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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > DWM Special 49 - In the Studio > Wheal in Space

Wheal in Space

Senior camera operator Alec Wheal made a huge contribution to Doctor Who, earning the respect and admiration of the cast and his fellow crew members.
The advertisement from 1955 that would change Alecs life.
Alecs son-in-law Anthony Quinn and Alecs daughter Diana, with part of the set of Rassilons Tomb from The Five Doctors (1983).

Few people have it on paper; the moment their life changed. But Alec Wheal did.

It was a newspaper advert that he kept for six decades. Maybe three centimetres square, it was placed some time in 1955. It read: “B.B.C. requires Male Technical Assistants for Operations and Maintenance Department sound and television broadcasting.” Having completed his National Service as a Ground Crew Wireless Radio Technician with the RAF, the 20-year-old Alec saw his future.

The notice opened up to him a 34-year camera career at the BBC, during which time he worked on such shows as Blue Peter (including the infamous 1969 Lulu the elephant episode), Wogan, Last of the Summer Wine, EastEnders, Just Good Friends, The Goodies, Grandstand and The Generation Game. Along the way, he developed an enduring relationship with Doctor Who, becoming the programmes most prolific camera operator.

Some of that relationship went uncredited on screen. The earliest reference in BBC paperwork lists him as a camera supervisor for 1971s The Claws of Axos. But anecdotes reveal that he was a regular presence, even when unlisted in the closing credits or on contemporaneous documents. Indeed, from 1979 through to the end of Doctor Whos original run ten years later, he became an official mainstay as Senior Camera Operator. Alec was a quiet man – a calm, reliable presence on set – and he forged lasting friendships with the cast and crew, many of whom wrote to him in his later years when they learnt hed been diagnosed with vascular dementia.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

In 1963 Sydney Newman and Donald Wilson devised an ambitious concept that would stretch the BBC’s technical resources to the limit. In its earliest days Doctor Who was jeopardised by a fierce dispute over facilities. The programme survived, but never stopped demanding the very best from its studios and dedicated crews. This is the inside story of Doctor Who’s evolution from relatively primitive beginnings to the cutting edge of modern television production.