Once, Upon Time features the Doctor Who debut of new director Azhur Saleem. Blogtor Who looks at his past and exciting future. And see his own short film Muse
With its single story concept, Doctor Who: Flux requires a consistent visual vocabulary rare in Doctor Who. As we flit between 18th century Liverpool, the Temple of Atropos and Lopari spaceships, they may all look different from each other, but they must always be recognizably the same world. Especially when we revisit the same location from episode to episode. To that end, Flux uses only two directors, each taking on three episodes. While old hand Jamie Magnus Stone took on the first two episodes and next week’s Village of the Angels, Doctor Who newcomer Azhur Saleem directs this weekend’s Once, Upon Time and the final two chapters. But if this is first time aboard the TARDIS as a director, where else might you have seen his work?
In fact, Saleem is a fresh face on the directing scene, with Doctor Who one of his first big jobs. A graduate of the London Film School, he’s taken the path of many new directors of writing and producing his own short films in order to showcase and hone his directorial skills. And the results certainly highlight as a name to watch out for. They include Muse, available as part of the Dust YouTube channel, a tight, suspenseful SF horror story about a mercurial painter and his devoted android assistant. You can also see Muse, as well as Saleem’s other short films, on his official site. From steampunk dystopias to urban alien hunts, they’re ideal viewing for Doctor Who fans.
After Doctor Who, Azhur Salem’s directing Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys
But Saleem is also familiar with large, complex series. He was director Alice Troughton’s assistant on Baghdad Central, the war torn crime drama about an Iraqi police officer trying to hold his world together after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Troughton herself is a familiar name at BBC Wales. She directed the Doctor Who episodes The Doctor’s Daughter and Midnight, along with several episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. Another of Saleem’s mentors was Colin Teague, who directed The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords and The Fires of Pompeii. It seems likely both directors tipped Azhur Saleem as a potential future star and good fit for Doctor Who.
But Doctor Who is only half of Saleem’s arrival as a name to remember this year. Even before his episodes of Flux begin to air, he’s already filming his next big project. He’s directing all six episodes of Amazon Prime’s Anansi Boys. Adapted from the award winning novel from Neil Gaiman (The Doctor’s Wife, Good Omens), the uproarious adventure features downtrodden Londoner Charlie Nancy discovers his late father was the trickster god Anansi. Soon the timid young man is unable to rid himself of his previously unknown, and utterly chaotic, twin brother Spider. Spider is the inheritor of all their father’s magic and blows into his long lost brother’s life like a whirlwind.
Across the six episodes, there’ll be murder, blackmail, kidnapping, and the vendettas of ancient deities. And also, Charlie, who just wants his quiet life back. With Gaiman and Douglas Mackinnon, the team behind Good Omens, aboard, Anansi Boys is set to be just as faithful, heartfelt and funny as the novel.
Packed with intrigue and action, Once, Upon Time promises to be peak Doctor Who
Sunday night’s Once, Upon Time will be many viewers first chance to see Azhur Saleem’s work as a director. It promises to be reveal more about the Temple of Atropos at the sinister plans of Swarm and Azure. It’s also set to fill the screen with action and drama, and some of Doctor Who’s greatest monsters. As first Doctor Who episodes go, it has everything you could hope for.
Doctor Who: Flux continues this Sunday at 6.30pm on BBC One, and on BBC America in the US, with Chapter Three: Once, Upon Time
“Time is beginning to run wild”. On a planet that shouldn’t exist, in the aftermath of apocalypse, the Doctor, Dan, Yaz and Vinder face a battle to survive.