Millennium FX chief executive Neill Gorton on creating a Victorian version of the Cybermen.

Millennium FX
The challenge
To design the Cybershade - a type of Cyberman made from 19th-century materials

Doctor Who has a habit of throwing up delicious design briefs.

The script for this year's Christmas special called for the return of the Cybermen, one of the programme's longest running and most popular villains.

The Cybermen made their return in series two of the new run and had gone through a major design overhaul by me, my team at Millennium FX and the design team of Doctor Who led by Ed Thomas.

Our Art Deco-inspired “full metal jacket” Cybermen had proved a great hit with old and new fans alike so it was only natural they should make a return after a couple of years floating in the void.

But with Doctor Who there's always a twist and this time the Cybermen have landed in Victorian London and have tried to swell their numbers by building new Cybermen using only the technology and materials available in the mid 19th century.

So this was the design brief for the Cybershade, as these new characters would become known. Budget is always a concern with this series and my initial stab involved simply taking the existing Cyberman design and producing it in a copper finish with rivets.

Although the result looked terrific and would have been enormously cost effective, it was deemed the wrong approach by executive producer Russell T Davies, and when he has an opinion he's usually right.

He can strip a story or design idea down to its basics and expose the core. Added to this, he can also draw very well (damn him!). This combination comes in very handy when you're in a terrible rush. He is very respectful of the individuals around him and would happily allow me to explore the ideas for the Cybershade until we came up with something that satisfied us both.

In this case I was right up against a deadline and also had a small army of Cyberman costumes to refurbish, so I went back to Russell and said: “Please, do me a drawing.”

His style is very cartoony and depicted a crude version of a Cyberman, all angular and blocky, with its trademark handlebars set at a jaunty angle and shrouded in flowing black robes.

After a little help from Russell, it was a collaboration between myself - manufacturing a simple fibreglass mask that could be clamped to the heads of the performers - and costume designer Louise Paige, who produced voluminous flowing robes still light enough to not restrict movement, that brought the physical Cybershade costumes to life.

The Doctor Who Christmas special airs on BBC1 on 25 December at 6pm.