Tuesday, 6 January 2009

BBC Internal Magazine Tells All

Ariel, the weekly in-house magazine for BBC staff, has published a feature in its latest edition looking at the secret preparations that led to the announcement of Matt Smith's casting as the Eleventh Doctor in a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential last Saturday. The feature reveals that the process was entirely conducted via verbal conversations, with no written record left in e-mail form and as few people as possible made aware of the casting decision.

The special edition of Confidential was organised at a secret meeting in December between executive producer Piers Wenger, BBC One controller Jay Hunt, BBC Controller of Fiction Jane Tranter and Head of Scheduling George Dixon, after Smith had been offered the role but before he had officially signed up to play it. On the day that he did sign a contract, Smith was secretly interviewed by a two-man Doctor Who Confidential crew, and then on Christmas Eve took part in a photoshoot in the basement of BBC Television Centre in London. Neither the photographer nor the stylist involved knew what the shoot was for, with the TARDIS later being photoshopped into the background of the pictures. Time was booked to show the Confidential on BBC Big Screens in town centres across the UK, without the various Big Screen producers in those towns knowing what they would be showing.

Julian Payne, the Communications Chief for BBC One and BBC Drama, tells Ariel: "Right up until the show went out newspapers were firing names at me but in the end, the media too were excited by how the announcement happened. Luck undoubtedly played a part but it was testament to a great team effort, including by BBC Wales, BBC Worldwide,
the big screens team and the Doctor Who website who all swung into action."

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