Paddy Russell 1928-2017Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 2 November 2017 - Reported by Marcus

One of the great pioneering Television Directors of her generation, Paddy Russell, has died at the age of 89.

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television. She trained as an actor attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Before long she realised that she was more at home behind the scenes moving to become a stage manager.

In the 1950's Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director's eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.

In 1963 she became a director herself, directing many episodes of the soap opera Compact. Over the next twenty years, she worked on many of the best known classic television series.

Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve. One advantage the newish Director had when faced with the notoriously irascible William Hartnell was the fact that for the majority of the story he was not playing The Doctor, but another character, The Abbot of Amboise. She told Doctor Who Magazine
Bill was actually the Doctor only in the first and last episodes. Other than that he was the Abbot of Amboise. Therefore I had the natural advantage with Bill, with whom I got on very well, in terms of saying ‘The Doctor’s showing’ if I didn’t like what he was doing. That worked like a charm, because the Doctor couldn’t show.
It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970's. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.
In a way, I still think ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ was the best one I did. It was the hardest to do – a complete beast and I suppose I accepted it for the challenge. The biggest difficulty was deserted London which we got around by going out at five one Sunday morning.
Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with.
Tom Baker was easy to deal with at first, but the part went to his head completely. By the time I did ‘Horror of Fang Rock’, he was desperately difficult to work with. I remember one particular scene which involved Tom coming very fast through a doorway, followed by Louise. I’d set it up for the cameraman to stay with Tom but he couldn’t and wouldn’t come in normally. We did four takes, but the cameraman simply couldn’t hold him So, in the end, I said ‘Fine’ and told the cameraman to stay with Louise instead.
During her long career Paddy Russell also worked on The Newcomers, Little Women, Fathers and Sons, The Moonstone, My Old Man, Z Cars, Within These Walls, 3-2-1 and Emmerdale

Paddy Russell died earlier this week.