Interview with Edward Russell (Account Manager for the Doctor Who Brand)

 

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, I shall be conducting several interviews throughout the year with members of the Doctor Who team past and present. The first in the series is an interview with the Account Manager for the Doctor Who Brand, Edward Russell. Extra thanks to Edward for letting me use some of his personal pictures!

Hello Edward. Some of the less “in the know” readers might wonder what exactly a brand manager does. How would you describe it?
My job is to oversee all of the “off screen” activity. By that, I mean everything to do with Doctor Who that isn’t the 45 minute show that goes out on BBC One. So, I work with the teams who do the publicity, marketing, photos, websites etc. and make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs. I also work alongside colleagues at BBC Worldwide who look after the commercial exploitation of Doctor Who, to make sure that anything with the Doctor Who name on it – whether it’s a toy, a book or even promotion of the show overseas – is every bit as brilliant as people expect from Doctor Who. 

I’ve been working on the show since David Tennant’s first series, so I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. It’s nice to have been some of the consistency. It’s a huge responsibility, but I love it. Largely because I work with such talented people both inside and outside the BBC.
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You are probably fed up of telling this story but can you tell us how exactly you were involved with Kylie Minogue’s appearance in the 2007 Doctor Who Christmas Special?
I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of this story! We were at the launch for Series 3 in London, early 2007 and I was chatting to my friends Claylton Hickman and Will Baker. Will is Kylie’s stylist and also a huge Doctor Who fan. We joked about getting Kylie on the show and said we really should do it. We wandered over to Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner who said “well, if you can make it happen – why not?”.

The next day, Will called me to say that he was seeing Kylie over the weekend and could I get him an episode. I sent The Runaway Bride as it was the most recent Xmas Special. On the Monday, Will said “I think she’ll do it”. The next stage was to set up a meeting between Russell and Julie with Kylie. I think that happened the following Friday and the rest – of course – is history.

I can’t begin to tell you how fun it was to meet Kylie and work with her. It was a horrible, wet summer in Cardiff, but every day you’d wander in and chat with Kylie Minogue! On her final evening, we drank cocktails and danced together. I will take those memories to my grave!

Recently you contributed to Who Peter for the Doctor Who DVD range. What sort of experience was that?
That’s such an excellent programme. The producer, Chris Chapman, has made some really good extras for the DVDs and he dropped me a line to ask for Russell’s involvement.Russell was more than happy to do this as he is a big fan of Richard Marson, who oversaw Who Peter (and, of course, was the Editor for Blue Peter for many years). I did a short interview too and was delighted that it got used. It was quite moving, wasn’t it? There is a strong tie between Doctor Who and Blue Peter and I love they way this programme scrutinised that history.
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Do you think that Doctor Who is an easy brand to promote and manage because of the massive amounts of merchandise that goes with it or that it is harder because the series is so unique? 

I’d say it’s a very hard job. Everyone wants a part of Doctor Who because it’s so successful and such high quality. But it means different things to different people. For some people, it’s a camp piece of nonsense, for others, it’s a religious experience. So how do we manage it? I think they secret is to always take ourselves seriously and never to slack on the detail.
 
Can you tell us anything about what is coming up for the 50th anniversary of the show?
Not a word! But it will be great, I am certain of that. You’ve seen the Royal Mail stamps that are being released in the Spring? Fans can expect more Doctor Who experiences of that quality and scale.
 
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When you receive the scripts for the new series do you ever think that maybe there is something them that could damage the series image? In other words have you ever thought that something that is in a certain script can’t be done?
 
An interesting question, but the answer is no. The writer will have worked closely with the script editor and the producer and any problems will have been ironed out well before a script comes to me. If anything, I tend to be consulted on my knowledge of Doctor Who as I’m a lifelong fan. I’m always really flattered to be asked questions about UNIT dating, etc.!
Last year the Doctor Who community and the acting community lost a great friend and hero, Elisabeth Sladen. You did a fantastic charity run in support of the hospice that took care of Elisabeth. How did that come about?
I walked from Cardiff to London – 160 miles and was extremely proud to raise £20,000 for the Meadow House Hospice. I had been terribly fond of Lis. I had grown up loving her character and she didn’t disappoint in real life. She’d love to gossip and we had a couple of really special times. I hadn’t realised how ill she was and was very upset when she died. I remember working into the night to help manage the release of the news and it was so difficult. When her family told us that they wanted donations to go to the hospice, I felt that there was something more that I could do other than just giving people the details.

It was hard work to train. I was preparing to be walking about 25 miles per day. But I loved every minute of it. I couldn’t believe how much money it raised. So many people loved Lis and I think they were able to donate to this cause as a focus for their grief. It’s the least I could do for the lifetime of happiness that Elisabeth Sladen gave to Doctor Who fans.
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You were involved heavily with 2010’s Doctor Who bus tour around the UK introducing children to the new Doctor, Matt Smith. How did the tour come about? Whose idea was it?
 
That was a crazy time! To launch the Eleventh Doctor’s first series, we took Matt and Karen on a bus around the whole of the UK, startling in Belfast, travelling across the sea to Scotland, then down through England. At every stop, we met school children and showed them The Eleventh Hour. I think that week was even more exhausting than the walk to London! It was Piers Wenger’s idea and an absolutely inspired one. The logistics of making it happen were utterly crazy. We had a call sheet that organised everything for everyone down to the last minute. We even had a line where someone was responsible for ordering pizzas between Salford and Northampton because we had calculated that no one would have time to eat once we got to the venue.
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How do you work with the production team? Are you very much involved with the show as in being on the set or are you more in an office sending off emails?
I sit in the Doctor Who Production office so I’m very much part of the team. I generally only go to set if there’s a particular reason. I might need to speak to Matt or Jenna, for example. But I must admit, I do pop along sometimes when I know they’re filming something particularly exciting. The first day of filming on the new TARDIS set, for example.

But no two days are the same on Doctor Who. Helping to produce 9 shows of Murray Gold’s music at the Sydney Opera House last month made a bit of a change from the BBC Wales offices.
What do you think the future of Doctor Who is from a brand management point of view? Is it bright or not as good as it could be?
The future is every bit as bright as our fantastic new title sequence!
 
Thank you for talking to us Edward, it has been great.
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10 responses to “Interview with Edward Russell (Account Manager for the Doctor Who Brand)

  1. Thank you very much for this interview! I love the insight into the background workings of the show, as it’s something I consider to be a dream job. 🙂 (art department, graphic design,etc) He’s someone who does a tremendous amount for the show that you probably don’t hear a lot about!

  2. Reblogged this on loonyliterature and commented:

    This is from our sister site The Consulting Detective. It is a really interesting interview and Edward Russell gave two of the photographs from his own collection – one with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill – one with none other than Kylie Minogue.

  3. Great post! So good that the less-than-celebs, who break their backs working for the teams without any cred, have been brought to the fore!

  4. Why is this page dated the 1st of February?
    In the UK like most other countries we use the format d/mm/yyyy
    Is Doctor Who now made by the US and not the UK?
    Or has somebody used the TARDIS to travel into the future to post this page?
    Posted on 5/01/2013

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