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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > DWM Special 43 – Special Effects > Lord of the Files

Lord of the Files

A stalwart of the BBC’s Visual Effects Department, Colin Mapson created some of the most memorable creatures in Doctor Who’s history.
Colin Mapson designed, made and even operated the Drashigs for the 1973 story Carnival of Monsters.

Colin Mapson took an unconventional route to a three-decade career in the BBC Visual Effects Department. “I was a window dresser for Debenhams, the department store,” he says. “I come from Gloucestershire originally. We did a float for Gloucester Carnival every summer and I found I was enjoying the prop-making side much more than the window dressing.

Colin Mapson, pictured in 1998, holding a model he made for Nightmare of Eden (1979).
Photo © Steve Cambden.

I finally got a job at a prop-making firm, Adrian Marchant in New Malden.

“The BBC contracted work out to us and I got to take some stuff up to Television Centre. Jack Kine, the head of the Visual Effects Department, gave me a tour.

I thought, ‘This is great.’ So we arranged to meet later. He had a look at my portfolio and said, ‘If anything comes up we’ll give you a ring.’”

The destruction of the Primitives’ city in Episode Six of Colony in Space (1971).

Colin heard nothing further until a “strange coincidence” occurred. “Kine’s daughter Jenny came to work at Adrian Marchant on a summer holiday relief scheme. I mentioned this interview with her dad and she said, ‘Come round to the house for dinner and we’ll see if we can jog him a bit.’ And that’s what we did. I came in as holiday cover for a three-month stint, did three in a row and was put on staff.”

Where did Colin learn his many skills and techniques? “I was basically a prop maker and I learned how to do pyro and things like that in the BBC; the department ran pyrotechnic courses every year. It was a really good lifestyle. At times I was amazed you got paid for it.”

Jack Kine was the head of the Visual Effects Department in the early 1970s.
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About Doctor Who Magazine

Special effects can transport audiences to alien planets, render familiar surroundings unrecognisable and bring terrifying monsters to life. Doctor Who has been at the forefront of such television trickery for more than 50 years. This richly illustrated publication celebrates the series’ greatest effects and meets the people who created them. From the trailblazers of the 1960s to the digital artists of today, here is the story of Doctor Who’s journeys into the impossible.