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Creating Sustainable Cybermen

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Season ten of Doctor Who was the first in the BBC's sci-fi series to show off its sustainability credentials on screen. Production executive Tracie Simpson tells Jenny Priestley why the show decided to go 'green'

It's worth pointing out, Doctor Who has been tackling environmental themes in its stories since the show's early days 50 years ago. But now it has signed up to BAFTA's albert initiative, which aims to create sustainable productions which have a positive impact on the people and places involved in their creation.

Tracie Simpson, production executive on Doctor Who, explains the show has been green for a number of years before joining albert. "Doctor Who has been measuring its carbon footprint since 2012 and was awarded albert certification in April 2016. We are definitely greener since measuring our carbon footprint."

Why did the show decide to sign up to albert? "We were encouraged by our BBC Sustainability team and our neighbours here in Roath Lock – Casualty and Pobol y Cwm," explains Simpson. "After attending carbon literacy courses and encouraging our crew to attend them, we realised that there was so much more we should/could be doing."

So, what measures did the team put in place to make the production more sustainable? "The TARDIS was redesigned and included the installation of low energy lighting," says Simpson. "Approximately 60 per cent of the lighting on the sets is low energy. The 2016 Christmas special filmed our 'New York' scenes in Bulgaria using mostly local crew and locally hired filming equipment, saving an estimated 35 tonnes of carbon emissions. "

The team have also put new measures in place for the production's paperwork, not an easy feat when you have reams of paper needed for cast and crew. "All scripts are e-mailed and only printed by direct request and then are printed A5 and double sided," explains Simpson. "Dropbox cloud-based file sharing is also used. Plus, accounts send out e-payslips as opposed to paper remittances."

"The sound department use rechargeable batteries wherever possible and the caterers follow sustainable guidelines around sourcing of food."

Simpson says the cast and crew were keen to get involved in the project and have become much more aware of the production's sustainability credentials. The production team also issue a green-email to all the show's guest stars and directors so that they are aware of the project as well.

Of course, a show like Doctor Who relies heavily on its special effects. So, exactly how do you make the Cybermen sustainable? "In terms of our Prac FX we are trying to use materials that have less of an impact on our environment such as lead free explosives, water based paint and recycling wood for our breakaways," says Simpson. "The Cybermen undersuits are foam latex of which the base is a naturally occurring material which will eventually naturally degrade. The rest of it is Polyurethane which can be recycled as an energy source." And the shows other iconic bad-guys? "I'm not aware of any changes to the Daleks for albert," she laughs. "We haven't built any new Daleks, we continue to "recycle" them!"

Finally, can Simpson do a bit of time-travelling of her own and tell us what the future holds for Doctor Who and albert? "For the next series, we are looking to issue even less paper scripts, schedules and callsheets," she says. "We are also looking into Hybrid transport. We will continue to make our cast and crew aware of our sustainability targets. Making the production of the programme more environmentally friendly is a perfect fit for us. The Doctor would approve!"

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  • APA 6th ed.: Priestley, Jenny (October 2017). Creating Sustainable Cybermen. TVB Europe p. 14.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Priestley, Jenny. "Creating Sustainable Cybermen." TVB Europe [add city] October 2017, 14. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Priestley, Jenny. "Creating Sustainable Cybermen." TVB Europe, edition, sec., October 2017
  • Turabian: Priestley, Jenny. "Creating Sustainable Cybermen." TVB Europe, October 2017, section, 14 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Creating Sustainable Cybermen | url= | work=TVB Europe | pages=14 | date=October 2017 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=9 December 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Creating Sustainable Cybermen | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=9 December 2023}}</ref>