Doctor Who Convention, Day 1 – ‘Doctor Who Uncut’ Panel

The ‘Creators and Directors’ panel was about the process of making a specific episode of Doctor Who. Which, by the way, didn’t include a single director . . . but that’s beside the point. The ‘Doctor Who Uncut’ panel, which did include a director, took on a broader approach. This time the panelists gave us a look at how an entire series of Doctor Who is made, and the panelists included Steven Moffat (Lead Writer and Executive Producer), Caroline Skinner (Executive Producer), Andy Prior (Casting Director), Michael Pickwoad (Production Designer), Julian Simpson (Director of The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People), and Stephan Pehrsson (Director of Photography). It was hosted by Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator).

  • Moffat started us off by taking us through the beginning of planning for a series, from his original story ideas pitched to Skinner and Marcus Wilson (Producer), to assigning writers to each episode.
  • Moffat said that at times he can see just by a look in their eyes that they get the pitch, and are already thinking of their story. For example, Chris Chibnall (Writer on “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood”, the Silurian two-parter from Series 5) merely had to hear the title before he was on board and letting his imagination run away with him.
  • Moffat wants to be sure that the writer assigned is inspired by the story idea. Should they react unfavorably, he is happy to find a pitch that better suits them. Who really wants to see a story on Doctor Who that left the writer bored?
  • The process of casting can be quite lengthy when it comes to the big roles of The Doctor or a Companion, because obviously there is so much riding on their choices. For Amy and Rory’s replacement the team started looking in October 2011, but only signed the deal with Jenna-Louise last week.
  • When it comes to locations and production design, or even a really crazy stunt, Moffat admitted that sometimes when he really wants to see something happen he’ll figure out how to make it pivotal to the plot so that they won’t cut it out. For some reason this reminded me of J.K. Rowling telling Steven Kloves (screenwriter of all but one of the Harry Potter films) that he couldn’t cut Kreacher out of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because he was vital to the story in later books.
  • Getting the right location for an episode can be tricky. Simpson told a tale of a perfect location found for the acid well in the two-parter he directed, “The Rebel Flesh”/“The Almost People”. Had they gone with that location they wouldn’t have been allowed to park very close, or bring much of their equipment out. Oh, and there were builders working on the site who refused point blank to quit working. In the end they adapted the set they had built for the Oval Office in the Series 6 opening two-parter “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day Of The Moon”.
  • Fun fact: Their Oval Office was probably the most accurate ever to be built for filming. Most films take major liberties with the design, but Pickwoad stayed as close to the actual design as possible.
  • Pehrsson thinks it’s best to think of Doctor Who as a movie filmed on a television budget. They use the same cameras as the recent Bond films, and like some other British television dramas, the show has better resources than most British films.
  • According to Simpson, one of the nice things about Doctor Who is that each episode is its own being and doesn’t have to worry about how the last one was shot, or how the next will be. You can make each episode like a little movie that is whatever that script needs it to be.
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