Dunstable Yesteryear - Doctor Who's arch-enemy

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Local plastics factory became a film set for 1971 drama.

Roger Delgado had a busy acting career, usually playing a sinister villain. But today he is remembered mainly for just one television role: his appearance as the first incarnation of The Master in the Doctor Who television series.

This photo was taken in Dunstable in September 1970 when Delgado (seen walking towards the camera crew) was filming a scene for the four-part episode Terror of the Autons in which the character was launched. Plastic androids, emerging unexpectedly from mundane household furniture, were a scary feature of the drama, so a very suitable setting was the storage yard of the Thermo Plastics factory in Luton Road. A stock of plastic pipes had never seemed so frightening!

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Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning starred in the programmes, screened in 1971. Some action sequences were also filmed locally, at Zouches Farm on Blow’s Downs.

Roger Delgado, aka The Master, filming at Thermo Plastics.Roger Delgado, aka The Master, filming at Thermo Plastics.
Roger Delgado, aka The Master, filming at Thermo Plastics.

Roger Delgado had earlier appeared as a duplicitous Spanish envoy in the TV series Sir Francis Drake – a fact which became an obscure in-joke in the Doctor Who dramas. He died in Turkey in 1973 and a series of other actors subsequently appeared as The Master. The Thermo Plastics factory site has now been redeveloped into a nine-warehouse estate called Insignia Park.

Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.

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