Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peter Purves career biography

Peter Purves (Morton Dill, Steven Taylor) Born Feb 10 1939

Doctor Who credits
Played: Morton Dill in The Chase (1965)
Played: Steven Taylor in The ChaseThe Time MeddlerGalaxy 4The Myth MakersThe Daleks' Master PlanThe Massacre of St Bartholomew's EveThe ArkThe Celestial ToymakerThe GunfightersThe Savages (1965-66)


Although Peter subsequently became best known as a television presenter, he started out as an actor, making his screen debut at the age of 24 in an episode of ITV's The Villains, an anthology series of plays with the theme of, well... villainy! In Red Hot in Winter, Peter played Terry Buckley, and was joined by Mike Pratt, Karin Fernald and Jane Barrett. All episodes of The Villains apparently exist in the archives. While the IMDb claims this episode was broadcast on January 22nd, 1965, other sources claim it was the same date a year later. I'm tempted to believe it was 1965, as Peter's own CV states this, but his CV also claims he was in other series between 1963-64 not listed on IMDb, so who knows?

Peter was in two Z Cars stories in his acting career, starting with You Get All Kinds, shown on May 20th, 1964, in which he played a bus conductor. Also in the cast were Brian Blessed (The Trial of a Time Lord, 1986), Jack Cunningham (The Reign of Terror, 1964), James Ellis (Battlefield, 1989), Rio Fanning (Horror of Fang Rock, 1977), Stratford Johns (Four to Doomsday, 1982), Robert Keegan (The Ribos Operation, 1978) and Reg Pritchard (The Crusade, 1965, and The Daleks' Master Plan, 1965-66).

Peter as photographer Danny with Nicola
Pagett as Barbera in The Girl in the
Picture (1964)
The Girl in the Picture was an Armchair Theatre presentation shown on ITV on November 29th, 1964, written by Allan Prior and directed by Alvin Rakoff, husband of Jacqueline Hill, who at that time was playing companion Barbara Wright in Doctor Who. This play is now missing, but starred Peter as Danny, with Richard Butler, Seymour Green (The Seeds of Doom, 1976, and The Twin Dilemma, 1984), Ruth Dunning, Abigail Hamilton and Nicola Pagett, who played a girl called Barbera (coincidentally!) cajoled into entering the Northern Personality Girl of the Year in Blackpool by both her scheming mother and a flashy photographer (Peter as Danny). The play also included a large number of local extras playing the beauty pageant contestants, as well as Miss TV Times Valerie Martin!

On December 20th, 1964, the BBC's Theatre 625 strand broadcast the third in a trilogy of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, entitled A Man Could Stand Up. Adapted for the TV by John Hopkins and directed by Alan Cooke, the drama starred Judi Dench and Ronald Hines, with Charles Houston, Arthur Lovegrove, Shane Rimmer (The Gunfighters, 1966), Edward Burnham (The Invasion, 1968, and Robot, 1974-75), Douglas Ditta (The Chase, 1965) and Peter, playing the minor role of a Private. This episode exists in the BBC archives (and has been commercially released), and a three minute extract is viewable on YouTube, but it merely shows Dench and various other actors messing around on a golf course. No Peter I'm afraid!

Peter as Steven with William Hartnell
as the Doctor in The Massacre of St
Bartholomew's Eve (1966)
On May 14th, 1965, Peter recorded a cameo role as American tourist Morton Dill in the Doctor Who episode Flight Through Eternity (part 3 of The Chase) at Riverside Studio 1. He impressed the production team so much that he was invited to play the new companion, Steven Taylor, who was due to join the regular team at the end of the same story. Peter was contracted just seven days later, on May 21st, and recorded his first scenes as Steven on June 4th, the day before Flight Through Eternity was broadcast. Peter's debut as Steven went out on June 26th, 1965, and he continued to play the character for a total of 10 stories, with his final recording day on episode 4 of The Savages on June 3rd, 1966 - one day shy of a year since he began. His departure episode was broadcast on June 18th, 1966.

There was one episode of Doctor Who during his contracted period that Peter did not appear in (or, indeed, did any of the regular cast) - the one-off Mission to the Unknown, broadcast on October 9th, 1965. But Peter did appear on TV that day nevertheless, in the (now missing) Dixon of Dock Green episode Castles in the Air, directed by Vere Lorrimer. In the episode, Dixon tries to save a man gripped by an obsession leading him towards self-destruction. It featured star Jack Warner, plus George A Cooper (The Smugglers, 1966), Colin Douglas (The Enemy of the World, 1967-68, and Horror of Fang Rock, 1977) and Duncan Lamont (Death to the Daleks, 1974), with Peter in the role of Brian.

Ten days later Peter popped up in the BBC's Play of the Month, Luther (broadcast on October 19th, 1965), based on the 1961 John Osborne play and directed by Alan Cooke. During the early 16th century, idealistic German monk Martin Luther, disgusted by the materialism in the Church, begins the dialogue that will lead to the Protestant Reformation. This play, which exists in the archives, starred Alec McCowen in the title role, plus Patrick Magee, Geoffrey Bayldon (The Creature from the Pit, 1979), Ray Barrett (The Rescue, 1965), Fulton Mackay (Doctor Who and the Silurians, 1970), James Cairncross (The Reign of Terror, 1964, and The Krotons, 1968), Rex Robinson (The Three Doctors, 1972-73; The Monster of Peladon, 1974; and The Hand of Fear, 1976) and Douglas Ditta (The Chase, 1965), with Peter in an undisclosed role.

The first acting job Peter secured after leaving Doctor Who was in the Court Martial episode Achilles' Heel, which aired on August 26th, 1966, written by John McGreevey and directed by Alvin Rakoff once more. The series starred Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves as a crack team from the Judge Advocate General's office during World War Two investigating crimes all over Europe. This episode of the ITC series featured Peter as Lieutenant Jeff Ainsley, with Ewen Solon (The Savages, 1966, and Planet of Evil, 1975), Norman Mitchell (The Daleks' Master Plan, 1965-66), Leonard Maguire (Full Circle, 1980) and Edward Brayshaw (The Reign of Terror, 1964, and The War Games, 1969).

Next up was the six-part BBC2 series Girl in a Black Bikini (now missing), which began on February 4th, 1967 and was directed by Gerald Blake (The Abominable Snowmen, 1967, and The Invasion of Time, 1978) and produced by Alan Bromly (director of The Time Warrior, 1973-74, and Nightmare of Eden, 1979). Peter appeared in the first two episodes as Peter Jarrett, and was joined on the bill by James Thornhill (The Invasion, 1968), Glyn Houston (The Hand of Fear, 1976, and The Awakening, 1984), Brian Cant (The Daleks' Master Plan, 1965-66, and The Dominators, 1968), Frederick Hall (The Awakening, 1984), John Carson (Snakedance, 1983), and Calvin Lockhart. The story was set around the first anniversary of the murder of a girl in a Thameside town, and Peter's character Jarrett was the boyfriend of a barrister's daughter who implicates his girl Kathy (played by Angela Scoular) in a drugs scandal, and is then murdered himself. The series was repeated on BBC1 from August 1, 1968.

Peter's final acting job was his second Z Cars, this time a story entitled All Through the Night, broadcast July 24th-25th 1967 and again directed by Gerald Blake (The Abominable Snowmen, 1967, and The Invasion of Time, 1978). Peter played Cord, and was joined by David Daker (The Time Warrior, 1973-74, and Nightmare of Eden, 1979), James Ellis (Battlefield, 1989), Bernard Holley (The Tomb of the Cybermen, 1967, and The Claws of Axos, 1971), Nerys Hughes (Kinda, 1982), Stephen Yardley (Genesis of the Daleks, 1975, and Vengeance on Varos, 1985) and stuntman Derek Ware.

Peter with Blue Peter co-presenters Lesley
Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes
in 1972
Peter's acting career was over, but his career in television and entertainment was only just beginning. On November 16th, 1967, he made his debut as the sixth official presenter of BBC children's magazine show Blue Peter. He stayed with the programme for over 10 years, making his final appearance on March 23rd, 1978, the second longest-serving Blue Peter presenter to date (after John Noakes). He did return to the Blue Peter cannon, however, to present five Special Assignments in 1979.

One of the most memorable moments Peter was involved with during his time on Blue Peter was the visit to the studio in July 1969 by Lulu the baby elephant, which you can see on YouTube here:

Other programmes he served as presenter of include Crufts Dog Show (1976-2008), Stopwatch (1978-81), We're Going Places (1979/81) and Kick Start (1981-1991).

Peter originally auditioned for a role as a Menoptra in The Web Planet (1965), but didn't get the job, but was remembered by director Richard Martin for The Chase. Peter's Grade II listed house in Suffolk suffered a serious fire in January 2004 due to an electrical fault. Peter also provides personal training on presentation skills to businesses, and is a seasoned pantomime director. In 2008 his former Blue Peter colleague Valerie Singleton revealed the two had had an affair in the 1960s. Peter's first wife was TV scriptwriter Gill Fraser.

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