Even as little as five years ago, Doctor Who might have needed an introduction outside of the UK. These days, thanks to the efforts of Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, Doctor Who is the UK’s most successful TV export and is making waves on both sides of the Atlantic. British company Character Options has been the main provider of Who toys, starting out modestly in 2005 with mostly pre-posed 5 inch action figures and then progressing through season-themed waves, Build-A-Figure assortments, episode specific box-sets and even convention exclusives, not to mention Lego-compatible building sets and role-playing toys.
But now there is a new player on the block, a new UK-based company called Big Chief, aiming to bring the high-end collectible 1:6 aesthetic to Doctor Who action figures and claiming to stand toe-to-toe with such established companies as Sideshow and Hot Toys. That’s a big claim to make from a young company with no product to show. The eleventh incarnation of the Doctor, as played by Matt Smith, is their debut release and it took its time getting here.
Big Chief met with quite a few production hiccups, which meant the good Doctor was delayed quite a while before finally arriving on our doorsteps last week. Was he worth the wait and the £150/$240 price tag? Can he really compare with the likes of Hot Toys? Let’s take a look…
[One thing I should disclose before starting this review proper is that you read it with the caveat that I am a relative newcomer to the world of 1:6 collecting and as such I have little to compare the Doctor figure to. In short I couldn’t tell my TrueTypes from my Enterbays, so please bear that in mind while reading…]
Packaging: Right off the bat, Big Chief have given us a quality product. The Doctor arrives in a plain outer transport box, inside that is a mailer box bearing the Big Chief logo (with a polybagged, damaged tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver taped to the exterior, but more on that later), which in turn contains the box proper.
In all, it’s an elegant box and perfect for storage or the MIB crowd, although the figure does have an extra layer of cellophane around his head for protection, even if you like to keep things MIB you may want to remove that in order to fully enjoy the figures portrait. While I love the matte finish of the box, it does tend to pick up finger prints, so you may want to wash your hands before picking it up.
Design & Sculpt: Big Chief created a wholly new 1:6 body, the “Anatomix Male Figure Slim.” This body provides plenty of articulation, including double-ball-jointed neck, ab twist and crunch, waist joint, double elbows and knees, ball and pin hips, bicep twist, ball jointed ankles, ball and pin wrists and some fantastic work in the shoulders that allows you to get a great deal of movement and expression out of the arms. I found very little issues in getting the figure into the poses I wanted, the only (minor) restrictions being caused by his outfit, which you would expect anyway.
There is no articulation below the ankle but the Doctor’s shoes are made of a pliable rubber, which allows for quite a few dynamic poses. He seems to have little trouble standing on his own (I have yet to use his stand). His hands are also a very pliable rubber, which allows him to hold his accessories with ease. That said, the holes in the base of the hands are very small and the wrist pegs they fit onto are also quite small and thin. I have a minor heart attack each time I swap them over, but nothing has snapped yet. I have some issues getting his left hand to stay on but I suspect they are compounded by his watch which sits quite highly on his wrist.
You may also find that the wrist pegs are compatible with some other Hot Toys figures, allowing you to use their hands too. I can’t say if this is deliberate but it is very useful.
But the real star of the show is the portrait. Matt Smith’s likeness was captured by sculptor Tony Leetham, and he has done an extraordinary job. Mr. Smith is a pretty unique looking individual and this figure does him justice. The one small issue seems to be the size of the head; there are times when it seems just a tad too big for the body. When I first got the figure out of the box I was verging on disappointed, but I found depending on his pose and the angle you view him, his head can seem perfectly normal. I’ve found making sure the shirt and jacket are pulled down to expose more of the neck works wonders and really helps to return the head to a more in-scale appearance.
Plastic & Paint: As with most of the 1:6 figures I have seen pictures of, the body is made of a fairly robust and shiny plastic. It’s there to provide articulation and look good under the soft goods outfit, so in that regard it does its job perfectly. Undress the Doctor and he’s going to look weird, but so would any figure of this type.
The paint on the prototype was done by Gregg Andrews of Greggo’s Custom Figures and Paint Jobs and is pretty much spot on. The lips have just the right amount of shine to them without looking glossy. The eyes are lifelike and catch light beautifully and the eyebrows are as light as they should be. The hair is an excellent blend of blacks and browns. If I had to be picky, I would say that the very, VERY light suggestion of a five o’clock shadow is unwarranted (Matt Smith is about the most clean shaven man I know) but that is just nit-picking for the sake of it.
Accessories: You want accessories? You got ‘em. A total of 11, and that’s not including the stand, outfit and extra sets of hands. The Doctor is packaged with three of his trusty sonic screwdrivers: the Eleventh Doctor’s closed sonic, open sonic and the open version of the Tenth Doctor’s sonic. Plus, if you ordered directly from Big Chief, then you will also find an extra sonic included by way of an apology for the production delays. This is the damaged version of the Tenth Doctor’s sonic, as seen in Matt Smith’s first episode, “The Eleventh Hour,” burned and melted. It’s an excellent little gift and it will allow you, later on, to replicate the “Raggedy Doctor” look from that episode.
You also get the Nano Recorder Gun from “Day of the Moon,” the Time Lord Consciousness Cube from “The Doctor’s Wife,” the lash-up device from “The Lodger,” hankerchief & TARDIS fragment from “Cold Blood,” the invitation from “The Impossible Astronaut” and even the ever-present and reliable psychic paper. The figure is easily able to hold all of the items. You can even keep the sonic in his inside jacket pocket.
He has a total of three pairs of hands, ranging from closed to fully open. I found they added a great deal of extra character to the figure and helped enormously to get some very Matt Smith poses out of it. I never realized how much he rests his thumb on top of his closed hands before; Big Chief have captured that little quirk perfectly.
Of course, the Doctor comes with his complete outfit also. The detail on the clothes is great, individual buttons and clasps are present but the clothes are fastened with unobtrusive Velcro. I have found one or two loose threads in the jacket lining but nothing too bad. The clothing fits the figure well and doesn’t impede the articulation too much.
Quality Control: I have no complaints. Some folk have complained of a few missing clasps on the braces and so on, but it seems that Big Chief have been very quick to respond to their customers.
Overall: I had my doubts that a small, hitherto unknown UK company could step up to the big boys like Hot Toys and produce a product of the same quality, but they seem to of lived up to the challenge admirably. For a first effort, this has been epic. Big Chief are planning on releasing expansion packs to follow, which will include episode-specific extra clothing, head sculpts and accessories, rather than re-releasing the figure again with a slightly different outfit, cost effective and easier on the wallet of the collector, commendable!
Big Chief are also perfecting their female body for Amy Pond, the Doctor’s current companion, a Weeping Angel has been confirmed and this week on their Facebook page, Big Chief have teased pictures from a Fourth and Tenth Doctor. It looks like this mouse is about to roar very loudly indeed. In all, especially coming from a back ground of collecting six-inch figures, I can thoroughly recommend this figure and I think he justifies his price tag. And, of course, if you are a Doctor Who fan, he’s all but indispensable.