A Brief Tribute by Alan Stevens
Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 480
Some time back Peter said he would like me to write his obituary for The Times. "Are you sure?" I protested "that would mean working for Rupert Murdoch..." Peter thought for a moment and then replied, "well it's either The Times, or the DWAS. It's up to you!"
My long association with Peter Miles began on Saturday 2nd August 1986 at a Doctor Who convention in Swindon. I was recruiting guests for another Doctor Who event to be held the following year at Imperial College London, and so was on the lookout for entertaining guests.
Peter shared a panel with Michael Wisher and I was particularly struck by Peter's stated intention to send Doctor Who’s producer at the time, John Nathan-Turner, an envelope containing bullet cartridges and a note saying, "I believe in reincarnation, do you?"
It was this off-the-wall, slightly dark, but crazy sense of humour that typified Peter's approach to life.
"Although I'm frequently cast as a psychopath, I'm not a bit killerish. As an actor I much prefer to play nutty characters. I have more in common with Spike Milligan than Security Commander Nyder".
Peter amply proved his point when I cast him in the role of Mrs Nearsidewood, an old woman who thought she still lived in the 1950s, for the radio comedy The Surgery. To say his performance was over-the-top would be an understatement. It went stratospheric. Indeed, it soared so high it blew a hole straight through Jupiter and ricocheted off Pluto, before heading back down to Earth for Peter to reveal his character's true identity as a male undercover MI6 officer, straight out of Callan.
The point is that Peter always knew exactly where he was going with a part. For all those years I worked with him, Peter never fluffed a line or mispronounced a word. His scripts were a maze of underlines, crossings out, suggestions and notes to himself. If Peter doubted something he would say so. He was meticulous.
Some directors found this intimidating, especially if they themselves hadn't sufficiently done their homework, but Peter's intention was always to strive for the very best and, more importantly, ten times out of ten his instincts were right.
Peter appeared in many of my productions. For Kaldor City he played Firstmaster Landerchild — "a part I relish", he said — but his favourite role was for an audio comedy drama series called Radio Bastard. "I adored playing the Reverend Ocelot. That's my favourite non-scifi dramatic role ever".
Peter imbued the part with an emotional depth that I never imagined, let alone hoped for:
"Why does he laugh at the end of this scene?"
"Well, he's going crazy. He's having a crisis of faith".
"But why does he laugh?"
"He's becoming hysterical!"
"He wouldn't laugh".
"Then what would he do Peter?"
"He would sob his heart out".
Goodbye Peter. You were a huge, vibrant, awesome part of my life and without you nothing will be quite the same again.