Friday, 4 December 2009

Richard Todd

A figure from a different age, clearly; I was indeed surprised to find that he had still been alive when hearing of this news just now on Channel 4.

My main memory of him is for his fine performance as Sanders in the 1982 Dr Who story, Kinda, playing almost a simulacrum of the British martinet, a deluded old buffer whose mind is opened, or lost, depending on one's view. This stalwart British actor and WW2 veteran cast into a post-punk hall of mirrors; it is not for nothing that many claimed it could have been written by Kate Bush. As haunting as Sapphire and Steel in that scene of Tegan in the void, even a dodgy realisation of the Mara snake cannot mar the effect - even adds to this very British, low-rent avant-gardism. An avant-garde serial watched by 9 million, lest it be forgotten.

Can anyone recommend other Todd roles worth seeing? I have seen next to none of his films.


  1. That was a very fine performance - and rather sending up his film Death Drums Along the River (already very dated by the time it was made). The Dam Busters is the one everyone always mentions, and he is awfully good in it... Though of course it's stolen by the boffin.

  2. Hi Alex - interesting to hear that there may have been a specific film he was sending up.

    That period of Dr Who is so intriguing, a definitive move away from the theatrical and literary Williams era into more arcane areas.* Sometimes it was great ("Warriors' Gate", the aforementioned "Kinda", "Enlightenment"), but often it was poor - 'technobabble' replacing the sophisticated repartee of the Williams stories (and then, post Bidmead, endless pillaging of the show's past). The litany of whining companions, the increasing focus on macho, Hollywood action-based stories (ironic considering the inclinations of its producer)... it all conspired against Dr Who learning from "Sapphire and Steel". Yet, those three stories at least are remarkable achievements for mainstream TV.

    *Re. the cultural heft of the Williams era: doing a pub quiz recently I actually got that the classical Lamia was a snake through having seen "The Androids of Tara" and remembering the tragic character of that name (played by the divine Lois Baxter, of "When the Boat Comes In" fame) with her tattooed features.