Monday, September 13, 2010

Prince Edward in Doctor Who? Never!

It was a chance for Prince Edward to put his showbusiness ambitions to the test – a starring role in Doctor Who, one of the nation’s favourite family shows.

But the prospect of the Prince on prime-time TV in a story featuring a sorceress, cybermen and some Nazis was a step too far for Buckingham Palace, and Edward’s aides vetoed the idea.

The details of the extraordinary invitation are detailed in newly unearthed letters in the archive of the late John Nathan-Turner, a former Doctor Who producer.

He was keen to get the stage-struck Prince, then 24, to star in a three-part adventure called Silver Nemesis, commissioned to mark Doctor Who’s 25th anniversary in 1988.

Producers thought his involvement would create maximum publicity for the episodes in which he would play himself in a scene where the Doctor – Sylvester McCoy – and his assistant Ace, played by Sophie Aldred, arrive unexpectedly at Windsor Castle.

But in a letter dated March 28, 1988, and written on Buckingham Palace notepaper, the Prince’s then equerry Lieutenant-Colonel Sean O’Dwyer wrote: ‘Thank you for your letter of March 25 in which you invite Prince Edward to take part in a special three-part story of Doctor Who.

Enlarge Polite rejection: The letter from Palace to the producers confirming Prince Edward would not be taking part in filming

‘His Royal Highness was most interested to hear about this and much appreciates your kind thought in asking him. However, Prince Edward regrets that, sadly, it is not possible for him to do as you ask.

‘His Royal Highness is sorry to disappoint you in this way, but hopes that the silver anniversary programmes will be a great success.’The producers were also refused permission to film at Windsor.

In a letter dated March 29, 1988, John Haslam, assistant Press secretary to the Queen, wrote: ‘I am afraid there is a firm, long-standing rule that permission is not given for filming at Royal residences in connection with fictional projects.’The letters are held at the British Film Institute.

In the episode, broadcast in November 1988, the Doctor is confronted by the Queen, played by a lookalike.

They meet at Arundel Castle in West Sussex, which was used as a stand-in for Windsor.

Andrew Cartmel, the programme’s script editor, said: ‘Reading between the lines it appears the Prince wanted to do it but was effectively blocked.’

Prince Edward had already started to pursue his dreams of a career in showbusiness at the time of the approach. In 1986 he joined Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company and in 1993 he founded TV production company Ardent.

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