From Marvel, Star Wars and Mission: Impossible to Doctor Who; meet the show’s new Production Designer

Over the past couple of months we’ve continued to learn more about the team Russell T Davies and Bad Wolf have put together to usher in the next era of Doctor Who. In some cases we’re seeing the return of some familiar faces. Obviously former BBC executives like Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter are back due to their current roles at Bad Wolf. As is frequent Davies collaborator Phil Collinson, previously Doctor Who’s producer for the revival’s first four series. But Neil Gorton and Millennium FX, who provided creature designs and prosthetics from 2005 to 2020 are back too. As is VFX producer Will Cohen, who at the helm of various companies like The Mill and Milk previously guided Doctor Who’s special effects through the RTD1 and Moffat years. But there is also a new name that’s just as exciting as any of the returning favourites. It’s new production designer Phil Sims.

Sims joins an elite fellowship of professionals to have held the role. In 2005, Ed Thomas took on the epic challenge of reinventing the look of Doctor Who and the TARDIS, inside and out, for a new generation. From Matt Smith’s second series until Jodie Whittaker’s debut the near legendary Michael Pickwoad took the helm. Along the way he created what many fans consider to be one of the most awe-inspiring TARDIS sets ever. Arwel Wyn Jones was on hand for one of the biggest visual shake ups of the series’ modern history as the Thirteenth Doctor fell to Earth. While most recently Dafydd Shurmer faced the unique challenges represented by the pandemic. Shurmer’s great inventiveness and skill make the show arguably look better than ever.

Phil Sims impressive resume crosses universes to include some of the most visually impressive SF films of recent years

Phil Sims has an astonishing track record of projects on both the big and small screens. Notably he was previous Production Designer on the Black Mirror episode USS Callister. For the mind-twisting story, Sims provided a bold and vibrant twist on the look and feel of classic Star Trek. He also served as an Art Director on several films famous for their striking visuals, beginning with the movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These include several Marvel Studios projects, such as Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. And as his career has progressed, he’s taken more senior roles in art direction teams, acting as the Senior Art Director on Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, and the Supervising Art Director for Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

The anniversary specials will reveal Sim’s new “ambitious and impossible” TARDIS set

Russell T Davies recently revealed that Doctor Who has had a major budget upgrade for his new run. Combined with Sims having such beautiful and imaginative SF design work on his CV, it would seem there are exciting times ahead. As with several of his predecessors, one of Sim’s first priorities is crafting a new TARDIS console room. He seems to be keeping the Police Box design introduced in 2018 largely intact. But the Bad Wolf team have already been teasing Sim’s interior as possibly the most intricate and ambitious yet.

Executive producer Joel Collins, talking to Doctor Who Magazine, has described Sim’s new TARDIS as starting from “a rough idea that was just too ambitious, and too impossible… but which everybody loved.” But the engineering team have successfully brought the “impossible […] logic-defying set” to life. An early idea to reveal the set in the trailer was decided against, so we still have a while to go before we get to officially see it. But based on everything we know, Sim’s work is poised to take our breaths away.

You can learn more about Sim and Collins, and their approach to design, with this pre-Doctor Who interview with the pair from BAFTA.



Doctor Who 60th Anniversary poster (c) BBC Studios
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary poster (c) BBC Studios

Doctor Who returns in November with three 60th Anniversary specials



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.