TV UK TV

Doctor At Large (ITV 1971, Barry Evans, George Layton)

Doctor At Large

Ok hands up who can tell us which series had episodes written by members of Monty Python and The Goodies and who can tell us which series served, with one of its episodes, as the genesis for TV’s greatest sitcom Fawlty Towers, amazingly it’s Doctor at Large.

Spinning off from the hugely popular Doctor in the House series which featured most of the same cast and characters, the equally popular At Large follows the medical students from St Swithins as they make their way as qualified doctors.

Still working at St Swithins Michael Upton (played by Barry Evans, probably best known as the teacher in Mind Your Language and who would later go on to be found dead in mysterious circumstances in 1997 whilst working as a cabbie after acting work had dried up) and his colleagues the silly ass Dick Stuart-Clark and the goody goody Lawrence Bingham (a role for Richard O’Sullivan far removed from his with it role as Robin in Man About the House) are less naive now but still manage to get into mischief and create mayhem, leaving Ernest Clark’s Professor Geoffrey Loftus (who in our opinion is the real star of the show) to bail them out.

Most of the series was carried by Evans and the early part of the season saw him working with a crochety Doctor Maxwell (played by Arthur Lowe no less) and becoming somewhat romantically entangled with his daughter Sue (the gorgeous Madeline Smith who here, somewhat surprisingly given most of her previous roles, is very demure). Most of the rest of the cast would appear on a semi regular basis with Paul Collier and Dick Stuart-Clark popping up the most often.

Guest stars included the likes of Patsy Rowlands, James Hayter, Jean Kent, Maureen Lipman, Ivor Dean, Roy Kinnear, Freddie Jones, Hattie Jacques, Shirley Cheriton, Christopher Timothy, Tessa Wyatt, Christopher Biggins, Wanda Ventham, John Le Mesurier and Jack Smethurst,

On the 25th December 1971 the show popped up as part of ITV’s annual Christmas time All Star Comedy Carnival (this saw the top comedy shows of the year getting little mini ten minute segments – funnily enough despite being the star Barry Evans failed to appear in this!)

The episode that served as a proto Fawlty Towers? That was “No Ill Feeling”, written by John Cleese, this is the episode that Cleese tried out his Basil Fawlty prototype on with the gang meeting the hotel owner from Hell, totally intriguing to see this for the first time; Cleese actually based the character on a real hotelier he had encountered whilst working on a Python production.

Note: The series continued in 1972 as Doctor In Charge.

production details
UK / ITV – London Weekend Television / 29×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 28 February – 12 September 1971 – Sundays 7.25pm

Writers: Graham Chapman and Bernard McKenna, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, John Cleese, Geoff Rowley and Andy Baker, George Layton (writing as Oliver Fry) and David A. Yallop (not all together of course – Chapman and McKenna were the most prolific followed by Garden and Oddie) / Producer: Humphrey Barclay

cast
Barry Evans as Michael Upton
George Layton as Paul Collier
Geoffrey Davies as Dick Stuart-Clark
Richard O’Sullivan as Lawrence Bingham
Arthur Lowe as Doctor Maxwell
Madeline Smith as Sue Maxwell
Ernest Clark as Professor Loftus
Martin Shaw as Huw Evans
Ralph Michael as The Dean