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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)
Director Graeme Harper discusses his latest episodes for the series, 42 and the return of Captain Jack in Utopia
Director Graeme Harper is on a roll. Having just finished two episodes of Doctor Who for the current season, he’s just won a Welsh BAFTA for last season’s Doomsday, which has also been nominated for a coveted Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. He’s just started a string of directorial assignments that will keep him busy in the Doctor Who universe for the better part of a year but, despite the daunting workload, Harper couldn’t be happier.
“Right now, I’m just about to start a pair of stories for The Sarah Jane Adventures,” he elaborates, “I would have liked to go back and do more Robin Hood, because I really enjoyed it, but the week I actually accepted this job, I was asked if I would do a block of Robin Hood, but it was too late.”
Harper was originally reported to have been booked for a two-parter for the current season of Doctor Who, but that job eventually morphed into two one-offs, which were episode seven entitled 42, and episode 11 Utopia, which leads into the season’s doom-laden final two-parter.
“I wasn’t sure that I was as happy about that,” he notes, about the change of assignment, “because you can tell a better story in two 45-minute episodes, but when I read the scripts, I was really thrilled, because they’re both really good in their own right, so there were some great bonuses about the single episode aspect of it.”
The director’s first episode of the season was the claustrophobic 42, set on an out-of-control spaceship careering towards the sun. Harper admits some early reservations about the episode and possible comparisons to last season’s Satan Pit two-parter, but insists those similarities were addressed during pre-production.
“In terms of its intensity and claustrophobia, I thought it was very close to The Satan Pit, not in the story, but the setting and feel of it all. I thought [director] James Strong had done a fantastic job, and I personally thought it was the best story of that series, so I was worried about embarking on the same journey that James had already been on and did very well.
“I just thought the story should be slightly different and it was changed. The claustrophobic idea and the race against time was still there; it’s just a different kind of story and very clearly so, but in fact, I didn’t want to go down the Alien road, so I chose a slightly different look, which was oily and greasy and whatever, but it wasn’t that really gritty low-light. Someone is bound to say, ‘Oh, it’s like Alien!’ but I wouldn’t be that presumptuous, because that was a brilliant style, so I hope I’ve gone a completely different way with it.”
by Joe Nazzaro
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