BOOK REVIEW BBC VFX – Mat Irvine and Mike Tucker

Not a washing-up bottle to be seen

Authors: Mat Irvine, Mike Tucker
Publisher: Aurum Press • 240 pages • £30.00
ISBN: 978-1-84513-556-0 • 12 November 2010

BBC Visual Effects guru Mat Irvine once admitted in an interview that he rued the day he appeared on Swap Shop and showed how he’d made a spaceship for Blake’s 7 from two hairdryers. It seemed to cement forever in the minds of the British viewing public that they were all about washing-up liquid rockets and toilet roll guns.

This lavishly illustrated book (subtitle: The History Of The BBC Visual Effects Department) goes a long way to redressing the balance. A pictorial history of nearly 50 years of the department (which, for most of that time, wasn’t actually a real department at all) it shows just what miracles they created on such meagre budgets.

They didn’t just work on SF shows either, with the book covering comedies, quiz shows and light entertainment as well as drama. The bulk of it is split up into short sections on specific shows, presented in alphabetical order. The photos are wonderfully browsable, though some could have done with being a little larger.

The text can be a little dry, but Irvine and Tucker’s underlying enthusiasm to pass on their arcane knowledge and a few well-placed anecdotes keep things lively. And yes, that hairdryer spaceship is sadly absent.

Dave Golder