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DWM celebrates a century of Doctor Who directors by tracking down four of the class of 2015... and interrogating them!


To date, 100 men and women have directed TV’s Doctor Who. Last year, Sleep NoMore and Face the Raven’s Justin Molotnikov became the 100th. The first was Waris Hussein, who, in 1963, directed Doctor Who’s inaugural four-part serial, then the following year’s Marco Polo. In 2004, I interviewed Waris for DWM. “A director,” he said, “has to be more than just somebody who tells the cameraman what to do, tells the technicians how to deal with things; I had to be a psychiatrist, a doctor, a best friend, a lawyer. Doctor Who taught me a hell of a lot about how to direct. In a funny way, we were pioneers. I’m proud of that. If I could make something like Doctor Who work, well, it was easy street on everything else.”

Rachel Talalay, Doctor Who’s 96th director, oversaw 2014’s Dark Water/Death in Heaven, and 2015’s Heaven Sent and Hell Bent. “There’s no room for ‘good enough’ on Doctor Who,” she told DWM last year, in an extensive interview published across issues 493 and 494. “The visuals have to be powerful, the effects have to be great, and the acting has to be fantastic. Sometimes when I think, ‘Oh, that is good enough, the audience isn’t going to care,’ an alarm bell goes off in my head – ‘What’s it going to be like when Steven [Moffat, showrunner] says, “Do you have a better take of that?”’ – and that’s when you know to go for one more, even when you’re up against it. And you’re always up against it. On everything I make now, ‘good enough’ is never good enough. Especially on Doctor Who, you have to be firing on all cylinders.”

But how do they do it? What makes a director tick? And why is Doctor Who the greatest – and most daunting – directing gig in the universe? We’ve invited four of Doctor Who’s class of 2015 to talk us through what it takes: three directors (Numbers 97, 98, and 99) who made their Doctor Who débuts last year – and are interviewed here, in DWM, for the first time in-depth – and one (Number 71) of the show’s stalwart directors, who helmed the most recent episode and has six previous serials – spanning three different Doctors – under his belt…


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

Other directing work includes: two 2017 episodes of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (Sky 1, 2016-present), two episodes of Houdini and Doyle (ITV, 2016), four 2014-15 episodes of Silent Witness (BBC One, 1996-present), three episodes of Toby Whithouse’s The Game (BBC Two, 2014), four 2012 episodes of Russell T Davies and Phil Ford’s Wizards vs Aliens (CBBC, 2012-14), eight 2011-13 episodes of Toby Whithouse’s Being Human (BBC Three, 2008-13), two 2010 episodes of Skins (E4, 2007-13)


Director of: 2015’s The Doctor’s Meditation mini-episode (written by Steven Moffat), The Girl Who Died (written by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat), and The Woman Who Lived (by Catherine Tregenna); also the upcoming, Moffat-penned 2016 Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Other directing work includes: the first three episodes of Doctor Who spin-off Class (BBC Three, 2016), two episodes of Houdini and Doyle, the first four episodes of Poldark (BBC One, 2015-present), seven 2008-11 episodes of Holby City (BBC One, 1999-present), location films for seven 2007 episodes of Top Gear (BBC Two, 2002-present), four 2007 episodes of EastEnders (BBC One, 1985-present)

“If I could make something like Doctor Who work, well, it was easy street on everything else.” WARIS HUSSEIN DOCTOR WHO ’S FIRST DIRECTOR


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

Other directing work includes: 2017 episodes of Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch (ITV, 2013-present), two 2015 episodes of Humans (Channel 4, 2015-present), four episodes of Glue (E4, 2014), three 2014 episodes of Line of Duty (BBC Two, 2012-present), 2011 movie The Hunter, four 2010 episodes of Australian TV series – and solo vehicle for former Doctor Who companion – K9 (Network Ten/Disney XD, 2009-10)


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 Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat), and Flatline (by Jamie Mathieson)

Other directing work includes: 2016’s The Abominable Bride episode of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ Sherlock (BBC One, 2010-present), four 2013-14 episodes of Silent Witness, five 2012-14 episodes of Line of Duty, two 2009 episodes of Robin Hood (BBC One, 2006-09), the first three episodes of Steven Moffat’s Jekyll (BBC One, 2007), the first two episodes of Russell T Davies’ The Grand (ITV, 1997-98), seven 1994-95 episodes of The Bill (ITV, 1984-2010)

What’s the difference between a good director and a great director?

ED BAZALGETTE: “I think it’s about 3%. [Laughs] That’s a very, very difficult question.”

DOUGLAS MACKINNON: “Love. Great directors love directing. Good directors think it’s just a job. I don’t know if I’m a great director – I certainly wouldn’t say that I am – but I know that I love directing. It doesn’t feel like going to work.”

EB: “If you could create your perfect self, the director who I’d love to be – who’d be a great director – would have extraordinary drive; have a very, very high-powered, instant recall of any given moment in cinema; have a fantastic visual literacy; be a brilliant artist; be hugely funny; be fantastically insightful with a script and – we’re all able to visualise that script, but – be able to create the rough cut in their head, and to sort of troubleshoot all the challenges and questions that the rough cut would throw up, before they shoot a single frame.”

DANIEL NETTHEIM: “A good director knows the story really well – they know all the details of the story that they’re directing – and they can communicate it well to an audience. They can evoke strong emotions in an audience. But a great director really takes the audience on a transcendent experience – lifts them to a different place entirely, away from their own lives. You engage the audience so thoroughly in the material that they forget that they’re watching. Some directors can do it, and not others.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: An exclusive interview with Captain Jack actor John Barrowman; a preview of the first episodes of the new Doctor Who spin-off Class, featuring an interview with Patrick Ness; a preview of the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks; exclusive chats with Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel O'Hara, Ed Bazalgette and Daniel Nettheim on the art of being a director; The Fact of Fiction looks at 1966's The Savages; brand-new comic strip action for the Twelfth Doctor and Jess in Bloodsport by Mark Wright, illustrated by Staz Johnson; the Time Team watch 2010's The Lodger; the Watcher considers monster voices in Wotcha!; the latest merchandise previewed and reviewed; prize-winning competitions and more.