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Marcus Wilson produced 28 episodes of Doctor Who, overseeing some of the most spectacular location shoots ever seen in the series.
Matt Smith between takes during recording of The Impossible Astronaut in November 2010.

It was certainly in at the deep end,” says Marcus Wilson about his first episode as producer of Doctor Who. This was The Impossible Astronaut, which opened the 2011 series.

“When I came on board, the brief was simply that we wanted an American location and an American character in the show. The previous series had done very well for BBC America and we wanted to build on that popularity in the US. So we started looking at locations that Steven Moffat [the head writer and executive producer] might find interesting to write for. We were in Cardiff thinking, ‘What are the quintessential American locations?’ We thought of places like Cape Kennedy for the Apollo programme, and Monument Valley which we all knew from westerns. There were some interesting locations that we mulled over but didn’t use – swamp lands, and the aircraft graveyards in Arizona.” What makes a good location?

“When you plan a shoot abroad you go for something that you can’t get in the UK either by clever set dressing and management, or through CGI. You don’t want people to go, ‘Oh, was that a bit of Cardiff ?’ You want to really feel, over a sustained number of scenes, that you’re in another country.”

So it’s about making the money you’ve spent very visible on screen? “Yes, but also the impact it has on the story. The challenge with a series of Doctor Who is to produce 13 stories that are each mini-movies of the week and that each feel completely different to one another. So we had these ideas, and we narrowed them down to a desert with a huge body of water because that suited an idea Steven said he’d had. Lake Powell in Arizona is the biggest man-made body of water in the US – it’s just enormous – and it’s near enough to Monument Valley so we could get those iconic western landscapes, and near a hydro-electric dam where we filmed the bit where Rory was captured.”

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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.