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Plastic Surgery

Mat Irvine was the face of the BBC Visual Effects Department in the 1970s and 80s, as well as working on numerous episodes of Doctor Who.
Mat Irvine in his workshop.
Photo © Robert Fairclough.

"I always refer to the BBC as ‘my company’,” says Mat Irvine with more than a hint of pride. “I only ever worked for the Beeb. It stays with you.”

Now a lively 67 and semi-retired, Matt lives in a picturesque village in Buckinghamshire and is still keeping busy. He spends his time “running K9 if and when required, writing, doing model reviews and devising TV ideas.” He also supplies spacecraft models to programmes like Stargazing Live and The Sky at Night, as well as co-organising the HaMeX model fairs in Hanslope Village Hall.

Designer Ian Scoones pours a drink for Jack Kine at Jack’s retirement party in 1974.

In his crowded workshop, just across the cobbled drive from his home, Mat has carefully stored hundreds of model kits in their original packaging. “I might get round to making them all one day,” he muses. “But it’s like a bottle of vintage wine: once you drink it, the value’s gone.” Upstairs, there are even more kits with names to stir childhood memories – Airfix, Revell – while, in stacks of methodically labelled boxes, there are models and props from throughout his career.

Some of the well-preserved examples he shows us include the Mordee ship from The Face of Evil (1977), the Titan shuttle from The Invisible Enemy (1977) and a Liberator gun from Blake’s 7. Mat has also become the custodian of the original K9. His fondness for what he affectionately calls ‘The Dog’ is confirmed by the numerous miniature models of the Doctor’s robot companion that he’s collected over the years.

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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.