Archive for the ‘Directors’ Category

Pennant Roberts (Various)

March 2, 2010

Here are various Pennant Roberts quotes, covering two stories from his time as a ‘Doctor Who’ director:

The Sunmakers

Bob Holmes had written in these giant credit cards, and I thought it would be amusing to have them look like Barclaycards, so the designer used the same coloured stripes. When we got into the camera rehearsal, Graham Williams said ‘Pennant, that looks like a giant credit card’, and I said ‘Yes, Graham, that was the idea’. And he decided that it wasn’t on at all, saying the BBC would be giving Barclaycard free publicity. Design had to change the card, which I thought was a shame, considering the nature of capitalism as represented in the story.

Warriors of the Deep

With the Silurians, we discovered that the actors could only be in costume for something like fifteen minutes at a time, because they were overheating hugely inside their rubber suits. And so I’ve got this very vivid memory of the make-up team coming out between takes to cool the Silurians down between takes.

In Johnny Byrne’s storytelling, we quite clearly needed the Silurians to speak text, to tell themselves what was happening in order to get the story moving forward. So that’s how we ended up with the flashing lights, to identity which Silurian was saying what to whom, because you couldn’t actually see their lips move – because their lips didn’t move! Looking at it now, it seems very dated.

The three Silurians sound as if they’ve been to a very minor public school, and they’ve been taught elocution from a very early age. I don’t think you’d attempt to do that sort of thing today.

Ron Jones (1980’s)

November 10, 2009

Ron Jones directed a number of classic 80’s stories, including ‘Black Orchid’, ‘Arc of Infinity’ and ‘Vengeance on Varos’. Here, he talks to DWM about finding a body double for Sarah Sutton, taking the show to film on location in Amsterdam, and why the Plasmatons in ‘Time Flight’ didn’t quite work.

“Black Orchid was a very good script and looking back, I often think I’d like to go back and do it all over again. Although my experience as a production manager was useful, it was my first show and I always think of the studio as being like a juggernaut – once it starts rolling, you can only hope that you are the driver and that you’re taking it in the right direction. I found the really important thing after working out all the technical stuff was not to forget that you need to get the right performance from the actors.

“Black Orchid was supposed to take place in the height of summer, and we were filming in October trying to avoid rain and other horrors like that. The actors were understandably very cold! We had a lot of trouble actually finding the location because we needed to combine the house with an old-fashioned railway station. We found the station in Buckinghamshire, but the house was a real problem. We needed a terrace suitable for dancing, a cricket ground with a pavillion, and a roof for the final scenes. John suggested a house that might be sufficient after filming ‘Castrovalva’ in the grounds, but at first the owners weren’t keen on us using it – they thought it would become identified as a result. We managed to persuade them on the grounds that our story was a total fiction, but even then we had to construct a second, smaller roof on top of the house to enable us to film up there.

“It was an amazing problem finding a double for Sarah Sutton, someone who was the right height and also the right build. The girl we got, Vanessa Paine, was used for some scenes, but for others it proved to be an exercise in concentration for Sarah. In the studio, we used the split screen technique, recording only one half of the picture and then remounting the scene with Sarah playing it all over again to nothing except her own recorded voice, being played back via some speakers. It was extremely time-consuming, but I was helped by it being the main technical requirement of the script. Apart from that, there were the stunts, but there we were working with experts, so any risk was minimised.

“We had a minor dispute with our technicians over lighting in the studio, and so we never got the lighting exactly as I wanted it. There is basic lighting and fine lighting, and in the event we only had the basic, so the drawing room and hall sets weren’t picked out as well as I wanted. It’s the kind of thing I expect we, as a production, agonise over more than the viewer would.

“Quite a lot of nice stuff had to be cut. Breathing moments, like all the stuff I shot of the vintage car for instance, is always the first to go, simply because it’s not ultimately essential to the story.

“Time Flight’ was pretty demanding. I think the main obstacle was the filming factor. I think at one time we would probably have liked to have done all that heath stuff on location, but it would have required at least two weeks filming, which was out of the question. That said, to recreate an entire heath in the studio is very difficult. We had a perspective set, to try to give some idea of scale, but that meant that the actors were limite in their movement and the overall impression was too static. I tried to be a bit more interesting by using that rocky outcrop and setting some scenes up against it, some slightly away from it and so on.

“The Plasmatons came out of our pre-planning meeting, when we all agreed the problem with monsters was that because you usually have a man inside, it’s difficult to get away from the basic human shape. As a kind of amorphous glob, the Plasmatons were a desire to break away from that, although unfortunately I don’t think they worked as well as they could have done had they been more mobile.

“Time Flight actually broke a bit of new ground as far as Heathrow was concerned. They had more or less banned drama filming at the airport, because apart from being inundated with requests, I think they’d had bad experiences. We approached them early on, and British Airways were quite keen for us to use Concorde, but it all rested with the British Airports Authority, who said ‘Okay, we’ll give it a try’ – I think because they had a ‘Doctor Who’ fan there!

“It didn’t really fit to have all that snow there, but we had absolutely no way around it. What would have been our alternative? Filming in Terminal One was great fun, and interesting for the reactions of travellers as they saw the TARDIS and then Janet wandering around followed by a film camera. We used some stock footage because we had no alternative. It was difficult because it had to blend with our models and it was a very tricky opereation. If there had been any other way, I would gladly have used it.

“Kalid had to collapse to the floor and dissolve slightly. We used a double to save time, so that Anthony Ainley could go off and get changed for the rest of the scene, and also so that visual effects could set up the mask with the fluid pipes. We started to record it and in the gallery we all thought it looked very effective. After taking quite a long time, I said ‘Cut!’ and I shall never forget our poor double saying ‘My God, I nearly drowned!’. He’d fallen in such a way that some of the fluid was going up his nose and into his mouth. Later, in editing, I wasn’t allowed to forget the incident – it was preserved on tape to make me feel guilty.

“Anthony Ainley was very thoughtful and dedicated when it came to discussing his interpretation of Kalid. We gave it a lot of consideration, and that paid off with the pleasing result we achieved in the end.

“I said to a friend at the time ‘I did it as technically and as capably as I could, which is not to say someone else couldn’t have done it better’ I found the physical restrictions swamped us, rather. You always have an initial gut reaction to a story, and with ‘Time Flight’ I kew it was going to be tough to realise from the beginning.

“My theory is that you put your resources into what you can do best. ‘Frontios’ was written on this vast scale with the huge colony ship, and we were supposed to relate that to the street below. It was a major headache to realise that in a studio, with no pre-filming. Sometimes I’ll re-locate scenes to get the best visual impact out of them.

“I’m sure Johnny Byrne won’t mind me saying this – I virtually plotted the whole of the end action for ‘Arc of Infinity’. With a week’s filming, we wanted to get some sort of value out of it, and a chase on foot has to be very carefully constructed to make it exciting. I added things like the bridge being pulled up just as they wanted to cross it, as a way not only of prolonging the suspense but also of saying ‘Look, this is the locate at its most dramatic’. My locating of the final moments on the lock gates was another slight change from the original script. I thought it pointed our rather nicely that Omega had nowhere to run to anymore.

“Having got the script, I went to Amsterdam with John and our production manager, where we got in touch with the tourist board, who are very good at looking after visiting film crews. We told them what we wanted and they then pointed us in the right direction, so to speak. Indeed, the filming at the airport there was easier than it had been in the UK for ‘Time Flight’. The main location we used, although very central, was actually untypical of most of Holland, but it suited our purposes exactly. It was all kept in as close a vicinity as possible simply because if you’re travelling, you’re losing filming time.

“I cast Colin Baker in ‘Arc of Infinity’ because I liked him as an actor, and as a person he has a tremendous sense of humour. He’s a very intelligent guy and he’s bringing a lot of himself to the part, especially in the form of this dry wit.

“I read the script for ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and thought at once ‘This is very exciting’. If you remember ‘Gangsters’, it was in the same way a mix of toughness and humour. It fitted quite comfortably in the studio and I was quite happy for it to be that way. I hope it has that type of ‘no escape’ claustrophobia to it. I thought the sets were most effective, and they were fairly flexible. For that one mortuary fight scene, we had to construct an entire water tank in the corner of the studio.

“We were lucky in our cast. Jason Connery is very up and coming, and Nabil Shaban was exactly right as Sil. I wanted him to appear as slimy as possible, and Nabil gave a lovely performance of eye-rolling evil. The voice was designed to be quite sinister as well. Of course it’s very hot in all our monster costumes, and after takes Nabil had to be kept cool with face fans.”

Derek Martinus (1980’s)

November 6, 2009

Derek Martinus directed the first three Doctors, taking charge of William Hartnell’s ‘Galaxy 4’ and ‘The Tenth Planet’, Patrick Troughton’s ‘Evil of the Daleks’ and ‘The Ice Warriors’, and Jon Pertwee’s ‘Spearhead From Space’. Has anyone else directed Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Autons? Here, he talks about dealing with William Hartnell, trying to find tall actors for the Ice Warriors, and the strike-hit shoot for Jon Pertwee’s first story.

“William Hartnell regarded me with great suspicion when I arrived. He knew I was the new boy and he wasn’t slow to remind me how many hundreds of films he’d done and how many directors he’d advised on how to get the shots. Bill used to say ‘I don’t know why you’ve put the camera there, it’d be much better here. Then I can walk into a big close-up and you’ll be fine, you see’. I quite liked the old boy, I respected some of the work he’d done in the past and I remember the dear old man saying ‘I have carte blanche on all the casting and all the script alterations, because they can’t do the serial without me’. One did have to tread very carefully with him, but he warmed to me and I to him. We sort of found a way of communicating, as one had to do.

“Doing the regeneration was interesting, we were trying to get a slow transformation, which wasn’t really possible with roll back and mix. We were trying out new techniques using inlay and overlay. I can picture now the gasp of joy as that changeover actually worked – it was most important because it had to be good for the future of the show’s sake, which was far from certain then.

“It got a lot easier when Pat Troughton took over. He lent it an air of respectability. At that time, the programme was beginning to make a big impact and star names were attracted. I do remember being quite nervous about approaching Marius Goring to appear in ‘The Evil of the Daleks’, but he was attracted to the indulgence of the part. He liked to play these great Henry Irving style eccentrics, and we sold it to him on the basis that here was the chance to create a really rich, bizarre character. He seized on that and really went to town.

“I seem to remember a lot of filming in an old house, which was very good. The Daleks had to be shot very carefully and from exactly the right angle, because if you shoot them without care they do look rather tame and ordinary. You had to build up a Dalek’s entrance. I used to make them lurk in the shadows.

“The Ice Warriors was the worst to cast, simply because of the creatures themselves – it was a nightmare because I insisted, in accordance with the script, that every Ice Warrior should be over six feet tall. We had an incredibly weird collection of people who turned up to audition for that, some of whom were gentlemen with very dubious track records, with prison records and the like.

“Jon Pertwee was very nervous about ‘Spearhead From Space’, because he’d not done a lot of so-called straight acting before. He also saw himself very much as the big, outdoor kind of guy. He liked to be in control, and was always surrounded by flashy birds and fast cars. He was very particular about his image, which was a good thing. That first one we nearly lost and only saved because Derrick Sherwin, the producer, was a very energetic and determined bloke. He had a tremendous fight to get the go-ahead, but he did and for a while we all had this wonderful fantasy of doing ‘Doctor Who’ all on film and selling it to America.”

David Maloney (1980’s)

November 4, 2009

David Maloney directed some of the most popular stories from the original run of ‘Doctor Who’. From Troughton’s ‘The Mind Robber’ and ‘The War Games’, through to Tom Baker’s ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang’, his pedigree is right up there with the most successful directors from the original series. Here, he tells DWM about painting ponies in an aircraft hangar,  trying not to draw attention to the rats at Brighton rubbish tip, and covering a Porsche with a tarpaulin to keep it out of a shot.

“I’d been on the director’s course and the head of serials, Shaun Sutton, called me into his office and asked me if I’d like to do a four-part ‘Doctor Who’ – which later became five, ‘The Mind Robber’. I remember filming for that at two o’clock in the morning at a disused aerodrome south of Croydon, in order to shoot a scene with a unicorn. The unicorn was to be played by a pony, which we were assured would be able to do all that was required, and would be white. When we arrived, we were horrified to see that it was actually a creamy brown. So in the middle of this aerodrome, in the dark, we had to paint the horse. Someone had some poster paint which covered half of it, somebody else had some blanco and make-up turned out everything they had until the horse was in all sorts of different make-up. Then we tied a horn on its head and at last filmed it.

“We all thought ‘The Krotons’ was a disaster. It replaced a comedy script by a guy called Dick Vosburgh which wasn’t working at all, so it was decided to shelve it. There is a point of no return and we didn’t want to have to cobble something together, but that’s what we ended up having to do. There was great disappointment with the way the Krotons themselves turned out. They weren’t flexible enough and they couldn’t do enough.

“As for ‘The War Games’, well I was responsible for a lot of its conception. I remember sitting in this office with Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, and the producers Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, known locally as Bryant nad May! We came up with the idea of a very long serial but after that initial decision and the choice of theme, we still hadn’t decided what theatres of war we’d go into. I went home and asked my young son what would be the periods of war he’d be most interested to look at. He said the American Civil War, the First World War and the Roman Invasion of Britain. These were the most romantic eras of war and that’s why we chose them. Malcolm Hulke wrote it with Terrance Dicks. Malcolm was always a great influence on Terry.

“The last episode was the first Time Lord script. It was a whole new concept. I had a very clever designer working on it called Roger Cheveley, now a director himself. He was very sympatico and built a great set. We filmed on the Brighton rubbish tip. As usual, there was a lot of time pressure and we weren’t going to get all the material we wanted. There was a group of make-up girls standing with their backs to this sort of cliff of rubbish. Some of us noticed that there were rats at least fourteen inches long playing behind them. We were so short of time, I put the word around not to mention this, because if the girls had seen them there’d have been havoc and we just didn’t have the time to move that police box again.

“I also remember there was an awful lot of casting to do. I cast Derrick’s wife as exactly the right type of tough English girl. There was a great need to have plenty of strong actors in it, because people kept appearing and disappearing – we needed a lot of innovation to keep the pace. I had this idea that Noel Coleman should wear these strange sort of spectacles. We also had David Garfiel, who now writes ‘Crossroads’, and the excellent Edward Brayshaw.

“I was at ITV doing an all-film children’s series called ‘Kim and Co’, when Barry Letts asked me back to do ‘Planet of the Daleks’. I was quite delighted with the effects in it, but I noticed that the style had changed markedly. Jon was very keen to keep it all dead serious, whereas all the others have used comedy as their yardstick – something I generally encouraged. I found it extremely interesting with Jon – during his period, I think the show lost a lot of its fantasy element.

“Genesis of the Daleks’ had a sort of mixed birth. It was when Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes had just taken over and Bob didn’t like Daleks at all. He apparently met Terry Nation at a party and Terry said ‘I think the Daleks should be in every season’, and Bob said ‘Oh do you?’, deciding then and there never to do another, unless the story was radically new. A few days later, he got a letter from Terry’s agent saying ‘I gather you want to do a Dalek story per season’ and so on. The only reason they did that one was because it went back and had the Davros character – a lot of which came from Bob.

“The move during that era was towards being quite frightening and violent, and I pushed that and actively participated in it. My chief designer Roger Murray Leach and I conceived all these strange images, particularly for the beginning sequence. I think all that slow motion death was a bit much in retrospect, but I did change the opening to that. Originally Terry had started it with the Doctor meeting a Time Lord in a beautiful garden. I switched that and conceived the figure of the Time Lord after the Bergman ‘Seventh Seal’ monk figure, a man cowled and with no face, playing chess on a hill with a knight. That was a direct pinch, hence John Franklyn Robbins’ costume.

“Tom Baker was a very dominant actor both physically and intellectually, so you did need to counter that. You really had to get a special actor to play against him in the villain’s part. Bernard Horsfall I’d used before as Gulliver, and just as for that part, he was what I needed in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ – big, tough and with range. Peter Pratt I chose because apart from being a very well-known radio actor, it was of particular interest to me having watched him after the war as the leading man with the D’oyly Carte opera company. Consequently he had a splendid voice.

“Louise Jameson’s Leela worried me, in that it was the first time he’d had a nubile companion in the true sense of the world – they were too close in age and strength of presence. I used to joke that there’d be an episode with the Doctor and Leela in the TARDIS and we’d say ‘Come out and have an adventure’, and he’d say ‘No thanks, I’m quite happy in here with Leela’. I always thought he should be a mentor, not an equal with his companions.

“In ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’, we were due to film in and around a set of Victorian houses in Twickenham and in a Victorian square in Wapping. We had posted letters to all the owners of the houses, asking them all if they’d please remove their motor cars because we wanted to bring a carriage through the square. When we got there, there was a Porsche still parked in full view and it was really going to ruin e verything we wanted to do, so Roger Murray-Leach, my designer, had the very clever idea of putting a tarpaulin over the car and covering it with hay. It was the first time I did a videotape outside broadcast instead of film. We used the Northampton rep. theatre because it’s still got the original Victorian flying area above the stage and we had a big chase there. Robert Holmes delivered the scripts more or less hand to mouth. He’d gone away on holiday expecting a six-parter on his desk when he got back, but it fell through and at very short notice he had to write six episodes himself. We didn’t ever start with all six scripts and we discussed it a lot between us.”

Peter Moffatt (1987)

October 30, 2009

Here’s Peter Moffatt talking about the various stories he directed, ranging from ‘State of Decay’ and ‘The Visitation’ to ‘The Five Doctors’ and ‘The Twin Dilemma’. Happy Halloween!

“I was on holiday in Johannesburg in South Africa where my wife was doing a play. We were just going out for the evening, when there was a phone call from John Nathan-Turner asking me to do one of his ‘Doctor Who’s. I knew John vaguely from the days when he was a Production Assistant, but on ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ I got very friendly with him, as he was our Production Unit Manager and I did a lot of the shows.

“For ‘State of Decay’, we had a fairly early planning meeting, unlike a normal play where it’s usually just before rehearsals start. The biggest challenge was the King Vampire, the great heaving monster under the ground, which didn’t work. First we opted to do it mechanically, which looked dreadful. Then we had a man with a flapping umbrella type costume. I cut it down to the briefest glimpse. It was difficult to make it believable. Looking back, perhaps it would have been better to have used a vast noise – as suggested by light and sound. The model shots were quite a challenge, but they worked all right, though we had to slow them down so they didn’t look like toys. Also, the filming was done before the second studio, and the colouring of the lighting where the spaceship should have been differed from location to studio – thus I had a matching problem when I came to editing.

“I asked Emrys Jones to almost ham Shakespeare, so that he could disguise his true identity. It was interesting for them as actors to do – we decided that even when they were alone, they were so used to this manner of behaviour in front of the peasant population that they carried it on and never dropped it. The vampires themselves were, after all, playing the part of King and Queen. I worked out with them all these very formulized movements – rather balletic and extremely elegant. I contrasted this by directing the scientists and peasants to be as naturalistic as possible.

“Matthew Waterhouse had only done a tiny part in ‘To Serve Them All My Days’. He was fairly professional, given that he’d never been to drama school, but at first he tended to move rather badly – it was difficult to stop him skipping about. He did learn quickly, though. By ‘The Visitation’ he was much more assured, thought the difficulty with that story was having so many main characters. He was always extraordinarily receptive and willing, but his body, not being trained, didn’t behave like an instrument. An actor should be able to use his body as a pianist uses his piano.

“I thought ‘The Visitation’ was most ingenious – though I didn’t entirely feel sure about our ethics in explaining the Great Fire! We had the Terileptils for that, with Michael Melia with a mic inside his mask, which was operated brilliantly by Peter Wragg using remote control. Peter asked if he could come to a rehearsal to see the long dialogue scenes of the Terileptil leader. I said ‘This is going to be very difficult, as the Terileptil has to express its tainted beauty, intellectual anger, the lot’, but Peter said that’s all he needed, he didn’t need a script. True to his word, he just felt his way through the dialogue and made that face extremely mobile. Michael Robbins was pushed to the ground rather too forcefully in the beheading scene, and he got a bad case of housemaid’s knee – it swelled up to an enormous size, and recording had to stop while he visited the Television Centre doctor.

“In ‘Mawdryn Undead’, Mark Strickson was wonderful – he learnt so quickly. I remember his very first scene on the filming, which we did at Middlesex Polytechnic, Trent Park – as the public school. He started off with a very off, very modern accent and I said to him ‘You’re supposed to be a public schoolboy’. Immediately, he assumed the right accent. He felt himself into the part and gave the same enthusiasm and attention to detail even when he’d got nothing to do, as in ‘The Five Doctors’. He never complained, although it must have been frustrating.

“There was a scene where David Collings as Mawdryn has lost all his strength and was crawling along the ship’s floor. The make-up girl provided him with some revolting-looking sick, which he threw up all over the floor. I didn’t like it, so we recorded it again without the sick, and I used the second version. It was unnecessary. I don’t shoot people sitting on a lavatory any more than I shoot people being violently sick. Also, if you dwell on horror too much, the audience becomes dulled to it. In ‘The Twin Dilemma’, we shot about ten minutes of Mestor’s death scene, and it was a bit horrific so I took brief shots of it and cut back to the actors’ reactions.

“Maurice Denham was absolutely thrilled to do ‘The Twin Dilemma’. Kevin McNally adored it – and it wasn’t even a very big part. Because of the strike, we had a long period of rehearsal so I mixed it up rehearsing both recording blocks together to keep everybody fresh. As a consequence, they became like a naughty family with practical jokes, the lot – they loved it. After our last recording, we all went out to have dinner in a restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. We were hours later, but they’d kept open for us, it was tears all round – nobody wanted to leave this family.

“It was the same with ‘The Five Doctors’. They were all so thrilled to be back, even though there were only two scenes with everybody together. Frazer only came in for one day, rehearsed on Saturday, recorded on Sunday. When he came into rehearsal, Pat and he immediately started reminiscing. I had to say ‘Come along’. He looked rather sour, but I’ve never seen somebody kiss so many pretty girls in the canteen, apart perhaps from Maurice Denham. They both seem to know every actress in the canteen. Nicola Bryant got a very special kiss every morning when Maurice arrived and in the evening when he departed.

“Tom Baker withdrew from ‘The Five Doctors’ before I joined. I never saw a draft script, so I don’t know how it was originally divided. I was working on ‘Juliet Bravo’ when John offered it to me, so communication was a problem and by the time I arrived, the main cast were worked out. Tom sent me one of the best fan letters I’ve ever had from an artist, saying ‘State of Decay’ had been one of his favourite stories and one of his favourite times on the show. At a Chicago convention he saw me and flung his arms around me, saying how marvellous it was to see me again. It’s a shame he didn’t do ‘The Five Doctors’, it would have been a kind of thank you to ‘Doctor Who’ for making him a star – but he had his reasons.

“The clips from ‘Shada’ had to be isolated – one of the problems was that they were short clips before some other actor would appear. The punt dialogue was not special to the story. John and I sat through hours of it, and we changed the second extract, which looked a bit strange – why was he suddenly lying in a car park? The idea behind it was you got them all taking off in the TARDIS, though I’d originally suggested to John and he’d agreed to use a bit where Tom and Lalla were walking into one of the colleges, so that it looked as though they’d dropped back into what they’d been doing before.

“Richard Hurndall and Carole Ann Ford were in this strange hall of mirrors, where they were due to meet a Dalek. They were supposed to see it, go off left and the Dalek was supposed to follow them saying ‘Exterminate!’. It had been difficult to mark out those mirrored corridors in rehearsal, and in the first take Richard and Carole Ann went off followed by the Dalek saying ‘Exterminate!’, until we suddenly heard him add ‘Damn it, I’ve lost the buggers!’. As you can imagine, it brought the house down. They used the second take, where I’d been talking to a cameraman or somebody and forgotten to say ‘cut’. Poor old Roy went on saying ‘Exterminate!’ right up the vocal scale until he couldn’t get any higher. We all gave him a round of applause.

“Richard Hurndall I had the greatest admiration for – he’d never played a Doctor and had to presume exactly what he was doing, while all the others fell back into doing what they’d always done. I was never worried, but he was, fantastically so. He said ‘What am I doing now?’. I told him he didn’t have to be Bill – just suggest him. After all, we showed Bill as a prologue, so it was going to be obvious that here was a different actor. I said suggest him in your gestures and temper, and he was of the old-fashioned school of actors who never question – I always had to ask him if he was happy.

“I would have loved to have gone to some strange location for ‘The Twin Dilemma’, who filming was done in two very small quarries – one was near Harefield, the other Gerrard’s Cross. They were both deep in mud when we did it, and terribly limited, because pan the camera two inches the other way and you’d see housing estates or trees. I’d have liked to have used a burnt out forest area to show the required devastation. We did the location work between the two studios, which I liked because so often if you go filming first, you don’t have any rehearsal.

“Somehow Colin never had any doubts. It just seemed to go right. He’s very out-going and dominant, and yet he can be calm, quiet and gentle. There were no real birth pangs – it all came from those initial rehearsals, and for him it was lucky they were extended by the strike. Nicola Bryant’s got an enchanting personality. I can’t believe she hasn’t been acting for years.

“Edwin Richfield, who plays Mestor, could hardly move – it was very restricting. He had to use his arms like fins, because he couldn’t use his elbows. The difficult thing was in rehearsal actors playing monsters give a beautiful facial performance and you have to keep reminding them they won’t be visible in the studio. I chose Edwin for his voice – he had so much to express and it was recorded naturally on the boom mic, coming out slightly distorted from being behind the mask and then treated in cipher dub.

“I thought it was going to be impossible to get twins. I suggested to John opting for a boy and a girl, so it wouldn’t be noticeable that they weren’t identical. I interviewed a lot of actors and actresses with this in mind, when suddenly an agent rang up and said ‘We’ve got some real twins’. They read well, although not experienced, and so I took them on”.

Hugh David (1980’s)

October 27, 2009

Hugh David directed two Patrick Troughton stories, ‘The Highlanders’ and ‘Fury From the Deep’, and was also approached for ‘The Underwater Menace’, which he eventually deemed impossible to film on the available budget. Here, he talks about simulating the Battle of Culloden, discussing water tanks with the James Bond special effects team, and filming in Margate.

“The Highlanders was the very last story set purely in the past. Innes Lloyd and his team decided that the history stories were not popular enough. And I think it was a shame, because there’s a limit to what you can do with science fiction, how many times you can have a man in a suit covered in tentacles running around. The contrast between the sci-fi and the past was important.

“The story introduced Jamie. The character was worked out well in advance, but I actually cast Frazer Hines in the role. The end of episode one had Michael Craze being keel-hauled by the vicious slave traders. He was covered in a sack, tied to a plank and lowered gradually over the side of the ship – into the tank at Ealing Studios. It was a very dangerous stunt and we had a special, quite expensive team in to handle the wiring system. I asked them if anything could go wrong, and they said they never made mistakes and that was why they were so expensive. Michael Craze did survive the ordeal.

“I had to simulate the aftermath of the battle of Culloden, and I could have spent hundreds of pounds on extras and props and period costume. However, the story began with three Highlandesr fleeing the massacre, and I had them come running over the top of a ridge behind which we’d set up a lot of explosives and the like. Adding a few sounds effects completed the illusion and cost nothing.

“Another script landed on my desk, a story called ‘Atlanta’ (The Underwater Menace), which eventually I didn’t do. It was passed onto Julia Smith, who now produces ‘EastEnders’. The concept seemed to me to be too weighted against us. I loved challenges, but this was too difficult. It just didn’t work. I have no rules – I just say ‘Does it work?’. That story called for things that were impossible to achieve on our budged. We had so little money then. It concerned a sort of Hitler, who’d gone down in a U-boat and arrived in an underwater city, Atlantis, and started up a kind of Nazi enclave. Quite a good story, as long as we could do the underwater photography.

“I contacted a guy at Pinewood, who’d just done the James Bond film ‘Thunderball’, which featured a lot of underwater sequences, and I thought there might be equipment left over which they didn’t require. I asked if he could give me any advice, and told him the outline of the plot. He asked me how much money I had, and I said £3,500 above the line for the whole show. He signed and said ‘£3,500? Mmm, well, on our underwater sequence alone we spent £3m, and that wasn’t enough. Any more questions?’. And I put the phone down and told Innes I couldn’t do it. You couldn’t take a tiny tank at Ealing and pretend you were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean indefinitely.

“Patrick Troughton told me ‘Fury From the Deep’ was one of the best he’d done. That was quite a big story – equally bizarre. It required about ten days filming altogether, down near the Thames estuary. We had terrible weather! The sea was frozen over at the water’s edge. The basic story was extraordinary. It was about a gas platform out in the North Sea, but not far offshore. The gas was being pumped through pipes to an installation on land, and some evil force had taken it over. Like ivy choking a tree, this seaweed was working its way from the platform, up the pipeline, to the shore where it was infecting the humans. There were two immediate problems. Would the British Gas Authority let us have a natural gas platform? And if so, would they allow us to cover it with seaweed? Well, I didn’t have to phone up – I knew what the answer would be. Not on your life. Had they said yes, I don’t know where we’d have got that amount of seaweed from.

“In the end, I thought of some of the old Thames forts, once used by pirate radio stations. Their resemblance to natural gas platforms was about one per cent – the fact that they were stuck out at sea! In the end, we went to Radio 390, about forty miles from the Thames Estuary, which had been completely abandoned. The only remaining problem was how we were going to cover it in seaweed, so I went to Jack Kline, in charge of the Special Effect Department, to see if he’d got anything which he could produce in bulk, inexpensively. Funnily enough, he’d just discovered a device which could pump out fire-fighting foam in massive quantities. It was very impressive, but I thought what’s it got to do with seaweed? Then I had a brain-wave. I remembered cuckoo spit, produced by little aphids on plants, and I had the idea that all the seaweed figures would surround themselves with this lather they produced. I was very pleased with the results.”

“The studio set was rather like a James Bond set – only done on fourpence! It was raised up on to different levels, and we had lots of perspex cylinders coming in filled with gas, which were being attended to be white-coated scientists. The seaweed figures were going to appear behind the perspex and smash their way through, letting in all the foam. And I intended filling the massive set with foam. Well, I had no idea of the speed of this foam. Apparently, there were about fifty gallons of water a minute going into it. So I gave the word, and it all started up. For about thirty seconds nothing happened, so I called ‘Keep acting, it’s gonna happen in a moment! Suddenly, the place convulsed. Foam gushed in at an incredible speed. A lot of actors were on a high platform, and when they got down, they couldn’t see where they were gonig. They really did panic. What ensued was fantastic from my point of view, because it was real-life panic. There was about six inches of water in the studio after that.

“I wanted to get the feeling that the TARDIS was going up like a rocket, leaving Victoria behind on the beach. It was rather a plaintive shot, because as we had such terrible weather, nobody was walking along the front at Margate, and the shoreline was in a very strange configuration, and the sea was right out. We got up in the helicopter, just above her head, and looked down on her. We added a 20 to 1 lens, which allows a picture to grow twenty times bigger. So as she stood there waving, we soared up in the helicopter and zoomed out the lens, and she became a tiny dot on the beach below. We stuck that on the screen in the TARDIS in the studio – the last shot of Victoria.”

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!’.

Peter Grimwade (1980’s)

October 22, 2009

Here are excerpts from a couple of DWM interviews with Peter Grimwade, who directed various ‘Doctor Who’ stories, including ‘Full Circle’ and ‘Logopolis’, having worked on the series since the Jon Pertwee days. He also wrote a number of stories, including ‘Mawdryn Undead’.

“The very first ‘Doctor Who’ story I worked on was the premier Jon Pertwee one, ‘Spearhead From Space’. I was a production assistant then, and one was working for the BBC full time, as opposed to now where I am basically freelance as a director. The story was very nearly abandoned. It was the first colour ‘Doctor Who’ and at the time there was a dispute in the Television Centre to do with the lighting technicians and so we lost our studios for that story. We had done a week’s filming – that’s proper filming and not electronic video-taping – and a lot of money had been spent on the serial already. The producer, Derrick Sherwin, said to us that there were two alternatives. Either we wrote the story off and maybe did it later in the season with all the associated problems of recasting and such, or we did the whole thing on film and on location. I think we had eight days to find all our matching interiors to go with the exteriors we had already shot.

“My brief for ‘The Daemons’ was to find a suitable venue for the archaeological dig, a village with a church, a group of Morris Dancers – whom I eventually tracked down in Oxford – and a village green suitable for landing a helicopter. This was in the days when a ‘Doctor Who’ production could afford to use a helicopter, before the fuel crisis. For the scene where it was intended to blow up, visual effects people had designed a device which was hung from the fuselage to make a flash and a band when the chopper reached, say, 500ft in the air. This didn’t work, so in the end we bought the rights to use a small section from a James Bond film. And it worked very well – nobody noticed.

“Robot was plagued by industrial problems both on location and in the studios. The director, Chris Barry, had to put in for an extra day of location because of trouble while putting up the location scenery. I seem to remember the studio work was affected by scenery problems. We also had to edit in a shot (of the regeneration) from ‘Planet of the Spiders’, which had been recorded by another director.

“For ‘Pyramids of Mars’, we were driving around districts looking for a location and we stopped in at a pub for lunch, and literally by chatting up the locals, starting with the landlord, we were eventually led to Mick Jagger’s house, ‘Stargroves’. And funnily enough that house, we later discovered, was built by the same person who had worked on Lord Caernarvon’s home ‘Highclere’ – Lord Caernarvon being, of course, the man who unearthed the tomb of Tutankhamen.

“I did a director’s course at the BBC. I was offered a chance to direct one of the episodes of ‘The Omega Factor’ with Louise Jameson, which took me to Scotland, and not long afterwards I was approached by John Nathan-Turner, whom I’d known as a production manager on ‘Doctor Who’, and was asked to direct ‘Full Circle’. The first planning meeting, as on any show, was a who-does-what effort. Amy Roberts, the costume designer, had done one sketch of the Marshmen, John Brace of visual effects had done another, and make-up too had also produced a sketch, and picking the final design was purely a case of the best sketch winning. In this case, Amy’s was the one chosen because I felt her design gave me the visualisation of the Marshmen I had imagined from reading the script.

“The huge colourful lights taken on location, which made Alzarius seem as though it had a strange sun, were not conceived at an early stage. That came along when the cameraman suggested lighting the foreground as we were setting up the forest s cenes. It was a little suspicious of this as I thought it could easily have ended up looking like ‘Top of the Pops’, but the cameraman said it had worked well on an episode of ‘Blake’s 7’ so I talked to David Maloney, looked at the video cassette and agreed it looked okay. So we took up he suggestion.

“It worked especially well after the designer, a very talented girl called Janet Budden, had made the set look even more exotic by dabbing powder paint all over the foliage and trees. It kicked back off the lights and gave a very garish feel to the set. The only problem was that the stuff got everywhere, and we were continually having to clear it up because the part we filmed in was National Trust property. I was also keen we should have a flight of exotic birds for one scene and we solved that cheaply by simply having Janet paint some ordinary homing pigeons peculiar colours using this non-toxic powder.

“We were very fortunate on ‘Full Circle’ to have such marvellous weather for the week on location, especially for the scene of the Marshmen coming out of the lake where the evening sun was behind the actors and streaming onto the water, which made the scene look very impressive, I thought.

“For ‘Logopolis’, John Nathan-Turner wanted a good transformation which would show the full changeover from Tom Baker to Peter Davison and so not make it necessary to repeat the scene for the first story of the next season. It was intended that ‘Logopolis’ should show the full change”.

“Mawdryn Undead had a very visible beginning, in so far as it was based on the myth of the Flying Dutchman – stimulated by the English National Opera’s production of it, which I saw and which provoked me to think ‘Why not put the story of the Flying Dutchman into space?’. The idea of never being able to escape from life and consciousness was an idea which appeals very strongly to me, and which dominates my imagination a great deal. I felt there was something I wanted to say there and so I took the idea to Eric Saward, who liked it.

“Originally it was going to go right back to the beginning and be the teacher Ian Chesterton. The moment I thought about him, that gave me the school, and I know the background of that kind of dreadful minor public school very well, so I used that.

“I was very fond of the Ibbotson character – schools like that are full of Ibbotsons, whose fathers have big Volvos, but that’s about all. I was pleased with him, because he gave us another link with the real world. As for the basic time theme, I wanted originally to have the time jump very wide – several hundred years – this gap separating the Doctor and his companions dangerously and disastrously, and presenting all sorts of problems about his to communicate. Then, in discussions with Eric, and by bringing in the old companion, we decided this was getting very complicated and difficult to realise. The alternative was to make it very recent and have the companion character bridge the gap, which allowed for a pleasingly different Brigadier in his 1983 aspect. Date continuity was never pointed out to me by anybody except the fans.”

Julia Smith (1980’s)

October 21, 2009

Here’s Julia Smith talking about the two stories she directed in the 60’s. ‘The Smugglers’ was a historical story with the 1st Doctor, while ‘The Underwater Menace’ was a sci-fi tale that had already been turned down by Hugh David as unfilmable, given the budget they had. After working on ‘Doctor Who’, Julia Smith had a long and distinguished career, which included  co-creating ‘EastEnders’.

“William Hartnell was remarkable. As a director, you work out actors’ moves before going into rehearsal, in order to get a variety of shots, and I remember asking William Hartnell to cross to the TARDIS and press a particular button, and he went raving mad: ‘I can’t. If I do that, this’ll happen to the TARDIS and that’ll happen to the TARDIS!’. And he gave me a quarter of an hour’s dissertation of why he couldn’t press that button. I stood there, very young and very nervous, and took this broadside about the insanity of women drivers almost. It was obviously so real to him. He’d committed himself to the character and aquainted himself with all the machinery, which in those days was very much simpler than it is now. Compared with all the advances in technology over the years, William Hartnell’s TARDIS must now look prehistoric.

“Hartnell must be responsible in a very large degreefor the success of the whole thing – the mystique he surrounded himself with. He was pure, old-fashioned, theatrical actor-manager, with that resounding voice. But he did leave this feeling of remoteness, of being larger than everybody else. I think that’s a quality the programme lacks now; I can no longer believe in Dr. Who as a super-being. I know he wasn’t very well, and I treated him as I did John Slater on ‘Z-Cars’, who had a bad heart. You knew it was sensible to protect him and not demand too much of him. You didn’t make him run up and down stairs, or wade through rivers. I suppose that’s for example how they work with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. You just don’t stretch the old ones too far.

“For ‘The Smugglers’, we went down to Cornwall to do it, because I knew the area very well. At that time, you could still find long stretches of coastline without a house in sight. And also caves, which we needed for the pirates’ lair. It was set round about the Cromwellian period, I don’t remember exactly, and I enjoyed it immensely, because I’ve always been interested in the history of buildings. I had a bee in my bonnet, because when we had to find a pub exterior, I insisted we use an old barn, because pubs in those days were far simpler, more rustic. So we surprised some farmer by saying ‘Please, sir, can we use your barn?’, and we dressed it up and put a pub signpost in the middle of a muck heap.

“We had a wonderful cast. George A. Cooper, who ended up in ‘Grange Hill’ – he played one of the baddies, a pirate with a smooth bald head. It was very much a traditional children’s idea of a pirate. In those days, one made it more with children in mind, and I think, in my humble opinion, that that was maybe its strength. Now it’s much more sophisticated, but then I suppose children are, too. Then it was a case of booing the bad guy and cheering the hero, not today’s maniacal obsession with equipment and technicalities.

“We left Newlyn harbour and it seemed fairly calm in the bay, but when we got our father, or brother… it was drizzling and all the actors were sitting there with plastic capes on over their costumes, and the pirate captain, who was quite a dandy, had a hood over his beautiful ringlet wig. And this picture sticks in my mind of a bright green face peering out from the hood, being sick over port. Those are the sort of things one remembers – the giggles one got out of it.

“Patrick Troughton was quite obviously very different in both appearance and shape – he wanted to bring another quality to the part, a slightly humorous, muddle-handed element. I enjoyed working with him very much. I remember there were awful arguments about that time, about how Patrick Troughton should play the part; whether he should be allowed to play his flute or not, quite how Quixotic the character could be. We all put forward our suggestions. It was the first time anyone had grappled with the problem of changing the lead actor. Now it’s become a sort of convention, and Dr. Who’s have come and gone at quite an alarming rate!

“All the underwater sequences for ‘The Underwater Menace’ were a problem, but we got by with trickery. We used the tank at Ealing to do a certain amount of trick work, but I must admit, I remember less about that one. I know we had great fun designing mermaid-type costimes and that we had hundreds of letters from little girls, asking if they could have the costumes. ‘The Underwater Menace’ depended more on action and trickery than it did on acting and performance. ‘The Smugglers’ had depended more on the performance. As a director, you encounter better and worse scripts, and I might make some quiet comments about them, but you have to believe totally in what you’re doing, because you have to sell it to the actors and give them support, help and enthusiasm to go ahead with the project.

“When we were planning ‘EastEnders’, Tony Holland and I went to Lanzarote to be clear of phones and pressures. We wrote details of every character from their birth to the moment ‘EastEnders’ began. Each character has his or her own biography in a seventy-five page document, which is kept under lock and key in my office. We also wrote the first two years of storylines, which we have just worked through now. It was all there on paper from the start – Angie and Den’s marriage problems, Michelle’s baby, Den’s mistress Jan, Lofty’s marriage to Michelle and the cot death of Sue’s baby. I thought originally that if we reached an audience of 13m within two yars, then I would be happy. The fact that we got 20m within a few months was amazing. But being number one, we have to stay there. This is why I think the whole process of becoming national figures for the cast has been an enormous step. I knew the possibilities and talked to them all at length beforehand. But talking is one thing, and doing is another. But I never think we have it right. I’m always thinking of ways to improve the show. In fact, I find myself never thinking of the past or the present – only of the future.”

Fiona Cumming (1980’s)

October 21, 2009

Fiona Cumming directed some classic Peter Davison stories, including his first, ‘Castrovalva’, and the highly-regarded ‘Snakedance’ and ‘Englightenment’. Here, she talks to DWM about the zero cabinet, working with Peter Sallis, and going to Lanzarote for ‘Planet of Fire’.

On ‘Castrovalva’

They’d already worked on at least three stories, so the rapport between them had constantly to be toned down – it was a case of reminding them the whole time. Peter’s main concern was that he wanted to get the element of all the other Doctors in it, and so he was busy looking at aspects of Bill, Patrick, Jon and Tom. This element was something that John Nathan-Turner had specifically wanted – the fact that the character had not stabilised and that there were these offshoots into the other characters.

Harrison’s Rocks looks very much higher than it is, and indeed it’s an area that’s used very extensively for training people in rock-climbing, because the rocks just come straight up out of the deck. Janet Fielding doesn’t like heights, and of course she was in these ridiculous high-heeled stewardess’s shoes and a tight skirt. She was never in any danger whatsoever, because you can do so much with camera angles. I’d worked all those out beforehand, and we also had a trainer with us to tell us ‘Don’t go down this area’ and ‘There’s a super angle here’. There were bits where we were only three feet off the ground, yet it looked as though you were in the Himalayas. The Production Manager and I had searched for ages to find somewhere and we tried all sorts of places. You see, the further you go from London, the more filming time you lose.

That zero cabinet was enormous. It had to be big enough to get Peter in, but it was so unwieldy, even without Peter in it, so that some of the uppings and downings were a real strain. Then there was the TARDIS. We wanted that to land on its side, and we placed it in a kind of grassy hollow. This gave us all the problem of not letting the grass get trampled down, because otherwise there’d have been a funny jump between the mix of shots for the de-materialisation. There was a point where there were the three companions, the Doctor and a props man all squeezed in there. The props man was there to keep the door in its proper position and he was holding the door closed while the thing was poised sort of two-thirds onto its back. They had to stay there long enough for us to be able to do the mix between shots and it was a hot, stinking day. Matthew Waterhouse wasn’t feeling too well, as he’d over-indulged in the bar the night before, so as you can imagine it was very uncomfortable all round!

The Escher set took up practically one whole studio session. We also had the Master’s chamber in that studio, as this was simply a re-painted zero room set. It worked quite well because we had a very clever designer, Janet Budden, and she managed to give us a certain amount of corridor and then by putting in an extra set of steps, you could make it look like another corridor.

On ‘Snakedance’

I didn’t initially realise how much of ‘Snakedance’ was influenced by the Buddhism which the author subscribes to. So I went about it in my fashion and when I met him, we were talking about the show and then we’d both been able to add something to it.

The concept of the snake was an enormously difficult one, and it helped that somebody else had fought their way through it. You could see what had worked and you could discard the things that you knew would be too difficult to do and try instead to get other things out of it.

I’d worked with Preston Lockwood before on a classic serial. I thought Preston would have fun with the part, and I said to him ‘This is the part, how would you feel about it, and by the way you’ve got to handle snakes’. And so he said ‘Yes, why don’t we meet up?’, and I agreed, adding ‘Why don’t I bring along the lady with the snakes?’. ‘What, you mean real snakes?’. And so I said ‘Yes, obviously you’re going to have to handle them, and if they turn you off as they do some people, then it just won’t work’. So we met these little garter snakes who were beautiful. They were completely harmless, of course, but I was taken aback at how strong they were. I’d thought of them like worms, but the muscle is very s trong. So Preston said yes, and has dined out on the story ever since.

On ‘Enlightenment’

I lost my original Striker and Mansell – Peter Sallis and David Rhule. There was always that depressing feeling that we might not get together again, and that you might have done all that filming for nothing. For me, that meant keeping my team clued up and going. It wasn’t too bad because of the sets, which made it fall into two studios, which is why we only lost those two.

Peter Sallis did one day’s rehearsal. He walked in and we described the set and he said ‘And where do I sit?’. We said ‘No, Peter, you stand over there’. He took one look and came back with ‘Oh, my agent didn’t tell me that. Oh, no – I don’t do standing parts’ and he sent us up rotton, because at that stage everyone had been thinking ‘Gosh, it’s Peter Sallis!’. As for Keith Barron, his replacement, I something think that when you’ve had something very firmly in your mind, it’s better to go totally, totally away from it, in case you try to impose that person onto another actor. Having realised Peter was committed elsewhere and couldn’t do it, it was a case of wipe the slate clean.

Of all the scripts, it was the one that appealed most initially. I think the idea of a space race is wonderful, and I’d seen quite a bit of the Black Guardian and I liked that feeling of black / white and good and evil, coupled with the fact that those two actors together were outrageous! If you actually go into it, though, the hole in the Eternals is that they’d all know who won as they knew everything.

On ‘Planet of Fire’

I sent John Nathan-Turner a postcard from a holiday in Lanzarote as a gag, saying something like ‘Weather wonderful, planet smashing, troglodytes willing – how about it?’. The following year we went back. The more I walked around it, the more I thought how terrific it could be, so I took a roll of film specifically with none of the family in it. When I came back I had them developed and put them on John’s desk. He loved it and said if it was ever possible, he’d definitely think about it. In the months that followed, he started saying things like ‘If there were ways’, and finally ‘When we do it’, but he never actually said I could direct it. He’d taken it as read!

We had a lot of co-operation, mainly with an organisation called Lanzarote Villas, who heard we were going, came to us and said they could smooth our paths quite considerably. Judy, the daughter of the firm’s owner, acted as interpreter and that made a terrific difference for us. She knew all the locals and when you wanted to go to the diving schools, she just picked up the phone and rang Manilo, whereas if we’d been dealing with a fixer from mainland Spain they wouldn’t have known.

I wanted someone very extravagant as Timanov, and Peter Wyngarde came up with some wonderful comments on the character, which made me wonder if I’d made a mistake. He felt that he should be as old as the hills, and his delivery was getting slower and slower and slower. So one day I said, ‘Peter, you know we spoke about him being 150? Well, I think he was 193 today’, and he said ‘What you mean is faster!’.

On ‘The Ultimate Evil’

I was booked to direct ‘The Ultimate Evil’, but I didn’t see the script. I knew that it was to feature Nicola Bryant quite strongly, which is why I think I’d been chosen. The writer was Wally K. Daly. It happened so early, I hadn’t set foot in the building. I was standing in our London flat doing a spot of cleaning when John rang me up. I was desperately upset, as I was looking forward to working with Colin.