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Feature: Doctor Who

As seen in Starburst #336

Make-up maestro Neill Gorton discusses the process of bringing to life the various monsters and aliens soon to be seen on the second season

Last season, Doctor Who started in present day London, then a week later took a trip to the far future, as aliens gathered to witness the end of the world. Season Two begins at Rose’s council estate too, then minutes later the travellers are heading further in Time than they’ve been before, beyond even the planet’s demise. New Earth is Russell T Davies’s sequel to The End of the World, and reveals Humanity’s new home.

Story details remain classified, but we know that it involves a hospital facility run by nun-like alien cat people, and that the Doctor and Rose’s cosmetically-obsessed nemesis Cassandra (voiced by Zoë Wanamaker) is up to no good. Once again it’s a tale packed with creatures and prosthetics – and another welcome opportunity for special effects genius Neill Gorton and his company Millennium Effects to put their skills to impressive use.

With prominent roles in the episode, the cat nurses are the star creatures of the week. Working from Davies’s simple brief, Gorton devised a one-piece facial prosthetic that looks tremendously effective, and was complemented by the addition of feline dentures.

“On TV you try and avoid any four-hour, five-hour make-ups because you’re on a short schedule anyway – you can’t eat into all that time,” Gorton tells Starburst. “So we try and keep every make up to a two-hour maximum.

“A lot of work goes into the prosthetic piece itself beforehand because it’s all pre-painted and all the fur, all the whiskers and details, are done in advance. It took someone about a day to do one of those faces, just to pre-artwork it. So that speeds the process up from that point of view, and then it’s just a case of sticking it on.

“We had the advantage in that the nun’s habits covered all the edges, so you’re only worried about disguising the areas around the mouth and eyes.”

The nun costumes also proved to be something of a blessing for the numerous extras playing cat nurses. “There are three artists with full prosthetics,” Gorton reveals, “and then there are a lot of background ones. But we had this whole ‘nun veil’ thing going on which meant that we didn’t have to make everybody up with prosthetics. They had a little mask on underneath which was just on elastic, so you saw the shape of the face but it wasn’t actually a prosthetic.”

by David Richardson

Read the full interview and more on Doctor Who in
Starburst #336

Image © Visual Imagination, Doctor Who © BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

Taken from
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Starburst #336
May 2006
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