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Imagine the surprise when my Deputy Editor (Paul Wilson) tells me we have been invited to the Millennium FX studios for an interview with the man behind the new series monsters and prosthetics; Neill Gorton. If the word 'gobsmacked' came into your head, you would be right, not to mention 'stunned', 'excited' and 'ecstatic'. So on Thursday 30th November 2006, we set the Tom Tom route finder for sunny Chesham, deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside, where we would finally meet the man himself.

Now Neill is no stranger to DWO, being part of our popular Ask & Answer section in the Forums was one of our first dealings with him. So when we arrived at MFX HQ in Buckinghamshire, there was a refreshing air of familiarity with our first face-to-face meeting.

We were taken up some stairs to a room with plaster-cast heads adorning one of the walls (Image 1). The room was well-lit with mirrors surrounding us - it seemed there was no way to escape seeing the heads!

Over the next 45 minutes Paul and I proceeded to interview Neill for a future episode of the DWO WhoCast podcast (Image 2). Without giving too much away, Neill talked about his love for Doctor Who, the new line of Millennium FX Doctor Who replicas, and the processes involved in making them.

After the interview, Neill took us on out tour of the workshop. It seemed everywhere you looked there was something from the Doctor Who universe, a Sycorax head (Image 3), the Abzorbaloff mask (Image 4), Auton heads - even a set of Cyberman knuckles! I remember thinking at the time 'this really is Disneyland for Doctor Who fans! '. Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the workshop tour, was seeing the sheer volume of plaster-cast casings. Seeing various celebrity names written on each one like 'Mike Reid', 'Martin from Game On' and 'Annette Badland' (Slitheen from Series One), there was even a Weevil from Torchwood!

There was even an upstairs lounge, which fitted in so perfectly with the surroundings, it was like someone's living room was installed in the middle of the workshop - I can just imagine the team sitting down watching classic sci-fi for inspiration, then getting to work on their amazing creations. The lounge also had a selection of books on Fantasy artwork and various science fiction related topics. Again this just proved how much research the Millennium FX team must go into, behind every one of their creations.

As we went down the stairs to the main workshop floor, you really get the sense of how hard these people work. The concoction of noises from the moulding room, the clatter of tools from the guys working on masks, and the sound of meticulous sanding for Cyberman Head parts was almost soothing to hear.

After receiving my Cyberman Head from Millennium FX a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued to see the processes behind its creation. Neill was only too happy to show us, and what followed made me realise just how much time and effort that goes into each one.

After the cast comes out of the moulding room, you have the basic Cyberman Head, as shown by Neill (Image 5). There was a table with some Cyber Heads that looked like they were about to have the silver effect added to them (Image 6). We were then introduced to Keith, who was applying an adhesive spray to the inside of the Cyber Heads (Image 7). Incidentally, on the replica heads, a serial number is added, along with a built in hologram to prove the authenticity of the product.

Neill then showed us the difference between a metalized cyber ear, and a plain one before any work has been done to it (Image 8). We then saw another of Neill's team metalizing the cyber ears (Images 9 & 10). I have to admit, the work that goes into each part is truly unbelievable. As Image 10 showed, there was a whole box of finished cyber ears. Just look at how shiny and metallic they are to the eye - crazy to think they're not made of actual metal, isnt it?!

I asked Neill if he had any of the Clockwork Droid masks to show (from Series Two - Episode 4: The Girl in the Fireplace). He disappeared and returned a minute later with a couple - both actually used in the episode itself (Image 11). I guess these are used as a reference point for the replicas.

It has to be said how exciting it is (from a fans perspective) to know that you can actually buy the Cyberman Heads and the Clockwork Droid mask (amongst others). Paul and I were discussing how it's like having your own piece of Doctor Who - after all, they are made with exactly the same processes as the ones used in the show, so it's like they've just come off the production line for the series.

Without trying to sound like I'm on commission from Millennium FX (which I'm not - trust me on this...), I simply have to recommend at least one to every fan, even if you only get the Cyberman Head, it's so cheap compared to some of the classic series replica Cybermen heads which can fetch as much as £4,000. You get your very on Cyberman Head for just £475 + VAT, a stand specifically designed for the product using the Cybus Corporation logo, instructions on how to care for the replica, as well as a certificate of ownership - signed by Neill Gorton himself (worth the £475 alone).

The Cyberman Head is actually cold to the touch. Neill explained to us that it was to do with the fact that metal powder is cast into the resin surface using a cold cast metal process . Neill even said it could be polished to the users satisfaction with normal household metal polish like Brasso (I'm on commission with them). Coupled with the black, vacant stare of the eyes that seem to follow you around the room, this replica truly has an eerie quality that leaves the owner feeling it could be alive.

Visiting the workshop really made me appreciate the replica even more, seeing how much time, effort and craftsmanship that goes into each one. Don't ever be fooled into thinking it's just another replica. This is as close as you're going to get to owning an actual piece of the world of Doctor Who, without having to re-mortgage your house!

Our trip to the workshop was coming to an end, and we couldn't resist one last photo with Neill himself (Image 12) - I think the expression on our faces says it all, we were smiling all day, and all the way home - in fact, in writing this, I still am! It was great to unmask the genius behind most of the monstrous New Series creations, and it was even better to realise what a genuinly nice guy he was too.

So next time you are watching Doctor Who or Torchwood and you see one of the Millennium FX team's creations, think about all the work that goes into making it look so good. With a team like this on board, the show's future is most definitley in safe hands...


© Copyright Jez Strickley & Doctor Who Online, 2007.
 Page Last Updated: 29/1/2009

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Submitted:
8/1/2007

 

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Doctor Who Online

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