Millennium FX

Millennium FX is the BAFTA British Academy award winning company who provide a number of the real props and costumes for a number of British Television shows including the excellent new series of Dr Who, Torchwood, as well as other  popular programmes such as Little Britain and the Catherine Tate Show.

MFX's Chief Exec, Neill Gorton recently announced some great news that the had gained the license to reproduce exact 1:1 replicas of new Dr. Who props, using their original moulds from the series, starting with the Cyberman Helmet. Following this we can expect to see the clockwork droid faces, Ood mask, as well as the Cyberman CyberLeader and CyberController. I'll be reviewing these in the near future as and when they're released.

Though this might sound like deja vu (with hints of SDS), this really is quite a unique proposition. THE company making THE original props for THE TV show is making replicas for collectors. They're not cheap, but they are extremely impressive.

Cyberman Helmet

So we're going to start off with the MFX Cyberman helmet - and mine arrived today (16th June)!

What can I say but WOW! Made from "cold cast aluminium resin", the front and back of the head are reinforced with fibreglass. However its the introduction of Aluminium powder into the resin that gives the helmet its solid steel like appearance, that goes right through the material, rather than just a spray or paint coating on the top.

Because of this method, each helmet is likely to be slightly different from each other. In addition the outer coating will oxidise over time as its react with the air which should give it quite a nice weathered appearance. More of this later.
Well this is what it looks like when  it arrives. A nice big box containing the adequately bubble-wrapped helmet (complete), along with the boxed "C" Stand and paperwork (a "welcome" letter, info sheet, nice hand signed and numbered certificate of authenticity).

Its great to see the human touch here (ironic for a Cyberman helmet) but everything is completed and signed by hand - no automation here!

This really is a well crafted collectable, although initially I was expecting a greater metallic sheen on the surface of the helmet. However, to be fair having not seen one of the originals up close its hard to tell. Having now taken these many photographs, the real cold-steel like finish of the helmet really does come to the fore. It could well be that the sheen is indeed more subtle than I had expected, since the arc lights used during filming accentuate the finish of the on-screen costumes significantly.

With that in mind I picked up on this point with Neil and Paul at Millennium FX and as you can see the finish on the new helmets is pretty much exactly the same as the "screen-used" originals as you can see below - thanks to Neill and Paul for the comparison pic.

As mentioned elsewhere the metal particles in the resin react with the air so the occasional polish is a good idea and is precisely what they used on the originals. Neil picks up....."the helmets are polished to a slightly more shiny appearance than the screen used ones. Once polished the metal starts to dull down slowly over time due to oxidization of the metal. In addition they dull down with handling. You'll find that the area between the eyes probably got more contact with hands after being polished and during the packing process. You can get the head to an almost chrome finish if you want by using a bit of metal polish and elbow grease. The polish we used is called AUTOSOL which is a chrome aluminium and metal polish available from the local hardware store. If you repeat the process several times you will get an incredible, almost chrome like, finish. When polishing it's good to wear cotton or vinyl gloves because as you polish you keep handling the head and keep putting more grease back on so the gloves prevent the surface picking this up". There you go, straight from the horses mouth!

In the above photo you can make out the rather excellent Cybus Corporation stand which holds the helmet in three points, angling the front down nicely. Made of resin it really matches the helmet well, although you might want to invest in a quartet of felt pads if you're going to put it on a shiny surface. Note that MFX actually cast the emblem from the chest piece in order to create the base of the stand, which was a great idea.

I've taken these photos of the helmet against a dark black cloth (Darth Vader's cape actually) with a couple of spots and quite a long exposure. I've altered the colour balance of the shots to bring out the silver hue of the helmet, and also toned the black levels down to bring the shadows and contours out more.

Looking at the  rear and side of the helmet shows  that the assembly is a bit of a jigsaw since the "ears" consist of several tubes, right angles and "ear muffs" which seem to be locked into place with a pin. Neill's informed me that you SHOULD NOT remove the pin, adding.... "The handlebars and all the ear muffs and that pin are all bonded together. The pin on the original was actually the button we used to open the clips to open the head. Obviously it doesn't do that on this as the head is fixed together so that pin is only there for aesthetic continuity and is not in any way functional."

You can just make out the locking pin in the pic above, below the ear. In the shot below you can see the inside mouth grille and black fabric hot glued over the eyes. Not sure what the "E" means. What you cant see in the photo is the hologram stating its genuine (nice touch that) as well as its number. Both the helmet itself and certificate are hand numbered which is  a great move.

Sorry to go on showing more and more pics but I think this helmet deserves it. In my view these photos show what a REALLY impressive replica prop this is.

Incidentally, the helmet is potentially wearable, although to do so you'd need to un stick the front and rear halves - which you'd do at your own risk according to the makers, Neil adding...."If you did want to open up the head it is only bonded in three small spots, one at the very top where the ridges join and two blobs of adhesive at the bottom corners. Someone wanting to pop one apart would just have to run a hacksaw blade between the joins on the inside and with a little work they split the adhesive and the head would pop apart cleanly". So in order to wear it you'd need to dismantle and then assemble around your head. I many respects its like the original C-3PO helmet and like I said its possible but NOT recommended!
By all accounts it sounds like a lot of work goes into each of these helmets. Unlike the fantasy equivalents there are no robots, just a few burly workers in the SE of England making these completely by hand.

For the TV Production, they used a black wipe-on grate polish called Zeebo to provide additional texture and weathering, giving a deeper coloured Steel like finish. However the downside of this was that it never dries and came off and went everywhere and by the end of filming it had almost completely rubbed  off. For the replicas they've not added this although its up to the collector if they want to. Cleaning-wise they suggest an aluminium/chrome polish like Autosol or Brasso, which clearly shows that the finish is totally unlike a vacuum metalised C-3PO chrome which would be destroyed by something as harsh as that. This guy's a real beast. Hard as nails!

...and finally quite a stark photo of this cold, emotionless robot.

The Millennium FX Replica Cyberman Helmet is priced at 475 plus VAT (therefore our American and European friends actually get it cheaper than us Brits) which is a fair old price for a collectible, equating to about US$890. Now I'm sure that will probably put some people off, but then a product like this is only going to appeal to a niche market,  people like you reading this now!.

But for that price you're NOT getting a "Master Replicas" type of replica (and that's not knocking either company). Millennium FX are hand-making these in I presume small numbers and are replicating the precise processes they're using for the original screen-used helmets, and in that respect it has some similarity with the SDSProps proposition (licensing aside since these are fully licensed by the BBC). I need to get my hands on an original Dr Who Cyberman Helmet but I have a sneaking suspicion its going to be almost exactly the same as these replicas.

Bottom line is its a bit of a chicken and egg. Because of the premium price, the numbers produced and sold will most probably be fairly low and therefore they're always going to be quite rare collectibles.

If like me you've been a Dr Who fan since being a kid then IMO this is a "must have" item. Its the sort of thing you stick in your Dining Room in a Detolf Ikea glass cabinet (along with your wife's favourite Lladro or whatever) and I guarantee any Blokes that see it will go all misty eyed when the see it. It IS very cool. Great design, great collectible. I'm going to start saving for the full costume in the hope they decide to replicate that too!

Below, update 19th November - Since posting my original shots a couple of people have asked me what this great helmet looks like in daylight, so here are some new photos.

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