This week sees the DVD release of the 1964 William Hartnell story Planet of Giants. As you may know, this story was originally recorded as a four-parter but in order to add pace it was almost immediately truncated to three parts at the behest of Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman.
At the time the decision was made, the edited material was apparently junked, never to be seen again.
Until now (sort of).
One of the most anticipated, discussed and intriguing aspects of the DVD release is a special feature in which the story is once again re-instated to four parts, utilising existing footage, animation and the vocal talents of surviving cast members and modern voice artists.
But what about the Doctor? Who could possibly rise to the challenge of reproducing the idiosyncratic mannerisms of the great William Hartnell. It’s that man again, John Guilor (who we have previously featured concerning a project to animate Shada)!
Regular Kasterborous reviewer Elton Townend Jones has known Guilor for many years. Once we became aware of this, it was time to hide his fluid links and demand an interview with the jobbing actor and lifelong Doctor Who fan.
After all, it was only right that he should get together with John and find out what it was like to become the new old Doctor. Of course, it wasn’t the first time that this had happened…
“I had been recommended as a voice artist to (special features producer) Ian Levine by Toby Hadoke. Ian was, at the time, engaged in numerous private projects requiring the voices of several Doctors, some with us, some no longer with us. We worked together on various things for about eight months before Planet of Giants was mentioned. But during that time, I voiced six different Doctors.”
For John, it was a massive learning curve, despite insisting that he could only achieve the first and fourth Doctors with what he considered “any degree of satisfaction. However, he was working for Ian Levine…
“Ian being Ian, he pushed and pushed me. I’m grateful for that, because he made me work hard and well outside my comfort zone, which is the only way you get good or amazing results. I had never thought of myself as an impressionist, and always hated stand-up routines by impressionists – but I guess I’m doing something different here, so that’s okay.”
If you’re looking for a comparison, think more along the lines of Michael Sheen than Mike Yarwood. If you haven’t had the pleasure of Guilor’s abilities, we previously featured a showreel from his website, which you can catch again here…
Being able to actually “do” any of the Doctors is pretty tough as they all have very particular ways of delivering dialogue in addition to the vocal traits of the actors concerned. Comedian John Culshaw made his name with his Fourth Doctor impression, but on review, this is more of an interpretation, caricatured more towards the grotesque than anything approaching accuracy. John Guilor, on the other hand delivers a voice that could actually be Tom Baker in the 1970s.
I discovered quite early on that I could achieve a very convincing Tom. Now, as I get older, people often say ‘Christ, you even look like him’. I’ve been asked to ‘do Tom’ for the past ten years – although I avoided adverts and anything else that may upset the man himself!
Of course, being able to do something almost naturally isn’t quite the same as being asked to do it in front of other people and a microphone, especially when the other people in the room were present when the original lines were delivered. So how did John prepare for the mammoth task of playing the First Doctor opposite William Russell and Carole Ann Ford?
“By watching Hartnell episodes on a loop. The audio soundtracks were on in the car and I’d repeat lines, skip the CD back, listen, repeat, skip back, listen, and so on, before finally making test recordings – some of which even sent a chill down my own spine.”
This is the tip of the iceberg from a fascinating chat with talented voice actor and occasional Doctor Who John Guilor. We’ll have full details on how you can enjoy the rest of this great interview at a later date…
Due for release on Monday, August 20th, Planet of Giants can be ordered from Amazon for £12.99.
(Additional words by Elton Townend Jones, to whom big thanks are owed!)