For a series that is very much about time travel, the nine recently rediscovered “lost” episodes of Doctor Who, starring the late Patrick Troughton, offer a remarkable glimpse into another time and place, not least a 1960s idea of the year 2018 in which helicopters are apparently an everyday form of transport and public telephone boxes are still pretty common place. Of course, fans of the show will have few reasons not to buy the stories (either through iTunes now or, if they’re patient enough, on DVD in the next couple of months); not least because, for anyone belonging to the two thirds of the British population under the age of 50, both The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear are effectively “new” Doctor Who stories–in the sense of “never having been seen before”.
But is there really anything of interest for the less committed, and gay, viewer to enjoy in these monochrome adventures? At the risk of jumping to conclusions about you, dear reader, two words immediately come to mind: Frazer Hines.
Hines played the Second Doctor’s young Scottish companion Jamie McCrimmon, an 18th century piper who proved to be remarkably agile when it came to travelling through space and time. In fact Jamie became one of the most popular–certainly the longest-serving–of Doctor Who’s male companions, ultimately staying with the show for the rest of Troughton’s tenure and making a couple of comeback in the 1980s. Brave, adventurous and liable to jump into danger with a cry of “Creag an tuire!”, Jamie proved to be the perfect best friend for the seemingly bumbling “cosmic hobo” of Troughton’s Doctor, as well as the young girls Victoria and Zoe who travelled by their side.
There had been several male companions before Hines of course; most notably science teacher Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell) and futuristic space pilot Steven Taylor (a pre-Blue Peter Peter Purves). Yet, up to this point, they had generally been more mature, antagonistic figues, ready to argue with the Doctor and take on the leading role whenever he was absent from the plot. (You need to remember that, in the 1960s, the BBC regularly made around 45 episodes of Doctor Who a year; so even the star would take his turn in having a week off, the Doctor being locked in a room, knocked unconscious or otherwise missing in action for the episode.) With the exception of Cockney sailer Ben Jackson (played by the late Michael Craze), however, Hines was arguably Doctor Who’s earliest and certainly most “boy band pretty” male companion.
The gay playwright Joe Orton certainly thought so; in 1967, having seen him in Doctor Who, Orton suggested Hines for the titular role in a production of his play Entertaining Mr Sloane. Hines, he believed, fitted the bill perfectly, being someone “you’d love to fuck silly”. (Indeed, in his diary, Orton had pointed out: “I’m sure the BBC would be horrified that even a science fiction series could be used erotically.”) For various reasons–not least his ongoing commitments to Doctor Who at the time–Hines was never even approached to play Sloane, but the fact that Orton considered him suitable certainly says something about both Hines and the character of Jamie.
Of course, it undoubtedly helped that, as far as Jamie was concerned, there were some shapely male legs on display every week. During his three years on the show, Hines knocked back repeated suggestions that Jamie should ditch the kilt, arguing that it was an important marker for the character. It also ensured an ongoing interest in what–if anything–Hines wore under it. (He later admitted he tended to wear shorts underneath, so he could get a quick football game in after rehearsals.)
Nevertheless, there were a few occasions when, for story reasons, Jamie lost the kilt, and The Enemy of the World includes one of them. Alas, Orton didn’t live long enough to see this story on its original broadcast, so we will never know what he might have thought about seeing Hines dressed up as a futuristic security guard, wearing the kind of ribbed rubber jacket that would surely sell well in certain Soho boutiques. (During its 20th century run, Doctor Who designers had a habit of dressing up security guards and futuristic police in rather suspect clothing.) It’s interesting to wonder what costume designer Martin Baugh (who would later work on TV shows ranging from The Naked Civil Servant and Rock Follies to Heartbeat) was thinking when he came up with that design (especially lumbering others with a rather silly helmet), but Hines looks good in it–even if such things were not officially mentioned at the time within the confines of a family TV show.
There was never any suggestion that Jamie wasn’t 100% heterosexual; that said, he certainly shared Hines’ self-declared eye for the ladies, Jamie was a protective brother-figure for the show’s young female regulars, ready to face homicidal killers and Yeti in an abandoned London Underground in order to look after them. But, all the same, with his pop-star looks and strong legs, I’m pretty sure he attracted the attention of not just Joe Orton at the time.