Every once in a while the stars align and something magical happens. One of my favourite moments as a Doctor Who fan was this past October when the Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group on Facebook celebrated the 1 year anniversary of the miraculous return of Enemy Of The World and Web Of Fear by Phil Morris. There was a lot of planning and preparation put into the event. We held a week long contest, had a cavalcade of random facts each day and votes on the episodes. The whole thing culminated in a comment a long to the final episodes of Web and Enemy.
As a part of the event I had come across a website about Jack Woolgar, the actor who played Staff Sergeant Arnold. The website was run by his son Tim. I invited Tim to join our group and informed him about the comment a long. He graced us with his presence for both and the result was truly magical. Over the 22 odd minutes that Web was running, we had an online love in where Who fans got to express their gratitude. The praise wasn’t just for Phil Morris, who’s hard work and dedication allowed us to see these wonderful episodes that had been lost for 45 years, but also to Tim for the fantastic performance his father had given.
I recently had a chance to talk with Tim about the website and his father.
TIMD: Why did you decide to start the website?
Tim Woolgar: I thought that a website would make a great memorial to dad as at the time we hadn’t done anything with his ashes and there was no memorial to him except of course the hours of footage that must exist and that he regularly turns up on the TV screen – so the 25th anniversary of his death seemed a fitting point to make a web site. It’s a place to collate photos and writing about him for me and the family and of course fans of his work. I have always intended to grow it regularly and for others to contribute but life just gets in the way. I did do some finishing and editing some years in and have every intention of rebuilding the site… soon
TIMD: Have you had many visitors?
Tim: Web counters were de rigeur in the early days of web sites but I never put one on this site so who knows – there are probably some google analytics to be had but it’s one thing I don’t seem to have a need to count !
TIMD: Have you learned anything surprising about your father as you were doing research for the site?
Tim: Nothing in a BBC “Who do You Think You Are?” way; all the family skeletons were well out of the cupboard but it is interesting to realise that the adage ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ is very true. A lot of dad’s work was for the same producers or directors. You get to work with one or two and then they use you for different projects. He did a lot of work for Pamela Lonsdale for instance. The web is great for finding new stuff I found a film I never knew he was in and only last week found a drama he did in Sardinia on Vimeo that I’d never seen.
TIMD: How does the rest of your family feel about your endeavor
Tim: They like it I think but aren’t involved in the upkeep.
TIMD: What role of your dad’s stands out most in your memory?
Tim: The ones that stand out to me are
Lion the witch and the wardrobe – enabled us to go on a family holiday
Professor Branestawm – lots of excitement “a bomb of my own invention’
The Borrowers (radio) – lots of tiny stuff
Barlow of the Car park – produced the line ‘Choc- o- lates for meee?’
Dr Who – of course well it was dr who
TIMD: Do you know which role was his favourite?
Tim: He liked the drama work on 30 Minute Theatre and Play for Today I think like Barlow and The Discharge of Trooper Lusby. I think he just liked working so may be Carney in Crossroads
TIMD: He did a lot of work, but he will probably be best remembered (at least by my readers) as Staff Sergeant Arnold from Web Of Fear. That story was lost for 45 years, but returned a year and a half ago by Philip Morris. How did it make you feel to hear the news?
Tim: Very very excited. I had heard that some lost episodes had been found and had that sort of oh it might be web of fear feeling you get like oh I might win the lottery but you know you won’t. But it was – when it was released I downloaded it straight away from iTunes and watched the first couple of episodes but then saved the rest as a treat.
TIMD: What was your reaction to seeing the story for the first time in all those years?
Tim: Honestly it feels a bit wooden in places and the story quite simple but it was simpler back then and a kids’ show and only watched once and once a week. We have higher expectations now and tv shows have to stand repetition. There were some great performances and it felt quite theatrical.
TIMD: Jack sure acted his pants off in that one, especially the final episode. How did he feel about that story? Was it one that he was proud of or just another job?
Tim: It’s always nice to play the character with the twist and therefore have good lines and scenes. I can’t honestly say how he felt I was only 7 years old but the feeling at home was good and exciting and he brought home a rubber death mask which was great to play with!! I’m sure he was pleased with his performance, he watched everything very critically, he wanted to be the best that he could be.
TIMD: You joined the Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group on Facebook during their anniversary celebration for a comment- a- long of episode six. How did it feel to watch the outpouring of love and respect from the members for your father and his performance?
Tim: I was very touched and surprised at the interest in a very old black and white TV show. You’re all mad !!
TIMD: On the website you refer to his story telling and there is a wonderfully evocative passage where he tells us in his own words about running a W.H. Smith stall at the train station, and later on you reveal that he was a published poet. Jack had a great way with words, didn’t he?
Tim: He was very proud of his self- education and loved words. I wish he had written more prose and more of his life story. He was doing it but didn’t expect to drop off the twig at 64.
Thanks to Tim for taking the time to talk to me and please take a moment to check out the website www.jackwoolgar.org.uk it’s incredibly interesting.