On Saturday 10th June the Ice Warriors return to Doctor Who in ‘The Empress of Mars’. Their reappearance is apt as the creatures celebrate 50 years in Doctor Who. To add to the celebrations a relic from that very first appearance in 1967 has been rediscovered. Thought lost in the mists of time, this screen used item was identified after an approach to Matt Doe of Toybox Treasures. Now it has been painstakingly preserved by Mike Tucker of The Model Unit and the results finally unveiled.
50 years ago a script by Brian Hayles required the creation of reptilian humanoids. Their design would become a classic and synonymous with Patrick Troughton’s monster era. Production of the story began at Ealing Film studios in late September 1967 with the film sequences to be inserted into the episodes. The first Ice Warrior to go in front of the camera featured a notably large head. Two of these helmets were constructed but before production moved to Lime Grove studios modifications to the headpieces were requested. Slimmer and lighter helmets were constructed and would become the focus. These were worn by individuals including Bernard Breslaw who played Varga, the lead warrior.
Prior to the opening of the Doctor Who Experience in London Olympia Mike Tucker had been responsible for restoring Varga the Ice Warrior for exhibit. Although the original fibreglass torso and legs survived, a crude polystyrene replacement head had been fitted at some point. Alan Marshall, part of the Model Unit team, sculpted a replacement head from scratch which matched the style of the original pieces which did remain, using contemporary photographs as further references. This rediscovered helmet is therefore not only one of only two of the ‘large head’ helmets constructed in 1967 but is thought to be the only original Ice Warrior head in existence.
After being used in the film inserts for ‘The Ice Warriors’ the two ‘large head’ warriors were pushed into the background. One of them appeared to disappear but this helmet was utilised in the years that followed. The recognisable head was still seen in scenes during the Ice Warriors final classic series appearance in ‘The Monster of Peladon’ (1974). This warrior was later displayed at the Doctor Who exhibition in Blackpool around 1977. What happened to it after that will remain a mystery. Decades later it was acquired by prop collector and dealer Matt Doe. The helmet was formally identified by analysing the markings on the nose area. These markings matched those identifiable in a photograph confirming the authenticity of the discovery. Unfortunately time had not been kind to the prop with areas of latex and paint flaking off.
Painstakingly careful preservation on the helmet was undertaken by Mike Tucker of The Model Unit. Over it’s 50 years the ridges at the tip of the dome had been lost, along with much of the original green paint and scaly texture. The right hand side of the mouth had disintegrated. Silver paint had also been applied to it, presumably during it’s exhibition appearance. In order to maintain the authenticity and original, screen used status restoration was not undertaken. Instead the item has been carefully preserved using only original pieces of latex to reform the mouth, for instance. The silver paint was also carefully removed to reveal the orange film eyes seen during it’s final onscreen appearance in ‘The Monster of Peladon’ in 1974.
The final result speaks for itself. It is a stunning piece of history. Fifty years after it’s first appearance the rediscovery of this original Ice Warrior helmet is a more than fitting way to mark this anniversary.