s 43-year history. Aged just three, I was enthralled. I still am. The same distinction is given to the macabre but hugely entertaining Victorian extravagance of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and of course my own favourite story, the creative, satirical, noirish The Deadly Assassin. Add to that the dark fable Planet of Evil, with its brilliantly shot alien jungle, and he was responsible for a brace of stories that I loved in childhood and have simply shown more layers as I’ve grown up with them. He just seemed to put in so much care and attention to making TV that you’d watch and remember; after Doctor Who, he went on to scare more people in 1981 with still the best adaptation of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, and successfully produced the first three years of cynical BBC sci-fi Blake’s 7. Among his work on that show he directed Star One, the climax of its second season and still the most stunning ‘season finale’ I can think of. Like The Mind Robber, Genesis of the Daleks and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, you can now buy all of Blake’s 7 on DVD.

Peter Hawkins mainly affected my childhood through an early delight in Captain Pugwash, and through his successors at Doctor Who carrying on the sort of voices he’d originally devised, especially for the Daleks. In later years I was able to hear his work on the series in the ’60s, where he defined the sound of the Doctor’s most famous opponents, a feat of invention nearly as important in creating them as Ray Cusick’s brilliant design. I was also won over by his original Cyber-voices; eerily sing-song rather than booming, their intonation is the least human, which, complete with chillingly wrong body language on screen, still makes the originals for me in many ways the most disturbing.

Condolences to their friends and families.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall put on something scary, funny and with the lights turned right down…

Labels: ,

And just to be all Twilight Zone, Peter Hawkins, voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen, died on the day Doomsday was broadcast - the day the two races first met on screen.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?