Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Paradise of Death

From The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search


Doctor Who may have ground to a halt on television, but on radio it is alive and well and ready to celebrate its Thirtieth Anniversary. As Paradise of Death comes to Radio 5 Starburst meets the man behind this brand new adventure: producer/director Phil Clarke.

Starburst: How did you become involved with Doctor Who?

Phil Clarke: Originally the impetus came from Jon Pertwee. He was working with another producer called Dirk Maggs on Superman, and mentioned he would like to do Doctor Who again. At the time Dirk was extremely busy and couldn't do the show, but I jumped in there and said I was interested.

A Personal Kick

Starburst: What was the next step? Clarke: Contacting Jon and confirming he was still interested, which made everything possible. Then also contacting [ex-Doctor Who producer] Barry Letts, who was an obvious choice to write it because I wanted to recreate the Pertwee era as faithfully as possible. Barry had written The Daemons, which was one of Jon's favourite stories, and he knows the characters inside out. When I got the first script the dialogue was unique in that I could really hear Jon Pertwee saying it. I was nine in 1970, thirteen in 1974, so they were very influential years to watch Doctor Who and it meant that Jon Pertwee for me was the Doctor. To have the opportunity to work with your childhood heroes was a personal kick as well as a professional one.

Starburst: Did BBC Enterprises have much influence over the show?

Clarke: Yes, in the sense that Enterprises said that it would be convenient if we made five episodes as one series. Usually programmes are made for broadcast and then if they prove popular they go onto cassette. With this it was deemed it would go onto cassette even before it was made.

Plans for Paradise

Starburst: How did the plot of Paradise of Death come about?

Clarke: Originally, the plan was to do two series of five episodes. Subsequently it's worked out just as well we didn't because we would never have got them done; it was so much work just doing one series. Barry and I had a chat about what we would like to do, and we were in accord.

One of the first problems we found was that all the Pertwee adventures had been done and he's regenerated into someone else. So we had to find somewhere we could fit in more adventures inside the chronology of events from the television series, and that's why we went for it happening after The Time Warrior.

The other thing was that the Pertwee stories were filmed in the Seventies set on Earth, and there are some things we refer to in the story that have only happened since then — like computers and electronics. Barry pointed out that it was never defined as 1972 or 1973 — it was always somewhere at the end of the Twentieth Century. This is a brilliant get-out for us now as it means we can do more adventures and deal with certain things that might not have come to light in the early Seventies and might be issues now.

Strongest Memories

Starburst: Did you immerse yourself in watching videos of the Pertwee era?

Clarke: I did see a couple; I got The Daemons when it was out, and I watched some others. I looked up a few books, but did it mostly from memory. That was quite nice because I can remember what stayed with me over twenty years, and in some ways that's better than getting lost in the detail. I'd remembered the Brigadier, and the type of character the third Doctor was, and the type of adventures they had, and the fact they started on Earth. Things like seeing the Yeti in the Underground were very strong images; that sort of thing always made it more frightening.

Starburst: Did you approach any other producers of the television series for advice?

Clarke: In a sense it was better not to, because I would have probably been overawed by taking over this mantle of Doctor Who. I obviously had to speak to television drama to make sure they were happy with us doing it.

Starburst: Did you ever consider any other characters for the principal roles apart from the Brigadier and Sarah Jane?

Clarke: They were my first ports of call and I'm pleased we got them. Elisabeth Sladen was my favourite companion; being a journalist she was always very plucky and would take the initiative. I always imagined the Brigadier as your ideal best friend, totally reliable — he's always there for you.

If (a very big if) there were to be other series it would be great to get other people back from UNIT as well.

Starburst: If a second show is commissioned, would you be tempted to go for a different Doctor and companion?

Clarke: I'd like to carry on from where we left off. Another series is completely in the lap of the Gods —how well it's received, and what the powers that be think about it. There's so many factors that it's probably not even worth thinking about unless the message comes down that they want another. If it happens I'd like to repeat the formula.

Starburst: How did you go about casting the guest roles?

Clarke: I know that Barry had written some parts with people in mind, which helps the writing. Harold Innocent and Peter Miles are brilliant villains. We had good fun in the studio recording it, which for itself was worth doing.

In the Studio

Starburst: What sort of schedule were you working to in the studio?

Clarke: We had to record one episode a day. We were really pushed to do it, particularly the later episodes where things get busier with effects. It was nice that there was such a good atmosphere in the studio, because when things get late and you get tired things can get fraught, but in this case it didn't at all.

On the other hand, in some senses it's good that you do have deadlines because you can keep working on it, and you have to leave it at a certain point before you spoil it. It would have been lovely to have had two days in the studio, but money rules.

Starburst: How much did you add to the show after the recording?

Clarke: We tried to put in as many effects in the studio as we could. It helps the actors, but also it does save time; you only have a number of days to edit it. There's also a quality factor; adding effects afterwards means you're constantly re-recording, and after the twelfth effect has been put on the actual speech is sounding a bit muffled.

Sound Effects

Starburst: Did you use the facilities of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop?

Clarke: It was a combination. The music was done by the Radiophonic Workshop; we used Peter Howell's adaptation of the theme music, and Peter also did all the incidental music. I was able to get hold of some of the effects from the old Doctor Who library of effects, although delving into that was difficult as each was made for a separate show. Also, some of the early ones which might be very good were mono, which isn't much help if you're bringing out a stereo audio cassette. Ultimately we did most of them_ ourselves on a barge in Oxford — there were people walking past the barge and we were making all these bizarre noises!

Starburst: Had you ever tackled Science Fiction before Doctor Who?

Clarke: It's a first for me. This is a light entertainment production and I'm a light entertainment producer, and I was keen to assure Barry that I didn't want to do a comedy. I wanted to do Doctor Who as it had been done before. People have asked why it isn't drama, but I think the drama department would tend to do it as a very literary-based production like 1984. That's not to say there isn't any dramatic content in Doctor Who, but it's a lighter weight Science Fiction than 1984.

Starburst: With a new series of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy planned, it appears that Science Fiction is coming to radio with a vengeance...

Clarke: It surprised me that more Science Fiction hasn't been done on the radio. So much is possible, even in the confines of doing Doctor Who, where there are certain conventions that should be stuck to. Hitch Hikers was really one of the first things where people pushed the boat out and started experimenting, and things have technically really moved on since then. Dirk Maggs did Superman and he made them very filmic and they really worked like that, but 1 still feel that there's a really great radio Science Fiction series to be made.

Starburst: Throughout its life on television the show has sometimes been very childish, and sometimes very adult. What audience were you aiming at?

Clarke: In an ideal world you're aiming for both. One thing I hope is that the Doctor Who fans enjoy it, and I suspect that's really who we've made it for. I think children who are seeing Doctor Who for the first time on video will enjoy this when they get into it. Also, you do make it for yourself, as an adventure you'd like to hear.

Better on Radio?

Starburst: Some of the cast have said that the characters are much stronger on radio than in the television series. Clarke: I would certainly say that

The cover of the BBC Audio release radio is more intimate, so that the characters can afford to be more vulnerable and quieter than the demands of television would allow. If we did another series we could develop that even further, and get inside characters' heads more. I would hesitate to say radio is better than television: Doctor Who is a television phenomena, and this is just a radio version of it.

Paradise Lost

Starburst: Did you have to edit much material out?

Clarke: We did a lot of editing, which was a painful process. We couldn't record some things in the script which were really good fun, but it's a twenty-eight minute slot for Radio 5, so time was our master. I prefer not to record it, rather than go through recording it and then have to cut it out.

Also when we got into the editing channel, we found we had to lose two minutes. I had to be as professional about it as possible and make the grisly decision to do it. When you're cutting you're looking for things that are extraneous to the plot, and those things have to go. We had to lose a couple of scenes in their entirety in episode three.

We tried to put stuff back for the tape. Listeners who hear the radio one will notice a few extra lines here and there on the cassette. I make the programme for broadcast and then hand it over to Enterprises who adapt it. I'm not sure how much they were able to put back but it was not as much as we'd have liked as they only had one day to do it. If the BBC were prepared to pay we could have put more back.

Starburst: What are you currently working on?

Clarke: I've just finished Loose Talk for Radio 1, and for the rest of the year there are some comedy pilots in the offing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and hoping for another Doctor Who...

Starburst: Now that the television special has been cancelled, and supposing that the programme's future on television is dead, how would you feel about being the continuing producer of the series for radio?

Clarke: It would be lovely for it to continue on radio, and I'd love to do it. After so many years of Doctor Who it would be a bit of a responsibility — and it would be an honour.

Captions: Elisabeth Sladen, Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney battle a new foe on radio

Left: Seventies Doctor Who brought into the Nineties in the new radio play Paradise of Death

Doctor Who producer Phil Clarke

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: Richardson, David (issue 181 (September 1993)). Paradise of Death. Starburst p. 16.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Richardson, David. "Paradise of Death." Starburst [add city] issue 181 (September 1993), 16. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Richardson, David. "Paradise of Death." Starburst, edition, sec., issue 181 (September 1993)
  • Turabian: Richardson, David. "Paradise of Death." Starburst, issue 181 (September 1993), section, 16 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Paradise of Death | url= | work=Starburst | pages=16 | date=issue 181 (September 1993) | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Paradise of Death | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2021}}</ref>