CT was able to talk to Michael Jayston , the actor who brought The Valeyard to life. This interview by Ian Wheeler appeared in CT issue 320 - October 2004.
CT: Michael, how did you become an actor?
was in an amateur group which had Ken Loach in it. Tom Baker was in it
after me and Sue Pollard, Peter Bowles and John Bird. I managed to get
a scholarship but the Nottingham Rep Company at that time was so good I
didnt think I stood a chance. Id acted a bit at school and I
acted when I was doing National Service as well. If I hadnt have got
a scholarship Id have been in trouble because in those days up
North and in the Midlands it was very difficult to get a grant. Whereas
people down South just said oh I want to be an actor and they got it.
CT: Had you watched Doctor Who as a viewer in its early days?
saw Hartnell a few times but some of those early ones were very creaky,
you could see the gaps in the sets. It was made very cheaply. I watched
it when Troughton was in it and from then onwards really. As I was
working, I hardly ever saw Sylvester McCoy in it, only two or three. I
suppose the most I saw was Tom Baker.
CT: Did you worry that the Valeyard, a classic villain in a black cloak, might be a bit cartoonish or did you feel there was enough in the scripts to make it more three dimensional?
Some of the
scripts werent amazing and I just played it as a villain. In some ways
it was one dimensional - he was determined to get the Doctor because,
as you know, Im one of the Doctors.
CT: Did you know straight away that your character was in fact the Doctor?
yes, I did. There were one or two exchanges where some of the responses
that Colin Baker had to make like the Barn Yard or the Scrap Yard
were a bit silly, especially when he was working against a supposedly
brilliant mind i.e. the Valeyard.
CT: The Trial scenes were very much courtroom drama. Did you feel they were a bit static?
not really, because dont forget that whenever you had a courtroom
scene, it then flashed to something else and those people I only ever
saw when we met for the reading, like Tony Selby. Although I did go on
location on Camber Sands towards the end and I was also in the
potteries and I met the Geoff Hughes character. I liked the potteries
because I had to do that maniacal laugh. I had to change into Geoff
CT: Were you aware of the some of the problems that were going on between John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward?
were a lot of funny things going on because Michael Grade suddenly
started to say it ought to be dropped. There were some problems
with the script at the time. The Bakers were writing them werent they?
I like them, theyre nice people.
CT: Did you feel upset for Colin as a friend when he was axed from the series?
Yes, I got on very well with Colin. He's got a bright mind, he does the crossword puzzles. I try to do The Times one but I hardly ever get through it.
I worked with Troughton on a radio years ago. I liked him. He was very eccentric. Toms eccentric. Colin isnt eccentric as a person. But he managed to put it into his interpretation of Doctor Who.
CT: Do people often remember your part in Doctor Who?
Quite a few, yes. I did a thing at Llangollen a couple of years ago for the Hyde Fundraisers. It was mainly youngsters. They watch it on the videos. Theres a whole new audience for it. They watch it on UK Gold.
CT: Did you know that your character has had new adventures in the novels?
know. Theres also a website in Australia that Ive never got in touch
with. Im better than my wife with computers. My daughter is brilliant
at it. I wanted to find out what Id done in certain years. I typed in
The Valeyard, Michael Jayston, Doctor Who. I got everything Ive ever
done going back to radios I did when I first started out. It was
CT: Did you like the script for your audio story He Jest at Scars?
Yes, I did. It was very well written. It was strange to go back to it like that.
CT: Who do you admire?
On the acting level, I like Bill Nighy a lot out of the current actors. I like Al Pacino. I suppose historically I like Churchill. I know he wasnt a saint but I think he did save this country. I like Jack Davenport, hes a good actor. There are some good people coming up but a lot of youngsters nowadays think in terms of film and television instead of learning their craft. You cant play comedy, for instance, if you havent got timing or technique and you learn that through experience.
CT: With the current trend for Reality TV, do you think drama has suffered?
think a lot of television is absolute rubbish nowadays. So-called
reality television is not reality at all. Theyre surrounded by cameras
and they can edit out the bits they dont like, like in Im A
Celebrity. Im afraid I have watched that but for Ant and Dec because I
think theyre very funny and they send it up in a very subtle way. I
dont think theyre supposed to be sending it up. Do you remember Chris
Tarrant used to have a programme going all the way around the world and
youd see Japanese people going through excruciating tortures and we
all roared with laughter thinking how cruel and how sadistic?
Were doing the same thing. As long as they get the ratings they dont
mind. Thats the way its going, its very sad.
CT: Will Doctor Who struggle coming back in this new climate?
I think it deserved never to have gone off the screen because there is a market for it. I did my Doctor Who eighteen years ago and I still get about three letters a week. McGann, who Ive met and I liked, takes the mickey out of himself. I thought he was good but Doctor Who is not Superman. McGann did the best he possibly could with it. There was a conference recently at the Hilton in London (Panopticon). Thats when I met McGann. He was sending himself up about how tall he was. We had a chat about Ireland because I had a relative in Ireland.
CT: Do you think actors get associated with one type of role and then only get offered that role?
Yes, I used to get oh hes a posh actor and its nonsense, I came from Nottingham. Im not a posh actor. Nowadays, theres no closed shop. Anybody thinks they can do it. Its like Pop Idol. I feel sorry for some of them because theyve got it the wrong way round. What they want is fame or money.
CT: We interviewed Sir Derek Jacobi in CT recently and he was saying how he wants to be in Coronation Street but has never been asked because he is seen as a posh actor.
I know. It was the same the same with Lawrence Olivier. He was working there (at Granada) producing his own thing and they did their damndest to try and get him in it. The schedules didnt work. He said I just want to play some sort of shopkeeper because Coronation Street is an institution. He meant it, he wanted to have just one little scene and they couldnt do it. They worked it out and then he fell over and hit his head.
CT: Would you do the Valeyard again on television if it was a good script?
Oh I think so, yes. Most people outside of Doctor Who dont think Im a Doctor. Im rather proud of it. I think if you havent been in Doctor Who you havent lived.
With thanks to Michael Jayston.