Archive for the ‘Directors’ Category

Paddy Russell (1980’s)

October 14, 2009

Paddy Russell was the first female director to work on ‘Doctor Who’, and after the William Hartnell story ‘The Massacre’ she subsequently returned for Jon Pertwee’s ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ and Tom Baker’s ‘Pyramids of Mars’ and ‘Horror of Fang Rock’. In this DWM interview, she talks about her ‘natural advantage’ with William Hartnell, her attempts to move a nailed-down dinosaur, and her (sometimes unpleasant) experiences with Tom Baker.

“I imagine it was John Wiles who asked me to direct ‘Doctor Who’, and then the departmental organiser who agreed. I didn’t know much about the show, is it hadn’t been going long, but I liked the scripts because I thought they were well written, which I may say didn’t always happen on ‘Doctor Who’. This was the original Doctor, whom I always thought the best. For all the difficulties – he wasn’t easy to work with – he never forgot that the Doctor wasn’t human and he had an edge that I don’t think any of the others have had since. He could be very frightening, mind you.

“I think some of his edginess was due to his health and the schedule – he wasn’t a strong man. But there’s something about ‘Doctor Who’ and obviously, though I’d heard the stories, I can only talk about those I worked with, there’s something about that part. You find almost inevitably in any long-running series that the regulars get starry-eyed. It happens inevitably. But it always happened faster on ‘Doctor Who’.

“It was a very dominant part – all right, there was usually an assistant running around, but running around just about describes it. The programme was the Doctor, and the part was very much what the actor made of it. Though I never did one with Patrick Troughton, I knew him very well as an actor and had worked with him a lot. His idea was to get as far away from Bill as possible, and I personally think he pushed it a little too far.

“It was interesting, because I talked to Pat about ‘Doctor Who’ much later when he was doing a classic serial for me. Having found him a superb actor to work with, and not at all difficult, I found it absolutely extraordinary when I heard that he began to give himself a very bad reputation on ‘Doctor Who’. We were chatting away one day and I said I couldn’t believe these stories, and he said ‘Well, I couuldn’t believe what I was doing. That’s in the end why I left. The part overwhelmed me and it almost gave me schizophrenia’.

“Going back to Bill Hartnell, I didn’t actually have any problems, but there was a reason for that. Bill was actually the Doctor only in the first and last episodes. Other than that he was the Abbot of Amboise. Therefore I had the natural advantage with Bill, with whom I got on very well, in terms of saying ‘The Doctor’s showing’ if I didn’t like what he was doing. That worked like a charm, because the Doctor couldn’t show. As for Bill and John Wiles, well, I was piggy in the middle, but as the director you often were.

“In a way, I still think ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ was the best one I did. It was the hardest to do – a complete beast and I suppose I accepted it for the challenge. The biggest difficulty was deserted London, which was of course essential to the story, which we got around by going out at five one Sunday morning, the 2nd of September 1973 and beginning the shoot at Westminster Bridge. I managed to get all the way round Tragar Square without a bus, and then we had to do several takes in Whitehall, which was a bit more difficult. We finished at lunchtime in Billingsgate, when there started to be too many people around for deserted streets.

“Then from the 23rd to the 29th we went all over the place to film – Southall Gasworks, the Central Electrcity Board at Ealing, Pickfords Warehouse and Wimbledon Common. We got a lot done, because crews were much lighter then, but we could also get away with much more in 1973 – the audience is more sophisticated now. I remember Jon Pertwee had a passion for this Whomobile, which he wished on the BBC. That was at Covent Garden, added for a brief appearance at the last minute.

“The thing about Jon was that he was always desperately interested in what he was going to wear, and a great deal less interested in the script! (laughs) He always looked superb, but the drawback was that he wasn’t very good on the lines – we used to write them all over the set. John bennett, who was playing the lead opposite him, had to play a very intense scene with Jon and he was very funny about it afterwards, telling me it was the only time he’d had a scene with another actor who never looked at him, because he was looking all round the set to see where the next line was coming from!

“It’s the only programme I’ve ever done – or want to do – where you whip through the performance as fast as you can, becuase you want to get to the effects, and they were sitting on your back and they took time. The models were beautiful and the model filming as such I left to Barry Letts to get on with, as I had quite enough on my plate. Sequences with actors, of course, had to be done in the studio. It was frantic – absolutely frantic.

“I always remember when we got to the last episode there was a sequence in it where Jon and the Brigadier were driving down a road and a dinosaurs was to appear in their way. I was doing their point of view and the reverse, and so I’d shot the location film with this in mind. But it had to go through the studio to actually add the model. The dinosaurs was standing one way, but for the other shot it needed to be turned around and we ran out of time. I was holding Barry Letts off with one hand as we were over-running. We really needed to switch this wretched model around, but of course you had to nail its feet down, otherwise they looked like they were floating. I said ‘We haven’t got time, it’s the tummy, nobody’s going to notice with a dinosaur’, and thank goodness, nobody did!

“Pyramids of Mars wasn’t a terribly good script. It was very much rewritten and rewritten. I was always very fussy about my scripts and I usually liked to work on them directly with the writer, but in that case the author, Lewis Greifer, just wasn’t around! I seem to remember his script was something of a disaster and Bob Holmes and I did an awful lot of work on it. It had got a lot of holes in it. My own reaction to any sscript was just to sit down and read it, vital, as that was the only time I could e ver judge it as a member of the audience. After that, I’d get too close. I was a terror for putting it off – I’d usually tackle it late at night.

“For that story, we went on location to Stargroves House, where Mick Jagger lived, from the 29th April to the 2nd May. I remember the poor mummies most of all – they really couldn’t see and had dreadful problems. If you remember, we had a chase down a fairly steep hil and the poor loves couldn’t see where they were putting their feet, added to which those costumes were incredibly hot and heavy. It was very carefully blocked, as I couldn’t tell what I was asking them to do was possible until they’d tried it. As they were on falling ground, they couldn’t look down, as the neck units were solid and anyway it would have spoilt the effect. We had to find them a path that was reasonable, so we got them to walk the ground slowly where I needed them for the shot and we watched very carefully to make sure there was nothing in the way that would trip them up when they tried to put a bit of speed on. They were very brave and they earned every miserable penny we paid them!

“My designer was a great help in getting the gothic look. I didn’t have a clear vision of the pyramid, that was all hers, and I remember those CSO interiors were very hard to get right. I also remember Lis Sladen in that white dress – ‘Pick up your skirts, Lis, they’re getting filthy!’ – ‘I don’t care,’ would come the reply.

“Tom Baker was easy to deal with at first, but the part went to his head completely. By the time I did ‘Horror of Fang Rock’, he was desperately difficult to work with. His input got totally out of hand. His attitude to his fellow actors was extremely difficult, his attitude to his director was extremely difficult, and his attitude to the crew was extremely difficult. For instance, it was always everybody else’s fault, and never Tom’s. His idea was to have that show to himself. He didn’t want an assistant, and he made their lives hell. Louise Jameson went through hell on that show, and that lady is a very good actress. Fortunately, she’s very tough, and she got a lot of support from everyone else. I found her excellent to work with, but Tom hardly spoke to her, and when he did it was usually something nasty.

“I remember one particular scene set in the rest room of the Lighthouse. It involved several people, and it involved Tom coming very fast through a doorway, followed by Louise. I’d set it up for the cameraman to stay with Tom and the cameraman wouldn’t see him coming, because of the curve in the set. Every time, Tom bolted through that door, and there was no reason for it! The action didn’t demand speed – there was nothing in the scene that said he had to enter like a bolt from the blue. But he couldn’t and wouldn’t come in normally. We did four takes, but the cameraman simply couldn’t hold him, because by the time he’d appeared, he’d gone. So in the end I said ‘Fine’ and told him to stay with Louise instead. And that’s what we did.

“We had to record up in Birmingham and they broke their backs on it. They pinched stuff from London and they did everything they could – I would never criticise them, though I insisted on bringing up a London effects guy to show them how. Everyone in Birmingham was made keen to get it right – in London, by this stage, nobody wanted to know about ‘Doctor Who’. It was a chore, it was bitty, it had gone on a long time and nobody loved it. But up in Birmingham, it was new.

“There was one effect to do with the monster that we were having desperate problems with. In the end, the Technical Operations Manager said to me ‘Can you leave it ’til after lunch and go on for now, while we try to sort something out?’. I went on and did other things, and eventually I became aware that there was a lot of scrabbling around going on behind me. I turned round and said ‘What are you doing?’. Two heads came up and said ‘Don’t worry’, so I thought ‘Fine’, and when we broke for lunch they said to me ‘Can we do this effect immediately after lunch, because then we can release the other studio?’. I said ‘Pardon?’, and he said ‘Well, to get it right, we’ve had to break into the other studio and use more cameras’. That was the length that Birmingham were prepared to go to – they’d been at the wiring to linl it through. But we never got the monster right. In none of our heads was there a real visualisation of it, and it wasn’t in the script. We had endless brainstorming sessions but we couldn’t get it right.

“I remember one instance that ticked me to death. I had cast a very young actor called John Abbott. Now, whatever we tried to do with them, the scripts were poor and John had a weak two-handed scene with Tom. Tom was having one of his difficult days and he flung round on John at one point and said ‘I don’t know how anybody can speak this rubbish’, to which John replied, ‘Well, I can’. Half the rehearsal room cleared at this point and Tom was silenced, which was quite unusual!”

Douglas Camfield (1980’s)

October 13, 2009

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

“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.

Michael E. Briant (1980’s)

October 11, 2009

Michael E. Briant directed some classic Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker stories, including ‘The Sea Devils’ and ‘The Robots of Death’. He also directed a couple of stories – ‘Death to the Daleks’ and ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ – that aren’t terribly popular, but which I loved when I got them on VHS years and years ago. These extracts from a DWM interview include memories of semi-drowned Sea Devils, rubbish polystyrene cities and ghosts in Wookey Hole.

“The very first thing I insisted on was those string vests for the Sea Devils – I positively refused to work with nude monsters! Naval intelligence had given us posters of nuclear submarines with ridiculous propellers on the end of them. When the visual effects designer Peter Day and I were talking about it, I said ‘Look, this is Mickey Mouse. There’s no way we’re using those propellers’. So we stuck another one in and ended up getting quite close to the real thing – they came right down on top of me and wanted to know where we’d got out information from!

“With the music, I was trying for something new. I think Malcolm Clarke would agree that it wasn’t altogether successful. I asked too much of him – I was pushing too hard or too much music, and I relied on it too heavily. It didn’t worry me at all, until I began to realise that other people found it jarring and discordant – which are reasons why I’d like it originally anyway! I do any show for myself, hoping my tastes will please enough people to make the show successful – ‘The Sea Devils’ music was a mistake perhaps, but that’s the way I have to work.

“The Sea Devils walking out of the sea was the hardest scene to orchestrate in the whole story. It had to be done at high water, because at low water the shelving was so gradual they couldn’t actually get under the waterline. On the day we wanted to film, high water was six o’clock in the morning but we compromised and said seven o’clock. That meant most of us getting up at five to set up, or for costume and make-up to do their job – quite an undertaking in itself. It was half-past seven before we could begin. Then they discovered that the helmets filled with air, and they couldn’t get them under the water, othen than by bending right over, which let all the water in. They ended up nearly drowning themselves – especially as they couldn’t hear when I shouted ‘Action!’. That said, we did it in two takes.

“We couldn’t go to an oil rig as we’d originally planned, because the authorities refused permission, so we had to use these forts. I went out to see them in a little boat with my designer, and we both found them terrifying – I’d hate to spend a night in one of them. All we had to do was reproduce that feeling in the studios – hence the weird angles and echoes. For the scene where Jon and Katy climb up the side of the sea fort, we had a Royal Marine Commando abseiling team – a big guy and a little guy. The big guy was a private – dressed as Jon – and the little guy was the officer, dressed as Katy, with a blonde wig. Of course he got sent up something rotten. That scene was spoilt several times by sun getting into the lens, or by fog, or because it was raining. We had to do the whole thing about five times!

“When I first started on ‘The Green Death’, someone said ‘Please see Katy’s fella for a part’. I said ‘No. This is a business. I’m not into doing favours, and I don’t want to be in the embarrassing position of saying no, so it’s best I don’t see the guy’. I then interviewed five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five people but I couldn’t find anybody right. I was tearing my hair out until somebody suggested Stewart Bevan. I hadn’t seen him, he came in and was absolutely perfect. When he’d read his stuff, he said ‘Actually, I have to tell you, I’m Katy’s fiancee’. He got the part because he was a good actor, but I had to laugh at what I’d gone through to find him.

“There was this hillside that was supposed to be bombed by a squadron of Phantoms or something. There was no way the Air Force could come up with it; they just weren’t available. We could have use stock material, but I didn’t like the idea, so we ended up with a two-seater helicopter. Then, of course, we couldn’t afford the bombs, so our visual effects designer said ‘Lavatory cisterns’. I said ‘I beg your pardon?’, and he said ‘Ballcocks’. ‘Yes, quite,’ I replied, totally confused. ‘Ballcocks look like bombs, don’t they?’ he explained. ‘As a matter of fact, I’ve got seventy-five ballcocks from another show. How about sticking a sort of little fin in them and ditching those?’. I said ‘Great!’.

“It would have been sad for Jon and Katy to be splitting up anyway, but with Stewart there it became almost like Stewart taking Katy from the show in real life as well as in the story. Some of the rehearsals became quite tense and everyone got quite weepy. There were times in the canteen where one was pussyfooting around the whole issue, trying to be tactful and separate people’s emotions from their work. But it was all there in the script – even down to having Jon drive off into the sunset. I worked terribly hard to get that – I wanted the shot of Bessie silhouetted on the skyline against the sunset. I filmed it about half-past six one evening, but it looked like a night shot, because I wanted it shot straight into the sun, so the light had to be filtered righ the way down.

“Death to the Daleks was really feature film material. We were being asked to do impossibilities. I think the city guard worked, though – you just didn’t see the wires holding it up. We built a scaffolding tower on the side of a cliff location and for most of the shots it moved around suspended from a hoist. It was difficult and had to be done a lot of times, but it was worth it in the end. For other shots, we used CSO in the studio. The polystyrene city, though, didn’t work. Time is ultimately the thing – with time you can do anything, even with a ‘Doctor Who’ budget. My ‘Doctor Who’ city didn’t work, so when I had to realise one for ‘Blake’s 7’, I approached it in a different way. It’s all a learning process, you see.

“Making ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ was more dramatic than what eventually appeared on screen. I always go to locations beforehand and spend a few days virtually by myself, just thinking and setting out all the options. I wanted to spend about a day in the Wookey Hole caves where we were going to film, but the authorities weren’t keen on me being down there while they were showing guided tours around. They asked if I would mind going down after closing time, about seven o’clock. I said ‘fine’, but pointed out that I’d have to be there to midnight at least. They agreed, saying that they’d lock both entrances as normal, giving me a key. With my wife, I duly set off into the caverns and after about two hours of wandering about, taking notes, somebody came up. I thought at first he was a security guy but then I saw he was dressed in a wet suit. I asked him how he had got in and he said ‘Oh, I always come in. Can I borrow your torch?’. I refused because I needed it to see with, and the man said ‘Right you are’ before going off into the gloom. Shortly afterwards, we heard a little Irish tune whistling from the shadows and both my wife and I began to feel a bit scared. I decided to call it a night, even though I hadn’t finished, but first I asked the caretaker who the man had been and why he had been let in. I was told, ‘We didn’t let anyone in. He was an Irishman who died down there pot-holing, three years ago’. Of course I couldn’t tell anyone, because my film unit would never have worked there.

“We had also been warned not to make fun of the Witch of Wookey Hole, which is a natural rock formation that resembles a witch. We all took it a bit tongue in cheek and towards the end of filming, a couple of our electricians dressed the Witch up in a black cloak and broomstick as a bit of fun. Five minutes later, Lis Sladen fell off a powerboat and nearly drowned. Terry Walsh rescued her, but they were both very shaken and indeed, Terry had to go up to the surface where he was desperately ill. A quarter of an hour later, I was setting up another shot when one of the electricians fell from a rock and broke his leg. The message is clear – don’t mock the Witch of Wookey Hole.

“I was happy about the Cybermen, I thought we did them quite well. The main problem in the studio was the Cybermats. I tried to do thte same thing I’d done with the maggots in ‘The Green Death’, but it wasn’t as successful. I tried doing them in different ways – some were CSO, some like puppets, and some were hand-animated. I had looked at the old ones but I decided they were a bit too cute, although in retrospect I have to admit that mine weren’t that wonderful either. I really wanted them to look reptilian and snakelike, but they didn’t come off.

“For the sets, I was working with somebody else’s designer, though, which proved rather limiting, not very enjoyable – and considering the sets were rather cheap, not that marvellous. Then there was that terrible revolving planet at the end. There was a line in that scene where Lis had to turn to Tom as the planet grew bigger and bigger on screen and say ‘Doctor, we’re heading for the biggest bang in history’. You can imagine the reaction that produced when it came to record it.

“Tom was still really finding his feet. I was terribly nervous. As an actor, he was trying to do his own thing but the script wasn’t stylistically verydifferent. As director, I was caught in a chicken and egg situation – on the one hand there’s Tom being terribly successful in fights a la Jon Pertwee, and there’s Tom saying ‘But I don’t want to do it like this’. I would ask him how he wanted to do it and he would say ‘I’d rather not’. In the end, we would compromise and he would win – but only just. I could balance the changes. Everything grew very quickly in rehearsal and it was my job to nurture that growing. When things were patently lousy, I dropped them.

“I had a terribly good designer on ‘The Robots of Death’, Ken Sharp. When we saw the script, we said ‘Oh my God, not more robots!’. The leader of the robots had been written by Chris Boucher as this great big butch type, so I cast a little Scottish actor without letting Philip Hinchcliffe know until it was too late! Chris didn’t mind the changes – it’s what it’s all about, and I didn’t want to go into the cliche of silver sets and giant robots. Ken and I went down to see open-cast mining operations in Cornwall to get an idea of how it was done and how our mining ship would move. Sitting in the aeroplane, we said ‘What are we going to do?’. I suggested that maybe in a future society, we’ll be able to redecorate our offices instantly by pressing a button. I said ‘Why don’t we have every room in different historical styles?’. Ken then suggested the whole ship being art deco. To fit in with this, and solve our cliche problem, I suggested art deco robots.”

Christopher Barry (1987)

October 9, 2009

Here’s Christopher Barry talking about his time directing ‘Doctor Who’, which included the first Dalek story, the first Patrick Troughton story, and one of the all-time classics of the Pertwee era – ‘The Daemons’.

“On ‘The Daleks’, Richard Martin and I worked very closely in the planning stages, and because our styles weren’t radically different, there weren’t any real clashes. The only problems we did experience came from Sydney Newman, who’d had quite a hand in the creation of the show and didn’t like the Daleks at all. I think he felt they were childish science fiction. When I first saw them, though, I was absolutely delighted. Funnily enough, I recently watched the first episode again, and I was quite pleased with it. I thought it stood up well and had something of an atmosphere to it. But when I saw the second episode I was a bit depressed – the sets looked too cheap and I thought it was a bit sloppy.

“The Rescue was a nightmare to direct. It started well enough, with the casting of Maureen O’Brien as the new girl, and with my choice of Ray Barrett in the double role of good guy and monster. Both Maureen and Ray went on to very much greater things, but I was glad to have them in the cast. My clearest memory of ‘The Rescue’, unfortunately, is sitting in that little control room in the studio, while down on the floor the actors tried to destroy a radio set at the end of the story – only the damned thing wouldn’t break. I went outside after the recording, feeling terribly, terribly depressed, and Verity Lambert followed me saying ‘It was good, it was good, I liked it’. Consequently, I didn’t care for that one. The Romans was the first one they played purely for comedy, and I enjoyed directing it tremendously. It was all done like a farce, and the actors really entered into the spirit of the thing.

“The Savages was filmed in a disused sand-pit and had Ewen Solon as one of its main characters. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring script, as I recall, and I think ‘Doctor Who’ itself was in something of a creative rut at the time. It wasn’t a trouble process to do, but it wasn’t very challenging either. Peter Purves certainly felt restricted by his part (Steven), as did Maureen and a lot of the other actors involved in the series at one stage or another. To play second fiddle in an adventure show is not the greatest of excitment for an actor, and in those days it was on so long that you really became identified very rapidly with the part. I believe Peter was glad to leave.

“For ‘The Power of the Daleks’, we¬† discussed a lot of different approachs that Patrick Troughton could have taken in rehearsal. He ended up doing it totally different from the first ideas, and of course totally different from William Hartnell’s portrayal. He couldn’t have done an imitation of Hartnell because as those dreadful Peter Cushing movies had shown, there was just no substitute for the real thing. Patrick was truly wonderful to work with on that irst one – and it could have been a very difficult time for the show. I must admit I was surprised that it had gone on after Hartnell’s departure, but that’s television for you.

“The Daemons is my favourite of all my Doctor Who’s, in spite of having quite a few problems to overcome during its production. One of the first was the bizarre weather we got on location. For the first week we got sun, and then during the second week we got snow. It was like a director’s worst nightmare. I woke up one morning during the second week, opened the curtains to let in what I thought would be blazing sunlight, only to discover that the bright glare came from a sheet of freak snow that had fallen during the night. I was in despair. We were due to film all the scenes with the Brigadier standing on one side of the heat barrier and the only thing we could do was literally sweep all the show that would have been in shot to the side and carry on, keeping the camera angles as tight as possible to avoid showing the effects of the weather. It looked very good on screen, but if you watched closely you could see that the grass was soaking wet.

“We were allowed to use more than the usual number of film cameras on location, but that meant I had to have eyes in the back of my head to make sure everything was coming up on screen. Then in the studio I experimented a lot with the relatively new CSO process, especially with the manifestation of the Daemon itself. To do that, we zoomed in as the creatre was supposed to grow, and I directed Stephen Thorne to twist around as we did it, so that it looked more effective. All the same, it was terribly time-consuming.

“The Mutants was supposed to be a satire on the British Empire, but we played it down, because I don’t think that ‘Doctor Who’ is really the place for such obvious political comment. We filmed it in an old chalk pit, quite a bleak place, and I had the landscape carefully dressed to make it look as unfriendly and alien as possible. We covered the place with specially imported bracken and foliage, and then I filled it with special effects smoke. It was freezing cold when we filmed, so that helped rather than hindered, for a change.

“The first Tom Baker story, ‘Robot’, was another period of change for the programme. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I might have done had there not been an industrial dispute at the BBC at the time we were shooting. Funnily enough it had nothing to do with new technology, as the strikes often are, but scenery shifting troubles. We did all our location stuff without any hiccups, but when it came to the studio sessions there were delays and there was a pretty horrible, tense feeling running through the whole building. One doesn’t like to work when there are disputes involving one’s colleagues in a strike, and I think we had to have a remount on ‘Robot’.

“Tom was nervous, of course. I don’t think he quite understood how it had all happened to him, but he worked very hard from scratch to be as different as Jon as he possibly could. He was always a loner, but in rehearsal for that first one he established himself quite quickly as the star – which is as it should be. I was very struck with the difference in Tom when I returned on the next two occasions. By ‘The Brain of Morbius’ the following year, he was totally at his ease, supremely confident and not as unquestioning. By ‘The Creature From the Pit’, he was really very difficult to direct, very dominant, and with an awful lot of pre-conceived ieas as to how the show should be appearing. He was also getting tired more easily because he’d taken on a lot of publicity work, he was getting old and feeling the strain of playing such a demanding part for so long.

“In ‘The Brain of Morbius’, (the scene with the production team’s faces) happened because I couldn’t find any Equity actors’ faces that fitted the requirements of the script in time. So we all stepped in, via a quite amusing in-joke.”

“The Creature From the Pit was appallingly difficult to realise. I don’t know whether you laughed when you saw it – most people did, but the sad thing is, it wasn’t meant to be funny. There were bits I quite like – I liked the fight with all the laser beams zapping around the cavern and so on. The Wolf Weeds were good special effects, and all the studio filming at Ealing was good. It’s just that the monster didn’t work.

“By this time, Tom was wildly enjoying playing the part. I think he’d had to work with a lot of rather inexperienced directors, who weren’t perhaps as able to control Tom’s wilder excesses. Certainly, he’d had a spate of weak scripts at that time, and the other directors tended to encourage this ‘Let’s re-write in rehearsal’ attitude, which inevitably meant more pranks.

Morris Barry (1992)

September 4, 2009

Here’s Morris Barry talking about his experiences directing ‘The Moonbase’ and ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’.

“Well the chief problem was that I’d never done a ‘Doctor Who’ before. Of course I’d seen them, I’d watched them with my young children and they kept on saying ‘Well you’re in the BBC, you ought to be able to tell us, how do they do this, dad?’, and I didn’t know, because all the things I’d been directing for eight or nine years, they were all cosy little plays or serials, a bit of soap, that sort of thing. So it was a challenge for me, anyway. Amazingly, when I found all the back-up that I had, with design and special effects, all that, if you didn’t know how to do something, they came along and said ‘How about trying this?’, so that was very nice. But it did tax one, I found. I had to pull out all the stops.

“The Cyber costumes were redesigned, but I can’t honestly remember why, exactly. I of course think that my Cyber costumes were better than anyone else’s Cyber costumes, they had bits and pieces on, piping down the sides of their arms etc., but I don’t know why they kept on changing them. There was one thing that was a purely personal thing, I’m not very good with heights but I did want to get a long shot of the TARDIS, and we had three sizes of TARDIS, the full size one, a middle one and one about 2ft high, and so of course if you use the 2ft high one on a set, a sort of blank set, and you got up to the lighting gantry at Ealing and you shot down from there, that was fine, that was excellent. But of course you can’t really ask a cameraman to go up there and shoot without you going up as well, and I was petrified, absolutely petrified going up that ladder and finding all the stage crew, the lighting hands and so on, sitting there smoking themselves silly, eating their sandwiches etc., and I was terrified.

“When I did ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’, I felt that it was a bit better than the last one I did, and that I was a bit better, mind you I’d have the experience of doing the previous one, and ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ was remarkable, I think. One of the scenes was when all the Cybermen came to life, or rather came out of their sleep and came out of their, well they looked like egg boxes, which was their, well their tombs of course. When I walked into the studio and saw what the designers had done for me, I was amazed, because this great big egg box thing went up. Part of it, the bottom part I think, was used at Ealing film studios first of all, and here again Visual Effects managed to film backwards, in other words reverse the camera. I think I’m right in saying they put fake snow on this cellophane thing that covered the Cybermen, and then gradually took it away. I may have got it the wrong way round, but you know what I mean, and it looks marvellous when it was shown, and this was cut into the studio stuff that I was shooting later on where you saw all these rows and rows of Cybermen coming to life very slowly, and eventually the Cybermen down below putting their hands through the cellophane and climbing out very slowly. It was I think, from my memory, quite remarkable. I remember that in the middle of it, we had a tea break, the PA said ‘Right, tea break everyone’ and we all walked off the set, and the extra Cybermen up on the top shelf of the egg box couldn’t get down, because they had to have a ladder to get down, and unfortunately they had to go without their tea. But all along, I felt that there was something about it that would be appreciated”.

Rex Tucker – Director (1995 interview)

July 29, 2009

This may be the final interview conducted with the man who was originally slated to direct the very first ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘An Unearthly Child’; although that never came to pass, he was instrumental in the creative decisions surrounding the show’s inception, and later directed ‘The Gunfighters’ (damn, I hope series 5 of the new series has a western episode).

My copy of the interview is a page torn out of a fanzine, so I’ll have to dig around for the exact source, but it’s page 34 of something and as with everything else here, expect a rush of scans asap. It’s very short, which is a pity because Rex played such an important part in the creation of the series.

Q: What do you remember about ‘Doctor Who’?

A: That was a difficult one because there was conflict about the script. The writer was against the producers and I wasn’t sure who was going to win out until we got to filming, which was on, I think, a studio set at Lime Grove that was very old-fashioned, to the point of being almost impossible to use. I remember feeling very much that we were out in the sticks.

Q: Verity Lambert was a very young producer, and female, which must have been unusual thirty years ago?

A: She was very good, but yes, she was a fish out of water. She proved herself very quickly and I have nothing but the greatest respect for her.

Q: What about William Hartnell? What do you remember about him?

A: Bill was very professional. He seemed to get on very well with the other cast, who were all very young. They were great friends by the time we finished shooting the first serial.

Q: Did you watch ‘Doctor Who’ after you worked on it, and do you think it could ever be a big hit again?

A: I watched it a little. Tom Baker was very good, I’d have liked to have worked with him. I thought all the actors were very good, although the scripts were terrible. I’d have torn them up and refused to make them. I’m sure it could be a success again, it’s a strong idea, it just needs good writers and good directors.