Doctor Doctor Who (Miscellaneous)

Press and Publicity Articles for Scream of the Shalka


List:
Press Pack
12 Nov 2003Net première for Dr Who

How are you approaching the role of the Doctor?

I think I must be the only actor who’s never seen Doctor Who, or read it. I’m completely a virgin to it so I don’t know whether that’s a disadvantage or an advantage - that will be for other people to decide. It’s struck me that it’s Sherlock Holmes in outer space. That’s what it seems to be like. I don’t know whether that’s accurate or inaccurate, but you just follow the script.

Where would you travel if you had a TARDIS?

Oh the future. I think a tendency that almost inevitably you have is to think, ‘Who would you have as your ideal dinner guests?’ or ‘Who would you be if you went back to Egyptian times?' You’d be a Pharaoh, you wouldn’t be some poor slave hauling rock across the desert. I think the standard of living and the way that we live now, certainly in the West, is so sophisticated compared to anything that’s gone before that I would definitely like to live to at least 120 and see what the future’s like.

What’s been your favourite moment of the recording?

We haven’t been doing it in sequence – we jump around a lot. I think hearing everyone else doing the Shalka screams and the various sound effects and things. That’s more enjoyable than anything that I’ve done.

What's it been like working with Sir Derek Jacobi?

I worked with him in Gosford Park so I’d met him before and I knew Diana Quick. I think it’s like anything, it’s actors sitting around telling stories of past humiliations and things that are common to most actor’s lives - bad reviews, unemployment, the worst people you’ve ever worked with, the most monstrous egos. All that stuff provided daily entertainment, and bonding.

What has been the most unusual role in your career?

This one, because I have no idea what the thing looks like. When I’ve done animated things before you’re given a storyboard or a sketch of what the character that you’re doing looks like, whereas in this one they’re basing it on our faces, and because we don’t know what the costumes look like, I’m totally in the dark.

Do you have any interest in science fiction or fantasy?

I think it’s very cinematic and 2001 is - I still think is a kind of bench mark, all time science fiction classic film. I don’t think it’s been bettered.

Are you a Kubrick fan?

Yeah, a big Kubrick fan and I had read Arthur C Clarke’s book before I saw it but that’s the only science fiction book I’ve ever read, so I’m a hopeless interviewee in terms of science fiction and the future I’m afraid.

What do you think the future holds?

A lot of science fiction has said that the future’s going to be everybody with large heads, small feet and wearing space age suits. We’ve reached the time that all that was predicted 50 or 60 years ago - that’s not where we’re going to be going.

Are you planning on writing a second autobiography?

No. I think that because the diary begins with the first film I ever made, there was a kind of natural arc of going on, from total inexperience, being wide-eyed and in Babylon kind of thing, and so you as a reader go through a similar kind of journey. I think that once you’ve done it then the second volume is diminishing returns, really.

Could you tell us who are you playing?

My name is Sophie Okonedo and I’m playing Alison who becomes Doctor Who’s sidekick.

What can you tell us about her character?

She’s quite strong, quite a feisty girl, very intelligent and quite working class. That’s what it says in the script anyway. She’s working in a bar at the moment and she lives with her boyfriend who she doesn’t really want to be with anymore, and she gets caught up with the Doctor.

What’s it like working with the rest of the cast?

All the actors are just such fun. Richard’s just the perfect Doctor so all the scenes with him have been really enjoyable. You couldn’t think of anyone better to play the Doctor really, so that’s been really good.

Have you any thoughts about how you should look?

Well it would be good to have bigger boobs and smaller feet, other than that...

What medium do you prefer working in?

I’m not really bothered, I just like good scripts, it doesn’t really matter, I don’t have any preference, I like the theatre, I like filming.

The favourite thing I’ve ever done is a thing called Never Never by Tony Marchant, it was for television and that was really good, and Clocking Off I did for television – that was really good too.

Have you ever watched Doctor Who?

Yeah, yeah, I did when I was younger, I watched Doctor Who.

Favourite memories?

The Daleks, the same as everyone else. I remember it being really, really scary. I really loved it when I was a kid.

What do you think the scariest moment is in this one?

I suppose when people can’t control what they’re doing is quite scary, when they start trying to kill each other and stuff.

Would you like to come back for more?

I would really like to do some more because she’s a good character, she’s not like a silly little girl. She’s quite good fun, she’s quite strong and she’s has quite a dry sense of humour, which is nice.

It would be good to just see what they come up with really. I can imagine it would go on because Richard’s such a good Doctor Who. We’ve such a good cast - we have Derek Jacobi, playing the Master, real stellar cast. I could imagine it would go on indefinitely.

Could you tell us who you are playing?

The character I’m playing is called Joe and he’s a young GP who when we see him is quite depressed really, but he’s totally in love with Alison. He’s not got that much confidence and he’s in a war zone being attacked by worm-like aliens so things aren’t going well for him.

He’s trying to keep it together for him and his baby Alison who he absolutely adores. I think he knows he’s fighting a losing battle. You know that thing where you know you love someone but you’ve got to set them free, it’s that kind of thing.

How have you found working on this project?

It’s been great. I mean, to get to be a part of a Doctor Who story is good in itself but to be a cartoon it’s wicked and it’s very free-flowing, it’s very quick, all having gossipy chats outside, so it’s one of those jobs that I would call fun.

What's it been like working with Richard E Grant?

What do I think about him? I think he’s spot on, I think he’s got that timeless slightly eccentric quality. Even though he’s not from England, he’s like a quintessential Englishman. I think he’ll be brilliant.

Why do you think the series encourages such fandom?

I think it’s because it fires the imagination and the characters are likeable and there’s something very English about them as well. I’m not sure if Doctor Who’s done well around the world but it’s got a peculiar eccentricity about it which I think we can all identify with as English folk.

As I say, every Doctor Who has been slightly mad but likeable and the whole idea that you can travel through time, even if you’re a non-believer, it’s still a nice possibility isn’t it? I think it brings out the child in us all.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

I was thinking about this and some of the obvious things would be the 50s and 60s because the 50s was a kind of new dawn, it was quite innocent and you’d come out of the Depression and the war. I think that’s when teenagers first started to have some kind of identity, and then the 60s, obviously the Beatles and winning the World Cup.

For me personally, I think it’s all a little rose-tinted. I’m really happy living right now and if I could time travel I would time travel to the future. I wouldn’t mind having my own little spaceship and taking it for an MOT, you know what I mean, moaning to the bird, "That’s costing me a fortune, that spaceship," you know what I mean? I think I’d prefer to go forward rather than backward.

Do you think science fiction lends itself to animation?

I think animation is a fantastic way to tell a science fiction story, because I think we all love cartoons and what you can do with a cartoon these days is amazing. I mean the early Doctor Whos got away with murder, the sets were a bit wobbly but they somehow still managed to make you believe. When there’s smoke coming out of some dodgy dry mist, you kind of believed it.

Going back to why Doctor Who was popular, that was probably one of the reasons, because the special effects were so dodgy that you had to believe them in order to keep the faith. My final word would be if they get the special effects right in the cartoons, which I think they can do these days, I think that will be great. I think a Doctor Who cartoon will be great.

How do you think your character should look?

Apparently, they’ve got to do it to my likeness so it will probably be some kind of likeable caricature of these cheeky chops. Just as long as they make me look, you know, not that bad.

I’m actually excited about it, that’s one of the real exciting parts of doing this job that they’ve got to do a likeness of me for a cartoon, it’s fantastic. I’ve had a cartoon caricature before when I did Queer As Folk and that was hilarious, that was brilliant, I think it was in the Sunday Times and they did me with this really kind of innocent open-like face which is what the character was like. I don’t know boys, do a good job, because I know where you live.

What's been the most unusual role of your career?

The most unusual one was the one I’ve just done, probably, where I played a psychotic split personality transsexual. It’s for Waking The Dead and it’s one of the best roles that I’ve ever done, I’ve not seen it yet but I certainly have never been so excited and nervous about a role. It was a massive challenge.

That is in a way the oddest thing to do because you know it’s not every day that you actually shave your legs, pluck your eyebrows, wear Chanel No 5, and genuinely try and portray a transsexual as not a freak of nature but as a dignified human being. I figured they're probably unhappier as the man and I made the man a little more dangerous and I made my character as the woman very elegant and dignified and happy.

These people do genuinely believe that they are born in the wrong sex, so once I made the decision to do it I absolutely threw myself into it. I’ve never been so focused on a role. I’m not sure if I pulled it off, we shall see, only time will tell. I had to sing at the beginning a little bit as well. I was in full Maria mode singing You Make Me Feel like a Natural Woman, so that was quite odd.

Did you watch Doctor Who as a child?

A little bit but I wasn’t a massive fan. I did see it quite a bit when I was a kid – I never really got obsessed by it, by the series but I think I’ve said somewhere as a quote that I was more ashamed of being a Doctor Who fan than I was playing gay. Can I just say that I said a million quotes just because I had a million interviews. I’m not ashamed of either.

When I did Queer as Folk it was a nice little in-road into the psyche of an obsessive Doctor Who fan because the writer of Queer as Folk is a massive Doctor Who fan. It’s just fun isn’t it? It’s just fun but as a kid I didn’t watch it that much, I can remember the Daleks of course, ‘Exterminate! Exterminate!’ and I can remember very sinister men trying to do very sinister things to the Doctor. I can remember Tom Baker very very well though, with his big scarf.

Did you research fans for Queer as Folk?

Oh yes I talked to Russell [T Davies] in depth, he’s wrote a couple of books on Doctor Who which he duly lent me. I saw quite a few videos, you know, because I am not a method actor, but I like to do research.

It’s funny watching it again because you see it in a different light, especially if you’re watching it as to, ‘Why does my character love Doctor Who?’ I couldn’t tell you why, because I think it’s a very individual relationship any fan has with the show.

Could you tell us who you are playing?

I’m Jim Norton and I play the part of Major Thomas Kennet of the Royal Green Jackets who is the military man in this Doctor Who story. There’s always a military commander who seems to be in direct opposition to Doctor Who’s eccentricities and brilliance and that’s the role that I play.

I’m thrilled to be doing this because my kids, when they were growing up, loved Doctor Who. They were terrified of it but they loved it, and they used to watch it through the crack in the door of the drawing room. They’d actually peer through the door and they’d put cushions over their eyes when it got too frightening.

They’re grown up now of course, but I was telling them I’m in this and they were thrilled because they’re huge Doctor Who fans. It’s going to be fun to see how it turns out. We’re having great fun doing it and I think Richard E Grant is going to make a really interesting Doctor Who.

Who was your children's favourite Doctor?

I can’t quite remember, they didn’t actually specify any favourite. They were very interested to know that Richard was playing it. One of my daughters said that Doctor Who is all the ego and embryo and whoever plays him that is the individual everybody else has to react to.

What’s it like working with the rest of the cast?

It’s going fine, it’s just like a big tea party. These kind of gigs are great, it’s just great fun, there’s terrific actors, you know, Derek Jacobi is wonderful as the baddie.

We change a lot of it in the recording, we get some re-writes and we have some input ourselves into the character. Wilson is very open to suggestions and ideas so it’s great fun. And we’re also part of history now.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

I’ve never been asked that question before, I’ve never thought about it. Off the top of my head, as a kid I grew up in Ireland and my grandmother came from a little village up in Monahan, a tiny little hamlet and as a kid I used to go there for holidays and I used to hear these wonderful stories of the nineteen hundreds.

Although people weren’t well off, life seemed to be so much less complicated and it was quiet and leisurely and I always had a feeling it must have been wonderful to live then, just to have your little farm and just to have that responsibility and no jet planes flying overhead.

As I live in London and sometimes in New York I tend to be in places where there’s lots of noise and I pine for the countryside. So if I could take a little trip back it would be back to the leafy glades of Monahan in the nineteen hundreds.

Do you think science fiction works best in audio?

I think all the mediums are equally valid if the material is good. I’ve worked a great deal in radio over the years; in fact I started out originally working in radio in Ireland before television came to Ireland. It’s a wonderful medium because you get the chance to use your imagination, you can do anything.

An actor can play a character that’s two inches tall or he can play Ben Hur because it’s all in your vocal dexterity and in the imagination of the audience, so I think it’s a terrific medium for science fiction.

I used to listen to Journey Into Space years ago, which I thought was wonderful and I painted all the pictures myself. I had my own image and when they started to draw those characters it was totally at variance to what I had in my head.

Have you any thoughts about how you should look?

No. I did try to have an input there but I was met with steely gazes, they weren’t giving away any of their secrets. I suggested at one point, ‘If you are going to use our faces as a basis for the characters do you think that the Captain, the Major would have a moustache, it seems to me that he would like closely cropped hair and a moustache,’ and they said ‘No, we rather like what we’re seeing’.

I become sometimes a bit self-conscious in the studio because there is this big sheet of glass and they’re behind there and we’re acting away and doing various things and I look in and the artist is drawing me and I thought ‘What’s he doing? What have I just done?’. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

What’s been your favourite moment of the recording?

We had a lot of fun because one day they said ‘Do you guys mind coming and helping us out playing Shalka?’ – doing screams because they communicate with these very high pitched screams, and Diana Quick of course is playing Prime, and she screams like nobody else in amazing, wonderful coloratura screaming. A couple of the guys joined in and we did end up with very tight throats and tears drowning down our eyes, but we did our best. That was fun, that was very liberating. I don’t often get a chance to scream in real life.

What has been the most unusual role of your career?

I think the most unusual I’ve ever done was I was in Los Angeles a couple of years ago and they were casting an episode of Star Trek and they wanted somebody to play Einstein and my agent said ‘You know they’d like to see you,’ and I said, ‘Well I’m totally wrong for Einstein because he had brown eyes and...’

Anyway I went in and read for the part and I got it and after five hours of make-up I was Albert Einstein and I got a chance to work with Stephen Hawking. So I played poker as Einstein with Stephen Hawking. Yes, that was the most unusual; it doesn’t get any crazier than that. That was great fun.

Could you tell us who you are playing?

I’m Conor Moloney who’s playing Greaves, who’s kind of the cheeky soldier opposite Jim Norton who’s playing Kenneth. Greaves is his comedy sidekick, we hope, but there haven’t been many laughs yet.

What’s it been like working with your fellow actors?

Oh it’s been great actually; I hadn’t worked with any of these people before. I’ve always really liked Jim Norton; I've seen him in a few plays so it was just great, it was just kind of messing around. It’s like you’re doing radio and they do this animation and put it on top. It’s been really good fun, really good fun.

What’s been your favourite moment of that recording?

It’s kind of intriguing when you hear the sounds in the background. I thought they’d be putting the sound effects on later. I thought, ‘Is that a mistake?... Oh no, we’re going for it live’. I’ve only done a few scenes so far so, and it’s been fun.

How do you think your character should look?

How do I think it should look? I don’t know, I suppose it should look a bit like me. Greaves is a very cheeky fellow who’s in the military – as if – imagine that me in the military: ‘It’s 6 o’clock, up you get!’ - ‘No thanks’. He’s interesting, he’s in the military, he’s good natured and he’s very close to Kennet, and he’s kind of like me I suppose.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

I’m allowed a few trips am I, it’s not just the one? I’d like to go back, meet Jesus, see how big the crowds were, see if he pulled them in, what kind of gags he used. I’m sure for moments like the Sermon on the Mount, there must have been times when he thought, ‘I’ve got to warm them up with a few gags and then hit them with the serious love stuff.' Let’s hope this is not going out in fundamentalist Christian TV in America because they won’t like it.

I’d like to go everywhere, I’d like to go meet Oscar Wilde. As for when I’d go back to, I kind of like this time. I mean you might as well go with what you’re used to, but also I’d like to go back to 40s America, film noir. I know that was a creation, it was fiction, it never existed - no they really walked around in shadows and like that, they just shot around them, that’s how it happened - I know it was fiction, that’s how they made movies, but I’d like to be in one of them.

What would you like to do in that era?

Just hang out with Robert Mitchum and say, ‘God, you’re cool, hope a bit of it rubs off on me – how did you get so cool?’ What would I actually do? I’d probably act or mess around. I’d probably be a clown, or a jester, just around the time when all that persecution’s going on.

Do you think SF works well as an animation?

Yeah, I think it does. This the first science fiction thing I’ve ever done actually – does it show? – I think this kind of radio stroke animation lends itself to that messing around. I would like to do some sound effects, I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of those steps myself and breaking some stuff.

Does it frustrate you that there’s less SF in Britain?

Yeah, there’s not much here, which is a pity because I think actually Britain used to do great science fiction despite the fact that it had such small budgets. When I was young and you watched Doctor Who, you would probably see a costume coming apart, but you didn’t mind because it was still intriguing and the stories were always quite good. But there isn’t that range, there’s not even many films made in England, and so this is a triumph.

What's been your most unusual role?

The most unusual one I suppose was quite a recent one, in a play called The Lieutenant of Inishmore. I was being hung upside down and tortured for ten minutes and so that was quite unusual. I won’t be doing that again. Maybe for the next one I’ll be under water, tied up, there’d be a Houdini kind of thing going on. Very little dialogue though, obviously.

Could you tell us who you are playing?

My name’s Anna Calder-Marshall, I’ve been acting now for about 33 years. I’ve done a lot of classical work, I’ve done films, television, I used to do ingénue parts and classical ladies, and now I’m moving into a lovely area which is kind of slightly off-the-wall, mad, bad ladies, eccentric people, older people, so I’m having a ball.

The character I play is Miss Matilda Pierce who is an old bag lady who used to have 28 cats and because of this horrible being is now homeless, and I talk to the Doctor.

What has been the most unusual role of your career?

I once played a part where I had to age from a girl of actually 14 to 70 and I was about 24 years old. Celia Johnson, you know, Brief Encounter Celia Johnson, played a mad old woman who used to live in a house and I took over the house when she died and became as mad as she was.

There was this wonderful scene where I had to destroy a whole dinner table that was covered with beautiful food like roast beef, lamb joints, jellies, trifles. My character just went mad and wanted to destroy it and I had to pick up these bottles of wine and just pour them all over the table and then pile all this beautiful food with these society people around who were absolutely horrified and act very normally, but I wasn’t normal. That was lovely.

What’s it like working with the rest of the cast?

Well I’ve just been working with Richard. It’s the first time I’ve worked with him and we laughed a lot, and apparently we did the fastest take so far, so that was great.

I think he’s a wonderful Doctor actually. At the read-though I thought ‘God this is really exciting’ because he’s just got his own quality and he’s got a lovely urgency and I think he’s tops.

How do you think you should look in the animation?

Well I think I should be quite strangely dressed because I haven’t lived in my house for quite some time so I imagine I’m in layers. I think probably Matilda was quite an odd person to begin with because she did have 28 cats.

You see those people on television, don’t you, with 28 cats and you know that something’s missing in their life. She’s also called Miss so obviously there’s not a man in her life. I think she’s probably quite unruly in her house so she’s probably gone even stranger. I actually wouldn’t mind a hat, I don’t know why.

Do you think science fiction works best in audio?

I’ve never done one before. Oh no, I have, I’ve played a dragon. I find it quite exciting, I’ve just been asked to be a lot of worms and do a lot of different screams and I find that quite exciting actually.

I think it’s fascinating, I mean when I saw Lord Of The Rings and I saw, how they obviously used some of the actors’ mannerisms and faces and then animated that, I do find that very exciting. I know Andy Serkis very well because I worked with him and I could really see him in Gollum, so yes, I find it very exciting.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

Two places. I’d either love to be in Shakespeare’s England or the Victorian Chekov times because I love the costumes, I love the feeling of that.

Do you remember the original series?

Yes I remember, I’ve worked with Tom Baker and I’ve worked with Colin - you know, we were at LAMDA together. I’ve just remembered the telephone box, there was a telephone box and the long scarves and just the weird eccentricities of it.

What’s Tom Baker like to work with as an actor?

Well we did a Shakespeare play and I think that was sort of a bit confining for him. He was very nice, he lives near me in Kent actually. I often see him on the train coming up to London. He was a pleasure.

Could you tell us who you are playing?

My name’s Andrew Dunn, I’ve been an actor for about 23 years and I play Max who is the landlord of the pub. He’s one of the people who are taken over by the Shalka, so I’m forced to do things against my will.

Are you looking forward to seeing the final animation?

I’ve never actually done any before but when it was explained to me it sounds exciting and I’m really looking forward to seeing it. I don’t know the full set up of it all yet but the way people have explained it it makes me look forward to seeing it.

Do you think science fiction works well as animation?

For science fiction – yes I’m sure. I mean it’s like any drama, you know, there’s different aspects, if you can just hear it, it’s your own imagination making up the pictures. You’re doing more work and so it’s just as exciting as watching television.

What is the most bizarre role you’ve ever played?

It was an advert I did in Holland and it was for power tools for some DIY store. They had us on a catwalk displaying our power tools and they’d shipped in 200 women from some colleges to scream at us. Actually, it wasn’t odd - it’s just came back to me - that was a brilliant job!

Did you have a big tool?

I did have a big tool, yes, it was a full power drill, mate. All these girls screaming at you, it was great.

How would you like your character to look?

They can reduce my nose a bit. Just make me better looking and not so fat around the chins, because when I see myself on television I think, ‘Oh that is awful’. If you can just draw perfection that will be fine.

What were your fellow actors like to work with?

They’re all wonderful, marvellous people. No they are, that’s the great thing about actors, you know, you’ve never met them before but everyone gets on really well, that’s the good thing about it.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

That’s a difficult one, because I quite like history. Would you want to go to a battle scene or see what happened at Waterloo? Would you like to go back to see Brunel building one of his great Victorian bridges or tunnels.

What's your earliest memory of Doctor Who?

The very first episode. That’s how old I am. I was born in Leeds and I remember – I must have been 5 or 6 - watching an old black and white television and it was William Hartnell as the Doctor. It was fascinating, this blue police box, the TARDIS and all this blinking machinery and everything.

I was always frightened of every creature I came across. I remember these creatures that were like giant ants [the Zarbi] and things that crept out of the cliff and I was cowering behind the settee at that. Daleks always used to scare me because I’d never seen anything like them. I always remember it because it was Doctor Who, Dixon of Dock Green and tea. William Hartnell, I still remember him as the Doctor really, even though there’s been six or seven others.

Could you tell us who are you playing?

I am Diana Quick and I am playing Prime, who is the ultimate evil in the universe. I head a bridgehead force which is trying to conquer earth by melting through the earth’s crust into its inner core with my cohorts, who are worm like creatures called the Shalka.

We are going to gradually turn the entire world into a dead planet and then we can live happily within its core, as we have in a billion other worlds.

What's the weirdist thing you've had to do?

The craziest thing I’ve had to do so far is many variations of a scream, because, although as the leader of the Shalka I am able to morph myself into human form, the way that we communicate is sonically, so I have screamed loud, soft, high, low, backwards, raucously, shrilly, in fact it’s amazing that I’ve got a voice at all, because I’ve done so many screams in the course of the last five hours.

Do you think science fiction works well on audio?

I think it’s great to be doing this on sound because the sky’s the limit really. You can leave everything else to the imagination of the animators and of the viewers or the web users in this case. All we have to do is try and make the voices as complicated and creative and imagination loosening as possible.

What is the most bizarre role you’ve ever played?

I think this is close to the most bizarre role I’ve ever taken really. I mean I’ve had to do some pretty wacky things one way and another.

The last time I worked with Derek Jacobi, who plays the Master in this, was last year when we made a film of The Revengers Tragedy and we had to have an orgasmic scene and I had to make orgasmic sounds for four minutes on a wild track. That was pretty weird too.

How have you found working with your fellow actors?

It’s good. Today is the first day and it’s always strange the first day because you’re kind of trying to invent the thing as you go along. Famously, when you do audio recordings, by the end you’re very fluent and quite often you want to go back to the beginning and re-do some of the takes because you just know who you are and also what your relations are with the other characters.

I haven’t worked with Richard before but we’ve known each other for quite a few years now and we like each other. I also know Sophie who plays Alison, and Derek who plays the Master, so it’s quite cosy in the studio.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

Oh god, there’s a question. Well if you give me absolute freedom to go anywhere I think I might go back to the creation.

Could be hot though, I should think!

Yes it could be a bit hot, perhaps I’ll wait until night and day and sun and rain are established and a nice bit of green forest to go into, but I think that would be pretty interesting, to be in the primeval world or even the Garden of Eden would be pretty good wouldn’t it?

How do you think your character should look?

Well it’s an interesting question about how I should look, because it’s changed even today, the first draft of the script that I was sent had me as a, well my sort of native form is worm-like or green goo, which can morph into various manifestations. It’s principal one is as a sort of worm-like figure, even though I’m able to assume a plausible human shape

Today we’ve been talking and it now sounds as if, instead of being worm-like, I’m going to be crustacean-like, so I’ll be more like perhaps a lobster crossed with a snake. I find it very hard to imagine, and Wilson, the director, chatting to me just now, said, ‘Well of course you’re going to be a lobster crossed with a jaguar,' and I got very excited about that. I said, ‘Oh I’d love to be the jaguar bit,’ but I think it’s going to be more scaley than that.

Have you thought about doing a Doctor Who before?

No, I’ve never thought of being in Doctor Who in the past but was really excited when the phone call came and I immediately said, ‘Oh yes’, especially playing the ultimate evil.

It’s always more fun playing baddies than goodies I think, although I think that Doctor Who and Alison have a pretty good adventure in this one.

Were there any scenes that proved problematic?

The final TARDIS scene. Whether or not the Master would start the TARDIS before the Doctor is inside, as if to say ‘Hurry up Doctor, get into the TARDIS, I’m ready to go’ – We had a big debate about this and whether or not the TARDIS had ever been started up without the Doctor at the console.

In our case it is and they have to rush to get inside and the doors closed exactly behind them but these were the kind of questions, it stopped our rehearsal process to a standstill as we discussed whether or not this could happen and then we went back and listened to every TARDIS dematerialisation process ever.

Are you concerned with not contradicting the past?

We want to honour the tradition, and every now and then when you come up against such issues as, how close have we ever actually seen the Doctor get with a companion? How romantic or how sexual? And so we’ll start having discussions and we’ll go back and discuss the fans' favourite episodes and we’ll talk about that. But we accept the world, we are in that world, we have to honour that.

Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?

Any part in history? Paris before Baron Von Hausman ripped up all the tiny, meandering streets and built the boulevards. I would love to see it when it was still a walled city with only tiny little streets.

Can you explain the role of the director?

I was brought in by our producer and I saw what I think was the second draft of the script, and a couple more drafts happened before we sat down and had a reading with the writer there. We all got together, the producers, the writer and myself and we started going through it.

The script constantly evolved as we found how our actors impacted with that, as we all got deeper into this particular world, as Paul Cornell, the writer, described the base under siege. There were ramifications, as more ideas come you start adjusting and working on that. So we spent a lot of time working with the script before.

Right now as we’re in post-production, we're asking if we can deepen a moment? Is there a little bit of humour to be had? How long has this character been away? Is the reaction we have when they first come and see their girlfriend who’s been in the cavern fighting Shalka worms, the right one?

You nudge and guide actors towards an emotional quality that the scene will have, especially once the music is underlaid and all the rest of the sound effects. They’re so well cast, I mean so often it’s just being smart enough to respond to our Doctor, our Master, our evil villain.

What do you think of Richard E Grant as the Doctor?

I thought Richard was an inspired choice anyway, I mean he was born to play the Doctor. Richard was the Doctor right out of the box, he brought a wonderful slyness and impishness, an emotionality, Richard was the Doctor.

What's been the highlight of the recording?

Oh there’s lots of funny moments that we would love to find a place to put it into the final mix but I just don’t think are going to make it. Tucked in here and there throughout the version you’ll be watching there are little things the actors would say from here and there, we grabbed them and we find them and we nestle them up against other lines they have.

Right now we’re doing Prime and the Doctor being sucked into the warpgate and we’re finding our special sound effects, I think it’s described in the script as a cosmic garbage disposal so we’ve been experimenting with various garbage disposal sounds. Also, the big shoot out when they advance on the warehouse was a lot of fun, we had no idea where that was going to go to and we’re - ‘Are we in the TARDIS now or are we jumping out of the TARDIS or are we coming over the fence? Where are we?’ It’s been a pretty constant discovery.

Do you think science fiction lends itself to audio?

Oh absolutely, I mean War Of The Worlds is classic science fiction. I think it adapts as well as anything else, maybe better than if you’re not always prescribed to the kitchen with a teacup and a cow in the background. If you can justify it, anything goes in these worlds. I think it’s a beautiful fit.

Have you thought about how the characters will look?

Well the Doctor will be pictorially modelled on Richard. He looks like a Doctor, he talks like a Doctor, he is our Doctor. None of us have seen at this point what the actual Shalka look like. We get hints, we get clues, I mean how big are they? How big is the warpgate? So we have constant discussions about how that will impact, what do they sound like when they move across a room, will they explode? How gooey are they when walking across a floor?

There’s a lot of people suggesting to each other about different angles so we can capture a different aspect of the Doctor or the scene and that’s good. It’s been a very much collective effort from the beginning, it’s really been a good crew that way. We’re always stopping and asking ‘What does your interior of the TARDIS look like here? The feel, the door, the new locking system for the TARDIS?' I think we’ve stopped and asked everywhere we’ve gone.

Will viewers have to be familiar with Who continuity?

It has to exist, each story on its own, even without reference to the fourth wall but there are constant, what we used to call in a theatre company I worked with, tagged acts, to bits and pieces of his past, [such as] how the Master arrived on the TARDIS, where has the Doctor been these last few years? Why is he so reluctant to take on his Time Lord duties?

So we get bits and pieces, but it has to exist on its own. Every storyline is going to be, what the writer called ‘Base under siege’ he’s been sent here, there’s a problem, he susses out what the issues are, he brings in the military, he realises their limitations, he goes out to solve it himself.

Should a Doctor Who story always be open-ended?

Always, and there should be unanswered questions about what will happen next, once the TARDIS door is closed behind him. Who has he gone off with? What will the nature of their relationship be? Is the Master more adjusted to the Doctor? Yes, there should always be those extra questions to keep clawing you in.

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Fans of cult sci-fi hero Dr Who will be able to watch the first episode of a new six-part web series from Thursday.

Cosgrove Hall Films, based in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, was asked to produce the series after the success of its previous web drama for BBCi, Ghosts of Albion.

Richard E Grant takes on the role of the ninth doctor in the webcast, which will be available at www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho from 1230 GMT on Thursday.

The new drama, entitled The Scream of the Shalka, has been produced to coincide with the Doctor's 40th anniversary celebrations.

The main storyline has been kept under wraps but the Tardis is expected to land in Lancashire in the first episode.

Grant will be joined by an all-star cast, including Derek Jacobi and Diana Quick.

Producer Steve Maher, from Cosgrove Hall, explained: "Doctor Who is a huge phenomenon and the idea of bringing an animated version to life was a big responsibility.

"There are literally thousands of fans out there waiting to see if we get it right.

"Thankfully the first episodes have had a sneak preview and it went down a storm.

"The whole idea of webisodes is a relatively new way of our animation being shown and the thought that people all over the planet can log in and watch when they like and as many times as they is amazing."

The Cosgrove Hall team also created Dangermouse, Count Duckula, Albie and Chorlton and the Wheelies.

LinkCredit: BBC News Online 
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