At some point, every fan harbours a secret desire to work on their favourite TV show or film – but when it comes to Doctor Who, it seems like the dream could actually come true.
From high-profile longtime fans like writers Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies and stars David Tennant and Peter Capaldi to the motion graphics specialist whose viral video inspired the current opening credits sequence, all sorts of Whovians have found their way on to the show over the years – and now another has joined their ranks.
Remember ‘John Smith’, the mysterious YouTuber whose videos of Sherlock/Doctor Who crossovers, Tardis journeys and rain-themed series fan trailers lit up the internet? Well, it turns out he’s been hired on the show properly now, working on episodes of the previously-broadcast series 10 and this December’s Christmas special.
John Smith’s viral Wholock video
“I did the black hole in World Enough and Time,” Smith (not his real name) told the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine “and now, with the Christmas Special, they’re trusting me with a whole lot more. It’s been a literal dream come true.”
Smith had previously worked on the series by designing special ‘Time for Heroes’ promos prior to the airing of series 10, but his new official projects are even more impressive, including a much-discussed shot from the first Twice Upon a Time trailer that sees footage of First Doctor William Hartnell morph into actor David Bradley (who takes over the role from the late Hartnell for the festive episode).
“All I was given was the original shot of Hartnell,” Smith said, “and a matching shot of Bradley delivering the same lines. However, there were quite a few differences – delivery, head positions and movement, background – so I knew immediately that a normal morphing transition wouldn’t work.”
However, he had an idea of how he could still pull the tricky idea off…
“About a year ago, I did a simple GIF of Daniel Radcliffe’s face seamlessly turning into Elijah Wood’s and back again – which got featured on [US talk show] Conan during an interview with Wood!” Smith recalled.
“So I was familiar with certain techniques where, if you change each facial feature one by one, you can get one person to look like another, with only a few subtle adjustments. But I’d never done it with moving footage before, and had no idea whether it’d actually work.
“So, one facial feature at a time, I gradually turned Bradley into Hartnell, and it wasn’t until I replaced his eyes that it all clicked into place. Even though it looks like Hartnell at the beginning of the shot, it’s still Bradley’s performance and movement, and the ‘modifiers’ are slowly decreased until Bradley looks like himself.
“I still don’t think I’ve quite nailed it,” he concluded, “but I’ve got a few weeks before I need to hand in my final work, so I’ve constantly been making tweaks to get it looking as good as possible. But I’m immensely proud of that shot, mostly since it seemed so impossible at first glance.”
Given the positive fan reaction to that part of the trailer (above) when it debuted, we’d say he definitely pulled it off – truly, he’s an inspiration to obsessive Whovians everywhere.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news