A decade of Doctors

Wednesday 24 March 2010, 15:20

Diane Keen Diane Keen Actress

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In September of 2002 my agent called and said I'd been asked to go and meet the producers of a show called Doctors. I must confess I'd never seen it, so I sat down and watched the show, trying to familiarise myself with the characters.

Diane Keen and her co-star Christopher Timothy on set in 2005

Immediately, I realised that the main character (Mac) was played by the actor Christopher Timothy. We'd first met when we did a film together, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush. I was offered the part of Julia, Mac's ex-wife, and told the character would be in the show for three months.

Almost eight years later, I'm still doing the show and Julia has certainly seen some changes both in her personal and professional life. Over the years she's remarried Mac, lost him again and gained a second surgery - I know which one I'd rather have!

She's been accused of blowing up the old surgery, been in prison, been almost strangled to death by a boyfriend, opened a super practice involving two separate surgeries, moved house and been proposed to by one of the most gorgeous guys on the planet (actor Ray Fearon) and turned him down! What was she thinking, the soppy twit! I mean how many times is THAT going to happen!

On a more personal note, I've watched as Doctors has grown up into a fully fledged stand-alone drama, garnering awards all over the place including best storyline for Vivien's rape at The Soap Awards last year, as well as best single episode at The Soap Awards in 2004, 2007 and 2009, best newcomer at the Soap Awards in 2005, and Michael McKell won best actor and I won best actress at the Royal Television Society Midland Awards in 2008.

It's not bad for a half hour daytime show which has never been actively promoted in a very big way and functions on a tiny budget. That means that all you guys out there who are so loyal to the show have helped, in no small way to make this possible.

I've been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful, talented actors while doing this show. Some are very well known indeed. This week I'm filming a big storyline with Susannah York, and people like Sylvia Syms, Eric Sykes, Brian Blessed and Barbara Dickson are just a few others who I've been lucky enough to appear with.

I remember the time Barbara came in to play one of Julia's best friends. We were filming in a rather dingy bar in the centre of town and the only place we could sit in-between scenes, wrapped in several layers of blankets because it was the middle of winter, was the loading bay next to the rubbish bins - how glamorous is that?

I also get to work with the best bunch of people in the world. The crew, the people in the production office, make-up artists, costume designers, writers, producers, runners, the art department and many, many more that make up the whole unit, not to mention the regular actors in the show.

In fact we all have lots of laughs every day. To be honest, if we didn't I don't think any of us could sustain the long hours and often trying conditions that we have to film in.

I remember one day in particular when Chris and I were filming all day in a sauna and spa. For some reason we both got the giggles so there were more retakes than there should have been and, consequently, when we finally got out we were both wrinkled like prunes which made us laugh even more, which resulted in even more retakes.

It's being part of such a close-knit team that makes it all possible. Nothing is ever what it seems and because we work three months ahead, we often find ourselves filming a summer scene, in summer clothes in the middle of January, in a snow storm and standing on three inches of ice!

Whenever I get some time off, I travel. It's a passion of mine and the extraordinary thing is that wherever I go in the world, people know me and tell me that they watch Doctors because this show is syndicated and goes out on BBC Entertainment (previously BBC Prime) in dozens of countries all over the world.

Backstage at Doctors - a make up artist applies power to Owen Brenman, who plays Doctor Heston Carter

One lady who lives in Zambia said that because they get so many power cuts there, she was missing the show so she went out and bought a generator, costing huge amounts of money, just so that she wouldn't miss any episodes! Apparently, all her friends go over to her house to watch the show. How's that for dedication?

During the 10 year run of Doctors some big events have taken place. Pebble Mill Studios was pulled down six years ago and we moved to the BBC Drama Village at the University of Birmingham. The transition was seamless and the show carried on as normal with a new surgery and new surroundings.

Three years ago it was decided that we would run through the entire year instead of being taken off for during the summer. This meant we needed to produce more episodes a year, 234 to be exact, so as there are only seven days in a week, the only way was to extend the days in order to shoot longer. Hence the advent of the dreaded triple banking.

That means three separate crews shooting three half hour episodes each, all filming at the same time! Yeah, I know, it takes some doing to remember where you are in each separate storyline, while shooting nine episodes at any given time and out of sequence, but we eventually got the hang of it.

Triple banking equals speed, so I guess we are allowed to feel proud of what is delivered to your screen five days a week, especially this special 10th birthday week. Here's to the next decade of Doctors!

Diane Keen plays Julia Parsons in Doctors

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    hi my little girl phoebe was the baby who played kate and macs premature baby she was born at 25 weeks and weighed 1ib 10oz and played a new born baby for 7 episodes shes now 9 years old

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.


    I still remember you in The Cuckoo Waltz. I used to love that.

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    Comment number 3.

    I still remember you as Sandra Gould in Crossroads.

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    Comment number 4.

    Hi Julia!

    I miss you all. We in Italy have now been deprived of BBC Entertainment since March 1. Like many others I never missed an epidsode (we are/were some 3 years behind the current UK episodes.) Goodness knows if we'll ever see you all again. What happened to Nick? Did he make it out of his wheelchair and why did he leave and why did all the other doctors (except lovely Jimmi) leave?

    Heck; why are you all so addictive?
    (And why oh why is BBCiplayer NOT available to those of us living abroad? Grossly unfair.)

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    Comment number 5.

    i love the show the cast do the best story line hope they keep up the gud work well done to every 1 on the show

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    Comment number 6.

    Hello to all Drs fans.........I just wanted to say that I bumped into Selina Chilton aka Ruth on Sat in High Wycombe.....what a fantastic lady she is, so friendly. I do hope I didn't inconvenience her in any way. I have watched her in Drs and have been truly impressed with her acting abilities......some of her story lines have been very harrowing, it would be nice if she could stay in Drs but I feel her talent will take her further afield!! If you read this Selina....thankyou for your tolerance, kindness & time, good luck to you & Smithy!!

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    Comment number 7.

    Hello All Drs fans,
    I have been watching Drs since day one!!
    I am in a state of limbo?
    I missed Lilly's departure, can anyone put me out of my misery and tell me how she was written out of the programme?
    My favourite storyline was involving Michelle, when she fell in love with Adam her brother, very moving and true to life, does anyone agree??

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    Comment number 8.

    a group of us out here have been fans of Doctors since it began. Unfortunately our access to the BBC Entertainment was cut off without notice on Mar 1 2010. We requested the BBC to make it available on broadband as they did with East Enders (we are in Central Italy) but they declined. It is very sad that we have lost you. 20 years of fighting for a decent BBC coverage out here has required much loyalty from us all - and we feel very down about this latest loss. Good luck with Doctors - we hope that if we ever get it back again we can find out what happened in the meantime. We also lost Casualty and Holby City - similar loyalty was also disregarded. We wonder what happened to Nick, Joe etc. Good to see that Julia survives. Katie Gore

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    Comment number 9.

    My fondest memory of you is when you were the "Foxy Lady."

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    Comment number 10.

    The best drama on tv tackling some very gritty issues. Diane did you write your book, i've been a fan for years and followed your career with interest. My favourite actress. May Doctors go from strength to strength. I tape every programme and watch them when i get home from school, after a taxing day it's like therapy:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Hi Diane, my name is Wayne and I'd like to get a message to Phillip McGough. I met him at a Virgin book launch some years ago. He said something to me that changed my life and I would like to thank him. I have tried to search for a fan page or social web page but to no avail. I spent most of the evening with him and just thought it would be nice to let him know what a huge difference he has made to my life.
    At the time I was getting nowhere fast but now am the Managing Director of a company which has built a Stadium for the 2012 Olympic games among other things. I wonder whether you could pass on my deepest thanks.

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    Comment number 12.

    I am a big fan of Doctors. I would like to find out more information about Zara Carmichaels black patent hand bag. Does anyone know where to get one from? Thanks

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    Comment number 13.

    Regarding Doctors: Now a retired Health Visitor/Midwife/SRN it is one medical show that I like to watch. One query: where are the district nurses and health visitors and midwifes, also the school nurses who could have superb roles and help to extend story lines within the practice.
    For instance, one, sometime back, where a lass was pregnant by the homosexual boyfriend who was going to a 'sect' who were trying to get him become 'normal'. His problem was 'solved' but we never got to know how she coped with her pregnancy.
    I am sure that there are some story lines that I and other members of the Health service would have no problem in letting you have to work on.
    But I do enjoy the weaving of storylines and their affect on the staff of the Mill. Unfortunately Charlie and is attitude to women is too true. When I was a young student nurse in the 1970's I was shocked by the attitude of the doctors and consultant - nearly all male then - had such power and tried to change this where I worked. Sadly going in for a knee op some 5 years ago I noticed that in some cases the attitude remains and must be because it has been condoned.
    Anyway, keep up the good work.
    By the way, I really like Julia's hairstyle.

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    Comment number 14.

    Just noticed that Doctors will not be on this week. How about the upcoming weeks? When does it come back on?

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    Comment number 15.

    No reply to your comment yet Ames ! On the doctors web page it says "Sorry no future programmes coming up" . does this mean never? No one is saying and i have not received a reply from an email i sent to the BBC enquiries.I did read in the press a few weeks ago that it may be axed due to cuts but you think that there would be some notice of that somewhere. Well its a shame .Hopefully anonther channel will pick it up like C5 did with Neighbours.

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    Comment number 16.

    Doctors will be back when Wimbledon finishes.
    Always takes a two week break during the tournament, but this year because of the World Cup took three.

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    Comment number 17.

    hurry back im havin withdrawal symptoms :)) its my daily routine to watch online every eve :) love the show

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    Comment number 18.

    Where is Doctors? They've disappeared from iPlayer!

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    Comment number 19.

    Hello everyone, thanks for your comments.

    To answer some of your points... Ames, duckbell and Peter - you can check all the programme times for BBC One and BBC HD on the upcoming episodes page on the Doctors website.

    thefootball and katie g - there's lots of information on the iPlayer help pages which explains why not all programmes are available to watch internationally.

    Fiona, TV blog editor

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    Comment number 20.

    i do love doctors the only thing that annoys me is when the characters or in the surgery both sergery is the consent background of it sounds like traffic or people talking it is annoying. does anyone else hate this and can something be done about it


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