Archive for the ‘Peter Grimwade’ Category

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.”