Officially billed as an “Electronic TARDIS” with a figure of the first Doctor, this two-figure set breaks down another barrier between the new series and classic series toy lines by offering the first vehicle from the original Doctor Who. Some might consider this a bit of a yawner, since we’ve already had two different Flight Control TARDIS vehicles from new Who (and isn’t a Police Box just a Police Box?), but it’s a bit of a big deal to anyone who’s been around long enough to be a longtime fan of the classic series.
Where the TARDIS is concerned, a Police Box isn’t just a Police Box. From the 1963 premiere onward, Doctor Who has never relied on a real Police Box (or, as legend would have it, a Police Box prop used in its 1960s BBC cop show stablemate, Dixon Of Dock Green). The Doctor’s TARDIS has always been a specially-built prop, and there have been several through the years thanks to the normal wear and tear of moving the prop, storing the prop, taking the prop on location… there are even a couple of occasions on which it’s claimed that the Police Box prop collapsed completely due to extensive wear. The prop was built from scratch, usually without necessarily following the same design as its predecessor.
When redesigned for the new series, however, the Police Box became shorter and wider – to accomodate two actors opening the doors and emerging simultaneously, and to allow for shots into the TARDIS that would show the massive control room inside for the first time in the series’ history (usually achieved with a large backlit transparency – essentially a giant photographic slide of the console room set). The TARDIS of the original series, on the other hand, tended to be taller and thinner, and the gag of looking directly into the console room from the outside was never achieved in the original show (unless one counts the blue-screen effect used at the end of the 1993 documentary More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS.
This TARDIS reflects what we often saw in the early years of the original show: the TARDIS as a tall, dark blue box (though the blue would’ve registered in the black & white days as almost black). As this TARDIS includes a figure of the first Doctor from the very first half-hour episode, An Unearthly Child, the Police Box looks like it did at the end of that story: a small layer of prehistoric dust, kicked up by the TARDIS’ arrival in the days of cavemen, has settled onto the lower part of the ship – it’s permanently reflected in the paint job, but not annoyingly so (at least it’s not a spatter pattern). Hartnell’s TARDIS shares several characteristics with Matt Smith’s: the St. John’s Ambulance badge, a white panel bearing the “Pull To Open” message, and white windowpanes. The windows are meticulously detailed, with some panes smooth and others textured with a “pebbled glass” effect.
But that’s where the similarity to the Flight Control TARDIS toys from the new series ends. Screen-accurate to the original prop, this TARDIS’ interior is painted black. There is no internal lighting (although the translucent plastic from which the windows are made seems to beg for some kind of modification), and there’s no backdrop. It might come across as slightly cheap compared to the lit-interior-with-backdrop of the Flight Control TARDIS toys, but it’s utterly faithful to what was seen on screen.
The figure of the first Doctor is, frankly, better than the previous figures by miles. With his overcoat, scarf and hat, this figure is very episode-specific, but the likeness of William Hartnell is just stunning, the sculpting of the first Doctor’s long hair especially so. This head is a vast improvement on the previous figures – if only they had the same head sculpt minus the hat. As with both the Comic Con first Doctor and the figure included with the Eleven Doctors box set, this one comes with a walking stick and a human skull (again, a prop specific to An Unearthly Child, but who doesn’t like having a little human skull on the shelf?).
Overall, it’s a great set; those not wanting to bother with the inflated price tag of the TARDIS can get the figure of the first Doctor (with walking stick and skull included) separately.