Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Return of Denys Fisher

Once upon a time there was a toy manufacturer who loved toys. He loved them so much that he decided that one of the top TV shows should have some toys made by his company. And so, in 1977, he released a set of action figures for kids to play with. The range was small, but included the very wonderful Tom Baker as the Doctor, Louise Jameson as Leela, plus of course their space-time ship the TARDIS - a police box which could 'dematerialise' a character placed in it by using a spinner in the light on the top. Of course, to be truly playable, the Doctor and Leela needed some monsters to fight, and so a Dalek and a Cyberman were included, as well as an amazing robot which the fourth Doctor had battled in his very first adventure.

The toys were brilliant. Totally amazing to children, who really didn't mind that the Doctor looked a bit like Gareth Hunt off of the New Avengers, or that Leela had totally uncontrollable hair. They even didn't mind that the Cyberman had a nose ... or that the Giant Robot was held together with rubber bands ... it was the concept and the playability which was key, and these toys had them in spades.

But the range died almost as it begun. Even a late addition of a little K9 model couldn't save it.

That was the end of the Doctor Who Action figures for a good long while. It wasn't until the new series came back in 2005 and Character Options started to release some 12 inch figures that the idea was floated again ... but again it seemed to die. Character released the Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha as well as Daleks and Cybermen, a Cat Nun, Judoon, Dalek Sec Hybrid, Ood and a Clockwork Man, but the range was not to continue. Kids seemed to be more into the little five inch figures, and the 12 inch variety was stopped - I remember seeing a 12 inch Sontaran at a Toy Fair which never made it to production.

Now, in 2011, a new company is trying the larger action figures. This time they are eight inch figures, and are very much an homage to the old Denys Fisher figures of the seventies.

There is a fourth Doctor, resplendent with hat and scarf, and even looking like Tom Baker this time. There is no companion in the initial batch, but there are three monsters. There's a CyberLeader, complete with shiny suit. He has no nose, but his chest unit is a little too small, but otherwise he's wonderful. He even has a Cybermat! Then there's a Sontaran, not one of the small, blue new series ones, but a good old fashioned one, complete with removable helmet and spud-like features. Finally, there is the Master ... but not the Roger Delgado or Anthony Ainley human version ... here we have the amazingly grotesque Peter Pratt decayed version, lovingly resplendent in rotting black robes and with the Sash of Rassilon around his neck. It's a great toy and even comes with the Rod of Rassilon as well!

All four figures are fully articulated, and have been developed with much love and care by Bif Bang Pow! the company behind them. They are very playable, and with the addition of one of the miriad of TARDISes which are already on the market, kids have a full set to stage their own adventures with.

There are four more figures promised for 2012 (Morbius, Scaroth, Leela and Sutekh) and it's another great selection. Personally I would perhaps have chosen others - maybe a Sea Devil, or an Ice Warrior? - but if the range does well, then I'm sure that more and more will be added to the range.

The figures retail for $39.99 for two (which equates to around £25.50 in UK currency) which is brilliant value! If we take the 1970s figures, these figures cost £2.95 when released. Using the Retail Price Index, the 2010 equvalent price is £14.30, so £13 is spot on price-wise.

Strangely, Character have just released a ten inch figure of the eleventh Doctor, though this seems to be an exclusive for the Toys R Us chain ... so we've had 8, 10 and 12 inch figures available now ... it's never ending.

The Bif Bang Pow! range can be bought in the USA from Entertainment Earth :

And in the UK, they seem to be available from Forbidden Planet. The .com variant has the four for next year at £14.99 each which is very reasonable, but the variant doesn't seem to carry the range.

There's a part of me which gets a childish frisson of joy at seeing these figures ... it takes me right back to being a kid ... and that's what collecting is in some ways about.

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