To another packed house of agog devotees, the British Film Institute in London continued its monthly Doctor Who at 50 season with an event to celebrate the ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston.
In the absence of major players such as Eccleston, Billie Piper and former showrunner Russell T Davies, the day’s guest-attendees made for an entertaining and enthusiastic panel: director Joe Ahearne, producer Phil Collinson and actor Bruno Langley, pictured above with BFI host Justin Johnson.
Up on the big screen, Bad Wolf and The Parting of The Ways, the two-part season finale from 2005 looked and sounded fabulous – all its audacious, exhilarating and emotional points zinging. I’ve always loved this story and was chuffed that my RadioTimes.com review (adapted from a piece for Doctor Who Magazine) was reprinted on the programme notes handed out in the auditorium.
Collinson and Ahearne were on particularly good form, both admitting to be fan-boys to varying degrees. However, Ahearne, director of five episodes in 2005, denied claims all over the internet that he was born on 23 November 1963, the date when Doctor Who first aired on BBC TV.
Collinson was delighted to reflect on his tenure as producer (more than 50 episodes between 2005 and 2008). He revealed how his friendship with Russell T Davies predates their collaboration on the relaunch of Doctor Who: “I met Russell on my very first TV job in 1997 and we got on immediately.” They soon clocked each other as fellow aficionados. “Doctor Who fans are a bit like Slitheen – five minutes into a conversation and a zip appears.”
They remained friends. “We’d meet up periodically for dinners, and we’d end up leaving our boyfriends in the living room and sneak off and watch an episode of Doctor Who.” He was straight on the phone when Davies took on the series almost ten years ago.
Bruno Langley played short-lived companion Adam in 2005. As he didn’t feature in the season finale, the BFI screened his final scene (from The Long Game) where he was dumped on Earth by the Doctor and Rose with his forehead that opened to a click of the fingers – which his mum discovered in a hilarious reaction shot. If a little short-changed by proceedings on stage, Langley remained good-natured and recalled how he’d hit it off with Billie Piper.
The day’s other guest was Dave Houghton, visual effects supervisor on more than 60 episodes between 2005 and 2010. He also admitted to being a fully fledged Who fan. “In fact my first memory of Doctor Who is watching a giant maggot creeping up behind Katy Manning.” (The Green Death, 1973)
Katy, who played companion Jo Grant 1971–73, was actually in the NFT1 audience. I’d invited her to come along as my guest after she told me how much she’d loved Chris Eccleston’s short run of episodes: “This was my era, as a viewer.”
BFI host Justin Johnson announced, as RadioTimes.com reported earlier, that in the coming months David Tennant and Paul McGann will appear live on stage. He also revealed that in November there’ll be a preview of An Adventure in Space and Time (Mark Gatiss’s drama about the origins of Doctor Who), while December will celebrate the outgoing 11th Doctor, Matt Smith.
Finally, in something of a coup for the BFI, Justin Johnson read out a special message from Christopher Eccleston: “I love the BFI. I love the Doctor and hope you enjoy this presentation. Joe Ahearne directed five of the 13 episodes of the first series. He understood the tone the show needed completely – strong, bold, pacy visuals coupled with wit, warmth and a twinkle in the performances, missus.
“If Joe agrees to direct the 100th anniversary special, I will bring my sonic and a stair-lift and – providing the Daleks don’t bring theirs – I, the ninth Doctor, vow to save the universe and all you apes in it.”
Patrick first joined Radio Times as a teenager in the black-and-white days of 1984. A career in journalism led to ES Magazine, Time Out, rival TV guides and Doctor Who Magazine. The Tardis returned him to RT in 2005, since when he’s been reviewing Nordic noir and Sicilian vice, saucy sitcoms, the BBC Proms and the further adventures of the Time Lord. He lives in the Smoke but prefers a sea breeze.