The Catacombs Catacombs Model Gallery

The battlecruiser is an alien spaceship that reappears in several episodes. While a few models were re-used in spaceship graveyard scenes (Dragon's Domain and The Metamorph), this is the only model that appeared in multiple "guest star" roles.

It first appears in Alpha Child, then in War Games. It is seen in the graveyard in Dragon's Domain. It was then redressed and repainted, and appeared in The Last Enemy as the Deltan battleship.

Built by a schoolboy 6 years previously, it was not the same quality as Martin Bower's later professional models, and notoriously bits would fall off every time it was handled. But the model is impressively large, intricately detailed with kit parts, and the design is very photogenic.

Photo copyright Martin Bower

The model was originally built by Martin Bower in 1968. He was then a 16-year old schoolboy and had just seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, from which the ship takes obvious inspiration. The model had a large rear section, made of hardboard, with a short neck, and a spherical command module (a baby rattle, which used to contain plastic butterflies, with a plant pot rim in the centre, and a base from a cottage cheese pot). Alongside the rear section were two large rocket engines (plastic drainpipes), attached with red girders (the plastic sticks from the game "KerPlunk", plus plastic drinking straws). In 1978, the English science fiction comic Starlord published a "summer special" with a one page short story by Arthur C Clarke. To illustrate it, they used a photo of the battlecruiser that Bower had taken in 1968.

Photo copyright Martin Bower

Some time later, Bower extended the model. Originally it had a short neck with the sphere at front. Bower added another length of tube for the neck, with a central section made of Plasticard (polystyrene sheet), and a large radar dish made from the Aurora (AMT) Star Trek USS Enterprise saucer. The long neck was based around the thick cardboard tube from a roll of aluminium foil, wrapped in plasticard. Along the sides the thicker pipe is wooden dowelling, with piano wire. The wheel hubs from the 1:76 RAF Recovery Set (Coles Mk 7 crane and 'Queen Mary' trailer) can be seen as decoration on the neck tube, plus the corrugated roof from the Airfix 00 guage travelling dockside crane (the girders from both kits appear elsewhere on the model, alongside various ship and hovercraft parts).

In 1974, six years after he had built the model, Martin Bower wrote to Gerry Anderson when he heard he was making a new series. He was invited to a meeting at Bray Studios with Brian Johnson. He took along the model to show Johnson. Shortly before arriving at Bray in his car, he had to brake suddenly and the model crashed forward into the dashboard, scattering small pieces everywhere. Nevertheless, Johnson was impressed by the model and filmed some test footage. He was then contracted to build models for the episode Alpha Child, and was asked to adapt the spaceship to be the battlecruiser from the end of the episode.

Martin Bower design

Johnson wanted to use the spaceship as the battlecruiser at the end of the episode. Bower made this drawing to propose changes. Johnson didn't like the side rockets and red girders, so these were removed and replaced with landing platforms for the Alpha Child ships (a feature not seen or obvious in the episode). The ends of the side rockets (plastic cereal bowls) were moved to the main body.

Martin Bower design

Note the landing platforms for Jarak's ships.

Martin Bower design

The battleship has the name "Guadalcanal" (misspelled as "Guardal Canal"). This was a big World War II naval battle, and a US Navy helicopter assault ship launched in 1963. The triangular windows on the front (simply masked and painted areas) were discarded as the ship had to represent a massively larger scale.

The battlecruiser as it appears in Alpha Child. Behind the command module, supporting the large clamps are Airfix lunar module legs, painted red.

Another publicity shot, in black and white, of the battlecruiser from Alpha Child.

The spaceship as it appears in the episode.

Alpha Child Alpha Child Alpha Child Alpha Child Alpha Child Alpha Child Alpha Child

Below: The battlecruiser as it appears in War Games, accompanied by Hawks. As the Hawks are projections from the minds of the Alphans, so the battlecruiser must be taken from their memories of the earlier episode. The long overhead pass of the spaceship was recreated 3 years later for the opening scene of Star Wars (George Lucas and Gary Kurtz watched the show and visited Johnson at Bray in 1975).

War Games War Games War Games

The large flat panels on the underside are actually an old dark-slide sheet film holder, opened up (the hinge is in the centre).

War Games War Games War Games

At the end of the ship, above the rear rockets along the sloping side, is the top of a Aurora 2001 Moonbus kit. The two rear rockets (plastic cereal bowls) have smaller rocket plates inside (the base of the Airfix 1:72 Lunar Module).

Dragon's Domain

It next appears in Dragon's Domain, among the other graveyard ships. Unusually we see the other side of the ship. Notice the Delta command module also in the shot (bottom right)

Dragon's Domain Dragon's Domain

An article by Martin Bower about the making of the model appears in Bowerhouse issue 1 (2008, p4-13).

Copyright Martin Willey. First two photos copyright Martin Bower, other photos copyright ITC.