The latest in a series of two-figure sets from classic Doctor Who episodes, the Vengeance On Varos set really kicks the door open for future additions to the classic Doctor Who action figure range.
Even more surprisingly, this set immortalizes the two most enduring elements of the sixth Doctor’s all-too-brief era on TV: TARDIS traveling companion Peri and the slug-like Sil, a profit-mongering creature who has no qualms about sacrificing entire civilizations to pour more money into his coffers.
Sil is memorable for two reasons, which can be summed up in two words: “Nabil Shaban”. The paraplegic actor squeezed into Sil’s slug suit to create a fascinating, funny and scary character that seemed more real than the average Doctor Who alien of the ’80s: even though a man in a suit is precisely what Sil was in front of the BBC’s cameras, Shaban brought Sil to malevolent life through a masterful performance and a disturbingly reptilian laugh (frozen for the ages in plastic form here). If there’s a disappointment with the action figure of Sil, it is that it’s not really that much of an action figure: Sil has no articulation. Its head and arms don’t move. It’s a statue. But a wonderfully detailed one – and who here actually thought for even a moment that we’d ever get an action figure of Sil, who put in all of two appearances during Colin Baker’s reign? Show of hands? Didn’t think so.
I’d make the obvious joke that time traveler Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown is also memorable for two reasons, but it’s not the fault of the perfectly capable (and delicious) Nicola Bryant that the show’s costume designers poured her into leotards no matter how ill-suited such an outfit might be for the alien environment of the week. (It does make for an eye-catching action figure, however, and one that captures her likeness very well – above the neckline, sunshine.) She looks great with either the sixth Doctor (with whom she spent the bulk of her screen time) or the fifth (with whom – Big Finish notwithstanding – she shared only a couple of adventures before his regeneration).
But the inclusion of Peri in this set is far more significant than simply providing the Doctor Who action figure line with its bustiest character to date. Peri is the first non-current companion to be immortalized as an action figure in the Doctor Who product line. All of the existing companions – Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy – were current in the new series at the time their figures were released. K-9 and Sarah Jane Smith first appeared as figures after showing up in School Reunion. (Sarah Jane has several additional action figures, but only as part of the short-lived series of figures from the Sarah Jane Adventures spinoff.) Peri is the first classic companion to appear who hasn’t reappeared in the new series. That’s a big deal. That kicks the door open for Jamie McCrimmon, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Susan, Ian and Barbara, Jo Grant, Leela, Ace… the list spreads almost infinitely.
I do not, for a moment, think that we’ll ever see an action figure of Katarina, or Dodo, or Liz Shaw, or Lucie Miller, or Evelyn Smythe, or Charlotte Pollard. I’m not expecting that. But even having one or two iconic companions per Doctor would be a real treat – especially after hearing for years that Character Options was averse to paying for the likenesses of the actors involved.
The Vengeance On Varos set holds the door open for that intriguing possibility, and that makes Sil and Peri – all double entendres aside – a very big deal indeed.