The BBC tv Special Effects Exhibition opened on 1 December 1972, at the Science Museum in South Kensington, London. It was also known as the BBC tv Visual Effects exhibition.

One notable aspect of the exhibition's title is the lower case spelling of "tv" — using a lower case "tv" was how the BBC's logo was written at that time.

Like the BBC's previous exhibitions of television special effects, in the 1960s, it focused on programmes across the entire range of BBC Television's drama and light entertainment output. But this was the first such event to have a significant proportion of its exhibits drawn from Doctor Who.[1]

The exhibition ran at the Science Museum for six months, until May 1973, drawing huge numbers of visitors despite the restricted opening hours forced on the Museum by constant power cuts caused by a long running Industrial Dispute (see Notes, below). It then went on a very successful tour in the North of England.

The great success of the exhibition was adjudged to be due to the Doctor Who elements included in it. Although the Science Museum was also exhibiting items from the U.S. space program, and the 1969-72 Moon landings, including the Lunar Module and the Lunar Rover, the TARDIS console replica and original monster costumes were the most popular items.[2] This led BBC Enterprises to create two permanent Doctor Who exhibitions in 1974: at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire (which ran every year until 2003); and on Blackpool's Golden Mile (running every year until 1985, from the Easter holidays until the end of the Illuminations in October, and attracting 250,000 visitors a year in the 1970s, at the height of its popularity). Some elements of the Blackpool exhibition survived, from 1994 until 2003, on display in the public areas of the DAPOL Doctor Who factory at Llangollen in North Wales, which attracted 50,000 visitors a year to its exhibition, The Doctor Who Experience.[3]

Overview Edit

In 1972 the BBC set up an exhibition at the Science Museum in London, showcasing visual effects created by BBC television's Special Effects department (which was then more traditionally known within the Corporation as theVisual Effects Department). A small, self-contained section of the exhibition was given over entirely to effects, props and monsters which had been created for Doctor Who; but the majority of the exhibition was devoted to visual effects created for the full range of the BBC's drama and light entertainment shows.

The Doctor Who exhibit's entrance resembled a Police Box, and within was featured a mock-up of the TARDIS control room, designed as a circular chamber surrounding the many-sided central console. On display around the walls (which, complete with inset roundels, were modelled on those of the TARDIS interior sets used in the television series) were a selection of monster costumes from the series, including a Cyberman, an Axon, an Ogron, and a Draconian. In point of fact, at the exhibition's opening in December 1972 the Draconians had not as yet been seen in the tv series. And as the series was in full production during 1972 and 1973, none of these elements - except the monster costumes - were actually from the series, but were all specially built for the exhibition.

For many visitors to the exhibit, the star attraction was the display of two Daleks. These were given pride of place, in a static display which simulated a view through the open TARDIS doors, looking out upon an alien world. In December 1972, with production underway on the television serial Planet of the Daleks , no genuine Dalek props were available either, so new ones had to be constructed for the exhibition. These were built by Charlie Lumm and Tony Oxley of the BBC's Visual Effects department, and were slightly smaller - with the front section more pronounced - than a genuine Dalek prop, but otherwise were accurate replicas.

They were constructed principally of wood, but with the dome manufactured from fibreglass. Tony Oxley motorised the gun stalk to move, and also the dome and eyestalk (which could move and pivot), and he enabled the gun's central core to mimic firing by extending and retracting. The Daleks' most recent television outing, Day of the Daleks (1972) - which had been their first ever television appearance in colour - had featured a gold Dalek. One Dalek at the exhibition was accordingly matched to this, being given a gold livery with silver collars and slats, plus black hemispheres. The other Dalek was given a traditional 1960s livery: all-silver, with blue hemispheres.[4]

A collection of demonstrations and models created by the Visual Effects department was also on display around the walls (for details see Notable Elements, below).

Notable elements Edit

  • A TARDIS console and some interior TARDIS wall panels.
  • Two Daleks.
  • Cybermen from The Invasion (1968).
  • An Axon and an Axos model from The Claws of Axos (1971).
  • A glass box containing a miniature UNIT jeep, showing how the heat barrier effect worked in The Dæmons (1971).[5]
  • A Sea Devil from The Sea Devils (1972).
  • An Ogron from Day of the Daleks (1972) and Frontier in Space (filmed autumn 1972, but not aired until February 1973).
  • Draconian Prince from Frontier in Space (filmed autumn 1972, but not aired until February 1973).
  • Three spaceship models, all mounted on a starscape, set into the TARDIS wall - the Axon ship from The Claws of Axos (1971), a spacerocket seen in The Ambassadors of Death (1970) (this was a commercial Airfix model kit of an American Saturn V moon rocket, painted fluorescent purple), and one other (currently unidentified, but probably one of the various spacerocket props seen in Colony in Space (1971): the Colonists' ship, the IMC ship, or the Adjudicator's ship).

Promotion Edit

Notes Edit

  • The exhibition at the Science Museum was affected by power cuts, a feature of life in 1973, which impacted on all the Museum's exhibits. Trade Unions representing the coal miners were locked in a pay dispute with the Heath Government throughout most of 1973, and were frequently on strike, leading to the imposition of the 3-day week. Most businesses - including Museums - were only able to obtain sufficient electricity to keep running on 3 days in every week. This would eventually lead the BBC to move the exhibition out of London.
  • Running until May 1973, the exhibition was considered a tremendous success, as it drew 300,000 visitors (and because it achieved that in only six months, and in the face of significant disruption from the powercuts). In consequence, Lorne Martin - who oversaw the exhibition on behalf of BBC Licensing - was tasked with creating a BBC Exhibitions department, to exploit the commercial potential of the BBC's television shows.[7]
  • Following the conclusion of its six months in South Kensington, the exhibition was relocated to the North of England, to attract visitors who lived too far from London to make a day trip to the Science Museum. In July 1973 it opened at Middlesborough Town Hall, where it occupied the building's basement. This, too, proved a big draw, during the summer, so the exhibition remained there for the following six months. The non-Doctor Who area was expanded: set up in a ‘haunted’ barn, it now featured turning workings, and a ‘dead’ body that unexpectedly sat up! The Doctor Who section acquired additional monsters, including maggots from the most recent television serial, The Green Death. [8][9]
  • One visitor to the Science Museum exhibit was Lord Bath, who owned a Safari Park at Longleat House, his country estate near Warminster in Wiltshire. He was looking to expand the range of tourist attractions at Longleat, and had far more space than was available at the Science Museum. He approached the BBC with a proposal to relocate the entire Doctor Who exhibit to Longleat, on a permanent basis; and, in 1974, this was largely achieved.[10]
  • In April 1974 two expanded exhibitions, dedicated solely to Doctor Who, were opened by BBC Enterprises: one in the South of England, at Longleat House in Wiltshire, and the other in the North of England, on Blackpool's Golden Mile. The exhibitions were created by BBC Enterprises' Terry Sampson, who said “Doctor Who is more than just a programme, it is an experience.” Both exhibitions were permanent, in the sense that each ran throughout the summer, every year (at Longleat the exhibition ultimately ran every year for 30 years, and in Blackpool it ran for 12 years).
  • The TARDIS console which had formed part of the Science Museum exhibit went to the Doctor Who Exhibition in Blackpool.[11]
  • The Blackpool exhibition was located in an underground site, beneath a corner cafe, on Blackpool's Golden Mile. The town was selected because, as well as its popularity as a holiday resort, it had an extended holiday season due to its famous Illuminations, which lasted until October. The site chosen was an optimum location in the midst of the most profitable area of the Golden Mile, on the sea-front directly opposite the Central Pier. Opened by Jon Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen, the Exhibition justified the BBC's hopes by regularly attracting 250,000 visitors a year.[12]

Gallery Edit

Footnotes Edit

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