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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)
Director Graeme Harper talks to Starburst about helming the epic Cyberman and Dalek stories in Season Two of the new series
No stranger to Doctor Who milestones, Graeme Harper made his mark on the original series when he directed the fifth Doctor’s swansong The Caves of Androzani in 1984. A little over two decades and a series revival later, Harper was also on hand for the departure of Rose Tyler, an event that took viewers (as well as many crewmembers) by surprise.
Because of the intense secrecy surrounding a number of key story points in Doomsday, the director hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to discuss his work on the final two-parter in detail, but a few weeks before starting work on a new pair of episodes for Season Three, Harper sat down with Starburst to talk about a number of topics, starting with the unexpected introduction of Catherine Tate’s character Donna at the end of Doomsday.
As the director recalls, “I was still editing major parts of the story, but it was getting nearer and nearer to the last day of the entire shoot, so four days before that, I rang [producer] Phil Collinson and asked if there was any news of my shooting that scene. He said, ‘Everything has been taken care of and you’ll be directing it, but all I can tell you at the moment is that it will probably be on the last day of the shoot’.
“So I hung around at the end of that last block, and when people asked why I was there, I said, ‘Because there’s going to be a party and I’d like to say goodbye to David and Billie as well,’ so that was accepted. I disappeared into the production office while everybody was leaving and eventually, after about half an hour, everyone had gone. There was no one there apart from security, and then all these people suddenly began turning up, which included Catherine Tate, make-up and wardrobe and the camera crew was [director of photography] Ernie himself because he had let the camera operator go, so that was kept quiet and there was no spread there.
Still, one can’t help wondering how the director felt about his carefully crafted emotional climax giving way to the appearance of one of Britain’s most popular comedic actresses. “I thought it was great, but up to that point, I had made this story with a beginning, middle and end, which was everything up to the moment when we cut back to the TARDIS. The way I think it should have ended as a story was the Doctor in tears, in the TARDIS; that’s how you should have finished, and that’s what I shot: a scene with him on his own, and we cut back to Billie and now we cut back to the Catherine Tate scene, so in my heart, my ending was David as the Doctor at the controls, bereft of losing Rose.”
by Joe Nazzaro
Read the full interview
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