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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 520 > FIRST LADY


Paddy Russell, who passed away in November, was one of Doctor Who’s leading directors and a television pioneer.
Assistant floor manager Paddy Russell in July 1955, checking props for Rudolph Cartier’s production The Vale of Shadows – an adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s Eurydice. This picture was taken by Anouilh himself.

Four nights before Christmas 1961, viewers tuning into the first instalment of a BBC series called Return and Answer were probably unaware that this modest show marked a significant epoch in the corporation’s history. The criminologist Edgar Lustgarten, best known at the time for fronting various cinema featurettes, was on hand, as Radio Times put it, to quiz ‘famous personalities of the past about their actions, motives, and beliefs’.

‘Returning’ in answer to the BBC’s summons, these historical personages were played, naturally enough, by actors. Basil Sydney, appeared in the first programme as Henry VIII, with André Morell playing Oliver Cromwell the following week. Moving into January 1962, Alexander Knox turned up as George Washington, Rosalie Crutchley as Mary Shelley, Maxine Audley as Mary Queen of Scots and Donald Wolfit as Karl Marx. All six of these distinguished performers were directed by a woman who had once been an actor herself, and who with Return and Answer achieved a notable ‘first’ – as the BBC’s first ever female director.

As Paddy Russell remembered it a quarter-century later, “I got a six-part series thrown at me to direct, called Return and Answer. I don’t think I ever found out why – I was only too delighted they asked me, so I didn’t ask too many questions.” Later in 1962, in August, she returned to her old role as production assistant to her Austrian-born mentor Rudolph Cartier. Even so, the Studio 4 presentation Dr Korczak and the Children involved an intriguing echo of her roots as an actress in that she appeared on camera as herself, Lieven, Anton Diffring and Joseph Furst around a ‘performance without decor’ of a decidedly German play by Erwin Sylvanus. By March 1963, however, she had begun a long stint directing the BBC soap opera Compact – just a month after Julia Smith had been added to the corporation’s very small roster of women directors when charged with an episode of Suspense.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

This festive edition of Doctor Who Magazine includes an exclusive preview of this year's Christmas Special, Twice Upon a Time, plus there are exclusive interviews with Christmas Special stars Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts) and Mark Gatiss (the Captain). Doctor Who Magazine 520 also includes: • A in-depth look at the making of BBC Worldwide's new version of Douglas Adams' 'lost' 1979 Doctor Who story Shada • Actor Daniel Hill and production assistant Olivia Bazalgette chat to DWM about how they met on Shada... and how they later went on to marry • Rare and previously unseen photographs from the Cambridge location filming of Shada in October 1979 • DWM's first ever interview with 100-year-old Earl Cameron, who played the doomed astronaut Glyn Williams in the 1966 story The Tenth Planet • A tribute to Paddy Russell, Doctor Who's first female director and a television pioneer • We look back on Doctor Who’s first Christmas specials – the feature-length omnibus repeats that were specially created at Christmas time • Part two of The Phantom Piper, our new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • A festive Fact of Fiction explores the 2011 Christmas Special The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, the DWM Christmas Quiz, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!