Doctor Who 25th Anniversary TARDIS Playset
Released in the U.K. in 1988 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of
Doctor Who, which at the time was still in its original run, entering its
second season with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, this Dapol playset was
the only toy representation of the TARDIS interior until Character Options'
marvelous playset modeled on the new series' TARDIS set. Unlike many Dapol
toys, such as the TARDIS' Police Box exterior, certain elements of this set
were never manufactured or made available again, making it a true
The figures included here are picked from the oddball assortment of Dapol's
original handful of figures: the seventh Doctor, Melanie (modeled on
actress Bonnie Langford, who departed the series at the end of the
24th season), and K-9, who never traveled with either of
the above during the series proper. (The seventh Doctor and K-9 would
appear together in the charity special Dimensions In Time, but
that was produced several years later.) A TARDIS exterior is included also.
But by far, the biggest item included in this set, and the one thing which
makes it a treasured rarity, is the TARDIS console. Powered by AA
batteries (which makes for a slightly bulky base), the console is motorized
and lit from within, and is a very nice replica of the console
used from 1983 until the original series' end in 1989, with one rather
significant "blooper": this console is a five-sided pentagon, while the
actual full-sized prop was a six-sided hexagon, and had been since 1963!
Dapol promised to make a more accurate six-sided console available
separately at a later date, but this never came to pass; the fire which
nearly shut the company's factory down destroyed this console's original
molds, and by the time Dapol had production of Doctor Who and its other toy
lines up and running again, the series had ended. The company was still
able to keep sales healthy by releasing new Doctor Who action figures in
dribs and drabs through the end of the 1990s, and by constantly
re-releasing new paint and accessory variations of its venerable
best-selling Dalek figures (of which this author must confess to owning
several), but apparently Dapol never felt that demand for a console merited
re-sculpting and re-machining a new model, either five or six sided.
Maybe they misjudged just a little. I seldom get into pricing/rarity
ToyBox, because this section of theLogBook.com isn't meant to be a price
guide. But in the interests of disclosure, I lucked out and obtained a
complete, near-pristine 25th anniversary playset for $110 from a U.S.
collector, within 4 hours of the beginning of the auction. (Buy It Now is
sometimes a beautiful thing.) Within 24 hours, I saw a U.K. seller put a
console, on its own, up for auction - with an opening bid of...well
over that price. I have seen the console alone fetch the equivalent
of US $200. I hate to drop specific numbers like these for fear that it
will inspire sellers to price their wares over and above those numbers,
making it nigh-impossible for earnest (and modestly budgeted) collectors
like myself to obtain something they'd enjoy and not hoard. But there the
numbers are, in the interest of letting potential buyers beware - brace
yourself for a price tag that's bigger on the inside than out.
Those who sell the console alone, by the way, are doing the collecting
community (and completists) a disservice. The 25th anniversary set also
included a base onto which the TARDIS police box "walls" could be opened up
to form the famously roundel-covered interior of the time machine, and the
base included a raised "lip" to keep K-9 on track as he dutifully makes the
rounds and checks the console. That base was also never made available
again, and due to all of the sellers who are auctioning off orphaned
consoles, the base may well be rarer than the console itself.
Those who are willing the pay the price, depending on their expectations,
may be a little underwhelmed with the reality of the thing - the console
has a bulky base to accomodate two pairs of AA batteries, and the mechanism
that moves the "time rotor" is about as quiet as a 1970s vacuum cleaner.
It's worth it for the spectacle of seeing the whole thing working at least
once (see our accompanying video piece), though.
In the context of its time, this was a fantastic playset. Doctor Who
seemed to be on an upswing on TV, at least creatively if not in the
ratings, with Sylvester McCoy breathing new life into the part and a new
group of writers and script editors revitalizing the stories with a new
sense of mystery and danger, flying in the face of the BBC's mandate to
increase the show's comedy content. And with Dapol's new
commitment to decent merchandise of the kind that had previously only
graced such U.S. properties as Star Wars, young
(and, ahem, young-at-heart) fans could create their own adventures. Surely
the best was yet to come.
Doctor Who was cancelled by the BBC in 1989. But as a new generation of
eager young (and, of course, young-at-heart) fans, with their own new
generation of action figures and their own mightily impressive TARDIS
playsets would prove just two years shy of the 45th
anniversary, it's hard to keep a Time Lord - or his frankly magnificent
timeship - down.