Viewers of Doctor Who Series 13, aka Flux, might have noticed that The Halloween Apocalypse was dedicated to Julie Ankerson. No doubt some fans will know who Ankerson was, but for those who didn’t, she has been a key production member ever since the show came back with Rose in 2005 right up to The Doctor Falls in 2017.
Julie Ankerson worked as a Foley Artist with the BBC for many years before becoming a freelancer when she left BBC Enterprises in 1989. She teamed up with fellow Foley Artist, John Fewell, and the pair formed a lasting partnership up until her death on the 28th July 2021.
A Foley Artist recreates sounds from scenes of a television show or film that the microphones didn’t pick up. It’s a very important part of production and is a lot of fun to do. When I was in college studying film and television, we had a project that focused on Foley sound.
In this clip from Doctor Who Confidential, Julie and John explain how Foley sound is created and ultimately used on the finished programme. Using clips from Midnight, they explain how certain noises were recreated using such items as books, briefcases, and beads. And did you know that the noise for the sonic screwdriver, whenever the Doctor uses it, actually comes from handling a corkscrew?
As well as Doctor Who, Ankerson worked on shows like Life on Mars, Spooks (MI5 in America), Being Human, Law and Order: UK ,and Sherlock. Ankerson was actually nominated three times for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Sound Editing For a Limited Series, Movie or Special. These were for HBO’s Tsunami: The Aftermath in 2007, in 2010 for Moonshot with HISTORY, and then in 2016 for Sherlock: The Abominable Bride.
Working on Doctor Who has ensured she has a lasting legacy; they still use the same noises for the sonic screwdriver and who knew it could come from something as simple as a corkscrew?! She also worked as a Foley Artist on the spin-off shows, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. In total, she worked on just over 130 episodes of Doctor Who proper.
On what would have been her 62nd birthday, her friend and colleague Helen paid tribute to her late friend, describing her as “funny, clever, but never cocky, and talented but not arrogant. We’ve all lost a big cog in the foley wheel of history and I’ve lost a great friend, who made me laugh a lot.”
Some of the most distinctive sounds that have been part of the show since its revival in 2005, including the sonic screwdriver and TARDIS interactions, have come from the mind of Julie Ankerson — and some of them have become as iconic and the show itself.