Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Dr Who producers in front of fans

By Wena Alun Owen
BBC News

David Tennant and Matt Smith
David Tennant and his successor as Doctor Who, Matt Smith

Fans of Doctor Who, armed with questions ranging from hair length to toy spin-offs, have gone face to face with the hit TV show's production team.

A few behind-the-scenes tricks were revealed at the packed event on the opening night of the three-day Celtic Media Festival in Caernarfon.

The 30th festival brings together film and TV from the Celtic nations.

The Doctor Who panel included executive producer Julie Gardner and designer Edward Thomas.

Outgoing executive producer and lead writer Russell T Davies was forced to cancel because of his workload, as filming starts on Monday for another of the four specials he is working on before he leaves.

The two-part show will see the present Doctor, David Tenant, regenerate into Matt Smith.

After a short introduction questions were invited from the audience.

Those ranged from why Doctor Who was not available in Lego - the series needs to be bigger in America apparently - to whether the new Doctor would cut his fringe before taking over from David Tennant (the diplomatic answer to this one was "your comment will be passed on").

Casting Matt Smith as the new doctor was the "easiest" decision because of his "other worldly" qualities according to the team.

His assistant looks set to remain firmly from the 21st Century however, as Julie Gardner explained why the Doctor never had an assistant from another place in time.

Jan Storie with the tardis
As a child Doctor Who was so scary and it is fascinating because I am still frightened now
Jan Storie, student

She explained the team had decided the assistant needed to "root"' the doctor and be a credible link between him and the audience.

There were snippets of trivia too - such as the story behind why the Tardis was a police box.

According to designer Edward Thomas when the original Dr Who series was being put together in the 1960s the designer was told to "go into the props department and look for something commonplace in which to disguise the Tardis".

He returned with a police box, which was a common sight on the streets of Britain at the time, and as they say... the rest is history.

Modern advances in technology now allow viewers a glimpse into the Tardis when the Doctor opens the door.

This is achieved by printing various images from the Tardis set and lighting them from behind giving the impression of 'depth' when the door is opened, Mr Thomas explained.

There was also an insight into the challenges facing a production designer.

Mr Thomas recalled an incident when the script demanded a plethora of aliens and props, "by page five I'd spent the budget, and then I turned over and I saw it needed a space ship in a field... there was no way it could be done".

A worried Mr Thomas then had to tell Russell T Davies about the problem, only to be told: "Don't worry, the spaceship can be invisible!"

The Easter special is already completed and the audience was treated to a brief montage of scenes which definitely whetted the appetite, but yet gave nothing away.

Suffice to say it involved a bus, sand, and lots of running.

The rest of the festival carries on until Friday, with workshops and events for those working or studying in the film and TV industry from the Celtic nations.

Organiser Hugh Edwin Jones said it was important for the area on two levels.

Media industry

"From the council's point of view it is the economic input, whilst the other element is for the creative industries, which are so important in the Caernarfon area," said Mr Jones, who is on secondment from Gwynedd Council to help arrange the three-day event.

Mr Jones denied the event was exclusively for media industry insiders.

"I think that is a fair point but I've been involved in this festival for a number of years and we have been making an effort to open it out.

"In Caernarfon I think we have been successful in this for the first time.

"There is a mobile cinema on the square which is open to schoolchildren and members of the public, and we are opening one of the (media) sessions to the public - a big step forward," he added.

The event has attracted both industry insiders as well as students.

Jan Storie had travelled from Plockton in the Highlands of Scotland to take part in various workshops to improve her script writing.

"I've never been to this festival before and it is a lovely venue," she said.

"It is interesting because I come from a Gallic speaking area, and I've heard French voices, and of course Welsh, and Irish - it is bringing people together because we are quite far flung," she added.

The Dr Who event was recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 7 this Saturday night at midnight (and will be available afterwards as a podcast via the Doctor Who website).



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