In 2000, I wrote what I fully expected to have been my last Doctor Who toy review as Dapol gave up the ghost with a final box set of Dalek variations. If someone had told me at that time that I’d be getting the first wave of an incredibly detailed new line of Doctor Who action figures six years later, I would’ve told them they were crazier than the Master. And then I would’ve placed my pre-order.
Actually, I probably would’ve placed the order first.
Of course, the new figures are tied in to the new series, which stunned everyone by climbing to the top of the British television ratings in 2005 by virtue of savvy marketing and by virtue of just being a tremendously entertaining show. With such a success on their hands, the BBC eagerly licensed a number of products, including these action figures from UK toymaker Character Options. The first wave of characters arrived in February 2006, at a time when the show wasn’t even airing new episodes; two of the characters released, in fact, had only just been introduced in the 2005 Christmas special story, The Christmas Invasion, and another character, while technically hailing back to the “classic” series, hadn’t even made his new series appearance yet.
The Doctor himself was introduced in two variations of his new standard outfit; the tenth Doctor, as played by David Tennant (whose likeness is impressively captured in plastic), arrived in his pinstripe suit and sneakers, either with or without his brown overcoat. Both versions included a sonic screwdriver. A third variation of the Doctor was an even bigger departure – sold only in Argos stores in the UK (who steadfastly refused to take orders from overseas customers!), the ninth Doctor “regeneration” figure two-pack presented Christopher Eccleston in plastic form, as well as a figure of the just-regenerated tenth Doctor still wearing his predecessor’s leather jacket. Both figures’ heads could be removed and swapped (!). The ninth Doctor figure had appeared previously, included in a variant (and slightly less detailed) form in 2005’s remote control Dalek battle pack. If anything, the ninth Doctor’s ears almost don’t seem big enough; to put it mildly, they’re one of Christopher Eccleston’s more prominent features.
The other heroes in the first wave were represented in a two-pack including Rose Tyler and K-9. Rose appeared in a pink sweatshirt outfit that was a mainstay of the first season’s marketing photography of Billie Piper, while K-9 was…well, K-9. (Thankfully the BBC didn’t see a need to “update” the character in the intervening years.) K-9 is a slightly more detailed and slightly larger replica than the tiny figure of the robot dog produced by Dapol in the late 1980s. He also features a pop-out panel to expose his electronic innards, activated by pressing down on the “computer keypad” in the midde of his back. Despite the fact that “pull-back-and-go motion” is promised as a feature for K-9, that feature seems to be absent in the model I got, meaning he scoots around more or less like a Hot Wheels car. K-9 also has some meticulously detailed paint work to give him his weathered, rusted appearance from the upcoming second season episode School Reunion.
The forces of evil show up in the first wave as well (though we’ll be covering them at a later date), with The Christmas Invasion‘s whip-wielding Sycorax Leader and, from the first and only season with the ninth Doctor, a Slitheen alien (Aliens Of London, World War Three, Boom Town and the interactive game Attack Of The Graske.).
The detail work on all of the figures is very impressive – a far cry from some of Dapol’s products. So naturally, it almost demands the question: will Character Options dig into Doctor Who’s past and bring us the first eight Doctors and their sidekicks and enemies? theLogBook.com contacted the company to ask them this very question (admittedly with visions in our head of a glorious Past Doctors box set not unlike Playmates’ 1993 Star Trek: The Classic Series set), and the answer, at this time, is unfortunately “no.” The BBC has split the license for Doctor Who into two segments – one covering the new series and any characters who appear in it, the other covering the entirety of the classic series from Hartnell through McGann. Character Options will have to license Doctor Who from the BBC again in order to produce characters from the original show’s 26 seasons on the air or the 1996 TV movie.
If there’s one complaint about the new figures, it has to be that, upon first opening the package, you’ll likely be kicked back across the room by an overwhelming odor of PVC plastic. The “soft goods” portion of the figures – the tenth Doctor’s overcoat, the ninth Doctor’s leather jacket – are made from this, but seems like the rest of the figures are too. Even accessories such as the sonic screwdriver are made from this pliable plastic, which means you stand a chance of mangling the Doctor’s most treasured bit of gadgetry while simply trying to put it in his hand. However, the soft plastic used also means the figures are susceptible to paint blemishes and even scratches. They’re great display pieces but require some careful handling; I’m not sure how well they’d stand up to actual play. K-9 is the most robust figure in this early assortment; just the nature and physical shape of the character meant that he could be built like a tank (and a hard plastic one at that).
More figures are on the way following the premiere of season two, including the new Cybermen and several other villains yet unseen, and three words that, given the quality of the figures so far, should have any fan salivating: “electronic TARDIS playset.” Stay tuned…