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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Making of Doctor Who Live - Guy Freeman Interview

Guy Freeman, executive producer of "Doctor Who Live" (he's done dozens of entertainment specials, the chap could probably have put this together in his sleep), did a nice long interview for the BBC about one goes about turning a casting revelation into a half-hour programme. Well worth reading in its entirety on the BBC website.

Phil Dolling, Head of Events, called me whilst we were on location, "We’ve been asked to make a live show to reveal who’ll be taking over from Matt Smith, in Doctor Who".

"Great – let’s talk it through after this shoot?"

"Well, they might want to do it in 3 weeks’ time, so we need to start finding a team now”

“OK – when do we find out who the next Doctor is?”

“We don’t – it has to be kept secret and the show isn’t even going to be billed until the very last minute, in order to keep people off the scent”

He goes on to comment on how difficult it was to put together a show with no set or plans, and not even a solid date to give to potential guests. Lots of credit is given to the "core team" (who exactly this is isn't clear, but perhaps it's Steven Moffat's usual crew) for their "frighteningly good knowledge" of Doctor Who, who were able to order up episode tapes for the film clips; BBC Worldwide helped out with that.

The biggest challenge was how to recruit a studio audience of Doctor Who fans, without giving the game away. In the end, we asked Audience Services to place an ad on their website for a new “entertainment pilot, celebrating long-running TV shows. This episode looks back at 50 years of Doctor Who”. Within two days, 5,000 people had applied for tickets. 

As we wrote up here, and commented on when the announcement of the special was made.

Zoe Ball is such a fan of Doctor Who that she was prepared to re-arrange holiday plans to host the show. Only when we met up with her a week beforehand could we tell her that she’d be revealing and interviewing ‘Houdini’. Never have I seen a more excited presenter – a real joy to work with.

Matt Smith couldn't appear on the show, due to being in LA.

As other interviewees were either being booked for the studio or filmed and edited, plans for the studio took shape – with a set based on the ‘space time vortex’ in Doctor who’s opening titles.

He's smoothing over either a few production hassles or press confusion there - the Radio Times had promised an appearance from Colin Baker that evidently didn't happen (he was surprised to hear about it). It's probably a more complicated and interesting story of pulling everything together at the last moment than his cheerfully optimistic account would suggest. 

All we needed was an authentic model Tardis to hang from the studio grid. Doctor Who’s very own prop man rose to the challenge of building one within a week, complete with motor to revolve it and internal lighting. Very fine it looked too when it arrived in studio – a perfect, 3-foot high replica.

Possibly that was Michael Pickwood, the show's production designer.

At midnight, on Thursday 1st August, the press release went out to let everyone know that what had been billed up to then as “Celebrity Mastermind” was now going to be our show. At last, we could speak openly about it and do vital things like talk to Red Bee about on [sic] air times and tell our studio guests what the show was really about! On Saturday 3rd, as the press ramped up their speculation about Houdini, one of our co-ordinators drove around Borehamwood, looking for an anonymous car park.

And then all the stuff you know about Capaldi sneaking into a car at the secret location and then being bundled into the studio that Saturday under a blanket.

As well as great viewing figures on BBC One, the moment generated half a million tweets and record daytime figures for BBC America’s live simulcast too. It was a great thrill for us to be part of it and we wish Peter every success in the iconic role. Huge thanks to the Doctor Who team for trusting us with their national treasure and to everyone who came together at such short notice, to do such a great job.

Pity that his team, whoever "we" is, isn't credited more fully in this article; it would have been good to know more about the people who put this show together, and his website is sparse on his usual coworkers, if indeed he has any. But they pulled together a nice, shiny show while juggling old clips and live actors and managed to send it out to a global audience with no errors, and that's a significant achievement all by itself.

1 comment :

farsighted said...

That's nonsense, Matt wasn't filming Gosling's film, that was over. It wouldn't have been fair for Matt to have been on that Doctor Who Live show; he would have overshadowed Capaldi's introduction.