Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Philip Madoc

1969's The Krotons marks Philip Madoc's first appearance in Doctor Who. He plays the duplicitous Eelek, who is waiting his chance to usurp the leadership of the Gonds from Selris. He is villainous - but not a villain. Amoral might be a more apposite epithet. Eelek actually wants to change this corrupted world for the better - to overthrow the rule of the Krotons - but just doesn't want to get his hands dirty doing it. He surrounds himself - like a politician from any of the more extreme political parties - with young hot-heads who will do that dirty work for him. So what if they get hurt, killed, imprisoned? He'll eventually emerge as leader. When he hands the Doctor and Zoe over to the Krotons, he is just accepting the real-politik. On the DVD commentary for this story, Madoc bemoans the fact that Eelek doesn't actually get his comeuppance. We don't see it, but I'm sure it is young Thura who will actually replace Selris, with Vana by his side.
It is a strong performance - in a weak tale - for Madoc.
Philip Madoc was born on the 5th July, 1934, in Twynyrodin, Merthyr Tydfil - as Philip Jones. After studying languages at the Universities of Wales and Vienna (mastering seven of them) he grew disenchanted with having to translate the guff that politicians tend to spout. He therefore escaped to RADA.

Whilst The Krotons was his first television Who, it wasn't his first brush with the series. In 1966, he played the black-marketeer Brockley in the feature film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD. This was the cinema version of the TV character Ashton. After selling out Dr. Who to the Daleks for a reward - he finds that he is no longer needed. Hiding in a shed is no protection from Dalek fire-power, and he gets blown to bits. Again, only an incidental role - but one that many people remember from the movie.

The director of The Krotons, David Maloney, was forced to cast the epic The War Games with not a huge amount of notice. For some of the shorter roles, he used actors he knew (and had employed recently) who could hit the ground running - people like Bernard Horsfall, and Philip Madoc. With just a change of haircut, a pair of glasses, and a totally different vocal performance, Madoc makes for one of the best of the 1960's villains. The War and Security Chiefs sometimes over-egg the pudding with their performances - lots of broad stroke acting - but Madoc is quiet, self-contained, watching, waiting... The War Chief only appears in the last few episodes - but he is a character you are compulsively drawn to, thanks to the actor playing him.
Madoc went on to become a regular on British television, and one role that really made an impact with the viewing public was as Magua, in the BBC adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans in 1971. He found himself being offered mostly villainous parts. Director Christopher Barry obviously thought he was good at them, as he cast him as Dr. Mehendri Solon in The Brain of Morbius.

This is the role for which Doctor Who fans particularly love Philip. He could have been played as any old stereotypical "mad scientist", but Madoc again adds so much to the role he has been given. He is not just an ethics-free scientist, but an acolyte of Morbius - determined to bring his master back from the dead whatever it takes. And he does it with so much graveyard humour and charm. He even manages to take in the Doctor at one point. Just watch the business when the brain has been dropped on the floor. Terrance Dicks famously disowned this story - but I'm sure after watching Madoc he was secretly desperate to grab it back.

Philip Madoc's last appearance in Doctor Who was a bit of an anti-climax - in more ways than one. The story - The Power of Kroll - is undoubtedly the weakest of the Key to Time season, but the part Madoc plays in it isn't actually the one he thought he was up for. He wanted the chief villain role of Thawn - but ended up with the weaker part of Fenner.
In 2008, he returned to Doctor Who - and to Krotons - in the BF audio Return of the Krotons. Before that, he had played Prime Minister David Lloyd George to great acclaim  and become well known as the dour Welsh detective Noel Bain in A Mind to Kill, amongst many, many other parts.
When he passed away on the 5th March this year, one particular role was highlighted on the news and in obituaries. In some ways he might have begrudged one comedy guest appearance as defining his life's work - but I think his sense of humour would have actually quite adored it...
A German U-Boat crew has been captured by the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea...

Personally, I've always preferred the fish & chips order sequence ("I don't want my chips soggy...").
Philip, we salute you.

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