Follow TV Tropes


Visual Effects Of Awesome / Doctor Who

Go To
Effects so good it can mesmerise and suck you in.
There are many wonders of the universe in Doctor Who, and the BBC has the amazing efforts (and CGI) to show you all of them.
  • All of the title sequences are just beautiful even after the technology has moved past whatever they were made with. From the ghostly streaming white lights morphing into letters of the 60s, to the swirling and brightly-coloured lights morphing into the face of the Doctor in the early 70s, to the gorgeous kaleidoscoping 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired "time tunnel" in the mid-to-late 70s, the Doctor's face emerging from a howling starfield in the 80s, the early CGI for the late 80s showing the TARDIS trapped in a bubble, the modern CGI for the TV Movie and the new series... You'll have your favourites, but all of them are gorgeous.
  • Say what you will about the Daleks, their original body and voice designs are superb, rubber plungers notwithstanding. Especially when the guys inside the Dalek casings remember to move around a bit. You'd be amazed at the difference a few random twitches and slight back and forth movements make to bring those things to life.
  • Advertisement:
  • In "The Sensorites", there's the major technical triumph of showing the TARDIS crew going through the TARDIS control room, leaving the doors and stepping out onto the spaceship they've landed on in one continuous, seamless movement. There is a cut to facilitate this, but it's very subtle and the mind refuses to register it. Nowadays, an effect like this would be trivial, but the series spent decades trying deliberately not to show this movement under the grounds that it would be unconvincing, despite it being executed seamlessly almost right at the very beginning.
  • The effects in the first episode of "The Space Museum" are amazing for the time and would have been incredibly difficult to do. Vicki's reverse-playback dropped glass is the obvious one, but the way the TARDIS crew seamlessly walks through objects still looks good today.
  • Advertisement:
  • The first ever shots of the TARDIS travelling through the vortex in "The Chase". It's suitably dreamlike and gorgeous and all done with practical, 1960s effects, and the kaleidoscope look of the Vortex was actually brought back for the title sequence of Season 7B. And then there's the Daleks fighting the Mechanoids. With the Mechanoids' flamethrowers.
  • The Daleks marching through the jungle with flamethrower torches in The Daleks' Master Plan" are utterly beautiful.
  • "The Tenth Planet":
    • The very early CGI used for the titles, made in 1965 when computers were the size of several rooms and ran off tape. Yeah, they're just 2D images, but making a computer do even that in 1965 was the cutting edge.
    • William Hartnell's regeneration into Patrick Troughton. Seamless, done with a broken and hideously primitive video machine, and blows away all of the other classic regeneration effects in terms of beauty, even the one in the late 1980s which used CGI (although, to be fair, the CGI looks really good, it's just the Fake Shemp that ruined it).
  • The London Underground sets in "The Web of Fear", which were so convincing that London Transport thought the BBC had filmed on their property without permission.
  • There are several nice moments in "The Mind Robber"; one particular high point comes with the use of stop-motion animation to depict Medusa's snakes.
  • "Spearhead from Space":
    • The whole serial looks unusually good due to being shot on film and being a (relatively) big-budget season opener.
    • The lovely matte painting of the Earth hanging in a deep canvas of stars at the beginning, especially on the Blu-Ray version.
    • The Autons mark one of the times where the inability to create a realistic monster was exploited to create something pants-shittingly scary. 1970s shop window dummies actually did look that creepy.
  • "The Dæmons": Though it was filmed in the days when both technology and budget were pathetic, the producers worked wonders with just a few clever camera tricks (filters, angles, and some judicious shaking). The gargoyle costume was astonishingly realistic, and for once the revealed monster (Azal) exceeded expectations. The model church which was blown up at the end was so realistic that a number of people complained to the BBC, thinking they had blown up an actual building.
  • The Draconians in "Frontier in Space", with striking, elaborate, individualised, and expressive faces, are the best-looking aliens the show would manage for decades. They were Jon Pertwee's favourite monster, as he recalls an event where he'd been talking to an actor and found himself forgetting he had a mask on.
  • The giant maggots in "The Green Death" were made on the cheap, out of condoms, and are terrifyingly realistic thanks to some excellent puppetry, camerawork, set design, and construction. They don't just look good for low-budget monsters, they look fantastic by any standards. The ingenuity involved is immense.
  • Linx, the Sontaran in "The Time Warrior". It's a (very good, well-designed) mask... that fits under another, very good, well-designed helmet.
  • The Wirrn larva taking over people in "The Ark in Space". At the time, it was this bizarre quasiorganic substance that nobody had seen before, and it very much looked like it really was growing over them. Even today, when we recognise bubble wrap painted green more readily than the 1975 audience, it still works because the actors sell it so well. (This is why El Sandifer calls actors managing to convince us that the most absurd Doctor Who monsters are real and visceral and dangerous "believing in your bubblewrap".)
  • The jungle set in "Planet of Evil" is gorgeous, and does not look like it was done in a studio at all. It was held up as a model example of set design for several years afterwards at the BBC, and photographs were used in internal training courses showing people how to do it right.
  • "Pyramids of Mars" had smoking footsteps and strangulations, and Scarman's reverse-playback bullet-wound healing — there was no reverse-playback on videotape in those days, so the producers had to borrow a video disc machine from the BBC's sports department, and Bernard Archard filmed the entire scene in reverse.
  • The face falling off the android Sarah Jane in "The Android Invasion". Not only is the effect one of the all-time behind the sofa moments, some very clever construction is used to make the servos look like they go right to the back of the head, and the eyeballs are mounted on stiff springs that twitch in a way frighteningly like natural eyeball flicker movement, making it seem like the android is still thinking and studying the Doctor as it turns its head towards him.
  • The early CGI used for the eyes of the robots in "The Robots of Death", not to mention the beautiful death-mask-like masks they wear, and the generally really high production values of that serial. It almost looks like a 00s revival series episode.
  • Say what you will about the plot, but the laser beams in "Destiny of the Daleks" are well ahead of 1979 for being accurate as to where the gun is pointing.
  • "Warriors' Gate" is one of the most visually stunning classic serials, from the modelwork, to the set design, to the optical effects...
  • The transition from Tom Baker to Peter Davison in "Logopolis" has to be the best regeneration effect in the Classic Series. The cocoon effect still looks gorgeous.
  • The sailing ships in space in "Enlightenment".
  • The Gorn-tastic makeup on the human being transformed into a Dalek while begging for death in "Revelation of the Daleks" is an interesting case — it's quite obviously done on the cheap (its cybernetic parts are represented by sequin-mesh), but its cheapness makes it a lot more organic and viscerally revolting to look at than the properly-made latex prosthetics used on later human Daleks were. It was almost certainly made at least partially out of real meat, and a small part of it throbbed pathetically to a heartbeat — again, had it been the whole mask throbbing, it would have come across as less sickly and fundamentally wrong. As it is, the scene is pure, childhood-destroying Squick.
  • For all the mocking the classic series receives for its shoddy effects, nobody can deny just how awesome that opening shot of the space station in "The Trial of a Time Lord" was. Unfortunately, later spaceship shots in the same serial don't even come close that quality — the BBC just couldn't afford it.
  • The special effects are pretty much the only good thing about "Time and the Rani". The planet and the bubble traps in particular look incredible for their time.
  • Kane's face melting in "Dragonfire".
  • The Special Weapons Dalek's lasers from "Remembrance of the Daleks".
  • The gorgeously-realized alien planet in "Survival" is a definite contender as well.
  • March 26, 2005, teatime. "Rose", the first new episode in just under a decade has begun to air, and after just a minute or so, there are two of these: the beautifully-rendered title sequence of the TARDIS traveling through the fiery Time Vortex, and then the shot of Earth in orbit, which picks up speed as it moves toward London.
    • In the original "Spearhead from Space", the Autons are magnificent examples of Uncanny Valley that traumatised the nation in a way that most other monsters in Who never did save the Daleks. However, the BBC did not have the budget to show the glass on the windows breaking, so they cut away from it. This is why it's awesome in the very first revival series episode, "Rose", when they do have the budget to show the Autons breaking the glass. The almost pornographic attention paid to the effect is joyous, and a total celebration of what they can do now.
  • Almost any shot of a satellite or spaceship from the new series, as early as "The End of the World"'s Platform One. To this day it remains one of the most effects-heavy episodes of the series, and it holds up pretty well. The shot of the Earth being destroyed by the expanding sun stands out in particular.
  • "The End of the World", "42", "Amy's Choice", and "The Big Bang" successfully render suns breathtakingly well.
  • "The Empty Child": A man's face transforming into a gas mask. The fact that they actually managed to make something that sounds that absurd look so convincing and horrifying is incredible.
  • "The Parting of the Ways": Rose with her eyes alight with vortex energy, dissolving the Daleks.
  • The Ninth Doctor's (and by extension, the Tenth Doctor, Derek Jacobi's Master's, the Eleventh Doctor's, the War Doctor's, and both of River Song's) regeneration sequences. The Twelfth Doctor's regenerations sequence takes this up a notch by looking like lightning.
  • "Tooth and Claw"'s werewolf, which still held up stunningly against the effects of Series 4 and 5.
  • The airborne shots of New New York in "Gridlock".
  • Good god, the Toclafane in "The Sound of Drums". One of them's just a floating metal ball, but when you see an entire army of them in Earth orbit... Brrr...
  • Every single shot of Gallifrey we've gotten in the new series has been absolutely stunning. In particular, anytime we see Gallifrey's domed capital city in the revival.
  • "The Fires of Pompeii": The destruction of Pompeii is absolutely breathtaking.
  • The climax of "The Poison Sky". They set the sky on fire.
  • The shot of Mars at the end of "The Waters of Mars".
  • With a few exceptions, all of Series 5. The Atraxi. Starship UK. Blitz-era London. The Spitfire vs. Dalek saucer space battle. The crash of the Byzantium. All of them are rendered so gorgeously that it would be hard to convince someone that all of these are from a TV series, and one that used to be mocked for cheesy effects at that.
  • "Vincent and the Doctor", the stargazing scene. The Doctor, Amy, and Vincent van Gogh look up at the night sky, and it transforms into The Starry Night. Absolutely beautiful.
  • "The Doctor's Wife": The shell-less makeshift TARDIS chasing after the possessed TARDIS through a dimensional rift. Wow.
  • "The Snowmen" manages to finally give us what the companions see when they first walk into the TARDIS and smoothly transitions from Eleven and Clara outside to the inside of the TARDIS without a jumpcut as in the past. It's as impressive looking as it should be.
  • "The Rings of Akhaten" has the living planet Akhaten, which looks excellent.
  • "The Day of the Doctor":
    • The 3D paintings and Daleks exterminating Gallifrey.
    • The scene with the TARDIS crashing amongst several Daleks, which is even more impressive given that it was done using scale models, not CGI.
  • The Teller in "Time Heist" is primarily a suit instead of CGI and benefits greatly for it, especially when it curls its eyestalks towards each other, which had to be tricky for the BBC effects people to figure out.
  • "Flatline":
    • As mentioned on this page, the episode displays the dimension play featured in some convincing ways.
    • The Boneless from the same episode are Mind Screw incarnate. They took the series' infamous dodgy CGI and weaponised it. The effects team managed to pull off the impossible task of making them both totally incomprehensible and terrifying. Case in point.
  • "World Enough and Time"'s black hole (pictured). Absolutely gorgeous.
  • The Series 11 logo reveal is one of the most breathtaking pieces of CGI work we've seen from the show, with dazzling visuals and a new twist on the iconic Time Vortex.
  • The Series 11 title sequence is a gorgeous-looking throwback to the trippy visuals of the early days of the classic series.
  • "Arachnids in the UK" gives us a version of the Time Vortex that shows its raw power and majesty more than the entirety of the Moffat Era ever accomplished.
  • Regardless of what you may think of its design, the Pting from "The Tsuranga Conundrum" is one of the more technically impressive CGI monsters the show has seen so far.


Example of: