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Exclusive: Nick Robatto Rubbertoe Interview

Doctor Who Action Figures Online Exclusive

For those who do not know Nick Robatto, he has been one of the principal prop-makers for the series since its re-launch in 2004, as well as Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. He has been responsible for many of the most iconic props on the show, such as Matt Smith’s Sonic Screwdriver. Since then, as well as his continued work for Doctor Who, he has worked on many other BBC shows, such as Merlin, Sherlock, Casualty, New Tricks, MI High and CBBC’s Wizards vs. Aliens.

Nick recently built the console and time rotor for the newly revealed TARDIS interior and has made a run of 100% accurate prop replica Sonic Screwdrivers for BBC co-licensees, American company Quantum Mechanix. He has even set up his own company, Rubbertoe Replicas earlier this year selling replica props from the series!

Back in 2013, we caught up with the principle prop maker on Doctor Who and asked him some of your questions.

The Interview

Hi Nick, thank you for agreeing to our question and answer session exclusively for Doctor Who Action Figures Online.

Not a problem, thanks for asking me.

We’ve opened up our Q&A session to our followers and have chosen some of the best to ask you, along with a few of our own.

Fire away,

As the Ninth Doctor would say “Fantastic”. Here is question number one submitted by David Mace via our Facebook page. “What made you get into prop making?”

It’s not something I actually decided when I was growing up, I sort of just progressed into it. I studied model-making in Art college and then went to work with a company making all sorts of things like models, sets, exhibition stands, prototypes, furniture. I made so many different things over my five years there and learnt a great deal about making things small and large. Then when Doctor Who re-booted I did a few days work with them and found I had all the necessary skills to be a prop maker, plus all the stuff we had to make was good fun.

Carolanne Hanley would like to know “Out of all the props you have made. Which is your favourite and why?”

Um, I’d have to say the Sonics, you know that they are going to be an iconic piece one day, but at the same time if you have a nasty deadline they can become a right pain in the A@@@! I do enjoy making the intricate props that need machining from scratch that move and light up.

That leads us on nicely to Adam Bridges question. “What is the most fun prop to make?”

I generally like making hand props, things like the guns, sonic and staffs. I also used to like making hand props from a pile of junk, like the one’s the doctor would lash up out of old parts.

From utter fun to an utter pain, Carolanne Hanley has another question and would like to ask “What was the most difficult prop to construct from either an expense or/technical issue?”

Matt Smiths sonic, it’s a nuisance to make. If I had a CNC machine it wouldn’t be so bad, but to make all those pieces by hand it’s a right labour of love.

Sean Mossman asks “Where are the large sets/props you create/build go once they are no longer required?”

Generally, the sets go into storage in a warehouse in Cardiff or the skip! The props usually either get a new lease of life and go to one of the many Doctor Who exhibitions or are stored in the studios for future episodes, but sometimes they get so battered the skip is all their good for!

Great questions from some of our followers, now a few of our own!
Nick, as one of the principle prop makers, do you have a say in the design of the props used for the series?

We get a little bit of design input. Sometimes a picture that is drawn in 2D does not translate into 3 dimensions so we have to make it work, which involves a certain design element from you as a prop-maker.

What is it like to work on the set of the longest sci-fi show in the world, especially with the 50th around the corner?

It’s great to be a part of it and I’m really looking forward the 50th and being at the convention later this year.

What do you think of Peter Capaldi’s casting on the show? Are you excited to get started on his series?

I think it’s a great choice, I hope he’s a grumpy moody old man with a sly sense of humour.

Here is a scenario for you… You’ve been given no design brief. If you could create one prop for the Twelfth Doctor or any other Doctor, what would it be?

I think you know the answer to that already! His new Sonic, I have some great ideas!

You have recently opened up Rubbertoe Replicas selling Doctor Who replica props! Are you pleased with how well it is going so far?

Yeah pretty pleased so far. It’s been full on since we launched a few months ago and we are only just keeping up with demand. It’s great to see something I have worked hard for hopefully becoming a success. I hope I can keep building the business and offer the Who fans something that they feel is closely linked to the show.

Do you have lots of exciting plans up your sleeve to bring us even more great props?

Yeah, I have a few smaller things I’m working on and should have some more props to release this year as well hopefully.  Maybe to be announced at the 50th convention, we’ll have to see.

Thank you very much, Nick for your time. It is very much appreciated!

No problem!

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