On the back burner: Cybermen costume parts.
I’ve been thinking about Cybermen lately. In particular these costume pieces that I own that were made by Imagineering - one of the props companies that serviced the Classic series during the 1980s. Somehow over the years I’ve managed to acquire and accumulate a number of them through work and wotnot, though the standard trooper head (seen below on the left) was obtained by my parents in 1988 through none other than the Cyber Leader himself, Mr. David Banks.
A little over a decade ago, I decided to start stripping down the standard trooper head with the intention of restoring it as it was looking its age, plus it’d been knocked about a little before it came into my possession. I’d already ripped out the foam liner from it in the 1990s, but this time round, I was going to go the whole hog and make this thing really smart by filling the cracks and chips taken out of it through usage, respray it and generally buff it up to make it look like it was ready for its first day of shooting.
Well, that was the plan. I’d got through about 75% of all the prep work, then I got hacked off with it and gave up. It didn’t help matters when a certain collector told me that I’d done irreparable damage to it by doing what I’d done so far – I’d removed it from its ‘original state’ as he put it. The way that I saw it was that as it was mine and also combined with the fact that I’d never sell it, I could do with it as I pleased, be that leave it as it was, restore it or chuck it onto a bonfire… it was none of his business really.
Anyway, it ended up in a box in the garage and I only thought about it again when I was gifted another complete Cybersuit as a thank you for some work I’d done. What I was given was an Attack of the Cybermen Cyber Controller. Very little was known about its origins other than it was made by Imagineering in the 1980s and had been in various exhibitions. The previous owner didn’t say it was screen used and to be frank, I don’t care if it was, however, it did have some interesting features…
The head had been through the wars, clearly at some point it’d taken a heavy face plant onto the floor as the entire front and jaw area is badly cracked and the forehead under the dome had been completely shattered – in fact the only thing stopping this head from totally disintegrating are the screws holding the now repositioned dome in place. It doesn’t look like it in the pictures, but trust me, when you look at this thing for real, the damage is all too obvious – as is the repair work and the heavy paint overspray. But what got me about it was the way that this thing was made, it was clearly a standard trooper head that had been extensively modified; the top of the head had been cut out and the dome fixed over the hole, I’ll come back to this in a minute, and the base blocks that would normally support the handle bars had been cut off and then the subsequent holes had been back filled and glassed over. All of the replicas that I’d seen up to now had been cast as one complete unmodified unit. At least this sort of proved where it’d come from, Imagineering – oh yeah, and it matched the other head that I had perfectly. Nice!
Going back to the dome, a theory that a friend and I came up with while inspecting it was that the dome is curiously the same shape as the Tomb of the Cybermen Controller, albeit somewhat modified. Could the Imagineering bods have cast off the original Controller dome, modified it and used it on the Attack Controller? It does have legs as a theory, but to fully appreciate this, we really need to see both types of Controller side by side. In time, maybe.
The jumpsuit that came with the head and chest pieces has pretty much crumbled with age, I don’t believe it can be saved, but rather than bin it just yet, I’ll hold on to it and use it as reference for just in case.
Above is a photo montage of the ‘curious’ chest unit. It too has been resprayed a few times by the looks of it, but just like the tv version, this one has been split across the front and is hinged – Michael Kilgarriff who played the Controller had put on a bit of weight when he came to reprise his role and so this modification was necessary to allow him to wear the unit over his slightly portly frame. Am I saying this one here is the screen used one? No, I am not, but I do find it odd that someone replicating this would include this detail as usually folk don’t bother with it, even more odd is that at some point, someone has glassed over the hinges with that cheap resin kit that you can buy at Halfords, so it’s clearly been done after it was made, rather than at the time.
The final thing that makes me smile with this unit are the two disk things on the back. I have no idea what they are, but they clearly match those seen on the original – see the picture taken on set to the right of the image. Again, this is something that you never see on any replicas.
So, what’s the plan then? Well, I’ve turned over my trooper head to a mate so that he can make a set of moulds from it and then a new head will be cast from this. The dome from the Controller head will be added to it after the other modifications are made and I’ll have one complete and undamaged Controller head. The other one is too far gone to make the repair worth the time and effort, so it’ll be kept as is as a sort of curio. The trooper head will then be completely restored and kept as a companion piece – we may even use the moulds to make further copies and produce other variants of Cyberman. Whilst all this is being done, other earlier models of Cyberhead will be done also as I’ve handed over my 1970s model to be worked on, so between us, we could (in theory) produce all versions of Cybermen from the classic series bar the Tenth Planet type. Even better is that about 90% of what we’re using is original source material. Yaay! Which reminds me, I must dig out that bullet tray thing that was used on the chest unit, one of my other chest units had one, but being so damned old, it has slightly cracked and split – I could reglue this, make a mould, cast and replace the original with a new copy.
Sooo… If, as and when all this gets going as a project, I’ll be sure to document it here. Stay tuned, as some poeple like to say.