LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Doctor Who: Exclusive Interview With Effects Master And Writer Mike Tucker
By James Whittington, Monday 21st April 2014
Mike Tucker is one of the heroes of Doctor Who and during the pogramme’s classic and recent runs has helped bring to life some of the show’s most special effects. Here he talks about his work on the series, his writing career and about his company, The Model Unit.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in effects?
MT: Actually, I originally wanted to build models for the Natural History and Science Museums in London – I was fascinated as a child by the forced perspective dioramas. Then I discovered this amazing industry called special effects and the focus of that interest in models changed.
HC: Did anyone’s work influence you?
MT: If you’re around my age and into miniature effects then there’s no chance that you won’t have been influenced by the work of Derek Meddings and Ray Harryhausen. Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, the Sinbad films – all huge influences.
HC: How did you become part of the BBC’s famous Effects Department?
MT: I saw an edition of the BBC magazine programme Pebble Mill At One that featured an interview with Bernard Wilkie who was the head of the VFX dept. I got hold of a copy of his book The Technique of Special Effects in Television and that was my career path set. My parents arranged a visit to the VFX dept in the early 80’s, and I had a long talk with the guys there. I followed their advice on what courses to take, then joined as a trainee the day I left college.
HC: Your first work on Doctor Who was for The Trial Of A Time Lord, were you nervous?
MT: Excited more than nervous. To finally get to work on a show that I had loved since a child was quite a strange feeling. And to get to build the TARDIS as one of my first jobs, too.
HC: From the classic series, you’re best remembered for the work you did for the Seventh Doctor adventures. What was it like working on those stories?
MT: A lot has been written about the ‘family’ feeling that classic Doctor Who had, and it’s true, it was a very close knit team. A lot of that came down to producer John Nathan Turner setting up a kind of rep company of people he trusted, and then letting them all contribute to the final programme. The whole BBC worked in that manner back then, you were part of this very special organisation. TV Centre, Lime Grove, the BBC Film Studios at Ealing were all magical places to work.
HC: What sort of budgets did you have to work within?
MT: Very small! I was never involved in the actual budget side of the classic series as I only ever worked on it in an assistant capacity, not as a designer. But we’re talking thousands of pounds as opposed to tens of thousands.
HC: What did you learn from working on a show like Doctor Who?
MT: The challenges were always producers and directors sitting down and showing you an effects sequence or model from a film like Star Wars or Alien and saying ‘I want something like that’, and then having to go away and create a similar effect for a fraction of the budget. The melting face effect in Dragonfire is a great example. We were shown the sequence from the climax of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and then had to do something similar in a matter of days. We were always looking back at how effects were achieved in early B&W features. Some of those early FX pioneers were very clever, and the methods they created still valid.
HC: Are there any stories you wish you’d worked on?
MT: I’d have loved to do a Dalek story for the classic series, and if I’d been around in the department in the 70’s then I’d have loved to have worked on something like Seeds Of Doom or Pyramids Of Mars – a proper Tom Baker horror story.
HC: Why is it do you think viewers still prefer model shots to CGI effects?
MT: I think people like the tactile element of models. On screen I think it’s because you are intrinsically hardwired to know that the physics and dynamics of what you are seeing is correct. Also when those models and props are actually there in front of you, and you can touch them and examine them up close, then I think there is an admiration of the craft that went into their construction. It’s tricky to get the same sense of wonder when you’re looking at a wireframe model on a computer monitor, even though there’s the same level of skill that goes into its creation.
HC: What’s your proudest special effects moment from the classic series and what’s your fondest memory of working on classic Doctor Who?
MT: I’m very proud of being part of the team that did the big motion control shot for Trial Of A Time Lord, but I’m also proud of my work on Greatest Show In The Galaxy because its seamless with the live action. In terms of favourite stores then The Curse Of Fenric was a hugely enjoyable experience, both in terms of the fantastic time that we had on location as a crew, but also the quality of the end result.
HC: You’re a multi talented person who has also carved a very successful career in writing, how did that come about?
MT: I’d always had a hankering to write, and when Sophie Aldred (Ace) and I collaborated on a behind scenes book about our work on Doctor Who it allowed me access to an editor and a publishing house. That led to me doing a short story, then a novel. From there it’s just kept going as a second career running alongside my work as an effects designer.
HC: Could you tell us about your company, The Model Unit?
MT: I set up The Model Unit following the closure of the BBC VFX department in 2005. At that point I had specialised into being a designer who purely did miniature effects and wanted to continue doing that kind of work. We initially set up shop at Ealing Studios to handle the miniature effects for the BBC Krakatoa documentary and were there for the next 8 years, working on a huge variety of different projects. We’re currently at Wimbledon Studios and our work on the most recent series of Doctor Who has been handled from there.
HC: So what are you working on at the moment?
MT: We’re in discussion about a number of projects - some TV, some film, some exhibition - but I’m afraid that I can’t be any more specific than that at present!
HC: Mike Tucker, thank you very much.
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...
You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?
AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.
His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.
HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?
SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020
Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.
HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?
JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019
The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.
HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?
SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019 On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.
HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?
TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.
HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019
Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.
HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?
JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019
Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.
HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?
GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019
FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.
HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?
CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019
Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.
HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?
CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019
Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...
HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?
PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019 It was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.
HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?
LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.
HC: W...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chris Bavota, co-director of Dead Dicks
Posted on Sunday 6th October 2019
Horror is the perfect genre for getting across very serious issues. Dead Dicks, which is showing at Grimmfest today does exactly that by looking at the sensitive subject of mental health. Here co-director Chris Bavota talks about this intriguing movie.
HC: How did you and co-writer and co-director Lee Paula Springer first meet?
CB: In case people don't know, Lee and I have been married for almost 10 years and we have 2 young daughters. Making movies somehow came as a natural evolution of that but wasn't really a part of our lives until about three or four years ago. We originally met back around 2004 through a mutual friend and honestly, we didn't really ge...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Tuesday 25th February
Saturday 29th February
Friday 21st February