Peter Purves: Taylor Made
Doctor Who fans will best know Peter Purves for his role as the first Doctor’s companion Steven Taylor, and his long career has also taken in presenting the cult children’s shows Blue Peter and Kick Start. Purves has just celebrated his 70th birthday with the launch of a new autobiography entitled Here's One I Wrote Earlier. He talked to Total Sci-Fi about his days on Doctor Who.
Was it daunting to join such a well-established show as Doctor Who?
Not at all, it was a thrill to get a part in such a well-known programme. All actors aspire to be recognised, you know.
Did you go in with a firm idea of how long you would do it for?
You never know how long a job will last, but I had no preconceived idea.
You played two characters in the same story – how did that come about?
Because I successfully played Morton Dill, the American Hillbilly, I was asked to join the series permanently. The new character, Steven, appeared in episode six of The Chase. I grew the beginnings of a beard as a disguise between times.
Did you prefer the science fiction stories or the historical adventures?
The historical stories were by far the best I always thought.
You’ve mentioned in interviews that you have rediscovered how good the scripts were – did you appreciate them at the time? And have you enjoyed your involvement with the audios?
Yes to both. The recreations of the audio productions were a joy - Mark Ayres is a genius!
There were some big name guest stars during your time on the show – Peter Butterworth and Michael Gough for example. Was working with them a good learning experience?
I suppose in many ways it was. But I didn't think of it like that. They were actors, as I was, playing roles in a sci-fi series. They were without pretension, and it was a joy to work with both. Butterworth in particular was just adorable. What a lovely man.
You acted in a few dramas after Doctor Who but concentrated on presenting. Why was that?
I didn't do that by choice. The work I was offered was in TV presentation. And that is still "performing" and I enjoyed it. I have never turned down work. If it's offered I do it.
Was there a period where you got tired of the interest in Doctor Who?
I was never a great fan of the show. I liked it, but that is all. I got tired of the "UNIT" storyline, but apart from that, it was a show I could leave or take.
Are you surprised by the fan reaction to your work on Doctor Who? Is it something you are proud of?
Of course - I am very proud of any work that people like. If they appreciate my skills then I am flattered.
Steven famously had a panda mascot called Hi-Fi – any idea of his whereabouts?
Not a clue!
Peter Purves: Here’s One I Wrote Earlier is out now from Green Umbrella Publishing.