Who Is Michael E Briant? Well, I’ll tell you. Michael E Briant is a TV director turned sailor who worked largely for the BBC from the sixties to the eighties. The reason for the title of this memoir is that Briant was responsible for working on ‘Doctor Who’, from the early days as an assistant floor manager on William Hartnell stories to directing both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. He created his fair share of memorable moments, too, directing stories such as ‘The Sea Devils’, ‘The Green Death’, ‘Revenge Of The Cybermen’ and ‘Robots of Death’.
For the ‘Doctor Who’ fan, the memoir offers interesting insights into some stories’ production. For example, the dangerous filming undertaken by the crew on ‘Fury From The Deep’ may never be seen by modern fans and hearing Briant described how certain shots were achieved are enough to give the most liberal health and safety officer a headache. The aspect of working with actors is interesting, too, as he recalls the emotional turmoil surrounding the exit of Katy Manning, the hiring of her actual boyfriend, Stewart Bevan, as her love interest and Jon Pertwee’s manner at the time. Like so many recollections of Pertwee and Manning, you can’t help but read between the lines.
Outside of ‘Doctor Who’, Briant worked across a variety of drama such as ‘The Onedin Line’, ‘Warship’ and ‘Blake’s 7’. These are recalled in less detail, though to be fair to Briant, he worked on ‘Doctor Who’ probably more than any other show. His attitude towards directing is pragmatic and intelligent and he laments the lack of professionalism shown by later producers and money men.
Briant is happy to cite negative experiences in the book and then not name the people he struggled with. This is frustrating. For example, he writes about working on a mini-series called ‘Hideaway’ where he felt the producer was not open to the way the production or story worked. The fact that this was Ron Craddock, long-running producer of ‘Z-Cars’, puts a different spin on the story, the producer was clearly experienced. Another example is of working with a young female producer on ‘Eastenders’. Some investigation on the IMDb cites this as being Jane Fallon, producer turned novelist and wife of Ricky Gervais. It’s a small point, but a little strange not to name names when happy to criticise and the information is available anyway.
Briant is a keen sailor and much of the book is taken up by his experiences with boats. The memoir details his early experiences with his mother teaching him how to sail and then the various vessels he purchased over the years. In the early 90s, Briant had a run in with Somali pirates only to be rescued by the US and German Navy. It’s a neat story and sounds a little like the thrillers he worked on come to life. The memoir ends quickly though and the last twenty-five years seemed to have been skipped over, with Briant perhaps growing tired of telling his story.
For the most part, Briant comes across as likeable and interesting. Happy to pursue his modest dreams of driving a truck or sailing over running a production company, which he tried and hated. While he enjoys the work he does, he never seems over-enamoured with show business and keeps his feet firmly on the ground.
I enjoyed reading this memoir, there could have perhaps been more detail and it could have been longer, but for the ‘Doctor Who’ fan there are interesting titbits to discover about some of the shows most iconic stories.
(pub: Classic TV Press. 204 page paperback. Price:£12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-95610-006-1
check out website: www.classictvpress.co.uk