Archive for the ‘Chris Clough’ Category

Chris Clough (1989)

October 24, 2009

Chris Clough was a popular director in the original show’s later years, and was behind the later episodes of ‘Trial of a Timelord’, as well as ‘Dragonfire’ and ‘Delta and the Bannermen’.

“I was delighted with the ‘Trial’ scripts, and with the freedom I was given. I expected there to be a house style, and I remember saying to John ‘What does this spaceship look like, then?’ and ‘Who’s designing this?’, and he said ‘Well – you!’. I thought ‘Oh, my God!’. I’d never really been a sci-fi buff, though I’d watched the show occasionally, so it was really nice to come in so fresh.

“The great thing about it was that you could bounce ideas off each other. At the start of ‘Terror of the Vervoids’, for example, you say this is a spaceship and the year is three somethng or other and you are on the planet X. And you think ‘Jesus!’. And then you start honing it down and thinking, ‘Well, people are people and the function of the Hyperion 3 would be rather like a banana boat, in that it was mainly carrying cargo, and it would have about twelve cabins’. That was the theory, and it was quite practical, because one didn’t have to have loads of extras. It was like an Agatha Christie on a banana boat! We wanted to give it some style, which is why the designer picked up on the Agatha Christie theme, and we also wanted the cabins to be quite small, because the space would be reserved for the cargo. Like the QE2, we decided on an airy lounge and a nice open space for the cargo hold, with small cabins.

“The problem with the Mogarian was that script-wise, you had to set up the guy’s face, because he didn’t have any dialogue. He just wandered in and you needed someone very recognisable. A few people did say ‘What’s a scouser doing in space?’, but again I don’t see why not. He was Earthbound as such. People also drew attention to Yolande Palfrey – she of the wiggling bottom, or the token woman. She was the maid, as it were, a la Agatha Christie, and what we were trying to do with her was to point the finger of suspicion at her by making her seem too sweet.

“There was a problem with this great long tracking shot at the start. The original idea was that the shot should start with a planet and then we’d go right up and there’d be ships passing and we’d finally home in on the Hyperion. We shot it, but the trouble was because on video there’s a lower contrast ratio, it won’t accept so much light and shade, the models tended to look very plasticky. So we cut it down, as we were over-running anyway.

“There was trouble with the scripts for ‘The Ultimate Foe’ – Bob Holmes died, Eric Saward left and withdrew his script, and we went into shooting the last script, I think, the week after Pip and Jane delivered it. So, not a lot of time. But it was good in that I’d worked with Pip and Jane in preparing for the Vervoid story, so we knew each other, and also by then we’d chosen the location, so they wrote the last script to kind of fit the location. We’d found this pottery, because in Eric’s original s cript there was this long discussion going round in circles and we’d looked at power stations, at cooling towers and the pottery was the most practical. In the event, it needn’t have been there at all.

“There were other differences, too. The original character of Mr. Popplewick was meant to be thin and weasly, rather like Scrooge and typically Dickensian, and we went through zillions of characters in our minds and everything was a bit boring. So I thought, ‘Well obviously that avenue is a dud, otherwise you’d have solved it by now’, so we started from the totally opposite end of the thing and went for a fat man.

“The thirty-minute episode of ‘Trial of a Time Lord’ was a mistake, but it was so complicated, we couldn’t think of a way of cutting it down. We looked and looked and looked, and we just couldn’t think of a way of getting five minutes out of it. John had to go to Jonathan Powerll, who liked the show and said ‘Okay’.

“With the Dragon in ‘Dragonfire’, I think we had a good design. I tended to put it into half-shadow and shoot it to avoid the legs, which never look terribly good on monsters. And one of the things I enjoyed about ‘Dragonfire’ was having the real cliffhanger with the Doctor and his umbrella!

“Kane had to be convincing too, without going over the top. That’s always the problem of these characters – the temptation is to go ‘aargh!’ and all that sort of stuff. And it usually works better if they do less. Then, when they’re really angry, they can twitch their eyes or something. Edward Peel did that very well.

“I loved doing ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ on location. It was a liberation and I think, though it was very tricky, we were managing to shoot about seven minutes a day. We had three days’ rehearsal for it, which I found very useful. There’s a lot of whimsy in it – high camp, in fact. It’s quite a camp show. We called it Who-de-Who! What you have to do, though, is try to make it believable, however lunatic it is. Don and the Bannermen counteract the whimsy.

“It had originally been set about 1956, but moving it to 1959 gave us an awful lot more music to choose from. Because Billy was a singer in the band, and there was singing in the bus, we thought we’d make the soundtrack part of the Fifties scene and keep it stylistically similar. Then the problem was that you can’t use the original American recordings, because of copyright difficulties, and then you’re forced towards the English cover versions, which on the whole aren’t terribly good. I had to cast a guy for Billy who could look as if he was singing and so we thought, why not cast a real singer and record all the music ourselves? So we did. The guys who appear as the band are all proper session musicians, with Keff McCulloch in charge.

“Was Ken Dodd controversial? It worked – it was my idea. It’s a small part, but it’s a fun cameo. I liked the idea of this build-up – the Doctor and Mel arriving at a Toll port that only has its landing light on, and you then get the tensino of ‘What’s lurking there?’, and instead of something nasty, you get Doddy coming out with his razzer going ‘Hello, welcome! Surprise, surprise! You’ve won a prize!’.