My Knight of Passion
He was a chainmailed champion from another dimension! She was a flak-jacketed fury from the UN! Marcus Gilbert and Angela Bruce swap tales of broadswords, bullets and Battlefield with Peter Griffiths.
Let me just say, up front, that Monday 14 September 1998 is not shaping up as one of my better days. I contemplate this while sitting in a West End restaurant, waiting for Angela Bruce and Marcus Gilbert, and ruing my weekend excesses. On top of my sorry state, Angela has left a message to say she is running half-an-hour late, and nagging at the back of my mind is the awful feeling that I've given Marcus completely the wrong directions...
My two subjects will, of course, be familiar from the 1989 story Battlefield, in which they played, respectively, the businesslike, even surly Brigadier Winifred Bambera, and that smiley swashbuckler from another dimension, Ancelyn. As with most of Doctor Who's popular 'doubleacts', it proved to be a case of opposites attracting, and I find myself wondering if this will be reflected in Marcus and Angela's real life relationship. Marcus arrives first, the puzzled look on his face confirming my fear that I'd sent him to a mysterious address 20 minutes away. He laughs it off, but takes a keen interest in my hungover condition by way of revenge. Angela rolls up a few minutes later, full of apologies, and she and Marcus share a hug. Marcus proceeds to fill her in on the news so far, to my embarrassment. "And Angela - nice jeans," he adds, smiling benignly. Angela looks down at her fairly ordinary leg wear, and shoots her co-star a half-suspicious look. "How many years has it been?" she asks, settling down. "I don't know - it doesn't bear thinking about. It goes quickly, I know that." "Must have been the late eighties."
"When we were young and good-looking." "And fit, absolutely." Angela smiles fondly. "Doctor Who was a hell of a lot of fun, I remember that. I still get mail from people about Bambera, from all different places." Marcus looks bleak. "You were obviously very popular. I don't think I've received one fan letter since it was filmed." He turns to me. "It's quite sad, isn't it? Poignant, even." Angela rolls her eyes. "Very. My mail is quite regular, which is perhaps a bit worrying. I get sent these little cards -" Marcus is suddenly very interested. "What, 'Put your lips on this?'" "Yes..." Angela pauses. "No! No, it's usually for charity. I got something to sign about two weeks ago.
"I was a bit scared of coming here today, actually - I didn't know what to expect, and I dread being interviewed anyway. You got in contact just before I went off on holidays." "Holidays, Angela?" "Yes, to France, where I sat by the pool and ate wine, cheese and grapes. I thought I'd escaped, but when I got back, there was another message from Marvel - any day in September. Damn you!" Marcus can understand where Angela is coming from. "Some interviewers are complete shits." He smiles sweetly at me. "Obviously not you, Peter. I did an interview for a tabloid a long time ago, and they offered me money, and copy approval, but it turned out that the whole thing was a facade. They really wanted to know about one of my, er, sexual activities. Luckily, I was so guarded that they didn't get anything." He turns to Angela in interrogative fashion. "So, how many people did you sleep with on Doctor Who?'
"Pass!" she laughs. "I can't remember if there was much publicity on Doctor Who, because I tend to block interviews. There were lots of photos, I remember that. I took loads of pictures, too - I've got a fantastic shot of the spaceship explosion, with Sophie Aldred [Ace] watching on the lakeshore. I also took some great pictures of you in the rehearsal room, sitting there lording it over James Ellis [Peter Warmsley] and Jean Marsh [Morgaine] in one of their giggle periods. I've got photos of everyone..." Marcus looks a little dubious at this prospect, but continues. "There was no pressure whatsoever, was there? Doctor Who was like a holiday -extremely enjoyable and very easy. I went through it all in a haze, actually. It might have been because we found a few country pubs ..." "Yeah! That fantastic one with the four-poster bed!" "You had a four-poster bed, did you?" "I did. Sorry, Marcus. I love location work, because you're not contactable." "You leave everything behind - it's holiday time. It's purely selfless as well, your responsibility to your fellows." Marcus nods knowingly. "There's great camaraderie." "I have photos of that too!" Angela laughs long and hard, then suddenly looks thoughtful. "They might be worth something."
"We used to hang out with the make-up girls. That's always fun. Good gossip!" Marcus
"Location filming really takes some beating," concludes Marcus. "I remember we got up at five o'clock in the morning, went to the sweetie shop and got pick 'n' mix," says Angela. "Everybody did it. They sat in the cameraman's bag, and we ate jelly babies and liquorice allsorts all the way through. I got a gum infection after all the sweeties." Marcus grins. "I remember your gum infection. Oh yes. We ran around in the Rutland woods, didn't we?" "That's right. We did a stunt in the car, the 2CV, do you remember? They closed the wood off to the public because there were explosions and stuff. The stunt was pretty complex. It involved rolling the roof back, and driving along with it open. Marcus had to put his leg over to press on the accelerator, and also steer, while I stood up and fired. We had to time it so that when we got to a bend, I sat back down, he took the gun, and we did this swerve around some explosions." "Why is it that I don't remember that? My memory is appalling." Marcus tuts to himself. "That same day I was probably still reeling from a blow to the head. There was a fair amount of swordplay, and one of the extras was a bit zealous - he stopped just short of slicing my head in two.
"I've got this little nick in my ear, right here. I like little nicks, nicks are good, but I had a ringing in my ear for about half-an-hour." Angela examines the wound, thinking about swords and guns. "Alf Joint was our weapons guy. He turned up and told us that wonderful story about Harrison Ford, remember? You know that wonderful scene [in Raiders of the Lost Ark] where the guy does the amazing thing with the swords, and Harrison Ford just shoots him? They did that instead of the scene they'd worked out for about five weeks, and the reason was that Harrison had a terrible case of diarrhoea! Do you remember that?" "You're asking me if remember something?!" "All you guys were practising with the broadswords, and Alf turned to me and said, 'Angela, you might like to do this as well.' They couldn't find a sword for me, so I practised with a pencil!" Angela giggles and makes miniature thrust-and-parry motions. "I also had this rifle from Yugoslavia, the sort of thing only terrorists usually get to play with. I learned how to shoot guns as a kid, but I had to go with Alf into the woods to practice firing this thing. One of the crew had gone for a pee behind a tree, and when I fired, there was this scream. This guy was soaked all day! I scared the pants off everyone else at one point, when I misunderstood an instruction and let off a blank."
As Ancelyn, Marcus saw his share of battle as well. "There was loads of testosterone flying about. Chris Bowen [Mordred] and I were fighting by the lake, with all the weight of those broadswords, and Sylvester McCoy just passed straight between us with his little red-handled umbrella. You were very good at that stuff, Angela. You loved it, didn't you?" "Oh yeah! I thought Bambera was very butch. Once I put the uniform on, I shouted at everybody." "That's why I loved you so. I liked that." Angela stays admirably poker-faced. "A lot of men did." "But I knew that inside there was a heart of butter." "Huh! There was that line after the stunt: 'So, you married, or what?' Hahahahahahaha! But you pledged your allegiance to Doctor Who." "I pledged my allegiance to you, Angela." Angela throws me a 'What's he like?' look. "You did not! It was the Doctor. You recognised him as the reincarnation of Merlin. I was just going to shoot you. We had to do all that rolling around in the background while Sylvester was having a conversation with someone. The stunt guy wasn't there, so we put this fight together ourselves, and they kept it in. It was hysterical, because we were laughing so much."
"One of the extras stopped just short of slicing my head in two!" Marcus
"Bambera and Ancelyn worked together very well, didn't they?" Marcus wears a look of philosophical contentment. "It was because we were so completely different. I wasn't aware at the time that the relationship we had, although fairly non-existent, spoke such volumes." Angela bursts out laughing. "I could be a politician, couldn't I?" muses Marcus. "It went beyond the characters - we were very different actors, too. It was most . . . attractive." "Oh, stop it!" Angela whacks him one. "Let me tell you about the scene where I was watching Sophie come out of the lake with the scabbard. I had just one word: 'Look!' James Ellis and Jean Marsh decided they were going to wind me up, and they stood there saying, 'We really admire your work. We want to see how you deliver this line.' I said, 'Don't! Just go off while I do this little bit with the camera.' Michael Kerrigan [the director] came up and said, 'Good luck, we're all behind you,' and more and more people gathered. I did the shot, but it was too early in the morning, and when I turned to James and said, 'Look!' I pointed with the wrong hand. I collapsed laughing, couldn't believe I'd done that, and Michael said, 'It's all right, darlings, we'll move the lake!'" We've ordered lunch from our very dour waiter, who maintains a studied air of condescension as we dither over the wine. I suspect he feels we're doing it to spite him personally. If I'd thought of it, I might have. "Red or white?" asks Marcus. "Do we have a preference?" I do, but it's up to Angela and him. Angela slumps. "Oh, here we go!"
"I always prefer red, but it may be a little heavy in view of your recent indulgence," smiles Marcus smugly. Red's fine, I assure him. "Are you going to divulge now which you prefer?" asks Angela. White, of course. When the wine is furnished and poured, Marcus raises his glass. "Your health. Good to see you, Angela." "Cheers. Nice to be here." Angela and Marcus haven't run into each other since Battlefield, though they have seen each other's work - or, as Marcus puts it, Angela might have thought, 'My God, it's another pile of crap the man's done!' She, however, pleads 'not guilty' to this. I ask how they each got the part on Doctor Who. Angela first. "I just went in and saw Michael Kerrigan. I didn't know him before that." "Don't forget the long-running producer, whose name I've forgotten," adds Marcus. "Oh ... Nathan-Turner." "Are you sure?"
"John Nathan-Turner." Marcus is still dubious. He looks to me for support, but I'm afraid that Angela's right. He turns back to her, nodding decisively. "See, I told you Angela, John Nathan-Turner. I remember meeting Michael, and Mr Nathan-Turner, like it was yesterday." Both Angela and I are mystified by the huge grin on Marcus' face. What's that about? "No great reason, except my basic lack of remembrance. I remembered the essence of Mr Nathan-Turner, if not his name. He used to like to socialise, didn't he? He was very jovial." "I didn't meet John until location filming, though I think he had worked on Angels, which I worked on for three series. He was a load of fun - he and Michael were out to have a good time on Battlefield. Michael was an excellent director, too, excellent. He did a recent EastEnders episode which required an action scene, and it had his 'stamp' on it. He'd put things in context regarding our characters, which helped because we were shooting out of order, but there wasn't that much character direction to think about in Doctor Who."
"Doctor Who was like a holiday - extremely enjoyable and very easy. I went through it all in a haze!" Marcus
"I don't think there was much directing going on, actually," muses Marcus, "though Michael had the overall picture in mind. The main direction was just to enjoy it and have fun, which we did. It was a pleasure to go to work." "There was only stress when we got to the studio, and they had to play catch-up," says Angela. "Even in the studio, it wasn't too bad. It was more boring. We used to hang out with the make-up girls. That's always fun. Good gossip." "Do you remember there was a dangerous accident involving Sophie?" Marcus shakes his head, as if trying to kick-start it. "Was there? Christ, is everything a blur?" Angela explains: "Okay, you remember that when Sophie came out of the spaceship in the lake, she supposedly came from a glass cabinet in the studio? During recording, it started to crack with the weight of the water, and when it went, crew and everybody were jumping onto camera rigs. It was so dangerous." "I do remember that now. Were you in the studio for that?" "No, I'd just done my scene with Jean and gone into make-up. They were all talking about it." I innocently enquire if the corridors of the BBC were abuzz with news of the incident, and my subjects fall silent. Marcus looks at me with the visual equivalent of a monotone. "That was very funny. People 'abuzz' with it all." "Yes," says Angela, eyes also glazing over. "Very good."
I'm saved from this chilling Stepford Wives moment by the truculent waiter bringing our meal. As he swipes the pepper grinder from a nearby table, I confide to Angela that I think he's in a filthy mood, but trying his best to not show it. "It's not working," she whispers. She smiles brilliantly at him as he dutifully grinds. "Don't worry, Peter's going to give you a great tip. He owns Marvel Comics." "He's the boss," says Marcus brightly. "And a fantastic tipper." The smile on Mr Waiter's face is so thin he could dish out paper cuts. Marcus watches him retreat to the kitchen. "He hates me. He doesn't mind you two, but he dislikes me. Or maybe he's just got a very dry, subtle sense of humour which is shining through. Or his girlfriend left him this morning." Angela harrumphs. "Yes, she said, 'You're a moody bastard, and I'm leaving.'" We start eating, and Marcus quizzes Angela on her decision to move out of London. "Why'd you move? I thought you loved this place?" "I love to visit, but where I was living in Cricklewood, it was dirty, and there was so much traffic. Whenever I visit now, everyone says, 'Oh, you must come over.'" "You were always very popular." "Thank you." Angela looks at Marcus suspiciously. "What are you saying?" "Nothing! I really dislike London. It's essential when you're single, but when you have a family and require a little space, it's time to leave." "The club life in the seventies and eighties was fantastic." "Peter could probably tell you about the club life now," smirks Marcus.
"I thought Bambera was very butch. Once I put the uniform on, I shouted at everybody!" Angela
The waiter returns with a new salad and bigger bowl for Marcus, as his current one is apparently in danger of overflowing. As he stalks away, Marcus beams. "What a lovely man. Doesn't that make you two feel bad?" "Read between the lines, Marcus," laughs Angela. "He went into the kitchen and threw it against the wall!" A little bird has told me that Marcus actually auditioned for the role of the Doctor in the 1996 TV Movie. He confirms this. "It was in the States. Most of my work is in LA now, so I live over there as much as I possibly can. I have residency, green card and all the rest of it. It was a director called Sam Remy, with whom I'd done something called Army Dance, which wasn't a million miles away from Doctor Who. I'd seen the casting director earlier, and she called me in for a read for the Doctor. It was going to be shot in Vancouver, and they ended up using Paul McGann. Lots of American size and scale, and no little American money, too. I went into the casting and just really enjoyed it. It was very verbose stuff, extremely wordy. It was a mammoth audition, so much so that they had to intersperse the scenes with refreshments. I worked extremely hard on it, but I do have the feeling that McGann had been pencilled in for a long time." Working with McGann's precursor, Sylvester McCoy, was apparently good fun. "Sylvester gave me a lift up to Rutland Water, and I borrowed his fantastic straw hat for the whole month," recalls Angela. "I think Sylvester and Sophie had done a fair bit together by the time we did our story. We had some raucous times in my room." "Yeah, I heard that," says Marcus. "Anything to do with the four-poster bed?"
Angela refuses to be bated. "They were a good giggle. Whenever something wasn't going right, they kept it light. I adored James Ellis, too. He was going through a very difficult time, did you know that?" "I didn't, but then I didn't have a lot to do with him. I remember he was phenomenally professional. There was also that boy, Marek [Anton], who was dressed up as some big, tall alien [the Destroyer]. He was a very good-looking, slightly camp guy who had the misfortune, or fortune, to be clad in rubber for most of the piece." "And Jean Marsh was such a giggle, and hell to work with because of it," smiles Angela. "She was so camp in the scenes I did with her. Nick Courtney [the Brigadier] made a guest appearance, and said, 'Bambera. Good man, is he?' That's a great line. And Robert - oh, I was in love with Robert Jezek, who played my sergeant, Zbrigniev." "Don't forget Chris Bowen. That laugh he produced was hearty, to say the least. 'Ha HA HAAA!' He probably had less fillings in those days and could get away with it." Marcus shrugs at me. "Sadly, that's all I can tell you. I wasn't as expansive as Angela." "I beg your pardon?!"
"Well, you know all these names and other members of the cast. I was more introverted." "That's true. I was a socialiser, whereas you'd sit there on your own or wander off." "I do remember you, though, Angela. Most of what was necessary was necessary with you. All I could think about was Angela, Angela, Angela." Angela just looks at him, laughing, and Marcus starts to laugh, too. I guess you had to be there. As lunch winds down, and the waiter of death visits upon us once or twice more, we prepare to part ways. It's been a very enjoyable couple of hours with two people who get along famously. Before we finish, Angela talks a little about another of her connections to telefantasy: the role of Dayna in two Blake's 7 radio plays for the BBC. "I wasn't in it on television - Josette Simon played the part - but I had this awful feeling at one point that somebody thought I was," she says. "I had to do some boning up for it, and it was quite, erm, boring! We recorded it last year, and we're doing another one at the end of this month." Marcus nods in sage-like fashion. "September 28th."
"Yeah. How on earth do you know that?" "Just clever, aren't I?" Angela's eyes narrow. "What are you up to, Marcus?" Marcus is a picture of injured innocence. "I'm not up to anything! Really. I just listen. I remember Peter saying you could do this interview any day apart from the 27th or 28th." "There's nothing wrong with your short-term memory, is there?" says Angela, impressed. "I'm amazed I can recall so much about Doctor Who, actually. You've really stirred up some memories today." To be fair, Angela may have the advantage over Marcus, for he last saw Battlefield on its 1993 repeat, whereas she was sent a copy of the recent video release by the BBC. "They didn't bother to send me a video," carps Marcus. "Mind you, I had to sleep in an outside toilet on location as well." "A one-poster bed, eh?" "Er . . . yes."
Marcus turns to me. "I liked our Doctor Who episodes. I still do. It was effortless. I can't come up with enough superlatives to describe working on the series. It was very gentle, and genteel. You were given a licence to have fun while you were working, and so you wandered around Rutland country lanes having a good time." Angela's more succinct. "It was a laugh." "I do feel like you've only had one and a half people at this interview, though - me being the half." Angela smiles, gathering her jacket and bag, and giving her co-star an affectionate hug good-bye. "Ah well, you came from another planet, so we can't expect too much." "That's true," replies Marcus, a cheeky grin spreading across his face. "The planet Escapism, where all you had to do was fight and f-"
Article courtesy and copyright of DWM 275
Battlefield (DWM) (10 March 1999)
My Knight of Passion