An amazingly rare artefact has surfaced in the collection of director Waris Hussein – his original, personally annotated studio floorplan for Doctor Who’s pilot episode from 1963. The document is dated “25/9” – 25 September, today’s date 50 years ago. This week, five decades ago, the cast and crew of Doctor Who were busy gearing up for episode one, An Unearthly Child, which would be recorded on Friday 27 September.
While the actors rehearsed in the less-than-glamorous Drill Hall in Uxbridge Road, London W12, the BBC design team and set builders were constructing the sets according to this floorplan at nearby Lime Grove Studios. The episode was written to be taped “as live”, with only one break in recording. “In those days,” says Waris, “we shot continuously on four cameras with very few breaks in the tape. You had to know exactly what you were doing. It was almost mathematical in its strategy.”
BBC AMERICA is set to premiere An Adventure in Space and Time, a film drama about the creation of Doctor Who, as part of the channel’s celebration of the long-running sci-fi series’ 50th anniversary. Frequent Who scriptwriter Mark Gatiss has already been announced as writer, and he’s also serving as executive producer alongside current Doctor Who execs Steven Moffat andCaroline Skinner. The film is a co-production between BBC AMERICA and BBC Cymru Wales and will air later in 2013.
Doctor Who first hit the BBC airwaves on November 23, 1963, and an impressive cast has been assembled to play the personalities behind the show’s earliest days. David Bradley, best known as Argus Filch in the Harry Potter movies, has taken on the role as actor William Hartnell, who played the series’ very first Doctor. Call the Midwife star Jessica Raine, already cast in the Season 7, Part 2 premiere of Doctor Who, is set to play producer Verity Lambert, and the great Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy, Adaptation.) is on board as Sydney Newman, BBC’s then-Head of Drama. Meanwhile, The History Boys‘ Sacha Dhawan will play Waris Hussein, director of Doctor Who‘s premiere episode, “An Unearthly Child.”
Read more at Anglophenia
with Waris Hussein, William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Mark Gatiss, and more.
On November 23, 1963 (the day after the Kennedy assassination), the very first episode of Doctor Who premiered on the BBC. And the man behind the camera was Waris Hussein, then only 24 years old, completely unaware of the phenomenon the show would become and the legions of fans it would acquire. Well, here he is, with almost 50 years of hindsight, chatting with Anglophenia’s Jon Sarlin about the series’ origins as an educational program for children, casting William Hartnell as the Doctor (“he was very reluctant to accept this part…he was an established movie star”), and how the fan base has evolved over the years.
io9 has a great piece on the unlikely beginning to what would become one of the greatest television shows of all time:
These days, Doctor Who is approaching its 50th anniversary as one of the most successful television shows of all time. But originally? Doctor Who was a small show that the BBC expected to run for a few episodes, and then vanish forever. The show had a tiny studio and huge cameras, and a shoestring budget. But the people who were making the show were outsiders, who were anathema to the entrenched BBC culture.
At the Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, we were thrilled to hear from Waris Hussein, who directed the very first Doctor Who episode, about how an East Indian teamed up with a Canadian and a young woman to revolutionize television science fiction.
Hussein took part in a panel at Gallifrey about “Doctor Who in the Sixties,” alongside stars William Russell (Ian) and Maureen O’Brien (Vicki). And even though we kind of knew thatDoctor Who was an upstart program that many people within the BBC were opposed to, we didn’t realize quite how much the odds were against this show…
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