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The Android Invasion: William Mitchell & Doctor Who…

Don’t ask me why, but I started watching an old Doctor Who the other evening. I’d scanned the TV page looking for something to watch as I ate my tea, and as I read the title “The Andrid Invasion”, a vague recollection of a faceless, robot version of the lovely Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen) popped into my head…

Elizabeth SladenDating from the mid 1970’s and starring my personal favorite Doctor, Tom Baker, it is to be honest, a rather shonky affair that probably would have been better left as a memory.

The acting, the sets, the story, the effects, all conspire to produce something so frighteningly low key (even for the 70’s) that I’m amazed we all watched these shows so avidly at the time. And as for the androids and their alien masters … men in white boiler suits and crash helmets with guns built into their pointing finger, and little trolls. Hmmm…

Anyway, about half an hour in I was just about to give up when what should the Doctor walk out from behind, but something that looked remarkably like a sculpture my friend Bill Mitchell might have made…

A couple of screen photos and an email to Bill and sure enough, a genuine Mitchell it turns out to be…

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Bill tells me this work dates from the early 1970’s and was created using his sand blasting technique to carve away at solid lumps of brickwork. It’s located at the Harwell Atomic Center near Oxford and at the time was a very hush hush commission for him, due to the nature of the atomic research and the secrecy of the Cold War. he sent me this photo he took after it was finished. Bill also did some work inside the building apparently, but that didn’t appear in the show…

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The building itself looks quite interesting to my eyes. Beautifully made precast concrete panels clad the walls and as for the cantilevered entrance canopy above, very stylish…

Bill tells me the commission came from the War Office, for whom he also did work at a “secret tank factory”. I think I’ll have to ask him to tell me more about that one..

Sadly like many of his external sculptural works from this period, Bill doesn’t know if it’s still there and from online aerial sites it’s difficult to tell, as the greenery has matured considerably since the BBC set up their cameras to film a man in a long scarf running past.

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Having looked at aerial photos trying to work out where Bill’s work might be on the campus, I couldn’t help but notice the massive, doughnut shaped building that goes by the intriguing name of The Diamond Light Source. And so the seed of another post is planted…

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