Doctor Who: Unleashed star on Confidential changes and "remarkable" Ncuti Gatwa
More than a decade after Doctor Who: Confidential ended, it's time to peek behind the curtain once more.
From making monsters and carefully constructing explosions to documenting the stars' most chaotic moments (never forget Matt Smith's random badger obsession), Doctor Who: Confidential once took us behind-the-scenes of Doctor Who's most weird and wonderful moments.
Now, it's time for fans to get a peek behind the curtain once again in the form of Doctor Who: Unleashed.
Exclusively speaking to RadioTimes.com, new host Steffan Powell explains: "Myself and the team that make the show have been sort of doing an impersonation of the camera crews that make David Attenborough's programmes like Planet Earth - they hide out somewhere in a deep dark forest or on top of a mountain for months to sort of snap the moment when something amazing happens. That's like us but we're on the set of Doctor Who.
"We find the dark corners that we can hang about in and see the magic happen but also not get in the way of anyone because they do actually have a programme to make. That's been the joy of the programme, getting to know the crew and the cast obviously, but just getting a sense of everything it takes to make a TV programme like this because it's majestic."
Powell is pretty new to the world of Doctor Who - although he's quickly got into the rhythm of admirably scooting away from spoilers whenever we near the precipice. "I was about to say something there that would be a spoiler for the series," he admits after we joke about kids always being the source of a winter lurgy. "It's hard work dodging these spoilers, I'll tell you that."
But him not being a Doctor Who superfan has seemingly proven key to making Unleashed fresh and not just rehashing Confidential.
"There are certainly elements of Confidential in it, of course, because it's a behind the scenes programme that is there on set," Powell adds. "On the side of set when things are happening, we're watching, I'm often watching the Doctors do their thing, we're almost sometimes within touching distance of them. We're speaking to the producers, we're speaking to all the different elements of the crew that make the show....and so we're definitely hoping that that legacy will be given a new lease of life through Doctor Who: Unleashed.
"What I would say with our show, what's slightly different with Unleashed, is that we're coming at it from a slightly different perspective. As brilliant as Doctor Who: Confidential was, I feel like it was a Who brand that was made by and made for Doctor Who fans that were already invested in the world and in the universe.
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"So if you could name the actors from William Hartnell all the way through, then you were probably watching Doctor Who Confidential... what we're trying to do with Unleashed, which is partly why I was asked to present it, is that we're saying, this as a programme that is a love letter to the making of Doctor Who, absolutely. There's loads in there for engaged Doctor Who fans. But this has to be programme for more than just that audience. It has to be for new fans as well, to open the door to Doctor Who to new viewers and a new audiences."
However, he points out: "All the the stuff people loved, all the little diaries, all the interviews with the cast, all the interviews with the crew on the side of set, there's plenty of that, don't worry about it."
Getting to the nitty gritty, Doctor Who: Unleashed, clocking in at 30 minutes per episode, will follow every single new episode of Doctor Who for the foreseeable, including the three 60th anniversary specials and the Christmas special. It'll feature interviews with the cast and crew, with Powell taking on "work experience" in different departments each episode.
Crucially, it sounds just as chaotic as I was hoping for. "There is a particular moment, it's going to stay with me possibly for the rest of my career," Powell reflects. "It involves me, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, a tent, and a prosthetic mask. That was so surreal and was so much fun to film, and to be with them in that moment, that's just stayed with me."
"I've been there on the side of set, almost within touching distance sometimes, watching on the same monitors as the directors, watching [Gatwa's] performance as the Doctor," he explains. "And all I'll say is people have got nothing to worry about. Like, it's remarkable. You've got nothing to worry about.
"It's going to be quite something, both of their performances, David coming back [and Gatwa]. And it's been a joy to behold, being so close to it because I think, if you strip all of the visual effects, all of the creatures, all of the stuff that's going on alongside it, you just put those two performers doing their thing on a stage somewhere, and you could just watch it for days. So yeah, don't panic!"
Plus, he's made himself at home inside the new TARDIS.
"When I first saw inside the TARDIS, just the scope of it, the scale of it, it's just brilliant. It's majestic. It's my favourite place to do interviews. Obviously we do interviews on the side of set, sometimes we need to do sit-down interviews, we spend a bit longer with someone, and every time we've got we've got a big sit-down, I'm like, 'Can we can we film that in the TARDIS please?'"
Powell's relief at almost making it through the interview without spoiling anything is palpable - so, understandably, he plays it safe for the last question when we ask for a final tease about what's to come.
"There is so much, even sort of tiny tidbits that I could flag. I can say there are spaceships involved. With Doctor Who, that's not much of a giveaway. There are villains involved...there are Doctors?! Coming to it fresh-eyed is so much fun, and we've gotten so close to this being on the telly without stuff getting out there, that I think I'm going to be quiet.
"I was lucky enough to see the magic happen firsthand. I read the scripts before going to filming," he explains - keeping those scripts very carefully away from prying eyes, he adds, for any powers that be that might be lurking. "I'm desperate for people to see it unburdened, spoiler-free. Just kick back, you're in real safe hands."
Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Classic episodes are also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.
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