Archive for ‘Interviews’
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
On the eve of Nightmare in Silver, we are thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with one of its guest stars, Calvin Dean!
Calvin appears as Ha-Ha in the adventure: a soldier who, he tells us, is “known for being slightly strange”. “He is a funny guy,” he added. “Not in the laughing kind of way but he likes to think he is the action man of the group, but he is not! He has some great moments though, and he should be made a General immediately!”
You can read our full interview with him below in which he gives some behind the scenes insights, episode teasers and reveals what it was like to go up against those Cybermen…
Q. Hi, Calvin. Firstly, how did your role in Nightmare in Silver come about?
A. I was cast in the normal way by going for a meeting with the casting director Andy Pryor and director Stephen Woolfenden. Luckily for me, Andy had cast me in 2 TV jobs before, so it helped that he knew my work. I was seen a couple of months earlier for ‘The Bells of Saint John’ for Man With Chips, but I didn’t get it. My chip eating wasn’t convincing enough!
Q. Were you a Doctor Who fan before you were cast?
A. I could tell a big lie and say I was the biggest Whovian ever, but if the truth be told, no. As I was a child of the 90’s there wasn’t a big Who presence apart from re-runs, but I loved the Daleks and Cybermen. When Matt started in 2010 I tuned in as I’ve known him for over 10 years from our days in the National Youth Theatre. When I got the role of Ha-Ha I watched the whole of Series 6 and now I’m hooked!
Q. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the episode?
A. It’s very Neil Gaiman, but that’s pretty much to be expected. Lots of wacky characters and locations. I’m playing a solider who’s in the army platoon alongside Captain Alice (Tamzin Outhwaite), Brains (Will Merrick), Beauty (Eloise Joseph) and Missy (Zahra Ahmadi). Originally there was also Brawn, but he got cut! I can’t say too much, but there are lots of guns and cool things which I broke on a daily basis. Sorry art department!
Q. What was it like to go up against the Cybermen, one of Doctor Who’s most iconic foes?
A. I was a big kid on my first day with the Cybermen. They don’t only look amazing, but they’re pretty scary. I often forgot that real people were inside, and standing in the lunch queue next to a Cyberman is pretty disconcerting. “Yes, you can go in front of me, but don’t Steal my lasagne!”.
Q. How long after you won the part did filming begin, and how long were you filming for?
A. Filming began about 2 weeks after first hearing the news. The day I found I had the part was the day of the read-through. My agent didn’t even say I had the part before asking if I could be in Cardiff by 7pm that night. One minute I was watching This Morning (as all out of work actors do) and the next I was sitting next to Matt Smith and Neil Gaiman. Bizarre day! Principal photography was really fast. We had 13 days to shoot the whole episode. We had a few extra days at the end because of weather problems. One week I went home for a weekend, came back to Cardiff on the Monday, went to set, got into costume, had a bacon butty, and then went home again because of bad weather. Not a bad days work!
Q. What were your highlights of working with Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman and the episode’s guest cast?
A. We had a blast. Working with Matt again after so many years was a big treat. He’s such a lovely guy and really welcoming. You never feel like the outsider on Doctor Who as a guest (unlike other jobs). Jenna-Louise is a great asset to Doctor Who and she kicks some ass in Nightmare In Silver! Us army platoon lot got on really well (and still do). We had a good laugh, even when it was 6am and all you wanted was your bed. Warwick Davis. That’s all I can say. WARWICK DAVIS!
Q. This isn’t your first experience of the Doctor Who universe as you’ve also been transformed into a Slitheen for The Sarah Jane Adventures…
A. My Sarah Jane Adventures experience was pretty quick. I think I only had one day on set and another day in the studio recording the voice. I was very lucky to work with the brilliant Elisabeth Sladen. It’s very sad that Liz is no longer with us as she was a great stalwart of Doctor Who. I also met K-9 which was so cool!
Q. What advice would you give to any aspiring actors out there?
A. Don’t do it! No, if you really want to do it and want to work hard then go for it. Too many people think that it brings fame and fortune, but it doesn’t. You have to work so hard and being famous isn’t a career in my mind. I love what I do, and if that spark ever goes I would give it up. Nothing worse than a grumpy actor. I’ve met a few!
Q. Finally, do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
A. No. Any offers? Please? I’m currently trying to get myself to America. I’ve got representation in LA, so hopefully that will work out. Maybe Ha-Ha in his own spin off with Brains as my sidekick? I wouldn’t say no to that.
Big thanks to Calvin for his time! Nightmare in Silver airs tomorrow at 7pm on BBC One.
See the latest Series 7 headlines to discuss all the developments as and when…
As part of our Fourth Doctor celebrations this month we’re delighted to bring you an interview with John Leeson!
While John’s face might be unfamiliar to you his voice would be instantly recognisable as that of K-9, the Doctor’s loved companion. K-9 made his first appearance in The Invisible Enemy in 1977 and instantly became a hit with fans as K-9 become an invaluable member of the TARDIS team.
Over 3 decades since his debut, K-9 is as popular as ever.
Here, John chats exclusively to us about K-9’s lasting appeal, plus his memories of being on set, proving why K-9 has, over the years, become so much more than a metal dog…
Q. Hi John! Firstly, how and when did your involvement with Doctor Who come about?
A. My involvement with Doctor Who came about entirely accidentally. Back in 1977, I met an old friend, a director I had worked with on tour from Nottingham Playhouse – and elsewhere – at my local pub in Ealing. He had been directing ‘Z-Cars’ for the BBC locally, and ubsequently suggested my name to Who producer Graham Williams. The rest, as they say, is history!
Q. As well as Doctor Who, you’ve had various stage roles and appeared in TV shows including ‘Allo ‘Allo!, Dad’s Army and Rainbow. When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
A. My history as an actor must have started in childhood – I WAS an actor! Needless to say I needed training, and I spent a couple of years at RADA alongside some very talented fellow Students. Does the name Anthony Hopkins ring a bell? Subsequently my ‘on the ground’ training was through the medium of character parts in repertory theatre in various places throughout the UK, plus a number of appearances in ‘fringe’ London theatre and in the West End. I cannot overemphasise the importance of experience in theatre work as an essential ground-base for any actor, no matter if all they eventually want to do is TV and film. Voice work sort of happened accidentally.
Q. Your first Doctor Who appearance as K-9 was in 1977. Initially intended as a one-off part, were you pleased to return when it was decided to make K-9 a regular fixture in the TARDIS?
A. The continuance of K-9 following The Invisible Enemy may possibly have been as much a matter of good housekeeping on the part of the BBC as anything else. They had paid a considerable sum to bring the character physically into being, and it was hardly surprising that they wanted to maximise their investment. Needless to say, perhaps, it was gratifying to know that the K-9 character had ‘clicked’ with its audience, so I was happy to continue to play ‘the voice’ while there were scripts that did justice to his character and his usefulness within each storyline. Keeping K-9 fully engaged has always been a problem for writers, as relegating him to the status of yet another ’sonic screwdriver’ to get the Doctor out of trouble had always been a bit of a cop-out.
Q. Could you explain the initial process of devising K-9’s voice/personality? Did you have much say in his design?
A. K-9 was already in the design stage when I came on board, but the ‘module’ didn’t physically appear until the very first studio day, so I had no prior input. Vocally, the idea was to have a voice that was tinny and hard-edged, rather like what you might hear from a very cheap speaker in an equally cheap transistor radio. Given that K-9 was a computer rather than a dog, I simply pitched my own voice to a higher register and ‘clipped’ the dialogue to take as much warmth out of it as possible. Result? I don’t need any ‘artificial aids’ to reproduce the K-9 sound.
Q. As for filming, are you always present on set to read K-9’s lines or are they recorded during post production, or a mixture of the two?
A. Nowadays much of the K-9 voice work is recorded in post-production. A necessary evil, perhaps, as tighter budgets tend to dictate. A shame, as the ‘live’ dynamic that applied to most of the early stories in which K-9 was involved was beneficial to the sense of interaction between the characters. Part of the reason, I dare suggest, that the character stayed so long in the ‘classic’ era of Doctor Who.
Q. Were you surprised by how successful K-9 became with audiences and what would you say are the factors that contribute to his ongoing popularity?
A. Surprised? I’ll say so! Particularly as the character was such a pedantic ‘know-it-all’, and kept breaking down! Reasons for K-9’s popularity? I’m never sure, but I guess it must be an amalgam of the British love for dogs (not that he’s a dog), and his loyalty to the Doctor or the companions – added to which, his perky if slightly irritating personality. He’s a bit of ‘grit’ in the Doctor’s ‘oyster’, perhaps!
Q. K-9’s popularity has led him to star in various spin off and tie-in shows over the years. What has it been like to explore the character across these different platforms?
A. The spin-offs and tie-ins have been such a surprise too, another endorsement of his popularity. He still maintains the same characteristics throughout, although in the series ‘K9′ he appears in a much more updated form. Audio spin-offs from BIG Finish and BBC AudioGO have been a great success too. Purely in sound there’s no physical limit to his capabilities, either. Such a bonus!
Q. What have been your experiences of meeting Doctor Who fans?
A. Were it not for the fans, I wonder if we’d even be celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who this year. I speak to you having just returned from a three-city convention tour of Australia where the fan base is tremendously enthusiastic. K-9 always appealed to the younger elements of the audience, many of them now having grown up with children of their own, so it has been an added privilege to me to see a generational continuance of support both for the series as a whole and for the robotic character I played.
Q. Have you got any funny stories from filming you can share, for example, has K-9 ever found himself in any spots of bother?
A. Here’s a cue, if anything, for a ‘plug’ for my revised autobiography “Tweaking the Tail” which comes out this summer from Fantom Publishing (alongside my collected recipe book “Dog’s Dinners”… corny title, sorry!). There are K-9 stories aplenty, and much else about my uniquely varied life besides. I may even read it myself!
Q. As you mentioned this year marks the 50th anniversary of the series, could you tell us if K-9 will be involved in the celebrations at all?
A. When it comes to K-9’s involvement with anything, whether it be further involvement in storylines, or public appearances, or even the 50th anniversary celebrations, I am always the last to be told! I do know, however, that the BBC are working on how best to celebrate this very significant milestone in the history of the series, and maybe one day they may be so kind as to let me in on their secret! Then we’ll all know.
We would like to say a huge thanks to John for taking time out to answer our questions!
Today we’re delighted to bring you an interview with Marcus Sedgwick, the writer behind this month’s Doctor Who e-book and the latest in Puffin’s 50th anniverary series.
Marcus’ novels include Floodland and The Kiss of Death and he has contributed to the 50th anniversary proceedings by putting pen to paper for The Spear of Destiny, in which the Third Doctor and Jo Grant track down the magical spear of Odin and get caught up in the middle of a battle between two Viking tribes along the way!
Marcus talks about the origins of his short and his experience of writing the Third Doctor.
Q) Hi Marcus. Firstly, how did your involvement with Puffin’s Doctor Who e-book series come about, and were you already a fan of the series?
A) Puffin approached me late last year to write one of the stories, and I jumped at the chance. I loved Christopher Eccleston’s work in bringing the Doctor back to our screens, but I’m more a fan of the Classic series – I don’t think anyone of my age can’t have watched it, and been terrified by it!
Q) In your story, The Spear of Destiny, the Third Doctor and Jo Grant get caught up between two Vikings tribes. What was the inspiration for this?
A) I knew I wanted to have The Master in my story – I always found him the most frightening of the Doctor’s many foes. So I was looking for a good setting in which to have them slug it out once more, intellectually that is. I love the Viking age, I’ve used it in a couple of books, and realised there are some nice serendipitous connections I could use from Viking mythology – the war between the Aesir and the Vanir, being one.
Q) How did you approach the story at the beginning of the writing process? Did you do any initial research into the Third Doctor?
A) Yes, I decided to go back and watch a bunch of Pertwee era episodes. That was great fun. I read some interviews he’d given on playing the Doctor, and tried to use all of this in the story. I must admit, when I first sat down to finally write the story, I was a bit scared! This is, after all, one of the most iconic corners of British pop culture and I wanted to do the job properly. Then I decided to just relax and have fun with the Doctor and Jo.
Q) The Third Doctor was well known for being suave yet authoritative. How easy was it to convey his personality and mannerisms on page?
A) Well it’s up to others to decide if I’ve succeeded, but personally I find Jon Pertwee’s portrayal to be so wonderful, so charismatic and so idiosyncratic that it was a joy to bring him to life once more in the story. There’s quite a bit of banter between him and Jo – that was they key to it, I think.
Q) If you hadn’t written for the Third Doctor, which other classic incarnation would you have liked to have revisited?
A) Well, that would have to have been Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor. He’s the incarnation that most dovetailed with my childhood, and again, like Pertwee, I think he did a superb job.
Q) What did you set out to achieve with the story and do you think you’ve accomplished your aim?
A) I wanted to bring Jon Pertwee’s Doctor back to life for a short time. I want readers who remember him to recognise him, and those that don’t remember him to maybe go and hunt out some DVDs from the period. I don’t know if I’ve accomplished it, that’s for others to judge as I said above, but I know I’ve enjoyed it, and that’s a good sign!
Q) Finally have you got any upcoming projects you can tell us a little about?
A) Yes, lots! My brother and I have a graphic novel coming out in October, illustrated by the legendary John Higgins. It’s called Dark Satanic Mills and should appeal to Whovians, I think. I also have a new YA novel in October, called She Is Not Invisible, which is a strange little book exploring the question of coincidence.
We’d like to say a big thank you to Marcus for answering our questions, and you can find out more about his projects here. The Spear of Destiny will be available to download tomorrow, 23rd March. A paperback anthology of the shorts will go on sale in November.
Share your 50th anniversary hopes and dreams in our dedicated discussion…
As March flies by our Third Doctor celebrations continue with an interview with an actor who starred in the show alongside the man himself.
Richard Franklin made his first appearance in Doctor Who in the 1971 serial Terror of the Autons as Mike Yates.
Assisting the Brigadier at UNIT, Mike would go on to help the Doctor and his companions defend Earth from alien threats such as the Master and mutated maggots.
Richard gave us an insight into his role and his fond memories of being a UNIT Captain…
“I got the role through serendipity really,” Richard reflected. “A chance conversation in a theatre between Barry Letts and my then agent before the curtain rose in the West End.”
It wasn’t all down to fate though, as Richard told us he then “had to work for the job”. “I had 3 interviews at the BBC. They involved reading scenes with my future ‘love interest’ Katy Manning who played Jo Grant.” And it was the swaggering ladies-man aspect of the character that appealed to Richard: “Well, who wouldn’t want to be an heroic lover-boy?”
But when Mike wasn’t charming the ladies, he was helping the Doctor defend Earth from alien excursions, and Richard had the chance to work with more than one incarnation of the Time Lord throughout his time in the show – notably Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. He has fond memories of both, who were equally “a delight and fascinating” to be around. “They were both very different,” he explained, “as Jon was the star – a leading man with huge charisma and wonderful raconteur. Tom was charismatic, an eccentric intellectual.”
Mike’s last appearance came in the 1980’s but the character lives on in the audio series, in adventures such as The Blue Tooth and The Rings of Ikiria. Richard spoke very highly of the audio adventures as he noted “the wonderful thing is that age is no barrier”. “Mike Yates on audio remains forever young,” he finished. “Luckily, it is how I feel in real life!”
We’d like to say a huge thanks to Richard for taking time out to answer our questions – you can find out more about his career and current projects at his official website, here.
Click HERE for the rest of our Third Doctor guides, features and discussions…
As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations we’re delighted to bring you our interview with actress Anneke Wills!
In the 1960’s, Anneke starred opposite the First and Second Doctors as vivacious companion Polly.
As one of the original TARDIS residents, she was there for the very first regeneration. She chatted exclusively to us about her thoughts on working alongside William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton and her memories of time and space.
We’d like to say huge thanks to Anneke for taking the time out to answer our questions!
Q. Hi, Anneke. Firstly, how did your role in Doctor Who come about?
A. I was already well known to the BBC having previously worked for them 14 years on their screens. When they were looking for a 60’s chick, I was the obvious choice!
Q. Were you always interested in acting during your time growing up?
A. Yes. In fact, when I got my first film part aged 10, I knew I had discovered what I wanted to do. I got a scholarship to an acting school. It’s in my autobiography, ‘Self Portrait’, available via my website!
Q) You joined Doctor Who in the 1960’s. What was the public perception of the show was like back then?
A. It was immensely popular. Whenever we were out filming, the public were always very warm towards us – especially, of course, to the Doctor. Then, as now, it was great for us actor to say we had got a part in Doctor Who. We also had huge names and highly acclaimed actors joining us.
Q. What was it about the show and the role of Polly that appealed to you?
A. The money! As a working actor, it was good to be in a series. Also, I was allowed to mold the character of Polly really close to myself. I even wore my own clothes and my own make up!
Q. What was life like at the BBC back then?
A. Life at the BBC was like one huge family. Interestingly though, we never watched any of our episodes – ever!
Q. The Classic Series still has an extremely loyal following – would you recommend your serials to modern day audiences interested in delving into the Doctor’s earlier days?
A. I think it is hugely important to see the ‘roots’, as it were – the journey Doctor Who has made to become what it is today.
Q. Speaking of Doctor Who’s fanbase, what are your own experiences with meeting Doctor Who fans?
A. Over the years they have become like real friends – they are some of the kindest people and, of course, the older ones are now making the new Doctor Who.
Q).What are your memories of working with the cast and crew?
A.Bill was hard to be with – ‘irascible’ is the word. Patrick was inspirational as he worked to find his feet in order to inhabit the role. We spent our lunches in the Television Centre bar and our table was always the most dynamic – people would gather around to share in the laughter and political discussions. Later, the discussions between me, Pat and Mike (Michael Craze, who played companion Ben Jackson) would move to Finches pub. A pint was something Pat came to value highly – his ‘reality check’, and he trusted Mike and me to tell him it like it was.
Q. Are you a fan of the revived series? Would you say the role of the ‘companion’ (in terms of their attitudes, what they stand for, etc…) has changed considerably over the years?
A. Oh yes, I am a huge fan of the revived series! I wouldn’t miss it! The companions have come ‘modern’ women, and, of course, as such as they get to kiss the Doctor. That is something that my character would never have done – at least, not on screen!
Q. You’ve returned to the Doctor Who universe for many audio adventures over the years. What’s it like stepping back into Ace’s shoes in front of a microphone as opposed to in front of a camera?
A. It is unimaginable fun! After all, it was hat I was trained to do all those years ago. Of course the shoes still fit perfectly!
Q. As Doctor Who enters its 50th year, what do you think are the main distinguishing factors that have contributed to its ongoing success?
A. It’s just a magic formula and I’m sure it will endure for as long as there is TV. There will always be fans who become the writers, directors and actors of the show. It progresses through all of our lives!
Q. Finally, how does it feel to have played a big part in the show’s history? Do you look back on your TARDIS tenure with pride?
A. Absolutely I do! It is an honour to have been there at the very first regeneration and to have met the Cybermen for the first time they were seen. Considering most of my stories were wiped, I’m gratefut not to have been forgotten. I am also proud that I can still wave the flag for my dear friends Pat and Mike. It is wonderful to be invited to all the conventions, signings and celebrations, especially during this, the 50th year. Magic!
Our Second Doctor festivities continue right here with guides, features and discussions!
To celebrate the 50th anniversary we will be dedicating each month to a different Doctor – we’re bringing in the new year by remembering how the legend began!
As part of the First Doctor festivities we’re delighted to bring you our exclusive interview with Peter Purves, the actor who appeared alongside William Hartnell, as Steven Taylor, back in the 60’s. Peter shares with us his memories of being one of the Doctor’s early companions and reflects on how far the series has come since its inception half a century ago.
You can find out more about Peter and keep up to date with him at his official site, here.
Q. Firstly, how did your role in Doctor Who come about?
A. Following an interview with Richard Martin, the director, for a role as a giant insect in an earlier episode of Doctor Who, and after being rejected on the grounds that I was too good for the part, Richard cast me in an episode of the serial The Chase. Not as an insect this time but as the Hillbilly visitor to New York, Morton Dill, who had a 10 minute cameo scene with the Doctor and his companions followed by a meeting, which he survived, with the Daleks! After recording that episode, I was approached by Verity Lambert (Producer) and Dennis Spooner (Story Editor) and offered the role of Steven Taylor. They had been discussing the possibility with Bill Hartnell during the day. I later discovered Bill had been instrumental in recommending me.
Q. Have you always been interested in acting? Would you say there were any defining moments that helped to inspire and shape your career?
A. I wanted to be an actor from an early age and it gelled into a determination at the age of 9. I grew up in a town full of theatrical tradition, Blackpool, where I saw lots of shows, from Music Hall and variety through to plays and Circus. So nothing seemed more natural than to want to be on the stage myself.
Q. Do you remember what the public perception of the show was like back then? Did it have a strong viewership or was it still finding its feet in terms of its fan base? Could you have predicted it would still be going strong?
A. The show captured the audience’s imagination from episode one of the very first serial. It grew into a massive success with the first of the Dalek adventures. Although it was called a children’s drama serial, it was never perceived as that, I don’t think, by the general public. It was embraced by a massive following. At that time, actors were beginning to be not quite so “sniffy” about TV. It was the coming thing and the best actors in the land were beginning to look at TV as a real outlet for their work. But never in a million years would anyone have dreamt of the longevity the show has had. Mind you, there was a dip in popularity in the late 80’s when the show was taken off by the BBC. No demand for it they said. The modern resurgence in the popularity of the show is a really astonishing phenomenon.
Q. The series had been on air for a short while before you joined the cast – what was it about it, and Steven Taylor, that appealed to you?
A. It was a job! There were only three channels on TV and the number of repertory theatres in the country was shrinking rapidly. Films were a closed book to me so the fact someone wanted to pay me for doing what I loved for an audience exceeding 8 or 9 million was not something any actor would have turned down. And let’s face it, Steven was an heroic character. Why would it not appeal?
Q. What was your first day on set like? In terms of its production, was TV ‘made’ any differently in the 60s compared to now?
A. There was no first day on the set. We produced the episodes and serials as “live” recordings on a Friday after rehearsals in a Territorial Army Hall in Shepherd’s Bush the previous Monday morning. It was like doing weekly rep. Unlike the modern shows which are made as single camera dramas, we were shooting on multi-sets with six or seven cameras, and virtually no recording breaks. A break meant an edit, which was expensive. We only had an hour and a quarter on the set to record the programme which was 25 minutes long. TV was a different world then. I have been to the studios in Cardiff where the current show is produced. There is no atmosphere there at all. When we made the shows, it was electric – everyone from the Floor Assistant to the Director, via the camera crew and the actors, were absolutely on their mettle.
At that time, the BBC was the mecca for TV – the feeling of pride when you walked in the main entrance to the TV Centre in Wood Lane was indescribable. We made some of the programmes at Riverside studios in Hammersmith, so it was an even greater thrill when we did a serial at TV Centre instead. It was an entertainment factory, and I was lucky enough to work there on and off for over sixteen years. The BBC had an ethos that made you walk tall. Sadly it’s gone now, watered down and destroyed by a succession of Director Generals, who should have known better.
Q. The Classic Series still has a loyal fan base. Would you recommend your serials to modern audiences who are interested in the Doctor’s origins?
A. Certainly I would – I honestly believe the early stories were amongst the best and there was a simplicity in the narrative that you don’t find in the modern era. I loved the first 140 episodes or so, and I am very proud to have been part of 44 of them. Anyone who is interested may like to listen to the BBC Audio Collection where all of the now missing episodes have been remade into radio plays with the original sound tracks. These exist because fans would record them on a reel to reel recorder when they were first transmitted. Domestic video recording had not been invented then. I voiced commentary to fill out the visual gaps. They make very good listening.
Q. What are your own experiences with meeting Doctor Who fans?
A. Generally they know far more about the show that I do, but they are always very polite and have never ending patience when it comes to queuing up for an autograph or signed piece of memorabilia. I don’t claim to be a fan of the show, but attending events and conventions in recent years has increased my knowledge and interest.
Q. What are your memories of working with the cast and crew, in particular the First Doctor William Hartnell?
A. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Bill. As I said earlier, he was instrumental in my getting the role in the first place. He liked me so he took a slightly paternal friendly attitude towards me. He would take me out to lunch at least once a week. My wife and I would take him out for a curry from time to time, and occasionally he would be a guest in my flat in Gloucester Road, SW7. I remember him sitting in our living room chatting one evening. I happened to ask him what he had thought of Kenneth Tynan, the theatre critic, using the F word for the very first time on a late night TV show the previous Saturday. Bill went almost apoplectic and said it was “….disgusting. That TV set is in the corner of living rooms – you wouldn’t go into someone’s living room and use ****ing language like that!”. My wife and I could barely contain ourselves, and Bill never saw the irony of the situation.
Q. Are you a fan of the new series and would you say that the role of the ‘companion’ has changed or evolved over at all over the years?
A. No, not really. Although I do admire Matt Smith’s Doctor very much, I am finding some of the plots a little bit too complicated. I referred to the simplicity of the earliest stories, and I think I preferred it that way. But the technical achievement of the show is remarkable. I couldn’t comment about the companions other than to say they have moved with the times as has the show. The one element I loved that has disappeared completely was the serendipity – the TARDIS was always broken, and the Doctor could never control where he was going. That was one of the secrets of the show’s success, I think. That and Bill Hartnell’s wonderful portrayal of the iconic Old Man.
Q. You’ve returned to the Doctor Who universe in audio adventures. What’s it like stepping back into Steven’s shoes in front of a microphone instead of in front of a camera?
A. I’ve absolutely loved it. Acting in front of a microphone is proper acting, after all. I think the productions by Big Finish have been spectacular. The Companion Chronicles are wonderful. Great scripts and production values and fabulous recording facilities. I have made eight of the Companion Chronicles, 2 more in the pipeline, one with Jean Marsh and one with Maureen O’Brien, and I think that is more than anyone else has done. I’ve loved every minute of them. And the other actors have been brilliant. I’ve also loved playing Bill Hartnell in the stories. I do a fair impression of Bill, which I’ve been told really does not sound like me. It’s convincing enough to help the listening audience suspend their disbelief. I am proud of that.
Q. Finally, as one of the Doctor’s original companions, how does it feel to have been part of the show’s early legacy? Do you look back on your time in the TARDIS with pride?
A. Absolutely I do. As the years pass by and my memories get reinforced at every event or convention or recording, I enjoy it more and more. I’m proud to have been an early companion with, for me, the real Doctor. There can never be another who is as definitive as Bill Hartnell’s reading of the part. Matt Smith is just quirky enough to eventually grow old and become Bill’s version. That is a happy circle to complete.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Peter for answering our questions!
We are delighted to be able to bring you our interview with Doctor Who director Saul Metzstein!
Saul joined the crew in Series 7 and already has memorable and acclaimed episodes to his name. He helmed Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and A Town Called Mercy, as well as the show’s accompanying Pond Life adventure, plus the most recent episode The Snowmen. With two more episodes yet to air this year, Saul has very kindly taken time out to chat to WhovianNet exclusively about life on the Doctor Who set.
He discusses his own encounters with dinosaurs, Gunslingers and killer Snowmen below.
Q. Firstly how did your involvement with Doctor Who come about and were you a fan of the show before you joined the crew?
A. I’d worked for BBC Wales before so they knew me already. I directed an episode of the first series of the reboot of Upstairs Downstairs. I think it was that, plus the fact I’d directed 2nd Unit on the new version of Dredd – with a lot of VFX shooting – that made the producers interested in hiring me.
I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with modern Doctor Who. I watched Doctor Who as a child, the Tom Baker years, but hadn’t really seen it since then. Of course I made a point of watching lots of episodes before meeting the producers. I watched the whole of Series 6, so I became a big admirer of Matt Smith’s acting and Steven Moffat’s writing. But I think somehow the format felt very familiar to me anyway.
Q. Have you always had a passion for directing? Were there any particular directors that inspired you as you were growing up?
A. I think I was about sixteen when it occurred to me that directing might be a fun thing to do. I always liked films – I’m of the generation that really noticed filmmaking when we saw the opening shot of Star Wars with the little rebel craft being chased by the Imperial Star Destroyer.
There have been lots of directors that have inspired me, although I don’t think it is very discernible in my directing style who they are. Fellini, Tarkovsky and Bertolucci were early favourites. Kubrick too. Ernst Lubitsch later on.
Q. Your first Doctor Who episode was Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. What was it like to work on such an ambitious story which relied so heavily on CGI?
A. Well, I think one of the reasons that I was hired to do that episode was that I was relatively experienced with complex CGI, but technically it was a fairly tricky episode to make. Having said that, the producer, Marcus Wilson, and The Mill – the company who did the VFX – had already discussed Dinosaurs on a Spaceship as being a sort of showcase for the next level of Doctor Who episodes well before I was hired.
The dinosaur sequences were storyboarded by me and Andrew Wildman, storyboard artist, so the actual filming is logically structured. Having said that, I was amazed that we got so much out of the riding on Tricey scene – it was a lot of shooting in a short space of time, and was a mix of a CGI dinosaur and a big half-dinosaur rig/puppet.
Q. As Doctor Who enters its 50th year, what would you say are the factors that have contributed to its ongoing success?
A. It is a genius format because it is fantastically flexible – it can be set anywhere in the universe at any time in history. Plus, with regeneration, there are different ways of casting and playing the Doctor. It is never going to run out of story permutations, and anything can happen.
What I personally particularly like is the way Doctor Who can make dramatic, sudden shifts in tone, and that the stories are all laced with humour.
Q. One of the distinguishing features of Doctor Who is its variety of genres and styles, so was this something that particularly appealed to you about working on the series?
A. It positively encourages crazy, baroque filmmaking – most TV is stylistically very safe compared to Doctor Who. I would never want to direct a standard police drama or a hospital drama where the style of the programme had been set years earlier.
Q. Speaking of its ever changing genres, you also worked on the Western adventure A Town Called Mercy. What was it like taking Doctor Who out on location in Spain for the filming of this episode?
A. All directors deep down want to make a Western, so yes, it was great. One of the fun things about shooting in Spain was that, because there were these sets already there and because the weather was consistent, it was like shooting in an enormous outdoor studio. It’s quite different from shooting Victorian England in Cardiff, where there are all these modern things that you have to avoid looking at. It was also great to be able to work on an enormous scale.
I think the crew loved shooting in that heat – there was a lot of sunburn. Having said that, we returned to a particularly wet summer in Wales, which wasn’t much fun.
Q. You also helmed the most recently aired episode, The Snowmen, which introduced Jenna-Louise Coleman as the new companion. Did you approach this episode differently knowing her arrival was marking the start of a new era for the series? Did you watch it on Christmas Day?
A. We shot The Snowmen just after shooting an episode from the 2013 series, so the tricky thing was remembering that The Snowmen was (sort of) her introduction to the series. But Jenna had already shot other episodes, so she wasn’t really new to it.
The trickier introduction was the new TARDIS set. A big, complex set requires quite a bit of getting used to, both for the crew and for the actors. Also, I was determined to make a really special shot for the first time you see the new interior. I convinced the producers to let me do this Stedicam shot in which the camera comes off a crane and follows the Doctor and Clara into the set, through the doors of the blue box. It is the shot that finally shows that it really is bigger on the inside! They were fairly resistant to me trying to do it because it was costly and slow to do, but in the end they were really in to it. The Mill pulled out all the stops to make it beautiful and seamless.
Did I watch it on Christmas Day? Absolutely!
Q. Doctor Who is becoming progressively more ambitious and movie-like – what techniques are used to achieve this stylish filmic look?
A. Doctor Who like most programmes and films nowadays is shot on Alexa cameras, which give a lovely cinematic look, almost as good as 35mm film, and that helps.
I was lucky enough on all but one of my episodes to work with the most experienced Doctor Who cameraman, Stephan Pehrsson, who has a great eye and understanding of the programme. Stephan shot Toby Haynes’ episodes in Series 6, which are really stylish, and, for my money, some of the best Doctor Who episodes ever.
I like to keep the camera moving as much as possible to make the whole programme feel fluid. Every day we have Stedicam and a crane and two complete camera crews, and that helps too. A lot of the credit has to go to the shooting crew, in particular Joe Russell the camera operator and Gary Norman the grip.
Q. We’re often hearing stories from the cast and crew about the generally great atmosphere behind the scenes…
A. Oh no, it’s all terribly hard work and completely joyless (he lied).
Q. What advice would you give to any aspiring directors out there?
A. Firstly, just go and direct – even at a very small scale or without any budget. Even if the projects don’t turn out very good you will have learnt an enormous amount.
Secondly, watch lots and lots of films – and don’t just watch films like the ones you think you want to make. Be adventurous, you won’t regret it.
Thirdly, develop scripts. It’s all in the writing.
Q. Finally, what projects have you got in the pipeline, Doctor Who related or otherwise?
A. I have two episodes of Doctor Who that haven’t been aired yet – neither is quite finished, but both should be quite soon.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Saul for answering our questions!
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
Things have been pretty quiet on the Torchwood front as of late, but luckily fans can now divulge in a brand new novel going by the name of Exodus Code…
If being reunited with Captain Jack wasn’t enough, the book has been written by John Barrowman and his sister Carole E. Barrowman, who very kindly took part in an exclusive interview with us to tell us more about the new adventure!
Check out our Q&A with them below.
Exodus Code was published this month and you can get your copy now – here or here.
Q. Take us back to the early days of Exodus Code. When and how did it come about, and what were both of your initial thoughts about the project?
Carole: The genesis of Exodus Code…
John: Nice place on words.
Carole: It’s what I do. Now stop interrupting. We’ve only just started the interview. Anyway, when I was on the set of Torchwood a few years ago, working with John on his autobiographies, we started talking about writing a script together for the show. John ran with the idea and we got agreement from Russell T Davies and the BBC was open to the idea.
John: But then things got busy for Carole and I a couple of years later…
Carole: 2009 to be exact.
John: Now you’re doing it.
Carole: Sorry, WhovianNet, this could be a long interview.
John: Long story short, BBC Books came to us when they heard our idea and they asked if we’d rather write a Torchwood novel instead.
Carole: We decided on a novel because it gives us a broader canvas to tell a story.
John: And we wanted the story to be epic.
Q. Without giving too much away (spoilers!), is there anything you can tell us about the novel in terms of its setting, characters, etc? Are there any new revelations about Captain Jack in store?
John: I think readers and fans are going to love that the old Jack is back. Carole’s captured his humour and his roguishness perfectly.
Q) This isn’t the first adventure you’ve created for Captain Jack. What was it like for you both to be writing for him again, but this time on a much greater scale?
Carole: I was writing Exodus Code between novels in our children’s Hollow Earth series, so for me it was great to be able to push the limits of character and to lift off the restraints of language and situations a bit more.
John: I loved that we go inside Jack’s head in some pretty cool ways and We’ve done our best to connect the story to the canon. We couldn’t really do that in our comic.
Q. As Carole mentioned, this year you’ve also released your first children’s novel, Hollow Earth, together. What was it like to then work on Exodus Code?
John: The idea for the Exodus Code pre-dated our children’s series, but the books ended up overlapping because of Carole’s schedule. She teaches at Alverno College full-time and does most of her series writing in the summer. It also takes a long time to get all the necessary approvals to write a book that’s part of such a popular franchise.
Q. What were the planning and eventual writing processes of the book like for both of you? Did you spend a lot of the time together, or was it more a case of exchanging frantic emails in the early hours of the morning?
John: We have a pretty unique partnership. As with all our books together, I don’t do any of the writing. That’s Carole. We spend time together early in the process and we outline together and brainstorm situations. Then Carole goes off to Milwaukee and writes.
Carole: I usually don’t send John anything until I have a decent draft, then he adds his suggestions. The biggest challenge for us was that lots of other eyes were on this manuscript during the process. When we finished our outline, it had to go to Russell, the BBC, and even Starz, who now hold some of the franchise rights. We had to do the same with the finished book. Oh, and there are a few late night calls, especially when I forget the time difference and I have to know something right away!
Q) John, obviously you portray Captain Jack on screen, so you know all the in’s and out’s of his character (and we’re sure there’s a lot of ‘em!). Did this make it easier for you to write for him, and ‘be in control of him’, so to speak, and what was it like to go from reading his lines to writing them for him?
John: Carole and I decided very early in the process that, as much as we enjoyed Miracle Day, we wanted to see the Jack from the earlier days – the Jack with burdens but less weighed down by them. We really wanted the funny sexy Jack to be in our pages, and so it really helped to have the history of Jack at my fingertips (and other bits). I think that Jack is back in Exodus Code.
Q) For Carole, what’s it like to be writing for a character who is played by your brother on screen? Is the fact you know the real John so well a help or a hindrance when it’s time to think of him solely as Captain Jack?
Carole: I’ve been a huge fan of the Doctor Who and Torchwood universe as long as John, so I tried to bring my fan side into play when I was writing. I worked to see ‘Jack’ and not John as much as I could, but it did get a bit icky when I was writing some of the more sexually charged scenes, or writing about those ‘bits’ John just alluded to. Ew!
Q) Are you both pleased with the finished product, and if you set out to create the same tone as the TV series, would you say you’ve achieved it?
John: I guess that will be up to the fans to decide, but I think we did.
Carole: I think so too.
Q) John, as far as the TV series goes, is there anything you can tell us about the future of Jack on TV, or is it still on hiatus? You’ve mentioned in a few interviews that you’d like to see a movie…
John: I would love to see Exodus Code as a mini-series or as a movie. I’m ready to put on the coat whenever they need me to, but I’m afraid I have no more information about any future on-screen plans.
Q) Finally, do you have any plans to write further Torchwood novels – or other forms of adventures featuring Captain Jack – together?
Carole: We’re ready for the next one. This is our fourth book together. I can’t see us stopping anytime soon.
John: What she said!
A huge thanks to them both for answering our questions – have you got Exodus Code?
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
A new Doctor Who novel, Dark Horizons, is published this month! We recently caught up with its author, Jenny Colgan, to find out more about what her adventure has in store.
In the story, islanders living on a windswept Northern shore believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack – then the burning comes, consuming everything in its path. While the Doctor is just looking for a game on the Lewis chess set, he instead encounters people under attack from a power they can’t understand. Why do the burned still speak?
Read our exclusive Q&A with Jenny below. Huge thank you for answering our questions!
Q. When did you first realise that you wanted to become an author?
A. Well, I kind of always would have LIKED to have done it, but I wouldn’t necessarily have considered it any more likely than being a pop star or a ballerina or something. It doesn’t normally happen to comprehensive school girls from Ayrshire. So it was a total thrill when it actually did happen.
Q. What advice/tips would you give to any aspiring writers out there?
A. Okay, well, here it is, but no one ever likes it, okay? I’m warning you. It’s just got to get done. I knew so many people starting out who were so talented and never got published in the end because they simply couldn’t get the words on the page at the right time. If you want to write for a living, you need to know this: research isn’t writing; going to writing courses isn’t writing; playing with Scrivener isn’t writing, ‘planning’ isn’t writing, sticking stuff on index cards isn’t writing, messing about on the internet isn’t writing; even editing isn’t writing (you do that when you’re finished all the writing). If you find yourself doing anything to avoid the actually typing of the words, then maybe it’s not for you. Sorry, I know, it sounds SO awful, doesn’t it? All I can say is, I’ve been making a living at this for a decade and a half; people ask me all the time, and that’s the only wholly honest answer I can give, because I’m not trying to hawk you vanity publishing or writing courses.
Q. You are best known for your romantic comedies. What was it like taking the leap to the sci-fi genre for this Doctor Who novel?
A. Well, this will sound weird, but actually not much. All I ever try to do is write a cool story in a cool way. You’re more likely to face death in this one, but the principles – to keep the story moving, to keep the pages turning by themselves – is exactly the same.
Q. Were you a fan of Doctor Who when you were growing up?
A. Oh, not at all, I just thought why not have a shot… oh, I’m only joking! Of course, I’ve always been passionate. The first ones I really remember properly are the brilliant final Tom Baker years with the second Romana and City of Death and Warriors Gate, so I came on board at a good time. Then a second cousin visited from Canada and she was a mad fan too and we both made each other worse. When I was ten I entered a W.H. Smiths competition to ‘Meet Doctor Who’ and I won! I got to meet Peter Davison on set at Television Centre in London, who was charming and told me not to look inside the TARDIS as I’d only be disappointed. I also had short hair back then and he called me ’son’ – they didn’t really have girl Whovians in those days I don’t think. I read somewhere subsequently that David Tennant entered the same competition and lost. Heh heh heh. Although I think he kind of recovered.
Q. So what can fans expect from Dark Horizons?
A. Vikings, longships, enormous conflagrations, chess, famine, a kidnapped princess and a dead TARDIS at the bottom of the ocean. Will that do for starters?
Q. How did you writing your very own tie-in novel for the series come about?
A. My friend Naomi Alderman had done one which I liked, and it had never occurred to me before. Then I got in touch with BBC Books and proposed some ideas and they thought about it and made me promise not to make the Doctor do any kissing and then we were on. That’s missing out the part about me begging repeatedly by the way.
Q. Dark Horizons features the historic Lewis Chessmen set. What made you choose to include them in your novel?
A. I love the Lewis Chessmen, I think they’re stunning; even though the set is nearly a thousand years old, the faces are so recognisably human and quirky and interesting. And also, there’s loads of theories about who and what they were for, but nobody really knows for sure. Which seemed like a cool mystery the Doctor might enjoy. We already know he likes chess and Scotland.
Q. What would you say are the most exciting and challenging parts of writing a Doctor Who novel?
A. It was all exciting. The first time you even type the words ‘The Doctor left the TARDIS’ or whatever, you’re already so far into your childhood dreams it’s just incredible. I nearly exploded when they sent me the cover. As for challenging, the big one is the passing of time. On TV a lot of the adventures are wrapped up in the space of forty five minutes, but in the book you have a much broader canvas to work on, but it takes place over several days, or, as in Dark Horizons, even weeks.
Q. Dark Horizons is a brand new adventure for Matt Smith’s Doctor. Did you enjoy being able to convey his various characteristics and traits on page?
A. Well, I hope I’ve caught him. I love Matt, he’s so patently alien before he even opens his mouth. Also I was interested in how he moves: Christopher Eccleston had this real solidity about him. If he fixed something it stays fixed; he was quite scary. David Tennant was this amazing fizzy ball of charisma, he never stopped for a second, unless he was totally furious. Matt is actually very graceful I think. I know he used to play sport and it shows. Chris really couldn’t dance, but I bet Matt can (I am basing this on no evidence at all, by the way).
Q. Have you got any other Doctor Who projects lined up for the future?
A. I shall return to begging mode and keep my fingers very tightly crossed!
Dark Horizons is released on 5th July. Pre-order it now! Our review will be up tomorrow.
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
This time next week The Crash of the Elysium will reopen its doors for a limited run at its new home in Ipswich.
Ahead of its big launch, here’s our quickfire interview with its writer, Tom MacRae, who tells us more about what fans can expect from the interactive show.
The adventure will be at the New Wolsey Theatre, as part of the Ipswich Arts Festival, from 15th June to 8th July. To find out more, and to book tickets, click here.
You can read our Q&A with Tom below – big thanks to him for answering our questions!
Q. Have you always been interested in writing?
A. Yes – I have always loved imagining stories and making thinks up, long before I realised it could be your job.
Q. What advice would you give to any aspriring writers out there?
A. Just keep working hard, write every day, and learn how to touch type!
Q. How did you first come to be involved with Doctor Who?
A. I was asked to come on to the second series of the show. It was quite easily the best invitation I ever got!
Q. What brought you to The Crash of the Elysium?
A. Punchdrunk, who produced the show, got in contact with the BBC via the Manchester International Festival, to talk about doing a Doctor Who show. The bosses at Doctor Who asked me if I would work on the show with Punchdrunk as a writer/creator. It didn’t have a name or a story then, though. We had to come up with all of that. So there was no such thing as The Crash of the Elysium at the time. It evolved over many months and lots of discussions.
Q. How did writing it differ to writing an actual episode? Did you approach it any differently?
A. It’s completely different, because the children who go round each show are the lead characters, and yet they don’t know the story or any dialogue, or even what’s in the script. When we do Doctor Who on the telly, the actors at least get to read a script a first – with Crash the lead characters just dive right into it!
Q. Were you pleased with the end result, and was it what you expected it to be?
A. It’s quite honestly the best thing ever. I completely love it.
Q. What can fans expect from the show?
A. The most exciting 60 minutes OF THEIR LIVES.
Q. You wrote The Girl Who Waited for Series 6 of Doctor Who. Were you pleased with how the episode was recieved?
A. I was beyond thrilled. The reviews were so good I nearly cried reading them! And it’s been nominated for a big award for it in the US, the Hugo.
Q. You were also responsible for bringing the Cybermen back in Series 2. What was it like to be in charge of such an iconic villain?
A. It was a lot of pressure but also a huge lot of fun. It was a real honour.
Q. Finally, do you have any Doctor Who projects lined up for the future?
Stay tuned for more exciting news about ‘The Crash of the Elysium’ over the next week!