Underground Toys, thankfully, wasn’t done with their 5.5″ line, but they also weren’t done making frustrating choices with it.
Oh, sure, they still put out some classic ’80s figures in that scale, such as new versions of the 8th Doctor and the War Doctor, to reflect their appearance in Night of the Doctor and Day of the Doctor. And after Peter Capaldi was cast as the 12th Doctor, they quickly released a 5.5″ figure for him. Except, it wasn’t Peter Capaldi in his actual Doctor Who costume (the black coat with red-lining and all), but was instead the post-regeneration Capaldi wearing Matt Smith’s final, pre-regeneration, purple-coated costume from the Name of the Doctor Christmas Special. It still looked great, cause the purple coat was a look that worked well, but it was still very annoying since it wasn’t Capaldi’s official costume. This meant that folks like me who had previously bought the 11 Doctors figure set, and who have them on display on a shelf by their desk, could not really add the 12th in there cause he just didn’t look right. Or, we could add the 3.75″ Capaldi figure in the proper costume and have him out-of-scale from all the others. However, for quite some time, these were the only Peter Capaldi figures to choose from.
Around that time, 2015 or so, I began paying attention to a Facebook page called Save Doctor Who 5 Inch Figures in the hope for word on an eventual properly costumed Capaldi who could join the ranks on my shelf. The site had, in fact, floated a rumor that such a fig was in the works. And this page was also where I first heard Underground Toys/Character Options were working on a 12th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS for the 5.5″ scale line. Supposedly, the rumor went, the new TARDIS would not only be in a truer blue to the new TARDIS prop, but would also be returning all of the functionality of my beloved 10th Doctor TARDIS with one major change–it would come with a lighted door sign. Turns out these rumors were all true.
On the thorny topic of the lighted door sign…
See somewhere during Matt Smith’s run (I think it was during The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe that I first noticed it) the TARDIS developed a light up door sign. And by door sign, I mean the instructional sign on the left hand door, which actually serves as a smaller cabinet door behind which is the direct-to-police telephone unit which puts the “call” in “call box.” The text of the sign begins “Police Telephone Free For Use of Public…” and ends with “PULL TO OPEN.” For some half-assed reason–I expect just cause it looks sort of cool–the TARDIS on the show began backlighting that sign, as if it were made from semi-transparent plastic. It wasn’t lit all the time, but in most night shots they turned it on. And, y’know, the TARDIS can do what it wants, I guess, but I just never saw the logic of it. Certainly the original police call boxes which inspired the look of the TARDIS never had this feature. While I was and remain critical of the addition, at the exact same time, I have to sort of admit that it did look pretty cool in those night shots. It just helped make the TARDIS read as being more TARDISy on a graphic-design level. You could instantly recognize it from its silhouette, lighted windows, above door signage and now stupid door sign, and didn’t require the entire front be lit from any separate light source. A toy that did the same thing, I supposed, would be interesting, even if I still thought it was essentially of questionable worth. It would also mean that such a TARDIS toy would be the most functional TARDIS yet.
Low and behold the rumored figures and TARDIS were released and–shockingly I know–I bought `em.
And this is where Underground Toys’ continued making of frustrating choices comes back into play. Cause the thing is… while I am delighted that they were kind enough to produce another TARDIS and restore the features of the 10th Doctor’s Flight Control TARDIS, the end results did not quite match up to the wondrous thing that existed in my head. (Again, I’m ruled by my inner 4th grader who had vivid dreams.)
Yes, all the light and sound functions of the 10th’s TARDIS were restored, as well as the addition of the dumb/cool door sign. But–and this is pure speculation on my part–Underground Toys was probably able to afford to do all this by skimping in other areas to make up the cost. My theory, based solely of the evidence of the thing itself, is that they wound up skimping on the quality of the plastic used in its construction.
Like the Tennant TARDIS, the Capaldi TARDIS has lights inside that illuminate the windows, the interior area, and the Police signs above each wall. But the plastic for the roof and doors is so thin that you can completely see the light bleeding through it from within (as illustrated in the image at right). Even in daylight conditions, this bleed can be seen all along the edge where the doors meet. This might have been better concealed with a layer of paint, but this model (unlike the 10th’s) is unpainted. Now this unpaintedness is nothing new, as the blue sections of all subsequent models were also unpainted. It’s just that this time it hurts the overall design. I’m of half a mind to add a coat of blue myself to see if it helps.
The other irritating thing, which was not true of the Tennant model, is that the windows themselves, when illuminated from within, allow something of a view of the inner workings of the toy behind the curve of the screened interior card. The Tennant model’s windows were more opaque while the new Capaldi TARDIS has relatively clear windows. Through them, you can clearly see the back of the interior card itself and even the backs of adjacent windows. The other difference that affects this is that the light on the interior underside of the roof is a good deal brighter than that of the Tennant TARDIS, possibly so that it will be able to illuminate not only the windows and CALL BOX signs, but the door sign as well. The roof lamp is also brighter and the light bleeds through the paint of its cap. Further adding to the frustrating nature of this toy, the plastic POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs do not quite fit snugly within their frames, allowing light from within to bleed over the tops and bottoms of them.
As for the dumb door sign… it lights up. yay. But in doing so it has now lost its function as a cover for the phone. Not that I mind this so much, because the phones can make the left door difficult to open, depending on their design. But having a phone there was a key plot point during Capaldi’s first episode. Granted, it isn’t as if I was planning to recreate that moment, but it’s nice to have the option.
It’s a poor thing to complain about the flaws in something that is so basically cool. The 4th Grader in me would have LOOOOOOVED to have owned this. (He would also wonder why it is blue when the poor color of his 10 inch Zenith television had led him to believe it green for most of his school years, but that’s another story for another time, if I’ve not told it already.) It’s just that Underground Toys came SO close to getting it right. It pains me to do so, but I’m going to give this a 3.5 TARDI rating.
I look forward greatly to Jodie Whitaker’s run as the Doctor. The media shot that has been released of her costume and TARDIS gives me hope, because it returns the TARDIS to the dingy greeny blue of the ’70s and restores the dark, non-glowy door sign, yet keeps the illuminated call box signs and windows. Seems ripe for a toy that hearkens back to Tennant’s toy in many respects.