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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > DWM Special 44 - On Location > OUTSIDE THE SPACESHIP


Doctor Who’s location shoots have been both restricted and enabled by the technology available to producers, directors and camera operators.
David Tennant (as the Doctor) on location for Planet of the Dead (2009) in Dubai. This was the first story to be entirely recorded in high definition

One of the characteristics of vintage Doctor Who is a distinct difference in picture quality when actors venture beyond the television studio. In many episodes, the crisp, electronic image familiar from interior scenes gives way to a grainier, more organic representation of outdoor scenes. So why did this happen?

The answer lies with the way in which television evolved. When the BBC began its television service in 1932, cameras were cumbersome objects that needed to be attached to umbilical cables. For the most part, this meant they stayed firmly within the studio.

There was no reliable way of recording television programmes, so almost all of them went out live. Dramas were produced in a similar manner to stage plays – rehearsed by the actors and then performed all the way through, live in the studio. Several cameras would manoeuvre around the action to capture it all, with the director mixing from camera to camera, live through the production.

An inquisitive bobby on the streets of Westminster during the making of The War Machines on 22 May 1966.

In the 1950s it became increasingly common for dramas to include some material from outside the television studio. This was done using film, a long-established medium that had been the source of big-screen movies for decades. Outside broadcasts with television cameras were close to impossible for dramas; shooting on film was much simpler. Film cameras were lighter, more easily transportable, and rather more durable than their early television counterparts. Using them was more time-consuming and expensive, however, which is why there was only a limited amount of film material available for any given production. Exterior scenes could be shot in advance and played into the live dramas as needed.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

In its early days, Doctor Who was recorded on cumbersome cameras tethered to claustrophobic and often inadequate studios. The show rarely escaped these confines in the 1960s, but as technology improved, producers and directors became more adventurous. Location shooting has helped to create some of the most memorable episodes in the series’ long history. In this unique publication, new features, exclusive interviews and rare images tell the story of those episodes and the people who made them happen.