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22 July 2014
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ShadaI'm sure you know all about Paul McGann, Lalla Ward and John Leeson, so there's nothing I need tell you about them - except perhaps what an absolute joy they were during the recording.

Paul was everything one could wish for from a leading man: warm, witty, and fired up with enthusiasm for the project. Lalla was bubbling over with fond reminiscences about the original production, and she also had plenty of fresh ideas about Romana which were incorporated into the new version.

Lalla is also a great crossword enthusiast, which is something we have in common, although she's quite a lot faster than I am. And I have to confess that my heart leapt unexpectedly during the read-through when John Leeson delivered his first line as K9 - I think that was the moment I realised we were doing proper Doctor Who!

Casting the actors who would work alongside Paul, Lalla and John was one of the biggest challenges. I've always believed that good casting accounts for a substantial proportion of the director's job: a bad director will fritter away the rehearsal process trying to coax miscast actors into doing things they aren't comfortable with, whereas a good director takes a bit of time to cast the right people in the first place. That, at least, is what I try to do!

I've been asked if I was ever tempted to approach members of the original Shada company. That was certainly an option to which I gave serious consideration, but in the end I decided that we should have an all-new cast.

There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, and most obviously, I wouldn't have been able to reconvene the entire cast of the 1979 version, because some of them are sadly no longer with us.

Secondly, a couple of the characters are Cambridge students - so, again, I felt that I needed actors who would sound younger than the people who played those characters nearly a quarter of a century ago!

And thirdly, I simply felt that for this production to succeed on its own merits, we needed to break the ties with the unfinished TV version and achieve a clear identity of our own. I have the utmost respect for the original Shada cast, but my feeling was that we should wipe the slate clean and begin afresh.

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