Graham Cole Reflects on Playing 3 Doctor Who "Monsters"

Administrator - Posted on 23 September 2009

The Mirror has former Bill star Graham Cole talking about his experiences in Doctor Who.

My first role in the show was as a Marshman in a story called Full Circle. Back then the Doctor was played by Tom Baker, who was weird and wonderful like his character.

Marshmen are scary, amphibious creatures live underwater and only emerge at night.

The costume was far from state of the art. It consisted of a frogman's suit covered in a kind of green skin with bits of rubber stuck on to give it a scaly effect. Then there were the rubber gloves plus boots, all topped off with a creepy monster mask. Being rubber it was extremely sweaty - it took two to three hours to get kitted up and let's just say a lot of talcum powder had to be applied to ease getting in and out. 

Like all the Doctor Who creatures I played, the costumes were extremely uncomfortable.

I first met Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (who played his assistant) in a rehearsal room in Acton. At the time Tom and Lalla were madly in love; they later married, and they seemed far more preoccupied with each other than what was happening inside or even outside the Tardis.

They also had their fair share of lovers' tiffs which could create a bit of an atmosphere and sometimes made things a tad awkward for the rest of us.

I had a rough idea what the costume was going to look like, but when the director asked me to make the noise of a Marshman, I thought: "You're having a laugh."

He was deadly serious. So I did the first thing that came into my head. With a straight face I began making a slurping noise. "Excellent!" cried the director. All the other actors playing Marshmen had to follow my lead. In hindsight I probably should have patented my unique sound.

My next outing as an alien from outer space was a few weeks later for a story called The Keeper of Traken.

I played Melkur, a calcified statue controlled by the Doctor's nemesis, The Master. Similar to the Tardis, Melkur could time travel.

This costume was even more uncomfortable than the Marshman's. It was absolute agony to get in and out of this costume too. Consisting of a metal frame, covered in plaster of Paris, it was also extremely heavy.

You had to ensure you had been to the loo before you were zipped in as there were no flaps for any comfort breaks. Watching clips now on YouTube, my walk bears a strong resemblance to Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space with a touch of Metal Mickey thrown in.

I suppose my greatest claim in the world of Doctor Who was playing a Cyberman. This was when all of the Cybermen were actually played by actors and not just a few with the rest computer generated to make up the numbers like they are these days.

I was in a story called Earthshock with Peter Davison. The Cybermen were being particularly evil in this one by planning to blow up a peace conference.

Stomping around like a Star Wars storm trooper, brandishing a laser gun was a real blast.

From time to time I attend Doctor Who conventions and sign pictures of Marshmen and Cybermen. In all honesty it could be anyone inside those costumes but the fans seem delighted. At least when I watch the Doctor Who episodes where I appear as a Cyberman, I can pick myself out as I always made sure I was at the front.

Sometimes the fans kindly point out that while there were plenty of Marshmen and Cybermen, there was only ever one Melkur, as they thrust a photo of him under my nose for signing.

The complete article can be found here: Ex Bill star Graham Cole explains what it was like playing three Dr Who monsters

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