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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 506 > THE ART OF THE DIRECTOR PART 2

THE ART OF THE DIRECTOR PART 2

In the second part of our in-depth feature on the directors of Doctor Who, we continue our extensive chat with four of the class of 2015...

No-one ever said that directing Doctor Who is easy. In 1995, Peter Capaldi won an Oscar – for Best Live-Action Short Film – for Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, which he wrote and directed. But when I asked him last year if he’d ever want to direct an episode of Doctor Who: “I don’t have the skills,” Peter admitted. Chatting on the TARDIS set – at the BBC’s Roath Lock studios in Cardiff, the show’s headquarters since 2012 – the Oscar-winner told me, “I enjoy directing, and I probably will do more, but these guys [Doctor Who’s current crop of directors]… they’re so professional, they’re all up-to-theminute, they know how everything on Doctor Who works. Anyway, I want to be in it! I’d have to find… well, it takes two months to prep an episode, then a month-and-a-half to cut it. I don’t have that time. No, I’m having too much fun being Doctor Who. I’d have to not be in it, and I couldn’t bear that.”

Another Oscar-winning director and self-confessed “huge Doctor Who fan”, Peter Jackson (The Lord of theRings, King Kong, The Hobbit, et al), admitted last year that, as much as he’d love to direct a Doctor Who, the show’s tight turnaround – just two weeks’ shooting per episode – is a daunting prospect. “Well, I mean, look, six months, sure, we can talk about that,” said Jackson. “Four months, five months… I mean, all that’s just something you talk about, isn’t it?” But a fortnight? In Cardiff? No chance.

Last issue, four of the 2015 series’ directors – who did brave TV’s toughest gig, and triumphed – talked us through what it takes: from the all-important pre-production process, to working with actors, monsters, VFX, “the heightened and fantastical”, tight budgets, crashing spaceships, and more. “The pressure to deliver something special on this show was greater than I’d ever felt on any show in the past,” said one of the four, Daniel Nettheim. “I didn’t want to be the director who stuffed it up.” In the concluding part of this in-depth DWM feature, the ‘class of 2015’ considers flying saucers, flashy camera moves, Zygon duplicates, the Fisher King, Brian Blessed, last-minute crises, sheer exhaustion, and inspiring the next generation of directors…

◾ DANIEL O’HARA

Director of: 2015’s Under the Lake/Before the Flood (written by Toby Whithouse)

◾ ED BAZALGETTE

Director of: 2015’s The Doctor’s Meditation mini-episode (written by Steven Moffat), The Girl Who Died (by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat), and The Woman Who Lived (by Catherine Tregenna); also, in 2016, the first three episodes of BBC Three spin-off Class, scripted by Patrick Ness, and the upcoming, Moffat-penned Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio

◾ DANIEL NETTHEIM

Director of: 2015’s The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion (written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat)

◾ DOUGLAS MACKINNON

◾Director of: 2015’s The Husbands of River Song (written by Steven Moffat); previously 2008’s The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky (by Helen Raynor), 2012’s The Power of Three by Chris Chibnall), 2013’s Cold War (by Mark Gatiss), 2014’s Listen (by Steven Moffat), Time Heist (by Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat), and Flatline (by Jamie Mathieson)

Let’s talk tone. The literal gloom of The Woman Who Lived – shooting the first 19, 20 minutes in semi-darkness – is unusual for Doctor Who

ED BAZALGETTE: “Well, thematically, there was a feeling in Catherine Tregenna’s script that Me was trapped in this eternal midnight. The story – and our interpretation of it – was inspired by the Margaret Lockwood film, the Gainsborough film, where she plays a highwaywoman [The Wicked Lady, 1945], but I wanted it to feel very, very real. The power in the idea that ‘here is a woman who lives forever’ was really important to me. That has a real darkness to it.”

Much of The Woman Who Lived is essentially a two-hander between Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams [who played Me, née Ashildr]. The darkness gives that a real intimacy, I think; the equivalent, almost, of black-box theatre [a simple, unadorned performance space].

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About Doctor Who Magazine

DWM 506 celebrate 50 Years of the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton. Contents include: behind the scenes on the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks; the Second Doctor's era is explored in a feature by Jonathan Morris; 1968's Fury from the Deep is reviewed; showrunner Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; a biography of Peter Brachacki, the man who designed the TARDIS back in 1963; The Fact of Fiction looks back at 2005's The End of the World; directors Ed Bazalgette, Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel O'Hara and Daniel Nettheim reveal more secrets of their work on Doctor Who in the second part of DWM's exclusive interviews; Comic Strip - Bloodsport Part 2, written by Mark Wright and illustrated by Staz Johnson; The Time Team watch 2010's The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang; plus reviews, previews, prize-winning competitions, the latest official news, fun and nonsense with the Watcher and much, much more.
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