Mr Flibble Talks To... Who's Effects
Mike Tucker is well known to 'Dwarf fans as one of the best of the BBC effects team. But as a committed Dr Who fan - and writer - he's going back to the thing he loves most for BBC Online's new project, 'TARDIS Cam', which begins on November 23rd.
23 November, 2001
Mike Tucker - No. 2
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble forwarded his first question to Mike through Andrew: I understand 'TARDIS CAM' started to come together when you went in to be interviewed for the BBC Cult site...

Yeah, we chatted about ways in which the effects department could help the site, and the idea arose of us shooting some new material. One of the problems with Dr Who is that there hasn't been any new visual material produced since the TV movie, so this gave an opportunity for the Cult site to get something unique.

I was very keen for us to do complete environments, my feeling was that if we were going to do this we should do it properly - as if it was a sequence for the programme - rather than opting for a quick and easy solution that I felt would look cheap.

Your history on Dr Who must have informed the style you chose to go for...

Bizarrely I never got the opportunity to do this sort of miniature work during my tenure on 'Who, so the style that I went for was much more in the mould of the sort of effects sequences done for the Pertwee and Baker eras - shows like Robots of Death, or Curse of Peladon, or City of Death. Shows where the entire mood and feel of the alien planet was set up by the opening model shot. It's something that I had much more opportunity to experiment with on Red Dwarf, and I used a lot of the tricks that I learned there.

Mr Flibble put on a long, multi-coloured scarf and asked: What's the process for DEVELOPMENT - drawings come first, presumably?

In an ideal world I would like to come up with full colour visuals for everything - the truth of TV production is that I rarely have the time to go through quite such an intensive design procedure. In the end you just lay out the broad strokes of your design concept and trust in the team that you've got to follow those concepts through. Because I needed to communicate the ideas for TARDIS cam very quickly and accurately to the camera and lighting crew I did a series of A3 colour paintings that did prove very useful.

How did you arrive at the first collection of images?

I did a series of rough thumbnail sketches just to show the production team what I thought we could achieve with the time and money available. They chose the ones that they liked and I worked up some more detailed drawings and paintings from there. It's a system that works very well because you never get a production saying 'Oh, that's not what we were expecting'. It used to work very well on 'Dwarf when Doug and Rob used to sit in a pub with the effects crew, throwing ideas at us and seeing what visuals we could come up with.

Have you had to build a brand new TARDIS model?

I have to admit that we didn't get a new miniature made. There are so many good model police boxes around these days (far more than were ever around when we were actually making the series!) that I was able to get one 'off the shelf'. I did use one of the old production models for one sequence. If we end up doing a second 'series' of TARDIS cam, then I will build a new miniature.

Mr Flibble made some crack about the size of his sonic screwdriver that both Andrew and Mike ignored. Tell me about shooting on DIGITAL VIDEO - how has this changed things?

That was an interesting experience. It certainly allowed us to shoot far more than we would have been able to with film, but I wasn't that taken with the 'look' of it. I actually shot some 16mm as well - just in case - and the reaction to the filmed stuff was so much more positive, so I think that film wins out in the end. There is still the issue of shooting at speed, as well. It wasn't a huge problem to us on this run of TARDIS Cam, but it could be in the future. I think that 16mm is certainly the way I'll shoot in future.

You're working with Pete Tyler - who you also worked with on 'Dwarf. Does a shared history make working on new projects easier? (Able to predict each others' wants, etc.)

Working with Pete is a joy. He knows intuitively what I want, and I know how I can help him when I'm setting things up. We recently realised that we've been working together for nearly 17 years now, and I don't even bother looking elsewhere for camera crew when I'm doing model work. The last four or five years have seen us expand the repertoire of miniature sequences that we've done quite considerably - tidal waves, tornadoes, shipwrecks - but it's been nice to return to a science fiction scenario.

Have you and Pete ever shared any serious trial-by-fire-type disasters during filming?

Not for a long time. The early series of Dwarf were a bit scary because we were on such a steep learning curve, but I like to think that we take most things in our stride these days.

What would you like to see happen in the FUTURE with Dr Who?

I'd really like to get some much more elaborate sequences done, ones with a lot more scope and depth, but that really depends on budget. As for more actual Dr Who, well we'll have to see... It goes without saying that I'd love to be involved if it happens.

Mr Flibble said he couldn't stand it if Who's got too impressive - he's terrified enough of the Daleks as it is! For those who don't know, tell us a little bit about your DR WHO NOVELS...

The 'Who novels came about when the BBC took over the range from Virgin. I was one of the authors contacted to write one of the opening six, along with my writing partner Robert Perry. We did a Cyberman story that went down quite well, and I've done three since, two more with Robert and one solo. I've also done a couple of 'Who audios for Big Finish Productions and am just in the process of sorting out a Tomorrow People script.

Are you doing more?

I hope so. I'm in discussion with Justin Richards (the Dr Who books editor) about a couple of ideas at the moment. And I've still got a 'Behind the Scenes of Red Dwarf Series I - VI ' book that I'd love to do.

Finally, do you think this 'Cam' concept could work for, say, Red Dwarf?

I'd kill to do STARBUG Cam! There are so many scenarios that I think would be fun and visually interesting that we never got the chance to do on the series. It would be fantastic! Commission us! Absolutely. We could show Starbug in amazing environments or escaping from an exploding sun, etc, etc. Sky's the limit. When do we start...?

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Mike Tucker, and now that it's over... Mr Flibble is very cross.