PHOTOS: David Tennant And Catherine Tate Attend The BFI Doctor Who At 50 - The Tenth Doctor Screening

The British Film Institute continued their monthly series of Doctor Who At 50 screenings yesterday as the season reached the era of the Tenth Doctor as played by David Tennant. The screening, held at BFI Southbank, was of the fourth series double episode The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End and was followed by a panel consisting of David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Graeme Harper and Phil Collinson. Casting director Andy Pryor was also present to lend his comments.

Tickets for the event were in huge demand and the queue for returns had already reached the centre front doors an hour before the start time. Present in the audience were ex-companions Sophie Aldred and Anneke Wills, writer Mark Gatiss, huge Doctor Who fan Frank Skinner and director Alan Parker. Before the screening started, hosts Justin Johnson and Dick Ferry read out an apology from Russell T. Davies. Although he would have loved to have joined them, he was busy at BAFTA Cymru where he was due to present a special award to his Doctor Who colleague Julie Gardner. Also reluctantly absent was Bernard Cribbins, unfortunately tied up with filming Old Jack’s Boat for CBeebies.

The Stolen Earth was screened at 2pm and then casting director Andy Pryor was interviewed in the break between the two episodes. He talked about his experiences on working on this, and many other shows, but how Doctor Who probably has more variety than any other show that he had worked on. He spoke of the on set atmosphere and how this was established by having a lead actor who could set the tone; this, he said was largely due to David Tennant who was a complete gentleman and that people loved coming in and working with him. Andy also mentioned the tendency for guest actors to pop up again in larger roles. Karen Gillan, he said, had apparently been almost unrecognisable in her role in The Fires Of Pompeii, although she was quite quickly identified by fans once cast as Amy Pond. Also, Russell T. Davies had been absolutely right in spotting the potential in Freema Agyeman after her role in the series 2 climax.

After the second episode and the customary quiz, it was onto the panel. Host Justin Johnson introduced director Graeme Harper, producer Phil Collinson and then the two episode stars: Catherine Tate and David Tennant. Catherine, who has recently appeared in the hit BBC Comedy Big School, looked relaxed and happy in a casual striped top and jeans. David arrived on stage sporting, to everyone’s total surprise, a long ponytail, which he first tried to claim that he had grown in a day. “I’m playing the part of Limahl in a Kajagoogoo biopic,” he quipped. The hair is, of course, for his stage role as Richard II for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and will presumably undergo further styling before the play opens in Stratford-upon-Avon next week.

Graeme and Phil recounted how difficult the episodes had been to fit in around the busy schedules of such a large cast and how the shooting schedule was changed many times to fit everyone in. Also, the normally very healthy Russell T. Davies had been quite ill during scriptwriting which had also put the shoot into disarray.

Catherine told about her casting and says that in Doctor Who people would be very protective and much more respectful of the character than they had been in her experience of appearing in her own comedy show. She found with The Catherine Tate Show that people were not afraid to come up and tell her which characters they disliked. She also felt that having her own show did not guarantee her the fame necessary to appear in the show.

David pointed out that he had been a relative unknown when cast, although he had been working with Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner on Casanova at the time. He recounted again the story of his casting, how he had been invited to watch Rose and a rough cut of Dalek at Russell’s house and had been conscious that Russell and Julie were scrutinising him as he watched to gauge his reaction. He found it unbelievable to be offered the role, especially as the show had not yet aired so there was no way of knowing if it would be a success or not. He could have been the Doctor who appeared for 35 seconds in the final ever episode. “But I would probably have got my own Big Finish series out of it” he added.

Catherine said that although only contracted for a single series she would have quite happily stayed if David had also stayed. Famously an internet ingénue, Catherine says that she was unaware of the online fan reaction to her permanent casting, and certain sectors of the fandom were convinced that she was going to ruin the show. She was offered the role in the Christmas special by phone, but for the return in series 4, Julie Gardner had taken her out to lunch to talk to her. The showrunners had been convinced that she would say no. Phil Collinson explained that there was another companion in the pipeline, and David added that there was also another actor in mind, who was never aware that she was being considered and who would never be named.

Phil Collinson told of the way that the outcome of the climax of The Stolen Earth and the Tenth Doctor’s apparent regeneration was kept a complete secret, with filming carried out indoors as much as possible and the cast and crew sworn to secrecy. Even information issued to the press before broadcast was restricted and preview clips were not sent out. As someone who had grown up watching the show in the days before the internet and blanket press scrutiny it was, he said, like the old days where you could watch the show without knowing what was coming next. The result was that rumours were rife that David Morrissey would be taking over the role in the final episode. David added that it was a testament to peoples’ faith and belief in the show that they were making that not a word was breathed outside the set.

A Q&A session from the audience followed. A young man asked who the best kisser on the Doctor Who set was. “Phil Collinson!” David breathed into the microphone

In response to the question about the “I don’t want to go” line, David said that it was as much Russell T. Davies’ feelings upon his imminent departure as it was the Doctor’s, and of course some of his own regret at leaving the role. He would happily have stayed on but felt that audiences would start to resent him after 25 years

David and Phil spent sometime explaining the concept of Big Finish to a bemused Catherine following a question of whether they would be up for doing a production together. “Audio CDs” explained David, “All the Doctors do them” “Like a talking book?” asked Catherine, “I’ve just done one of them.” It was pointed out it was like an audio play with other actors “So, I wouldn’t have to keep pretending to be all the other characters?” she said. “It’s on the radio so there’s no green screen” added Phil, “It’s much easier. We should have done the series like that”

Catherine freely admits that she wasn’t a Doctor Who fan before casting and didn’t watch while young as it was ‘for boys’. “I probably watched CHiPS” she said. The first episode of the revival she watched was Father’s Day and she missed the point that it was supposed to be set in the 1980s and assumed that production values on the show were still quite poor. She remains confused about the show. She referred to the Sontarans as ‘Sultanas’ and claims that she didn’t realise anyone was inside the costumes and she thought that they ran on electricity. “I think you tried to plug your iPod into one at one point” said David. She did, however, successfully recall the name of the Vespiform from The Unicorn And The Wasp although this also flummoxed her: “It was green screen, wasn’t it?”

The panel ran through their favourite episodes. Catherine’s was The Runaway Bride, her first appearance. Graeme Harper chose Blink and Phil went back to classic Who with The Caves Of Androzani David concurred, “I think my father-in-law did well there”, but selected The Deadly Assassin because of the scene where a clowns face appears below the sand.

David, who was asked by Russell T. Davies to use an estuary English accent for his Doctor, was asked what he thought about rumours that Peter Capaldi may be allowed to keep his Scots accent for the Twelfth Doctor. “I think it’s just lazy” he deadpanned. Catherine added that she had been in America when the announcement was made and was caught up in a security alert which she assumed was the angry fan reaction to Capaldi’s casting

David added that he believes that Russell T. Davies is a genius and knows that he was gutted not to have been able to have been there.

The BFI have filmed the panel - watch out for the video on their YouTube channel very soon.

Many thanks to the BFI for their invitation to attend

Photos by Paul Dykes with kind permission. View Paul's complete set of photos from the event here

The next Doctor Who At 50 screening at the BFI is Doctor Who: The Movie starring Paul McGann which takes place on Saturday 5th October. The screening is already sold out but returns may be available.

The BFI have also announced that they will be screening the Mark Gatiss drama An Adventure In Space And Time starring David Bradley as William Hartnell. Tickets are now on sale for the event on November 12th