Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

A sea creature emerges

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LAST WEEK we saw how the men from Mogul, and the other oil companies, work at drilling for gas in the North Sea—and are finding it. But what they all fail to realise is that they are running an enormous risk. Because the bottom of the North Sea is the home of a very strange creature and the gas being pumped out at high speed is its food. The creature, disturbed and outraged by this human encroachment on its domain, makes its way ashore bent on vengeance.

We are now—if you haven't guessed—in the fantasy world of Dr. Who, and the creature is yet another monster for the Doctor and his companions to tackle.

In the five years that the series has been running, there have been almost as many monsters as there are dials on the Tardis' instrument panel, and most of them the brain children of the BBC's Wardrobe and Visual Effects Department.

A sea creature emerges

This latest addition to the family—the sea creature—is being dreamed up by Jack Kine and his team in Visual Effects. For once it will not be based on an actor. Jack has found a new substance that fits the bill admirably. 'It is hard to describe,' he says, but you know the foam you see collecting on rivers at weirs? Well, imagine that five thousand times bigger.'

Jack was experimenting with some a few weeks ago and in a very little time was able to get it to a depth of thirty feet. The creature is a bit like plasma—it starts in bits that gradually come together to form the final undulating beast. It's about the size of a first division football crowd!' says Jack.

Before the advent of the seaweed creature, the idea was to keep Dr. Who's enemies as villainous and as mechanical as possible. Jack's boys look on the Doctor with mixed feelings, because in every story he finished by destroying the evil creatures and often wrecking their city—things that they spent weeks creating. Ah well,' says Jack, philosophically, I suppose the baddies must always lose.'

The Daleks

But of all the monsters, none has caught the imagination of children of all ages like the Daleks did. They were based on an idea of Terry Nation's, and within weeks there were little figures shuffling everywhere with outstretched arms saying, ex-ter-min-ate, ex-ter-min-ate.' Jack thinks their popularity is due to the simplicity of their shape. Any child could make himself look like a reasonably good Dalek merely by bending a sheet of cardboard round his body.

And when Blue Peter organised a contest last year for children to design their own monster, the Dalek was one of the most obvious influences. But the winners in each group showed a good deal of imagination and originality—the octopus-like creature with hundreds of exploding arms which, incidentally, terrified its four-year-old designer when she saw it made up, the bug-eyed robot with the sonic gun in his chest, and the very sinister hypnotron with a lizard-shaped body and one huge staring blood-shot eye! Visual Effects had just five days to get these creatures made up, but they did it.

For once they had to organise only one creature of each sort, whereas they must have made dozens of Daleks in all sorts of sizes and materials.

For the big battle in War of the Daleks' where many Daleks had to be ex-ter-min-ated, Visual Effects built some in very lightweight balsa-wood that would fragment easily when the explosive inside them went off. The other Daleks, made from aluminium, glass fibre, plywood, cost anything up to £300 each! Daleks' brains, the stuff that came oozing out when their heads were blown off, is a Visual Effects 'special': cellulose wallpaper paste mixed with foam rubber chippings and tinted a restful shade of green. This same mixture—minus the foam chippings — was used for the slime of the Macra.

The Yeti

The Yeti were a completely different kettle of fish—or whatever the correct genera. We went with them to the foothills of the Himalayas—well, North Wales actually—to . see them filming on location. The Yeti were built on bamboo frames, padded with foam rubber and covered with fur. Their hands and feet were made of moulded rubber which did not give them a very firm grip on the wet, rather slippery, Welsh mountain. Yeti, unfortunately, are rather like tortoises or beetles—once they have fallen on their backs they can't get up again unaided. So once they had fallen over they just had to lie there while a few mountain sheep looked on in amused detachment, until help arrived. The Yeti did not turn out quite as terrifying as planned. Small children who came to watch the filming thought they were lovely and kept patting them and stroking their fur.

For their new adventure, 'Dr. Who and the Web of Fear,' which begins on February 3, the 'Intelligence'—the oozing mass that controlled the Yeti in Tibet—has modified them for their new, very different environment, the London Underground. They will be slimmer—to get through the tunnels and will have eyes that light up—to see in the dark.

The Cybermen

If the Yeti were the hairy men of the monster world, then the Cybermen are certainly the smoothest. They are silver all over, smooth silver bodies and heads—all with exterior plumbing. In their last series, they had help in their struggle against the Doctor and his companions in the form of the Cybermats.

These bio-mechanical creatures that homed on people's brainwaves were themselves the brainwave of Michael John Harris, a Visual Effects designer. The head Cybermat had to be radio-controlled, so the body was designed around a radio unit. Of the rest, some were run on electric motors, others were hand-controlled, and others were operated by good old-fashioned string.

The Ice Warriors

The most recent race of monsters to threaten the crew of the Tardis (incidentally there are four Tardis, ranging from full-size model to one only four inches high) were the Ice Warriors. They were all played by actors of at least six feet six inches who, by the time they had got their helmets on, towered a terrifying seven feet above the ground.

Martin Baugh who designed the costumes based them very largely on reptiles.

The body part, or shell, as Bernard Bresslaw (chief of the Ice Warriors) called it, is made of moulded glass fibre. Roger Jones, another Ice Warrior, says that after wearing the costume for half an hour, he felt as though he had been working down a coalmine for two days! The sonic guns which the Ice Warriors use and their effect on people are Visual Effects' pew ducts too. The way people appear to crumble and distort when the sonic guns are fired at them is all done with mirrors —literally. Highly polished foil is stretched very thinly over a frame, forming a perfect mirror. The camera then focuses on the actors' reflections and when the foil is pushed gently from behind, these distort.

Radiophonic Workshop

Most of these monsters have correspondingly weird voices and these, along with the title music, are created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

In the case of the Daleks, the chief voice is Peter Hawkins. His words are fed into a special modulator which produces the familiar harsh jerky sound of the Daleks.

For the Cybermen a different sort of modulator is used to give them tinny voices to match their rather tinny bodies. Apart from the monsters themselves, the Visual Effects Department are kept pretty busy with other things, from instant snow to flashing light sequences on the computers.

Perhaps the most spectacular snow scene of all was the glacier crumbling and melting. Very cleverly done on the model with bicarbonate of soda and steam. Dr. Who calls for a lot of work with models—lunar landscapes, views of Tibetan monasteries seen from great heights, and erupting volcanoes. But the Visual Effects boys take all this easily in their monstrous stride.

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  • APA 6th ed.: (1968-01-18). A sea creature emerges. Radio Times p. 5.
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  • Turabian: "A sea creature emerges." Radio Times, 1968-01-18, section, 5 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=A sea creature emerges | url= | work=Radio Times | pages=5 | date=1968-01-18 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
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