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
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
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
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
Post him a Question!.
Copyright Doctor Who Online, 2011.
Director (New Series)
Doctor Who Online