Bill Pearson

Red Dwarf model maker passes away.

27 March, 2020

We're extremely sorry this week to learn of the passing away of Bill Pearson, one of the most highly-reputed makers of visual model effects in British television and cinema.

Bill Pearson

Over a career spanning four decades plus, Bill worked on a huge range of significant movies and TV shows, from Blake's 7 (designing, among other things, the gun that killed Blake in the final episode!) and Ridley Scott's seminal Alien, through Doctor Who, Flash Gordon, Space Precinct, Battlefield Earth, Casino Royale and drawing particular acclaim for his work on Duncan Jones' 2009 insta-classic Moon.

Moon, of course, was noted for a similarity in its production design to Alien - itself one of the late 1970s movies that were huge influences on the look and feel of Red Dwarf. And it was on Red Dwarf that Bill turned in some of his best-loved work. He actually began on the show with set dressing and props on Series IV, V and VI - including being asked by Mel Bibby to produce something Alien-looking for Back to Reality's game pods - but brought his model making expertise to the fore with Series VIII.

Bill Pearson

On that production, Bill was responsible for - among other things - the new Skutters, the immense Starbug hangar crash, and a very late call to produce a fantastic-looking escape pod for the final episode.

Bill then made an even more striking contribution to Series X, having been brought in to assist after the initial miniature shoot had failed to meet expectations. Already working out of a studio in Red Dwarf's then-home of Shepperton, Bill quickly rose to the task of providing all-new ship models, as well as sprucing up the main Red Dwarf model and creating a "bigature" panel for flyby shots.

All in all, Bill's contributions to Red Dwarf's universe are immense; and on a personal level, he's remembered with widespread fondness, with many fans telling tales of pleasant and enjoyable meetings with him at Dimension Jump and other events.

Bill, We Salute You - By Doug Naylor

Bill was a great friend as well as being a massively talented designer and a passionate member of the Red Dwarf family.

One of his proudest achievements was the miniature work he did on Moon where, with the film being shot on a tight budget, he persuaded the production to abandon their plan to use CGI and instead use miniatures made by him. The lunar surface he famously created with cat litter and the Rover moved by Bill pulling it along with a nylon wire. And what a movie it was.

Hardly a week passed without a call from Bill to tell me the latest movie gossip or recommend a film or hear my news on Red Dwarf and the various battles I was having to get it up and running.

He was an inexhaustible fountain of knowledge, and worked on Red Dwarf from Series IV onwards making action props and went on to build the amazing Cargo Bay with Steve Howarth for Red Dwarf VIII. His crowning glory regarding Red Dwarf was the work he did on Red Dwarf X where Bill built countless miniatures and a massive section of the Red Dwarf hull, all for the price of a few bottles of wine and a bag of chips, for which Bill went on to win the RTS Special Effects Award. What a night that was.

I spoke to Bill before we went into Red Dwarf: The Promised Land explaining we wouldn't be able to use any new miniatures. He understood and said if it was down to him he'd use CGI on Red Dwarf now. It was the only way to go for us. That was Bill - selfless to the end. I'll miss the hell out of him.

Bill Pearson

And we'll leave you with Bill's own views on just how important doing a good job of the visual effects was to making Red Dwarf what it was:

"Some people say about [working] on 'Dwarf, 'Oh, it's only a comedy, you can make anything for it and get away with it.' Well, I don't believe that is the route to go with comedy. If you can make the surroundings - props, models - as believable as possible, then you're contrasting with the clever dialogue."

A crowdfunding campaign has been set up by Bill's friends to help towards creating a memorial for him.

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