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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)

Catharine Tate as Donna

Director Euros Lyn gives us a sneak preview of this year’s Christmas special, The Runaway Bride

It was, perhaps, the biggest surprise of Doctor Who’s second season: Catherine Tate, in a wedding dress, suddenly appearing in the TARDIS console room. That cliffhanger ending leads neatly in to The Runaway Bride, the hour-long special being broadcast on BBC1 on Christmas Day. It was a great shock teaser, but for the special’s director Euros Lyn it created a few headaches, because he started filming his scenes with Tate in the heart of London four days before Series Two finished airing…

“Ironically her first day of shooting was on top of a high rise in the middle of the city of London,” Lyn tells Starburst. “The building is owned by IPC who run several celebrity magazines. So we were bundling her into that building with a blanket over her head. It was very cloak and dagger.”

And, presumably, a little bewildering too. Did no one wonder what David Tennant was doing with a woman in a vast meringue wedding dress atop a skyscraper?

“The amount of office windows you could see from where we were shooting made me think, ‘There’s no way we’re going to get away with it’,” laughs Lyn. “Lots of images were posted on the Internet but nobody quite worked out who it was, which is quite staggering.”

After the success of last year’s The Christmas Invasion, which out-rated even the nation’s favourite soap Coronation Street, The Runaway Bride is being lined up as the centrepiece of the BBC’s festive schedule. It finds the Doctor coming to terms with his new companion Donna Noble, who clearly has a very pressing occasion she has to attend… Along the way, the mis-matched pair will face the return of the Pilot Fish (alien robots disguised as Santas) and pit their wits against the evil Empress of Racnoss.

So, for a director, how does a Doctor Who Christmas Special differ to a standard episode?

“You approach it in the same way,” he responds. “You want to tell a story with as much excitement as possible, while keeping hold of the pathos. But I think we want a Christmas episode to be a proper romp. Because Rose has left and we have Catherine Tate playing the assistant for one episode means it’s a very different to the episodes that have gone before. It feels quite stand-alone in many ways.”

And, for once, the special was made on a stand-alone basis too. Every preceding episode of Doctor Who has been made as part of production ‘blocks’ – batches of stories, each handled by one director, with scenes from each shot wildly out of order in order maximize the use of locations and actors. Yet Lyn has had the luxury of focusing all his energies on The Runaway Bride, which was filmed over three weeks back in July.

“It’s because of the scale of work,” he says. “The Christmas episode is big. It has big effects and set pieces, and a big – in every sense of the word – villain. Logistically that takes a huge amount of organization of effort. Also we want to come in on series three with a big crash, so it’s just about workload. Separating the episodes out gives a slightly fairer chance of achieving what we’d like them to be.”

by David Richardson

Read the full interview in
Starburst #345

Doctor Who © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #345
January 2007
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