Douglas Camfield was one of the most popular ‘Doctor Who’ directors, and his name has popped up numerous times in other interviews I’ve posted. Here, he talks about his work on the show from the early William Hartnell days through to the mid-1970’s, when he even tried his hand at writing a script (which wasn’t made).
“The Crusade was the best ‘Doctor Who’ script I ever worked on. Beautifully written, meticulously researched, and I don’t remember having to alter a single line. I enjoyed working on a costume piece because of the research involved and the challenge of trying to recreate another world in another time.
The Time Meddler
“The character of the Monk had a certain comic element that I wanted to emphasise, particularly in contrast to the Doctor. Using back projection, we were able to have huge clouds rolling across the sky like something from a Wagnerian opera.
The Daleks’ Masterplan
“The Daleks’ Masterplan was an all-time challenge… If I could cope with this, I could cope with anything! Bit of an ego trip, really. I thought the Daleks were strictly limited in appeal and I don’t understand why they became so popular… with Bill Hartnell they were dredged up in thin stories every season, so the novelty wore off very quickly.
The Web of Fear
“Originally we planned to film ‘The Web of Fear’ in the Underground itself, and approached London Transport for their permission. They wanted the ridiculous sum of two hundred pounds an hour! So, with a lot of hard work, we built our own Underground in the studios, copying from the originals. After the serial had been broadcast, we received a letter from the Transport authorities saying that they were going to sue us for using their tunnels after all, and we hadn’t been anywhere near them!
“We’re talking about the end of the world here! Armageddon! It has to be shown to be totally sinister and grim. I wanted darkness and shadows. My original plan was to direct ‘Doctor Who’s first nightmare – the sort of thing the Doctor would dream about during a bad night. We had volcanic eruptions beneath the UK and werewolves parading about the place. That sort of thing has to be frightening and it can only be made frightening if we create the right atmosphere. If it’s lit too bightly then the mood is watered down and the story loses a lot of its impact. And I felt that much of ‘Inferno’ was too bright.”
Terror of the Zygons
“There were a lot of problems on ‘Terror of the Zygons’. Massive rewrites, a so-so Loch Ness monster and otheres I’d rather not mention. Still, you can’t win ’em all. Tom Baker was a genuine eccentric, larger than life in all respects and very talented. I reckon, on balance, that he’s my favourite Doctor.
The Seeds of Doom
“For ‘The Seeds of Doom’, I cast a lovely guy named Tony Beckley as the megalomaniac millionaire Harrison Chase. He made a great villain, one of the best, and was a joy to work with. There are all these people – with the best motives in the world, I’m sure – supposedly cleaning up television. But there’s a switch on every set and the box can be turned off. I believe the viewers want more horror, not less, and the children are among our most bloodthirsty clients. ‘Doctor Who’ is a fantasy programme, a fairy tale even, and our efforts ought to be seen within that context. I reckon we trail a long way behind the Brothers Grimm.
Leaving Doctor Who
“I wanted to go out on a high note. Each time I completed a ‘Doctor Who’ serial I’d hear that there was a knockout script in the pipeline, and I’d end up on the ‘Doctor Who’ treadmill again. I’m flattered that people want me to go back, and I have thought about it a lot. But I promised myself I wouldn’t, and a promise is a promise.
“I’d been said more than once that I wouldn’t make a bad Doctor myself. ‘Doctor Who’ has grown up a lot since I started, and the series still sometimes produces the wondrous idea or the intriguing concept. It was always intended as a bit of fun, escapism, it was never meant to be taken seriously. It’s astounding that so many fans expend so much energy and interest on a show with built-in obsolescence.