We’re all very sad to hear the news that Bill Pearson, one of the all-time greats of the British visual effects industry, has passed away.
As part of a long career in film and TV, which took in such classics and cult favourites as Alien, Flash Gordon, Space Precinct, Casino Royale and Moon, his contribution to Red Dwarf was the stuff of legend. He first joined the team for Series IV, working on set dressing and handheld props up to and including Series VI. He returned for Series VIII as the visual effects designer, with perhaps his finest and most memorable triumph being the Starbug crash and explosion from Back In The Red (Part One). His ability to work to a limited time and budget was also in evidence; he famously agreed to knock up an escape pod for Only The Good for the cost of a bottle of wine, only to be presented with a full crate as a token of Doug’s appreciation.
This capability to improvise and adapt was absolutely crucial when Bill returned to the show for Series X. After a disastrous initial miniature shoot, it fell to Bill and his colleague Steve Howarth to come to the rescue. As well as polishing up existing Red Dwarf and Blue Midget models, pretty much every other miniature you see on screen is Bill’s work, either created from scratch for a budget of pence, or plucked off the shelf, dusted down and repurposed. One such example was the Annihilator from The Beginning, which Bill originally made for a proposed Red Dwarf Christmas Special that he wrote himself. His love for the show was always abundantly clear.
We had the great pleasure of meeting Bill on a number of occasions, sharing a drink and lapping up his stories at Dimension Jump, plus he once even turned up at a Dwarf themed pub quiz just to say hello to his fellow fans. And of course, he was kind enough to chat to us on-mic at the premiere of Series X, where we first heard the incredibly satisfying way he pronounced the word “annihilator”. You can listen to that mini-interview here, and we’d also recommend taking a look at his online portfolio, reading about his proposed Christmas Special project on Gazpacho Soup, and watching him discuss his work on Series X in this YouTube clip.
As well as being a hugely talented model maker, Bill was a great friend to Red Dwarf, an amiable, gregarious figure and unbelievably great company. He will be deeply missed. Cheers, Bill, rest easy.
UPDATE: A fundraiser has been set up to provide Bill with a memorial. Please give if you can, and/or help spread the word if you can’t. Red Dwarf family unite.