BERNARD WILKIE - A PECULIAR EFFECT ON THE BBC / Book Review

Two names synonymous with the pioneering days of creating visual effects for television are Bernard Wilkie and Jack Kine. Back in the 1950s, they were the Visual Effects Department of the BBC even though at the time it wasn't even known as that, BBC Television Centre was yet to be built and neither of them had created effects for television before.

Bernard Wilkie's previously unpublished memoir, written in the 1990s, arrives from Miwk Publishing this September. Although Wilkie wrote The Technique of Special Effects in Television in 1971 (considered the effects industry bible by many) and his notes and diaries were accessed for Mat Irvine and Mike Tucker's excellent BBC VFX: The Story of the BBC Visual Effects Department published in 2010, this book provides an in depth, illuminating and often hilarious account of his profession directly from the horse's mouth, as it were.

He takes us, via some amusing detours, from his inauspicious introduction to fibreglass techniques during his first interview with Richard Levin, the BBC's Head of Television Design, in 1954 to his retirement from the BBC in 1978 shortly after overseeing the Visual Effects Department's move to Western Avenue in Acton.

As he told the Radio Times for its Doctor Who 10th Anniversary Special in 1973: "Special effects are a combination of engineering and artistry, with a spot of conjuring thrown in." Conjuring is from whence Wilkie's inventive and creative impulses seem to have sprung. The trouble is, he wasn't terribly good at it.

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