Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Carry On Up The TARDIS

Peter Butterwoth, who played the Meddling Monk in The Time Meddler, is most famous in Britain for his numerous roles in the Carry On... series of movies, which began in 1958 and lasted through to 1978 - with an abortive comeback in 1992 (Carry On Columbus - best forgotten...).
In case you are not aware, these were very British comedies, which sadly declined in quality as they went along - the very last degenerating into rather embarrassing sex comedies. There was a regular ensemble cast, with several other actors flitting in and out, who all received roughly equal salaries. It was also agreed early on that no-one would receive any "star billing" - all the main performers were to be equal on each film. One occasional guest actor, who appeared in 11 films was Jim Dale - who almost became the Fourth Doctor.
Butterworth filmed his first one, Carry On Cowboy, only a couple of months after his work on The Time Meddler. He went on to appear in a grand total of 16 of the films.

He was not the first Carry On... performer to appear in the programme. That honour lies, of course, with the First Doctor himself, William Hartnell, who was the eponymous Sergeant in the very first film.

Hartnell wasn't the only Doctor to appear in the series. His later successor, Jon Pertwee, appeared in small roles in 3 consecutive movies prior to landing the Time Lord role - Cowboy, Cleo, and Screaming. He was an inept sheriff in the first, a Soothsayer in the second, and the eccentric Dr. Fettle, who inadvertently creates the monstrous Oddbod Jnr.out of a severed finger, in the third.

I mention all this because watching a Carry On... film is like a Doctor Who "spot the guest actor / extra" competition.Were it a drinking game, you'd be under the table in minutes. Watch any one at random and you'll see everyone from Maximus Petullian to Mr Popplewick. You'll also get some (mostly dirty) laughs along the way. I shan't say who had small parts, and who big ones - that would be childish (but most definitely in keeping with the films themselves...).

One early Doctor Who guest star who worked on the series was Derek Francis (Nero in The Romans). His first film was - appropriately enough - Carry On Doctor in 1967. He clocked up 5 films in all.

Varga - leader of The Ice Warriors - was played by the 6' 7" actor Bernard Bresslaw. He was another very prolific Carry On'er. His first film was, like both Butterworth and Pertwee, Carry On Cowboy. He appeared in 14 of the films in total, the last being Carry On Behind in 1975. It's a rather poor reworking of Carry On Camping. That's 14 films credited. He had one earlier uncredited appearance when his legs doubled for another actor's in Carry On Doctor.

Peter Gilmore (Mr Brazen in Frontios) managed to chalk up 11 Carry On's. He had minor roles in the series from 1963's Cabby to 1992's Columbus.

Most prolific of them all to have appeared in Doctor Who would be Joan Sims - Queen Katryca in the Mysterious Planet section of The Trial of a Time Lord. She chalked up 24 of the films. She first appeared in 1959's Carry On Nurse - only the second film after Sergeant - through to the final regular one in 1978 (Carry On Emmanuelle).

The End of Time Parts 1 & 2 saw a pair of Carry On... veterans reunited - Bernard Cribbins (3 films) and June Whitfield (4 films). Both had appeared together in Carry On Columbus.
One other Carry On... stalwart worth mentioning is Barbara Windsor, who played herself (playing her East Enders character, Peggy Mitchell) in The Army of Ghosts. She clocked up 9 films.

Kenneth Williams, who I suspect to be the most prolific of the Carry On... actors (26 of them), never appeared in Doctor Who. He did, famously, keep a diary - and on Saturday 29th November 1975 he noted "Dr Who gets more and more silly". That's episode 2 of Terry Nation's The Android Invasion, if you're wondering.
"Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it infamy...!" Best. Line. Ever.

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