Peter Day obituary

Other lives: Visual effects designer with the BBC whose creations included Davros in Doctor Who

My father, Peter Day, who has died aged 95, worked as a senior designer in the visual effects department of the BBC for nearly 30 years, creating an enormous range of material for many familiar TV programmes.

His career at the BBC involved the design and construction of models, machines, trick scenery, props and pyrotechnics for programmes such as Doctor Who, Blue Peter, It’s a Square World, Horizon, Arena, Shackleton, Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em, The Goodies and Dad’s Army. He was also responsible for conceiving the original design and construction of Davros, creator of the Daleks. Family and friends still delight in cheering his name when it appears on the closing credits of rerun series from time to time.

Born in Richmond, Surrey, the youngest of three children to Mabel (nee King) and Thomas Day, registrar of Richmond, Peter attended Kingston grammar school before volunteering as a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps. After demobilisation in 1948 he attended art schools in Kingston (to study interior and furniture design) and Wimbledon (theatre design and millinery).

Prior to joining the BBC in 1958 as a founding member of the newly created visual aids department (subsequently renamed visual effects), Peter enjoyed a variety of occupations, including tree surgeon, sales assistant at the Kingston department store Bentalls, window dresser, animator, milliner with the D’Oyly Carte opera company and scenery painter and changer at the Arts theatre, Soho, where he helped director Peter Hall and Samuel Beckett with the London premiere of Waiting for Godot.

Peter Day with a Sea Devil, Doctor Who, c 1972
Peter Day with a Sea Devil, Doctor Who, c 1972 Photograph: none

Peter had a reputation for being extremely practical with his hands, as well as having a good eye for form and design; attributes that served him well, not only at work but also in home life. He introduced his children and grandchildren to the delights of camping, made costumes for many fancy-dress parties, rebuilt the still roadworthy family Austin 7 and made river trips on the Thames in the Pilchard, a reconditioned slipper launch. He was also musical, playing double bass, bongos and washboard in a jazz band made up of art school friends.

In 1952 Peter met Elizabeth Wallis at a Saturday coffee morning at Hogarth House, Richmond, and they married two years later. She survives him, as do my brother, Rupert, and me, and five grandchildren, Phoebe, Rufus, Henry, Lola and Daisy.

Justin Day

The GuardianTramp

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