Blue Box Boy, by Matthew Waterhouse

Second paragraph of third chapter (“Episode 3”):

Tom and John Nathan-Turner had kept the news close to their chests, so Matthew found out at the same time as everybody else. Tom went on the BBC1 evening news magazine Nationwide – the programme for which Matthew had cut up newspapers a few months earlier. He wore his tatty blue pinstripe and white shirt, open-collared, the outfit he pulled from his wardrobe whenever a nod to formality was required. He looked like somebody you wouldn’t buy a used car off. It was a look which Matthew found charming. He leant against the TARDIS which appeared to be propping him up. His arms were folded. It was possible to suspect that he was a bit the worse for wear, though John Nathan-Turner, who was hovering off camera in his customary way, later told Matthew that Tom had not had very much to drink. “Only a couple…”

I probably got this at Slough in 2013; it’s autographed and that is the only time I’ve been in a room with its author. Adric is not at the top of many people’s list of favourite companions, but I must say this memoir is a very sympathetic account from Matthew Waterhouse, who played him. It’s particularly interesting because Waterhouse was a huge fan of the programme before he joined the cast, and also because he did almost no other screen acting; for a lot of the Old Who actors, it was one more job, often quite a short one, in a career which had other heights which they wish were remembered better, but for Waterhouse it was an intense experience, which he knew was important at the time and whose memories haven’t been faded out by later work. (Other Who actor biographies and autobiographies that I have read: William Hartnell, by his grand-daughterPatrick Troughton, by his sonTom BakerPeter PurvesAnneke WillsNicholas CourtneyElisabeth Sladen.)

Waterhouse has chosen to tell the story in the third person, which seemed really pretentious when I first heard about the book (cf Julius Caesar), but actually it works really well – it allows him to establish some distance from his not always terribly happy childhood, and from the intense experience of working with the very temperamental Tom Baker on his last few stories. Once Davison arrived and the regular team settled down (though of course Waterhouse was the first to be written out) it seems to have been more fun, though he still took it pretty seriously. I deeply sympathise with his approach, as reported in an exchange with Janet Fielding who played Tegan:

“The trouble with you, Matthew,” she said more than once, “is that when it comes to Doctor Who you suspend your critical judgement.” This was a well-made point, but then she had no emotional involvement with it and Matthew did. He was intelligent enough to know that if too critical an approach was taken to Doctor Who, every last moment of it would collapse to dust.

Anyway, it’s a good book that made me feel interested in and sympathetic to the author, and gave me insights into Doctor Who that I had not thought of before. You can get it here.

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