Sunday, July 23, 2023

BBC Archive: Making Doctor Who in 1977

1977: Making DOCTOR WHO | The Lively Arts | The Making Of | BBC Archive

Clip taken from The Lively Arts: Whose Dr Who, originally broadcast 3 April 1977

The Lively Arts sees Melvin Bragg go behind the scenes of Britain's best-loved science fiction series, Doctor Who. With a short production time and comparatively modest budget, every episode is a challenge for set and costume designers, visual and sound effects engineers and the rest of the cast and crew. Featuring Dick Mills at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, composer Dudley Simpson, director David Maloney, producer Philip Hinchcliffe, costume designer John Bloomfield and actors Deep Roy and Michael Spice during production of The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

Someone not mentioned in the above BBC Archive note, but a key crewmember on this six-part Doctor Who story, is designer Roger Murray-Leach. (He pops up at the 3:10 mark.)

Just when you thought it was safe to say "a budget of sixpence", comes a short 1977 BBC television documentary describing and showing the effort expended ― featuring lumber, plaster, and latex ― during the making of a classic chapter from the original Doctor Who programme; in this case a superior tale, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". Tom Baker was the Doctor at this time, and he shines as he strolls about Victorian London.

I watched "Weng-Chiang" about twenty years ago, and I was impressed with the overall production quality... minus the 'dodgy' rat, of course. Many fans will say this was Doctor Who at its absolute peak; with Robert Holmes' superb script contributing to this standing. (What made me uncomfortable was the then all-too-common depiction of Asians, and with the key Chinese-character roles played by Caucasian actors ― something not exactly foreign to this old-movie fan.)

By the way, the BBC Design Department at the time was second to none.


Postscript: It was through the above video that I first became aware of the BBC Archive on YouTube. More to come....


DonaldAR said...

Never mind Roger 'at the 3:10 mark'; I'd like to know the bint in the red checked jumper at 1:17! And, WTH? A freelance sculptor worked on the dragon "...150 hours non-stop!?!?!" BTW, all rats are dodgy, so they've successfully captured the essence of one, IMHO.

Simon St. Laurent said...

Re: the rat

I don't disagree. I played along with the average DW fan. The rat's head, especially, is pretty good.

Creative stuff!

No doubt that sculptor slept. I went 36 hours on a feature... the set had to go up earlier than originally planned. (Some bad production management.)