Ed Stradling

August 2003 will see the launch of
Doctor Who: Earthshock on DVD. Ed Stradling was responsible for producing a brand-new 30 minute documentary: Putting the Shock into Earthshock, which features interviews with the cast and fans of the series as well as examining the impact of the return of the Cybermen and the death of a companion. A newcomer to the world of documentary making, Stradling explains to Darren Rea what the experience was like and what fans can expect to see when the DVD is released...

Darren Rea: How did you get involved with producing the documentary on Earthshock?

Ed Stradling: I work for a City law firm as my full-time job. I only do this sort of work in my spare time, but I've been involved with video editing for years and I'm quite friendly with the guys who are onboard the Doctor Who restoration team. These guys are pretty much responsible for commissioning the extras that appear on the DVDs.

About a year ago I was shown a list of this year's titles and asked whether I fancied doing any of the extras. This was about the time they had just started producing new features for the discs - I think they'd just done a few interviews for The Aztecs disc and that seemed to have worked out reasonably well. So they decided they were going to do more of that sort of thing with future releases. Of the list that I was shown, Earthshock was the one that I quite fancied doing the documentary on. As soon as I saw it was on the list an idea came straight into my head - which it didn't really with the others.

I was asked to submit a detailed proposal last September and just before Christmas they gave the go ahead and asked me who I wanted to interview. It was a bit like a book proposal I suppose in that I submitted a two-page idea of what I wanted to do and the people I wanted to speak to.

Then in January I gave BBC Worldwide more detailed information and we started shooting it in February. It took about a month to complete, we did about 12 interviews, and then I edited it myself toward the end of March.

DR: Were you given a budget that you had to stick to?

ES: Not really. Because it was a BBC Worldwide project, they dealt with that side of things. So I'd just tell them who I wanted to interview and I left it to them to decide who they could a afford and who they couldn't.

As it happens there were no problems. We interviewed everyone I wanted to except Richard Gregory [who designed the updated Cybermen] , because he was away. There were no budget problems at all.

DR: Why do you think that Doctor Who is being given all this special treatment when it is really a very niche market?

ES: It is quite bizarre. The market is quite small, but it is quite a dedicated one. I think they have probably decided that people who buy DVDs do so because they want better picture and sound quality or because they want extras - or both. BBC Worldwide obviously made the decision that with Doctor Who fans being what they are the extras will improve their sales.

A lot of films do have a nice list of extras, but then they can expect to sell a fair few - which is not the case with niche television releases. Doctor Who is supported quite well in that respect, which I don't think you can say the same for many other TV show releases.

I think it's just that Doctor Who fans are a bit more dedicated and there are also more of them out there, like me, who will be prepared to do the work to provide these extras.

DR: The DVD isn't available yet. Can you talk about the content that you were responsible for?

ES: It was just over half an hour's worth - although it could have been a lot longer but I wanted to keep it snappy - of interviews with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, David Banks and Eric Saward who wrote it. There is footage from an interview with Peter Grimwade, which was shot by Keith Barnfather for Myth Makers in about 1986. Ian Levine is interviewed as well as a number of other well-known fans.

The reason I wanted to interview famous fans was because, unlike the majority of Doctor Who stories, Earthshock had two big surprises for the viewer. At the time nobody knew that at the end of part one the Cybermen would appear and none of the fans were aware that Adric would be blown up at the end. So one of Earthshock's most important aspects was its impact on the audience and I wanted to interview some of the audience.

Rather than just plucking Doctor Who fans out at random, which would have been an unfortunate experience for the viewer I suspect, we thought we'd try and find a few reasonably high profile fans. So we interviewed Gary Gillatt who used to edit Doctor Who Magazine, Tim Collins MP who is the Front Bench Tory Transport spokesmen, Mark Gatiss from The League of Gentlemen and Steven Moffat who wrote Press Gang and The Curse of Fatal Death.

DR: How did you decide what questions you would ask the actors? They must have answered every question on Doctor Who, so how did you keep it fresh?

ES: We had an interviewer called Tania. She was a Norwegian lady who had never seen Doctor Who before, which was quite amusing. I posed the questions because I knew what I wanted the documentary to say. We started off asking Eric Saward how he got involved with Doctor Who, because this was his first year on the show. And then we moved on to questions like whose decision it was to keep the Cybermen's appearance a secret. We asked Matthew Waterhouse things like whose decision was it that he was leaving the series, and was he angry?

So we'd take all the responses and choose the best bits and knit them together. Each interview lasted about 30 minutes and there were 12 interviews. So you can see it was a very selective process when it came to choosing the end material in the editing suite.

The director of Earthshock, Peter Grimwade, was a bit of an unusual case in Doctor Who - firstly as he was good [laughs]. And secondly he was well known for rubbing the actors up the wrong way. He'd make them retake a scene until they got it how he wanted it. Some of the directors on the show were very nice to the actors and would happily take the first take, even if it was rubbish. So the actors will look back on some directors and say they were great directors, but if you look at the episode you'll see that they were not very good directors.

Grimwade was virtually the opposite so I asked all the actors what they thought of him and they all said: "God he was awful to work for". But if you look at the episodes and the way that they were shot, some of the imagery is very impressive given the constraints of the time. And that was something I wanted to show. Yes, he may have been a pain to work with, but he was exceptionally good at what he did.

DR: What reception did you get from the actors when you originally contacted them to be in the documentary? Were they all helpful, or did you get people who no longer want to be associated with Doctor Who?

ES: That wasn't really an area that I was heavily involved with. I told the people at the BBC who I wanted to interview and they sorted all that side of it out for me. Janet Fielding wasn't particularly keen to appear in the documentary, although she was happy to be involved with the commentary. But apart from that everybody wanted to be involved. I spoke to Richard Gregory over the phone and he was very keen, but he was going to be in New Zealand at the time we were filming, which was a disappointment.

DR: Are there any future projects that you are currently involved with?

ES: The list for next year's DVD releases is being waved around at the moment. I've put a proposal forward for one of the suggested releases, but there has been no decision yet on which stories they are going with. So, assuming they do go with the current list I'll probably be involved with at least one Doctor Who release next year.

I'm not overly keen about doing lots of Doctor Who stuff. I'm keen to broaden my career to a wider variety of shows. But that is going to depend on how well the Earthshock documentary goes down. My dream job would be directing something like episodes of Jonathan Creek or similar TV dramas. I've been working in Law for around ten years and I wouldn't be able to just leave and go into TV as a full time job as I wouldn't be able to afford to do it. It was just a hobby for me but I'm hoping that more work might come from this in the future.

DR: Thank you for your time.

Pictured from left to right: Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Peter Davison and Janet Fielding are reunited to record the audio commentary for Earthshock.

Doctor Who: Earthshock is available to buy from BBC Worldwide from 04 August 2003 RRP £19.99 (DVD)

You can buy this DVD now by clicking here. You pay £14.99 (RRP: £19.99)

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