A behind-the-scenes look at the making of a movie

Charles Wood

Charles Wood

Charles and ColleenSinister Pair
The Master (Charles Wood) and Princess Felina (Colleen Parker) demonstrate the evil looks that won them their parts in “Dark Alliance,” a “Doctor Who” film.

First published in the Zebulon Record in 1984.

It was the latter part of June and things were a little slow around Lizard Lick.

I had just got back from the mountains a few weeks before, where I had spent most of my time snowed in and doing nothing much but watching television.

It was during my stay there that I had run up on a very entertaining show called “Doctor Who.” This show was British and it was about a man from another planet who traveled through time and space in something called a TARDIS, which is shaped like a British telephone booth.

Now, I’m a real space nut and, when I got back from the mountains, I kept watching the show. Then I got to thinking how much fun it would be to travel in a TARDIS.

One day, I picked up a copy of the Zebulon Record and saw an article written by a friend of mine, Colleen Parker. Strangely enough, it was about how much she liked “Doctor Who!” I made it a point to mention the article to Colleen the next time I saw her.

To my surprise, Colleen said she was in the process of helping write a script for an original “Doctor Who” movie called “Dark Alliance,” which was to be filmed locally over the summer. She explained that they needed a tall, dark and handsome man to play the part of a villain called The Master.

Now, being tall, dark and handsome myself, I said, “Hey, I’ll do it!” To my shock, Colleen and the director of the film, Peter Fagan, said, “You got it, pal.” They then turned me over to the costume and makeup departments.

Though I fully understood that my character would be blown up at the end of the movie, I knew that I would at least last though most of the film. I had always wanted to see a movie made from beginning to end, so, even though I didn’t come in until about Act III, I went to watch them film the first scenes, which were the destruction of a Federation space station.

It was a very unusual experience being in the movie, because we filmed “out-of-sequence.” We filmed all of the scenes that were to be made from each set at one time, then went on to the next location. This is the way the BBC, who makes the “Doctor Who” series, films.

With each new location and set, came different characters. Until I saw the finished product, I really didn’t understand the entire movie. For instance, in one scene I was standing in a hallway with with my laser pointed at an alien creature called a Vardarn giving him 10 minutes to surrender.

The strange part was, there was no Vardarn there in front of me. The guy who played him was sitting back on a sofa off camera, watching me sweat, while I talked straight at the camera. Later, we filmed the Vardarn’s close-ups and dialogue, then edited the two pieces of film together to show the conversation in its entirety.

Peter Fagan and Sue Carl, who was sound technician, kept things running smoothly - most of the time, that is. But, on several occasions, as it got later and later and we got tireder and tireder, things kind of disintegrated into confusion. We blew our lines and Pete would yell at us. Then we would get giggly and couldn’t stop laughing.

The strangest part of the movie to me was that I played opposite a character called Princess Felina. We first saw Felina as a black cat. Then, with a few tricks of the camera, she was transformed into a human villainess, played by none other than Colleen Parker herself!

There were a lot of bit parts played by area college and high school “Who” fans, but the main cast consisted of seven or eight adults. The Doctor was played by Laurence Klein (who we all call Sir Laurence) of Chapel Hill. Sir Laurence found that wearing a curly wig to look like Tom Baker (the actor who played the Doctor on the BBC show) can be a trying experience. One or the other of us (and it was usually Princess Felina) was always tugging at his curls.

The Doc’s traveling companion, Sarah Jane Smith, started out by being played by Karen Courtney. Then Sarah had a little accident with a time-reverser and became a 10-year old, played by Colleen’s daughter, Jenny. Of all the characters in the movie, Jenny stole the show. She even used a perfect British accent and could remember her rather long dialogues better than the adults could.

The filming took about 15 hours each day. We were in makeup and costumes by 9 a.m. and finished up around midnight if we were lucky.

Around 4 p.m. one Sunday, we hadn’t had a break since early morning and we wanted something to eat. We couldn’t change out of our costumes and makeup because we still had scenes to do, so several members of the cast piled into the van dressed as aliens, heroes and villains, and went looking for a fast food restaurant.

We found a Bojangles Chicken restaurant. Well, everybody felt like chicken (and looked like turkeys), so we all went in to get a couple of buckets of chicken to take back to the set.

As we went in, we noticed we were getting strange looks. The people in line stepped aside and we paraded up to the counter. The guy behind the register asked if he could help us (and we looked like we needed help). He gave us the fastest bucket of chicken ever ordered and someone even held the door open for us to be sure we had it “to go.”

As we left, one guy muttered, “They’re getting ready for Halloween early, aren’t they?”

As we walked across the parking lot, some folks gathered at the window to watch us take off in our spaceship. They were surprised to see us climb aboard a Ford to make our getaway!

Finally, the movie was finished. It was fun to make and seeing the finished product was amazing. We held “sneak previews” of it on the N.C. State University campus and at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It met with enthusiastic response and everyone asked us when we will be making another film.

I’ve heard a rumor that there’s one on the drawing board now. It will be filmed in this area next summer, so anyone interested in acting or doing technical work on it, call me or Colleen Parker.

Meanwhile, you can see “Dark Alliance” when it officially premieres at CONTRAST, a “Doctor Who” convention to be held at Mission Valley Inn in Raleigh Friday-Sunday, Nov. 16-18. If all goes well, I, along with the rest of the crew, will be there in costume Saturday for the grand showings.

Besides seeing the film, CONTRAST will offer “Who” fans a chance to meet Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who No. 3) and Lis Sladen (Sarah), stars of the BBC series. They are special guests at the convention and we hope they see the film and know we local folks made it because we admire their show and the characters they play.

I’m looking forward to seeing them and the movie. You are invited to join us at CONTRAST. Information and ticket prices are here. We hope to see all of our friends there.

Oh, one thing more - I will be signing autographs! Don’t miss it.