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The challenges presented by 2015’s Heaven Sent show how the teams at BBC Wales, Milk VFX and Millennium FX work together on an episode of Doctor Who.
One of Chris Goodman’s concept illustrations of the Veil from Heaven Sent (2015).

Samantha Price remembers how she first heard about Heaven Sent. “The script team at Cardiff said, ‘Oh, there’s an episode coming up with just the Doctor, all in one location – it’ll be effects-light.’” Sam, who was post-production supervisor on Doctor Who in 2014 and 2015, wasn’t fooled. “Of course, it was never going to be as simple as that!”

Goodman’s designs for the Veil were partly inspired by the Ringwraiths in the animated version of The Lord of the Rings (1978).

Heaven Sent was a particularly demanding episode to make, despite the best efforts of the production team to get ahead even before writer and executive producer Steven Moffat had finished his script. “We were sent the first 30 or so pages,” says Sam. “That was really useful because it had the castle, the teleport chamber, the bedroom and the monitors on the wall, and we start to see the creature that’s chasing the Doctor. So even though you haven’t got the full thing, you’ve a lot to be getting on with.”

What did she think when she first read it? “It’s always exciting to read a new script. You want to know what’s going to happen and where it’s going to take you. That one’s very dark and harrowing.” Does a story like that get in your head as you’re working on it? “Oh yes. But then you have to go back and figure out how you’ll make it. I’ll do a pass looking just for the effects required, so I’m ready to speak to the different effects teams. We also look after copyright and clearances, so I do a pass for that. If there’s a speaking monster, we’re probably looking at getting in a voice-over artist. So it’s looking for anything that will affect post-production and trying to be on top of it.”

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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.