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From Tara to Paris... Michael Hayes Interviewed

By Graham Howard

(Interview conducted by Jon Preddle and Graham Howard, and transcribed by Graham Howard. Special thanks to Iain Shephard and Patrick Hayes for arranging the interview, and to Michael Hayes for giving his time to talk to us.)

Michael Hayes is a respected veteran television director, who worked on three Doctor Who stories during the late 1970s. He directed two of the Key to Time adventures, The Androids of Tara and The Armageddon Factor, and returned the following season to direct the first ever overseas location story, City of Death.

Whilst in Britain recently, I contacted Hayes through my brother in law and Patrick Hayes, Michael's son. Although the interview came about because I had this family contact, Michael Hayes is nevertheless an excellent interview subject because he has been so rarely interviewed elsewhere. Jon Preddle and I met with Michael Hayes at the BBC's World Service Studios in London on 19 October 1993. As reference material for the interview, we supplied him with a summary of behind the scenes information and anecdotes on Hayes' Doctor Who work, compiled from the reputable fan journal InVision. We were interested to find that Hayes was able to correct some commonly held assumptions. 'Of course, although I say there are things wrong,' he cautions at the outset, 'I could not swear to all of them, particularly as it was fifteen years ago.'

Michael Hayes (MH): Well, it's very nice to see you and hear from the New Zealand wing of Doctor Who fandom, and nice to be able to send my greetings to them.


Graham Howard (GH): Could you begin by telling us a bit about how you came to be a director?

MH: I was a young actor and out of work. It was the first time I had been very much out of work. There was an advertisement in the New Statesman of the day advertising for studio managers in radio, and I thought it pays money and sounds quite interesting, so I applied, and they took me on. I had just come back from touring America with the Old Vic and with no work in sight, I thought I would give it a go.

I actually came here to the BBC World Service, and I loved every minute. Later on I had an attachment to television as an assistant floor manager, which was something I did in the theatre and so wasn't too difficult to do. A vacancy came up in Birmingham for a floor manager and I got that and went there. Back then the BBC regions were the place to be.

Because they were smaller scale operations you could do things you would never be allowed to do at Television Centre or at Broadcasting House, so it was terrific experience. There used to be a rank above floor manager called production assistant (the Americans called it technical director). In those days the job was actually that of assistant director, and what you did was direct from the Gallery - all sorts of things like Percy Thrower's Gardening, The Keep Fit Programme - anything which came along you did it, which again was tremendous experience. There was a very specialist drama producer at Birmingham at that time. I directed a couple of dramas for him - very badly I have to say, but I suppose not quite so bad for one's first stumbling efforts! Then luckily he got fifteen live hours of Shakespeare in London and he took me to direct for him. That is what really started me off as a director.

Jon Preddle (JP): One programme I'm interested in which you were involved with many years ago is A for Andromeda. [Michael was co-producer on this 1961 production with Norman Jones]. What can you tell us about that?

MH: Well, you're too young to remember it!

JP: I've seen the second one, and I've read the books. It was Julie Christie's first starring role, and Peter Halliday was in it, who you cast in a small starring role in City of Death.

MH: Peter Halliday was not in City of Death for nepotistic reasons, but he does happen to be my very oldest friend, bar none. Yes, there is many a tale I could tell about A for Andromeda. I was looking around for a girl to be Andromeda and was talking to an agent who said there was this girl, Julie Christie, at Central [Drama] School who is being talked of as the next Brigitte Bardot (which is the way people talked in those days). I went to see Julie playing in The Diary of Anne Frank. Talking to her afterwards she just seemed right for the part. I have to say that Andromeda wasn't a terribly demanding part from an acting point of view, you just stood there, or in many cases lay there while people acted around you. Thinking back to some of those early productions, I wouldn't dare take on now what I took on then through innocence and inexperience!

JP: It was done live. Broadcast live and telerecorded. But they've since lost it.

MH: No it was totally telerecorded, I don't think it was live. I mean in those days everything was quasi-live because you couldn't edit to any extent. Yes, it would have been telerecorded on cine, it wasn't taped.

[Some of the other shows Michael worked on prior to Doctor Who were: Z Cars, The Onedin Line, Maigret, Mogul, Sherlock Holmes, Barlow at Large, The Troubleshooters, Softly Softly: Task Force.]


GH: What circumstances led you to direct Doctor Who?

MH: That was because of the two Grahams - Williams (who got to be a very close personal friend) and McDonald (who was head of series and serials). I would meet these two, usually in the bar at Telecentre, and they would say to me 'You must come and do a Doctor Who.' Obviously you can't say 'Good gracious, I wouldn't dream of doing anything so downmarket as Doctor Who.' So I would say 'Yes I'd love to!' And then, of course, one day nemesis strikes...

JP: So you were fully aware of the programme?

MH: Oh, yes. I'd sort of watched it, my children watched it and my friends had worked on it. But at the time I was quite toffy-nosed about it. Anyway, Graham (Williams) rang me up and said 'We've got this Who for you to do' (which later became two Whos!) So I rang up everyone I could possibly think of, asking if they had anything for me to do, because I was actually free at the time. But nobody had, so I told Graham I would do it. Graham said I would find Who to be quite unlike anything I had ever done before, which of course was the understatement of all time. I was also slightly wary of Tom Baker because I had heard stories about how difficult he could be. But I'm pleased to say Tom and I hit it off very, very well, and I still count him as one of my mates.

GH: What is Tom Baker like to work with?

MH: Well Tom is of course intensely professional, as I think anybody who has worked with him will say. I remember he would complain inordinately if there was something he didn't like in a script. But his reasons for complaining were usually very good. 'Oh, this is a load of horse shit!' was heard quite frequently, but only on those occasions where it actually was, or could be thought to be. He was very demanding, but demanding in a professional way. He wasn't like some actors who are on an ego trip or something. In fact Tom, funnily enough, doesn't actually have a terrific ego - if anything quite the reverse. So saying he is difficult to work with is true up to a point. But perhaps not in the way those words should be interpreted. To put it another way, I've had people who are much, much more difficult, and not as good! Usually you'll find the people who make the loud noise and a lot of fuss, whether actors or technicians, don't produce the best results. I need hardly say that is not true of Tom.

There is one occasion I can well remember towards the end of The Armageddon Factor. We were in the huge Studio One in TV Centre and Tom was being particularly difficult on the floor, and I did actually crack. I got out of my seat in the Production Gallery and made for the studio floor with the full intention of flattening him. Luckily it is a vast studio and there is a very long ladder down to the studio floor, and I had time to reflect on how terribly unproductive this would be. So I skidded to a halt in front of him and said 'Tom, let's talk about this quietly', which I think was a much better way to handle the situation!

Moving now to the points on the list. [Reading] "Hayes was a friend and colleague of Graham Williams from their days together on Angels." The first part of that is true, but the second part of the sentence is definitely false. Graham may well have done Angels, but I have never done an Angels in my life!

JP: So how did you two meet?

MH: Possibly Barlow... actually I think I may have just known Graham from around the place. [Reading] "Hayes was a respected director at the BBC with a flair for attracting high-calibre casts." Well, I won't quarrel with that!


MH: I would rate Androids my second favourite of the stories I directed, after City of Death. [Reading] "Hayes wanted a colourful costume pageant." I don't remember using those terms, but I might well have done, so that is OK.

JP: It is a colourful story.

MH: Oh yes. [Reading] "Often rumoured - but never confirmed that the costume used for the wild animal that stalks Romana in Episode 1 was that made for Aggedor." I couldn't confirm or deny that, I do know it came off the peg, it wasn't specially made.

[Reading] "For the final scene where K9 is left marooned in the rowing boat, Hayes wanted the boat to be seen to be idly turning - achieved by having a concealed member of the production team paddling the boat." That is only very slightly wrong. What is more interesting is the fact that it wasn't actually a member of the production team (other than in an honorary capacity): it was my son Patrick, who was fourteen years old at the time. He was quite lucky on that occasion as we did allow him to paddle the boat in when the shot was finished. When he was stopping traffic for an episode of The Onedin Line in Dartmouth we left him up at the top of the hill, forgot all about him, and went to the pub! So he had progressed a bit by then.

GH: He has also told us that another of his tasks in Androids was to jiggle a bush around...

MH: That's right, now I come to think of it he was an unseen, hidden peril. I'm not sure what the plant was really called - it had absolutely enormous leaves - we called it Taran Bogweed!

[Reading] "Part Three was originally to have ended differently. When it was found to run at just over 22 minutes, Hayes decided to extend it by a couple of minutes by adding on some of the following episode's scenes." I can't remember exactly - it rings a bell - that is probably true.

[Reading] "During night filming on location, Hayes gave the cast a bottle of whisky to keep them warm." I am sure I would remember, even fifteen years ago, if I'd bought a bottle of whisky for the cast - it is not something I would normally do! I would have thought it was more likely that Graham Williams bought the bottle. But I'm quite happy to take the credit for it!

JP: How much time were you given from the time you received the script of Tara to when production was to start?

MH: That's a slightly tricky question because the script for Tara was rewritten. I would say I probably had a six to eight week start from scratch on it but the actual finalised scripts that we used for Tara would have arrived about four weeks before. The original Androids had all sorts of quite difficult things. Actually, if I remember rightly, I had a completely different script given to me for my first story. I can't remember what it was called [probably The Power of Kroll], but Graham took it away and said he didn't think that it was such a good idea. I know some other poor fellow got it in the end, and that it would have been very, very difficult to do - especially for one's first story. So he came up with Androids. Again, in its original form Androids had a lot of things in it which would have been very difficult to realise. I remember it had winged horses in it... we quickly brought those down to Earth! (Although a few years later I did 1001 Nights - that did have flying horses and lot's more besides.) I'm afraid I can't remember what the other differences were, but I think it is fair to say that the rewrites simplified it.

JP: Were you aware that Androids was a spoof on the film Prisoner of Zenda?

MH: Oh yes, that was all very intentional right from the start. I think it was the rewrite which really launched the Zenda spoof. Of course Androids had overtones of other things as well. For example when Peter Jeffrey ascends the throne - he and I had both been at Stratford with the Royal Shakespeare - I said to him, 'Go on, be Richard III.' And Peter sort of went over the top, very much encouraged by Graham Williams.


MH: Armageddon is probably the least favourite of my stories. I did Androids a four-parter, and Armageddon, a six-parter, back to back with out any let up in between, and I can tell you it was tiring.

JP: Were you forewarned about that?

MH: Oh yes, that was the deal. [Laughs] By the end of Armageddon I was found wandering around the rehearsal room gibbering!

JP: Did you receive the script for Armageddon while you were still doing Tara?

MH: There weren't too many rewrites with Armageddon as I recall. That script was probably in my hands four to six weeks beforehand.

JP: So you had a similar lead up time?

MH: Yes. Moving back to the list, [reading] "Hayes cast voice artist William Squire... [as the Shadow]." It's a bit hard to call Billy Squire a voice artist, he was a notable actor in his own right, a bit more than just a voice artist.

[Reading] "Hayes cast Valentine Dyall late in the day to play the Black Guardian." I don't know about late in the day - to my memory it was not particularly last minute.

[Reading] "Hayes cast Lalla Ward after seeing her in a television film about the life of the poet Shelley." Absolutely correct, that is why I did it.

[Reading] "Set and costume designs had to be compromised due to a severe lack of budget." Well, when were they ever not? Industrial disputes hit the serial's second recording, I remember, we did have to reschedule some scenes because of that.

GH: Do you remember whether the budgetary constraints and industrial problems influenced the final result, in terms of how the story appeared on screen?

MH: I don't believe they did. I was not conscious of cutting corners. And as far as budgetary restrictions go, well they are always there - no one ever had too much budget!

[Reading] "To mark the close of production on the season, the production team threw an early Christmas party on the set."

JP: There is footage of a party on the set of Armageddon, they were doing all those silly little skits for the VT people - the Christmas VT Specials.

MH: Yes, I very much remember that. Probably not a party as such, though there was a definite party atmosphere.

GH: K9 was quite prominent in Armageddon.

MH: That was such fun; John [Leeson] was so good. You wouldn't believe it would work, but he would stand on the set interacting with the rest of the cast and do the voice (he had a separate mike). He's such a super chap, and I was very glad to be able to give him a proper part - where you could actually see his face - in Prince Regent shortly afterwards.

JP: Is it true he used to crawl around on his hands and knees during rehearsals?

MH: Yes, now I come to think of it, I do believe he did!

GH: Each of the stories in Season 16 had a related theme in that the Doctor and Romana were seeking various segments to the Key to Time. Were you given any background on this before you started?

MH: I was aware of the Key to Time of course, but I don't think we had any briefings as such, no.


MH: Yes, well as I've said, this was my favourite. Having finished the previous two and partially recovered, Graham asked me if I would do another story and I think I would have been happy to do so. And when Graham said it was going to go to Paris, well that sold me on the idea!

[Reading] "Hayes had a director's assistant Jane Wellesley, who was a BBC Researcher fluent in French and who scouted the locations, permissions and accommodation in France ahead of the filming. Hayes drew up his film diary based on her report." Not true! Jane may well speak French but it would be news to me, and I've worked with Jane quite a lot, so frankly I would doubt it. She did not go to France to scout locations, etc., that was done by [production assistant] Rosemary Crowson. I don't even know what a film diary is so all that bit is totally untrue!

[Reading] "Graham Williams, not Hayes cast Julian Glover." Not true.

JP: Are you aware Julian Glover is appearing in a play [An Inspector Calls] across the road?

MH: Yes indeed. Of course Julian is a very old friend; I've known him since Stratford in the 1950s.

[Reading] "Hayes cast Tom Chadbon to play Duggan because he felt Chadbon resembled Herge's strip cartoon Tintin." Well I don't remember that either. It could be true but I very much doubt it. I know I had seen him be very good in something a few weeks before casting him, though unfortunately I can't remember what it was.

GH: He was perfect for that part.

MH: Yes he was. I'm glad you think so.

[Reading] "Hayes cast David Graham because he had used him in an episode of When the Boat Comes In." That is true.

[Reading] "Hayes encountered another problem when permission to film outside the Louvre Gallery was turned down. The solution was to film the sequence quickly and get away before they noticed." As I recall, we didn't get anywhere near trying to get permission to film outside the Louvre. Anyway filming quickly and then getting away is something I've been doing in Paris for ages!

[Reading] "Visual effects designer Ian Scoones had filmed the arrival and departure of the TARDIS on primeval Earth as a model shot, but Hayes chose to record these sequences in full size as he thought the model did not look convincing enough." That is not true. We shot the bottom half of the spacecraft full size on the set in the studio and we pre-filmed the model shots at Bray Studios outside London...

JP: There are photographs of the model with the miniature TARDIS next to it and those shots never appear on the finished programme. Perhaps people are assuming that because those photographs of the TARDIS and the spaceship together, never appear on the programme that they were edited out because you weren't satisfied with the shots. Perhaps the photographs were just publicity photos?

MH: Yes I'm sure that is what it would be. But there was no question of me being dissatisfied with it. In fact somewhere at home unfortunately I've lost it - I have a photograph of me standing over the model set, standing over the TARDIS model looking down.

[Reading] "Designer Richard McManan-Smith claims that he was given this showpiece story as compensation for the poor run he had with his previous story The Armageddon Factor, due to the almost non-existent budget." I don't know... Richard McManan-Smith is a most brilliant designer. In fact all of the designers I had on Who were brilliant. I thought Richard did absolute wonders with Armageddon, I was really impressed.

[Reading] "John Cleese and Eleanor Bron's cameo roles were cast and written into the story just hours before their scene was recorded." Not true. The truth is that in the original script there were a couple of esthetes in the gallery who chose to regard the arrival of the TARDIS as a piece of 'happening art'. They were just written as 'chap one' and 'chap two', and I happened to know that Douglas Adams was great mates with John Cleese and Eleanor Bron.

Actually I think it was a coincidence that they were around TV Centre in another studio at the time. But we had actually arranged for them to do it some days or weeks in advance. Their only condition was that there should be no publicity; they shouldn't be billed in Radio Times. The press was suitably annoyed afterwards that we hadn't released the fact of their inclusion in the episode! I don't know what financial arrangement they agreed on, but I imagine they wouldn't have collected as much as they normally would for their appearances.

JP: According to Who historians' documentation, the script for City of Death was originally written by David Fisher. It was still going to be filmed in France, but it would have been set in 1925. Then Graham Williams discovered they could film more in France for the same price, so they decided to update the story, and the script therefore underwent a complete rewrite which Doug Adams and Graham Williams did over a weekend. According to the 'history' you started on the scripts only two days after they had been written. Did you know that at the time?

MH: I certainly knew at the time because I was at Graham Williams' house that weekend while they did it! It's perfectly true; they did completely rewrite it virtually over one weekend. I have a feeling I wasn't shown the original. A lot of producers won't give a director a script until they are absolutely happy with it, which is quite a good idea, because a director might fall in love with the earlier version, and then they would be in real trouble!

[Following the interview Michael mentioned that an artist had been specially commissioned to paint a replica of the Mona Lisa for use in City of Death. He also commented that while watching the final cut of City of Death with Douglas Adams and Graham Williams he noticed a microphone boom was visible in one of the shots in Leonardo's study, but as they didn't notice, he said nothing and they left it in!]


GH: You directed three Who stories within very quick succession, but then did no more. If you had been available would you have considered directing further stories?

MH: Yes, I think so. But after those Whos I went on to do All Creatures Great and Small and 1001 Nights [1981], and around then I went down to HTV (in Wales). I think by that time Who had changed.

JP: About a year after City of Death, Tom left the role. And John Nathan-Turner, who you would have worked with on All Creatures, had become the producer, and he had his own group of directors.

MH: Yes, by that time I would have been busy with other things, and what is probably more to the point, I just wasn't around.

JP: Having worked with Peter Davison on All Creatures, do you have a view on whether he was a good choice of actor to play the Doctor?

MH: Well for what my opinion is worth - and it's not worth more than anybody else's - I don't believe he was a good choice. Not because Peter was bad, Peter is an excellent actor, a brilliant actor, but I thought (and I thought so at the time, so it is not just with the benefit of hindsight) he wouldn't be a good Doctor specifically because he was just so well known as Tristram from All Creatures. It just seemed to me you would have to be even more of a genius than Peter is to get away with it.

GH: I think it is fair to say that different directors approach their work in different ways. How would you describe your directing style?

MH: I'm very much a 'seat of the pants' type of director, which stems from my early days of directing live television. When you are doing a show live it is rather like riding on a steeplechase: you drive at one obstacle (like a difficult scene transition or a tricky piece of cueing) then you're over and on to the next 'fence'. I like providing the actors, technicians and myself with opportunities to bring things to the production, within the framework you are given. That is what is so nice about actors such as Tom [Baker] in Who and Peter [Davison] in All Creatures (obviously I never worked with Peter on Who). They are the sort of actors who respond to such an approach so that they blossom and bring things to their roles, which is something not all actors do. Some will just stand there and say, 'Where am I, and what do I do next?'

Which reminds me, on Androids, Simon Lack used to pretend to be this very old fashioned actor and he would say 'Where am I to be placed?' which was fun. We had an awful lot of fun on Androids. We had fun on all of them but perhaps not so much on Armageddon because it was just very hard - really hard work.

JP & GH: Thank you for a most interesting and informative interview.

Postscript: Prior to the interview I had learned that Michael (and Patrick) had not had a chance to see The Androids of Tara or The Armageddon Factor since their transmission. By an amazing stroke of luck I had leant my copies of these stories to a friend during my absence, and he kindly copied them off and sent them over in time for me to give them to Michael at the interview. I asked Michael to provide his reaction to these when he had had a chance to view them: 'I enjoyed both - I thought Androids stood up the better of the two, but I was impressed by the many excellent performances in Armageddon and I can't emphasize too much Richard McManon-Smith's terrific designs. I was also particularly impressed by the film camera work on Androids - first class!'

This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).