Tonight on Twitter we looked at Terror of the Zygons. The Visual Effects team included John Horton (Visual Effects Designer), John Friedlander (Sculptor), Steve Bowman (VFX Assistant), Steve Drewett (VFX Assistant) and Charlie Lumm (VFX Assistant).


JOHN FRIEDLANDER: The Zygons were visualised by the costume designer on that story, James Acheson. James had based the shape of the monster on a human foetus. He’d done some preliminary sketches and produced a model of the creature, but wasn’t sure how to include the actor’s face into the costume. James contacted me to see if I had any ideas and we decided to work as a team to realise his creation. From a production point of view, this would prove to be the most difficult monster I was involved with. Using a metal frame to take the weight, I modelled the basic Zygon from the head to the hips in clay, styling the face, cranium and rib-cage to Jimmy’s design. We then took an impression of this pattern in thin fibreglass, which gave us the upper torso of the costume. Several other body sections were fashioned in clay and then cast, to provide the latex limbs of the creature.

When you add a fine silica gel to liquid latex, it becomes possible to mould the compound by hand and apply it directly to the costume or mask like clay. The large suckers were added in this manner along with a complete latex skin which covered the fibreglass frame. To give the Zygons an individual appearance, each face was modelled slightly differently. The various body sections were then glued together and the whole costume was spray painted in a deep orange colour. I tried the costumes on at various stages during construction, to ensure they weren’t too heavy or painful to wear. I heard that one Zygon actor called John Woodcut, used to sit in his dressing room doing The Times crossword while in full costume, so they couldn’t have been that uncomfortable.

The three completed costumes had two main sections. A lower section worn like trousers and held up with braces, and an upper section, opening along the chest to the right of the suckers, which included the head and arms of the creature. Matching gloves and shoes completed the monster. Originally we built the cranium and rib-cage of the Zygons to house a light source. The creatures were supposed to emit an eerie glow through their skin, but I don’t think the idea was carried through to the recording stage.

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STEVE DREWETT: It was me, and I think Richard Conway, who helped John Friedlander with the construction of the Zygon costumes, They had actually been designed by the show’s costume designer James Acheson. John sculpted the separate parts of the monster’s torso from clay and plaster. We then took three sets of fibreglass casts from the formers he’d made, to create the basic body of the three costumes. Then, using a mixture of latex, silica gel and tissue paper, we began hand-making and applying the individual suckers to each costume. The Zygons took a great deal of time and effort to complete, but were well worth the effort. I thought they were one of the best monsters ever featured in the programme.

John Horton supervised the effects using Steve Bowman as his main assistant. This show featured my first modelling contribution to the series, in the form of a miniature oil-rig. The concrete legs were in reality made of plaster, which enabled them to crumble during their destruction. I made several sets of the plaster legs so that John could repeat the sequence and choose the best ‘take’. I wasn’t at all happy with the way the oil-rig appeared on screen, and the same goes for the miniatures that Steve and I made of the Skarasen monster.

Steve’s version of the Skarasen was an eighteen inch long model of the whole creature and contained armature wire so that it could be posed and filmed using stop motion animation, whilst mine was merely a hand-puppet of the monster’s head, neck and one claw, to be used in close-up shots. Initially they were sculpted in clay, with the pattern of the monster’s scales imprinted from the barrel end of a ball-point pen. A mould was taken of each sculpture, to produce working versions of the models in latex and soft expand foam. The miniatures themselves weren’t too bad at all, but the department was continually let down in the way its models were lit and the ‘one take’ speed with which they were filmed or recorded.


CHARLIE LUMM: I was nearly always working on Doctor Who during the Tom Baker period. Regular as clockwork I’d get allocated to go on location, construct some of the props for the latest show, or assist with effects operation in the studio.

The main reason for Visual Effects attending the location filming on this story, was to supervise a composite shot of the actors emerging from the Zygon spaceship. This was done by having the spaceship model close to the camera, while at the same time filming the actors the far distance at an approximation of the correct scale. It was Steve Bowman who made the model spaceship, out of Plasticard over a wooden frame. The miniatures of the Loch Ness Monster were sculpted by Steve Drewett who had recently joined the department.

These interview excerpts are from The Doctor’s Effects by Steve Cambden. You can buy Steve’s book here:


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