Doctor Who Live Info

SFX EXCLUSIVE! Three of the show’s creators reveal secrets from the spectacular live show

The monsters are coming, as the blurb for Doctor Who Live promises us. But what exactly will this arena tour offer the audience? Is it a play? A concert? A stunt show? An episode of the TV done live? None of these and all of these, reckon the crew behind it, all of whom are bubbling over with enthusiasm, and desperate to get the final show in front of an audience. “It’s like nothing you’ve seen before,” promises director Will Brenton, “and despite those rumours going around about, the Cybermen are not doing the cancan.”

We have three exclusive and very revealing interviews for you to devour. Click on an image to take you to the accompanying article or just click on through all the pages at your leisure…

Will Brenton – director of Doctor Who Live

“We were originally hoping to have five or six minutes with Matt. We’ve ended up with a lot more than that.”

Brenton is massively experienced at co-ordinating major arena tours and even got to play with the world’s biggest train set for a Thomas The Tank Engine live experience. He also co-created The Tweenies , and has been a director on Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm among other things.

Ben Foster – Arranger and Musical Director

“I’m taking the Dalek fight sequence from the last series and instead of it being John Williams, which was the way I arranged it for the show, it’s more like John Williams versus Brian May.

Best known for his work as the music arranger for Doctor Who (Murray Gold writes the stuff, but Foster orchestrates it) and composer on Torchwood , Foster claims his favourite TV credit of all is his current arrangement of BBC’s Question Time . He’s also worked on many films, including Nine , Alice In Wonderland and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood . He also arranged the music for the recent Doctor Who Prom concerts. Earlier in his career, he worked as a pop string arranger, having top ten hits with artists such as Boyzone, Gary Barlow, East 17 and S Club 7.

Gary and Paul Hardy-Brown - Illusionists

“Not many live shows spend this amount of money on effects. It’s a great concept. If it was a cake we’d all be eating it.”

Known professionally as The Twins, they are creating the illusions and special effects for the show. They have done some incredible things, including making elephants appear as if from nowhere under a big top and making a luxury yacht disappear. They’ve performed for the troops, as well as on TV in America, and in theatres worldwide. Winners of The World Magic Award for International Stage Musicians Of The Year, they have worked as creative consultants for Alton Towers, The Coca-Cola Company and Universal Pictures.

Doctor Who Live is on tour across the UK from Friday 8 October.

For ticket information, visit

Will Brenton director

When and how did you become involved with Doctor Who Live ?

“I was asked to come on board by BBC Worldwide around about Christmas time. The reason that I was brought in was because I’ve got quite a lot of experience doing these sort of shows in arenas, working with all the various sources we have the show. Because obviously we have live music, things happening on stage, things happening through the auditorium, a lot of video stuff, specially shot scenes with Matt Smith. Bringing all these strands together is, well, I wouldn’t call it a unique skill but it’s a fairly rare skill, in the sense that arenas are quite interesting spaces. They’re brilliant for rock concerts and stuff like that – when you’re looking at the big overall picture of the lighting show, and listening to the music – but adding into that any kind of narrative or any kind of focussing element, is something that you need to have worked in an arena to know how to do it. So that was why Worldwide brought me in.

“And also because of my own background, I’ve got a sense of family audiences as well, so I think that all added to the mix.”

Oh yeah, you created The Tweenies ! Bet you love the BBC for mentioning that in the press release…

“Oh god, yes The Tweenies . You know when you’ve created something that’s gone worldwide and which everybody knows… It’s quite nice that anybody in the country, if you say Tweenies they know what it is. That’s something to be proud of, I think.”

So is the action in Doctor Who Live in the main arena area or on a stage at one end?

“It’s not in the round. It’s on what we call a thrust stage. So the audience are on three sides of the stage, and the stages are brought slightly forward into the arena so they are not right at the back wall which they would be for a rock concert.

“And we’re bringing a lot of action into the auditorium as well, so again it’s very different to a rock concert where everyone is sitting in the auditorium looking at the stage. We do have a couple of cameras giving a live feed of some of the stage action, again akin to a rock concert, but it’s not just what you’ve got traditionally, two side screens. We’ve got a huge screen at the back of the stage. And a 16-piece rock band, which is very exciting.”

Wasn’t it tempting to prerecord all the music, so that there was one less thing to worry about “on the night”?

“No. Part of the live experience is seeing the stuff played live. And also, a lot of people don’t get the chance to see this done in the way that we’re going to be doing it. You either go and see a gig, which is a band doing their thing, or you might go to a movie, or watch TV, or a play. But seeing all these elements together is actually a unique experience. And I think when you’re listening to a cello solo, or a guitar solo or a drum solo, or a piece of music that has that element to it, actually seeing someone sitting there play in front of you is a totally different experience to just hearing it on a soundtrack.”

How did the script come together? Presumably it’s not all just Steven Moffat?

“It’s a collaboration. I need to bring to the table my knowledge of what does and doesn’t work in an arena. And also my knowledge of what I think the expectation of our audience is in an arena. Steven obviously knows the landscape of Doctor Who inside out and he brings to the table an absolute knowledge of how this show must fit in with the mythology of Doctor Who . And we’ve got another writer, Gareth Roberts, whose job it is to make sure everything that the characters are physically saying is absolutely entrenched in the Doctor Who way of speaking.

“So it’s a collaboration of those three minds, if you like, to make sure this works in this environment.

“When I first came on board with the project, it was a project that was very akin to the Prom offering. But I thought what we needed to do was bring the space alive a lot more, with a narrative that comes alive in that arena at that moment. So we’ve created a brand new Doctor Who character – called Vorgenson [to be played by Nigel Planer], but it is a character who grows out of previous Doctor Who story, called ‘Carnival Of Monsters’. All of its genealogy grows out of that episode. And the fans who spotted that reference will enjoy how it happens. It’s taken what happened in that episode and moved it on, and updated it and had some fun with it as well.

“And that’s the kind of collaboration that we’ve been having. I sat down with Steven and said, ‘I’ve got this Jurassic Park kind of feel, with a character who’s reeling out these characters,’ and he immediately said, ‘Well, "Carnival Of Monsters"! Let’s let it grow out of that.’”

How many people are involved in Doctor Who Live ?

“It’s a big old scale. Let’s see. Apart from all the backstage crew, we’ve got 16 people in the cast, a 16-piece band, three sound desks, our lighting is being done by a guy who’s just come off the Stevie Wonder tour, our musical director, Ben Foster, has just come off the Peter Gabriel tour. And then there’s the huge team of people behind it who are making sure everything we do really does fit in with the world of Doctor Who . Touring it, I couldn’t tell you how many trucks it is, but it’s a fair few. It’s a big old scale.”

“We’ve got a lovely selection of hand-picked musicians, who are great. And as a Doctor Who fan, it will be really, really good fun for me.”

Are you using unusual instruments?

“There's talk of bits and bobs. To be honest, it’s still early days. There might be some stuff that develops in rehearsals. But everybody in the band will be doubling up on instruments, so that means that trumpet will play a flugelhorn, and the saxophone will play lots of flutes. We’ve got recorders in because of the bit from the scarecrow episode where we used recorders. We’re going to get a toy piano, like a kids’ piano. There are a few things that I’m looking into getting. Something I saw the other day on the internet which is like that thing that Rolf Harris has…”

A didgeridoo?

“No! Hah! A Stylophone. So there might be bits and bobs like that. It’s just finding a good reason to use stuff. I don’t want to do silly things just for the sake of it. I was toying with the idea of a theramin, but I’ll don’t think I’ll get my theramin skill up to scratch in time. But there are lots of interesting percussion instruments; bits of metal hanging over the drums that we can hit for the Cybermen.”

Any new cues?

“For legal reasons, it’s exclusively music that has already been broadcast on the show. Which is great because many people know the themes. We’re doing some of the favourites, but we’re also doing some stuff from series five, because that’s becoming very popular too. Especially the Eleventh Doctor theme that we did at the Prom.

“But there are a few interesting and surprising things. You know the hymn from ‘The End Of Time’ that they sing when Wilf goes into the church? We took that, and we’ve played with it and given it a new twist. There’s a very cool version of ‘The Mad Man With The Box’ which is like a huge Bond rock version.”

A lot of people may not realise quite how much input you have into the actual series,…

“They put my name on the credits when they have space sometimes. If there’s a quick roller, I’m not up there.”

You actually do all the arrangements for Murray Gold’s music. Don’t you ever wish you had his job?

“Well, that’s clearly a no-brainer, but there’s no aggressive takeover bid planned. My aspirations as a composer are clear. I composed the majority of the music for Torchwood series two and three, so that’s where my heart is really. But it’s difficult with Doctor Who . It’s such a great show to work on I’m quite happy to take a secondary role. But, as you kindly say, it’s quite an involved role, and it’s nice to able to get the chance to take the music somewhere different with Live .”

Ans will you be composing for Torchwood series four?

“Yeah, so there we go… I’d love to be able to say yes, but I can’t really. I’ve read good things about it and it seems like it’s going to be fantastic and obviously I would be delighted to be asked. I should probably just leave it there. The honest answer is I don’t know, but I would love to be asked. I think it’s a fantastic show, and it’s where a big part of my heart is.”

Doctor Who Live is on tour across the UK from Friday 8 October.

For ticket information, visit



Gary and Paul Hardy-Brown illusionists

Note: We’re actually talking to Paul! But Gary was around, in the backgroud, doing some welding if the noise over the phone was anything to go by…

When and how did you become involved in Doctor Who Live ?

“About six months ago. When they were talking about the concept they contacted us and said, ‘Guys, would you like to be involved?’ And we jumped at the chance. Both of us are Doctor Who geeks. Me, mainly. Gary is a great fan but I’m more of a geek. We collect a lot of original Doctor Who bits and pieces, so it’s in our blood.

“Formerly we were illusionists, we toured up and down, everywhere. And then people started asking us to consult on shows, and television, using our expertise. And our performances just sort of dried up because we’ve been doing so much on the consultancy side. We call ourselves creative consultants due to the fact that sometimes the word magic has a very naff persona, which is a great shame because it’s a fantastic medium and you can do so much with it. So we combine magic and illusion and special FX, and for the last five years we’ve done some really groundbreaking effects. And now we’re redesigning the wheel again for Doctor Who Live .”

Redesigning the wheel in what way?

“Well, the Doctor Who series is fab but they use a lot of CGI. So we’ve had to take some elements from the show and then put them into a live theatre stadium environment. And the CGI is designed for a very small screen. Even if you’ve got a 50-inch screen that’s nothing compared to an arena. When you’re doing it in an arena, and you’re doing it three times a day, it’s got to work every time, and every time it’s got to look as effective as the first time.

“So, for instance, one of the effects we’re doing is making a Dalek elevate, fly. They just use CGI, blue screen, chromakey on TV and it’s done. But we actually make the Dalek fly without wires. So that’s redesigning the wheel.”

What’s the problem with wires? The wobbles?

“It’s not the wobble. People see them. When you see Peter Pan at panto you see the wires. But we’ve come up with this system where you don’t have any wires.”

Was it a system specially created for Doctor Who Live ?

“We’ve been playing with this idea for about four-ish years. This is the peak of its use, Doctor Who Live . This is the hybrid of all hybrids. It’s bigger. It’s better. It’s a great bit of kit. It’s very technical. What the Daleks do on the screen you see them do at the live show. It’s a formidable task, because the Dalek spins 360 degrees, it goes up, down, left and right, so that’s all got to be taken into consideration. It’s a great effect.”

Is there a lot of Dalek flying?

“There’s one scene that he does everything in. But there’s a final battle at the end with some more.”

Will you need to be there every night of the tour, or will everything hopefully be working like clockwork by then?

“Paul and myself will be touring with the show to make sure the effects are working to a standard we require. Some tours we tour with them, some we don’t. It all depends what how, where and who kind of thing.”

Because what you’re doing is still, on some levels, magic, and part of the point of magic is keeping the secret behind the trick a secret, do your team have to sign a non-disclosure agreement?

“Yeah. With the BBC you sign a non-disclosure agreement, with us you sign a non-disclosure agreement, just to keep everything all tight and within the team, within the family. It’s great when you get the actors involved, and they hide in very small places and they think, ‘Oh, my god, this is amazing! How can people not see me?’”

Did you have input into the script, suggesting illusions that you could create?

“They had a blank page, and we came with ideas, and we just bombarded them with ideas. The first thing was, ‘Well, let’s elevate the Dalek!’ But then we went down various roads. We went through a progression of brainstorming, then designs, and then three or four months down the line we have an effect that we can start building.”

Have you met Steven Moffat?

“We haven’t met Steven Moffat yet! Every time we'd miss him by an hour! It’s been a shame. But we were there when they were filming the live footage of Matt Smith in Cardiff, so that was good.”

How would you describe Doctor Who Live ?

“It’s going to be a fantastic show that’s never been seen before in a theatre or an arena in the UK. Even worldwide. It’s a very, very interesting show. The fans and audience will get value for money. It is going to be a great, great show. Even if you’re not into Doctor Who , it’s going to be spectacular. Not many live shows spend this amount of money on effects. It’s a great concept. If it was a cake we’d all be eating it.”

Is any of it done with mirrors?

“Everybody thinks everything is done with mirrors! The problem with mirrors is, the bigger the mirror, the more it breaks. So we don’t tend to use mirrors. No! There will be loads of smoke in Doctor Who Live but no mirrors. In 1800s Vaudeville they used loads and loads of mirrors but you don’t need to use mirrors any more. And they’re a pain to clean as well, especially when you use smoke and mirrors together. The smoke sticks to the mirror.”

Would you like to work on the TV series?

“I would love to! I would really love to. There’s a picture of us as small children on the set of ‘Destiny Of The Daleks’ in the late ’70s. It was how our love of Doctor Who and everything special effectsy came about. We saw an alien spaceship, and a Dalek, and all the actors. Tom Baker!

“And that’s what started us off. We thought, ‘Special effects is such a hard game to get into but we have a love of magic,’ so that’d be great to get into. So we carried on with the magic, and then we went to drama school, and then we became Blue Coats at Pontins and started our act. Then we got into special effects, putting magic into shows. So Doctor Who was the foundation of our career.”

Doctor Who Live is on tour across the UK from Friday 8 October.

For ticket information, visit

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.