Currently directing two episodes of Doctor Who, Daniel Nettheim has a family connection with the iconic BBC series.
Nettheim’s late uncle David Nettheim was as an actor who worked in the UK in the 1960s and 70s. In 1967 he played a villain opposite the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton.
“There's a lot of personal connection for me with this show," says Nettheim, who moved with his family to the UK in 2013 after a 15-year career in Oz, where he directed the feature The Hunter and multiple episodes of such shows as Dance Academy, Rush, Spirited, The Secret Life of Us and All Saints.
"I was obsessed with it as a kid when Tom Baker was the Doctor. And my own kids are obsessed with it now. They convinced me to take the job, even though it means spending months away from the family because production takes place in Cardiff.
“Working on Doctor Who is like being handed a huge box of amazing toys. It seems to bring out the inner child in all involved. I've gone into the production with wide-eyed wonder at the sheer scope and imagination of the storytelling. There are people on the crew who have been doing this show for ten years and they still feel the same way.”
A huge fan of the current Time Lord, Nettheim said, “Peter Capaldi is a vastly experienced and well known actor, but he's embraced his role as The Doctor with the enthusiasm of someone handed their first ever acting job. He's also an Oscar winning director (for short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life), so his commitment is not just to the role but the whole process. He's a genius with the dialogue and very refreshing to watch on set.”
The episodes featuring his late uncle entitled The Enemy of the World were believed to have been erased by the BBC decades ago, but in 2013 a set of tapes was discovered by a collector and remastered by the Beeb.
On the first day of pre-production Nettheim was presented with a DVD of the episodes, which no one in his family had seen. “The production values weren't great in those days but the imagination behind the show was amazing,” he said.
The Sydney-born director’s first job in the UK was helming the ITV thriller Whitechapel, followed by the BBC police drama Line of Duty and the Channel 4/ AMC sci-fi series Humans, which stars William Hurt.
“Working with William Hurt on Humans was an interesting experience,” he said. “The series is about the rise of artificial intelligence, a subject he has a passionate intellectual interest in, stretching back way before he made A.I Artificial Intelligence with Steven Spielberg.
“I'm sure he chose the role for this reason and he had some strong convictions about the way the subject matter was treated. It made for some lively backstage discussion.”
Despite his UK success, Nettheim and his family plan to return later this year. In July he will direct two episodes of Essential Media and Entertainment’s Jack Irish series for the ABC.
“Australian TV can be as creative and ambitious and relevant as drama being made anywhere in the world,” he said. “Australia's definitely my base again but I plan to return to the UK for work as often as I can."