We’re doing something a little bit different in this ToyBox review of Doctor Who goodies; rather than focus on a specific season or product wave, we’re focusing on figures from the stories written by Doctor Who’s future show-runner (and record-breaking three-time consecutive Hugo winner) Steven Moffat. With his uncanny knack for bringing real watch-from-behind-the-sofa psychological horror into the Doctor’s family-hour comfort zone, with an economy of post-production trickery, Moffat has more than earned his new gig. Since his first episodes as executive producer don’t begin until 2010, now seemed like a good time to pause and look at the collectible characters that have emerged from his scripts.
The earliest example of Moffat’s storytelling style introduced several fondly-remembered elements to the Doctor Who mythos. The first figure from this two-parter, however, was just a little bit unfortunate; the original Captain Jack Harkness action figure is meant to depict the character in uniform, but the likeness, frankly, isn’t terribly close to that of John Barrowman, and the uniform itself just somehow doesn’t look terribly military. Captain Jack winds up looking like Captain Janitor, complete with a bizarrely thick neck that just isn’t Barrowman.
This figure would later be reissued with a second, smaller figure that almost makes up for the shortcomings. The Empty Child himself is a tiny figure, but with its fused-to-the-face gas mask and its pointing finger, it instantly brings “Are you my mummy?” to mind; normally I’d be a little bit critical of locking a figure into a single specific pose (i.e. the original figures of the ninth Doctor and Rose, forever frozen into specific hunched-down “ready for action” poses), but in this case…what other pose do you need? The gas-masked child pointing at…well…whatever or whoever you want, is simply iconic. No changes were made to Captain Jack for this repack.
But the Empty Child wasn’t the only character to sport a gas mask in the story; much later in the toy range, an outstanding likeness of the apparently doomed Dr. Constantine appeared, complete with Character Options’ favorite accessory: swappable heads! Constantine has a normal, if bloodshot-eyed, head, as well as a head with the organic gas mask permanently fused to his face. The detailing on the figure’s costume is outstanding, but I’ve always had a little bit of a problem with the Character Options head-swap operation: once removed and replaced, the head just never quite fits the same way again. So it was with the original regeneration set, and so it is here too.
Though not specifically from this story – despite an early packaging error placing the figure in the series 1 collection – Captain Jack was later re-released in a vastly improved new sculpt, featuring the character’s more familiar outfit of a flowing military officer’s jacket over more everyday clothes. In fact, this figure represents Captain Jack as seen in his reappearance in the third and fourth seasons, as well as Torchwood (therefore one-upping scificollector.co.uk’s own then-upcoming figure of Captain Jack for the Torchwood toy line), but it’s such an improvement upon the original “uniformed” figure, bearing a much better likeness to the actor in question, that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it here. Truth be told, I’ll probably be forgoing scificollector’s Torchwood Jack now that I have this figure.
The Girl In The Fireplace
With its strange time-traveling concepts and its tragic romance, the Hugo-winning episode The Girl In The Fireplace may seem like an odd choice for an action figure or two, but in fact it has spawned one of the easiest-to-find (i.e. least-bought-in-stores) figures of the Doctor Who toy line.
The Clockwork Man wasn’t meant to be released in two costume variations. Originally given a black coat, reference photos later caused Character to rethink and paint the coat blue. The Clockwork Man is widely available in both colors, however, and was produced in such numbers that the rethink on the paint job doesn’t automatically make the black-coated version a collectible.
Both versions have detachable “blades” that can be slotted in near their wrists (representing the lethal-looking blades that would extend from the robots’ hands in the TV episode), and both of their heads can be removed to reveal their true robotic appearance. There’s no chance of a 5″ figure doing any more than loosely approximating the clockwork intricacy inside the clear heads, but there’s enough of a hint of that kind of detail for me to declare it a successful approximation.
Sadly, for whatever reason – their foppish appearance, appearing in just one episode, or that episode centering around a romantic relationship rather than action – the Clockwork Men are among the peg-warmingest Doctor Who action figures yet produced.
As an afterthought, a second Girl In The Fireplace character has recently been produced by Character Options which isn’t seen here, but it’s simply the already widely-available second season version of Rose with the large “fire extinguisher ice gun” accessory added to the package. (That in itself is inaccurate, as Rose was wearing a Wichita Falls t-shirt in Girl, rather than her blue outfit as seen in that season’s opener, New Earth.)
Only one character has emerged from the recent Hugo winner Blink, but then again, only one character is really needed to commemorate this eerie episode: the Weeping Angel statue.
Available in two variations – one with a neutral head and the “weeping” pose, and one with a scary head (which can also assume the “weeping” pose and cover its face) – the Weeping Angel figure is a bit smaller than most other Doctor Who figures; it’s almost down to 3 3/4″ Star Wars scale. Though part of the episode’s disturbing concept was that the statues were life-sized, the action figure of the statues is slightly smaller.
The “screaming” variant of the Weeping Angel was, unusually, released first in North America, and it’s an ingenious design. The hands neatly cover the face, which, when revealed, is about as scary as what was seen in the episode itself – it’s just a pity that it’ll look a bit silly menacing figures that are taller than it is on your shelf. Maybe it should just scream at the Empty Child?
Released exclusively at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, Character Options’ two-pack of the two Doctors who appeared in the charity sketch Time Crash is nothing short of outstanding – and, to say the very least, controversial.
The controversy goes something like this: Time Crash was a short scene, all but hammered into a narrow crack between the full-length episodes Last Of The Time Lords and Voyage Of The Damned, produced for the annual Children In Need charity telethon in Britain. The actors, director, stage crew, writer, and anyone else who participated in Time Crash donated their time for the worthy cause. Then, about half a year later, Character released this set…in a country where, theoretically, no one can possibly have legally seen Time Crash, because it didn’t air here. Character promised to donate proceeds from the figures to Children In Need, but that isn’t what caused the firestorm around this set.
The controversy comes from a single costume detail on the fifth Doctor (a fantastic plastic representation of Peter Davison); anyone who watched Davison’s reign in Doctor Who, or even only saw a little bit of it, will probably remember his bizarre tendency to wear a stick of celery on the lapel of his cricketer’s jacket at all times. When Character released prototype photos of the general release version of the fifth Doctor figure, as part of the then-upcoming Classic Series line, there was no celery to be found; when beating the drum to promote the San Diego Comic Con figures, Character made it very clear that this would be the only way to get one’s hands on a fifth Doctor figure with his trademark celery. (A silly costume detail? Definitely. A major detail to skip? Try to imagine the fourth Doctor without his scarf.)
British fans immediately railed against this announcement on the internet, with some even vowing to give up on collecting the Character Options figures completely. If you wanted to see some pissed-off Brits around this time, looking in virtually any Doctor Who forum for a thread about these figures would’ve been an easy way to find some. Online retailers who sent representatives to buy large numbers of the figures at $35 per set were able to turn a neat profit. Individuals who visited either Underground Toys or BBC at the convention for the same purpose, having gathered lists of UK (and, it must be said, US) fans willing to pay to have a set picked up, quickly found themselves with a lot of friends on the internet.
The results? Definitely worth it. The Davison figure is an extraordinarily good likeness, and complete with that one controversial costume detail, it predicts great things for the Classic Series range of figures. Even though the fifth Doctor wasn’t seen using it in Time Crash itself, he comes with an old-school sonic screwdriver of his own. This may also be the most poseable action figure I’ve ever seen, hands-down – the shoes are craftily sculpted with just a little bit of a “lift” at the ball of the foot, with the toes slightly raised up. The fifth Doctor can thus be put in a “walking” pose with great stability – it’s a neat trick.
If there’s one flaw with the Time Crash two-pack, it’s that the tenth Doctor figure simply hasn’t kept up with the times (pretty sad for a Time Lord, really, even a plastic one). Character is still using the sculpt and tooling created for the earliest tenth Doctor figures, only this time painted with the blue suit/dark red shirt and tie combo seen in Time Crash. Seen next to the fifth Doctor, who has 16 points of articulation in just a 5-inch toy, the old tenth Doctor figure is clearly an older product, lacking the thigh, waist, wrist and bicep joints of the newer figures. The tenth Doctor sculpt also hasn’t kept up with the veritable explosion of hair sported by David Tennant. Considering how much mileage has been gotten out of the tenth Doctor in plastic – there’s a variation included with nearly every box set of figures – an update to that figure is long overdue.