Scottish actor who played Doctor Who on stage

Born: November 17, 1929;

Died: October 5th 2017

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THE actor Trevor Martin, who has died aged 87, was a richly voiced character actor and stalwart of the major British classical theatre companies. His impressive 60-year career was augmented by a unique addition to his CV when, in 1974, he became the first actor to portray Doctor Who on stage.

His first association with the phenomenally popular science fiction series was in Second Doctor Patrick Troughton’s final episode. Up until that point, the Doctor’s origins had been a mystery but in part 10 of The War Games (1969) viewers encountered the Doctor’s own people, the Time Lords - austere, powerful beings, one of whom was given steely gravitas by Martin - for the first time.

Five years later the Doctor materialised at the Adelphi Theatre in an ambitious production called Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday, and Martin won the part (on television the show was between leading men as Jon Pertwee had left and Tom Baker was about to make his debut).

Donning a wig and deciding that the character was a “sort of supernatural, reliable uncle - good for fun and games but at the same time he knows what he’s talking about” Martin also gave his Doctor an impatience that he had fondly remembered from the interpretation of the role’s originator William Hartnell.

The play was technically very complex and rehearsals were fraught, and after the four-week run in London a planned tour was shelved - partly because IRA bomb threats had made audiences reticent, resulting in lacklustre attendance. Nonetheless, Martin’s place in theatre history was assured and he was able to preserve his performance for posterity decades later, reprising it when audio company Big Finish recorded the play for CD release in 2008.

Completing his accidental quest to appear in every possible iteration of Doctor Who, when the programme was revived on Radio 2 in the early 1990s for two series starring Jon Pertwee, Martin appeared in one of them - Paradise of Death (1993).

He was born Trevor Gordon Martin to Dundonian parents who had relocated to Enfield after the First World War (during which his father - who worked for the Post Office - had been seriously injured). After national service, Martin, who had acted in many school plays, enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Whilst there he won the original Carleton Hobbs Radio Award (1953), which resulted in him getting an early break with the BBC Radio Drama Company. He ultimately did three 18-month contracts with them and contributed over 4000 performances, making good use of a versatile and resonant voice which sounded like liquid gold encased in warm treacle.

After graduation he helped to set up the Guildhall Players and did three summer seasons at Peter Bull’s Perranporth theatre in Cornwall. And so began a theatrical career which included a 40-year association with the Royal Shakespeare Company - starting in 1962 with productions of Becket, Women Beware Women and Peter Hall’s sandpit set Troilus and Cressida (as Menelaus). Subsequent roles for the company included Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty (1985), Giles Corey in The Crucible (1985), Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew (1987), Shamrayev in The Seagull (1990), Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1996) and Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing (2002).

In 1963 he became a member of Laurence Olivier’s company at the very start of the National Theatre, playing Voltemand to Peter O’Toole’s Hamlet, and the Archbishop of Rheims to Joan Plowright’s St Joan. The following year he was in the cast of Olivier’s Othello, which was subsequently filmed.

He had a repeated association with Peter Shaffer’s play The Royal Hunt of the Sun: he was in the original production with Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely when it moved to London, played the lead role of Pizarro for Prospect Theatre’s Old Vic tour (1972-73), and then appeared (alongside his son Benedict) in the Compass Theatre production in 1989 directed by Tim Pigott-Smith.

He found particular favour with Toby Roberston’s Prospect Theatre, going into the West End with them in The Provok’d Wife (with his old school friend Eileen Atkins, 1963), Richard II/Edward II (both with Ian McKellen, 1969) and Love’s Labour’s Lost (1971), and playing Kent to Anthony Quayle’s King Lear (1978-79).

Outside of the major companies he played some very good leading roles - in 1981 alone he starred as Sir in The Dresser at Leatherhead, played the probing psychologist opposite Eleanor Bron in Duet for One (Bristol Old Vic), and was a mesmerising Ghost in Lindsay Anderson’s production of Hamlet at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. His final stage performance was as an “excellently played, touching” (The Guardian) Adam in the Globe Theatre’s production of As You Like it in 2009.

As well as his massive radio repertoire he also lent his deep, textured tones to a number of advertisements and video games, and played the Voice of the Beast in Peter Yates’ hugely expensive science fiction movie Krull (1983). His long list of television credits included The Three Golden Nobles (1959), Orlando (1966), Armchair Thriller (1980), Coronation Street (1984), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1998) and Call the Midwife (2013).

He recently completed an interview about his career which will be released on DVD by Reeltime Pictures this month, and was holidaying in Bulgaria when he was taken ill. He died there, and is survived by his wife, the actress Hermione Gregory, and four children (Alexander - Sandy - the MP for Ipswich, Rachel, Victoria and Benedict) from his first marriage to Janet Moreton, which ended in divorce.

TOBY HADOKE