Released in 2008, shortly after 2007’s epic-length Christmas special set on a spaceship called the Titanic, Character Options’ Voyage Of The Damned gift set introduced a new look and a new direction for the company’s multi-figure Doctor Who box sets. At a time when many toy companies (and their retail store customers) were looking to downsize their packaging in order to have more product on the shelves, the Voyage set scaled things up: all four figures are in a massive window box, affording front, top and bottom views of the products within, and an impressive double-sided paper insert. As usual, the exterior of the paper backing offers bios of the characters included; but the flipside of the insert offers an impressive still shot of the aforementioned spacefaring Titanic as a backdrop for the figures inside. In short, this set was one that could be enjoyed even if it was never opened.
Not that we here at ToyBox are likely to not open our toys, mind you. The Voyage set also offers brand new figures that are – or at least were – exclusive to this set: interplanetary waitress Astrid Peth (a very good likeness of big-name guest star Kylie Minogue, probably the first and only time that the pop superstar has ever been turned into an action figure), and two Heavenly Host droids, Voyage‘s elegant but deadly enemy army. A by-now-standard-issue tenth Doctor figure is included, but a golden opportunity was missed here: the figure of the Doctor is presented in his suit without his flowing overcoat, but in fact the Doctor barely appears like this at all in Voyage Of The Damned, instead sporting a sharp tuxedo (befitting the Titanic’s opulent surroundings) for all but the opening moments of the show. Rather than a slightly retooled figure of the Doctor – only a new body sculpt would’ve been required – we get a figure that’s more or less irrelevant to the episode around which the entire gift set is built.
The other figures make up for it, however; the likeness of Kylie Minogue as Astrid is impressively close to the real person, and while I’m normally in agreement with the idea that action figures should be sculpted with a more-or-less neutral expression, Astrid’s smile suits the character just fine.
The Heavenly Hosts are identical; each sports a halo on its head, as well as a hand-held halo (in the episode, the Hosts removed their halos and used them as deadly airborne weapons, not unlike Xena’s chakram from Xena: Warrior Princess). Each Host also has jointed wings on its back; fitting in with the idea that the Hosts are mass-produced robots, the wings aren’t as delicate as, say, the similarly-jointed wings on the back of the Weeping Angel figure (from Blink). The Hosts have a striking appearance and are a welcome addition to my plastic pantheon of new series villains. If you think they look somewhat familiar, it’s worth noting that, in at least one pre-production design meeting, writer/showrunner Russell T. Davies explicitly stated that the Hosts are either Voc robots (from the Tom Baker classic Robots Of Death), or a variation/similar model thereof. The Hosts don’t look exactly like Vocs (which have their own figures in the sadly truncated classic series range), but there’s enough of a resemblence that I can report that they look great standing next to their forebears on the shelf.
Also included in the Voyage set is a Titanic life preserver ring, a dandy prop to chuck into your TARDIS console room playset if you want to recreate the Titanic’s collision with the TARDIS (Titanic not included; enlist the help of the family dog for this).
The figure of Astrid resurfaced in a second box set, featuring the new series companions, and a variant of Astrid (minus her frilly apron) has appeared as an individual figure. Not appearing as part of the Voyage Of The Damned gift set, but available individually, is another important character from this special: Bannakaffalatta (say it five times fast!). Seemingly a cross between Darth Maul and a tux-wearing dwarf, Bannakaffalatta was part of the final wave of figures from the fourth season. Cleverly, the figure includes a removable “tuxedo front” section, revealing his cyborg innards, and including Bannakaffalatta’s power core, which can be plugged into a receptable on the “cyborg” surface. Why that figure was held back for an individual release is unknown, but it’s the final piece of the Voyage Of The Damned puzzle, and makes for a great addition to the box set.
The impact of the Voyage Of The Damned set is considerable: every set since this one has followed the same packaging design (though the contents of the package – i.e. Daleks or Sontarans – as well as the sheer number of figures has dictated whether the subsequent packages were smaller or larger than this one). And almost every set since this one has included a box set exclusive figure – or at least a figure that was initially announced as an exclusive. Since this set has some fine new additions to the collection, it’s certainly not a bad trendsetter in that regard.