Viewers may cower behind the sofa, but Doctor Who shows no fear as he fights off the invading hordes of Cybermen. But then, perhaps he could see that their hands were made of cricket gloves, their bodies were painted boiler suits and the ray guns looked suspiciously like electric screwdrivers.
More than 100 props from Doctor Who were auctioned recently allowing fans to buy an original, if somewhat ramshackle, part of science fiction folklore. As well as two full-size Daleks from 1988, the sale included modern costumes such as David Tennant’s suit and Billie Piper’s pyjamas from Marks & Spencer.
It is the Heath Robinson monsters that catch the eye, however, made in a hurry from foam latex, fibreglass and electrical components that would not look out of place in a school science experiment. A fearsome red snake encountered by Peter Davison and a young Martin Clunes in a 1983 episode was created mainly from air conditioning tubes.
“The monsters were made from things you could buy in a hardware shop,” said Stephanie Connell, entertainment memorabilia specialist at Bonhams in Central London, who said the use of DIY components allowed the BBC to meet tight schedules.
“Often they would be made on a Tuesday for filming on Friday. It was very creative and on the screen it looks fantastic.”
The Magma Beast, Tractators, and Mandrell, made from foam latex and bits of leather and fake fur “could do with a bit of TLC”, Ms Connell said. Even the Daleks, made from wood, fibreglass and something that looks a bit like an egg whisk, appear in danger of being exterminated by a stiff breeze. But Ms Connell said that it was testament to the creators that so much was still intact. “The makers didn’t know they were going to last this long.”
The oldest of the props is a latex brontosaurus from 1974.