DoctorDoctor Who Guide

Season 27 - Series 1 (2005)


26 Sep 2003Doctor Who returns to BBC One
04 Mar 2004Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat join Russell T Davies to write Doctor Who series
20 Mar 2004Christopher Eccleston to play Doctor Who
24 May 2004Billie Piper is Doctor Who companion
10 Mar 2005Doctor Who Press pack - phase one
22 Mar 2005Doctor Who Press pack - phase two

26 Sep 2003

Doctor Who returns to BBC One

Doctor Who, one of the BBC's best-loved and most enduring characters, is set to return to BBC ONE, it was confirmed last night by Lorraine Heggessey, Controller of BBC ONE.

Heggessey said that all rights issues regarding Doctor Who have been resolved and that she has green-lit scripts from award-winning writer Russell T Davies.

It is far too early in the day to discuss possible storylines, characters, villains or who might play the Time Lord - it is unlikely anything will be on screen for at least two years.

Doctor Who will be produced by BBC Wales in conjunction with Mal Young, Controller of BBC Continuing Series.

The executive producers will be Mal Young, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, Head of Drama BBC Wales.

Russell T Davies's writing credits include Bob and Rose, Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Touching Evil (with Paul Abbott) and The Grand.

Mal Young says: "Doctor Who is a much-loved, truly iconic piece of television history. It's time to crank up the Tardis and find out what lies in store for The Doctor.

"We're thrilled to have a writer of Russell's calibre to take us on this journey. However, we're at the very first stages of development and further details, including casting, will not be available for some time."

Writer Russell T Davies, who grew up in Swansea and lives in Manchester, says: "I grew up watching Doctor Who, hiding behind the sofa like so many others. Doctor Who is one of the BBC's most exciting and original characters. He's had a good rest and now it's time to bring him back!

"The new series will be fun, exciting, contemporary and scary. Although I'm only in the early stages of development, I'm aiming to write a full-blooded drama which embraces the Doctor Who heritage, at the same time as introducing the character to a modern audience."

No budget has been set for the new series; the number of episodes and their duration is under discussion. It will be a family show, but no details are available as to when it will be scheduled.

LinkCredit: BBC Press Office
04 Mar 2004

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat join Russell T Davies to write Doctor Who series

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are to join the writing team led by Russell T Davies on the new series of Doctor Who, it was announced by Mal Young, BBC Controller of Continuing Drama Series.

"I've never received so many requests from writers and actors to be involved in a drama series, as I have had for Doctor Who.

"It seems everyone wants to be a part of bringing back to BBC ONE such an iconic series," says Mal Young.

"We only wanted to bring back Doctor Who if we could have the best talent around.

"Russell T Davies was always everyone's first choice, but now we're thrilled that Julie Gardner has been able to assemble a truly stellar team of writing talent to support Russell and enable us to keep the high standard of writing required, right across the series."

Julie Gardner, Head of Drama, BBC Wales adds: "Finding writers for the new series of Doctor Who has been one of the best jobs I've ever had. The talent available was exceptional.

"The team, led by Russell, is passionate about bringing the Doctor back to our screens.

"For many months to come we'll all be burning the midnight oil to make the new series the best it can be."

Other writers involved in the project include Paul Cornell and Rob Shearman.

The 13-part series for BBC ONE will begin filming this Spring for transmission in 2005.

Russell T Davies says: "I really believe we've got the best people in the business now working on the best show.

"They'll be writing stories ranging across the whole of time and space.

"The Doctor and Rose [the Doctor's new assistant] already have the best allies on their journey - brilliant writers with brilliant scripts.

"It's an honour to work with these people who are so talented; they shouldn't be allowed to travel together!"

Mark Gatiss is the writer, performer and creator of The League of Gentlemen.

Steven Moffat's credits include the acclaimed BBC TWO comedy series Coupling, winner of the Sitcom of the Year at the British Comedy Awards.

Rob Shearman is the writer of three Big Finish Doctor Who stories and Paul Cornell is the writer of several original Doctor Who novels and two Doctor Who series.

Filming in Cardiff later this year for transmission in 2005, Doctor Who is produced by Phil Collinson.

The executive producers are Mal Young, Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies.

LinkCredit: BBC Press Office
20 Mar 2004

Christopher Eccleston to play Doctor Who

Acclaimed British actor Christopher Eccleston is to play Doctor Who in the forthcoming 13-part drama series for BBC ONE, it was announced by Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning.

Eccleston, star of Flesh & Blood and The Second Coming, will take Doctor Who into the 21st century travelling through time and space, fighting monsters on all fronts, in a fresh and modern approach to the popular science fiction series.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted to be playing Doctor Who.

"I am looking forward to joining forces again with the incredible writer Russell T Davies and taking both loyal viewers and a new generation on a journey through time and space which way is the Tardis? I can't wait to get started!"

Jane Tranter says: "We are delighted to have cast an actor of such calibre in one of British television's most iconic roles.

"It signals our intention to take Doctor Who into the 21st century, as well as retaining its core traditional values - to be surprising, edgy and eccentric.

"We have chosen one of Britain's finest actors to play what, in effect, will be an overtly modern hero."

Executive producer/writer Russell T Davies adds: "We considered many great actors for this wonderful part, but Christopher was our first choice.

"This man can give the Doctor a wisdom, wit and emotional range as far-reaching as the Doctor's travels in time and space.

"His casting raises the bar for all of us. It's going to be a magnificent, epic, entertaining journey, and I can't wait to start!"

Filming in Cardiff later this year for transmission in 2005, Doctor Who is produced by Phil Collinson.

The writers are Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman.

Executive producers are BBC Controller of Continuing Drama Series, Mal Young; Head of Drama, BBC Wales, Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies.

LinkCredit: BBC Press Office
24 May 2004

Billie Piper is Doctor Who companion

Billie Piper is confirmed to play Rose Tyler, companion to Doctor Who, it was announced today by Julie Gardner, Head of Drama, BBC Wales.

The former singer who made her acting debut last year in the critically-acclaimed BBC ONE drama serial Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale, will star alongside Christopher Eccleston in the forthcoming 13-part drama series which returns to BBC ONE early next year.

Julie Gardner says: "Billie is beautiful, funny and intelligent. We needed to find a unique, dynamic partner for Christopher Eccleston, and Billie fits the bill perfectly.

"She will make an extraordinary Rose Tyler. Doctor Who has his new assistant!"

Piper, who also received critical-acclaim for her role in Bella and the Boys, a one-off drama for BBC TWO, is currently starring opposite Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom in The Calcium Kid.

"Doctor Who is an iconic show and I am absolutely thrilled to be playing the part of Rose Tyler," says Billie Piper.

"I am also looking forward to working with Christopher Eccleston and writer Russell T Davies."

Executive producer/writer, Russell T Davies, adds: "The Doctor's companion is one of the most important and cherished roles in the history of TV drama.

"I'm delighted that someone of Billie's talent is coming on board the Tardis, to travel through time and space."

LinkCredit: BBC Press Office
10 Mar 2005

Doctor Who Press pack - phase one

Acclaimed actor Christopher Eccleston plays Doctor Who in a new 13-part series for BBC ONE transmitting on Saturday 26 March 2005.

Billie Piper, who made her acting debut in the critically-acclaimed Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale, stars alongside Eccleston as the Doctor's companion, Rose Tyler.

Travelling through time and space, the Doctor and Rose come face to face with a number of new and exciting monsters - as well as battling with the Doctor's arch-enemy: the Daleks!

The series, which promises to surprise and entertain a new generation, also features Penelope Wilton, Noel Clarke, Annette Badland, Camille Coduri and John Barrowman, Richard Wilson, Simon Pegg, Zoe Wanamaker and acclaimed theatre, film and television actor Simon Callow.

Lorraine Heggessey, Controller of BBC ONE, says: "There is no secret about the fact that I desperately wanted to bring Doctor Who back to its rightfully place on BBC ONE.

"Russell T Davies and the writing team have done an incredible job."

Russell T Davies says: "The new series will be fun, exciting, contemporary and scary – a full-blooded drama which embraces the Doctor Who heritage as well as introducing the character to a modern audience.

"Christopher Eccleston's Doctor is wise, funny and brave; an adventurer who travels through time and space.

"His detached logic gives him a vital edge when the world is in danger, but when it comes to relationships, he can be found wanting. That's why he needs Rose (played by Billie Piper).

"Rose is a shop-girl from the present day. From the moment they meet, the Doctor and Rose are soul mates. They understand and complement each other.

"As they travel through history and across the universe, the Doctor shows Rose things beyond her imagination. She starts out as an innocent, fettered by earthly concerns.

"But she ends up an adventurer who, by the end of the series, can never go home again.

"Wherever they go, whoever they meet, every story will come back to Earth. For all the danger and tension this is a fundamentally optimistic series.

"The human race will survive – but only with the Doctor's help. Prepare for brand-new adventures in the human race..."

A BBC Wales Production for BBC ONE, Doctor Who is written by Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman.

The executive producers are Russell T Davies, BBC Wales' Head of Drama Julie Gardner and Mal Young.

In March there will be a 13-part companion series for BBC THREE, entitled Doctor Who Confidential, presented by Simon Pegg, which takes a look behind-the-scenes of the new Doctor Who series.

On Radio 2, Project Who? (22 and 29 March, 8.30pm), features interviews with the cast and crew. contains further details about the new series plus background information about the classic series.

Website content includes:

Over two hours of specially shot on-set videos (even the Daleks have sent in a video diary).

Doctor Who Confidential: The entire BBC THREE "making of" show available on-demand (13 x 30 minute episodes). This is the first time a non-news TV show has been streamed on-demand.

The Doctor Who Years: 3 x 30 minute specially edited video compilations, mixing classic tunes and Doctor Who clips in a nostalgia tour of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.

Conquer! -the BBC's first multiplayer online role-playing game.

Hidden sites - enter the world of the programme through a series of hidden sites referenced in the TV show. Can you find the Doctor?

Classic clips - more than 250 classic clips from the original series (everything from Tom Baker to the first appearance of the Daleks).

Downloads - the site offers MP3 downloads of sounds, and mobile wallpaper (Trust us - there will be no escape from a phone that sounds like a Dalek death ray).

Exclusive trailers - in the countdown to transmission the site is offering exclusive trailers.

Plus hidden corners, surprises, hundreds of candid behind-the-scenes photographs and more.

Finally, to mark the launch on BBC ONE of the new Doctor Who series, BBC TWO celebrates one of British television's much-loved and truly iconic series in a special night of programmes on Saturday 19 March.

In a one-off Mastermind Doctor Who Special, four Doctor Who aficionados will be put through their paces by Mastermind host, John Humphrys to find out who will be crowned the UK's top Doctor Who fan.

The prize will be presented by the new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston.

So Some Things You Need To Know About Doctor Who will be packed full of Doctor Who trivia, plus there is another chance to see The Story of Doctor Who - a nostalgic archive documentary about the longest running TV drama series.

Persistence paid off for Russell T Davies when, after refusing to work on anything for the BBC unless it was the return of Doctor Who, his wish finally came true.

A new 13-part series of the legendary Doctor's adventures travelling through time and space was given the go ahead in late 2003, with Russell on board as lead writer and co-executive producer along with the then newly-appointed Head of Drama for BBC Wales, Julie Gardner.

One of British TV's foremost writing talents, Russell is also a life-long Doctor Who fan but admits he paused before committing himself to restoring the Doctor to prime-time on BBC ONE some 15 years after the last series.

"I actually spent three days thinking very seriously about it," he admits.

"I love Doctor Who, and part of me thought 'If you love something maybe you should leave it alone'.

"But it was three days of nonsense really, and my friends were slapping me round the head and saying 'Don't be stupid, of course you've got to do it!'."

Julie had previously worked with Russell at ITV, so when she was asked if she would like Doctor Who to be the first project she oversaw for BBC Wales, she said 'yes' and rang him straight away.

"He didn't say yes immediately," Julie confirms, "but it was so obviously the right fit for everyone that Russell was soon working on the scripts and we were in pre-production."

Russell's writing credits include award-winners such as Queer as Folk, Bob and Rose and The Second Coming - the latter starring the man who would become the new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston.

But long before Christopher was cast, along with actress Bille Piper as the Doctor's latest travelling companion, Rose, Russell knew where the new series was going.

"The key word is fun," he says. "It's funny, scary, fast-moving, adventurous but above all the new Doctor Who is fun.

"I watch a lot of other science-fiction shows and they tend to be very pious, sombre, dark, even angst-ridden, and that would just die a death on a Saturday evening.

"People want to be entertained at that time, so Doctor Who is fun, fast-paced and takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride."

Julie points to the dizzying possibilities for storytelling that Doctor Who creates as another key attraction.

"There's no story that can't be told," she declares.

"It can go anywhere in time and space, and the main characters are an alien and a human, with all the confusion that brings. I can absolutely see why that draws people in.

"But without the quality of the scripts by Russell and our other writers - Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Robert Shearman and Paul Cornell - we couldn't hope to attract the likes of Simon Callow, Richard Wilson, Penelope Wilton and Simon Pegg as guest artists."

Russell still sounds surprised when he recalls how Christopher contacted him to say he was keen to be considered for the title role.

"I didn't think Christopher would be interested," he admits.

"But it's no secret that he has a very serious screen image, and I think playing the Doctor is a way of showing a different side of himself.

"There's a lot of fun and humour in his portrayal, but of course when the Doctor is angry or passionate we get that other side of Christopher, which has helped make him one of Britain's finest actors."

Christopher's leather jacket-wearing Doctor, played in his own Manchester accent, is more down-to-earth than some of his more flamboyant predecessors - "stripped down", as Russell describes him.

"The first couple of episodes were written before Christopher was cast," he says.

"But, by happy accident, my template for the character fitted him perfectly and he's also added as we've gone along."

Julie adds: "Christopher has often played very intense, dramatic, even tragic roles but the Doctor gives him the chance to still be very intense but also frivolous as well.

"He plays the part with enormous pace and energy, and there's plenty of banter between him and Rose."

Julie says once Billie auditioned to become the Doctor's new companion, it was simply no contest.

"From the moment she walked through the door, we loved her because there's something very real about her. She's got glamour, she's very beautiful and she has a spirit about her which really comes through in Rose," says Julie.

"She was absolutely perfect for the part, and she and Christopher work so well together - I think there's a real chemistry between them."

Russell believes the other key element of chemistry in the new Doctor Who lies in the relationship between its past, which has inspired loyalty and devotion in its fans for over 40 years, and the boundless potential of its present.

"The main difference between the old and the new Doctor Who is quite simply that this is a version made for 2005," he says.

"It's faithful to the old series, but at the same time it's a brand new show aimed at a new audience."

Just as the Doctor has done so many times down the years, Christopher Eccleston embarked on a journey into the unknown when he heard a new series of Doctor Who adventures was being planned.

First, he emailed co-executive producer and lead writer Russell T Davies to let him know he was interested in playing the Time Lord's ninth incarnation.

One of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, Christopher (41) accepts that saying 'yes' to reviving the Doctor was a bold move.

"If you wanted to be cynical about it, a lot of the work I've done has been comfort food for liberals," he says with a smile, referring to benchmark TV dramas such as Our Friends In The North and Hillsborough.

"What's dawned on me about Doctor Who is that I'm trying to entertain a different audience. It's exciting and funny and scary and it's aimed at families, so I'm kind of acting for children and I feel very lucky to be able to do that.

"For all the danger the Doctor encounters, the basic message of the show is seize life, be optimistic and see the positives.

"The series is written with passion and humour, and there's an innocence about it. It's a kind of celebration of life in all its forms.

"In everything the Doctor does he saying 'it's great to be alive'. I can hear people sneering at that, but that's what he believes and it's a nice thing to say to kids, or anybody for that matter."

Fittingly for a classic TV series being reinvented for the 21st century, Christopher had no preconceptions about Doctor Who, having rarely watched it as a child.

"I've got some memories of it, but I was always out playing," he says. "So I didn't have to think about what had gone before.

"I've just always tried to do the very best television I possibly could, and I knew that, having worked with Russell before, this series had a good chance of being great television."

When Christopher signed up to play the Doctor, Russell had already written the first two scripts, giving his leading man a character template to work on.

"He is Russell's Doctor and I've responded to the character that he's written," says Christopher. "But I have a sense that, as we went along, Russell started to look at what I was doing and began to write for me. I think I've done certain things with the character which he's liked, and he's used that."

Gone is the sartorial flamboyance of the previous Doctors, as is the slight air of theatricality which seemed to suit their outfits, and in their place is a more pared-down, more 'alien' adventurer - with a northern accent.

"The accent is an interesting thing," says Manchester-born Christopher, whose movie credits include Shallow Grave, Elizabeth and 28 Days Later.

"The Doctor is a scientist and an intellectual, and a lot of people seem to think you can only be those things if you speak with received pronunciation which, of course, is rubbish.

"In terms of what he wears (mostly black but with a succession of coloured tops), I didn't want the costume to be my performance, I wanted any flamboyance and colour to come out of my acting.

"I think it's quite a big performance already, so I think if I was wearing a 'big' costume as well I'd need a circus tent!

"There's also the challenge for me of the comic element to the Doctor's character. I hadn't done a great deal of comedy before and I wanted to try that."

But the bottom line for Christopher is that the Doctor is someone who lives for the here and now.

"He doesn't like to think about his past - there's some pain there - and his only concern about the future is that he makes sure it's there.

"He kind of eats life. He's not on a mission, he hasn't got an agenda, he's just there. Things just happen, he responds to them and does what he thinks is right."

Teaming up with Rose brings him into contact with her family, bringing out another element of the Doctor's personality.

"He doesn't do 'domestic'," Christopher smiles. "There's a line about it in one episode. He doesn't really like domestic set-ups or being answerable to other people. The ninth Doctor seems to have a problem with commitment!"

But for all his insights into the new Doctor's personality, the man playing him admits he's still trying to work a lot of it out himself.

"I find it quite hard to talk about the series because it's such a massive project and we're working so hard on it that I've not had a moment to collect my thoughts," says Christopher.

"To be honest with you, I've actually found myself behaving like the Doctor - I walk into a scene, the scene unfolds, I react to it, they film it and I move on.

"I'm not talking about 'immersing' myself in it, or any 'method' stuff - it's just such a fast-paced show and production that you have to get on with it!

"Everything you need to know about Doctor Who is all there on the screen. More than anything else I've worked on, this show does exactly what it says on the tin."

Christopher adds: "When I agreed to play the Doctor, I was reacting with my heart to what I feel Russell has tried to do with all his work, which is deliver television that is entertaining and has substance.

"If we've got it right, I think Doctor Who will be both of those things.

Landing the part of Rose Tyler, the latest in a long line of time-travelling companions for the Doctor, meant more to Billie Piper than anything in her career to date - including seeing her debut single top the charts.

"When that happened, I was in the midst of this mad pop frenzy and I didn't really have time to enjoy the moment," recalls the pop star-turned-actress or actress-turned-pop star-turned-actress, as she would prefer.

"It's only on reflection that I can think how great it was, but at the time I couldn't feel it. It all happened very quickly - I was only 15 and completely numb to that success, which is a shame.

"But the thing about acting is you have to be living the moment all the time, so you can enjoy it all the time. I'm just happy to be feeling it this time round."

Still only 22, Billie has packed a lot into her life, including pop stardom and marriage to media mogul Chris Evans, but she now feels she is finally doing what she was born to do - act.

"As a child, I always wanted to be an actor and I studied drama and did workshops when I was growing up in Swindon," she says.

"I didn't just want it to be my hobby, I wanted it to be my life and to throw myself into it completely, so I got a scholarship with the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.

"It was always my mission to be an actor - I just got sidetracked somewhere along the line!"

Billie was asked to do a demo-tape for a new record label keen to find a new young female solo artist and, as she recalls, "it just snowballed from there".

"I did it because I love music," she says. "I was never really that confident as a singer but I saw it as a stepping stone and hoped that it would open doors for me in the future as an actress.

"I know there have been times when the whole pop thing has gone against me in terms of getting roles, but I also knew I would just have to apply myself."

To that end, Billie went to Los Angeles to re-start her acting studies in relative anonymity, then came home and began auditioning.

"The main reason I got parts was because I always considered myself to be an actress and it was only news to everybody else. So I think it was my passion and conviction that got me my first couple of jobs," she says.

A role in the BBC's contemporary version of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in 2003, opposite TV heavyweights James Nesbitt and Dennis Waterman, made people sit up and take note of Billie's talent.

And when it came to trying to land the part of Rose in Doctor Who, she had an ace up her sleeve.

"I had a first audition and was then called back to read opposite Christopher (Eccleston) so the producers could check out the chemistry between us.

"That was really quite scary, but I'd met Christopher before because we were going to be partnered up to do another TV drama.

"Nothing ever came of that project, but at least we'd been out for a drink before and enjoyed each other's company, so that definitely helped."

Billie sees Rose as more of an equal to the Doctor than his previous companions.

"The new series keeps the essence of the old Doctor Who, but one of the ways it has updated it is in the relationship between the Doctor and Rose.

"I think they're on a par with one another, more like partners, and the audience sees everything through Rose's eyes," explains Billie.

"She's human, the Doctor's an alien, and she's experiencing all these alien situations throughout the series. At times, the whole thing is slightly overwhelming for her, but she can cope with it and match the Doctor.

"He is constantly challenging her, trying to broaden her horizons, and she's trying to show him how to be more in touch with human emotions.

"The series is a great balance between science fiction, which can be a bit detached, and real, genuine emotions. I don't think I would have done it if it was strictly sci-fi, as much as I've enjoyed being chased by monsters!

"I get my biggest buzz from working opposite Christopher when Rose and the Doctor are having 'domestic' kind of conversations. But the creativity of the plots and their characters, the sets and the whole look of the series is amazing."

Billie admits that she sees a younger version of herself in Rose, especially the way she relies on her instincts and intuition.

"She's only 19, and when you're that age you don't tend to analyse things as much, you tend not to think so much about the consequences of your actions.

"That's what I like about Rose - everything about the Doctor's world is so brand new to her, and she's relying on her instincts all the time and I love that."

Billie adds: "If Rose had been older she might not have gone off in the first place with this strange man who calls himself the Doctor and abandoned the life she knows.

"But when we first see her she's so bored and looking for excitement. She feels trapped and doesn't want the kind of mundane life she's living. But then she meets this guy who totally shakes up her world."

LinkCredit: BBC Press Office
22 Mar 2005

Doctor Who Press pack - phase two

There were many reasons why Oscar-winning London-based effects house The Mill came on board the new series of Doctor Who, but one in particular stands out for Chief Executive Robin Shenfield.

"Visual effects can be the tail that wags the dog," he says.

"But with Doctor Who the storytelling was so good we knew it was something we really wanted to do.

"It's soul-destroying to do great effects work on a project lacking in other areas because when it gets panned, it feels like your work is being panned, too.

"Whether we take something on really depends on the quality of the scripts and the team that's working on it."

Then there's the attraction of working on what visual effects editor Dave Houghton refers to as "the biggest digital effects in British TV drama to date".

To illustrate the point, The Mill won their Academy Award for their work on Gladiator which included 100 visual effects shots produced over seven months.

The team working on Doctor Who are producing around 100 per episode each month.

"The range of effects we're using is quite extraordinary," says Robin.

"Everything we do that's cutting edge is in this production."

Recruiting additional talent to work on the show proved not to be a problem once The Mill signed up for the series.

"Visual effects is a very specialist business and if a project is a stinker it's harder to get the specialists you need," says Robin.

"But people were beating a path to us because they so wanted to be involved - the appeal of working on Doctor Who is extremely seductive."

Visual effects producer Will Cohen says: "The show is a national institution and people working out how best to do a shot would often say something like 'But it's Doctor Who, it has to be good'."

The effects in the show have to be almost better than good, says Robin, "because today's audience is very visual effect-literate".

Will cites the gaseous entities that feature in one episode: "They started off just as ectoplasm but then became faces that had to speak.

"In another story, one computer-generated character needed four minutes of lip-synching, which is a huge undertaking in a TV project."

Robin adds: "The series was very stimulating for our team because we were able to input our own creative ideas, much more so than in film. We were contributing, not just executing."

  • The Mill has been at the forefront of visual and special effects (VFX and SFX) for 15 years. Credits include the Academy Award-winning Gladiator for which they won the Oscar for special effects.
  • Approximately 800 special effects have been created for the new series of Doctor Who compared with only 100 for the multi-Oscar-winning Gladiator.
  • No other British TV production has been this ambitious in scale with the number of SFX and VFX created for a series.
  • It has taken a team of 21 people, working over 10 months, doing six-day weeks of 12 hours per day to bring the new series up to date.
  • Episode two involved the highest volume and biggest diversity of effects. This episode entailed characters built entirely in CG, entirely CG space and environments, green-screen composites and matt painting. This episode alone sucked up over a fifth of The Mill's total VFX work quota.

Edward Thomas has been a production designer on 32 films for cinema and TV but says he still felt a rush of excitement when he got a phone call to come and chat to Russell T Davies about working on the new Doctor Who.

"I just waded in there because it's Doctor Who and it's a legend, and it was the thought that I might get the chance to help recreate and refresh what had gone before," he says.

"Reality dawns on you when you realise there's a fan base that's kept this series alive for 15 years, which is pressure enough, let alone making it visually-exciting and stimulating for a younger audience with little idea what Doctor Who is about."

Edward has overseen the look of the entire series, and played a major role in the design of the new TARDIS.

"To be able to completely re-design the interior of the TARDIS was amazing," he enthuses.

"It's basic drive mechanism is the same but we've gone for a more organic look using materials such as glass, porcelain and even coral, with a raised central area and a domed roof."

The roundels in the walls remain, as does the coat stand by the door, but look closely at the central console and you will spot old handbrakes, pressure dials, loose nuts and bolts, an old trim-phone, post-it notes, glass balls, hammers and even a navigation sextant.

Edward says: "The Doctor's been traveling in the TARDIS for about 900 years, so the idea is he's had to improvise as he's gone along."

He admits he's probably been blessed with a bigger budget than previous Doctor Who production designers, and also has the benefit of computer-generated imagery.

"When it comes to, say, creating a space station, whereas before you'd design it with the limitations of your studio mind, these days the world is your oyster," he says.

"The Mill's wonderful CGI and the BBC's Mike Tucker and his model work mean I can extend the boundaries in terms of what I want to create."

More money, better models and CGI aside, however, one thing that hasn't changed is the production team's recycling of sets and props.

Edward says: "Most long-running series have sets and props they use all the time, but because Doctor Who is so varied, changing from week to week, we use things again, which I'm sure they did on the old shows.

"Technology has moved on but in some ways things haven't changed and the challenges are just as demanding today as they were then."

  • There have been approximately 650 sets created during the series from location builds to studio builds.
  • Each episode has specific colouring dependent on alien/bad guys.
  • The interior TARDIS was designed with contributions from the whole design team - Dan Walker, Colin Richmond, Matthew Savage, Stephen Nicholas, Bryan Hitch and Peter Walpole all contributed to the final imagery.
  • The new interior TARDIS is approx 6.5m high, 16m diameter, 1500m steelwork.
  • There are 80 sheets of acrylic vac formed panels within the TARDIS forming the glass panels; 800m of jumbo pipe; 50 sheets of industrial wire mesh.
  • The production designers went for more of an organic look using materials such as glass, porcelain and even coral, with a raised central area and a domed roof.
  • Up to nine different blues and greens make up the exterior colour.
  • Production designs to look out for throughout the series include: New DALEK, Captain Jack's ship, DALEK ship and the Nestene Lair which features in episode one.

Mike Tucker is in prime position to compare the new Doctor Who with the old, having worked on the later TV runs featuring Colin Baker and then Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor.

"Russell T Davies said very early on that there's very little point in bringing the show back if we're going to change it beyond all recognition," says Mike, who heads the BBC's Miniature Effects Unit.

"What he's brought back is Doctor Who, but Doctor Who re-invented for the mindset and viewing tastes of the 21st century viewing public."

Mike and his team, together with Oscar-winning effects house The Mill, have helped bring the series bang up to date, using the very latest technology to give its visual effects a sophisticated, cutting edge look and feel.

"The kind of things we're doing now couldn't have been done 15 years ago when the show was last on. Computer technology in visual effects was in its infancy," he says.

"During the last couple of Sylvester McCoy stories, what was then the BBC Video Effects Department was doing some groundbreaking stuff, but it was only after the show came off air that the real digital revolution came along.

"The gulf between what we can do now and did then is enormous. Effects we could never have achieved are now possible - that's the biggest change.

"Russell is well aware of that, so the scripts for the new series have pushed the show's level of ambition higher than ever, and what we've been asked to do is as challenging in its way as it was 15 years ago."

Mike delights in keeping viewers guessing about how the effects in the new Doctor Who were achieved.

"You have to constantly find ways of fooling the next generation of audience, to stay one step ahead so you can say, you might think you know how that was done but actually we threw this or that into the mix to trick you," he says.

In the world of miniature effects, the most visually-arresting scenes are, of course, often achieved by blowing things up.

"You do spend a lot of time making models and setting them up only to destroy them in a matter of seconds, but it's part of the job," Mike says.

"The most important thing is that it looks good on screen."

Besides, what does reducing weeks' worth of work to debris matter when you get to work on the new Dalek?

Mike confirms: "The only overlap between our work and the full-sized world is we got to build the Dalek - what a bonus!"

Doctor Who fan Neill Gorton was thrilled to re-design one of the Doctor's old enemies, living shop dummies the Autons, for episode one.

But even the experienced 'monster maker', who has worked on blockbuster movies including Gladiator and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, was surprised by the scale of the undertaking.

He says: "Initially I was told we needed 'some' Autons, then as things went along I found myself emailing Russell T Davies and asking incredulously 'How many...?'

"We ended up with about 50 of them charging down Cardiff High Street blowing the place up!

"The old Autons were pretty scary and hopefully a new generation of kids will find them scary again. I'd like to think we've taken them to another level."

Neill says of the new series: "I was delighted when I saw episode one because it's new, it's fresh but it's still recognisably Doctor Who.

"I grew up with the old series, and it's part of the reason I do this job. When it came back, I just had to be involved."

The Autons were just the first challenge delivered to Neill by scripts which also called, for instance, for 'green, eight feet tall baby-faced monsters'.

"The process is we'll get a script, then you read the story to see what the creatures have to do, then you start doing sketches," he explains.

"The sketches go to Russell, production designer Edward Thomas, and whoever's in the loop on that episode, and we all chip in until we achieve the right look."

Neill says the creature inside the Dalek went through a heavy design phase because everybody has their own opinions about what it should look like.

"It was glimpsed in an old Tom Baker episode, but only as a blob-like being, so we were really starting from scratch, and Russell had some very strong ideas about it," he says.

"We really went through a lot of concepts and designs, and it ended up being about 80% Russell's ideas and 20% mine. He always wins when he really wants to!"

At least Neill had his say - often not the case on major movies, he says: "With something like Doctor Who you're really involved, and not just being told what to do.

"You're pitching ideas which you know won't simply be ignored. The whole set-up is very collaborative.

"That's why it's not just one monster or anything else that has given me most pleasure while working on Doctor Who - it's being part of the whole thing."

  • The Autons (shop front dummies) controlled by the Nestene Consciousness - first appeared in Doctor Who in the Seventies, brought up to date for a 21st century audience.
  • Moxx of Balhoon, a diminutive blue-skinned creative supported by and transported on an antigravity chair.
  • The Forest of Cheem, a collective of Trees, Jabe, Lute and Coffa - humanoid creatures grown from wood sprouting branches and leaves.
  • The Face of Boe, an alien head held in a steam-driven, fluidic life-support tank.
  • Daleks – the Doctor's arch-enemies whose fierce cry 'exterminate' strikes fear into the heart of our legendary hero.
  • Slitheen – eight feet tall, a thick tube of solid, wet, green flesh.
  • The Gelth – gaseous aliens.
LinkCredit: BBC Press Office