The BBC’s Creative Producer, Live Entertainment, Jeff Parker, on making Doctor Who: Time Fracture a reality

Creative Producer Jeff Parker discusses the scale of the epic brand extension: Doctor Who: Time Fracture

Jeff, you’re a Creative Producer at the BBC, with specific responsibility for live entertainment. On what kind of things do you work?
I work across a broad spectrum of events and brands. It’s a very varied role: one minute I could be working on a visitor attraction and the next might be a live concert. Right now, we’re in the final stages of development on the upcoming Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder exhibition which opens at the World Museum, Liverpool in May.

Really? Okay… Consider yourself booked in for a return interview! Now this might sound like a daft question but what does a producer actually do? For what are you responsible?
As Creative Producer, I have a responsibility to ensure that the narrative and storytelling delivers on each of our brand’s core message. If I take Doctor Who as an example, I’ll work closely with our licensees to ensure that the creative is reflective of the brand’s long heritage and high quality, keeping a close eye on the details ensuring that any story arcs are editorially accurate.

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who

I also have a remit to come up with new event ideas and formats that showcase our output in the live space, and to ensure I keep up to date with the latest show and event technologies. There’s also the small responsibility of ensuring that the vast array of Doctor Who props and costumes from across the show’s history are curated and stored for future use once they’re finished with on set.

I love it! It’s all so niche and specific. Jeff, how did you get interested in this line of work?
Theatre and entertainment have been in my family for many years. Both my parents used to take me around the country as a child, on various touring shows. I’ve always had a passion for live entertainment and music and I kind of just fell into it.

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who
How did you start out?

I started out as an Assistant Stage Manager – with the odd stint on stage – and that led into events work. A role came up at what was BBC Worldwide for an Event Manager… And here I am 11 years later.

Terrific! And as you know, we interviewed your colleague – Vanessa Hamilton – last year. She told us a little about Doctor Who: Time Fracture… For the uninitiated, what is it?
Doctor Who: Time Fracture is a ‘choose your own adventure’ style experience where patrons can determine their own path through the story. There are 38 actors in the show, and 17 different worlds to discover. The show is set in a 3,000 square metre space over two floors in a repurposed building in Mayfair. Over 20 hours of content have been created for a two-and-a-half-hour show, and you can have a new experience each time you visit.

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who
Wow. It’s epic! Just so I can fully comprehend the scale of it, how many people are involved in the experience day to day?

It takes a big team to put together an experience of this scale. At the venue, there are 38 cast members, and 14 crew, as well as front-of-house and bar staff. Then you have people behind the scenes at both Immersive Everywhere and BBC Studios looking after marketing and communications.

Immersive Everywhere has a fantastic reputation. I must reach out to them! And without giving any spoilers, what’s the plot?
The Doctor needs you! The Universe as we know it is at stake – now is the time to step up and be the hero. For decades, in a quiet corner of Mayfair, London, a dangerous rift in time and space has been monitored by a group of loyal members of the long-thought-disbanded Unified Intelligence Taskforce – or UNIT for short.

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who
Look at me, I’m totally hooked!

Well, until now they’ve managed to protect the people of Earth from the threat the rift poses but, weakened and beaten back as the Time Fracture grows out of control, they’re now close to defeat.

And naturally, I as a middle-aged writer, at a loose end with a ragtag group of friends, am best equipped to help! You mention UNIT there… Out of interest, to what degree do visitors have to be familiar with Doctor Who to take part?
You could be the biggest fan in the universe or have never seen the show, there is something for everyone within Doctor Who: Time Fracture. You might want to be the hero that helps save the universe, or you might just want to hang out on Zaggit Zagoo, sipping on a delicious cocktail or two and taking in the beautiful vocals from the resident alien singers.

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who
Sounds really interesting. Let me ask you this… What can a live Doctor Who experience add to the brand that can’t be achieved through other media?

Where else can you get up close to an Ood assassin, or come face to face with the evil Daleks? It gives fans the opportunity to be at the heart of the story and feel as though they’re in their own unique Doctor Who adventure. It’s the closest thing to being in an episode of the show itself.

And on that subject, the show is both enormous and labyrinthine. When developing it in such a dynamic way, how do you decide where to start?
Very good question. I love to work collaboratively and with a broad spectrum of people. There’s a lot of truth in the phrase “There’s no such thing as a bad idea”… Gathering people together from across different teams can really spark the imagination and tap into their knowledge of the brand. Take Vanessa for example; her knowledge is fantastic and she’s been to many fan events – so she has a good insight from both a brand and a fan perspective.

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who
What’s the creative process beyond that? Walk us through it!

We can take all this valuable information and – working closely with the creatives of our licensees – start to build the narrative. From here we can dial down on the story we want to tell, and the characters we think should be involved. I would then work with Vanessa, our editorial guru Gabby DeMateiss and the Doctor Who production team to ensure our story aligns with the show’s history and is true to the brand. It’s really important that we work as a close-knit team to ensure we deliver the best products.

What was the biggest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?
I would honestly have to say that the COVID 19 pandemic was the biggest challenge to everyone involved in the project. While I can’t say it was a problem we could overcome, we did try and take a positive from it and use the time to tweak certain elements of the show and initiate changes we ordinarily wouldn’t have had time to do.

And I was going to ask you what’s next, but you said earlier that you’re working on the Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder Exhibition. When does that launch?
That launches in May this year. After that, I also have a few other exciting projects on some of our other fantastic brands – but for now they are a secret!

Jeff Parker, The BBC, Doctor Who
Naturally! Well I hope you’ll come back and talk about some of those. I really enjoyed this Jeff. Let’s start wrapping it up… What’s the one question I should’ve asked you but didn’t?

What’s a surprising fact about you?

Bloody good question! Do you know what? I might nick that and start asking everyone! For now, though, what’s the answer?
I had the pleasure of taking on the role of Mr Blobby in the pantomime Aladdin.

Yes! Little did I know that the skills of being a character performer would later come in handy for directing and choreographing Cybermen and Daleks in our live shows. It’s a skill set I hold dear to this day.

The mind boggles! Brilliant. Alright, let’s wrap it up by giving Time Fracture one big plug… If people want to come along, where do they go to find out more?

Fantastic! Jeff; thank you so much. A great pleasure!

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