Geoffrey Sax is a BAFTA-winning director who helmed the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie starring Paul McGann. Active as a director since 1979, his long career has afforded him the opportunity to work with some of the most significant figures in Doctor Who — and British televisual — history.
Sax' early career was dominated by work in comedy. One of his first jobs was to direct the Rowan Atkinson short Canned Laughter in 1979. That same year, he directed Cannon & Ball with the famous, eponymous British light entertainers. He moved on to the somewhat experimental comedy End of Part One, which garnered him two BAFTA nominations. Around the same time, he directed the television adaptation of Jim Broadbent's two-man play, Messiah. He directed a few episodes of the seminal satire Spitting Image.
In 1986 came his first feature-length movie, The Disputation with Christopher Lee. His next major series, however, was The New Statesman, starring Patrick Troughton's son, Michael. This was a career highlight. He directed all episodes of the first two series, won a BAFTA for them, then handed it over to Graeme Harper, who finished out the run.
Around this time, roughly 1989-1991, Sax worked on one of the highest-profile shows of the day, writer Robert Banks Stewart's extremely popular Bergerac, which included guest-starring roles for George Baker, Jack Galloway and Louise Jameson.
During the early part of the 1990s, he also helmed a couple of serials. The first to broadcast was Sleepers, written by Meglos scribes Andrew McCulloch and John Flanagan. The dramedy set in the glasnost-era Soviet Union was executive produced by Verity Lambert and starred Nigel Havers and Michael Gough. This was swiftly followed by the 1992 serial Framed, starring Timothy Dalton, Timothy West and David Morrissey.
During these opening years of the decade, he had occasion to work with other high-profile British actors. In 1993, he directed Derek Jacobi in the television movie Circle of Deceit. He also did a few episodes of the popular Lovejoy series, in which he directed John Gielgud and Donald Pleasance. His last gig prior to Doctor Who was the Tom Selleck theatrical release, Broken Trust.
A new Doctor
After Doctor Who
Sax was approached by Julie Gardner to direct the first series of the TV revival of Doctor Who, but wasn't available, which he has since regretted. He was also considered to direct one of the Eleventh Doctor Christmas specials, but was again unavailable. (DCOM: Myth Makers: Geoffrey Sax)
As things turned out, Doctor Who was wedged between two Tom Selleck movies for Sax. The one before Doctor Who had been Broken Trust. The one after was Ruby Jean and Joe, also released in 1996. Whilst in North America he also took a stab at the Dracula myth with the Van Helsing Chronicles. By 1998 he was back directing British television in the form of an Internet horror serial called Killer Net.
In 2000, he directed a couple of episodes of the BAFTA-winning Clocking Off — one of Murray Gold's earliest television gigs. His two series 1 episodes gave him a chance to work with Christopher Eccleston and Sarah Lancashire, not to mention the pre-Life on Mars Philip Glenister.
He returned to direct Eccleston in the extremely well-regarded 2001 adaptation of Othello. To Doctor Who fans, the production was interesting because of its fusion of staff from the 1996 movie and the 2005 revival that was yet to come. It was, after all, directed by Sax, co-produced by Julie Gardner, co-executive produced by Jo Wright, cast by Andy Pryor and starred Eccleston and Bill Paterson. It earned Gardner and Sax a BAFTA nomination for best single drama. Though they didn't win, the film won BAFTAs in other categories. The production won several non-British awards, including a Peabody, but Sax was not specifically named in those nominations, as he had been for the BAFTA nod.
In 2002, he directed the four-part serial Widows for North American television. The show starred American talents like Brooke Shields, Rosie Perez and Mercedes Ruehl — but it was based on a British drama from the 1980s that had originally been executive produced by Verity Lambert.
Sax' next effort was almost as well-received as his Othello. 2002's Tipping the Velvet garnered him awards at several international competitions. Although it re-united Sax with Othello's Keeley Hawes the biggest Doctor Who connection was that it co-starred Alexei Sayle and future guest stars Rachael Stirling and Hugh Bonneville.
The telefilm Margery and Gladys came next, and it would place him in the company of British television legends Penelope Keith and June Brown in the eponymous roles, as well as co-star Roger Lloyd Pack.
Sax then moved back into the theatres for 2005's Michael Keaton thriller, White Noise, which also featured Ian McNeice. In 2006, Sax added to his theatrical resume with Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. The film was to have started an Alex Rider franchise and had an all-star cast, which included Bill Nighy, Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Fry, Ewan McGregor and others. However, it, like Doctor Who before it, utterly failed with American audiences. Embarrassingly, it didn't even take a million dollars in the US and didn't break even based on worldwide theatrical receipts.
Sax' next two projects weren't for several years, but both were critically well-received. 2010's limited theatrical release, Frankie and Alice, won approval from several awards-granting bodies for both the picture itself and Halle Berry's performance. Meanwhile, Christopher and His Kind, a BBC telefilm, satisfied critics from The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph while giving Sax the opportunity to work with Matt Smith and Toby Jones.
More recently, Sax has directed five episodes of the ITV historical drama series Victoria starring Jenna Coleman.
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