(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.