The name at the top of the bookmakers' lists this summer for the next Doctor Who was Peter Capaldi. I was interested to see the list but pooh-poohed this, as it seemed the production team were set on casting only young actors - I think it was even said at one point that only someone in their 20s could keep up with the pace of production. I was delighted to hear back in August that the rumours were, in fact, true. The choice pleased me for two reasons - firstly, as a long-term fan of the programme (except for the awful period in the 1980s when the production went badly astray) I wanted to see a Doctor with the authority that only an older man could have; secondly, I knew Peter back in the 1970s as a fellow fan - we're the same age and I've followed his career since the 1980s.
I had met Jon Pertwee a couple of times, during the making of Death to the Daleks and Planet of the spiders, and got to know Peter through the Jon Pertwee fan club (started by an old school friend, Stuart Money) which we all helped to run. The history of the official Doctor Who fan club is well documented - Stuart and Peter both applied to run this as they felt they would make a better job of it than the original organiser, a gaffe that still seems to rankle with him. I have fond memories of visiting the good old BBC TV Centre in White City (recently sold off) with SM and PC. My diaries remind me that the first two visits were in December 1973 and 17 April 1974. As fans know, that was JP's last adventure as the Doctor - he left Doctor Who in 1974 but I kept in touch with him for a while via Stuart.
I had exchanged letters and JPFC newsletter articles with Peter from 1974 (sharing our enthusiasm for Hammer Films and SF television) but first met him in 1975. By then, JP was touring in Monty Norman’s stage musical So who needs marriage? In June 1975 the tour reached the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Stuart, Peter and I went to visit him at a farm at Lamesley Park where some of the actors (including JP) had their caravans parked. Fellow players included Eric Flynn and June Ritchie. In a style of the time, June Ritchie's hair was in a curly perm. Peter (perhaps lacking in tact) told June she looked like Tom Baker, which amused Stuart and me but, for some reason, not June. I had a few photos of this occasion but these have mysteriously (and frustratingly) disappeared.
On 25 August 1975 we went to London with Peter to visit the TV centre again - this time, during the filming of The android invasion, with Lis Sladen and Tom Baker. I think Peter was only considering becoming an actor at the time, but I remember that his sense of humour and skill as a clown were in evidence. He had a routine where he would mime taking out his eyes, closing them, and then swapping around the eyeballs and opening them again to show that he was "cross eyed"; this had my fourteen year old sister in stitches. My only remaining photo of Peter is here - showing him by Westminster Bridge.
The studio visit was an event for all of us, but not quite like previous ones. While Jon Pertwee always struck me as extremely sociable and would chat away to anyone (as would Lis S), we must have caught Tom Baker on a bad day. He greeted us with "Oh hello, so pleased to meet you." and then turned away to talk to someone else. He did have time to pose briefly for photos but, seemingly a minute or two later, he said "Goodbye. Do come again" and thus we were dismissed. TB still went on to become one of my favourite Doctors.
Newcastle and Glasgow are 114 miles apart and, sadly, Stuart and I failed to keep in touch with Peter. I remember his talent and humour, even as a teenager, and wish him success now in his highest profile job!