Matthew had an introduction to the show that will be familiar to many, through comics, toys and Target books. The first portion of his book looks charmingly at his early relationship with the show as fan and viewer.
Winning the role of the new companion, he discovered the world of the Doctor was a fraught one; Tom Baker was on his way out and barely speaking to his leading lady. Matthew chronicles the ups and downs of production, from rehearsal days to nights in the BBC bar. He is frank about his co-stars and brutally honest about his opinion of Lalla Ward and Tom Baker, whose variable temperament dominated the production.
Of course, being an eighteen year old lad, Waterhouse did himself no favours and had a tendency to put his foot in it. Stuck between the two must have been an unenviable position and it is clear the mood improves with a change of leading man. This new line-up brought its challenges too though, with friction between Matthew and Janet Fielding (Tegan) who appeared to have strident opinions on most topics.
In many ways, the final section following elements of Matthew’s life after the show is most interesting, dealing with the early convention circuit and trips to the US. We also glimpse of his life today, with occasional signing appearances and DVD commentary recordings.
Writing in the third person, Waterhouse crams the book with nuggets of information and anecdotes related to the guest actors who joined the show. Never shy of pithy remarks, often hilarious and revealing, he eschews fact-checking to provide his memories of the time as they are. Charmingly, he refers to stories by their working titles, so that ‘State of Decay’ becomes ‘The Vampire Lords’ and ‘Full Circle’ is ‘The Planet that Slept’.
He takes the opportunity to address some longstanding misconceptions, including the oft repeated tale that he attempted to give renowned thespian Richard Todd acting advice – apparently it was a joke! Additionally, a fan rumour regarding a supposed affair between Matthew and Anthony Ainley is put to bed, so to speak.
As fans we have an unquenchable thirst for the show and it is fascinating to have the lid lifted on the rehearsal room, on production shenanigans and the bizarre rules of the BBC system. At the same time, there were moments when we wondered if such a level of detail was really appropriate and it made for uncomfortable reading, especially when the occupants of the TARDIS were at loggerheads.
At the time, Matthew Waterhouse’s experience of moving from fan to cast member was unique, and he tells his story with honesty and wit. It is clear that he regards the programme with a good deal of affection, and that it remains to this day.
Published on 23 May 2013 by What Noise.
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