1. Dark Eyes
Behind the Scenes
THE RUTH OF THE WORLD
Introducing new companion Molly O'Sullivan! Ruth Bradley talks Irish accents, damaged Doctors and being directed by Daleks for epic Eighth Doctor adventure Dark Eyes
Hello Ruth! What’s it like being part of the Doctor Who audios?
It’s lovely! It’s very relaxed and great fun. Like being a kid because there’s endless opportunities and you can end up anywhere. Great for the imagination and yeah, I’ve had a ball, a great laugh!
How did you get involved?
I got a phone call from my agent saying, ‘Do you want to do Doctor Who?’ and they sent me through the scripts and I thought it was great. Nicholas [Briggs] wrote great scripts and I really liked Molly O’Sullivan. I just thought, ‘Definitely, I wanna do that!’ And it’s a while since I’ve done voice work like this as well, so it’s really exciting to get into a booth and let rip and have a ball.
Plus you’re getting to use your actual voice!
Well, almost, except my accent is slightly different. Molly is more rural Ireland; but yes, I am getting to use my voice, which is nice. No face! And no make-up or hair in the morning; that’s nice.
It’s okay, we will be using your face on the cover.
Even if it’s got no make-up on it. Grand.
What do you make of Molly?
She’s very strong and courageous and I think she’s had quite a hard life but [she’s] definitely not one to be bemoaning it or giving out about her lot. I think she’s quite positive, even though when we first come across her she seems kind of sharp and maybe a little cruel. But she’s had some difficult things happen, particularly recently, with her friend Kitty and being a VAD in the War. She definitely learns to lighten up but initially she’s very strong; I suppose a little hard. But I really like her. I think she’s quite a modern woman, she’s definitely not afraid to tell the Doctor [Paul McGann] what she thinks of him and to put him in his place, and [to] not think that he is impressing her with his big words, just that he’s being a bit silly. And I loved that about her, because she’s not in any way in awe of him and flattering his ego at all. Quite the opposite. But they still get on, which is good.
How did you approach playing that familiar Who companion role?
I think the companion, it’s a great thing because it’s different with every single character. The chemistry between the Doctor and whichever companion is completely different; there’s some who are so girly and some who are strong and I think it also depends on the actor because whatever chemistry the two actors have together completely changes the dynamic as well. A lot of it is obviously on the page, but I think what’s great about the companion is it brings something new to the Doctor, so it brings a new side of him out. I hope! Here’s me talking, I haven’t heard it, we haven’t finished it yet!
Molly doesn’t exactly encounter the Eighth Doctor at his best, as he’s dealing with some big recent losses.
There’s a lot of talk about his loss and he’s very gutted and torn apart by it, obviously. But what’s nice is Molly doesn’t have a clue; she’s not aware of Lucie or Susan or any of these people, so she’s great at saying, ‘Come on, chin up now, get over it’ which is really refreshing!
Also, while the Doctor is filled with grief, Molly has her own issues simply from being caught in the middle of the First World War.
Because she’s in immediate danger. And also she’s losing her best friend, so she can relate to all this stuff. But I think her way has never been to wallow in it and she probably isn’t great, initially anyway, at being aware of how she’s feeling and dealing with it and she definitely takes it out on a lot of people. But even within that she doesn’t lie down and go, ‘Oh God, I’m going to die and the world is awful’, she just gets up and keeps going on. So it’s probably exactly what the Doctor needs: somebody who doesn’t know or care that much about what has happened to him in the past and has just said, ‘Hey, let’s deal with right now today’.
And then you live life in fast forward, bouncing from place to place.
There’s no stopping these two! They’re literally in one place for two minutes. Which is another brilliant thing about Doctor Who. You never know where you’re going to end up when you walk out of the TARDIS. There’s endless possibilities and they do end up in so many places. And Ireland features in it as well, which is nice. I don’t think I’ve seen Ireland in a Doctor Who in a while. It’s not as exciting as alternate universes but it’s quite nice when they go to a normal place. I always love it when they end up in France or something in Doctor Who because you can relate to that in the midst of all the other galaxies.
There’s a strange water planet…
I love that! Planet Halalka!
Blimey, you have been paying attention, haven’t you!
I haven’t been just sight-reading! I have actually read them a few times! I think they’re great scripts but Halalka has waves that you’re suspended in and I was like, ‘God, I’d love to get myself to Halalka and have a swim in them waves!’ I liked Halalka particularly. I liked the Mezcoranis too, they’re quite funny. Thelus the octopus man is great!
You’ve been working with both Paul McGann and a lot of Daleks; how were they?
Daleks are hilarious! I don’t like that sound, it’s terrifying, but what is hilarious is when [Nick] directs you in the voice, so you’re like, ‘Oh God!’ He says ‘Exterminate!’ and then he goes, ‘Can we just take that bit again?’ It’s so funny. The Daleks are not scary now when they tell me to do that line again. But no, it’s such a sound. Even in the TV show when you hear the noise, it is a terrifying noise. So it’s scary working with them but lovely being directed by them in the form of Nick. And Paul is a lovely man. He’s brilliant. We’ve had a great old laugh.
It’s good that you’ve bonded so quickly as it helps forge the bond between the characters as well.
Yeah, and I guess what’s different about it is, when you’re doing screen or film or telly or theatre, you meet the actor and you’re looking in each other’s face all day, so you make a bond like you normally would with anybody. But when you’re in a booth beside each other, there’s no eye contact so you’re bonding through your voices and you can barely really look because the mic is in the way. But yeah, it was great and [Paul’s] just so good and he knows exactly what he’s doing. You know you’re in safe hands. He’s got a great sense of humour so there was lots of laughing from the off, and a few little dry comments, so it was just a load of fun. Non-stop laughing in the booth, me cracking up a few times. And being directed by Daleks. Who didn’t exterminate me, so that was grand.
So you’d happily do all this again, then?
Absolutely! I’d love to come back as Molly. And she’s learned so much during the course of these four episodes, I’d love to see what she’s like next time. I think she might want to take over the TARDIS and go, ‘You sit back there, Doctor, I’ll work this one, don’t worry about it’. She’s very eager to get going in the TARDIS. I’d love to revisit and see where she ends up.
For those wondering where they’ve seen you before, you played out-of-time Victorian Emily in Primeval, ITV’s dinosaur-based sci-fi show.
That was the first time I’d ever done sci-fi was Primeval, I’d never done anything like it before. And it was great because it was a real education, you know, with the man with the tennis ball on the stick and the lights on the ground. You just run riot with your imagination and I’d have moments going, ‘What a hilarious job I do for a living! Getting paid for running around and pretending there’s a dinosaur! It’s just a man with a tennis ball!’ But yeah, that was great fun. I did that for a good bit and have since done a sci-fi film, so I wouldn’t say no to sci-fi, it’s great craic.
Which leads neatly to asking where people can see you in action next.
I have a film coming out called Grabbers in a few months. It’s a kind of sci-fi about an alien monster who comes to a little fishing village, and I’m a hard-nosed policewoman and there’s an alcoholic policeman who live on this little island. Basically, we figure out the only way not to be eaten by this alien is if you’re drunk ’cos it’s allergic to alcohol in blood so it’s a sci-fi comedy romantic horror. We all have to get hammered, and it’s hilarious. And romantic. And quite scary!
Nicholas Briggs, on writing Dark Eyes...
'The story that eventually became Dark Eyes started to take shape in mid-2011, during a script meeting between myself and Alan Barnes. We discussed the question of ‘what next?’ for the Eighth Doctor, after his emotionally bruising experiences which had culminated in To The Death. There were two main original sources of inspiration, the movie The American (starring George Clooney) and the works of John Buchan, particularly The 39 Steps. We were talking about the idea of the Doctor on the run; but a Doctor who was being asked to go, reluctantly, through the motions again.
'By the time I began writing the script, these inspirations had moved right to the back of my mind. They were catalysts which had started me asking questions about why the Doctor behaves the way he does and how he manages to keep on trucking. I felt, quite keenly, that he could never keep going unless he had a belief in hope. So Dark Eyes, among other things, is a journey through the various types of relationship the Doctor has with hope...'
... on directing Dark Eyes...
'The ideas are embodied in the script, and these have to connect with the actors. In this case, I knew Paul McGann and I had an interest in common, the First World War. So, I thought this was the ideal time to explore it. The script provoked many interesting chats about that terrible time in history, with more than one of our number bringing in historical documents to stimulate our talks.
The chemistry is essential in working relationships. David Richardson did some really great casting - so we ended up with actors who engaged with the script and were good to work with. Central to all this was Paul’s enthusiasm, which was immense, and the working relationship that he and Ruth developed - which was truly lovely to behold.'