Prolific Senior Cameraman, Alec Wheal (1935 – 2016)

We’re very sad to hear of the passing of Alec Wheal, who was credited on nearly 150 episodes of Doctor Who.

Alec Wheal was a senior cameraman and camera supervisor on the majority of episodes from 1979’s Destiny of the Daleks to the final part of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy screened in 1989, racking up an impressive 148 credits on the show, including on fan-favourite serials like City of Death, Kinda, The Caves of Androzani, The Trial of a Time Lord, and Remembrance of the Daleks.

He also acted as a camera supervisor, uncredited, on the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors – meaning that, even though he primarily worked with Doctors Four, Five, Six, and Seven, he likely worked with a total of six Doctors… or seven if you want to include Richard Hurndall. Which we probably should. He also apparently worked, again uncredited, on Shada (uncredited because it was never, y’know, broadcast) and The Claws of Axos!

Alec, third from right, with colleagues on set
Alec, third from right, with colleagues on set. (Thanks to the BBC.)

The BBC calls Alec “an unsung hero of the show” and also notes that he remained a fan until the end. Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor, said:

“As the senior Cameraman, Alec Wheal was the rock of the studio recordings of Doctor Who, both during my time, and throughout the seventies and eighties. We developed an understanding, so that in those moments of panic as the clock ticked round to 10pm, the end result was always as good as it was.”

The cast and crew famously got on well with Alec, and his talent to adapt to technological advances and different environments meant he also worked on a 1982 episode of Grange Hill, and the following year, an episode of The Black Adder; this was followed by episodes of The Tripods (1985), Just Good Friends (1983- 87), and EastEnders from 1985 to 1988.

You can see Alec Wheal on several DVD documentaries: Breaking Point on TerminusWinner Takes All on Enlightenment, and The Television Centre of the Universe: Part Two on the most recent (and probably last) release, The Underwater Menace.

Our thoughts go to Alec’s family and friends.