I was recently lucky to visit Neil Cole’s Museum of Classic Sci-Fi, tucked away in the rolling hills of the Northumbrian countryside. I was blown away by the sheer amount of screen-used props, costumes and production models in Neil’s collection, and most of all his impressive ‘archive’ of classic Doctor Who items.
While the Doctor Who section makes up the bulk of the museum, you’ll also see a vast range of items from films and series such as the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, Alien, Prometheus, Planet of the Apes, Babylon 5, The Tripods, Blake’s 7, Battlestar Galactica and the Marvel films.
I have reviewed my visit in the new edition of Shoreline of Infinity magazine, which is out today. See the link below for more details!
Blackpool Revisited is here… John Collier’s follow-up to last year’s hugely popular Blackpool Remembered delves even deeper into the history of Doctor Who exhibitions in Blackpool from the 1970s to present day, with lots of stuff in between.
I’ve really enjoyed helping John realise this project, as well as writing numerous pieces and providing illustrations. With contributions from over 90 fans, here are over 600 pages of memories and nostalgia, all free to download.
Every artist has their own sources of inspiration. As a science fiction artist, I have always cited names from that iconic era of space and sci-fi art in the 1970s and 80s as a major influence, which captivated me from a young age. But as an illustrator and Doctor Who fan, I have always adored the very visual side of the show – the book covers, toy packaging, posters, etc – you name it. The various visions of the show as depicted by numerous artists over the years clearly had a profound effect on me.
For one of my contributions to the upcoming Blackpool Revisited book, I wanted to talk to some of the artists associated with the show, in particular those with a connection to the Blackpool exhibition.
Andrew Skilleter is arguably one of the best-known names in Doctor Who circles and is regarded the leading artist of the show in the 1980s and beyond. What I’ve always loved about Andrew’s work is his use of colour and texture; his shading and reflections on the metallic surfaces of Daleks and Cybermen or the slimy, lumpy reptilian visage of a Sea Devil – he captured these things perfectly and this really made his artwork so atmospheric. I still remember getting his 1986 Doctor Who calendar, which remained on my bedroom wall long after the year had passed. Although I was always excited to see what the following month’s artwork would be, there was always a reluctance to have to turn the previous page over! His work featured heavily in the exhibition shop, on numerous pieces of merchandise or book covers, and the 1985 season poster.
Leafing through his 1995 book Blacklight, it occurred to me, to get in touch and see if he would be willing to contribute to the project. I never thought I would find myself interviewing Andrew, and that has been such a pleasure, and I’ve rediscovered his work all over again.
Andrew’s interview took us back over a long and illustrious career, which produced some of the best-known Doctor Who pieces by anyone – and he’s still at it today.
All that remains of the Dalek t-shirt that I bought at the exhibition in 1985, is the printed front section, which at some point, I had cut out and stuck in a photo album. Fortunately, I still have it – though it has clearly seen better days. But as a seven-year-old, I loved that t-shirt. I wore my Daleks with pride, and really adored the illustration on it. I no doubt attempted top copy it countless times, as I learned to draw Daleks.
The Blackpool and Longleat exhibitions sold three specially designed t-shirts, featuring the Daleks, the Cybermen and Peter Davison’s fifth Doctor. Looking at the remains of my own t-shirt recently, I noticed the artist’s signature – Rod Vass.
I thought it was time to talk to Rod about that t-shirt. Tracking him down was surprisingly easy. However, I thought I was going to find a jobbing illustrator, whereas it turned out Rod was one half of the company Imagineering Ltd, to whom the BBC subcontracted prop and costume building both for the television series and the exhibitions. Fantastic!
Beyond just the three t-shirts, Imagineering Ltd had also produced all manner of merchandise for the exhibitions, as well as replica latex masks, as regularly advertised by The Movie Store in the 1980s. Rod still works in film and TV through his company Armordillo, which produces armour, costumes and sets. If you’ve seen Gladiator, then you’ve seen his work in action.
Rod was generous with his time and responses, especially given that I’m asking him about work from around 40 years ago, that he has long since moved on from.
One of the other items I bought from the Blackpool exhibition was the most amazing poster of a cutaway Dalek – a dramatic painting of a Dalek before a burning cityscape, but with all of its workings on show. That piece of artwork fascinated me, due to the intricacy and detail of the circuitry, machinery, wires and tubes all crammed inside the Dalek, as well as the bubbling, pulsating Kaled mutant housed in the top section. I remember comparing this poster with the drawing of a similar Dalek anatomy in the Doctor Who Technical Manual.
Digging the poster out, I noticed a name in the credits at the bottom – Graham Potts. But despite Google’s best efforts, no website for Graham turned up. Nothing on Facebook either and only a brief reference to him in Telos Publishing’s Target book. I started to fear he may no longer be with us.
As a last resort, I tried searching on LinkedIn, and found a listing for an illustrator by that name, but with little other information. One private message later and as luck would have it, I’d found the right Graham Potts.
Graham only had a brief involvement in the Doctor Who world, having illustrated a few pieces of cover art including the novelisation of The Celestial Toymaker and Peter Haining’s popular 1983 book, A Celebration. Again, I was asking Graham about a piece of work from 36 years ago, but he happily obliged, and it was great to hear more about the background to that piece and his way of working back then.
As an artist, I’ve always enjoyed talking to other artists, and it is especially rewarding to be able to speak with those whose work inspired me. I can’t thank Andrew, Rod and Graham enough for their time, generosity and interest in the project.
All of these conversations have not only left me feeling enriched and inspired, but they’re absolutely fantastic contributions to the book.
Following my involvement with Blackpool Remembered and Blackpool Revisited, I have given my 2011 Doctor Who ebook, Who, Where & When a short, personal account of growing up with the show in the 1980s and beyond.
I’ve given the front cover an overhaul with some recent illustrations and the existing articles have undergone some minor edits where needed. However bringing the book up to date, are four new pages at the end, which I hope you enjoy.
I spent a large part of my childhood drawing Doctor Who. Any other fans out there will understand how an obsession over something like this can grip you, especially at a young age – and to have some drawing ability meant that I could visualise my own worlds and adventures (usually at the expense of homework!). But, my comics would often remain half finished (or half started) or they would just be another excise to draw the Daleks.
My obsession with the Daleks was probably equal to my obsession with the show – and still is. I loved drawing them (though they were, are, and will always be challenging things to draw!). But, until this year, I hadn’t drawn any Daleks for many years, and it was literally over twenty years since I had last done any kind of Doctor Who illustration whatsoever, especially as in the last decade, my science fiction work and cover art has been at the fore.
Earlier this year when I became involved in both Blackpool Remembered and Terraqueos Distributors’ Unofficial 1989 Dr Who Annual, I found myself returning to line-art and really enjoying it. In the past I would always prefer to work with ink on paper for line-art, but once scanned in, the results never looked as good, so I decided to work entirely digitally, which isn’t without its challenges on a graphics tablet.
The pieces for Blackpool Remembered were obviously heavily inspired by the original Blackpool exhibition; the lighting and colours in particular. But I also wanted to pay a subtle homage to the vintage annuals of the 1970s – the 1975 Daleks Omnibus in particular, at the same time as putting my own stamp on the pieces. Even though both book projects were complete, I felt that old urge to do some more, so set about doing more Daleks, Davros (based on Terry Molloy’s take on the character in the 1980s) and another old favourite of mine, the Sontarans.
Taking stock of this recent output, I realised that this collection of pieces – depicting some of the Doctor’s most famous alien adversaries as well as good old K9 – deserved to be more than digital files sitting on my hard drive or in social media feeds. They simply needed to be something to have and hold, and this led to the production of a limited edition sets of prints.
I’m really proud of this set – not only because of the project that spawned them, but rediscovering both my passion for illustrating Doctor Who and establishing a particular style was very rewarding, but also because it feels like a culmination of so many years of fandom and the simple joy putting pen to paper (or pixel).
This year, I have really enjoyed rediscovering my love of illustrating all things Doctor Who – to celebrate this, I have produced a limited edition run of A5 print packs.
Each individually numbered pack contains six A5 prints of classic Doctor Who characters – the Daleks, Davros, Cybermen, Sontarans and K9. Each print is finished and preserved with a smooth matt lamination.
This set brings together personal pieces alongside illustrations commissioned for the Blackpool Remembered project.
The packs are for sale on eBay for £9.99 each, including postage (UK only – sorry!). This is a limited edition item, with just 40 packs available. I’m also happy to receive payment directly via PayPal via email; just get in touch: alex[at]thelightdream.net
Reconnecting with both my love of Doctor Who and my old passion for illustrating Doctor Who has proven to be very rewarding during this strange and troublesome year.
I’m absolutely delighted to have contributed several exclusive illustrations to Terraqueous Distributors’ Unofficial Dr Who Annual 1989, which is available today – the show’s 57th Anniversary – via Lulu.
The annual follows the styling of the vintage Doctor Who annuals, and since they were discontinued by the time Sylvester McCoy took over the part, this one feels long overdue! It features stories and illustrations by fans, as well as contributions from well known names in the Who world, such as Alister Pearson, Dominic Glynn, Jessica Martin, Mike Tucker, Andrew Skilleter, Andy Walker, Stephen Wyatt, plus a foreword by Doctor Who’s script editor of the time – Andrew Cartmel.
Here are a couple of my illustrations:
Next up, is John Collier’s follow-up book to Blackpool Remembered – this time entitled Blackpool Revisited. Work is well under way collating content and contributors, which further explores the legacy of Doctor Who exhibitions in Blackpool, in particular the more recent Doctor Who Museum which ran from 2004–2009. For more information, keep an eye on the project website or follow the Twitter account for all the latest!
Meanwhile, here is my cover art, which is an update of the original mono cover illustration from Blackpool Remembered.
My latest illustration commission was something a little different – a new banner for The Space Museum; a website documenting classic Doctor Who merchandise. Curator Christopher Hill wanted to depict an image of a young fan in the 1960s, featuring some of the toys of the day such as the Marx Daleks – and also a present-day, adult version of the same person, now with an expansive collection. Any Doctor Who collectors will surely resonate with this – and it was a great fun project to work on!
Today sees the release of Blackpool Remembered – John Collier’s long-time ambition to create an extensive book about the original Doctor Who exhibition in Blackpool.
I have illustrated the front cover and several exclusive interior pieces, as well as producing the year-by-year floor plans and providing several written pieces – it has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this epic project. Blackpool Remembered is a digital publication, with over 400 pages and 80 contributors, and it’s all available for free!
The August Bank Holiday weekend was a time when the Collier family would traditionally be making their way up to Blackpool – which for young John, meant it would soon be time to descend those famous stairs once again, to see the year’s new exhibits at the Doctor Who exhibition, hidden beneath the surface of Blackpool’s Golden Mile.
It is now time to re-live those moments, as John’s long-time ambition to compile an expansive book about the Blackpool Doctor Who exhibition has finally come to fruition.
Enter the TARDISand defy the Daleks once again, as Blackpool Remembered is now available! It is most certainly bigger on the inside – you will find over 400 pages of memories, photographs, interviews, floor plans, nostalgia, memorabilia, artwork and much more. For those fans who visited, this is the opportunity to go back in time, and for the generations of fans who missed it, your visit starts here!
Download Blackpool Remembered from the project website.