Currently on display at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff are eight monster costumes from the classic era of the show. These form part of the final chapter of their restoration project and the public can vote for which monster they want to see restored. BlogtorWho takes you through the eight contenders…
All of these artefacts from the classic era of Doctor Who were retained by the BBC following the closure of the second Blackpool exhibition in 2009. Eight years on, deterioration of the original constituent pieces has left them in desperate need of restoration. Unfortunately with the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff closing this summer only one will be restored to its former glory and worthy of the exhibition.
Yeti (The Web of Fear, 1968)
Following a successful debut in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ in 1967 the Yeti returned the next year in ‘The Web of Fear’. This is perhaps the only remaining example of this Patrick Troughton era monster in existence. The Yeti reappeared at the 2013 Doctor Who Celebration in the London Excel and has been on display in Cardiff since the Experience reopened in October 2014. Despite being on display the costume has been in need of restoration. In addition to general cosmetic attention needed to the fur, the details also need work. The facial features for instance, plus the claws and feet, need fixing. The right claw in particular is missing and, as you can see from the latest photo, the left claw is also suffering. As the oldest costume in the vote the Yeti is surely the front-runner to win.
Silurian (Warriors of the Deep, 1984)
Much like the Yeti, the Silurian is an example of their second televised appearance. Whilst the predominantly fibreglass torso and headpiece remain in good condition, given their age, the same cannot be said of the remainder. Unfortunately the passage of time has not been kind to the latex and rubber suit. As you can see from sections of the arms and legs the simulated scales have and continue to flake off. The feet have completely rotted away, exposing the metal frame which once supported the Silurian in an exhibition. Now however the Silurian cannot be stood up, such is the deterioration to the base, laid flat in an open display case. With this damage accumulating this screen-used Silurian desperately requires restoration.
Sea Devil (Warriors of the Deep, 1984)
Also from ‘Warriors of the Deep’ (1984) is a Sea Devil. They too were redesigned for their appearance opposite the Fifth Doctor. Instead of the string vest seen in their original appearance, the Sea Devils were treated to a samurai-inspired ensemble. As with the Yeti this item had previously been seen at the Doctor Who Celebration of 2013 before returning to storage. Fortunately the leatherette and fibreglass breastplate has survived well from the 1980’s. The foam and latex head is also holding up well. However the hands and fibreglass helmet are completely missing. Most of all the costume will benefit from attention to the internal metal and wooden framework that supports the ensemble, providing further structure and ensuring its longevity.
Tractator (Frontios, 1984)
Writer Christopher H. Bidmead was inspired for the Tractators by a wood louse. Given the budget available the final product was not entirely as successful as he may have hoped. However the Tractators remain a memorable monster from the classic era of Doctor Who with few known to still exist. Sadly as you’ll see from the above photo a significant split has occurred across the neck of the Tractator, exposing the wooden support frame underneath. This requires immediate attention to lessen the strain on the materials that remain. Further details on the head also need delicate restoration to return this fearsome creature to its former glory.
Drathro (The Mysterious Planet, 1986)
Perhaps the most shocking demonstration of an item in need of restoration is the L3 robot from ‘The Trial of the Time Lord’ (1986). Drathro is simply a collection of pieces. An impressive creation, famously demonstrated on an episode of Blue Peter, it was last seen on display at the Blackpool exhibition from 2004-2009. Previously it had been an exhibit at Longleat and Llangollen exhibitions. Now the robot needs piecing back together. Those component parts also require a fresh lick of paint. If it was to win the vote it would look particularly impressive next to the K1 Giant Robot. Both are stunning examples of robot design on a television budget.
Vervoid (Terror of the Vervoids, 1986)
Another monster from The Trial of the Time Lord season is a Vervoid. These humanoid plants inadvertently inspired the Handbots in ‘The Girl Who Waited’ (2011). Writer Tom MacRae recalled how a Vervoid planting a poisonous seed during a handshake had been a particularly scary moment that subconsciously stimulated the idea of hands being deadly. As you can see from the photograph the costume is no longer mounted on a mannequin with the suit placed in a display box. It would therefore be great to see it properly displayed to appreciate the full humanoid creature once again. The mask also shows signs of discolouration and overall needs a bit of cosmetic care and attention.
Haemovore (The Curse of Fenric, 1989)
Two monsters represent the Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who, both from the final televised season of the original run. First is a Haemovore from ‘The Curse of Fenric’ (1989), vampiric creatures who were the tools of Fenric. In one notable scene the creatures rose from the watery depths and attacked The Doctor and Ace in the church. Given the action packed nature of their appearance it is impressive to see a Haemovore still intact. Of course over time deterioration of the mask has occurred. Despite this the monster has the potential to once again terrify visitors to a Doctor Who exhibition.
Cheetah Person (Survival, 1989)
From the very last story of the classic era is the final contender; a Cheetah Person. ‘Survival’ was the final transmitted story of Season 26 in 1989 and featured this race of predatory humanoids. Although the cheetah print fun fur was not appreciated by the actors inside the costumes, working in the heat of a quarry, the material has ensured that the costume has survived reasonably well in the years that have passed since then. These creations have been regular exhibits at Doctor Who exhibitions since 1990 and could be again with some cosmetic attention. Restoration of this Cheetah Person in 2017 would also be fitting as ‘Survival’ writer Rona Munro returns to Doctor Who with a new story for Series 10 with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.
These classic monsters remain on display at the Doctor Who Experience for a limited time only so this is a rare opportunity to see these creatures. But which monster will ultimately triumph? Online voting closes at 5pm on Friday 5th May. Voting at the Experience in Cardiff closes at 5pm on Saturday 6th May. The winning monster will be announced a few days later with the fully restored monster expected to be revealed in July 2017.