The end of 2011 saw a sudden glut of classic series figure sets released by Character Options; common sense would seem to dictate that these were intended to attract last-minute Christmas shoppers, but in most areas they arrived too late for Christmas 2011. Some of these sets, rather predictably, landed in the Tom Baker era. This isn’t to imply a bias on Character’s part – there’s simply more of Tom Baker’s era than there is of any other Doctor’s reign, though Character does have an established bias toward masked characters so they don’t have to pay an actor for his likeness. This places serious limits on which characters will be produced in figure form, and it also makes it easy for Character to fall back on an old standby that’s also a proven seller: Daleks. But this set is interesting, not only for rewinding back to the Hartnell era, but because it hearkens back to the very first Doctor Who toys ever made, and the ’60s heyday of Dalekmania.
This simple three-figure set features a pair of Daleks with a color scheme unique to this era of the show: the combination of the metallic silver Dalek casings and the blue sensor hemispheres that had been employed on the Dalek props from their first appearance in 1963, and the first appearance of the vertical “slats” and grating around the Daleks’ previously smooth midsection. These “slats” – intended by the television series’ production team to represent solar power panels – made their first appearance in The Chase, a six-part story from 1965 that saw the last of the Doctor’s original trio of companions return home, along with the introduction of a new male companion, stranded space pilot Steven Taylor.
But Steven was stranded in an artificial city on a jungle planet where the Daleks’ new nemesis lived: the Mechonoids.
The Mechonoids were intended, from the outset, to provide the Daleks with an arch enemy other than the Doctor, with huge geodesic spherical casings on rollers, a flamethrower arm, and two pincer-like appendages that could hold ai mighty Dalek immobile. The Mechonoids were also a carefully calculated new addition to the Dalek mythos – just as Dalekmania had swept through British toy stores in 1964, it was hoped that the Mechonoids would also become a hot toy item that the children of England would want to snap up in record numbers.
Licenses were granted to produce Mechonoid toys as soon as the huge, spherical robots menaced television screens everywhere. The Mechonoids quickly gained a foothold as the Daleks’ arch-rivals in the pages of Gerry Anderson’s Century 21 comics magazine,which featured a regular Dalek comic (minus any other trappings of the Doctor Who universe).
The only problem? The Mechonoids never appeared on TV again. The props were even more unwieldly and damage-prone than the Daleks themselves. They never appeared in later episodes of Doctor Who, despite the hopes of Terry Nation (and his licensees). Without the repeat exposure of televised rematches between the Daleks and Mechonoids, there was no momentum to lend the Mechonoids any popularity; they went the way of the Voords and Koquillion and the Monoids.
But now any fans who demand that rematch can arrange it themselves. The third figure in The Chase set is a large Mechonoid, complete with pincer arms, and a gun arm with and without the flamethrower effect. Like the Dalek toys, it rolls around on wheels, and it’s a pretty sizeable plastic adversary – almost but not quite as large as the Sontaran ship. It’s easy to see why the show’s producers were in no hurry to bring the Mechonoids back: with storage space for scenery and props at a premium, parking even a couple of Mechonoids in the BBC scenery dock only to be brought out a couple of times a year (a generous guesstimate) would’ve taken up a lot of valuable space.