Murray Melvin aka Bilis Manger
By DJ Forrest
Bilis Manger first appeared on our screens during episode 12 ‘Captain Jack Harkness’, Series One. Bilis is the caretaker of the old dance hall in Sage Street due to be demolished, reports of strange noises coming from inside, bring Captain Jack Harkness and Toshiko Sato to investigate and soon they find themselves in a temporal time shift which sees them in 1941 at the height of the Blitz, and the upstairs of the dance hall is alive with singing and dancing, and young airmen ready to go off to war. It’s also when we see Bilis Manger, just as he’s seeing Jack and Toshiko out of the door for the first time, realising that they’ve been taken back to the past.
Of course Bilis is aware of this, for he too has been able to move through time, in the time it takes to turn a page of a book. On his way through time however, he’s made a lucrative business in time pieces, but there’s more than just clocks that are keeping Bilis busy.
When Gwen investigates the dance hall after Jack and Toshiko go missing she enters Bilis’ office, where all manner of occult items are sitting on desks and behind the chair and on the wall. Also as Ianto discovers, the name of the caretaker is the same name as the man mentioned in the newspaper at that time (1941) it doesn’t take Ianto long to realise that this could be an elaborate trap and instructs Gwen to get out.
We see Bilis again in episode 13 ‘End of Days’ when after Jack and Toshiko are returned to the present day, Bilis begins to make his appearance to Gwen, someone he feels he can manipulate in order to open the rift. First he sees her in the police cells and after episode 12, Gwen knows who the old ‘timer’ is. Snapped out of her sudden moment by Jack, she again sees Bilis at the shop when Jack and she decide to bring him in for questioning, but as he disappears again, he re-appears after Jack leaves the shop. Gwen unable to leave, is given an insight into the future, her future with Rhys, and after being able to leave, runs home to find Rhys very much alive, but needs to get him to safety and takes him to the one place she knows is safe, The Hub.
Bilis unperturbed, and using his time travelling expertise locates Gwen’s partner Rhys in the cells after he trips the security alarms and unlocks the cell doors. He kills Rhys!
It’s at this point and during the entire final episode that each member of the team are forced to realise that in order to bring back the ones that they love, they have to open the Rift. Jack is the only one who knows that this is a trap set down by Bilis, but as more and more sick people fall through the Rift bringing every disease known to man, the world starts seeing it as the end of days.
After Jack is shot and killed by Owen who is ‘tired of being doubted’, and all that has happened, the death of Rhys, the creatures in the cells, the death and judgement day are finally erased, a very large threat looks set to erase the human race for ever.
“All hail Abadon.”
Bilis Manger knew that if by manipulating the Torchwood team he would be able to bring out the ‘Great Devourer’ Abadon, imprisoned beneath the Rift. How Bilis Manger unleashed Abadon is found in the book Twilight Streets. But what happened to Bilis after the Great Devourer was defeated after killing Jack Harkness, we may never know. Perhaps he is still out there...somewhere.
Murray Melvin who plays Bilis was born in the same year that the Ritz Dance Hall was built.
He is an actor who has had a very busy career in theatre, in films and on television and has also penned two books titled “The Art of Theatre Workshop (2006) and The Theatre Royal, A History of the Building (2009).
Last year we interviewed Murray about his career and his role as Bilis Manger, which you can read by clicking on this link - http://projecttorchwood.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/interview-with-murray-melvin.html
Murray was born on 10th August 1932 in Hampstead, London. During an extended lunch break from his job in the Ministry, he applied to Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop company at the Theatre Royal Stratford East and between 1957 – 1962 was actively involved in many performances and productions. Over the years he has worked for many directors but its Joan Littlewood for whom Murray mentions during his interview, and the one person he has campaigned for in order to have a statue erected outside the Theatre Royal in Stratford East, a statue that is requiring a considerable amount of fundraising.
From theatre work where Murray played Geoffrey in A Taste of Honey, that opened in February 1959 at the Wyndham’s Theatre, he went on to play the film version directed by Tony Richardson, a role for which he won the Prix de Cannes as best actor at the Festival in 1962. He was also nominated for a BAFTA for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ award.
Murray went on to work with Ken Russell and appeared in Diary of a Nobody, his first film with the director. From there he went on to play Father Mignon in Ken Russell’s the Devils (1971) where he plays the catalyst in the horror film, which also starred Oliver Reed.
In television Murray appeared in the first episode of the cult series The Avengers in 1960. In 1998 he appeared in the Christmas Special episode of Jonathan Creek called “The Black Canary.” In 2007 he became popular and well known in Torchwood circles as the creepy caretaker Bilis Manger, a name that strikes fear in many, because his character was never killed off, and so he might, just might appear anywhere in the Torchwood universe.
In 2011 Murray played the Professor in a 15 minute short comedy/drama called The Grey Mile. It was about a couple of ex master criminals who were confined to a care home. It co-starred the late Paul Shane as Terry ‘the Taxman’ Tempest and Maggie Tulip as Miss Match. The entire film was shot on location at Wolterton Hall in Norfolk.
Much of the information on Murray can be found on Wikipedia, and trust me, there is an extensive list of credits to this talented Englishman. One day I may have the chance of meeting him, and indeed to see the statue outside of the Theatre Royal in Stratford East.
©BBC Torchwood 2006