Monday, 11 November 2013

Mike Tucker Interview: "I had always drawn Cybermen and spacecraft in my schoolbooks"

The Guardian has an interview with Mike Tucker in which he talks about his work on both iterations of DW, including the 50th anniversary episode. "As a child I was always one of those less interested in football than in making things...I wanted to play with Lego, Airfix and Meccano. I loved Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, and Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation sequences. And, of course, the sci-fi series Blake's 7 and Doctor Who. Some time back in the late 1970s I had discovered there was a BBC department that built these models and, as I had always drawn Cybermen and spacecraft in my schoolbooks, I wrote to the BBC asking them what I needed to do to get this kind of work in later life."

He ended up working there himself in the 80s and 90s, for the BBC's Visual Effects Department (itself canned just too soon to reach its own fiftieth anniversary.) Eventually they let him work on everyone's favourite show, for the end of the Colin Baker era and the whole of the McCoy years. "I became particular friends with Sylvester, and with Sophie Aldred, who played the Doctor's assistant, Ace. They were both fascinated by the effects we created, although Sylvester was convinced I was always trying to blow him up." (The quote about Sylvester isn't that far off, given the anecdote about the explosions in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy", but we digress.) He kept his hand in with all things Who-related in the interegnum by writing lots of novels, and eventually RTD, an old friend of Tucker's, asked him back to build lots of Daleks/models/things exploding.

"It is fascinating to me that I can be working on the 50th anniversary episode using techniques that were used in the first programmes for William Hartnell's Doctor. We made the new episode in 3D, of course, and filmed it on high-speed video, but we are still trying to convince the audience that miniatures are real with credible detail and with lighting. It is the same sleight of hand. There can't be many jobs, either, where you sit on a stage where great actors are working and just work on the same kind of models you made as a child."

And now it's all coming full circle for him as well. According to the article, "A cardboard Tardis, made four decades ago from discarded cereal boxes by a young Doctor Who fan in Wales, is to go on display this month at Bradford's National Museum of Media. Lovingly stored in the loft of the boy's mother, the mini-Tardis has been lent for an exhibition celebrating the impact of the programme on the imagination of viewers."

(Good job that they didn't close the museum, eh?)

Mike Tucker's special effects company "The Model Unit" has a website here. They promise a full writeup of their techniques for the 50th anniversary episodes as soon as it's aired.

Oh, and a special No-Prize for observing the grievous error in this sentence. Besides the "offlats" typo, anyway: "Working with Eccleston from 2005, he went on to create memorable scenes for David Tennant and for Smith, with the model sequences in the 60-minute Christmas invasion episode and footage involving the blowing out of the windows of the block offlats where Billie Piper's character, Rose, lived." If only we knew whether the journalist or (horrors!) Mike Tucker himself made the error.


Wand said...

What error?

Uncle Pobatti said...

Eccleston filmed his episodes in 2004, they were broadcast in 2005. In 2005 he'd already left :)