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The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: “Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis”

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

I wish I could say the “Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis” was given to me as a gift.  If it had been, I would feel an obligation not to insult the person who gave it to me by taking a dump on it over the course of 1000 words and just write something like “Boy howdy, it sure does wind up.  Look at it go.”  Then I’d slap a two or three TARDI rating on it and call `er a day.  I wouldn’t have to dwell on any of its super-obvious aspects of questionable quality.  I could just walk away and be the bigger man.  But, no.  I bought this thing with my own money and of my own free will and have no one to blame but myself.

As I mentioned before, I try very hard not to buy crappy TARDISes, but sometimes it happens anyway.  In this case, I’m pretty sure I bought it sight unseen from my comic book mail order service after having seen it in a thumbnail image on their online catalog three months previous.  When it arrived and I was able to cast actual eyes on it, I could immediately see the error I had made.

Much like its dumpy cousin, the Doctor Who: Light-Up Tardis “Kit”, the The Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis is solidly lame.  They could almost be mistaken for one another, except that “wind up” is slightly larger than “kit.”  They both, however, have the out-of-scale over-sized wood grain sculpting.  Where “wind up” improves on it, though, is that the wood grain sculpting on the roof panels is actually parallel to the roof edges.  Beyond that, they both have the same painted on windows and the non-recessed Police Public Call Box signs.  Curiously, the creators of the “wind up” TARDIS didn’t even try to get the roof lamp at all accurate.  It’s just a chunky cube of clear plastic with some blue paint daubed on the top of its semi-sculpted cap.  It’s like they got the base of the lamp and the cap of the lamp then just threw a cube of plastic in between.  And it doesn’t light up.

Where the “wind up” TARDIS distinguishes (extinguishes) itself, however, is in its ability to roll and spin when wound up.  (Y’know, like how TARDISes do on the show all the time?)  It has four wheels on the bottom which may be wound by rolling them backward (“backward” being difficult to determine without experimentation, since the wheels are, as designed, free-moving within a disc that rotates as the wheels spin, so they are therefore always facing a different direction than “forward”).  Once wound, you can then release the TARDIS and watch it roll a couple of feet while at the same time spinning kind of slowly, as you can see in the video below.

 I guess this spinning is meant to simulate the TARDIS spinning through space, cause it’s not like the vehicle is known for spinning along the ground.  In its defense, the TARDIS is also not known for, say, holding cookies, salt, coffee, liquid soap, a Yahtzee set, your head, or for wrapping you up in a snuggly embrace either, all of which are things some of the TARDISes in my collection are frequently called upon to do.  This being the case, I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about a TARDIS spinning along the floor–particularly a product called “the Doctor Who – Wind up TARDIS”, a fact that I was aware of in advance of its purchase.

I still give it two TARDI, cause its overriding lameness just annoys me.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Fascinations Metal Earth Doctor Who Tardis 3D Laser Cut Model – Blue

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

Having been kicked in my TARDIS junk (insert customary “bigger on the inside” joke here) by the non-kit, fully-assembled, have-but-to-flip-a-switch-and-yer-done nature of The Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit” I was pleased, a few months back, to discover on Amazon a new kind of TARDIS kit that actually required assembly.  The Fascinations Metal Earth Doctor Who Tardis 3D Laser Cut Model – Blue might be a mouthful to say, but it looked amazing in the pictures and claimed that its pieces were all die cut in two layers of sheet metal which you, at home, could assemble.  Sounded delightful.  And, eventually, I ordered it.

The kit arrived shortly.  I was somehow expecting a box, but it arrived in a thick cardboard envelope containing two sheets of thin metal, indeed die cut and pre-painted with TARDISy details, as well as an instruction sheet.  I laid those three items on my desk and was taken aback by the fact that the size of the pieces did not match up to my assumption of how big this thing was actually going to be–or, rather, how small.  It’s hard to get scale off a manufacturer’s picture, and I had assumed that the kit would produce a TARDIS that was probably in league with the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS, or maybe the TARDIS Yahtzee set at smallest.  Nay, nay.  The product dimensions might have listed it as being 6″x4″, but what they really meant was the package it came in was a flat 6″x4″ envelope.  Eyeballing the size of the tiny TARDIS doors within their sheet metal framework, it appeared this TARDIS would be closer to 3 inches in height than 6″.  Still, it was an amazing piece of engineering and the end-results, as per the photograph, were impressive.  I started reading over the instructions and prepared to begin my kit assembly.

After less than a minute, I lay my instruction sheet down atop the intact sheet metal sheets and became distracted by doing anything else.  For what I had swiftly realized was that this assembly wasn’t going to be a quick matter of popping the pieces out and quickly sticking them in place, like the old snap together model car kits.  Nay, nay, nay.  This was going to require tiny tools I wasn’t sure I possessed as well as a pair of 250 strength reading glasses.  Because it turns the kind of exacting detail I tend to demand from my TARDIS purchases also require a similarly exacting level of detail in terms of the number of, often, tiny tiny parts in order to achieve it.

Now keep in mind that I am a guy who is not afraid to go to such levels of detail.  In college, I was known in certain circles for my ability to paint micro-details onto tiny half-inch pewter figurines for our role-playing games.  But that was 25 years and a pair of bifocals ago.  I did want to assemble my TARDIS, and planned to eventually do so, it was just a matter of finding the time.

So the kit lay for the next two months or so.

Occasionally, I would pick up one of the sheets and stare at it, marveling at the kind of engineering it must have taken to be able to create a believable looking 3D TARDIS roof lamp and housing out of flat metal.  Brilliant.  Then I would move the whole thing to a flat surface where it was less-likely to have papers piled on top of it or bent up by a dog and there it sat for more weeks.

This past Monday, the wife’s day off, a mere week after having penned the entry about my shitty Light Up TARDIS “Kit”, I got a wild hair up my butt to finally put my tin TARDIS together.  I gathered the sheets of metal from my desk, found where I’d temporarily lost the instructions, and headed downstairs for what I was certain would be two hours of frustration and frequent cursing.

“I’m going to put my metal TARDIS kit together,” I announced for the dogs and wife to hear.

The wife put down the book she’d been reading and said, “Ooh, what if I put it together instead?” And I knew she was serious because she both loves putting things together and also had thirty medical charts she didn’t want to work on.

“Okay,” I said.

Now this might seem an odd thing for a fellow who spent the better part of 900 words complaining about a TARDIS kit that didn’t allow him to put anything together to say.  However, what I had long since come to realize is that my desire to have a cool-looking metal TARDIS, fully assembled and on display in my collection had outweighed my desire to actually put such a thing together myself.

“Are you sure?” the wife asked, fearing she .  “You don’t want to do it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I also wouldn’t mind if you did it,” I said.

The wife set her book down and set to work on the TARDIS.  Turns out we didn’t have exactly the ideal tools for doing the job, but between my small tool set and her jewelry making tools we had approximations.

Each of the pieces that make up the TARDIS come as part of one of the two flat sheets of metal and have to be removed.  This can take some doing as the metal is shockingly easy to bend in places you don’t want it bent.  (In fact, I accidentally dropped one of the sheets as I was trying to remove a piece and in my effort to catch it I wound up bending it across several pieces.  Oops.)  As such, the manufacturer, Fascinations, saw fit to include doubles of some of the smaller and more easily damaged pieces. The pieces often require folding and sometimes tab and slot fastening to other pieces (and by tab and slot I mean millimeter sized tabs and slots in some cases). For instance the roof section above the POLICE signs is composed of at least 9 separate pieces in order to get the details of the roof approximate to the real thing.  Fascinations could probably have gotten away with skimping on some of these details, but they do not.  In all aspects, this is a folded metal version of the TARDIS, down to the wood grain on the roof (which is to scale and is oriented in the correct direction).  The POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs are all properly recessed, the corner columns look right, the mirror finish windows have a T-shape formed by four of the panes, which are a slight shade of blue, the phone door sign looks correct, and both doors even open.

All in all, she said it was a very challenging and there were some pieces she asked me to help remove from the framework, mostly because there were four of them (the caps to the corners) and removing them was a pain in the ass.  I gladly assisted whenever asked.  She also apologized later, for in her assembly she’d managed to scratch a couple of the surfaces.  I told her it didn’t matter, cause to me the TARDIS is supposed to look a bit banged up.

This is a fantastic kit.  Even if I’d had to assemble it all myself, the challenge of it alone would have made the end result (which is a great TARDIS rendition) well worth it.  It was even better, though, that I didn’t have to do all that.  If you’re looking for a snap together kit, or a kit that a small child could manage, this is not your kit.

Fascinations makes a number of other Doctor Who related kits, including K-9, a Cyberman head, and a Dalek.  But they have a number of other licensed properties, including Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter.  They’re all pretty cheap, too.

I give it a full five TARDI.

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TARDIS Collector’s Corner (Future Timey Wimey Edition): The 13th Doctor’s TARDIS

Thursday nerd media online has been blazing with a single photograph, one that revealed Jodie Whitaker’s costume as the 13th Doctor in next year’s new season of Doctor Who.

For the most part, I’m okay with it, and certainly like the trouser braces she’s sporting.  Love the coat.  Love the boots.  Like the basic color scheme.  Not real big on the stripey stripe on the shirt, but I’m sure she’ll change her shirt once in a while.  It’s not like Capaldi kept his first season coat he whole time either.

But what really caught my attention was her version of the TARDIS, as seen in the background.

I’d read that it was getting a redesign beyond the traditional new Doctor interior, and had been curious what would be done to it.  Would they paint it a girly color just to piss off the fanboys who don’t like that the Doctor shall be a Time Lady now?  Well quite the opposite, in fact.

The new TARDIS looks more like the old TARDIS, and by that I mean the old old TARDIS from the later days of Tom Baker’s era.  Gone is the St. John’s Ambulance badge.  Gone the pebbled glass T windows.  This is a proper back-to-basics, no dumb glowy door sign, grim-n-dingy-`70s blue old school TARDIS.  The door sign has even reverted to the dark background of ’70s and ’80s show prop.

I look forward to purchasing the toy version of it and have fingers crossed that they take all the great aspects of the 10th Doctor’s Flight Control TARDIS and marry them to the new design, leaving out the questionable bits of more recent TARDIS releases, as yet to be reviewed here.

So far, I give it Five TARDI.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit”

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

There’s a well-worn joke in my household concerning my TARDIS collection.

Typically, upon discovering I’ve made a new TARDIS purchase, the wife will say something like “How many TARDISes do you need?”  I reply, “All of them.  And she groans and adds another tick to the column of “reasons I was correct to suspect my husband is a giant geek.”

The joke, however, is inaccurate.  While I do have around 49 TARDi in my collection, by no means am I interested in owning every version of every TARDIS toy/model/product that is or has been on the market.  Sure, there are a few more out there I am interested in acquiring, but I’m no completionist.  I would even say that I’m pretty picky when it comes to my choice in TARDIS purchases, hence the rating system I’ve adopted for this series of entries.

My criteria for wanting to own a given TARDIS are as follows:

  1. It should look like the TARDIS in one of its versions from across the 50 + year history of the show (old school, new school, what have ya);

  2. It should have most of the standard TARDIS detailing (proper number of levels to the roof, correct proportions, wood grain sculpting on most “wood” surfaces, no skimping on detail or cutting corners for sake of cheap manufacture (I’m lookin’ at you DAPOL!);

  3. It should be properly TARDIS blue (though there are shades to even that, and exceptions to the rule in certain cases);

  4. Exceptions can be made for artistic license provided the end result is fun;

  5. Bonus points for functionality, such as the ability to make the TARDIS wheezing “vworp!!” sound, or lights that flash, doors that open inward, etc.;

  6. Bonus points if it appears actual thought and care went into the recreation.

Usually I like to be able to get a good look at the TARDIS in question before buying, to make sure it falls into the above criteria.  I try not to buy them blindly for fear of winding up with a “shitfer” TARDIS that I’ll be embarrassed to have around.

But sometimes it happens anyway.

Case in point, the Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS Kit, which is one of the most inaccurately described products I’ve ever encountered in the wild.

When one orders a “kit” one expects, and possibly even desires, to have some degree of assembly required.  A “kit” is supposed to come in pieces which may be–fingers crossed–cut from a plastic frame, glued and/or snapped together, decals applied, and painting possibly required before the “kit” has been created.  Not so much for the Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS Kit.  This “kit” came fully assembled with its battery already in place.  The only requirement was to pull the plastic battery protector from the little slot in the screw-fastened battery compartment and then flip a switch to turn on the roof lamp.

yay.

whee.

that’s… awesome.

Left the “kit” TARDIS. Right an actual kit TARDIS with actual assembly required.

It did come with a booklet showcasing the various actors to have played the Doctor over the years.  In all other respects, though, it was aggressively disappointing.  And it violates or bends at least three of the above six criteria.

  • The details are not quite what they should be.  While the “wood” surfaces of this TARDIS do have wood-grain sculpting, the grain-molding they used for it is not to scale with the actual object were the TARDIS two inches high.  It’s huge by comparison and would only be accurate for a much larger TARDIS, possibly even larger than the Flight Control model.

  • And while they did go so far as to apply wood grain to the roof surfaces as well, they applied it in the wrong direction, the grain perpendicular to the edges of the roof instead of parallel to the edges, as if each triangular roof facet were its own separate board.

  • And the roof lamp, while able to illuminate via LED, is oversized in proportion to the roof.  However the “glass” of the lamp itself is beveled, which is a nice detail to have included.

  • A minor point, the POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs above the doors aren’t recessed.  This I’ll forgive, as detail is often lost in producing a miniature TARDIS (though the miniature TARDIS pictured on the right in the above photo didn’t seem to have much problem recreating the effect).

 

All in all, I’m not a big fan of the Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit.”  The company that manufactured it, Running Press, has offered a number of other “kits.”  In fact, they refer to them in their advertising as “Mega Kits,” including a Dalek, a Cyberman torso and head, a Matt Smith era Sonic Screwdriver, and K-9.  They further note that said kits are “Mega Fun!”  (They look fine.  I might eventually even purchase the K-9, since I seem to own him in many of his other forms already.)  However, I give their TARDIS “kit,” two TARDI.

In future, I’ll write about another TARDIS kit that will truly live up to the definition of the word.  I only have to assemble it first.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Cookie Jar (My 3rd TARDIS)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

In the early 2000s, pre-2005, around the time I was searching the internet for TARDIS models and toys, leading to my purchases of my first two TARDi, I began coming across TARDIS cookie jars for sale.  These were ceramic TARDIS cookie jars, with removable roofs/tops for the insertion and removal of cookies.  And I could never find one for under $40.  Now I’d probably spent $40 total for my two previous TARDi and a bag of Jelly Babies, but I just couldn’t find a way to justify spending that kind of cash on an object I was, in all likelihood, going to drop on the floor and smash into TARDIS bits at some point (recreating the ending of Season 7, a full ten years in advance–you can do that with Doctor Who stuff).  So I didn’t.  But I really really wanted to.  I just kept looking at them up on eBay and AmazonUK, and lamenting the criminally high postage costs that would accompany a $40 (60 pound) price tag.  I even looked into becoming a cookie jar dealer, figuring I could get a bunch of them in bulk for wholesale prices and resell them all, minus one, to recoup my investment.  That didn’t happen either.  And still hasn’t happened to this day.  Instead, I came about the acquisition of a cookie jar without much effort on my part.  I was given one by a generous soul who was well-versed in my love of Doctor Who and who, loving soul that she is, gave me had already given me two even better gifts in the past, one of which was Doctor Who related and the other was my wife.  I’m talking about my mother-in-law Susie, a.k.a.: Ma.

I may have dreamed of owning a TARDIS toy from a very early age, but what I truly wanted most in the world as a 4th grader was a Doctor Who scarf just like the one worn by Tom Baker on the show. (Yeah, I know, there were like 5 of them during his eight year run, and I would have settled for any of them.)  The scarf was such a monstrous thing in both length and color scheme, but I adored the show and therefore adored the fashion sense of its characters–Bohemian as it was. At the time, I didn’t even consider that I might one day own such a scarf. That sort of accessory was only found on TV, as far as my 9-year-old brain was concerned. Instead, I wound up borrowing a muffler from my dad’s then girlfriend, Nell.  It is an item of clothing which I still possess to this day.  Nell’s muffler (which, BTW, is also the name of my bluegrass Nelly cover band) looked nothing like the Doctor’s scarf, being white and with tied off tassles on the end.  It was, however, the only scarf I had and I wore it habitually.  (Somewhere there exists a photo of me wearing it, along with a paper plate Tom Baker mask I’d made in art class at school.)

Time travel ahead a decade or so. My friend Joe and I took a weekend trip to Atlanta and happened to find a Nerd Shop, somewhere on the outskirts of the city. We were nearly finished with our shopping and were on the way to the counter to check out when there, lying coiled in a basket like a multi-colored snake, we spied a single, full-sized, Doctor Who scarf.  It was a thing of beauty and we both coveted it immediately. However, because there was only one scarf and two of us, neither of us could purchase it for fear of drawing the eternal jealous ire of the other.  Or we could have gone in on it together, but then we would then have had to work out some kind of complicated time share deal for it and that seemed unwieldy.  Some time later, I was able to search out a knitting pattern for such a scarf on a Doctor Who Usenet newsgroup, but at the time I knew no one who knitted who could make one for me.

Time travel ahead another decade. I’m married to a wonderful woman who had the good fortune to have been given birth by another wonderful woman, a.k.a.: Ma.  Soon after I learned that Ma is a crafty soul who can knit all sorts of yarny goodness, if of a mind. It took me a couple of years, but slowly it dawned on me that here was a lady who COULD knit and who loved me enough that she might do me up a scarf if I asked real sweet.  On Thanksgiving, in 2002, I even brought the subject up to my wife, asked if she thought Ma might be willing. The wife said, “No way.  A Doctor Who scarf would take forever to knit and Ma doesn’t have that kind of time.”  I felt foolish for even asking.  Of course Ma would never knit me something like that.  Maybe after a decade or so of being in the family, once she was pretty sure the marriage had taken root, she might consider it, but it was too much to ask only two years in.

One short month later, a day or so from Christmas, we were back in North Carolina visiting the in-laws and out-laws for a day before heading toward Mississippi. I was sitting in a chair, watching TV when the wife and Ma approached carrying a double lined grocery bag, tied off by its straps. They passed it to me and stood smiling down. I took it, not even suspecting what might be inside. As I was trying to untie the straps, I caught a glimpse of knitting through the top and instantly knew what it was. Deep inside me, the 4th grade version of me snapped to attention and I began clapping my Puppy Chow dusted hands together in pure 9 year old glee.  At long long last, I had my scarf. And a beautiful scarf it was, 17 feet of green and tan and brown and orange–just fantastic! Ma said it was the ugliest thing she’d ever created, but she was glad I liked it. I wrapped myself up in its length and soaked in the coolness of the very concept.

“You’re gonna sleep with that thing, tonight, aren’t you?” the wife asked.

“Hell, yes, I’m going to sleep with it!” I said.

Time Travel ahead four more years to 2006, well into David Tennant’s first year as the 10th Doctor.  Ma let it be known that she’d sent a package to us and gave the wife special instructions that she was to take my picture as I opened. it.  And so it came to pass that in two days time a large box arrived.  Unfortunately, the wife was on call that night, so I had to wait to open it for fear of retribution for lost snapshot opportunities. When she returned the following day, however, I alerted her to its arrival and of my good behavior in not peeking at its contents. The wife told me that I was going to freak out with happiness when I saw what it was. And I knew she spoke the truth, for surprises from Ma designed to freak me out in a happy way always do.  The wife turned on the camera.

Carefully I cut the tape holding the box flaps down, taking my time with it to prolong the moment. (I get so few positive freak-out moments in life, so it’s best to savor them when they do come my way.) I then sliced the tape down the center of the box, slowly opened the cardboard flaps and peered into its depths.

My first glimpse of the contents was of an emergency roadside tool kit, the very kind I’ve been meaning to purchase for several years now. It was not, however, a freak-out worthy present. A bit to the left, I next spied a pair of lounge pants printed with the characters of South Park. Again, a fine present, but I was not freaking out.

The me from 2006 with his new time traveling cookie jar.

Then I saw it.

Partially submerged in the sea of pink packing peanuts within was a Doctor Who TARDIS cookie jar.  What was even cooler, though, was that this was not the porcelain TARDIS cookie jar that I was so certain I would break but a much larger (and less fragile) plastic one which played TARDIS sounds every time you opened or closed the lid.  (Or just pressed down on the lamp on its roof.)  Granted, this meant I had an automatic alarm that would sound every time I went for a cookie, but it made up for it in coolness points alone.

I completely and happily freaked out!   I cannot show you the images the wife took of my freak-out, for they are even more embarrassing than my admission of sleeping in my scarf.  Instead we have one from just after I’d calmed down a bit.

I finally had my cookie jar.  And it was a much more screen-accurate model of the TARDIS than the porcelain cookie jar would have been–which was a bit rounded off for easier casting.   I’m not certain of the manufacturer, though the packaging certainly suggests Underground Toys, or another such early toy company that had the license.  If they still have the license, they’ve more recently upgraded to the Matt Smith model TARDIS.  And they also have a porcelain model to boot, but, again, it’s nearly $40.

My TARDIS cookie jar lived in the kitchen for years afterward and was rarely passed without its lamp being pressed to make the TARDIS sound.  It has since relocated from our current kitchen and now lives atop the bookshelves of my office, along with its other sister TARDi.  (BTW, Sister Tardi is the name of my bluegrass French-language Night Ranger cover band.)   It does not currently contain cookies, but is used to store my pipe tobacco sampler pack, purchased during our 10th anniversary weekend getaway to Gatlinburg.  (Glad I didn’t have to wait that long to ask for a scarf.)

As far as TARDIS functionality goes, it’s mainly decorative.  And, for some reason, the cookie jar doesn’t have the wood grain sculpting of future TARDIS releases.  It does have the shape and details down otherwise.

I’ll give this one four TARDi.  And will further note that while it was the largest TARDIS I own for many years, that honor has fallen to another TARDIS.  I mentioned the scarf and the cookie jar as major Doctor Who related gifts from my mother-in-law, but I assure you she was not done.  There have been, to date, three more hand-made TARDIS-related gifts from Ma which come very close to rivaling even the scarf in coolness and at least one of which are larger than the cookie jar.  Those will be revealed in future posts.

EPISODE 08: “The Hocco Makes the Echo” a recorded live reading [REDUX]

Rob Hughes thought his kid was a genius–or, if not a genius, at least a very smart boy. Aaron was only five years old and already he could tie his shoes, count to 120, identify pictures of animals in books and recognize the constellation of Orion. Sure, he referred to it as `Oh-wyan,’ but he knew it when he saw it.

Aaron was possessed of a powerful imagination, one which was sometimes frustrating to Rob, particularly when it clashed with reality as he knew it.  But imagination and belief can be a powerful thing.  Civilizations have risen and fallen due to it.  Rob Hughes is about to learn a few lessons about the power of belief, and of the thing that feeds on it, stalking the woods near his in-laws’ farm.

This recorded live reading was captured on August 21, 2015, during a signing event at the Book Mart & Cafe in downtown Starkville, MS.

DOWNLOAD: Episode 08: “The Hocco Makes the Echo”

 

LINKS TO HOW TOPICS AND BLOG ENTRIES

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the Dapol TARDIS (my second first(ish) TARDIS)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

As I’ve written before, owning a TARDIS toy was something I had wanted since I was a wee lad in the 4th grade, but for many years the only TARDIS toys I ever saw were in my dreams.  They existed, of course, but primarily in the UK, from where Doctor Who originated.  And, in those pre-interweb days, were not on my radar at all.  In the early 1990s, however, that changed.

In 1988, a Welsh model railroad company called Dapol began producing a line of Doctor Who action figures.  While there had been action dolls and a TARDIS playset produced by Denys Fisher Toys in the late `70s, this was the first attempt to produce a line of action figures in a 3.75 inch G.I. Joe/Star Wars scale.  This was during the sunset years of the show’s original run, just as the Sylvester McCoy era ended the show seemingly for good. So the initial run of Doctor Who toys from Dapol featured Sylvester McCoy and his companion Mel.  Dapol released a number of individual Doctor Who figures as well as a variety of Daleks, which did well enough for the company.  Unfortunately, the creators at Dapol in conjunction with the licensing people at the BBC, were not always so good at capturing the details of the show in the toys.  For instance Dapol created and the BBC approved a figure of Davros, the power-chair-bound creator of the Daleks.  The figure they made, though, possessed two whole arms instead of just the right arm with his presumably non-functional left arm tucked down into his chair housing, as per every single Davros appearance on the television show to that point.  Their solution to this problem, according to an interview I read with Dapol’s president, David Boyle, from the Toys & Games special issue of Doctor Who Magazine, was to simply rip the left forearms from all produced figures in the second run and simply not make that piece in runs after.  Dapol also made a green K-9 figure.  Boyle says in his interview that the only reference  photo the BBC sent him was of K-9 on grass, which reflected greenly in his silver finish.  (The photo in question was used in Dapol’s publicity material and does indeed show a similarly green-tinted K-9, so this checks out for me.  Still, the BBC licensing department saw the green sample figures and approved them readily).  And, in the most glaring example of Dapol’s inattention to detail, their figure for Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor (you know, the one Doctor Who figure I had most desired to own since the age of 9) was missing a key costume element which the character on the show was renowned for possessing: his excessively long scarf.  Even though the package art features it, it was missing from the figure.  One might also argue they’d left off his hat, and one would be correct in this as well.  But the scarf, even to this day, is the most remembered feature of the character among non-fans other than the TARDIS.

“Doctor, why is K-9 green?” “Must’ve gone off his kibble, Mel.”

Oh, but then there was the Dapol TARDIS, which was actually part of the very first set they offered for sale, which was originally part of a limited edition 25th anniversary set, featuring the 7th Doctor, Mel, the green K-9, and a TARDIS complete with control room playset.  Conceptually this was something of a dream as the TARDIS toy worked both as the TARDIS prop, with functioning doors and a blue LED that would light up and flash with the flip of a switch, but could also come apart to be reassembled into a TARDIS control room diorama complete with a central control console.  The interiors of the TARDIS side panels were painted gray with sculpted white TARDIS roundels, allowing the walls to be linked together to form the interior control room walls.  And the console, which both lit up and had a clear time rotor in the center that would rise and fall was a handy addition for play.  Unlike the control console on TV, though, Dapol’s had five sides instead of six.  Boyle says this was again down to the production stills from the show, which didn’t clearly show the number of sides.  He even called the show’s producer, John Nathan Turner, to ask and, Boyle says, JNT asked him which number was easier for Dapol to produce, to which Boyle said “Five” so JNT told him to roll with that. Later, JNT was apparently angry about the inaccurate console and that Boyle hadn’t “pestered more to get the correct information.”  It was then agreed that after the company had sold it’s first 10,000 units of the toy, they would have to revise it for six sides.  Boyle says Dapol only ever sold 1200.

Dalek fails

Dapol Dalek Sampler Pack

(It should be noted that Dapol was hardly the only company guilty of cheap design and construction when it came to Doctor Who toys.  For instance, it took decades before ANY company was able to produce a Dalek toy that came close to matching the detail, or even the basic shape of the Daleks on the show.  For every Character Options Dalek that gets the recipe right, there are dozens and dozens of processed cheese level Dalek toys that look like they were designed by someone who not only didn’t have actual photographs of the props but had been working entirely from a verbal description of a Dalek given by a person who had once seen one on TV, from across a smoky room, while on LSD.  To their credit, Dapol’s Daleks, while not my favorite, got the look right.)

While initially offered in the 25th anniversary set, the Dapol TARDIS went on to be released in a number of different play sets, often with accompanying figures.  However, in 1994, while the company was moving its production to a new facility, a fire at the original Dapol factory destroyed the original molds for the control console, along with much of their existing production line of Doctor Who toys.  Because they’d allowed the insurance on the old building to lapse as they moved to a new building, the company was suddenly massively in debt.  Rather than retool a new one, incurring more costs, Dapol just began producing TARDIS sets minus the console and downplayed the whole coming apart to form the control room feature.

My introduction to the Dapol line came from an issue of Previews in the early 1990s.  (Previews is the magazine for Diamond Comic Distributiors, Inc. which was then and remains one of the major direct sales distributors for comic book shops.  Comic nerds like myself would pick up Previews each month so we could see what sort of product would be on sale in our local shop in three months and be able to order accordingly.)  Some of the Dapol figures, including the TARDIS, were offered for sale there and their grainy little black and white pictures were enticing to my Doctor Who starved brain.  Unfortunately, they were not cheap.  The 25th anniversary set retailed for 49.99 pounds, which at 1990 exchange rates was around $95.  And it wasn’t like they were offered through Diamond every month.  Anything beyond initial orders of new product would come with markup for import costs from the UK.  So if you were able to find the toys in the US at all they were usually far pricier than your average college student can pay–especially considering the often slapdash nature of Dapol’s quality.

My local shop, the late and lamented Gun Dog Comics, did have a few of the individual figures, but I didn’t have a lot of scratch in the `90s.  I think I did manage to cobble together enough to buy a K-9 from them (of the non-green variety) at some point, but a TARDIS was a few years off, when I finally found a reasonably-priced one on the previously mentioned WHONA.com.  I ordered it at the same time as the resin model kit, making it my second first(ish) TARDIS.

My Dapol TARDIS is, of course, of the non-console-inclusive later day variety.  As far as functionality goes, it’s pretty bare bones, with the whole opening doors and blinking silent roof lamp.  However, as you can see from the pictures, Dapol didn’t go out of their way to actually sculpt a proper lamp housing from any of the various ones used on the show.  Instead, it’s a bare blue LED bulb inside a clear plastic cylinder.  And while the TARDIS does still come apart for assembly into the control room walls, the lack of console gave them the added incentive to stop painting the interior walls, save for the roundels.  So instead of the soothing gray/white walls, they’re just TARDIS blue.  As far as sculpts go, it’s one of the least impressive and minimalist of designs, probably owing to ease of production.  The doors are only slightly recessed from the corner columns, the roof isn’t beveled, the windows are painted into their barely inset panes, and there is no real base to speak of other than a 1/16 inch thick plastic floor.  And, much like the TARDIS props have occasionally appeared on the show, the whole thing is kind of rickety in construction.  It’s four walls are held together by friction-based notch and tab hinges on the edge of each wall. The bases of the walls have fins that slide beneath other extremely thin plastic fins molded into the nearly as thin base (which I can’t imagine would hold up to actual play), and then the whole assembly is pinned by the roof, which has its own wide tabs that fit into slots in the upper edges of the doors.  This means that in order to play with it as a representation of the TARDIS exterior you must hold it firmly around its walls so that the inward pressure keeps them in place, and you must never ever try to lift it by its roof light or turn it upside down, lest the roof fall off.

However, for all its many faults, it’s still a toy I would have loved to have owned in 1981 during the height of my infatuation with the PBS reruns of the show, and I would have played with it gladly as a prized possession.  Unfortunately, its many faults and inattention to detail, especially when compared with other TARDISes in my collection (not to mention its lack of even an inaccurate console) lead me to give this one a solid two TARDi.  It’s probably two and a half, really.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: My first(ish) TARDIS

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

It was around 2002 that I first decided I’d lived long enough on earth without a physical representation of a TARDIS in my life.  Oh, I’d seen the major toy version of it (the super-expensive and kind of disappointing Dapol TARDIS, about which I will write more in the near future), but I wondered what, if any, model kits there might be for one.  It seemed like the sort of project that would be tailor made for a model airplane company.  For while the basic design of the TARDIS is simple enough (a box) the details of it would be of a sort that might lend themselves to the kind of intricate assembly some model makers enjoy.  So I began casting about on the internet and found something similar for sale at WhoNA.com.

The resin kit TARDIS and 7th Doctor TARDIS for scale

WhoNA is a company begun in 1998 and run by some good-hearted American fans of the show who wanted to offer difficult to find Doctor Who themed products for sale in the United States.  (Keep in mind, in 1998 Doctor Who was pretty much dead in the water.  The original show had been gone for a decade and the 1996 TV movie, starring 8th Doctor Paul McGann, had failed to be a hit in either the US or the UK, so a new McGann TV series was a lost cause.  The character only existed in video releases of the original episodes–those that survived the BBC purge–and in ancillary products such as books, where modern TV writers like Steven Moffatt, Gareth Roberts and Mark Gatiss first cut their teeth on the character, and in audio stories from companies such as Big Finish–still going strong today, and where you can find loads of Paul McGann adventures, among those of many of the other Doctors.)  WhoNA had lots of the Dapol toy stock, plus miniatures, audio stories, books, games, Jelly Babies, and more, and at reasonable prices.  And they had a TARDIS resin model kit.

These days if there’s a movie prop or model that a person might want to purchase it can usually be found in 3D printed form on any number of prop websites, where you might find a professional prop-maker to create something custom for you, or a YouTube video to give you a step-by-step guide to making your own.  In the 80s and 90s, though, such props were often manufactured by fans and cast in poly-resin, either pre-assembled or in kits.  Occasionally you’d even find some that were cast from a mold made of one of the original props, which meant your new version would be about as close to authentic as you were likely to find.  Often such kits could be found at comic conventions where, 90 percent of the time, in my experience, they were kits of one of the Sandman guns from Logan’s Run.  So I knew what a resin kit was before I ordered the TARDIS kit from WhoNA.  I was still somehow surprised by it, though.

I wish I had pictures of what the kit contained pre-construction.  I’ve looked online, but have not seen it in a Google search.  Basically, though, the kit came in three basic parts: a 3 inch high body of the TARDIS, the roof of the TARDIS and the lamp atop the roof of the TARDIS, all cast in bone white resin.  To save on resin, though, or perhaps because of the casting process, the TARDIS body was hollow, leaving its exterior of all four walls and the base, seemingly cast as one piece.  (Memory is fuzzy… the door handle might also have been a separate piece.)  The roof was separate, fitting into place with the four corner posts holding its corners, and the lamp, which was not clear plastic but just a lamp-shaped bit of resin with a cap, had to be glued to the roof.  The lamp also came with a number of bits and bobs meant to simulate the four posts of the lamp’s housing.  These I promptly lost and wasn’t unhappy with the loss because they were tiny and would have been a huge hassle to glue into place.

So basically the assembly of this was to glue on the lamp and the roof (and possibly the handle), paint it, then affix the stickers for the POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX and door signs.  It struck me as odd at the time that the manufacturer also included the St. John’s badge for the door, as this was a TARDIS feature that had been lost before William Hartnell had even left the job as the 1st Doctor in the mid-’60s.  Little did I know that it would be restored to its place starting with Matt Smith’s run, nigh on 40 years later.  I decided to add it anyway, cause why not?

I believe I found what I thought was the perfect shade of TARDIS blue spray paint from a Big Lots and some white and black Testor’s model paints from Wal-Mart for the windows and the lamp.  I probably would have painted things a little differently now than I did 16 years ago, leaving the current blue for lowlights and shadows, going with a slightly lighter shade for the base, and follow up with some dry-brushed highlights.  I suppose all of that can be corrected in the future.  It’s not like it would be the first time a TARDIS got a new coat of paint, after all.

The manufacturer of this particular kit, if there ever was a company name, is lost to the sands of time.  To my memory, it didn’t come in much more than a plain cardboard box and is no longer for sale on WhoNA, so the amount of research I’d have to do to find out is  But it’s a terribly good kit that doesn’t skimp on the fine details in any respect.  And while it doesn’t light up and doesn’t make noise, I have to credit it as one of my favorite TARDISes in my collection simply due to the attention to detail and elegance of construction.  I’m giving this bad boy a full five TARDI.

And while this was technically one of my first TARDISes, I actually ordered two from WhoNA, along with a bag of Jelly Babies. And it is that TARDIS, the ill-fated Dapol TARDIS, which I’ll write about next time.

“Hey, Dad! I’m on the stage!”

From September 29-October 14, I shall be appearing as Judge John Taylor in the Greenbrier Valley Theatre production of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Public shows run Friday and Saturday evenings during those dates, at 7:30p.  We’ll also be doing daily matinees for area schools.

It’s been a great rehearsal period and we had a nigh on perfect opening night.  I’m really looking forward to this run.

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