'Dennis Potter' originally wanted the hospital scenes to be shot on videotape, so they would look like a TV sitcom. Producer Kenith Trodd convinced him that they could get a better director if the whole thing were shot on film.
Like Philip Marlow, Potter himself suffered from psoriatic arthopathy, a condition that attacks the skin and joints. As gruesome as the condition is as depicted here, the production actually downplayed it for, in reality, it can be much worse with bleeding skin and pustulent sores.
Michael Gambon would regularly spend up to 6 hours getting his flaky skin make-up applied. Gelatin was a key component of the make-up which meant it would only last about 2-3 hours under the hot studio lights.
Due to the then Government's lack of funding and the amount of cuts being made throughout the National Health Service at the time, the production team had the choice of many different hospital wards which were all being closed. They opted to use one in a hospital in Tottenham in London.
Three actresses were involved in the recurring image of a naked female being fished out of the River Thames and laid out in the bottom of a boat - Kay McKenzie, Alison Steadman and Janet Suzman. The scene was shot in the middle of winter.
Filming had to be stopped for one scene where Joanne Whalley, playing Marlow's nurse, pulls down his pyjama bottoms to administer soothing cream to his skin. Unbeknownst to Whalley, Michael Gambon had had stockings and suspenders painted onto his legs, the sight of which made the whole cast and crew burst into laughter.
The first time Michael Gambon was wheeled onto set in his full make-up, all the cast and crew were reduced to a stunned silence. Gambon broke the ice by saying "What's all this fuss about Chernobyl then? I went there for a holiday and it didn't do me any harm".
Charlie Simon played the old man in the bed next to Marlow who we see singing to him in close-up, thereby revealing his uneven teeth, Shortly after filming this, Simon had his teeth removed and replaced with perfect false ones.
Marlow's psychiatrist remarks to him that he's starting to look better and that his skin condition is clearing up. This meant that Michael Gambon was only spending 4 hours in the make-up room instead of 6 at this stage in the production.
The most controversial scene in the entire production was when the young Philip witnesses his mother having sex in the undergrowth with a local man. This brought howls of protest from the puritanical quarters of the British press, partly for the graphic nature of the scene (Patrick Malahide is seen to be thrusting into Alison Steadman) and the fact that such a scene was being played out in front of a child. In reality of course the latter was simply not true. Child actor Lyndon Davies wasn't involved with the filming of this scene at all, apart from his own close-ups which were shot separately. For his close-ups, Davies was reacting to the director, Jon Amiel. Nevertheless, Amiel and producer Kenith Trodd had to convince BBC1 controller Michael Grade that the scene should air intact. To his credit, Grade agreed to this.
According to director Jon Amiel in the audio commentary, Janet Henfrey, who plays the cruel school teacher, is in reality "a very deeply gentle woman", and she had to go through a lot of painful rehearsing to muster the kind of cruelty towards children that the part required of her.