Ian Marter

Born: 28th October 1944 (as Ian Don Marter)
Died: 28th October 1986 (aged 42 years)
Episodes Broadcast: 1973-1975


Born in Keresley, West Midlands, Ian Marter attended Oxford University. He began acting professionally during his studies, with his first credit being a small role in the 1967 movie adaptation of Doctor Faustus starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Following his graduation in 1969, Marter joined the Bristol Old Vic, initially as an assistant stage manager and then as an actor. He also worked as a teacher and a milkman to help make ends meet. In 1970, he auditioned to play the new recurring role of UNIT Captain Mike Yates in Doctor Who. Although he was the first choice of producer Barry Letts, Marter had to withdraw from consideration when it was realised that some of the filming dates would clash with his theatre commitments. Instead, he appeared in the 1971 horror film The Abominable Dr Phibes and television programmes such as Crown Court and Holly.

Letts then made a second attempt to bring Marter onto Doctor Who, this time in the guest role of John Andrews in 1973's Carnival Of Monsters, featuring Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. Soon thereafter, Marter became extremely ill and nearly perished. Following his recovery, he returned to Crown Court for several episodes, after which he was given a second chance to be a Doctor Who companion. With Pertwee leaving the show at the end of its 1974 season, Letts was planning to cast an older actor as the Fourth Doctor. Since this would require a new character to handle the physical aspects of each story, Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks developed Surgeon Lieutenant Harry Sullivan, whom Marter immediately agreed to play.

Harry Sullivan debuted in Robot, which was also the first story for the Fourth Doctor

Harry debuted in Robot at the end of 1974. This was also the first story for the Fourth Doctor; however, the actor ultimately cast in this role was Tom Baker who, at only forty years of age, was more than capable of handling his own stunts. This left Harry somewhat bereft of purpose and, when Letts was succeeded by Philip Hinchcliffe, the new producer soon decided to drop the character. As a result, Marter's final regular story was 1975's Terror Of The Zygons. Marter made one return appearance later the same year in The Android Invasion, but this was an unhappy experience for the actor, who felt that the scripts did not portray Harry well.

However, by this time, Marter and Baker had become good friends and, during a holiday together, they decided to collaborate on a screenplay for a Doctor Who movie. The result, Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, was eventually scuppered when attempts to finance the project fell through; in 2019, BBC Books would publish a novelisation co-written by Baker and James Goss. However, Baker then encouraged Marter to become involved with the range of Doctor Who novelisations from Target Books. His first title, an adaptation of The Ark In Space, was released in 1977. Marter soon developed a reputation for an edgier style than other Target authors, incorporating more violent content, and even using the word “bastard” in his 1981 novelisation of the Second Doctor story The Enemy Of The World. Meanwhile, his television appearances in the late Seventies included North & South, The Brothers and Hazell.

In the early Eighties, Marter spent some time in New Zealand, where he enjoyed a recurring role on the soap opera Close To Home. Unfortunately, this prevented him from accepting an invitation to reprise the role of Harry Sullivan for Doctor Who's twentieth-anniversary special, The Five Doctors, in 1983. Returning to the UK, Marter could be seen in Fell Tiger, Bergerac and The Return Of Sherlock Holmes. At the same time, his writing career broadened to include novelisations of film comedies such as Splash as well as a series based on the animated Disney programme Adventures Of The Gummi Bears. These books were often issued under the name “Ian Don”.

In 1986, Marter wrote Harry Sullivan's War, part of Target's short-lived The Companions Of Doctor Who range. Sadly, on Marter's forty-second birthday, he suffered a fatal heart attack related to the diabetes with which he had long contended. His ninth and final Doctor Who novelisation, of The Rescue, was completed by editor Nigel Robinson and published in 1988.

Actor, John Andrews
Carnival Of Monsters
Actor, Harry Sullivan
The Ark In Space
The Sontaran Experiment
Genesis Of The Daleks
Revenge Of The Cybermen
Terror Of The Zygons
The Android Invasion

Updated 13th August 2020