Mike Tucker interview: Time and the Rani

Mike Tucker was a Visual Effects Assistant on Time and the Rani. We recently spoke to Mike about his work on this ground-breaking serial.
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Mike dons the arms of the puppet Tetrap. The animatronic head was built by Tom Wilkinson. Pic copyright Mike Tucker.

WHO FX: How did you come to work at the BBC Visual Effects Department full-time?

MIKE: I joined the department as a holiday relief assistant, which was the standard way of getting in. That’s how I came to work on the space station sequence from The Trial of a Time Lord. That led to a series of short term contracts before finally getting interviewed for a permanent post about two years later.

WHO FX: What was it like working with Visual Effects Designer Colin Mapson? 

MIKE: Colin was great. He was more than happy to take in new untried assistants and give them really good jobs. That said, I was very green – it was my first ever location shoot – and I do remember being yelled at a few times.

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Visual Effects Designer Colin Mapson with the animatronic Tetrap head. Pic copyright Mike Tucker.

WHO FX: Season 24 seemed like the beginning of a true renaissance in terms of effects work in Doctor Who. Why do you think this came about? 
MIKE: It’s tricky to pin it down, but I think the fact that a bunch of new, keen assistants with an interest in effects, who had some knowledge of the work that the Visual Effects Department had done in the past, and most importantly were Doctor Who fans who wanted the show they had grown up with to have great special effects was a factor. I think it was a bit of a shock to the system for some of the old timers. It was a great bunch of people from different backgrounds – me, Russell Pritchett, Paul McGuinness, Jim Lancaster, John Van Der Pool, Alan Marshall and more. A big crowd of us. Russell and I both worked on Time and the Rani. Russell had come from an engineering background and I came from theatre. Colin saw benefits of having us both on his team alongside experienced assistants Len Hutton and Roger Barham.
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Mike created the false-perspective model cave set for the Tetrap eyrie. Pic copyright Mike Tucker.

WHO FX: Was the opening shot of the TARDIS originally going to be a model shot? 

MIKE: Yes. Colin wanted to build a 1/4 scale model Tardis out of fibreglass with a series of flashbulbs mounted inside. The plan was to shoot the model against a star field and then set off the flashbulbs sequentially to create the impression of the police box shell literally glowing with the impact of energy bolts.

WHO FX: Did you see CGI as a threat to traditional model work?

MIKE: We were concerned to start with, but the final result on screen was so ‘graphic’ that we weren’t actually that convinced it would become a major threat. Jurassic Park a few years later was what changed our minds!

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Video Effects Designer Dave Chapman

WHO FX: How were the ‘bubble’ traps achieved?

MIKE: Colin and Dave Chapman were a great team, and the two of them really wanted this to work well. They worked out all the sequences and broke them down in huge detail, deciding which element was best done practically on location or in the studio.

WHO FX: Why wasn’t the Centre of Leisure model properly seen on screen?

MIKE: That model had actually been put out to an outside contractor. When it was delivered, Colin wasn’t happy with the detail so I worked on it for a couple of days to beef it up. John Nathan Turner then felt it was too technological so a lot of that detail was stripped off again. It was just a case of differing opinions.

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Mike working on the rocket launcher. Pic copyright Mike Tucker.

WHO FX: Can you tell me about your involvement with the model for the Rani’s citadel – and the rocket launcher? 

MIKE: That was a dream job, and I was delighted that Colin entrusted me with it. I ended up doing the exterior and interior models, with Jim Lancaster building the rocket.  It took in all kinds of model making – foam carving, kit bashing, vac-forming. I saw it as something of a calling card so put a lot of work into it.

WHO FX: It seems like you were involved in every aspect of effects work on this story – models, creatures, props, pyrotechnics – was this quite a steep learning curve for you?

MIKE: Huge. But that was the joy of working on Doctor Who, you got to work on every aspect of effects. These days there is so much compartmentalising that it’s tricky to have any sense of ownership. A single prop or model can be worked on by a whole team these days, whereas back then it was the responsibility of one assistant.

WHO FX: What do you think of Time and the Rani when you look back on it now?

MIKE: I’m very proud of it. The effects hold up very well even if the story doesn’t always work. It’s definitely a product of the 80s, but Colin’s attention to detail makes it a real treat. As a young assistant it was great to work for such a hands on designer like Colin.


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Mike Tucker, thank you very much.

Find out more about Mike Tucker and The Model Unit here:



Series 10 Profile: Matthew Clark, Graphic Designer

Matthew Clark has worked as a Graphic Designer for a number of years across a range of genres from cop shows to science-fiction. His recent credits include Red DwarfBlack Mirror and A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Matthew also worked on the entirety of Series 9 of Doctor Who and five episodes from Series 10. But what does a Graphic Designer actually do?


WHO SFX: Can you tell me a bit more about your role as graphic designer on Doctor Who and what your key responsibilities are? 

Matthew: Graphic Design for TV shows has changed tremendously in the last 10 years or so – once where it would have been a lot of hand-drawing, using Letraset etc. it now covers almost anything on screen that isn’t a purchased prop. I do anything that would be printed – posters, tickets, newspapers, signs, etc., but also the majority of video screens, mobile devices, anything like alien control panels, and thanks to newer technology like laser cutting and large format printing, I can be doing constructed, 3D graphics as well as printing whole floors/carpets/walls! Any photo-shoots that an episode might need tend to fall under the Graphic Designer’s role.

Who SFX: How did you get started in this line of work? 

Matthew: I studied film-making at the University of Derby – it was a practical course where you’d be given a few hundred feet of 16mm film at the start of each term and you had to hand in a finished project at the end of it. I was always fascinated by props and models as a kid, as well as set design, so my films tended to be based around built sets or miniature models. From that, I started getting asked to make bits for other people, and my first few industry jobs were as a prop maker. However, I was definitely better at it as a hobby than a profession so I moved across into 3D modelling for the Art Department, which bled into doing Graphic work, which became my real interest.

Who SFX: At what stage of the production process doyou first get involved? 

Matthew: I get involved at the same time as the rest of the Art Department – which is fairly early, usually as soon as a complete, working draft of the script is ready to go. From there we all prep by doing research for the era/setting of the episode, creating some rough designs to send onto the Director/Producers, working out what things will cost, lead times etc. As the script evolves, so do the graphics – sometimes the night before shooting! We then tend to run alongside the first 2 weeks of the shoot – hopefully everything will be done by then – before prepping for the next episode.

Who SFX: What makes Doctor Who more challenging than other productions you’ve worked on?

Matthew: The series is more challenging just by the nature of the Doctor Who’s setting – unlike a lot of shows each episode can be wildly different, and a good amount of the episodes are future/space based which means more complicated graphics work. The average spaceship will need several motion graphic screens, Perspex printed control panels, vinyl decals, foil decals etc. There’s a lot to create! Keeping each episode’s look fresh is also a challenge – you always have to try to find a way of creating something different to the last time you made a similar thing. We’re often forced to re-use props and set pieces, so it can come down to the graphics to make it look different. In Series 9 the same control desk appears two or three times with completely new graphics in it each time! Doctor Who also has a lower budget than a lot of less visually intensive shows, not to mention a shorter production time, so on top of trying to create a new look you have to be able to do it both quickly AND cheaply.

Who SFX: What have been the highlights of working on Series 10 of Doctor Who?

Matthew: The highlight of Series 10 for me was Episode 3, Thin Ice, for reasons that will become apparent when you see it! The sets were a HUGE undertaking and even though they weren’t graphic intensive, it was the most ambitious thing we’d done in my time there and it looked stunning. Our production designer, draughts people, construction crew, set dressers and standbys should all be proud of what they achieved.

Who SFX: What advice would you give to people starting out in the industry?

Matthew: If someone is looking to get into the industry, then the key thing I would suggest is that they work out what they want to do, and specialise. If you want to be in the Art Department, work out if you want to do graphics, or 3D modelling, draughting etc. If you have a niche you can focus on then you can find your way in to the industry much more quickly. If you’re starting out and don’t have much work to show, make a spec folio, demonstrate what you’re capable of. Many more Art Directors have online folios and contact forms than they used to, so with a bit of time with IMDB and Google you can find people to introduce yourself to. It’s a bit like cold calling, and you don’t always get replies, but it’s worked for a lot of people!

Thank you Matthew.

Matthew clark

You can find out more about Matthew’s stunning work on his website:


The Pilot: Production, Design & FX credits

Doctor Who made a triumphant return to our screens on 15th April, and the series has never looked better. Let’s meet some of the talented people who worked behind-the-scenes on the opening episode of Series 10: The Pilot.

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Director Lawrence Gough

Director: Lawrence Gough

Lawrence Gough directed the first two episodes of Series 10, The Pilot and Smile. He was also responsible for the short ‘trailer’ which introduced Pearl Mackie as Bill, entitled Friend from the Future. His other TV credits include Snatch, The Aliens, Endeavour, Atlantis, Misfits and Hollyoaks.


Director of Photography: Ashley Rowe

Ashley Rowe was the Director of Photography on The PilotSmile and Thin Ice in Series 10. He previously worked on Kill the MoonMummy on the Orient Express and The Return of Doctor Mysterio. His other recent TV credits include Close to the Enemy, GalavantAtlantis and Merlin.

Production Designer: Michael Pickwoad

Michael Pickwoad has been the Production Designer on Doctor Who since A Christmas Carol. His other recent TV credits include Class, A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Prisoner and Marple.


Michael Pickwoad’s TARDIS looks stunning in The Pilot

Visual Effects: Milk VFX

Milk VFX, have been responsible for the visual effects work on the majority of Doctor Who episodes since The Day of the Doctor. Several of Milk’s founding staff worked on Doctor Who as part of The Mill’s TV department.

The Milk team for The Pilot included:

  • Vicki Juhasz: Roto/Prep
  • Daniel Rawlings: Visual Effects Editor
  • Alex Balmer: Digital Compositor
  • Paolo D’Arco: Compositor
  • Amy Felce: Matchmove Artist
  • Louise Hastings: Visual Effects Producer
  • Alessandro Neri: Roto Paint Artist
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The team at Milk VFX

Special Effects: Real SFX

Real SFX have provided the special effects for Doctor Who since 2010. Other recent TV credits include Class, The Sarah Jane Adventures, TorchwoodSherlock, Line of Duty and Peaky Blinders.

The Real SFX team for The Pilot included:

  • Special Effects Technician, Real SFX: Gerry Glynn
  • Special Effects Supervisor, Real SFX: Danny Hargreaves (uncredited)
  • Special effects Coordinator, Real SFX: Jade Poole (uncredited)
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Fake snow effects for The Pilot

Costume Designer: Hayley Nebauer

Hayley Nebauer is the Costume Designer for the whole of Series 10. Her other recent film and TV credits include The MusketeersAngelCyberbully and Thor: The Dark World.

Other members of the costume team on The Pilot included:

  • Costume Assistant: Rebecca Cunningham
  • Costume Assistant: Leila Headon
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Zoe Howerska
  • Costume Assistant: Jenny Tindle
  • Costume Supervisor: Kat Willis

The Doctor and Bill’s costumes from Series 10

Make-up Designer: Barbara Southcott

Barbara Southcott has been the main Make-up Designer on Doctor Who since The Runaway Bride. 

Other members of the make-up team working on The Pilot included:

  • Make-up Artist: Megan Bowes
  • Make-up Artist: Lolly Goodship
  • Make-up Designer: Barbara Southcott
  • Make-up Supervisor: James Spinks
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Stephanie Hyam (Heather) has her watery ‘make-up’ applied

Art Director: Tim Overson

Tim Overson was the Art Director for all 12 episodes of Series 10. He also worked on The Return of Doctor Mysterio. His other TV credits include Outlander and Holby City.

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Production artwork for the Doctor’s office from The Pilot

Other members of the Art Department who worked on The Pilot included:


  • Supervising Art Director: Henry Jaworski
  • Graphics Assistant: Jack Bowes
  • Head Scenic Artist: Clive Clarke
  • Graphic Artist: Matthew Clark
  • Stand-by Art Director: Christina Tom
  • Draughtsperson: Julia Jones
  • Draughtsperson: Kartik Nagar
  • Concept Artist: Darren Fereday
  • Storyboard Artist: Adam Pescott

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  • Sound Effects Editor: Harry Barnes
  • Foley Artist: Meltem Baytok


  • Stunt Performer: Troy Kenchington
  • Stunt  Co-ordinator: Andy Merchant



Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Six: Designing the new series Cybermen

We recently spoke to concept artists Matthew Savage, Dan Walker and Alex Fort to find out about the Cybermen designs that never made it to the screen. We also caught up with Neill Gorton from Millennium FX to find out how the Cybermen were redesigned and brought to life for the 21st Century.

WHO SFX: What were your memories of the original Cybermen?

MATTHEW: Everyone’s got their favourite Cybermen story. I loved all of them. Growing up I loved the 80s ones, from Earthshock onwards. They were always my favourite growing up, more than the Daleks. I could wax lyrical about Earthshock for hours. The direction was superb, it was more like a movie. These days my favourite Cybermen are any of the ones from Patrick Troughton’s stories. If you look at the concepts I’ve done in more recent years (see below) I’m always drawing upon Tomb of the Cybermen or The Invasion. I love those old designs. They were absolutely perfect.

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A more recent Cyberman concept design from Matthew Savage.

ALEX: I grew up with Tom Baker’s Doctor and dimly remembered all the stuff I was asked to paint. As a concept artist, you feel like you have to modernise and update everything, but aside from a few tweaks, it didn’t really need it. Those aliens and creatures that keep coming back are generally strong, both in terms of character and design. They have reached the point where the design transcends good or bad and becomes simply iconic.

DAN: As a kid growing up I was obsessed by Doctor Who. I kind of left it behind when I was about 12 or 13 but it all came back to me when I came to work on it in.

WHO SFX: Was it exciting to be asked to redesign the Cybermen?

MATTHEW: I was more excited to be working on the Cybermen than anything else. It always felt like there was more leeway to develop them because they had changed more over the years than the Daleks had. Our Dalek was always going to be a very traditional looking piece of kit whereas the Cybermen had more scope to change – so long as you protect certain elements. For me it’s always about the ratio between the eyes, the mouth and the handlebars and if you get that right you’ve kind of nailed it. As long as you keep those three elements there’s a lot more wriggle room to move it around a bit.

WHO SFX: Were you given detailed instructions about what should be retained?

MATTHEW: It kind of evolved. There were a lot more people involved with the Cybermen than the Daleks. Off the top of my head, there was Neill Gorton’s team, Neill himself, Dan Walker, Alex Fort, Peter McKinstry and others. Russell (T Davies) would also chip in quite a lot as well. Dan didn’t normally work on Doctor Who but Ed Thomas (Production Designer) valued him so much that he brought him in. They didn’t want to miss a trick so they gave everyone a shot. There’s a bit of everyone in the final design as well.

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One of Dan Walker’s early concept designs for the new Cybermen.

DAN: All my concepts, sketches, thoughts – were from memory.  I remembered the teardrops and I kept them as a nod to the old Cybermen, but I didn’t look at any of the old ones for reference. That was possibly my downfall. I should have emphasised the handlebars more and played up the more iconic elements. I was focusing on making them as emotionless as possible and getting a kind of purity.

MATTHEW: The brief evolved into specifying certain art deco elements as the episode was going to have that kind of setting. It was going to be a contemporary parallel Earth but with more 1940s art deco elements in there. From memory, this wasn’t overly apparent in the finished episodes. The art deco influences were something that Russell mentioned a number of times. I think you can see some of that in the face and the engineered elements still feel slightly art deco.

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Art Deco Cyberman by Alex Fort.

WHO SFX: Were the new Cybermen originally going to have a more organic look and feel?

MATTHEW: At one point, it was going to be closer to Spare Parts to the point where they paid Marc Platt some royalties. They then moved away from that and considered something like an Apple Shop where you’d go to get your body tuned up. In the back of one of these shots you’d have seen the Mark I Cyberman. It would have been really bulky, like a bodybuilder, because there would have been so many components they were trying to squeeze into this huge suit. I remember doing a concept drawing of an overweight Cyberman with all this technology bulging out at the seams.

DAN: I was influenced by The Tenth Planet. There’s something very unnerving about that simple white balaclava mask. I remember sitting in the park, cross-legged with a pen and a pad, I was reminded of Halloween, the Michael Myers/William Shatner mask – that blank, emotionless expression and black eyes. That’s certainly what I was going for with for the fascia. I was probably going against the brief because Ed wanted art deco and it was Alex Fort who ultimately nailed it. They went with his design in the end because he captured the essence of what they were after.

MATTHEW: I never worry about being too gruesome because I’m not a producer. But I do remember when we showed that to Russell he said it was too gruesome. He also wanted a traditional Cybermen helmet and a metal suit as opposed to a cloth-faced Tenth Planet Cyberman.

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Wonderfully gruesome concept art by Alex Fort showing a more organic Cyberman.

ALEX: During Series One, I’d painted a few versions of the Cybermen, concentrating on the face. At this stage, no-one had said the Cybermen were coming back, but you knew it was going to happen. I refined these paintings later, and they ended up on the wall of the Art Department. I think they stayed there a while before any decision was made. Perhaps it was familiarity, but the final skull-like version of the head was very similar to one of my designs. I liked it, but it wasn’t my favourite.

MATTHEW: The Tenth Planet was a great design. I know they’re coming back in some shape or form in the new series. I wish they’d take that old design and run it through with modern textures and fabrics. It’s all there in the design. All you’d need to do is bring the bulk down a bit and play with the proportions, you could come up with something really horrific.

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Cyberman concept art by Dan Walker.

WHOSFX: Was there a lot of pressure to get the design right?

MATTHEW: It’s a bit like Star Wars because everyone is very fond of these things they remember from their childhood and they all have an idea of what they should look like. Ultimately we were trying to please Russell’s because it was his baby.

DAN: I didn’t speak to Russell at all. Ed Thomas was my point man. I was working on Watchmen at the time so Doctor Who was more of a sideline. I always dealt primarily with Ed. He said to all of us that we had carte blanche, ‘knock yourself out and have fun’. Although he did mention art deco which I completely ignored! I think everyone had a fair crack of the whip, some more than others, understandably.

MATTHEW: It was more challenging than the Dalek because it’s a suit that has to be worn by a number of actors. Most people can fit inside a Dalek. Poor old Neill Gorton had to design a rigid suit that would have to fit a multitude of different body types. Even though it was people who were roughly the same size, it’s still a really tricky thing to do.

WHO SFX: Were you happy with how the design turned out?

DAN: I only had about one or two days on it because I was on another job at the time. I would have loved to have been on the job wholesale so I could have fully engrossed myself in it, but I think I contributed something to the overall design.

MATTHEW: I do remember finishing one particular image with Ed and we showed it to Russell and he said, “We’re good to go”. It was a champagne moment but we were too tired to celebrate! That was the design that Neill Gorton then developed. His boys were designing as they sculpted the ‘skull’ so it was like we were passing the baton to them. They were the poor swines who actually had to realise this thing.

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Concept art by Matthew Savage.

NEILL GORTON: At the same time as Ed Thomas’ art department were going through the pre-design process, we were working on our own designs. Russell liked Alex Fort’s design of the Cyberman head but it did not translate well when it came to being realised in ‘real life’. 2D artists rarely design in a way that can be reproduced identically in the real world. With the clock ticking, Martin Rezard and I had to basically start from scratch and we had to move quickly to keep us on schedule. I suggested we nail the head first. The art deco idea had come up for discussion and Martin and I went down a more elegant route. We’d done a previous maquette which we partially referred back to and I suggested that we explore making the face more skull like. We also brought in more deco lines flowing from the back to the front across the head. The first pass was almost identical to the final design except it had square ear muffs. I changed those to rounded ones and we did a couple more tweaks. 


The first life size rendition created by Neill Gorton and Martin Rezard based on Alex Fort’s design. The design was subsequently changed to make it work in three dimensions.

NEILL: While the art department did a lot of great concepts for the Cybermen, the actual finished design was done by Martin Rezard and myself. It was done in literally a couple of days and we were in direct discussion with Russell and Julie. 

When this was approved we moved swiftly on to the body. We prepared a maquette that was basically the finished look. This was something that Martin (Rezard) bashed out in a day. This basically nailed the final look in one pass. We took an image of the body maquette with the head sculpture photoshopped on. This gave us our approved look and we launched straight into building the full scale version. A lot of the art department designs incorporated a very accurate head, because they were was based on the picture of our sculpture. 


The final approved maquette created by Neill Gorton and Martin Rezard.

NEILL: Very rarely did my design work go via the art department other than when there was a specific crossover to consider. Ultimately the elements that did come from the art department were the idea of the handlebars continuing on the arms and legs, the Cybus logo itself and the suggestion of an art deco feel.


Chief sculptor Martin Rezard at work in the Millennium FX workshop.


Thank you Neill Gorton, Matthew Savage, Dan Walker and Alex Fort.

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Five: Mike Tucker on Silver Nemesis

Mike Tucker was a Visual Effects Assistant on Silver Nemesis, the last Cybermen story from the classic series. Mike wrote about his experiences in his book ‘Ace! The Inside Story of the End of an Era’, co-written with Sophie Aldred. Mike has kindly shared the original full length text relating to Silver Nemesis, rather than the heavily edited version which was published.
We are delighted to present the article along with Mike’s original design drawings and behind-the-scenes photographs.


Silver Nemesis has very particular memories for me. It was only five years earlier that I had attended the 20th anniversary convention at Longleat House in Wiltshire, pestering the effects crew and asking how to get into the department. I remember wandering around the prop and model displays wishing that I would have a chance to be involved and here I was, building props and models for the 25th anniversary show.

Kevin Clarke’s three-part story was the all-location show for the year, with filming in Greenwich and Arundel, both doubling for Windsor as permission had been denied to film around the royal residence.

The design team assembled for this special story were nearly all veterans of JNT’s era of the programme. Costume Designer Richard Croft had handled the two three-part stories the previous year, as had Set Designer John Asbridge. Make-up designer Dorka Nieradzick had been working on the show regularly since The Leisure Hive. For Visual Effects Designer Perry Brahan, it was his first Doctor Who as a designer, despite having worked on the series extensively as an assistant. His team comprised myself, Alan (Rocky) Marshall, Paul McGuinness and Russell Pritchet, Russell and myself already having worked on the series earlier that season.


The Visual Effects team from Silver Nemesis: Paul McGuinness, Alan (Rocky) Marshall, Russell Pritchett, Mike Tucker and Perry Brahan.

Like all of the shows that Andrew Cartmel script-edited, ideas were thrown around quite early on to test their feasibility. As had happened with Remembrance of the Daleks, ideas were also dropped at this stage.

As with the Daleks earlier in the season, the Cybermen were to be subtly updated. Richard Croft turned to Richard Gregory’s Unit 22, who had dealt with the Cybermen costumes since their reintroduction in Earthshock, back in 1981 (broadcast in 1982). Although there were minor modifications to the head and chest units, the main difference was that all the fibreglass parts were given a highly reflective silver finish. Although very impressive, this did cause quite a few problems during the filming. The lacquer used to seal the finish tended to ‘yellow’ in daylight and the Cybermen turned slowly gold – not a good thing for a Cyberman! We ended up spraying the helmets and chest units with a highly reflective silver paint as the show went on. Similarly, whenever we did the pyrotechnic work on the Cybermen, the finish tended to blacken, also needing cosmetic work with a spray can.

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A Silver Nemesis Cyberman helmet before the jaw section and handles had been fitted.

Designer John Asbridge again found himself having to deal with an all-location story, with the added complication that some of it was set in the present day, some in the past, and some in South America. Once again, the ever-present Dave Chapman was on hand to add his expertise to the proceedings, adding palm trees and cloud-shrouded mountains to some shots, whilst removing anachronistic architectural details from others.

One particularly time-consuming sequence dealt with by Dave and John was the time travel sequence where Lady Peinforte and Richard travel to the Twentieth Century. Once all the scenes in the house in its period form had been recorded, a camera was set up, locked off, and a shot of the entire room was taken. John and his team then completely redressed the room, to resemble a modern day tearoom, and the second half of the scene was recorded. The two sequences were eventually combined by Dave in post-production. A flawless effect relied on the camera being in exactly the same place for both parts of the scene and there were a few points where people got rather closer to the camera than either John or Dave would have liked.


Early concept design sketches for the new Cyberguns from Silver Nemesis.

For Perry and the effects crew there were plenty of, the now obligatory, explosions, as well as several featured props. The Cybermen themselves needed new weaponry, several new spacecraft and a communications console. The Nemesis asteroid itself was needed in several different variants, and Ace was now the owner of a futuristic ghetto blaster, built for her by the Doctor to replace the one destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks.

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Mike Tucker’s design sketch for Ace’s ghetto blaster from Silver Nemesis.

Perry opted for a pyrotechnic device in the guns, rather than a light that had been the traditional way of indicating which gun was being fired. The guns contained a circuit that was capable of firing up to a dozen individual charges, either singly or in rapid succession. The guns themselves were my responsibility. I made up a wooden original that was passed on to an independent company for moulding. The final props were a combination of fibreglass and aluminium, plated in a similar way to the Cybermen themselves. A magazine, containing all the charges, could be screwed to the front of the gun, making reshoots very quick, though many evenings were spent recharging them for the following day’s shooting.


Mike Tucker’s design sketch for a new type of Cybergun.

 The spacecraft evolved from several specific ideas that Perry had. Detailed sketches were made by Paul McGuinness that were used in the eventual construction. The main Cyberfleet was eventually achieved with just one model, about a foot long, made by an independent model-making company.


Mike Tucker’s concept art for the Cybermen’s shuttle craft.

The Cyber assault shuttle was built by me, and the exploding version by Alan Marshall – the same arrangement that we had on Dragonfire, the previous year. Design was limited in that we had to match the full-size entranceway that was being provided by John Asbridge. Chris Clough, the Director, had specified that he wanted this entranceway to the front of the ship.

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 19.35.55The model used for the bulk of the scenes was about two foot long, a timber and plastic construction around a metal frame. The exploding version was about twice the size to help scale the explosion. The ship was composited into the live action scenes in post-production, the model mounted on a gimbal so that it could be rotated as Dave Chapman manipulated the image. This was an improvement on the system that we had used on the Bannermen Troop carrier in Delta and the Bannermen.


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The assault shuttle model in the BBC Visual Effects Department workshop.


Chris Clough had been keen that the ship interacted with its surroundings so a helicopter was hired on location to fly the route supposedly taken by the Cybership. This ensured the foliage was disturbed by its passage and, when it landed, the glass was flattened. Dave merely replaced the helicopter with the model in the final transmitted shots.

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A close-up shot of the impressive assault shuttle model.

The communications console went through several variations before the final version was arrived at. The earliest concept was that it was an extension of Cyber-technology, a creature adapted to the Cybermen’s needs. Rather than being carried by the Cybermen it was capable of independent movement. This evolved into a communications Cyberman, but with the Special Weapons Dalek in the same season, it was decided that the ideas were too similar. The final idea was a console, and Perry had several designs drawn up by both Paul and myself. Knowing that a similar device had been constructed for Earthshock, I went to see the Effects Designer for that story, Steve Bowman.




Abandoned design concept by Mike Tucker showing the ‘Communications Cyberman’.

Steve had kept all of his original design drawings from Earthshock and, whilst not slavishly copying the design, I hoped that the similarities were obvious enough for people to make the connection. JNT certainly did. Upon seeing the console on location he commented “This takes me back.”


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The communications console in the BBC Visual Effects Department workshop shortly after construction was completed.

The only other bit of Cyber-technology that nearly made it to the story were the Cybermats. Upon seeing the scene where the policemen were overcome by gas, I suggested to Andrew Cartmel that it was a good point to reintroduce them. Andrew said that he had never found them remotely convincing and we stuck with the tubes emerging from the earth. The Cybermat design that I had in mind eventually made its debut five years later, when Kevin Davies had me manufacture the prop for the Thirty Years in the TARDIS documentary.



Mike Tucker’s design sketch for the Cybermats which he had hoped to feature in Silver Nemesis.

The tubes emerging from the earth was just one of the many effects that actually had to be rigged and operated entirely on location. A large trench was dug and a boar, pre-cut with slots, placed over the top. On cue, the poor effects assistant in the trench – me in this case – had to push the tubes through. The gas was, in fact, talcum powder, blown out under pressure- as smoke did not have the desired effect. The subsequent shots of the policemen enveloped by gas were achieved more traditionally with a smoke gun.



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Mike Tucker finally got the chance to bring his Cybermat design to life for the 30th anniversary special 30 Years in the TARDIS.

The Nemesis itself was a combination of visual effects, make-up and costume. Perry had the full-sized asteroid carved out of Jablite by an outside company. The statue inside was made by one of the BBC in-house sculptors and the miniature was made by Alan Marshall. The polystyrene statue is only briefly seen, having been completed before anyone had been cast as Lady Peinforte and so not being a good match – one of the problems of the short lead-time up to filming. The actual statue was a costume designed by Richard Croft.



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The Nemesis statue.


All elements of the Nemesis statue, including the bow and the arrow, were coated with Front Axial Projection material (FAP), a highly reflective material usually found on road signs, though adapted for use in the film industry. Reflecting nearly 100% of the light shone at it, all that was needed were several lights around the camera lens to make it glow in the most unearthly way. Whereas the bow and the arrow were merely painted with FAP paint, the costume was manufactured from FAP material whilst Dorka had a foam latex prosthetic, coated with the paint, made to fit Fiona Walker.

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MIKE TUCKER: This Cyberman maquette was sculpted by Paul McGuinness in the hope that we could persuade JNT to let the Visual Effects Department make the suits. JNT was adamant that he wasn’t having any of it so the model never got any further than that.


We’d like to thank Mike Tucker for allowing us to publish his fascinating article and for sharing so many rare and unseen photographs and design sketches from Silver Nemesis.
Mike has asked us to point out that Perry Brahan was the Supervising Visual Effects Designer on Silver Nemesis. “He was very generous giving me and Paul McGuinness free reign to design stuff.”

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Four: Earthshock

When the Cybermen returned to our screens after a seven-year absence, the costume designer responsible for giving them a ‘hi-tech’ look was Dinah Collin. She worked closely with Richard Gregory at independent effects company Imagineering to bring the Cybermen bang up to date for the Star Wars generation. 

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RICHARD GREGORY: Imagineering offer a service insofar that anyone hiring us can get a wide range of experience because we’re not tied to any specific subject. It’s a talent pool really. The talents overlap into many fronts including electronics and pyrotechnics. We can deliver a complete package of something without all the hassles of being tied to one company, or even to the BBC.

DINAH COLLIN: I had a design problem with the head. The Cybermen were being resurrected and I wasn’t allowed to create a totally new idea of what they looked like. JNT told me to update them but to keep the head as near to the original as possible. I saw some photographs from the later stories but that was all. If people had said more about what had gone before, it might have been too confusing – although the actual background to how the Cybermen evolved would have been nice to know, what they can and can’t do, what their powers are and so on. 

RICHARD GREGORY: It comes down to a question of hours. Sometimes we will work eighteen hour days to get jobs done on time whereas the equivalent man hours at the BBC would cost far more than a Doctor Who budget could support.


DINAH COLLIN: I wish I’d seen something of the first Cybermen. From what I’ve heard of them since, they seem to have been horrifying – and I didn’t actually think mine were. However, I do think that as a finished product – the set and the story – Earthshock was very good. And of course there was the script to go by which was informative and allowed the imagination to get to work. All of us, designers, actors, directors, really base our work from the script.

RICHARD GREGORY: There’s no hard and fast rule as to when a job would be done at the BBC and when it would come to somebody like us. It all depends on the Designer.

DINAH COLLIN: I could understand why John needed to have them recognisable from what had gone before. It would have been quite exciting to have been able to create a new creature with a body inside it but the job I had to do was quite a challenge in itself – fraught with difficulties because of its attachments to the old. 

RICHARD GREGORY: The difficulty with the people at the Costume Department is that they often feel in lost territory when it comes to doing things that involve special effects. So you find quite a few of the people we work with, like Dinah Collin for instance, have not done science fiction for years.

DINAH COLLIN: One had to find something that technically would work, that people could move in. First and foremost, it is necessary to find out what an actor has got to do in a costume and design round it. That was one of the things that failed to work in the helmets. Because they had to remain more or less the same. I couldn’t explore the possibilities of making them more practical to work in for the actor. 

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RICHARD GREGORY: Earthshock was our biggest Doctor Who. For that one we produced nine Cybermen – don’t forget the one that got frozen into the wall – fourteen troopers and two androids, although they were just heads basically. So when you add it all up there were about two dozen costumes for that story, which is rather a lot. When Dinah came to us we were able to offer her a lot of advice on the costumes she wanted because we had worked with vacuum formers, fibreglass and latex. She came to us with ideas and together we worked out what could be done. We did a lot of sketches ourselves to show how we thought the Cybermen should look and how they could be made and we were very lucky in that she agreed so many of them.

DINAH COLLIN: Richard worked very closely with me as we sorted out what changes we could actually make. We had this idea that the body of the actor would become part of the outer skin. Instead of having gloves on the hands, it would have been nice to build them up with make-up. It would have been an extension of the funny suit, which had tubes on it already, and I thought that if you brought the tubes up over the chin and into the mouth, then the helmet part of it would grow from that. There wouldn’t have been any clear division where body and helmet began. But I was running out of time because Richard had to cast the helmet and we had to decide whether there was going to be a lower jaw and if we could keep the handles – I didn’t like them very much. But JNT was right to keep the links going. Without the handles, the fans probably wouldn’t have recognised it as a Cyberman at all. 

RICHARD GREGORY: The Cybermen were a difficult subject because of the way they had been conceived and the way they’d developed over the years. Nevertheless, whenever someone saw our version they instantly recognised them, even if only in silhouette – and all because of the jug ears. In all other respects the head is very much different to the originals and the body doesn’t resemble the predecessors at all.

DINAH COLLIN: On all things technical, Richard was extremely good. I would keep coming to him to say, “If I wanted this, Richard, how could it be done?” For example, he found the G-suit – the lightweight flying suit covered in all those tubes – in an army surplus store in Oxford and he suggested it as a base to work from – so I can’t claim any credit for that at all. We put the G-suit onto a cotton boiler suit which had been tailored to the size and shape of the particular actor who was to wear it. I wanted to get away from the previous vinyl suits because it was just a flat surface and anything put on to it doesn’t seem to have grown out of it. I talked to Richard originally about having a suit with these tubes built into it – based on an original drawing I did. I didn’t keep the drawing, I’m afraid.

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RICHARD GREGORY: Because of the limitations of the budget you find a lot of Costume Designers will allow you a lot of leeway and they’ll often point out difficulties with costumes to the Director for you. 

DINAH COLLIN: We were left with so little time to sort out the front of the helmet that we never got round to sorting the back out. So we ended up using the original head as a base for Richard to cast from, since that was the only way we could get the fourteen – or whatever ghastly number it was – made in time. Those frightful little screws to hold the back panel on was a design fault simply because of lack of time.

RICHARD GREGORY: Time is often your greatest enemy on Doctor Who.

DINAH COLLIN: The other thing we’d like to have done was to spray into the bodies. You know how we covered the costume with tubing and mesh and string vests and whatever? Well, I’d like to have gone much further and made it look more like a body with no skin, painting the tubes to make them stand out more, as though we were seeing arteries and capillary veins, even over the boots which had no detail and looked as though they were just stuck on the end of the legs. Again, we ran into this problem of time because, as well as the Cybermen, there were the other actors to costume – and though you might eventually get one Cyberman costume right, they all had to look the same. In the end we just sprayed them all silver. 

RICHARD GREGORY: Obviously if you could work on a massive budget we could have done more. You see we can make a costume as well as anyone would want, but in turn we must work within the figure we’ve agreed to invoice the BBC. A certain amount of give and take always has to enter into it.

DINAH COLLIN: I think my idea for this open-surgery look really came from a TV programme of the time. It showed a heart replacement operation with clamps and valves and all the veins and arteries exposed. It seemed in line with what the Cybermen were about and was the image I had wanted to carry a lot further with the new Cybermen. But I got bogged down with this head.

RICHARD GREGORY: It’s a good show, you can do a lot with it because of the variations in style and stories, and it’s very enjoyable to do.


Richard Gregory was interviewed in 1982 for Doctor Who Monthly Issue 72. The Dinah Collin interview extracts are taken from David Banks’ Cybermen book (1988).

Read the earlier Cybermen design features here:

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part One: Alexandra Tynan on The Tenth Planet

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Two: The Moonbase

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Three: The Invasion

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Three: The Invasion

Bobi Bartlett was a costume designer on a number of Doctor Who stories between 1968 and 1971. She was responsible for redesigning the Cybermen for the 1968 story The Invasion. Sadly Bobi passed away in 2013. This interview was conducted by Stephen James Walker and David Howe in 1993 and is used here with their kind permission.

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‘I went to art school in Somerset and trained in fashion design at the Royal College of Art in London. This was in the early to mid-1960s. I then worked as a designer for a number of large companies in the fashion industry for three years before launching my own design label selling young, trendy clothes to large stores and boutiques. It wasn’t until around 1967 that I got into television, when I applied for one of a number of vacancies advertised by the BBC Costume Department. They were looking for a new influx of designers to be specifically trained in the techniques of colour television, ready for the advent of colour production first on BBC2 and then across the board.’

‘At the time I was actually lecturing at my first art school. The mid-1960s was an amazing period for art schools and we were doing some very interesting, experimental stuff. I was encouraging sculptors and painters and dress designers to work together in a pool of talent, doing moulded plastics, soft sculptures made from fabric, welded metal pieces and so on. After I applied to the BBC, I had a rather daunting interview in front of a board of five people, but all this experience at the art school, along with my Royal College of Art background and fashion industry training, stood me in good stead.’‘It was highly unusual for someone to go in directly as costume supervisor (as designers were called in those days) rather than as an assistant. I was very fortunate, as they hadn’t had a new influx of supervisors for some time and needed about six more. Most of the people in the Costume Department at that time had started out in the theatre rather than in television, and I think they felt that it would be useful to have someone with this very different knowledge and experience of having trained at the Royal College of Art and taught in an area that was very much to do with experimenting with new materials. I had a different perspective of looking at things in a more detailed way and using new methods such as mass production, which is quicker and more cost effective than traditional methods of costume making.’

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One of the first programmes on which Bobi worked was the popular police series Z Cars. This was relatively undemanding in terms of its actual design requirements, but she did have to provide large numbers of character costumes and uniforms. It also gave her an opportunity to familiarise herself with television techniques and learn the ropes of the supervisor’s job, including budgeting and other BBC procedures. It was not long after this that she was assigned to Doctor Who, initially to take charge of the costumes for The Invasion.

‘The main thing I remember about that one is having to spend about half a day down the sewers near St Paul’s Cathedral! The Cybermen’s helmets had to be screwed together, with a single screw at the back attaching them to the main part of the costume for quick release. They were made of fibreglass, as they had to be lightweight, but the actors couldn’t stay in them for more than about twenty minutes at time before they became too hot and started to have problems with condensation as the eye visors steamed up. They could also get to feel claustrophobic. Consequently I had to be on hand throughout the filming, to take their heads off between shots and then screw them back on again when they were needed.’


‘Unfortunately the director,  who was usually extremely efficient, took an incredibly long time to film these particular shots of the Cybermen coming out of the sewers, so I was down there for ages, constantly taking Cybermen’s heads off and putting them back on again. What didn’t help matters was that there were also lots of rats in evidence! I had to say to the director, “I’m sorry, but I’m not going down there unless you let me have some big men with torches to scare the rats off, because if I see a rat, it won’t be a Cyberman coming out of the sewers, it’ll be me!” I got quite firm about it, because I know that if I came out while they were filming, and ruined their shot, they would get extremely annoyed with me.  In the end, it worked really well and to great effect, as they conceded and gave me warning before the Cybermen were needed each time.’

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You can read the full interview (and many more) in the excellent Talkback: The Sixties which is available to buy here:


Read the earlier Cybermen design features here:

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part One: Alexandra Tynan on The Tenth Planet

The Genesis of the Cybermen – Part Two: The Moonbase