The Interview

DWO caught up with New Series Doctor Who Director, Richard Clark to discuss working with Neil Gaiman, and directing his latest episode, 6.4: The Doctor's Wife.

When you found out you would be directing the hotly anticipated Neil Gaiman episode, what was your first reaction, and how much input did he have?

I was absolutely thrilled. The Sandman blew me away when I first came across it and I loved American Gods. Having said that I hadn't been aware of this episode or any of the feverish anticipation surrounding it. And frankly I'm glad. The first I knew of Neil's script when it landed on my desk with his name on it, so I just approach it as I would any other story.

As for Neil's input, well I guess the honest answer would be very little. Like all good writers he understands that once you pass a script to a director you're in some ways saying goodbye. A writer's responsibility ends at the words on the page. It's then the director's job to turn those words into a walking, talking visual exciting reality, on time and on budget.

However what did inevitably happen is that, because of our practical restraints, we did go back to Neil on several occasions to see if he could write us out of a corner. Hence there are a number of scenes, characters, locations and dialogue that never made the final film.

3.3: Gridlock, 3.6: The Lazarus Experiment, 6.4: The Doctor's Wife - Which has been the most challenging of all the Doctor Who stories you have directed to date and why?

Tricky one. Either Gridlock or The Doctor's Wife. In both cases you've got to create an entire alien world which is always a challenge. Gridlock had some very elaborate CGI work - David Tennant jumping from car to car and the Macra snapping at Martha's vehicle.

However there was a visual ambition to The Doctor's Wife that we all just really went for. Just take the lighting for example (Owen McPollin was my wonderful DP). We tried to use it to really tell the story which meant we had all sorts of complex lighting changes going on all the time (look at when the Tardis first lands on the planet). And then the production design was a massive undertaking. Infact I'm not sure Dr Who hasn't seen sets built on that scale before.

When it comes to directing actors, do you prefer minimal input so that they bring more to the table or a more hands-on approach to get more out of them?

For me directing actors is about instinct. You have to get a feel for who they are and how they work. They all have different approaches and need supporting, encouraging or guiding in different ways. Matt for example knows his character, but I wanted this to be a really emotional episode for him (as did he) and so it was about teasing that out of him. However Suranne, as a guest on the show, had to create a character from scratch. In that case I had a clear idea of what that should be so it was very much about giving her the confidence to go for it. It was very ballsy of her to trust me because, had I got it wrong, she would have been the focus of fans anger!

The other thing I should add is that actor's spark off each other and affect each other's performance. They create possibilities that you as a director couldn't have imagined.

Bearing in mind DWO is a non-spoiler site, what can you tell us about your upcoming episode written by Mark Gatiss?

Almost nothing I guess! Except to say that I absolutely love it. It's very creepy (young viewers might well need a cushion to hide behind). Oh and Danny Mays is brilliant. Great chemistry with Matt.

Finally, if you could have one round trip in the TARDIS, anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

Now that's tricky.

Either I'd take a trip into the future, say 2000 years after mankind first inhabits another planet, and go to the planet with the most established human civilization but furthest from earth, just to see where we're all heading. OR. I'd go to the most advanced alien civilization that exists right now and see if they know about us.

We also asked Richard another question in case he couldn't answer Question 4. The reply was so good, we have included it below:

Owing to the huge success of The Doctor's Wife, and your clearly successful partnership with Neil Gaiman, is there any possibility of a future collaboration in Doctor Who between the pair of you?

Neil and I would love to collaborate on something together. And we'd love to collaborate on another Dr Who. (a feature?) But the truth is it's not up to us. With Steven Moffat, Beth Willis and Piers Wenger in charge the show is in very capable hands and they will make the right choices about how to keep it moving forwards.

But I have to say I'd love to direct a Dr Who episode for each new Doctor across my lifetime!

** Richard Clark is taking part in our Ask & Answer section in thee DWO Forums - Post him a Question!.

© Copyright Doctor Who Online, 2011.
Page Updated: 19/5/2011

Interview Details

Interview with:
Richard Clark
Director (New Series)
Conducted by:
Doctor Who Online



Discuss this Interview!

Doctor Who is © Copyright to the BBC. No infringement intended.