Doctor Who Convention, Day 1 – ‘Creators and Directors’ Panel

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One of the best things about these small conventions that are focused on only one topic is that you can get a lot of depth out of them that you don’t get from something like San Diego Comic-Con. People who go to these kinds of conventions are the kind of people who love a show so much they want to know all the nitty gritty details; the minutae of putting together an episode of television from the idea in a creator’s mind to the final effects shot that brings that creation to reality. You can’t do that at a convention covering thousands of different pieces of film, television, or graphic novels . . . but you can when the convention is just about that one program.

Hence, the ‘Creators and Directors’ panel, which focused on the Series 6 episode The Girl Who Waited. Our guests for the panel included Tom MacRae (Writer), Marcus Wilson (Producer), Neil Gorton (FX Director for Millenium FX), and Robert Allsopp (Designer of the Handbot).  By focusing on just this one episode, we got a lot of insight into the work that takes place behind the scenes on Doctor Who.

Marcus Wilson (Producer) and Tom MacRae (Writer)

 

  • The idea of making the facility in the episode a quarantine took them some time to come up with. One of the original ideas was to have refugees at the center, but then they’d all die at the end. When MacRae came up with the idea, Steven Moffat (Lead Writer and Executive Producer)  jumped out of his chair and ran around to squeeze MacRae’s shoulders . . . and then realized how strange that was and awkwardly sat back down.
  • The episode was a very technically difficult one to film because they kept having to film different perspectives, and Smith was working on episode 6×12, Closing Time. Their objective was to try and weave him in as much as possible so it didn’t feel like a ‘Doctor Light’ episode, but also not have him working on one episode all day, and the other all night.
  • All scenes filmed at the power station needed to be ADR’d by Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) because the sound was so overwhelming they could barely hear themselves think, let alone capture the performances.
  • Wilson doesn’t think they’re limited by filming in Cardiff for shooting locations, even after eight years of filming, because they’re always finding new locations. For instance, he can’t wait to find a use for the new building used by the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
  • Robert Allsopp with his design creation, the HandbotMacRae came up with the Handbots in hopes that he’d create a monster that would one day become an action figure. Sadly, the Handbots weren’t in the toy line.
  • Allsopp used fashion design for inspiration in order to break up the design so it wouldn’t look like a recycled robot from another science fiction series. This is what led to the triangular shape to the shoulders.
  • Originally the Handbots had exposed flesh hands, but instead of looking interesting it just made them look like they’d not finished the design.
  • They looked at older actresses to play the Old Amy, but when Gillan read the script she called saying she really wanted to play the role herself.
  • For Gorton and his team this was a bit of a challenge, because aging an actor is easiest when you have some signs of aging that you can use as a guide. As Gillan is so young (just 24 years old), there wasn’t anything for the makeup department to work with.
  • MacRae and Gillan have decided that as Old Amy was meant to be 58 years old, there will come a day where they will take a picture of Gillan at the same age and put them side by side to see just how good Gorton’s imagination was.
  • In answer to a question about whether the rise of digital effects and technologies such as motion capture were taking work away from physical effects, Gorton answered that in truth it was the other way around. Now directors can see what the technologies can achieve, they want more, and sometimes it’s still easiest and better looking to do it with makeup instead of on a computer.

Neil Gorton (FX Director for Millenium FX) and Robert Allsopp (designer of the Handbot)

 

  • McRae admits as he’s now a producer on his own program (Threesome), he’s able to do a lot more self-editing, and there is little that needs to be cut for time or budget in his scripts. Apparently Moffat confided in him that had he produced by the time the Doctor Who Series 2 episode The Girl In The Fireplace had aired he never would have written the words “Horse crashes through mirror” because he would have known just how difficult and costly it would be.
  • In answer to the question of which monsters from the original run of Doctor Who would they bring back to the show, MacRae and Wilson both stated that they would rather create new monsters, while Gorton would like to get his crack at the Zygons.