During the Fanderson “Century 21” convention, Ed Bishop & Gabrielle Drake were interviewed by Fanderson chairman Chris Bentley in a packed main hall.
Here is a transcripion of the interview by Lorraine Bopp-Meyer, which is based on videos made by Paulo Malaguti, Ronald Kroon, Simon Wickes, and Theo de Klerk.
Ed Bishop & Gabrielle Drake Interview at “Century 21”
Ed and Gabrielle enter the room and have a seat on stage. (UFO music is playing as they enter)
Ed Bishop: We haven’t just arrived (referring to the fact that he had coats draped over his arm). We look like we just got out of the same situation but we’ve been here some time.
Chris Bentley: Ed, thank you very much for coming. It’s always a pleasure to see you. And Gabrielle especially a pleasure to see you, your first ever convention.
Gabrielle Drake: Indeed, thank you.
Chris: Is this the first time the pair of you have seen each other since you were doing UFO?
Gabrielle: It is, yes. I’ve seen Ed on the stage but I haven’t seen him in real life.
Ed: (makes an interesting facial expression which elicits laughter from the crowd) I was alive on stage!
Yes that’s true. We were saying that Peter Gordeno — I haven’t seen since the series and yourself (Ed was referring to Gabrielle), it is just extraordinary the way life goes on around the goldfish bowl, you just don’t see people for years and years then suddenly you do.
Gabrielle: Yes, I think the extraordinary thing is that you can see somebody again after 30 years and it’s like you’ve just seen them yesterday.
Ed: that’s right!
Gabrielle: “Have you heard about Antonia, do you know about Mike…?”
Ed: Yes. Yes and the two directors Alan and Ken. It’s just as if we were just talking about a shot. It’s extraordinary.
Chris: You mentioned Peter very briefly. I want to just say we are expecting Peter Gordeno. We don’t know what’s happened to him. He hasn’t turned up yet so we hope we haven’t lost him. If he does arrive while we’re doing this panel someone will undoubtedly bring him in and we’ll be speaking to Peter then.
Can I just ask you, it’s been almost exactly 30 years, within a few weeks literally — 30 yrs since UFO was first shown on British television. And you all started filming on the series some eighteen months before that. So would you have ever believed, all that time ago, way back then, that the series and more particularly your roles in it and in some cases the costumes you were wearing, would still be remembered, would still be being watched and celebrated by enthusiasts around the world after all this time — into the twenty first century indeed?
Gabrielle: Not for one moment.
Ed: Not at all. Absolutely not. No, not a scintilla of thought about the future of the show…
Gabrielle: but then you never do have (a thought about the future) I suppose really in our business and also it is such a strange old business because the one thing you think is going to be a sure fire hit is bound to flop.
Gabrielle: and then something you simply just think “Oh well this will be an interesting job” but it was interesting because it was at the time, I do remember, I think when they were making the first moon landing.
Ed: that’s right
Gabrielle: and I remember watching Cape Kennedy and watching all the instruments and thinking “oh my goodness it’s just like our set on moonbase”.
Ed: that’s right
Gabrielle: It really was. (like the set on moonbase). Well, they got that right anyway
Ed: No, we had no concept whatsoever about the show’s future and if I could bear out what Gay said that actors are the last people in the world…if we knew the formula of what was going to be a hit they’d be sending us our checks in Antigua… rather than West Molsey (laughter from the crowd).
So no, no, it was a professional job which we undertook and gave of our best and the fact that it’s now & it hasn’t reached the stellar heights, no pun intended, of say Star Trek or anything like this. I always regard UFO as a connoisseur’s choice. (Applause/Gabrielle commends Ed on that statement). I do, I do, I do. But the fact that it is appreciated even at the level it is, is astounding.
Ed: …and a delightful surprise.
Chris: I’m sorry about this but to try to put you right back to the start of UFO, can you remember how you each came to be cast in the part in the series? Ed you’d done stuff of course before. Was the part in the series directly influenced by your appearance in Doppleganger?
Ed: Oh yes, yes. I had worked for Gerry with Capt Scarlet, the voice of Captain Blue, and I had the luck to be in Doppleganger and that was a caprice there. Because they had cast an actor and it wasn’t working out, it wasn’t that he was not a good actor — it was just that they had made a mistake in terms of type. The two leading men were two guys who look alike and Charles Dyneley who was the original man to countdown for the Thunderbird series and had done a lot of work with Gerry and the current people saw the rushes and said no this man is too like Pat Wymark. (to Gabrielle): you remember Pat Wymark?
Gabrielle: yes, indeed, of course
Ed: and the two scenes between the men were — there was no difference whatsoever. So they said you have got to get a younger actor and so Gerry went through his stable of younger actors and we tested and I got the job and that’s how it went on when they were casting UFO. They were able to show Lew Grade some of that film.
But you girls were picked by… (directing his statement toward Gabrielle)
Gabrielle: Well, I don’t actually remember how we were originally picked, but I do remember doing my first day’s filming which was fine. I was just one of the girls. I was one of the three girls. There was another, an Italian I think — and you will know about this much better than I do (directing her comment toward Chris).
Chris: Franco Derosa
Gabrielle: Yes (laughter) He was playing moonbase commander.
Gabrielle: And the days filming… and that was ok… and I think it must have been Friday or something like that because quite unexpectedly my agent rang me up on Saturday and said Gerry and Sylvia want you to go over to their house to talk about things and I thought “Oh my God, what have I done now?” So anyway I was driven out there…chauffeured to this incredibly beautiful house… and they said well it hasn’t worked out with the moonbase commander and we want you to take over the moonbase commander. A total surprise …and again please Chris you could tell me what was I originally called?
Chris: Paula Harris
Gabrielle: There! Paula Harris, of course! (laughter) God you’re wonderful.
It’s just that my name was Gabrielle Drake and all through my youth it had been shortened to Gay and it’s just that my agent at the time happened to say “oh yes well Gay will come along at 12:00”. They said “Gay? Gay? Who’s Gay?” And he said “I’m sorry I meant Gabrielle” and then they said to me well we think it would be a good idea if you were called “Gay Ellis” which is your nickname so that was how I began to be called Gay Ellis. And that was how I came to play moonbase commander.
Chris: Originally though you were kind of, weren’t you contracted episode by episode because after three you dropped out for a while. Were you doing something else?
Gabrielle: I did drop out for a while. Yes we were only contracted for about three I think — of course originally when I took it on I knew I was going to go over to Vienna for about six months or 3 months or something and it didn’t matter when I was playing Paula Harris because it wasn’t that important but it was much more difficult when I had been sort of upgraded to play moonbase commander — but indeed that’s why I dropped out. I think my wig changed in between — I came back to shorter hair. (laughter from crowd)
Ed: I never knew all this. I’m learning. This is a learning experience.
Gabrielle: Well we actually didn’t really meet a lot did we?
Ed: This is true, this is true
Gabrielle: …because moonbase and earth control…
Ed (interjects): We would be on screens – we would talk to each other on videoconferencing, before they had videoconferencing I might add.
Gabrielle: That’s right
Ed: That was an innovation and putting Gabrielle in a position of a command here — in a late sixties TV series regardless of what the genre was whether it was a Western or sitcom – that was innovative, very innovative … and Wanda Ventham came on later in the series.
Gabrielle: Yes I know. That was really quite good wasn’t it?
Ed: I think probably Sylvia was the influence in that direction
Gabrielle: I am sure that she was and certainly she designed all our costumes.
Ed: Yes, she had a fantastic eye for detail.
Gabrielle: Didn’t have fantastic feel for comfortable costumes though did she? (laughter)
Gabrielle: They were the most uncomfortable costumes I had ever had to work with.
Ed: I am sure that millions of people will agree with me that you wore it as if it was the most fantastic thing in the world (Ed displays a big smile here and there is laughter and lots of applause from the audience)
Gabrielle: (blows kisses at Ed)
Ed: but Sylvia was extraordinary because she had an eye and when I said the word how were you “picked” it sounded a little bit patronizing..
Gabrielle: Did it?
Ed: Yeah, we were auditioned or whatever but when I say “picked” because she had an eye for detail, color and balance and I never forget when I went out for a costume fitting up in Mayfair once and she took a tie off a rack and she went up to me and I was wearing this hideous bow tie that she (Ed says “boing” and motions how Sylvia pulled the tie off) untied this bow tie, she pulled it off, threw it away, said “put this tie on and just don’t ever let me see you in that bow tie again.” I trusted her implicitly and she had wonderful taste in color and all that. Yeah it was amazing…
Chris: Talking about with the moontruckers outfits. There is an amazing piece of promotional film that was shot at the time to promote UFO with Antonia Ellis wearing the moontruckers outfit walking around town, doing shopping, getting in the car, doing her typing — everyday jobs all in the full gear and Sylvia doing the voice over and saying how this is the fashion of the future and how comfortable this is (laughter from crowd)…that was not quite true was it really?
Gabrielle: Yes, they were very very scratchy that was the trouble and you did sort of have to pour yourself into them in the mornings — quite tight.
Chris: but you did look nice in it. Dolores always said with all that, panels on the side, putting the girls in the suit, they did always look great. She was certainly always very proud of that fact.
Gabrielle: But it was really extraordinary because you could be sitting on the set and you’d look across and think oh there’s a mirror over there and you saw yourself and then suddenly you realized that you were getting up and walking across the room and that you weren’t because in fact it wasn’t you at all, it was someone else…but you did look so , we all looked so alike…really….
Ed: (nods and says) yes, yes
Gabrielle: It was only when you got very very close that you realized it wasn’t you. (laughter)
Chris: And for part of your costume Gabrielle was the infamous purple hair.
Gabrielle: I know! And I understand at one point I was told the Japanese were actually following this as a fashion and dying their hair purple.
Ed: It was very big in Japan.
Gabrielle:: Yes, I understand. Yes, oh yes, I had heard that.
Chris: Do you think though in some sort of weird parallel universe in 1980 that costumes like that could have been work wear? I mean, what were your costumes like? Were they comfortable to wear?
Ed: The male costumes? Oh yeah. It was sort of…basically, it was the jumpsuit and what we call the Nehru jacket. I found it very comfortable, very easy to wear.
Gabrielle: It was a stretchy material wasn’t it?
Ed: Yeah. The only thing you had to be careful was that the collar would crawl up just before…(pulling upward on his collar to demonstrate this) No most of the time I was sitting. I was known as a sitting actor. (smile from Ed and laughter from the crowd). Put him in a chair and he’ll be alright — but you had to be careful that your thing didn’t…(Ed mimics pulling the back of his suit down) … and the girl was always pulling it down just before a take. But no, yeah they were very very comfortable.
Gabrielle: And I do remember as you said, Sylvia was very very particular and she would come and examine the girls before we went on and make sure the wretched eyelashes with diamonds on them which were so heavy on your eyes…
Ed: Yeah it’s wonderful, wonderful (referring to Sylvia’s attention to detail)
Gabrielle: … she’d make sure “have you got your eyelashes on?”
Ed: Myths get exploded at Fanderson. One I’m constantly mentioning is how really easy actors have it. I mean I come into the dressing room and somebody will have decided what I’m to wear so all of that responsibility was taken off you. So you had to just pick it up and then somebody would come running after you and say, look, you have to get out of that jacket into this jacket for this shot and you know it was wonderful.
I think actors — I know I am — are very lazy about things like that. I mean this suit I’m wearing was in a film and at the end of the thing I said can I buy this and they said yes and so I figured it must be good because they put me in it (laughter from crowd). And somebody’s got their name on the credit — costume by Joe Bloggs — so I must look good.
Gabrielle: You weren’t playing a tramp at the time? (Gabrielle jokes then consoles Ed). (lots of laughter)
Ed: And this shirt was handmade for me by my lady partner so you don’t have to think about it. It really makes life a lot easier. I think it’s easier for guys you know — they can just put on anything.
I got sidetracked there for a moment… (laughter)
Chris: How did you find the atmosphere on the set of UFO…getting on you know with your colleagues, people like George Sewell and you mentioned Dolores and Antonia? Was it like just come in and say your lines or was there a sense of camaraderie with the crew and the people you worked with?
Gabrielle: I always remember it being a very happy atmosphere and I said the curious thing was that we were slightly isolated on moonbase. We came in on different days for filming so we didn’t see an awful lot of the people on earth or skydiver. Is that right? (referring to the word skydiver). Yes.
Ed: That’s right.
Gabrielle: I watched an episode the other night I have to say, the first time in an awful long time and it all came flooding back to me — and I saw this frown on my face as I was putting out vital facts about East 47 West … this string of figures…and I remembered how awful it was trying to remember the figures because you knew that you couldn’t get the figures wrong because they were all going to come up on screen somewhere else and you had to get them right. It had nothing to do with concentrating on this desperate situation of a man who had been dying out on moonbase… it was trying to remember the figures that were coming up on the screen.
Ed: I think you girls had it very difficult because that moonbase set if I remember wasn’t too comfortable to work on.
Gabrielle: It was very hot.
Ed: Hot and kind of enclosed especially during the heat of the summer and in the studio and those costumes couldn’t have helped and it was mainly technical stuff that you guys had to handle which us guys you know in the office Billington, George, we’d get out and loosen it up a little bit and talk about other things…but yours was largely…
Gabrielle: Did you do a lot of location work, going out?
Ed: Yeah, yeah but they tended to shy away from locations because although it was in 1980 they were so terrified of picking up something that was totally wrong you know because the thing and the whole sequence would be shot. Ken and Allen later I think they are talking tomorrow as directors and they’ll bring that problem up but to get back to your point Chris about the association. I think whenever you take 100 people cast and crew and throw them together whether there are 100 lawyers or whatever, you are going to get tensions, you are going to get… all kinds of permutations of the human condition are going to come up. We had them but they won’t be told in my lifetime. Posthumously perhaps. But as Gay intimated there really wasn’t time for an awful lot of nonsense. We had to get on there, we had to get five minutes a day in the can. It was a very tight shooting schedule. So there wasn’t really any time for anything that was counterproductive. Certainly tensions and squabbles and active arguments between people — there was just no room for it, we just had to get on with the job. And basically I think the chemistry worked, we all kind of…
Gabrielle: But actually also if you look back too it seems to me there were some very very good actors you know George Cole and Vladek Sheybal who was actually my teacher at drama school…
Ed: Oh yeah… Patrick Allen. Yeah a lot of guys…
Gabrielle: …and you usually find I mean honestly with good actors there is not a lot of…they do know they actually have to get on and do a professional job and there is a lot of myth about back-biting in the profession and how difficult people are…
Ed: but not when you are actually doing it
Gabrielle:…No, I don’t actually find that while your doing it…
Ed: It’s after (laughter)
Gabrielle: It’s very very rare…
Ed: When you’re unemployed — “Why’d he get that job?”
Chris: You mentioned briefly there Vladek Sheybal. I was just going to ask what you remember of those UFO costars that are sadly no longer with us. Grant Taylor, in particular Norma Ronald, who you worked with a lot Ed. What do you remember?
Ed: Well my immediate impression of Vladek was if you had a scene with him — just forget it! (laughter) No matter what you did everybody was going to be watching Vladek.
Ed: Always. Because we rather jokingly referred to him as Vladek eyeball (laughter) because he had those wonderful eyes. (laughter) You were just dead.
Gabrielle: Absolutely, but do you remember — I mean he was in wonderful early polish films
Ed: That’s right. His career as an actor was fantastic.
Gabrielle: Absolutely and as I say I had the great good fortune to be taught by him at drama school, and it was an amazing experience for me. He passed or tried to pass off some of his wonderful secrets. And then to actually find that there I was on the set with him — it was quite overwhelming really.
Ed: And he was a wonderful man. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Everything was in the right perspective with him with things that could be made light of and things that were profound but he was a very deeply intelligent guy.
Grant, by contrast was a very gregarious guy. Used to be a boxer in Australia. He came over as a champ or something and he sort of gravitated into acting. Very ebullient, boisterous, masculine type guy. Great company with a wonderful sense of humor and toward the end, because he died of cancer… and on the set toward the last couple of episodes I watched them with poignancy because he had such a great weight loss and energy loss. He kept on because they needed the continuity of the character. And then apparently he had a wonderful party to which he invited a lot of his friends and that was a big Aussie booze up and then everybody went away and he said “right, that’s it, that’s the end”.
Yeah he went out as he did… Yeah they were very very memorable guys.
Chris: The directors that you were working for, you mentioned Alan and Ken who are with us today and David Lane of course as well, they all directed on the puppet shows. Did you ever sort of get the feeling that you knew more about this than they did?
Gabrielle: (laughing) I don’t think I ever felt like I knew any more about anything like that than… To me this was a fairly early job. I hadn’t done a lot in filming before that, so I think it would have been very easy for anybody to appear to me to have known a lot more about it than I did and I would have been glad of anybody’s help really.
Chris: What was your impression of the directors? (directing the question toward Ed)
Ed: Well, you are going to see the show IDENTIFIED sometime and Gerry directed that and he was on the floor and he was very good. He was a very good director. It is very rare for somebody to leave the executive office and come down on the floor and actually do it or for a guy on the floor whose talents lie in that direction to go up and make all the wheels turn in the executive office but Gerry did that. But the guys, they were wonderful personalities and they didn’t come on like gangbusters and yet they did not show their fear which is a good thing because actors are like dogs…
Ed and Gabrielle (simultaneously): they smell fear
Ed: And normally they smell it in their co actors… Those boys came on and I knew that they hadn’t had vast experiences working with living actors because I had kind of known some of them from the Scarlet episodes but they came on with a certain integrity and they’ll tell you more in their own words what their inner feelings were. It was a great leap for them and it was a great leap for Gerry to give them…I think it was some extraordinary million pounds an episode or something like that and suddenly say “Here is the budget” and go out and do it and you’re working with people and you’ve got to adjust to egos and personalities. It’s not an easy task. I didn’t envy them. I think by and large they were successful. I think that some of the earlier scripts that we shot were very slow. I think that they were a little overwritten.
Gabrielle: Yes, I think that too when you look at them now. In fact sometimes because I was surprised when I looked at these episodes how undated a lot of the equipment and technical stuff is and you felt that the scripts at times were not up to the technical equipment and expertise…
Gabrielle: But I do remember Gerry was down on the set quite a lot wasn’t he? (directing question toward Ed) It always seemed to me…
Ed: Yeah, yeah
Gabrielle: …and there was a very benevolent presence there and you always felt that you could go up and see him at any time…that he was around…that he was hands on very much and available either down there or up in his office, he wasn’t very far away. And very easy to get on with, always.
Chris: and of course we are going to be speaking with Gerry a little bit later on — and at that point I am going to throw the topic to the floor. Hands are going up already!
Question: What’s it like to have been immortalized for all time as the coolest man on TV and the sexiest woman?
Ed directs the question to Gabrielle as the audience applauds
Gabrielle: Well, I mean it is most charming and delightful of you to say that but I really can’t believe that it’s true. I never thought of that for one moment but thank you. It was a very nice compliment.
Ed: But I don’t think…I would not use the word “cool” to describe Straker. I mean he was…wasn’t he…didn’t he always have such a short fuse with people’s inefficiency and things and he always seemed immediately to be blowing his stack but maybe that’s a different…
Gabrielle: The blonde hair…
Ed: …was cool…but underneath was a volcano. (Laughter) Yeah, but maybe it’s just your interpretation of the word “cool”. I mean cool to me is Steve McQueen or somebody like that and just sort of so laid back and minimalist.
Gabrielle (directed toward Ed): But he was pretty icy wasn’t he … Straker?
Ed: Yeah, is that cool? Yeah, icy, yeah. (laughter)
Ed: But that’s true Gay. (I believe he is referring to the original question about Gabrielle being the sexiest woman) …because in this wonderful documentary that they showed recently somebody said that you know there’s millions of adolescent young men watching this young lady at the beginning of every episode. It had quite an influence I should say.
Gabrielle (laughing): Shouldn’t really have come today should I? It would have preserved the image better if I hadn’t?
(Multiple people in audience say “no”, “no”…)
Question: Ed, I wanted to ask you a question. You were the star of a successful series that was going to have another season and then I believe the UFO 1999, that the concept was changed and it ended up as Space 1999. But what had they told you? Did they tell you “oh the series is going to be set 20 years later but we want you to continue the character”? What were they telling you in between – at the end of UFO and before it became Space 1999?
Ed: Well first of all it wasn’t as blurred as that scenario you presented. It was much more cut and dry. The ratings in UFO in America dipped and as a result of that the network CBS lost their nerve and said “no we are not going to renew UFO” whereas they had said previously they would buy another 13 episodes or whatever so Gerry and the gang had started pre-production for another series and then they pulled the plug. So rather than flush all their work down the drain they revamped it into a new series which they called Space 1999 — so it was a pretty clear line in the sand. I was in Los Angeles at the time and Gerry and Sylvia wrote to me saying “hey you know we started to advance our preparation for another block of UFO, what are your plans etc?” So it was very optimistic and I think about a month later I got a letter saying it’s all belly up. And it was simply because CBS did not renew it. You may argue that that is kind of a dictatorial thing that simply because the American market didn’t buy it the rest of the world was therefore denied it and that’s true not only of UFO but every other product. You have to make it for the American market because that’s where it is — it’s their word is law. If they say no that’s it. It’s cold and calculating but I mean you can’t…I don’t feel sentimental about it. I felt very upset at the time, sure, but looking back that was just a fact of life. It just did not attract as many viewers as others. I hope that clarifies it. Does it clarify it?
(The person who asked that question now directs a question to Chris) Chris, was UFO ever going to be set in 1999?
Chris: There was some talk that it might be advanced a bit which is why they’d done all that pre-production work…
Ed: That’s possible, that’s possible Yeah but I was not privy to that and I only speak as the information was given to me. But we got very close a couple of years back in Australia. Did you hear about that? (Ed asks Gabrielle)
Gabrielle: Yes I did. Yes it was something about, they were talking about making a series weren’t they?
Ed: Yes, son of Straker (laughter) or UFO2, something like that. Yeah, so these were a bunch of guys out there who were professional filmmakers who wanted to get it together and it almost happened…(directed toward Gabrielle) We would have been there and…
Gabrielle: mother and father (laughing)
Ed: It would have been fun
Question: Was there any explanation ever given for the moonbase girls amazing purple hair? Was it the effects of low gravity or something in the food?
Gabrielle: I can remember no explanation being given at all but this may be my defective memory and indeed, even when we came down to earth, I remember I did have a quite peculiar wig that was exactly the same only in brown so I don’t really remember an explanation being given for this piece of equipment. It was just “part of the uniform”. Sorry. I wish I knew.
(The person who asked the question regarding the purple hair replies) It was the first thing I ever saw on color TV and I was quite shocked.
Gabrielle: Yes, it must have been (shocking). You must have thought your television had gone wrong!
Question: A question for Gay. How close was she going to be in the “New Avengers” and has she been asked to come back in “Crossroads”? (laughter)
Gabrielle: My past is littered isn’t it?
The New Avengers (directing question toward Chris) What happened with the New Avengers?
Chris: You were up for the part.
Gabrielle: Yes, I was up there. I was, that’s right and I was actually doing something else at the time. I was doing some theatre work. And as far as Crossroads is concerned you know a lot more about it probably than I do. But I’m not very good in my life at going backwards. I don’t really…I think that the past shouldn’t be revisited too much. Certainly not in our business. But I never believe in making categorical statements either (laughter). That’s nice and vague, isn’t it?
Question: Just very briefly was there a particular episode that you got the most out of? Was there one that you were more satisfied in doing?
Gabrielle: For me I suppose (pausing to think) I think that COMPUTER AFFAIR was the one in which I had the most to do and even that wasn’t an enormous amount. There was no episode which really gave one the sort of story line which was a wonderful acting story line. As I said, COMPUTER AFFAIR came closest to it I suppose and that would have been the most satisfying to do. As an actor you always want to have a go at creating a character in depth. Now that’s not always possible in something. Certainly not in something that’s like UFO very often because you are concentrating on these wonderful innovative new machines and those in a sense were the stars more than the actors — one sometimes felt. So I don’t think that any episode stands out particularly. In a funny way I feel more pleased to have done it in retrospect than at the time because I do think that it was actually a fairly innovative series and something which was perhaps a bit ahead of its time and it’s very good to look back and to have been associated with it. It sort of had its difficulties. It wasn’t always easy to do and it was certainly very much a time for me of learning…learning how to…my history had been a lot more up until that moment in the theatre where you do have more time more time for rehearsals, where you do have time to learn the characters and UFO was my first chance really in a protracted space of time. You had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning which is not easy for me at all and be in and do your lines and the scenes weren’t necessarily consecutive and you had to jump backwards and forwards which was all quite new to me and very good training and difficult at the time but satisfying to look back on.
Ed: For myself, I think that to echo what Gay hinted at there is that obviously, as actors, we would much rather get involved in reproducing a human relationship or problem or something like that rather than trajectory termination which doesn’t require anything more than a technical knowledge and an expertise. So obviously I liked those areas where they involve the flashback for Straker with his wife and the death of the child and all that, but looking back on it now I wonder if that was wise of the writers to do, to go in that direction — because what it caused was a series that…it was almost kind of at times seemed to border on a soap opera level rather than staying on the pure action ones. What was the one with the speeding little cars with Patrick Allen?
Ed: TIMELASH was a very good one. SUB-SMASH was a good one that I enjoyed doing because they were in the full spirit of the thing. But although I enjoyed those two with Susan Neve, my wife and then my ex-wife etc, it was a good thing as an actor but there were some bells tolling way back that this was not what the series was about or should be about…Straker’s background and those various…they seemed to be tributaries off. So to answer the question, I think I like the ones that obviously had the actor appeal but on balance I preferred the action ones.
Gabrielle: I think that that is right. And I think the conflict here is between one as an actor and the actual series. And I do think looking at it again, because really it was a very good idea, this thing of having the threat being these aliens who were fitted up with transplants… with modern human transplants. That really was a really good threat and it was a good story line that you could follow through many a time in different permutations.
Ed: Look how it anticipated the situation now with a moral dilemma…
Gabrielle: Exactly. Right up to this day…
Ed: And our unforgettable aliens. You haven’t lived until you’ve had lunch with an alien! (laughter) And I just wish somebody could have taken a candid shot of Straker sitting down with Gito Santana, our resident alien and having lunch, talking about agents and ten percent (lots of laughter).
Question: Did you both enjoy being in “The Professionals” and working with Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw? Cause you both were in that weren’t you? The Professionals?
Gabrielle: First of all I did enjoy it but it was my first experience of this new…I mean, and gosh it was quite a long time ago now so you can tell…of a new wave of violence in a television series and I had not worked before in a show where you could get such realistic blood coming out of people when they were shot and I do remember being slightly appalled. I think I was hold up in a house with Hildegard Neil and her husband or my husband was shot and it was very very realistic with blood just pouring out of him and I do remember being rather horrified because Lew Collins simply said — the script was “Oh well one down two to go” and I said “Listen you know…” I mean my reaction to this is to be absolutely appalled. Not just as an actress at what I’m seeing here and surely you should be at least showing the fact that we as ordinary human beings involved in this situation are horrified. And it seemed to me that it was that sort of callousness which was worrying — that the human horror, horrified reaction was not being shown and that that would perhaps have a bad affect in the long term. That was just my memory of… oh and (Gabrielle puts her hand on her forehead) an appalling time because I was asked to row a boat and we had to do a shot and luckily I could row. I was quite proud of myself, I hadn’t done any rowing in quite a lot of time but I could row and I was told to row the boat and bring it in along the side of a jetty and I did this superbly the first take. Brilliantly! And they said “very good, could you just do it a bit faster?” So I did it a bit faster and I came smashing into the jetty and I went up in the air, my legs over my…I mean everything revealed and Lew Collins fell in the water! And he was terribly angry. I couldn’t stop laughing which just made it far worse. I couldn’t get up I was
laughing so much. There must be some good footage there somewhere.
Chris: You were in two episodes of the Professionals
Gabrielle: Yes, that’s right. I was, wasn’t I? Yes. Brilliant. God you are clever. (Gabrielle then turns to Ed and asks) What about Ed?
Ed: I think I was just in the one and they were good guys and the wonderful Scotch actor, Gordon Jackson, when I was doing my episode I think there was more tension between them because I understand their relationship deteriorated as time went on but I can’t take that seriously having seen the comedy store takeoff. (laughter from the crowd) Have you seen that? It was hilarious. For one thing I was playing my usual suit part and we were out at this sort of perversity that actors get up to on location. We were at this golf course and the golf course was going broke, this country club, very snooty but they were going broke and so they had to lease it out for the film companies and one of the guys was an Arab and he had this great big yashmak (I believe he means a turban) and I had my briefcase and my suit and I said “let’s have some fun” because there were about one hundred members of the golf club sitting up on the porch watching the filming and so we snuck around the back and I was like an estate agent (laughter) and the Arab was walking around (Ed imitates the Arab nodding his head checking out the property). (From the golf course crowd) What’s going on? I think we had a few heart attacks. But that’s the Professionals.
Chris: Ed Bishop and Gabrielle Drake!
Ed Bishop and Lorraine Meyer
This article originally appeared in issue #92 (April 2001) of COMMUNIQUE, the quarterly newsletter of the American UFO fan club SHADO-USECC