A MORPHING SNAKELIKE CREATURE, AN exploding coffee cup, a phone booth materializing out of the ether—these are just some of the special effects featured in the two-hour Fox sci-fi TV-movie Doctor Who (May 14, 8 p.m. ET), based on the long-running BBC series. But perhaps the show's biggest eye-opener is offscreen: 51-year-old Tony Dow, Leave It to Beaver's older brother Wally Cleaver, creating the effects in a Vancouver editing room.
That's right—Dow, who played Wally from 1957 to 1963 on the classic sitcom, in the Disney Channel's 1985 series Still the Beaver and in The New Leave It to Beaver, which ran on WTBS from 1986 to 1989—is now a visual-effects producer. But it's only one of many hats he has worn. After the original show ended, Dow acted in soaps, joined the National Guard in 1965 and in the '70s did dinner theater with Beaver Jerry Mathers and worked as a housing contractor. Dow also suffered from clinical depression, which he believes is at least partly inherited. "I still take medication," he says. "It stops the downward spiral."
What he really wanted to do, he says, was direct—"from the time I-was 16 on." He finally got his chance with The New Beaver and in the early '90s directed episodes of Coach, Get a Life and other series. Producing for cable came next (the Sci-Fi Channel's It Came from Outer Space 2), which led to his interest in special effects.
"I've been in the business for 38 years," says Dow, who lives in Los Angeles with his second wife, Lauren (his son Christopher, 23, is a fireman-in-training), and still keeps in touch with costars Mathers, Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) and Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell). "I'm enjoying myself and not worrying about what I'm doing tomorrow. I'd say I'm very lucky."