Acclaimed TV and movie director Mark Tonderai has helmed two episodes this season; The Ghost Monument and Rosa.
One word you’ll see in any piece covering the work of new Doctor Who director Mark Tonderai is “cinematic”. Having worked on both the big screen and the small screen, his defining characteristic as a television director has been to create imagery no less lush and exciting than you’d expect in a prestigious motion picture. Only only a fraction of the budget. This year he’s bringing that skill to The Ghost Monument and Rosa.
Mark Tonderai was born in London as one of eighteen siblings, but educated in Zimbabwe. The extent of his directorial talents is all the more remarkable considering the circuitous route he took to that profession. He first came to prominence last century as a DJ, presenting The Mark Tonderai Show on BBC Radio 1. Around 2001 he migrated into managing the chaos of such shows as Sky One’s Prickly Heat – the ‘reality TV game show’ which was like a mad mix of Love Island and It’s a Knockout. Tonderai also did work writing, directing and editing segments for Mark Wright vehicle Friday Night’s All Wright. From there, Tonderai tried his hand at acting and scored a number of small roles in productions like Holby City and Kevin and Perry Go Large.
Mark Tonderai is known for bringing a cinematic style to the small screen
In fact, it wasn’t until 2008 that his first work as a drama director appeared. The violent thriller Hush was both directed by Tonderai from his own script. Hush mixed familiar horror elements together in new ways with visual flair. Its tale of a young couple who become locked in combat with a mysterious, faceless lorry driver. Having glimpsed his sinister cargo, they themselves become targets while fighting to uncover the truth. Tonderai went on to win praise for accomplishing so much style with such little budget. Hush led to sitting in the director’s chair for the more high profile House at the End of the Street starring Jennifer Lawrence. The Psycho inspired tale of malleable identity and serial murder proved a showcase of Tonderai’s innovate compositions and use of colour.
On television, he’s chiefly known for directing all ten episodes of complex and atmospheric series The Five, adapted from Harlan Corben’s twist filled novel. But, among his many projects, he’s also directed three episodes of the always visually gorgeous Gotham, detailing the teenage Bruce Wayne’s steady march towards his destiny, and post-Doctor Who, will next be seen directing Nightflyers, the science fiction drama from the mind of Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin.
From Desolation to Alabama
Mark Tonderai is directing two episodes of Doctor Who this season. The first, The Ghost Monument, took full advantage of his gift for both horror and cinematic imagery. While the second, Rosa, engages his stated desire to tell stories about racial injustice and the inequalities of power. Both were shot in South Africa, and while neither are set in Africa (rather on the alien planet of Desolation, and 1950s Alabama respectively) Tonderai has spoken before about his passion for Africa and for stories of the African experience, so the shoot will like have a unique energy in Doctor Who.
Tonderai reportedly gets a new tattoo for every project (for The Five, it was the phrase ‘Take a position.’) What design he got to mark his time on Doctor Who has yet to be revealed. But it will probably represent the beauty, danger, and humanity that are the hallmarks of both Doctor Who and Tonderai’s work.
Doctor Who: the adventure continues…
Doctor Who airs on BBC One at 6.55pm on Sundays. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).
The Ghost Monument
Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo? Directed by Mark Tonderai.
Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder: is someone attempting to change history? Directed by Mark Tonderai.