Back in October 1992 I was fortunate enough to attend the recording of 'Return to Devil's End' in Aldborne Wiltshire, with Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin and John Levene.
As John will undoubtedly tell you it was a truly wonderful day and a unique event.
Many photographs were taken of the day, and these have now been bequeathed to my care. The vast majority of these wonderful pictures of that day have sat unseen in loft for the last 16 years.
I know that John dearly wanted to see them and this never happened...
Well now the time has come when John can, at last, finally see the photographs from that wonderful day.
I am forwarding the 'cream of the crop' to you... as an expression of my thanks to him for making that day so wonderful.
John, I'll never forget that day as long as I live...you regaling us with tall tales in pub in Aldbourne, the trip to St Micheal's School that you organised, so 'The Doctor' could meet the kids, and just seeing you, Jon Pertwee, Nick and Richard wander round 'Devil's End'.
It was a wondrous, surreal and unforgettable day. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
It's about bloody time!!!
Kindest regards to you.
When something captured is lost or mislaid, and pushed to the background of memories, the result is often never seen, and only occasionally remembered. Thus the level of fondness or delight in seeing that video or that DVD you were so looking forward to is never realized. What was lost were the photos taken back in 1992, seen through the lens of an enthusiastic Austen Atkinson.
Now this week we found out from Paul Waddington that since 1992, these images captured with such passion by Austen have just been uncovered, all due to life being life, with all its interruptions. So the finding of Austen’s work and the sharing by Paul is one of those full-circle moments that I have always loved, as it gives you a sense of completeness. Paul is correct, there was magic, or rather “black magic” in the air, and everybody was as one, once again in this lovely life. So do enjoy this as-yet unseen view of a day of days in the life and cycle of Doctor Who.
Austen was among those taking photos, along with a host of other excited enthusiasts. There were cameras everywhere. People from the village amazed to see we actors after almost twenty years. I remember well the wonderful discussions we all shared in the pub over lunch, with Jon, Nick and Richard, along with others of note. One thing I’ve learned over time is that any event will be seen differently by each of us, so it is always a thrill to take a look back at moments frozen on film.
Good luck to you, Paul Waddington, and thank you Austen Atkinson. Love and memories for my fellow actors and friends on some of these new moments found in an attic in London, England (where else?!). Jeni, my Darling wife and best friend of twenty years, and I, truly hope to meet some of you over the years possible events across this great land of yours, the United States of America, addicted not just to oil but to our Doctor who! The good Doctor travels well across the Atlantic! So we wish you all you wish yourselves.
More thanks, from a man who to this day is so grateful to have been given Sgt. Benton, a character that I could live in unison with on-and-off-screen, go to Mr. Sydney Newman for his genius concept, to the producers, directors and all the actors who have been involved in the endless fascination for this most unique of television series. I have enjoyed the modern stories under the spectacular craftsmanship of Russell T. Davies and his brilliant team, soon to be passed on to another wholly imaginative, deeply committed holder of the creative reigns of Britain’s most explosive and dynamic television series, that being Doctor Who! So good luck to you, Steven Moffet. I have a strong feeling that Jon Pertwee would have loved the way you see, feel, create, and execute your creative vision. May our fantasies continue to nurture our deepest thoughts and our dreams and anticipations of who life on Earth will evolve. Only time will tell how close we are in our fictional view of what our world will look like in 2050. How close will the imaginings of our Doctor Who writers, the engine of the series, be to the actuality we will grow to find? We will have to wait and see.
Yours most sincerely, John Levene
RETURN TO DEVIL'S END
Photography - Austen Atkinson
Photos Courtesy - Paul Waddington
You have to watch your step when doing a group picture, or you could end up at the back of the picture! You could almost say it was a grave situation, with me on the rails! But no, I joke. This is so very special when you think about it. All of U.N.I.T. on the steps of the church in Aldbourne, so many years after making "The Daemons".
You may have seen Gunfight at the OK Coral, well this was the Closed Jacket Competition, with Jon Pertwee and myself fighting for the number-one spot. The prize was a wonderful lunch. Jon always shared what he has been involved in, what play he was doing. Never a dull moment.
If it were not for that damn scaffolding pole, I would have been right in this picture! I do wonder what that photo Nick Briggs, Nick Courtney, Richard Franklin, and Jon are looking at. Of course it could be the photo of me in that nappy from "Time Monster", or it was a quick peek at the lunch menu as lunchtime couldn't come quickly enough.
The moment of truth. Look at the expressions on our faces as Jon shows us where he used to write some of his lines, in the palm of his hand, which ironically is where he held his audience, in the palm of his wonderful Doctor's hand!
I had just told Jon the old but still wonderful gag about the horse who went into a pub, and the barman looked up and said "Why the long face?" When Jon touched you in response, you knew you had thoroughly entertained him, as this was his way of thanking you for your comedic effort. I loved these moments with a deep emotional passion, as it told me I had succeeded in taking some kind of mantle from Jon. He truly did contribute heavily in making me the man I am today.
Like father, like son. It looks almost possible. Jon is saying "but I thought I gave you the hairbrush" and I said "no, honestly Jon, I did not need your brush, as my hair is heavily lacquered, plus I'm wearing a hairnet!" And then Jon responds "Oh so it was you I loaned the net too!"
As Nick Briggs is pointing out where the pub is, Richard and Jon are still looking for Jon's hairbrush, and I have just trodden in some dog shit, which Jon only just missed, which is why I look a little crappy in this picture.
What a lovely shot of the Brig, the Doctor, and Sgt. Benton, and now you've met my other half, half of Richard Franklin! Here's another way you can see what a total pro Jon was in all he did. He always knew where the camera was, and what the shot would be used for, and of course if there was money being made from the photo.
Jon describing how Bessie moved towards him when he was tied to the maypole. He is doing his impersonation of the prop man who had crouched down behind Bessie, so as not to be seen by the audience as it was shot from the front, and just pushed the car.
Often when one looks at a picture of oneself and others, you can see things you would not have seen or felt at the time (1992). You were doing it, so it is so heartwarming for me now to see the comfortable body language that our close friendship, on and off the screen, provided. I always looked up to Jon, and he was my inner-savior, in terms of forcing me to see the me that had been extinguished by circumstances.
No, I hadn't just found Jesus, Jon had just praised me on my success in Hollywood. Over the years since I last worked with him in Chicago, our mood did without doubt remind us of our friendship over the years in Doctor Who. Now it would be remiss of me not to admit that Jon was opportunistic, and did use people for gain, but he gave so much inreturn. I had already made it clear to Jon I'd drive him anywhere at any time he needed me, and my God did I get rewarded. He taught me so much over that time. I have seldom had a friend like Jon. He was like a father to me in some aspects. I miss him so very much.
Is it a camera? Is it a harmonica? Will something jump out at us? Nick Courtney is backing away as though something might fly his way. Nick Briggs leans back a little, and Richard is standing right behind me in case it came his way, Keith Barnfather is dressed to kill, and Jon is grinning as he reveals his new and much-used toy, his fold-away comb and brush. Gotcha!
Now that the fear of a flying object has passed, all is relaxed and fascination takes over, with a host of questions from us all: what, where, why, how? And that's when Jon was at his most content, when he pleased and fascinated a group of friends, actors, an audience, etc. Now you might not know this, but when we left the studio or rehearsal rooms, all those years ago, I would then drive Jon to his cabaret performances and shop openings, and be his dresser, driver, confidant, and of course, his support over many, many hours on the road.
With the church tower behind him, Jon looks with bold familiarity into yet another lens. But always gives his all, always The Doctor, always the entertainer, always my dearly-missed companion, a real man to talk to, the man who gave me myself, who taught me so very much, who gave me advice and tuition and all every day we spent together.
Such a nice shot of Richard and me. Lovely composition, and goes to show that friendship does last for years and years. It is always nice to see Richard again at the Doctor Who conventions. If you see this, Richard, love and best wishes. Hope you are well and working.
Here then is the “portrait” shot and I am more than happy with all of the shots in this rare glimpse into our happy and exciting past. It was a joyous part of my life, working with all the above-mentioned actors, friends, etc. So I say once more with all my heart, thank you Jon, Barry, Terrance, Douglas, the make-up, props, wardrobe, and effects teams, all the writers, producers, and directors, and every other person who made up the huge team that made Doctor Who. Commeth the hour, commeth the right team!
Now this is where I can take the sole credit for going out of my way to make a miracle happen. Jon was being interviewed somewhere, and I saw the children moving between their classes, knowing something was going on in their small village and so sad they were missing it because they would be in school until after we’d left. So, I had gone to see if the headmaster would like a visit to his school by the most famous man on television at that time in England, Jon Pertwee.
You can imagine their joy when I looked in through the door, walked up to one of the children, and said aloud “is this the young lady that needs to see the Doctor?” and then in strides Jon. It was a moment of moments. Jon loved me for that.
Just one more lovely four-shot of the team of U.N.I.T. We loved every bloody minute of this shoot. Being with Jon and the loyal enthusiasts for two days is a splendid way to live life.
You can see Nick and myself pushing against the pillar, and broke the bloody cross! But you do not know who it fell on! Well, of course nobody, but it does look a little crooked, doesn’t it? You can see how well we get along. Jon looked so good in his Victorian clothes. No wonder he so loved wearing them! The only error I made is not grabbing one of Jon’s velvet smoking jackets when I had the chance, but at the time, it wasn’t right. All the same, to have it in one’s wardrobe would have been so nice.
And to bring the curtain down on this fabulous group of pictures, we close on the man himself, Jon Pertwee. He is without a doubt my favourite Doctor, a friend whose company I enjoyed every single minute of our time together. The next time we saw each other, upon our next and last visit to Aldbourne, for the Return To Devil’s End convention, as we sat in his room in Aldbourne he thanked me for my loyalty as a friend and mentioned that he felt a little distant. He said he didn’t think he had much more time left. Then ten days after my return to Hollywood, my mum called me to tell me that Jon had died. God bless him.
© Copyright 2011 John Levene Sgt. At Arms
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