Doctor Who- The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) limited edition signature
Big Chief

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

It's another terrific guest review from Jeff tonight, as he hits up a review of another great figure - take it away, Jeff!

The genesis for any new toy or collectables manufacturer from the germ of an idea to the finished product up on the shelf can be a gruelling, long, tough, uphill struggle, and the roads are littered with the corpses of those that ‘almost’ made it!

Hence I do have to admit that I feared for Big Chief at one point… would we ever see the amazing product that they had originally intended for the Christmas of 2011?

That is in no way a criticism of their dedication or professionalism, but merely an observation that the toy business is an unforgiving and sometimes brutal mistress. However, their unwavering faith in the product, and the single minded belief that they could deliver a figure that could be ranked alongside some of the best 1/6th out there has finally paid off and bourn some magnificent fruit!

The Doctor Who market can be a tough nut to crack, he has a huge and dedicated fan base, but historically they have preferred the low-end of the collectors market, even the Character Options 1/6th line didn’t last long, and that was far from expensive, but also far from high-end. Weta dabbled in the market with some top quality statues and replicas, you can read my review for their 1/6th polystone Dalek statue here, but even with high-end production values and small limited edition runs these products still hung around far longer than they should have and only recently sold out (it will be interesting to see how that effects the secondary market prices).

So Big Chief have a big task on their hands, but looking at the quality of the finished product, I have a strong feeling that the fans will be pleased, hell, they may even manage to convert a few strangers to the Time Lord’s multi-layered and complex universe. A universe that first aired in black and white on old crackly cathode ray tubes way back in 1963 making it the longest running sci-fi series on television, beating even Star Trek by a year (and that pilot didn’t bear fruit till 66). Primarily it was a children’s fantasy drama show, it originally set out to teach the audience about different historical times and also educate about aspects of science, with the good Doctor (along with a selection of companions/assistants) acting as our master of anthropology, culture and applied sciences along the way. One of the wonderful things about our rogue Time Lord is his ability to regenerate and change his physical form (a fantastic tool for casting agents and script writers alike); meaning that even if an actor decides he wants to hand back the keys to the TARDIS, the show can, and indeed must go on.  The latest thesp to carry the torch is Matt Smith, who I can honestly say after Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee is my favourite Gallifreyan to date (third place ain’t bad considering there have been eleven and I grew up watching the Baker and Pertwee years). He manages to convey something of the bumbling eccentric that was lacking with Tennant and Eccleston, and his wardrobe is far more sartorially fitting to a Time Lord as well. So, while we wait with baited breath to see how the latest season pans out (it starts on the BBC in late August) lets just try and content ourselves with the 1/6th depiction.

So, Google the Doctor Who theme, tune hit play and let’s start!

Packaging - ****
For new companies it is sadly often the case that the box ends up being more than a little underwhelming. And whilst this isn’t going to set the world on fire, it is a tasteful and well-constructed bit of design. They have gone for the classic wrap around flap fronted box held on the side panel with magnets. The front bears the new Doctor Who logo, Copper foil laminated out of a deep dense Blue background. The side has an image of Matt Smith in character and the remainder of the panels have various shots of the figure in a variety of poses interacting with his accessories. Through the front window you can see the fully dressed figure with his selection of extra goodies arranged around him.

I managed to bag one of the ultra exclusive artist proofs (1 of only 20 additional signature editions for promotional activities and sampling), so when you open the top of the carton you are met by the all-important plastic wrapped certificate of authenticity and signed plaque. The certificate shows pictures of Matt Smith when he visited Big Chief to do the signings. You can then slide out the two layers. Both are in cardboard trays, with the deeper one housing the figure and the shallow one holding both the stand and plaque stand.

All the materials used are good quality and the standard of print is excellent. Mine arrived polly-bagged and double brown cartooned between a layer of packaging foam peanuts so it was in A1 perfecto condition. No complaints on any score from me.

Sculpting - ****
Doctor Who is a British show, Big Chief are a British company and I am a godamn limey, so there is inevitably going to be a modicum of flag waving here… for which I don’t apologise in the least!

Being a Brit with a history of reviewing the best stuff the world of 1/6th has to offer I was honoured when I received an email asking my opinion of a new sculpt that Big Chief had been working on (thanks Greggo), when I opened the attachment I was pretty amazed!

There before my eyes was a stunning portrait of The Doctor staring back at me… over my shoulders and turning his back on me as well… they had included a good selection! From this myriad of angles I could tell they had captured Smiths likeness incredibly well. However that was about 18 months ago (now you see what I mean in my opening blurb about the road being long and troublesome!) but it has been worth the wait.

Since I saw that image it has undergone some subtle tweaks here and there, but the likeness has staid just as strong. They have wisely opted for a relatively neutral expression, one that is just the right side of focused and quizzical. His distinctive features are rendered expertly by Tony Leetham at Concept X, a new name on me, but he has proved himself to be a talented portrait artist, capturing some deft touches on the detailing around the eyes, mouth and nose, but it’s his foppish hair that helps really hammer home the distinctive look of this particular incarnation of the Doc.

Tony also sculpted his selection of hands which include-

2 distinctive fists with thumbs in a semi upright position
2 relaxed
1 right ‘Sonic Screwdriver’ grip
1 right ‘Nano Recorder’ gun grip
The sculpting here is fine, but they do have a few visible seams and rubbery burrs. These burrs could be trimmed with a craft knife if it bothers you but to be honest I only really became aware of them after doing my photography and blowing up the images. In hand (no pun intended) under normal display conditions they are hardly noticeable.

Then lastly he created the boots. The detail work and fine tooling here is as good as any you will find from the best high end companies out there, they are however sculpted without feet inside, so use the old ankle peg straight into the boot with a fake sock top technique. It’s not a problem and in fact adds to the realism, making the boot appear to be far more streamlined than if it was a separate item wrapped around the foot. It is however worthy of note in case you planned to do anything different with the figure… after all you may have a natty pair of 1/6th cowboy boots he would look good in!

All the work in this category is outstanding, and I have no qualms in awarding the full 4 stars.

Paint - ****
We live in an unfair world; sadly even new companies have to expect to be judged against the behemoth that is Hot Toys. ENTERBAY have been performing exceptionally well of late, but even big established companies like Sideshow are still dragging their heels in catching up with the elite frontrunners.

Hence I am actually very impressed!

Is it as good as Hot Toys?… its darned close! I sat comparing this to my Sweeney Todd, Harry Osborne/New Goblin and Sam Flynn heads… all (I hope you will agree) outstanding work from the paint app legend that is JC Hong, and this can stand beside them with confidence. The guy behind the prototype paint that these are based on is Greg Andrews (AKA Greggo), a name that might be familiar to many collectors (particularly in the UK). He is often a contributor on the collecting forums and has undertaken many private commissions in the past, as well as creating small works of art for his own collection. You can check out his work here  it’s definitely worth a look!

All the paint here is crisp and well defined where needed, yet subtle and well executed in the more delicate areas. The skin tones are well applied with some gentle work in showing his very light beard growth. The eyes are looking straight-forward and manage to capture something of that glossy wet look that helps in adding another degree of realism to product. The eyebrows are delicately indicated and the lips have just the right degree of colour and gloss to look convincing without straying into lip-stick territory.

The hair is something of a revelation, they have used differing brown tones to add definition and it is applied so well that it does actually help enhance the underlying sculpt. If I were to put my hyper critical fez on, then the area just above the left ear could have done with the hairline being brought down a millimetre at the right hand edge, as from some angles it can look a little Spock/Pixie like, but that is a very minor quibble on what is an outstanding job… especially for a first release. It is worth pointing out that my photography skills hover somewhere between useless and adequate, meaning I struggled to capture many of the subtleties and delicate nuances that are apparent when examined in hand… but trust me, it’s very good… not quite Hot Toys good, but very, very good!

There are also some fine details applied to some of his accessories, picking out the mechanics on his screwdrivers and the lettering on the section of TARDIS, all are well applied and no slop was evident to my eyes.

Articulation - ****
To their credit, Big Chief have gone away and devised their own new base body, both male for the Doc here and a female version for the companion piece Amy Pond due some time in the hopefully not too distant future (though it’s all relative when dealing with a Time Lord.

Admittedly it would have been easier to just buy a ready made body off the shelf from any number of Asian manufacturers (plenty of others have done it), but instead they have invested in creating a cool all new base body of their own. Of course I say all new, but you don’t actually reinvent the wheel when your competitors have already put a lot of R&D into creating a huge varied selection of perfectly serviceable bodies. Instead you look at what is out there and reengineer something unique, using the best bits that are available, reconfigured to answer your own particular brief and set of requirements. As such Big Chief have come up with solid, well-articulated robust new body for their male characters, making me eager to see how the female version actually turns out.

I’m afraid you will have to forgive me for not completely disrobing him, but …

A-    Nakidity is not suited to the demeanour of the last surviving Time Lord, and…

B-    I don’t want to strip him off; he looks great as he is!

Admittedly I have stripped many a more elaborately dressed figure down to their grundies… even if they didn’t actually wear any grundies, but I figured that as these pics of the base bod are available over on the Figure Insider site here, they pretty much do the job.

All I will say is that this is a cracking base body that holds positions well and moves smoothly between poses. In a nutshell all you need to know is that it has double knees and elbows, a great range at the shoulder, with the ability to shrug and cross his arms in over his chest. The hips have the ability to tilt mid torso and at the waist and he also has a great range at the neck, allowing him to look up, down and tilt from side to side.

The only real joint he is missing is the ankle, but that is down to the fact he has sculpted boots acting as his feet, and I had no problem getting him to stand, so I don’t intend to let it count against him.

So, if Big Chief decide to release these as carded base bodies at some point in the future, and the price is reasonable, we may just have another solid alternative to the TT and RM on our hands.

Accessories - *** 1/2
Much like the Bat Man, our eponymous hero never EVER uses a gun; it would quite frankly be beneath him, much like it would for most civilised people. However, just as Bat Man always has a few well-placed Batarangs nestled in his utility belt, so the Doctor is never without his trusty Sonic Screwdriver. Not so much a weapon (though it can be) but more the ultimate tech-savvy Swiss army knife, and along with his wit and wisdom it is the tool that has saved his bacon on countless occasions. It is essentially the only accessory the Doctor needs, well apart from his TARDIS, but that may have been too big an ask to wish for. And because of the articulated elements on the real prop Sonic Screwdriver it means we get two versions for the figure, one open and one closed.

But there’s, more, even though as I said it was all he needs, Big Chief realised a nice little haul of cool props never goes amiss.
The complete list comprises of-

6 hands in various poses
1 TARDIS floor base with figure stand
1 Sonic Screwdriver closed
1 Sonic Screwdriver open
1 wallet with psychic paper
1 Nano recorder gun
1 lash-up device
1 Time Lord Consciousness Cube
1 The Doctor’s invitation with envelope
1 TARDIS door sign fragment
1 red polka dot handkerchief
1 wristwatch
1 Tenth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver open

Then for people who order direct from the Big Chief web site you also get a damaged version of 10’s Screwdriver.

And because this is the signature edition it also has the hand signed name plaque and the certificate of authenticity.

I was informed that the accessories are 3D digitally modelled by freelance sculptors managed by Concept X, namely, Sean Dabbs, Simon Goodall and Louise McDonnell (it says on the box), and they have done a fine job of replicating their tiny details, and even though the Sonic Screwdrivers are the essential items I’m particularly fond of the Nano recorder which looks like its straight out of Dr Grodbort’s gun cabinet! All are faultless in terms of detail and all are made from plastic apart from the cotton handkerchief (which has a tiny stitched hem along its edges) and the invite and envelope, which are card and paper respectively.

Next up is the rather natty figure stand, which is constructed like a section of the TARDIS floor, and even the post is made to mimic one of the pitted bulkheads. Now I’m not one for stands usually, but when they become small dioramas I find them harder to leave in the box. The floor section has a clear acrylic base over an asymmetrical pentagon shape with an extra beam dissecting it. The base that comes with Amy will have an alternate floor section of the TARDIS.

Lastly we have the signed plaque and certificate. The plaque is made of a sheet of metal coated plastic and bears the logo’s for Doctor Who, the BBC and Big Chief and is annotated to say-

‘Signature edition collector series 1:6 scale figure, the Eleventh Doctor as portrayed by Matt Smith’, it then has his hand written autograph and is numbered AP17 of 250 (artists proof no. 17 for mine, but it just has a regular number for the standard signature edition). A fitting final item for their first release, now I just pray they can get Tennant and Baker to do the same when their figures are released!

So, I’m really happy with the selection, and though a Stetson or Fez might have been a cool extra, the fact of the matter is that apart from the plaque and his open Sonic Screwdriver all of the other items will remain in the box.

Outfit - ***3/4
The strange thing about 1/6th tailoring is that the more ‘everyday’ the outfit you are trying to replicate is, the tougher it can be to get an accurate and layered look right. We have too many ‘real world’ anchors to judge against, meaning that if the way a sleeve falls or a pair of trousers hang doesn’t look just right, we can end up in Barbie clothes territory. Big Chief obviously have a total understanding of this, and they also have a comprehensive grasp of the exacting demands that modern hi-end collectors expect.

His wardrobe consists of-
1 Tweed jacket
1 checked shirt
1 red bow tie
1 pair of braces (suspenders to our American cousins)
1 pair of black trousers
1 pair of black sculpted boots
1 pair of sock tops

If for some unknown reason you are not familiar with the character… firstly hand back your geek membership pack then check out the reference shots here and it will hopefully help convey how well done this outfit is. As I already described above, the boots are sculpted, but the fine detailing, showing folds and creases in the leather at the ankle and across the toes is fantastically observed. The trousers are of a semi casual black canvas design, worn tight to the leg with over the ankle turn ups and attached red braces. The hip pockets are working, however the rest are well stitched but just cosmetic. The elasticated red braces are permanently attached to the waistband of the trousers and have tiny sculpted grippers and adjustors that are silver painted plastic.

Under these he wears a checked shirt; its base colour is ivory with a fine blue and brown grid printed over it. It’s well tailored to the figure and has a classic fold over collar under which his bow tie is attached. Any kind of neckwear worn under a shirt collar is going to be tricky at 1:6th scale, and though not perfect, with just a little futzing, pushing and pulling it into shape, it can look very good.

The last and most impressive garment is the jacket. It’s fabricated from a thin orangey-brown material with a detailed print over the top to mimic the weave of the Tweed it is based on. I checked it against reference shots and the finished look is most effective. It is lined within the torso part and has a working breast and inside pocket, the two flapped pockets are again just cosmetic. They even remembered the leather elbow patches, and the minute stitches where they are attached are beautifully executed.

Overall I’m very impressed with the quality here. I might try and iron the left side of his jacket to get it to lie flatter against the figure, and if you are looking for utter perfection then it may be worth attaching the bow tie in a different way so the shirt collar can lay flatter as well… but for a new companies first attempt at 1;6th tailoring it is pretty amazing, and bodes very well in deed for future releases. A definite pat on the back to Jo Gough, who is credited on the box for tailoring the clothing.

Value - ***1/2
There were two versions of this figure released. An über limited edition signed signature one (with a shiny gold and steel plaque signed by Matt Smith, limited to 250) for a mere £169.99 and a regular, though still limited to an edition size of 2000 for £149.99.

In this modern world those prices are increasingly the norm, and here in the UK it’s what dedicated collectors have gotten resigned, and almost a little numb to. Of course that’s not to say I am blind to the fact that a ton and a half of some ones readies is an insubstantial amount, but if you want to play ball with the big boys, you must be ready to pay!

Not only that, but we have an officially licensed figure from a new company, at virtually Hot Toys quality with a combined edition size of just 2250. When you actually sit down, do the math and think about the work that must have gone into this venture, you actually begin to realise that these companies aren’t making the profits that some of the collectors out there would like to imagine.
And so it is that this gets what I consider to be a high score, I guess the fact that the signature edition is an extra £20 will divide opinion on actual ‘value’, but it is telling that it sold out quickly and I’ll be interested to see what prices are asked if they start turning up on the secondary market.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
To anyone who has been following the Doc’s adventures since his reinvention by Russell T Davies and the subsequent evolution of the character handled by Steven Moffat, this is a rare chance to have a top quality 1/6th rendition of perhaps the single most important character to come out of British Sci-Fi in the last fifty years. As a pop culture icon he is up there with the best, and is instantly recognisable even though he’s had more makeovers than Madonna and GaGa combined. I have to admit I was surprised the TARDIS didn’t make a cameo at Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the Olympics recently; it would have been a fitting tribute to those in the know.

But as a child’s play thing, which of course at 150 smackers he was never intended to be; he is as solid a figure as one could wish for. I for one am thoroughly loving this portrait, and even the paint is almost up there with the fine work we get from Hot Toys and ENTERBAY, and it’s more than a match for many of their so called peers. This brings me on nicely to why I am awarding such a high mark. Think back to 2000 when a little known bootleg company called Hot Toys first took its stumbling steps onto the market. It was obviously a contender with dreams of greatness, but it took a few years to secure its place, and it proved itself by never resting on its laurels. It actively set out to make sure each new release was an improvement on its last. Admittedly they formed as a Hong Kong based operation at a time when manufacturing and base materials were available at hugely competitive rates to those in the West… but those days are long gone. The playing field, though far from level is at least beginning to tip in favour of a more global market. I’m hoping and indeed praying (even though I’m a card carrying fully paid up member of the elite atheist brigade) that this will help new companies like Big Chief to compete in what are very harsh and unforgiving times. And lets face it, if we want to see the greatest Doctor of all time (if you think that’s Tennant go and get an education) namely Tom Baker, we need to get behind this line and make it sing.

However, even if this did (heaven forbid) turn out to be the only incarnation of the Doc we were to get from Big Chief, they certainly did themselves proud and have entered the market with a bang… where many others simply whimper!

Overall- *** 3/4
I admit that much like when I reviewed the Dan Dare figure a couple of years back, I have more than a slight bias in hoping this figure does well. However, where as Dare is now little more than a cult character aimed at those who have a healthy respect for the classics, the doctor has a far wider appeal and a much more impressive international audience. After all the BBC now sells the show to 42 countries around the world, and his following in the all important US is constantly growing thanks to its primetime showing on BBC America.

So if you are an old fan or a new convert, I can recommend this highly to both camps, and as I finish writing this low-down I see that Big Chief have just posted a rather cool teaser image of the 1/6th threads for the Tom Baker version… this could turn out to be rather a good year to be a Whovian!

Where to Buy -
A great way to show support for this new company is to order direct from them on their web site here.

They do however have a number of distributors helping ensure this figure and any that follow get as wide a range of coverage as possible. The ever-reliable Wai Man of has him available here.

Or if you are Stateside the figure is being imported to the US by Diamond Comics and I found him available for pre-order at Mikes Sponsors below-

TFAW have him for the great price of $159.99.

BBTS have him available for $199.99

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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