When British daytime TV and geek heroes collide

Doctor Who, Star Trek and more: what happened when sci-fi, horror & fantasy heroes have popped up on British daytime TV over the years…

Pre-YouTube, fandom was a hard-earned thing. It took research, dedication and enough patience to hover over the family video player’s ‘record’ button for an entire episode of TV-AM in anticipation of six minutes with Sylvester McCoy. Six minutes in which the Seventh Doctor would be polled if he was a cat or dog person and then asked to taste a lemon roulade.

Scarcity bred desire in those days, so we took what we could get from our heroes of yore, even if that meant watching Hammer Horror legend Ingrid Pitt make a chocolate mousse, or the aforementioned McCoy attempt to answer fan questions above the hubbub of a Nottingham swimming pool complex. The collision of geek icons and UK daytime magazine shows was sometimes illuminating, sometimes excruciating, and sometimes involved Richard Madeley telling William Shatner a really weird lie about the British criminal court system. Either way, it was never boring.

Here then, from a wonderful 1995 Pebble Mill chat with Terry Pratchett to the bonkers sofa congregation of Jon Pertwee, Barbara Windsor, Jimmy Greaves and Roland Rat, are a few notable instances of sci-fi, horror and fantasy heroes popping up on daytime chat shows.

Terry Pratchett on Pebble Mill, April 1995

This one’s just lovely. Terry Pratchett appeared on BBC One’s lunchtime Pebble Mill programme in April 1995 to promote the release of the Eric Idle, Tony Robinson and Jon Pertwee-voiced Discworld point-and-click adventure game. In conversation with Alan Titchmarsh, Pratchett was sharp, funny and refreshingly frank about the whelk-brained Hollywood execs who’d approached him about buying the Discworld adaptation rights.

Ad – content continues below

This clip gets bonus points for the nostalgic fun of Titchmarsh describing the game’s CD-ROM format as futuristic “gizmos and gadgetry”. A bittersweet gem.

Uploaded by David Brider

 

Ingrid Pitt, Ken Russell and James Herbert on Light Lunch, June 1997

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGksRQw76AU

The climax of each episode of Light Lunch, a short-lived Mel and Sue Channel 4 format that accompanied more than a few of us through our GCSE ‘study leave’, was the lunch itself, prepared with the help of its guests. That’s why this clip involves the arresting sight of Hammer Horror actress Ingrid Pitt (The Wicker Man, Countess Dracula) feeding horror writer James Herbert (The Rats, The Fog) and director Ken Russell (The Devils, Women In Love) her homemade chocolate mousse.

All three guests have sadly left us now, giving this one a wistful tinge for fans, but it doesn’t eclipse the barmy, slightly hysterical combination of light-hearted chat, sexual innuendo, modern horror legends, and pudding. Watch all the way to 13:39 to hear Ken Russell describe his NSFW pitch for a great potential Dracula scene…

Uploaded by Blackdog TV

Ad – content continues below

 

Peter Davison on Pebble Mill At One, December 1980

Filmed after Peter Davison signed up for the role of the fifth Doctor, but three months before he would first appear in his cricket whites is this chat with Donny Macleod. After the obligatory opening skit involving the TARDIS materialising in the Pebble Mill studio (seriously, find me an interview where they don’t do it. Go on. Try), Macleod took Davison through a number of suggested ‘looks’ for his Doctor (including a bow tie) achieved using a state-of-the-art paper cut-out doll with a selection of different removable haircuts. It’s a wonder the BBC didn’t recycle the segment for Doctor Who Live.

Perhaps more interesting for Who fans are the audience questions, which include a wishlist of fairly insightful character traits for the new Doctor.

Uploaded by Peter Davison Addict

 

Ad – content continues below

Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau on GMTV, October 2005

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjdaMuEltvA

On the eve of Serenity opening in the UK back in 2005, Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau appeared on GMTV to answer mostly sensible questions from Andrew Castle, and a ‘women hate sci-fi’ diatribe from Fiona Phillips earlier in the show. See the pair handle the aftermath of that, and express their hopes for more from the Firefly universe (can’t stop the signal) below.

Uploaded by Summer Glau Channel

 

Terry Gilliam on Pebble Mill, March 1989

Shortly after the release of The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, director Terry Gilliam was interviewed on the BBC’s Pebble Mill in a somewhat combative style. The presenter prods Gilliam about going over budget, losing Sean Connery, and why Robin Williams was credited under a false name in the picture, as well as confronting him with a negative review by The Observer film critic Philip French, and tellling him that Eric Idle never wants to work with him again. Gilliam glides through the criticism, ending on a hopeful note about his new Watchmen adaptation…

Uploaded by TrevProductions

 

Ad – content continues below

Eric Idle on Going Live, March 1989

And just for completion, here’s Eric Idle on the same press tour talking to Going Live’s Philip Schofield about working on The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. “That looked like a lot of fun to make” opened Schofield. “Not a lot of fun to make […] It’s not fun. It wasn’t fun to do this stuff, but it looks fun.” Er, that’s him told.

Uploaded by TrevProductions

 

Sylvester McCoy, Jon Pertwee and Sophie Aldred on Daytime Live, 1988

This one’s golden for a number of reasons: firstly, it starts with the BBC’s favourite gag about the TARDIS materialising in the studio, secondly, it features the Third and Seventh Doctors and Companion Ace in character, and thirdly, the clip includes the title credits and line-up for the day’s programme which includes an appeal for an organ donor, some gardening tips, and hot music news from Tanita Tikarum.

Tied in to Doctor Who’s twenty-fifth anniversary, this Jon Pertwee, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred interview also includes questions from fan group, the West Midlands Whonatics, talk of “a multi-million pound Doctor Who movie” (and the anathema of the idea of an American playing the lead role), and Sylvester McCoy requesting jelly. What more could you ask for?

Uploaded by Old Tapes

Ad – content continues below

 

Alyson Hannigan (and a bit of David Boreanaz) on This Morning, June 2000

Richard Madeley doesn’t really seem to get Buffy The Vampire Slayer in this June 2000 interview with Alyson Hannigan, tied in to the UK VHS release of the show’s third season. He seems quite annoyed with the premise, asking “why do these vampires keep appearing in this town?” after ending a discussion of Hannigan’s character’s “iffy” lesbianism with the line, “We’re quite liberal-minded over here, much more liberal-minded than Americans. We have to be”. Madeley finishes strong though, by pointing at Hannigan’s out-of-shot foot and asking “What’s your tattoo on your foot? Two dolphins and – what’s that one? – a tortoise. How funny. We can’t see it, but never mind”.

Uploaded by The Real Winslet Fan

 

Sylvester McCoy on Going Live, November 1988

If you’ve always thought that three, shivering, half-naked children were what was missing from the background of your average TV interview, then this Going Live segment is for you. Filmed at what appears to be the Center Parcs swimming pool complex in Sherwood Forest, it features Sarah Greene in a Victorian-style swimming outfit and matching hat, Trev and Simon (a sort of Vic and Bob gateway drug) and Sylvester McCoy answering caller questions and launching a competition to win a BBC studio visit and a build-your-own-TARDIS set. We’d like both please.

Ad – content continues below

 

William Shatner on Richard And Judy, December 2002

In town to promote the multi-million dollar Hyde Park Star Trek exhibition, William Shatner stopped by Richard and Judy’s sofa for a chat about the show in December 2002. Shatner surely expected to be asked about playing Kirk. He may have expected some seasonal turkey recipe-related chat. Did he expect Madeley to go off-piste and invent a clearly fictional ‘big thing in England’ whereby criminals being sentenced on the dock mime flipping open a Star Trek communicator and asking for Scotty to beam them up? No. No, I don’t think William Shatner was expecting that. He handles it well though.

Uploaded by TVFilmMedia

 

Patrick Troughton on Pebble Mill, December 1973

Four years after he vacated the role, Patrick Troughton gave this characteristically unpredictable and somewhat awkward interview to Pebble Mill’s Marian Foster in which he – perhaps jokingly – unveiled his original costume plans to “black up” and wear a turban as his Doctor. There’s also a fun anecdote about a set failure during his time playing Robin Hood live on television.

We hope we won’t offend anyone by bringing your attention to what looks like a tellingly empty bottle or two half-hidden behind Troughton’s left shoulder in the shot from around 5:07…

Ad – content continues below

Uploaded by Ampex196

 

Rob Grant and Doug Naylor on Daytime UK, 1991

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jfqwXfCG7Q

Scrape away all the awkwardness and distracting fake snow, and there’s the odd glimpse of an interesting chat with Red Dwarf creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor here in this 1991 interview by Alan Titchmarsh. Grant and Naylor talk about their comedy background, long-standing relationship. autobiographical inspiration for characters Lister and Rimmer, and the relationship between sci-fi and comedy. You just have to get past all the dead moments and conversation-stoppers first…

Uploaded by Chris Toone

 

Jon Pertwee on TV-AM, December 1984

For silliness, this one takes the biscuit, mostly thanks to its characteristically haphazard-feeling collection of guests. You’ve got Jon Pertwee talking about Worzel Gummidge, reading out birthday cards, telling war stories and plugging his book, Barbara Windsor in a leather ensemble pushing her panto, Roland Rat introducing The Incredible Hulk, Jimmy Greaves discussing the week’s telly, and more, all on Nick Owen and Anne Diamond’s 1984 beige sofa. It’s like a capsule version of every daytime magazine show, well, ever.

Ad – content continues below