31 May 2017

It’s not every day you find a screen-used, Classic Doctor Who prop, let alone one that has such an iconic image as the Ice Warrior, but that's exactly what Toybox Treasures' Matthew Doe did!

It was the monsters that first cemented Doctor Who’s popularity and carried it through the earth-shattering change in lead actor in 1966. Patrick Troughton’s era is renowned for its monster stories and indeed, his second year is known as ‘The Monster Season’ for good reason.

Along with the latest adventures with the Daleks and Cybermen, a parade of new aliens graced TVs everywhere – none more long lasting in impact than The Ice Warriors. They were so successful in their debut story that a return was swiftly arranged for Troughton’s last season in The Seeds of Death. The Pertwee era relied less on the past – despite three Dalek stories, the Cybermen didn’t return until the Fourth Doctor had arrived. However, the Ice Warriors did return, not once but twice in consecutive years with Curse of Peladon and Monster of Peladon in 1973 and 1974 respectively. And of course, they have returned in the modern series – facing down Matt Smith in Cold War and returning against Peter Capaldi this year.

Speaking on the find, Toybox Treasures' Matthew Doe said:

"As a prop collector and dealer, I often receive emails starting “I’ve got a screen used….” Unlike 90% of these emails, this one led to an incredible discovery – a screen-used Ice Warrior head that could be the only known surviving classic Ice Warrior head in existence. Not only that, but one of the very first made in 1967, the so-called ‘big head’ version.

We were actually on our way back from London, having met up with the lovely Sue Moore (modelling genius behind many 80’s monsters), when I received a call asking me if I’d like to meet up to discuss the Ice Warrior. This was arranged for the following morning. (We had travelled well over 800 miles in the past couple of days buying props for clients, so to cut down on travelling we opted to spend another night at a hotel for a welcomed break and an easier journey the next day)

And it was the real deal – despite clearly suffering the ravages of time, this was one of the very earliest Ice Warrior heads, used in both Troughton’s and Pertwee’s era. This is one of those moments you dream of as both a prop collector and Who fan.

I needed to know from a collector’s point of view, the best way forward for the Ice Warrior’s head. Should the head be restored or preserved? What kind of reception would it get? I am very fortunate to have a group of friends that I can call upon for advice so I contacted Mick Hall, Colin Young, Graham Flynn and John Tobin (for those who don’t know, these guys are what we call the dog’s dangles of Dr Who prop collectors – the world’s leading Doctor Who prop guys!). After a lot of discussion and thought, I decided the best way (and only way) forward was to call Mike Tucker who I am fortunate to know and proud to call a friend. Mike Tucker was really the only person for the job- a Bafta winner for his work on the series, he’s well respected within the industry having worked for BBC’s Visual Effects department and now owning The Model Unit – and he’s one of a tiny group of people to have worked on both the classic and modern series.

After consulting with Mike, and taking into consideration the collectors of the Doctor Who world, I decided it had to be be preserved (every time we touched the Ice Warrior latex was falling off in our hand) and it hand to be done quick. The worst outcome for this historical item would be for it to fall to pieces and cease to exist so within days of picking it up we drove to Ealing Studios to drop this off so Mike could start work.

If you haven’t had a chance to speak to Mike then do please make the effort and go to one of his public appearances/talks – I promise you will have a most enjoyable time listening to his experiences in film and TV, and both eras of the show we all love.

As any prop collector will tell you, props made to last a few weeks decades ago and which were used more than once, in this case over 7 years apart, are going to suffer damage. Add in that a lot of the Ice Warrior head is latex which doesn’t like hot lights – present in the studio and later at the Blackpool Exhibition – and you’ll see the problem.  The head needed a lot of work if it was to survive for future generations of fans to appreciate.

But if I went down a full restoration route it would mean that the head quite frankly would no longer be 100% original; currently having the odd repair here and there; with a result of bearing no resemblance of what was screen used. And that, was out of the question. Actually doesn’t that turn props into Replicas when most of it has been replaced? At what point does it remove that original factor? Perhaps that’s an open discussion for us over on the Facebook group. A future owner can still go down a restoration route but for me, the focus was on Preservation. "

Preservation work:

In preserving the Ice Warrior’s head, all existing pieces were used, colour matching the age and sometimes having to remove layers of paint. It’s a lot harder in some cases to do this than just fully restore a piece. Here’s a list of some what we have had done and in doing so have kept it’s original aspect.

·  Removed by hand the silver paint which was applied during exhibition, this covered the orange eyes in which it had from it’s time in the 1974 episode “Monster of Pela Don” with Jon Pertwee. – There was actually some of the green film attached to the inside from it’s 1967 Ice Warriors Appearance.

·  Using existing latex pieces that had fallen off to repair the side mouth, this meant we kept everything original we used no new pieces of latex.

·  Repositioned mouth. Due to one piece of the cheek missing, this had unfortunately lowered the mouth, so again using original latex pieces put back into position, this made the mouth whole again.

·  Matching paint to cover where needed. There are two layers of paint on the Ice Warrior; firstly when it was seen screen used, and then a brighter paint colour was added when used for the Doctor Who exhibition in the early 80’s

Doctor Who Magazine:

Matthew Doe spoke to Richard Moleworth of Doctor Who Magazine about the prop. Richard had gone to an in depth review of the Ice Warrior for his article in Doctor Who Magazine, and leaving no stone unturned in his research of the ice warrior. Purchase Doctor Who Magazine Issue #513 for an exclusive interview with Mike Tucker from The Model Unit.

DWO managed to grab a few more questions with Matthew Doe regarding the find:

Items like this don’t turn up very often. What did you think when you firs heard about the Ice Warrior head, and how do you choose between scepticism and belief?

Love at first sight? OK, no really, something that's really hard to fake in this game is age, so to start with, does it feel right, smell right, and are the materials of an age is the first thing. I think when you have got past that barrier with a prop from the 60's, you can then start looking at screen matching it, although we are talking poor quality recordings from the 1960's, so screen matching an item can be really hard unless you have access to promotional shots. Luckily with a combination of behind the scenes photos / on screen and the radio times photos, we were able to start tracing its pedigree history right from the go. It was also the first time I had the pleasure of speaking to Richard Molesworth; wow - no stone was left unturned with Richard. He was doing the interview and report for Doctor Who magazine about its history and really brought the whole Ice Warrior to life.

As far as finds go, how far up there is the Ice Warrior head in your collecting history, so far?

I've sourced things from a screen-used Cyberman Chest Piece to a 6" Screen Used Dalek, but this is pretty up there with the Dalek I think; it's one of the oldest pieces I have owned - I mean there isn't really that many years of Doctor Who before '67. So things are going to be limited what can be found now.

Is there a dream prop / costume that you’d love to find one day (Ice Warrior head aside)?

Dream prop, maybe - I think like any Doctor Who fan it would be a full sized Dalek but - I would probably go as far as something really iconic and easy to display like Bill's cane or Pat's recorder. I've had a fair share of my full size Daleks, two words "DUST TRAP" - I think we will leave that there. 

Be honest…have you tried it on, yet?

Actually I haven't - it's so fragile, trying to undo the leather straps and put around my head, I think I would break it trying.

If you could take a round trip in the TARDIS, anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

Help with world peace and save lives? Who wouldn't, if we are talking the Doctor Who world - probably go back and stop the tapes from being wiped - Grrrrr ! As most of the people who read this, Doctor Who is a large part of most of our lives, eat & sleep it, so why not, lets rescue some tapes!

[Sources: Toybox Treasures; DWO]

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