Doctor Who News Peter Capaldi 2

Published on August 14th, 2013 | by James Lomond

Guy Freeman: The Man Behind Doctor Who Live

There is nowhere near enough mystery in life. Fact. The internet has seen to that and has been rightly banned from most pub quizzes. So the genuine excitement around who will be Who is something a bit special – but how to deliver it?

Peter Capaldi 2

In an intriguing article on the BBC’s official Doctor Who pages, Guy Freeman, executive producer of Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor, explains the cloak and dagger hi-jinx behind the BIG reveal. Now, a number of viewers weren’t enamoured with the general tone of the show and I agree there was a hearty dollop of *cringe*. Not all of us are comfortable with our show cultivating celebrity or a glammed-up finish with glitter-guns (these are for fighting Cybermen, not public announcements). But that said it was a hugely impressive PR event simply because of the attention and secrecy involved.

The biggest challenge was how to recruit a studio audience of Doctor Who fans, without giving the game away. In the end, we asked Audience Services to place an ad on their website for a new “entertainment pilot, celebrating long-running TV shows. This episode looks back at 50 years of Doctor Who”. Within two days, 5,000 people had applied for tickets.

It’s easy to forget how much organisation and hard work goes into any television broadcast but getting that done at short notice and under the scrutiny of international press is impressive work. Discovering who Doctor No. 12 was required no less than two cover-ups – one for the audience and one for the TV listings. Then there’s the chap (a chap this time round) who all the fuss was about. Code-named ‘Houdini’, Mr Capaldi’s arrival was as carefully planned as any Cold War subterfuge.

…one of our co-ordinators drove around Borehamwood, looking for an anonymous car park. Having given that location to Brian, this is where Houdini was brought to, at lunchtime on Sunday. Peter Capaldi – as we could then call him – was bundled into a people carrier, where he lay on the back seat with a blanket over him, as our co-ordinator drove him down Borehamwood high street and into the studios.

Whatever we thought about Doctor Who Live, (aside from the WONDERFUL casting news), a lot of effort went into the show. So, whether it was a glorious welcome to a new hero or a cynical exercise in brand-management, was the secrecy it worth it?

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13 Responses to Guy Freeman: The Man Behind Doctor Who Live

  1. avatar A Nonnie Mouse says:

    I’m sure Peter must have loved all this cloak-n-dagger stuff!

  2. avatar Christine says:

    Definitely a cynical exercise in brand management, but I still watched. And, agreed, whatever you think of programmes like this (personally I think they are awful) I have great respect for the crew pulling it off. And it must have been great fun for Peter C. The secrecy was well worth it. It got many people watching a kind of show they would otherwise never ever watch, and we were rewarded weren’t we in the end? Perhaps not worthwhile to do a second time – new doctors should always be revealed in different ways. but hopefully that is still a long way off and for other people to think about.

  3. avatar David F says:

    There’s part of me, as there probably is in all long-term fans, that hates hearing people describe themselves as ‘Whovians’ and then say their first memory of the show is of watching ‘Rose’. I know it’s totally wrong of me. I know it’s elitism and snobbery, and I tell myself to stop it every time I get that feeling.

    There’s part of me that is considering deleting several American female friends from Facebook because they constantly post about Doctor Who, and I struggle to believe they really get what Doctor Who is or what it meant to me as an antisocial teenaged boy, at a time when admitting you were a fan was to invite ridicule. Again, I’m completely wrong. It should have broad appeal. Everyone should be allowed to love it. Most of the time, I know and believe this.

    But it’s just something buried in the psychology of fans, in almost any area of pop culture. The “I knew them before they were famous” mentality, that makes us disappointed when our favourite bands suddenly get to number one.

    The Doctor Who Live show generated so many of these feelings, but in the end, it didn’t matter, because the revelation was fantastic and I rewatched it many times. But only that part.


    • man am i glad to get on here. Did Kopics drop dead or something? they are mysteriously absent from ym inbox. That said, i hope Moffat is NOT crazy and doing exactly what I think he is: making everyone THINK he’s a clueless bastard and then pulling a classic who style BADASZERY moment on us for the duration of twelve, at the very least, before leaving. I’m not always getting my follow-up comments either. sigh. or i get too much. ;( is there any way to ONLy get followup comment emails on the comment you yourself posted and not all the others?


      • everyone who doesn’t get Moffat, anyway. hee hee.

        I BELIEVE, MY LORD! I BELIEVE!!!!


      • Kopic isn’t dead :) Simon Mills (Kopic himself) posts here regularly.

        I think some technical issues have got in the way of providing the service as it was via email. I’m sure the man himself will come along to fill us in shortly…


        • ohhh thank you thank you thank you kind sir! I was worried my poor beloved Kopic’s got lost up Yahoo’s a$$.

          ;) thank you so very kindly.

          and i quite like this little newsletter too! not too much so as to overwhelm, just right… like a right spot of wee porridge!

          • avatar kopicbloodaxe says:

            Kopic is alive and well. Kopic’s news’bots had trouble in their original form and the newsletter died as a result. However, if you’re on FB check out the “Kopic’s Doctor Who News” page. Kopic is working on a new format for the newsletter but has some wrinkles to iron out. One of them being the habit of talking about Kopic in the third person! Thanks for your interest!


          • oh i dunno if kopics guy will ever see this, but um, kopics guy? so, what happens to everyone who was getign the newsletter from kopics? will they get it automatically once the new format settles in? i stopped going on facebook because it was depressing for me, being an introvert… too much mindless interaction. oh, I can;t wait!!!!

  4. avatar Neu 75 says:

    I echo those feelings a bit, David. Reminds me of the scene in ‘Spaced’, when Simon Pegg’s character rants at a kid for wanting a Jar Jar Binks toy. “You were never there when it was important!” Now kids loving Doctor Who and being brought up with it in the same way I was in the late 70s/early 80s I can live with, although I respect those of a young age who are interested in the classic series even more (although I stress that I prefer it they came to the show in their own way, not have it forced down their throats by zealous “geek” parents – I hate that). It’s actually those of my generation who were “never there” in 1989, suddenly a Doctor Who fan all of a sudden, which I find uncomfortable. I was there when it was unloved and stuck by through thick and thin, when all the older ones who loved Pertwee/Baker had drifted away. We kept the flame burning and had to endure the insults when the show was off the air and unfashionable. Ours was the greater glory when it made it’s triumphant return in 2005. It made the wilderness years worthwhile. Now it’s 8 years on and a nagging feeling, like David has, that in many ways it has become too big, too mainstream, too showbiz. Because with that popularity comes greater scrutiny, when yes, you have some prat from Seattle or somewhere scything into Steven Moffat on some shitty blog because he didn’t bring back the Rills or something. But the bare fact is is that is has to be massively popular in order to survive. There’s a momentum it has to maintain otherwise it’ll be axed and that will be that. Indeed, I’m pondering perhaps what for some fans, of whatever description, would consider unthinkable, that we come to the 13th incarnation and then no more, finish the series for good…

  5. avatar drewboynton says:

    …in the back seat under a blanket! Cool!

  6. avatar Koth says:

    It must have been more fun making the programme than actually watching it.

  7. avatar Al says:

    The host annoyed me, but otherwise I thought it was OK. Aside from Capaldi they had Bernard Cribbins and Peter Davison, and a few of the companions too. It was harmless, and the reveal was well handled, which was better than the DW Confidential special where they introduced Smith with very little fanfare just, boom, he was there.

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