Doctor Who - Documentary s06e16 Episode Script

Shades of Grey

TV ANNOUNCER: This is BBC Television.
NARRATOR: Until November 1969, the output of BBC One was exclusively black and white.
For the first six years of its history, then, Doctor Who was also in monochrome.
There was no appreciation of this at the time.
It was simply accepted.
But looking back now, we can see that those early years of the programme had their own distinct look and feel.
It's still a police box.
Why hasn't it changed? Dear, dear.
How very disturbing.
NARRATOR: What made these colourless worlds so special? British television was effectively born on March 25, 1925, when'John Logie Baird presented a series of shifting silhouettes on a screen in London.
Later that year, he went one step further and demonstrated a transmission of a moving black-and-white image.
Within five years he had transmitted between London and Glasgow using telephone wires, executed the first transatlantic transmission, and assisted the BBC in their early television broadcasts.
By 1937, the BBC was transmitting a regular service using the Marconi-EMI 405-line electronic television system.
Its pre-war output was very limited and its wartime output nonexistent as the service was suspended between 1939 and 1946.
I can remember seeing television before the war.
In a hotel, with my parents, in a very large wooden set with a very small circular screen, and it was two people dancing.
Now, I was born in '35, so I must have been, you know, three or four, because they cancelled television when war broke out.
NARRATOR: Upon its return, television slowly began to assume enormous cultural significance.
By the time Doctor Who started in 1963, most people in Britain had a TVset or wanted one.
I can remember my parents having a TVset for the coronation.
And it had a large bubble on the front which was filled of oil, a little Perspex plastic sort of shape.
And that magnified the picture, 'cause the actual screen size was about 12 inches or 14 inches.
Still magic, though.
It was my uncle's set.
He was a bookie.
And so he was only one of the few people who had any money.
So when these sets came out, he bought one and it was this vast, great box with this tiny little screen in it.
It was very incongruous.
But that was my first experience with television.
I liked it then.
I thought, "I wouldn't mind doing that.
" Didn't think I could get in the box, though.
WOMAN: 1-4-4.
DERRICK: We had no recording in those days, so you couldn't record the play, you couldn't sell it.
It went out live and to get their money's worth, you had to do it twice.
The first one I remember I did was at the studios that eventually became known as the Doctor Who studios, Studio D at Lime Grove.
But it's such a small studio, and if you had more than one and a half sets, you were kiboshed.
So they used the studio underneath to build the other sets.
But to go from one set to another you had to run up and down the fire escape outside the building.
And if you had quick changes, you did them on the way.
I remember one time I was running up and down between sets and having a quick change on the way on the staircase, and a sudden howling or whistling from half a dozen girls downstairs.
So I was standing there without my trousers, getting into the next costume.
NARRATOR: Watching vintage programmes today, black-and-white television seems to have its own character and atmosphere.
But what made it so different from the TVof the colour era? And what were the technical limitations and considerations for the industry professionals of the day? -WOMAN: Steady on four.
-And cut.
DICKS: A number of shows, even series like Z Cars, were done live.
And they said in those days, you know, that television was pretty much filming theatre, pointing a camera at theatre.
I think as television became more established, it probably built up its own tradition and people will have wanted to work in it, you know.
You would have a rehearsal period where you'd learn, you know, the actors would learn all their lines, the director would work out the camera moves, and you'd have planning meetings, and the lighting people would work out, the costumier Everybody involved in the production would have some pre-prep, if you like.
And would also see the completed piece, unless you'd done some pre-filming.
You'd see it there and then on the rehearsal room floor.
Doesn't happen nowadays, of course, it's rehearse-record.
You don't know what's going to turn out at the end and you rely very much on, particularly the director, I think, on the way he paces the piece, and sometimes I don't think they think about the pacing.
It all ends up as one pace for me, a lot of drama nowadays.
First one I worked on was called Compact and it was about a fashion house.
And it was a load of rubbish, actually.
(LAUGHING) It was extraordinary, but it was very popular.
The women loved it, of course.
Men didn't like it so much.
Yes, madam.
Yes, it is on sale today.
I was "trailing", as they call it at the BBC, which was learning the trade, following somebody who was doing the job of AFM.
What happened was that she got ill and suddenly on the studio day, I had to take over.
-That's right, thank you.
-You haven't seen Mrs Gray, have you? -No, I haven't.
Oh, I knew we'd have trouble.
As an AFM, you're responsible for working with the scene crew, you have your prop man who made sure that all the props were there on set.
And you'd also be responsible for prompting, 'cause it was going out live, so And for prompting, you had a cut key, which You had about four or five cut keys dotted around the studio, and when you got to the scene, you'd pick up your cut key, you've got your script there, and if somebody forgot their lines, you press the cut key, gave the cue, and release the button.
And that was how it worked.
My first one, of course, they Somebody dried.
They suddenly forgot their lines.
Not once, not twice, not three times, four times in one scene.
And there I was shouting out my (CHUCKLING) Giving the cues, giving the cutting.
And the whole of England, the whole of Britain, all the sound going dead.
And giving these prompts.
Compact reception.
Afterwards, I said to some friends who always watched Compact, I said, "Did you watch Compact "this evening?" "Yes.
" "What about all the dries?" "What dries?" And I said, "What? Didn't the sound go dead?" "Yes.
Yes, it did.
Oh, yes, you're right.
Yes, it went dead.
"I just thought that was a sound problem.
" I said, "Well, the actress had forgotten her lines and I was prompting her.
" "Would never have known.
" Which is interesting, isn't it? Black and white was never very satisfactory because we had a colour scale as designers, certainly, to work to.
You could always work in a grey scale.
And at one stage, they even encouraged people to actually paint their sets in tones of grey.
Which the actors found enormously depressing and so did everybody else, and it is very difficult as well to do, really.
I mean, you do, essentially In other words, you're doing it like a charcoal or pencil sketch with your tones of grey and that's it, and you walk into the studio.
But, of course, the furniture wasn't in those pictures, so it had a very bizarre It was quite nice in a bizarre way.
But in terms of grey scales, no, normally we were encouraged to use colours, there were stock sets of colours which had been tried and tested if it was just plain, solid paint colour.
Otherwise, no, we were normally fairly unfettered, and the more normal you could make a semblance of reality for the actors, I think the more convincing, perhaps, the performances became.
In those days, television was like an extension of theatre.
It wasn't coming from film because most of us had actually grown up, any television that we'd done, had been live.
And, in fact, that actually went on for quite a long time, because up at Granada they hired their tapes so they could never ever cut them.
And you had to swear very badly if you dried, because otherwise you looked an absolute fool.
And you would really have to eff and blind, you know, and then they'd have to cut it, but otherwise, no way.
No way.
Nowadays, you shoot all the TARDIS scenes, then all the monastery scenes or whatever.
But we used to go from page one We'd rehearse it like that, like a play.
And then break for supper and then at 9:00, whatever it was, 8:00, we'd go, "Right".
And then roll it.
And you'd try and do as much as possible.
Maybe with the TARDIS, outside the TARDIS, back inside the TARDIS.
And then they'd realise they couldn't do the fourth scene because the cameras had to rejig and re-cable and everything.
So you do those first, say, three scenes, and woe betide in the third scene you think, "Oh, please, don't let me dry.
Don't let something go wrong.
" Because they'd say we have to go back to the beginning again.
Whereas nowadays you just say, "Let's pick it up where so-and-so dried, "or where that thing fluffed the shot.
We can pick it up.
" But in those -Mmm.
It's true.
-The bad old days.
But I quite liked it.
It was almost like doing, not quite, but it was almost like doing a play.
You did Because there was an adrenaline going, wasn't there? -Yes.
-Because you knew you started at 7:30.
You knew you had to finish at 9:00.
-Because otherwise they'd pull the plug.
-Oh, God, yes.
-And you knew you had to get it in.
You knew you had to do it.
And you also knew that it was very unlikely, unless there was a total disaster, that anybody would ever stop -for you to do a retake.
So there was a lot of adrenaline going.
I liked it.
I really liked it.
They would stop for a special effect, wouldn't they? They'd only stop for the special effects.
Jamie! Let me in.
Oh, no! We had this foam, The Ice Warriors, all this foam was And Patrick was, you know, hammering the door and you, "I can't let you" And eventually the doors open and he slid.
And you just go, "Ah, Doctor, there you are.
" -Just burst out laughing.
-I know.
I did apologise.
-I did apologise there, when we -But it was funny, though.
It was funny, but I shouldn't have been laughing at that point.
-But it was hilarious.
-It was so funny.
And, of course, they couldn't go back because it took 20 minutes to get this foam, and this foam was special.
-£500 worth.
-They must have loved me(!) But it is.
And it's there for all to see.
When I went to work for the BBC, I realised how difficult it was to judge things like typography and layout because we had this horrendous cut-off area around the edge.
And I'd been trained as a graphic designer and liked to play, in terms of print design, with subtle tones, so, in lieu of colour, you know, using subtle greys, but seeing it at home, I realised that what looked like a mid-grey could be crushed down to be black or come up and be very light.
It was very, very difficult to control.
High contrast, high end and bottom end, the cameras just wouldn't do, you know.
It was always better on 35mm film.
You'd get blacks which were a lot, lot better.
And the range was not nearly as good.
So if you went for peak whites as well, it was slightly difficult.
LODGE: My fellow graphic designers, we were all sort of learning on the job, in fact.
And our job was there to Really to supply captions.
Glorified caption artists, but we were all trained, mostly art school and really wanted to do something far more creative.
And we relied on all kinds of gimmicks to make things move.
We didn't have access to live-action filming, for instance, so using still photographs, but make them more interesting, we would develop techniques like filming through ripple glass or reflected in flexible mirrors, or creating kind of ingenious wipes.
It's always had a certain artistic cachet.
But to be honest, I don't think that applied in television.
It was just what you could get because television was in black and white.
And as soon as television is available in colour, nobody regretted a lost art form.
Everybody dashed out and bought a colour television as soon as they could afford it.
COMBE: Television was quite different from film.
Film you could create shadows in the background and light up an action in the foreground.
You could get more depth of field that was different.
The lighting was different.
You come to the studio, unless you had a very good lighting man, and there were some very good ones, but sometimes they weren't very good, it tended to get overlit.
And I can remember when I eventually went on to directing, I had a producer who wanted it brightly lit.
He said, "It's going out at 7:30 "and I want people to be able to see it.
"And I don't want any, sort of, shadowy things.
" Which I found really annoying because that, for me, is half the point of doing drama, is creating atmosphere.
(INDISTINCT CHATTERING) Black-and-white television tended to be more lit than on film.
But something like Z Cars, David Rose was the producer, he had a policy that he didn't want to tell the difference between film and studio.
So you did have these really good lighting people there.
And they would really light A good Z Cars, good script and you'd feel that you'd actually been at a cinema and seen a film.
NARRATOR: Looking back, it's perhaps tempting to lump all of black and white television into one generic whole.
But, as today, there were different styles and genres.
What did British TVin the 1950s and 1960s do particularly well? I think what television did in black and white well, was really the same as film did, which was thrillers and drama.
Game shows were always brightly lit, comedies were always brightly lit.
But the good dramas and the good Quite a few were done on film.
You had John Schlesinger and Ken Loach, who are two of the people I can think of immediately, you know.
They would shoot it like a film even if it was studio.
So, no, the difference was really the drama in the '50s, '60s, going into the '70s.
It was of a very high quality, I thought.
NARRATOR: With Doctor Who using essentially the same production techniques, it would seem obvious to conclude that the show was just like everything else of its era.
In fact, if you compare it to other dramas of its time, it was unique.
Nothing else looked, or especially sounded like Doctor Who.
I think Doctor Who was unique in its time partly because there was very little science fiction on television, you see.
Now we're knee-deep in it, you know, one show or another, and, of course, Star Trek brought it very much into the mainstream.
Who was really a kind of a fringe children's show for a long, long time, especially in the early days.
Doctor Who was really rather special, and not just with new sound techniques and what not, but visually as well.
And being in black and white, so everything is in a grey scale, was wonderful.
I mean, you could wear a yellow tie with an orange shirt.
It didn't matter.
It was just the different part of the grey scale.
Why it looked different, I think, was because it was a more You had more original stories and a different sort of perspective and you were doing alien planets and things, so the look was different.
And, of course, the sound, you know, the effects.
I mean, BBC Special Effects and the Radiophonic Workshop sort of grew up with Doctor Who, you know.
For a long time we were not only their best, but in many cases, their only customer, you see.
And they were kind of working with and for us.
And all of that, I think.
I think Who always had a kind of pioneering feel to it.
(DOCTOR WHO THEME) Now, using effects very like these, the squeak and the water bubble, we made for Doctor Who an effective screaming jelly which poured out of the Daleks when they were exploded in the last episode we saw them.
People were not accustomed to electronic music or electronic sound at that time.
The Radiophonic Workshop had been going for five years.
But it'd been mainly confined to Radio 3 drama, schools programmes.
And it was the first programme that went out to a wider audience.
Verity said they wanted the sound of The Structures Sonores with the theme tune by Ron Grainer.
See, Ron had decided he didn't want to write any more signature tunes.
But Desmond Briscoe, who knew Ron, knew that he wanted to write one for the Radiophonic Workshop.
So he rang him up and Ron agreed to write it and Delia realised it at the Workshop and the rest is history.
We can, if you like, go to these sound generators here, electronic generators, and we'll listen to three of the basic electronic sounds.
First is the simplest sound of all, which is a sine wave.
The equipment was primitive.
Basically, your tools were anything that would make a noise, wherever you got it from.
I mean, it would range from lamp shades, old bottles, scaffolding poles, an old water cistern that had been crushed.
I think it exploded in somebody's house.
But it made nice noises if you banged on it.
A piano that had been stripped of its case, so you just had the harp part of it.
Of course, which is how the Tardis was done.
Something called a white-noise generator, which basically made a sound like escaping steam.
Oscillators, an ancient keying unit that turned the oscillators on and off.
We had a wobulator.
Two tape recorders that had been captured at the end of the last war, which had been made by a Swiss motorbike manufacturer.
What else did we have? Literally, microphones and a lot of nerve.
A lorra, lorra nerve.
Jamie, Zoe, hide your eyes.
Run! NARRATOR: What was the legacy of 1960s Doctor Who? How important were those shades of grey? DERRICK: Black and white, I found rather satisfying.
(CHUCKLES) It was rather cool, if you like to use a modern expression.
It had a softness about it.
None of the brashness that colour seems to have today.
I would miss it now.
I really do miss it.
I think that sometimes some dramas that have come out in colour on television would be better in black and white.