Doctor Who - Documentary s08e07 Episode Script

Directing Who - Michael Ferguson

One of the joys of Doctor Who was that it very often had much more imaginative sets, which covered more space and were less formulaic than what you're used to when you have, in most cases, a line of offices or people's sitting rooms or whatever it happens to be.
Designers on Doctor Who had the opportunity to spread themselves around the studio and tuck bits of sets into corners, and so on.
It meant that the cameras could move more.
The cameras were very fluid and flexible.
One of the things that I miss doing a lot of single-camera work - out in the streets or on locations - is that you don't get that camera flexibility.
The studio cameras - the huge Mole-Richardson crane which swings around, the smaller Vinton and all the pedestals - were very flexible.
All the camera operators were very, very good and they loved doing it.
They would encourage the directors - ''Don't do it on two shots, I can get round.
'' And that was very exciting.
I think by then we'd got to the stage where all the opportunities which came with the arrival of colour and all the electronic gimmickry which came with that We were all, writers and directors, trying to find ways to capitalise on that, to include it in the programmes.
On many occasions, myself and other directors would say, ''If we did this, we could do this,'' and it would go in.
Everybody was very greedy at that time to be doing new things and particularly to say, ''I thought of that!'' Barry was a director, so, I suppose, he brought a different angle on it.
Probably brought more of a director's creativity to the opportunities within the scripts, initially.
I think he had more vision of what could be achieved than the others.
That's not to take away from their achievements, but I think Barry was the one who was most sympathetic to the director's problems and also brought a lot of insight into what could be achieved.
He would encourage directors to go for it.
He was always very sympathetic.
I remember a couple of times in the studio I was running out of time and Barry would be saying, ''Do this.
Try this.
Do that in one shot,'' because he himself had been a director.
I think we had one day's filming assigned for each episode, so if it was a four-part story, as this one was, we had four days' filming.
You needed a location to give you the maximum number of different opportunities, so you didn't spend time travelling around locations, but could acquire what you wanted without having to move the unit around much.
The story was about aliens coming to try to destroy the world, if not the Home Counties, by plugging in to our nuclear energy supply and diverting it in some kind of way.
I remember the location managers talking about and going to a number of major plants, but Dungeness seemed to be really suitable.
We had four days, a lot of work to get done.
I remember visiting it and seeing these huge cables, about this thick, swagging across the country.
I was thinking, ''There's a great shot here,'' and getting very excited.
Then we arrived and got out onto the location and it was thick fog.
You could just about see five metres of the cable beginning to swag and then disappearing into this white haze.
We had an action scene to do with Derek Ware, who ran the Havoc Agency who provided a lot of the stuntmen, riding a bicycle and disappearing into a ditch.
But there was no choice.
There was no point in saying, ''We can't film.
'' We had to manage, so we shot everything a lot tighter.
The film cameraman was the legendary ''Tubby'' A Englander.
He was a wonderful, wonderful, very strong character and very, very experienced, and he was terrific on that day.
''We've got to get it done.
'' He'd use lights and so on.
But the following day, if I remember rightly, it snowed.
We woke up in the morning and there was this snowy landscape, beautifully lit.
The day after that, it rained and washed away all the snow.
Rained all day.
The following day was brilliant sunshine.
So we had scenes And we hadn't shot them in order either.
You collect up all the bits on one location and do all those together.
So we were left with scenes which were supposed to be happening on the same day under all kinds of weather conditions.
But, it being Doctor Who, we weren't fazed by this.
If you look at the first episode when they're all in the UNIT headquarters, there's a call, or somebody comes in like the messenger in Greek tragedy and says Report from the Met Office, sir.
Freak weather conditions.
- Explain.
- Sudden snowstorms, dense fog.
And our problem was solved.
We could cut in anything we wanted.
CSO - colour separation overlay - worked pretty well in those days, but the problem always was the keying and the edges, which gave a slightly cut-out look to, usually, the people in the foreground.
It didn't really seem to belong to the background.
We did try all sorts of things to make that work, not always successfully.
I think some of the non-successes remain in the programmes, but there were other scenes or other shots which were very successful.
It was crude then, as a lot of things were.
I think also that probably audiences were less sophisticated and were happy to accept things which nowadays probably they'd go, ''I don't believe that.
I know how that's done.
'' Audiences are much, much more knowledgeable now.
They're much more critical, so you've got to be very, very good.
I'm glad I don't do Doctor Who any more! We did all sorts of things to achieve those rather wonderful effects because there were so many more possibilities available to us.
I think sometimes we recorded material and then when we were editing it, we simply mixed one on top of the other, so the two things were shown simultaneously.
Sometimes we played in while we were recording in the studio.
At other times we created effects on the floor.
I remember cameras pointing at trays of water which had strange bubbly things or strange coloured things floating about in them, and we'd lay one on top of the other.
There isn't any one answer to how we did it.
We did it any way that occurred to us, and many ways did occur.
I think what we did was to treat them in the studio by changing lighting.
By increasing the exposure, so the amount of over-lit materialincreased, and then mixing it with the background shots and fading or mixing from one to the other.
I can remember playing about with the lights a lot to get it to tear and to disintegrate.
Because studio time is actually very, very limited and we were very ambitious, the more things we could do, the more we tried to jam in, but that takes much more time than actors walking around a set talking to each other.
Everything would grind to a halt while it was tuned up, and then we would do it.
So it was a lot of pressure in the studio.
Same again.
(WOMAN) Once more from the top of the scene.
It hadn't been long that we had been doing ''rehearse-record''.
For many, many years, including the early years of colour, it was rehearse throughout the daytime and then record forusually for 2.
5 hours for a half-hour programme, in the evening, doing all the set changes and everything.
Doctor Who was one of the first programmes that was allowed to rehearse-record right throughout the whole day.
I remember lobbying for that quite forcefully because there was no way we could get the effects that we wanted and everything achieved in the evening.
It was much more sensible to rehearse a scene, record it and then you can move on, so you work progressively throughout the day.
The problem for the management was the availability of machines and staff.
But we got it and it stayed.
Studio shows are still done like that.
Casting the non-regular characters was something the directors usually did, but always with the producer's knowledge and often with the producer's suggestions.
For having confidence in the people, one would tend to choose people you'd worked with.
Quite a lot of the actors returned to the series several times because they knew what it was about and could help us by co-operating, rather than not understanding what the production problems were.
It was always fun casting.
We would say, ''I've got this part in Doctor Who for you.
'' ''What's the character?'' ''He's covered in gold paint from head to foot and speaks with a strange voice.
''I think you'd be ideal.
'' There was a lot of fun involved and, I think, a lot of actors really enjoyed it.
There was a lot of serious drama.
It was the days of ''Z Cars'' and ''Softly Softly'' and programmes like that, and Ken Loach's work.
There was a lot of gritty drama and actors enjoyed the opportunity to do something I wouldn't say light-hearted, because we took it seriously, but it was very different.
Stack up as much power as the Tardis will take, then channel it back through the accelerator and boost it, so that instead of the gradual power build-up that Axos expects, it'll get the whole lot in one devastating surge.
- What else can we do? - Nothing very much You can take the normal precautions against nuclear blast, like tape on the windows.
(FERGUSON) I only worked with Roger then.
He was not as frightening as he appears on screen.
I knew his work and had a very high regard for him.
I enjoyed working with him.
Very clean, clear about what he was doing, and did it immaculately.
He was a very, very professional actor.
They all were, actually.
They had to be because the programme had so many production demands on it that actors who were uncertain, lacking in confidence or uncomfortable in the genre were not really going to be happy, and we weren't going to be happy.
We were fortunate in that the vast majority of people who worked on the programme were very good professionals and helped us get through very ambitious schedules.
It's perfectly simple, Brigadier.
A time loop is Well, it's a time loop.
One passes continually through the same points in time.
Passes through the same Yes.
(FERGUSON) Jon was always very inventive, looking for opportunities, and very willing to try things even if they were not going to be enjoyable.
One I remember is when he goes up in a rocket - I can't remember which story.
We brought in this industrial blower to give this effect of his flesh being thrown about by the G forces.
We had him sitting in quite a close shot on a rostrum because the thing was huge.
And all his face went up and it must have been very, very painful and not an enjoyable experience, but it looked good.
He was up for that.
I'm not sure that he didn't suggest it himself.
If he did, it was typical of him.
Going back to those days and looking at Doctor Who and other work that I did then, to me there is the shadow of theatricality cast across a lot of the performances.
Because the majority of actors at that time, a lot of their experience, if not the majority of it, is more likely to have been on the stage than the screen.
I gather he's not a British subject.
Who is he and where does he come from?! Good morning Oh.
Now I'm much more interested in what is happening within the actor, within the character.
I'd find it difficult to go back to Doctor Who because I look for inner meanings which the programme doesn't explore.