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Throughout its fifty-year run, BBC’s iconic science fiction series Doctor Who has boasted an array of acclaimed talent both in front and behind the camera. Such renowned writers as Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Neil Cross (Luther) and Neil Gaiman (The Sandman) have scripted episodes, while guest appearances have come from James Bond veteran Timothy Dalton, former Monty Python John Cleese and pop star Kylie Minogue.
In a recent interview with Radio Times, thespian Brian Blessed, who had made an appearance in the 1984 fourteen-part serial The Trial of a Time Lord, revealed that he was approached by the producers of the show in the mid-1960s to taken on the role following the departure of the First Doctor, as portrayed by William Hartnell. ‘After I was in Z Cars, the head of BBC serials took me aside and said, ‘We’re thinking of having a young Doctor Who and we’d like to cast you.’ But it clashed with other things,’ he revealed.
But while many celebrated writers and actors have worked on the show, most of the directors responsible for bringing the adventures of the Doctor to the screen have risen through the ranks of the BBC. Among the regular directors who have worked on episodes of Doctor Who were Toby Haynes, best known for the adventure show M.I. High, The Bill‘s James Hawes and and Jonny Campbell, a regular of Ashes to Ashes and Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.
While it may seem unlikely that a Hollywood filmmaker would be willing to work on a British television show, Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson, best known for his adaptations of The Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit, expressed interest last year in working on an episode. ‘They don’t even have to pay me,’ he said last year. ‘But I have got my eye on one of those nice new gold-colored Daleks. They must have a spare one.’
While now known as an Academy Award-winning director and influential producer, Peter Jackson initially cut his teeth on low budget horror pictures. Born and raised in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, Jackson worked tirelessly on a tongue-in-cheek splatter comedy called Bad Taste, which made its public debut at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival to considerable acclaim. Excessively gruesome and shamelessly ridiculous, the film soon gained a cult following, allowing Jackson to create an adult puppet variety movie in the vein of The Muppets entitled Meet the Feebles.
But it would be his second live-action horror, Braindead, that would become the crowning achievement of his independent days, boasting a blood-soaked finale in which the story’s reluctant hero massacres a horde of zombies with the help of his trusty lawnmower. Following his surreal fantasy Heavenly Creatures, Jackson was approached by Universal Pictures to direct the supernatural horror comedy The Frighteners. His decision to shoot in his native country allowed Jackson considerable creative freedom, eventually convincing executives at New Line Cinema – the studio that had distributed Heavenly Creatures – that he could bring Middle-earth to life in three epic The Lord of the Rings movies.
While he has continued to direct blockbusters, from his reimagining of King Kong to The Hobbit, Jackson was continued to express interest in working on Doctor Who. Last year he made a brief appearance in the satire The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, a short film written and directed by Peter Davison, who had portrayed the Doctor for three years from 1981.Acknowledging the BBC’s decision to omit Davison and fellow former Doctors Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Paul McGann, the story focused on their attempts to break into the television studio during the filming of the show’s fiftieth anniversary special. Incidentally, the only Doctors to return to the show for the episode, The Day of the Doctor, were David Tennant (the Ninth Doctor) and a special cameo from Tom Baker, who had played the role in the mid-1970s.
But could fans ever see the likes of Peter Jackson directing Doctor Who? ‘If he’s up for it, we’ll do it,’ claims show runner and executive producer Steven Moffat in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. ‘But he’s very hard to get hold of at times. He did show up and do a bit for the Five(ish) Doctors, for Peter. He is a fan. He does love it. He always seems to be terribly busy doing The Hobbit. I know he’s insanely busy. He does want to direct the next Tintin and is struggling to schedule around his difficult life. It’s just difficult to get these guys tied down—but he is a genuinely big Doctor Who fan.’