A Tour around the Doctor Who
 "Creature Workshop" at Millennium FX

This weekend I was invited, along with a few other people, for a tour around the Millennium FX factory near London. As many of you know, Millennium FX is the multi-award winning producer of Creatures, Prosthetics and Animatronics for many of the BBC's shows including Dr Who (or course), Torchwood, Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show.

So Neill Gorton, Chief Exec and Founder of MFX gave us a fantastic look around the factory, creature workshop and "R&D" department where we concentrated on the work they're doing to Dr Who, past, present and future (oh and btw we needed to sign an NDA in case we came across any Series 3 work).

We arrived at the factory on a dull wet Saturday morning, and looking at the outside of what is quite an uninspiring, begrimed building you really would have no idea what treasures are on the inside.....


Millennium FX

Well how's this for a work shop bench. An original Ood, a Sycorax, a trio of Cyberman helmets, Autons and in the foreground the working Clockwork Droid.

Above, this is the original animatronic Ood, with eyes that light up and move (as do other parts of his face). The "mask" itself is made of foam latex, with the tentacles made from silicone (and they felt disgusting!). Neill at MFX is looking to potentially make replicas of this although not from foam latex as it tends to degenerate over time - which is fine for a TV show but not so good for a collectable. Below what is probably the same prop as seen in "The Impossible Planet"

....next the maquette produced to illustrate in 3D the original design concept....

...and the original prop from another angle.

Below, a prototype version of  the Sycorax leader

...and again the original clay design macquette for the Sycorax leader.

...Still on the Sycorax theme, one of the warrior helmets used in the Christmas Special, this one had LED's in the eyes. It was made up of several different layers of fiberglass which gives it a really great translucent look.

Jumping back in time a couple of pics of original Series 1 Auton heads, the first wasn't wearable but was able to rotate around the neck 360 degrees through some elementary animatronics. Unfortunately this specific "Exorcist" type scene was cut from the final show.

...and below a wearable version of the same, made of a thick though flexible plastic.

Below - The Hoix as seen at the beginning of the Love and Monsters episode (thanks Julian!)

Below, one of the Cat face appliances from the opening story of Series 2, New Earth

and below the original Santa mask from "The Christmas Invasion"........

Below, a pile of original Cyberman parts - these ones a new one made for the forthcoming Dr Who exhibition. Now I'd really like to get my hands on these!

...and a couple of the original designs for the new series Cyberman. I'm going to add a whole new section on the realisation of the original design, and the composition of this great costumes.

This next one is fantastic, it the original Clockwork Droid prop from "The Girl in the Fireplace", which IMO epitomised the superb quality of the writing from the new series of Dr Who.

This is a really wonderful prop, a hand cranked joystick in the droids lower back provides this prop with excellent movement on the head and neck. I played around with it fro a few minutes and you can see how the design allowed the guys working it to really get a performance from it.

Next a composite of two of the masks seen in publicity stills from the BBC....

and a photo I took of a couple of the original masks used  in the show. It looks like the designers at Millennium FX used Viennese masquerade masks as a basis for their design.  As with the Cyberman they're now reproducing "replicas" of these, and I'll be adding a section on these later.

...and one of my personal favourite episodes, the gas masks from The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. If you look closely enough you can see the flesh coloured latex around the edges which was used on the actors faces to give the impression the mask had grown out of the face. These eye lenses in these masks came from a Russian gas mask, with the guys at Millennium adding the rubber parts and filter around this creepy eye styling. This particular one's missing the "filter" - for the show they used dummy end caps which were removed between takes to help the actors breathe more easily.

These episodes featured the introduction of "Captain Jack", who featured in the new BBC offshoot series Torchwood. This gives me a great chance to segue into one of the most interesting designs of this new series, the Cyberwoman - man this site isn't just thrown together!

Above and below the original clay sculpt of the Cyberwoman design by Neill and his team

Finally another shot of that great work bench....

Ood heads, Diet Coke and Autosol metal polish...these guys really know how to throw a party. Many thanks to Neill and Lisa for the time and effort put into the day.


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