Doctor Who Director Derek Martinus Dies At Age 82

BBC News reports that director Derek Martinus, who was behind the camera for some pivotal early episodes during the original run of the now revived blockbuster science fiction television show, passed away Thursday night at the age of 82 after suffering from Alzheimer’s for many years.

Born April 4th, 1931, Martinus spent time in the Royal Air Force as well as one semester studying Acting, Directing, and TV Technique & Philosophy in Oklahoma before returning to the UK to work in various theatres, such as The Library Theatre. In 1959, while doing a study tour of Scandinavian theatre, he met 16 year old Eivor in Gothenburg, whom he would later marry and remain married to for 50 years. Martinus directed around some 20 plays at the Pembroke Theatre-in-the-round before it was forced to close due to road widening.

His two most famous parts are Monsewer in The Hostage and Malvolio in Twelfth Night, whom he has played on many occasions.

His first job as director for The BBC came in 1965 with the short-lived series United! which, despite bringing in viewers numbering above six million, was considered a disappointment and cancelled in 1967. All episodes were subsequently wiped and none are believed to exist any longer.

Martinus went on to direct more for The BBC, most notably directing some early episodes of the sci-fi “children’s show” Doctor Who. His credits there are as follows: Four Hundred Dawns(series 3, episode 1; currently missing), Trap of Steel(series 3, episode 2; currently missing), Air Lock (series 3, episode 3), The Exploding Planet(series 3, episode 4; currently missing), Mission To The Unknown(series 3, episode 5; currently missing), The Tenth Planet serial (parts 1-4, from series 4; part 4 currently missing but reconstructed via animation), The Evil of the Daleks serial (parts 1-7, from series 4; all but part 2 currently missing), The Ice Warriors serial (parts 1-6, from series 5; parts 2 and 3 currently missing but reconstructed via animation), and Spearhead From Space(parts 1-4, from series 7).

The Tenth Planet was a pivotal serial in early Doctor Who as its final episode featured the very first regeneration of The Doctor, an alien known as a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who has the ability to “regenerate” into a new body when his current one is fatally injured or otherwise near death. In an interview with a Doctor Who fan website, Martinus offered some insight into working with William Hartnell, the actor who played the first incarnation of The Doctor from the show’s debut in 1963 until 1996:

“William Hartnell regarded me with great suspicion when I arrived. He knew I was the new boy and he wasn’t slow to remind me how many hundreds of films he’d done and how many directors he’d advised on how to get the shots. Bill used to say ‘I don’t know why you’ve put the camera there, it’d be much better here. Then I can walk into a big close-up and you’ll be fine, you see’. I quite liked the old boy, I respected some of the work he’d done in the past and I remember the dear old man saying ‘I have carte blanche on all the casting and all the script alterations, because they can’t do the serial without me’. One did have to tread very carefully with him, but he warmed to me and I to him. We sort of found a way of communicating, as one had to do.”

Martinus’ final serial, Spearhead from Space, has a double historical significance in the Doctor Who universe as it was both the first appearance of Jon Pertwee (whose son, Sean Pertwee, has been cast as Alfred Pennyworth in FOX’s upcoming Batman ‘prequel’ show Gotham) as the third incarnation of The Doctor and the very first Doctor Who serial to be produced in color. Ben Lawrence of The Telegraph also included Spearhead from Space in his list of the top 10 Doctor Who serials. Martinus said of Pertwee:

“Jon Pertwee was very nervous about ‘Spearhead From Space‘, because he’d not done a lot of so-called straight acting before. He also saw himself very much as the big, outdoor kind of guy. He liked to be in control, and was always surrounded by flashy birds and fast cars. He was very particular about his image, which was a good thing. That first one we nearly lost and only saved because Derrick Sherwin, the producer, was a very energetic and determined bloke. He had a tremendous fight to get the go-ahead, but he did and for a while we all had this wonderful fantasy of doing ‘Doctor Who’ all on film and selling it to America.”

Martinus also directed 54 episodes of Z Cars and 2 episodes of Blake’s 7, among other shows up through the 80s.

Doctor Who, having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is currently set to air its 8th series since its 2005 revival this fall with actor Peter Capaldi stepping into the role of The Doctor, now in his 12th incarnation.