Graeme Harper has had a long and varied career in theater and television. He was originally a child actor, appearing in adaptations of The Silver Sword and The Pickwick Papers amongst other productions, before becoming a floor assistant at the BBC in 1965 and then an assistant floor manager in 1969. He worked on various productions in this capacity, including the Doctor Who serials “Colony in Space,” “Planet of the Daleks,” and “Planet of the Spiders” (during the Jon Pertwee years). In 1975, he was promoted again, this time to production assistant. One of the first productions he was assigned to was the Doctor Who serial, “The Seeds of Doom.”
In 1980, he was assigned to be the production assistant for the Doctor Who serial, “Warriors’ Gate” (during the Tom Baker era). After working on that serial, he started on the BBC’s director’s course, completing it in 1982. In 1983 he was offered work on Doctor Who, but only freelance directors could be employed at that time, so Harper resigned from the BBC and began working on Doctor Who that autumn. He made his directorial debut with the Doctor Who serial, “The Caves of Androzani,” the last story to feature Peter Davison in the title role. It is widely regarded by the fans to be one of the finest installments of the series.
Harper worked on Doctor Who again, directing “Revelations of the Daleks,” starring Colin Baker. In 1989 he was approached to direct the Doctor Who series, “Battlefield,” starring Sylvester McCoy, but was committed to episodes of the Central Television drama series, Boon. He was also to have directed the third story in the abandoned season twenty-three, which would have been either Philip Martin’s “Mission to Magnus” or Robert Holmes’s “Yellow Fever and How to Cure It.” From there, Harper went on to work on shows such as District Nurse, Hope and Glory, Star Cops, The House of Windsor, The Bill, The House of Elliot and September Song and is one of the industry’s most sought after directors. In 1993 he was scheduled to direct “The Dark Dimension,” an ultimately un-made thirtieth anniversary Doctor Who story.
In 2001, he shared in a BAFTA Children’s Award win in the category “Best Drama” for Custer’s Last Stand Up. Harper directed the fiftieth anniversary special for ITV1 soap opera Coronation Street. In 2012 he filmed several episodes of the Nickelodeon series House of Anubis.
In 2005, twenty years after his last work on Doctor Who, he was invited to direct four episodes of the new revived show, starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. Scheduling conflicts had precluded him from working on the first season of the revival. For the second season, he directed, “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel.” He then went on to direct the season two finale, “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday.” His work on “Doomsday” netted him the BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Drama Director in April 2007.
Harper went on to direct “42″ and “Utopia” for season three and the Children in Need charity telethon Doctor Who mini-episode, “Time Crash” with Peter Davison and David Tennant. He also directed “Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?,” a two-part serial for the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures.
He directed five episodes of Doctor Who season four – “Planet of the Ood,” “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” “Turn Left,” “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End,” as well as the second of the 2009 specials, “The Waters of Mars.” He directed the last two stories for the second season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, “The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith” and “Enemy of the Bane.”
Graeme Harper has a penchant for including a distorted image of a main character in most of the stories he has directed for BBC Wales. It has occurred often enough for it to be considered something of a directorial “signature.” Characters are seen through magnifying glasses in “Rise of the Cybermen,” “Army of Ghosts,” “The Unicorn and the Wasp” and “Utopia,” reflected in a series of mirrors in “Turn Left” and through a curved window that gives a fish-eye effect in “Journey’s End.”