Graham Williams was one of the most popular producers of ‘Doctor Who’, presiding over the later Tom Baker years just before John Nathan-Turner’s arrival. Here, Williams talks to DWM about, among other things, the plan to have a different actress playing Romana in each story.
“In ‘The Key to Time’, we couldn’t make any use of the Time Lords, because in the last two stories they’d been totally debunked and made rather corrupt. I didn’t, in any case, want to return to that whole ball game again, at least not so soon. Thus it was that I created the characters of the Black and White Guardians, out of a general desire to establish some higher, more basic and more pure type of authority than the Time Lords.
“We decided we wanted a companion who wasn’t as experienced or as worldly-wise as the Doctor, but who shared his background. There’d been hundreds of screaming girls and Leela had been the savage. To get away from that, we thought ‘Why not try an Ice maiden, civilised to the point of being fastidious?’. Unfortunately, out of several hundred actresses we chose Mary tamm, who was just too nice a lady to completely convey the frostiness an detachment that was had intended.
“Underworld was one of the hardest shows we ever made, for everyone. It was incredibly taxing for the actors, there wasn’t enough time to do it in the studio and the backdrops had to be cheap. It didn’t work, and it wasn’t a success.
“(After Mary Tamm left) there was a stage when we considered having a diferent Romana in each of the six stories, but we decided this was too frivolous, even for a woman! Her regeneration scene was a parody of the way that Tom had come into the series, with him trying on all sorts of different images before settling for his familiar look.
“The first and last time I ever took a holiday on the show was for about four days on ‘The Power of Kroll’. The problems on that forced me to get back as soon as possible. In the end, I had to leave because I’d literally done all I could.
“The Horns of Nimon was a very weak script, which is why we tried to bury it as number five in the season. Kenny McBain directed, and I thought it was very clever to stylize the monsters and de-humanise them, because the Nimons were just guys in drag, which was something we were always trying to steer clear of. That’s why I never liked the Cybermen. We brought in a choreographer for the Nimon, which was a brave idea, but it didn’t work.
“At the time of ‘Shada’, capital punishment was quite a raging controversy, what with the Yorkshire Ripper and the IRA, and we thought ‘What would the Time Lords do about capital punishment?’. We decided that they would probably duck the issue, although we originally thought they would lock them up forever and throw away the key, as you can do with a Time Lord, but we thought that was too sadistic for words, until they came up with the answer. The difficulty was making the villains big enough and nasty enough to warrant capital punishment.
“(With K9) we just hadn’t tried that complexity of remote control, either in the studio or on film. We thought that most of the problems would be on location, but in fact they were in the studio. The electronisc would go haywire if he was inside a camera’s cable loop, and this put a quite severe restruction on our directors. The whole idea of him was to have a popular companion who didn’t have to be in every story – it was always too eash for K9 to do all the Doctor’s work for him, so we had to think up ingenious ways of disabling it, like the wolf weeds and giving it laryngitis. Terry Nation wouldn’t use it, because it was too much competition for the Daleks, and we couldn’t take it to Paris, because we needed to travel as light as we could”.