As restrictions ease and soaps slowly return to filming, Doctors is attempting a first for continuing drama with an episode shot entirely by the cast on their own mobile phones, exploring the lockdown in Letherbridge.
Broadcasting on Friday 12th June at 1:45pm on BBC One, the special instalment, entitled ‘Can You Hear Me?’ and written by Toby Walton, is set during an evening of remote video meetings and phone calls for staff of Midlands medical surgery The Mill, which has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As characters including Zara Carmichael, Daniel Granger and Valerie Pitman discuss the day’s events that have occurred off screen, audiences discover the impact that working throughout the crisis has had as they suffer understandable anxieties and fears, withdraw from the world and even share their worries they may have symptoms of the virus themselves.
The idea for the 45-minute episode was conceived by series producer Peter Lloyd during the first week of lockdown in late March, and took three weeks to complete from the original storyline being created to the final edit, with production working remotely to ensure the cast could shoot a full episode in just five days.
“I wanted to capture the strange times we are experiencing and present it to our audience,” explains Lloyd. “It was a challenge for everyone involved, especially the cast who were acting straight to camera, with only my voice performing all the other characters so that certainly required a lot of imaginative work on their part. It was a real team effort!”
While lockdown has inspired remotely-filmed dramas such as ITV’s Isolation Stories and BBC Four’s Unprecedented, Doctors is the first TV soap to fully embrace the creativity of the enforced format, following The Archers allowing their cast to record scenes from their own homes for the long-running radio drama’s post-pandemic return.
The Doctors production team assured that strict social distancing rules were observed throughout the making of the programme.
From 8th June, Emmerdale will air six episodes each focusing on a different village household in isolation, the first to be shot at the soap’s Leeds studios within government safety guidelines as part of the soap’s phased return to work.
ITV stablemate Coronation Street is set to resume filming on 9th June, but with cast and crew members over the age of 70 not required until they have undertaken individual risk assessments by ITV bosses.
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