Sunday, August 20, 2006

TARDIS Playset and Figures

I promised myself ages ago that I would try and post some reviews and comments about some of the new merchandise that's been coming out. You can see my comments on the Voice Changer Helmet below, but here's something on another of the best toys ever to be produced for Doctor Who, the TARDIS Playset and associated figures. When I was a kid, I would have died and gone to heaven if there had been a TARDIS playset of the quality and complexity of the new toy from Character Options. When the Dapol one came out, it was so cheap and plastiky, and of course the TARDIS console only had five sides ... but at least it was a TARDIS console. Now, with the new series, we have the large and organic looking affair, with the console resting in the middle. On the TV it's a work of art, and the toy manages to capture much of the same feeling. The box it comes in is large and heavy, and immediately you start to wonder at the engineers who work out how to pack everything. This toy is an incredible array of pieces, all held in the box with sticky tape and little twisted wires. It took me at least half an hour just to unpack all the pieces, and then another half hour to assemble it. But it's worth every minute. The attention to detail is spectacular, from the console itself to the struts, the removable floor panels, the entranceway - there's even a hat stand and a little set of hammers! When the console is switched on, you get all the TARDIS sounds, from take off to in flight to various bleeps and whooshes as the different and well disguised buttons on the console are pressed. There's a hatch on the console which opens for repairs to be carried out (or for Rose to get another dose of Vortex Power). The column also glows a superb green, and when the clear perspex tubes start moving and meshing together as the ship takes off, it truly is a thing of great beauty. But what use is a Playset without some players, and Character Options have a great, if a little limited so far, range of characters to journey in the TARDIS. Of course there is the Doctor, and there's a few to choose from: you can have the original Eccleston model or the Tennant version in Eccleston's outfit (these are both in a 'Regeneration' pack which was exclusive to Argos but which can now be found in some specialist shops), or there's a Tennant in his long brown coat, or Tennant in his Austin Powers-esque suit. Some of these come with a mini-sonic screwdriver as well, so the Doctor can be armed against the forces of evil. By his side there is Rose Tyler. Unfortunately, at the moment there's only one version of Rose available, and she doesn't have full articulation and so looks like she's spoiling for a fight all the time. Later in the year, there's another Rose figure coming in a different outfit and which does have full articulation. Along with the Rose figure currently available, you get a K9 as well. This is a lovely little toy, well made and beautiful. If you'd prefer a small radio control version to zip about the TARDIS with, then that's available as well along with a Doctor figure (the same suited version as is available separately). On the baddies front, there's the masked Sycorax Leader, complete with staff and whip, and also Lady Cassandra (the flat skin woman) who comes on her own or with Chip her servant (who is lacking articulation in his elbows making him seem a little like a zombie some of the time). There's also a little blue fellah on a travel disk thing. He's the Moxx of Balhoon and only appeared briefly in the series. There's also a Slitheen figure with a lovely snarling mouth and big arms and claws. But by far the best of the figures is the Cyberman. This is a total work of art. The figure is articulated in all the right places, can be posed in many ways (though he can't sit down) and you just want to get loads of them to create your very own Cyber-Army. Every army needs commanders, and from Toys R Us, you can get a brilliant Cyber-Controller (with brain revealed) in the same scale. Also, coming soon from Argos, is a Cyber-Playset in which you'll find a Cyber-Leader (same as a Cyberman but with black 'ear' handles). So we can start to form whole batallions of Cybermen :) Of course there's the Daleks as well, and these are only available as the remote control variety in black and gold - even so, having a Dalek vs K9 remote control battle on the kitchen floor is enormous fun. There is a non-remote controlled black Dalek available in a £30 gift set from Woolworths, along with five other figures from the range, so if you don't have them as yet, and are looking for an 'all in one go' option, then this would be ideal. The problem of course, comes when you introduce the figures to the playset ... in my case, the Doctor immediately started trying to make repairs and take off, while the Cybermen tried to talk him out of it as they wanted to go to a club. Meanwhile Rose and another Cyberman tried to prove who was the fittest by exercising. Rose jogged on the spot while the Cyberman did push-ups. Meanwhile, the Cybermen discussed the situation with the Cyber-Controller and eventually the Doctor and Rose left them to it and went off in the TARDIS on their own. Other things I've seen happening on my front room table: Rose whipping the Cybermen into submission with the Sycorax's whip; the Doctor sitting on the back of K9 and riding around the console room; Cassandra and the Moxx deep in conversation about the relative values of saliva as a form of gift; and of course the Dalek trying to get through the TARDIS Police Box doors - for some reason the 'elevate' function is missing from the remote control. Overall, these are magnificent toys. They're well priced at £6.99 each for the standard figures, while the TARDIS Playset is £39.99 (which seems to be something of a bargain given all the work which has obviously gone into it). If you're still not convinced, then check out the television advert for the range. Here's a link so you can see for yourself.

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