|"A production designer,” says Michael Pickwoad, “should think like a director and behave like a producer.”|
Last month the BBC site for Doctor Who featured an interview with Michael Pickwoad, but it was pretty devoid of pictures of the new Console Room, so with a little research and gathering you will find some added here along with that interview.
To give a little background about Pickwoad, his late father, the character actor William Mervyn appeared in the episode "The War Machines", which featured London’s then newest landmark - the GPO Tower.
Pickwoad says “I remember watching it and it was always interestingly worrying. I particularly liked the psychology of the stories, and provided the set didn’t fall down, you sort of believed it. It’s iconic and it’s fun.”
When asked by Quentin Falk for BAFTA's Guru blog back in 2011 how and why he joined "Doctor Who" he had this to say.
“Why did they want me? Well, I think the feeling might have been they had been slipping a bit in the non-Doctor Who department. The actual sci-fi bits are all quite fun but sometimes when it came to the historical bits and real life, as it were, it didn’t quite live up to the normal standards of BBC costume drama.
“It was a question, I think, of giving it a bit of a kick, of making the non-sci-fi bits classier. When I did Lost In Austen for ITV, I remember thinking to myself, ‘the way to do this is to make it better than BBC costume drama.’ Okay, it may be a nonsense story, but the better you make the setting, the more believable the nonsense is, and everyone will go with it.”
Question: What inspired the look of the new TARDIS?
Michael Pickwoad: There was a desire that a new TARDIS should be much more technical and be darker and moodier than before, along with a sense that this machine can fly.
Working in the previous TARDIS it became apparent that the gallery was not only difficult to get to, but awkward to use and so the idea of a gallery that could go right around the interior and give a lot of scope for shooting would be a positive design feature.
The feeling of technical precision in the Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest- energy atomic particle accelerator, Hi-Tec Architecture and what might Barnes Wallis, the great inventor engineer who I once had the privilege of meeting, have come up with, were some the of the inspirations.
Question: What was uppermost in your mind when you designed the new TARDIS?
Michael Pickwoad: The design of the main ribs was the most crucial feature as they needed to support the gallery without obstructing floor space and be a shape that suggested high technology, but of an organic nature that would sweep from the floor to the central rotor like a magnetic field diagram. Their shape is a blend of straight lines and sweeping curves connected by sharper curves that give it a definite and particular profile, and although they are large, the structure still has a sense of delicacy and precision. The use of steel allowed this delicacy and the surface was finished in a cosmic blue, suggesting a unique Gallifreyan alloy.
Various numbers of ribs were experimented with in the drawing stage, and with twenty ribs being too intense and sixteen being too far apart and out of balance with the intended scale, eighteen appeared to be just right. The overall size of the new TARDIS is the same as the last, but appears to be larger as all of the space is accessible.
The entrance was designed to make the arrival within the space, rather than on the edge, and give a sense of weightlessness by not being aware of how the bridge to the console platform is supported.
The staircases connecting the different levels, all in different directions, take on the essence of an Escher drawing and were designed to give a confusing yet magical look.
The new design incorporates enough lights as part of the design to basically light the set for wide shots. They can be made to chase round the set to give a sense of motion or acceleration, and turn red for danger. The pairs of blue and amber circular lights on the gallery were based on Dalek head rings, a not inapposite reference for TARDIS evolution.
The console itself returned to more of the look of earlier designs, allowing for more positive technology, veering away from the whimsical, yet retaining a sense of entertainment. This may be considered retro, but allows for a greater range of controls and levers that can be combined with touch screens and computer panels, which in themselves have less shape. The Doctor, of course, always needs a lever.
Question: What’s your favourite element of the new TARDIS interior?
Michael Pickwoad: This has to be the contra-rotating time rotor. It came to me when realising that all TARDIS have had a large circular feature above the console, which never actually did anything. By making it revolve it would suggest that it was computing the time co-ordinates and setting the course through time. Looking at the revolving tray in a microwave suggested the idea that if each ring supported the next on wheels fixed to the centre, then by turning one ring, the next would revolve in the reverse direction and give more of a sense of computing and conjuring up the idea of a circular slide rule.
Each ring of the rotor is divided into eighteen parts, complimenting the eighteen ribs of the TARDIS structure, and being finished in silver and furnished with Gallifreyan symbols, adds to the sense of precision.
Question: And finally, aside from the new TARDIS, what was your favourite set in the Christmas Special?
Michael Pickwoad: The Christmas Special had several lovely sets. The Latimer House was a beautiful location, Dr Simeon’s GI Institute with its Snow making machinery allowed for great imagination, based on 19th Century electrical experiments, but probably my favourite was the London Street with the back of the pub, based on a wonderful 16th Century building in Oxford, where I live.
One the enjoyable things about ‘Doctor Who’ is the great variety of sets and locations and they all require the same attention. So the London Street had to be worthy of a costume drama and match with the charm of the period Bristol streets where we filmed some of the scenes.
Pickwoad's credits include the films "Withnail & I", "The Krays", "Comrades" and "How to Get Ahead in Advertising", also television shows such as "Longford" for which he was nominated for a BAFTA as well as "Agatha Christie's Poirot", "Lost In Austen", "Marple" and "The Prisoner" and now "Doctor Who". For more on Pickwoad's career in film and television see his IMDB profile.