(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.)
The TARDIS USB hub is one of the more useful TARDi in my collection. And one of the handiest, as it’s always there on my desk, faithfully being all TARDISy and stuff.
As far as USB hubs go, it does the trick, having four ports, two on each side allowing me to plug up to four USB cabled devices into my computer via the single cable running from the hub to one USB port on the actual desktop unit. As ya do. But adding to the rollicking fun of all that, the optional cool bit is that when you plug a USB cable into one of the ports on the TARDIS hub, it not only flashes the roof lamp, but also plays the TARDIS wheezy takeoff noise. Huzzah. Or, if you’re somehow sick of hearing the TARDIS wheezy takeoff noise (you deluded monster!) you can flip a switch on the back of it and it shuts up (though it still flashes the light). For those who are not sick of hearing the TARDIS wheezy takeoff noise, though, another feature allows you to press the door sign on the left, which serves as a button to play the noise and flash the lights.
As far as styling goes, the hub is middle-grade in the detail department. It checks all the boxes on shape and proportion and signage of your standard Matt Smith-era TARDIS, with a very respectable roof lamp, and painted door hardware, including the keyhole. However, there is no wood-grain to be found. This is actually fine by me. I’d rather there be no wood grain than shitty wood grain. (Still lookin’ at you, Light Up TARDIS “kit.”) I give it a solid four TARDI.
A side story to the above picture: a few years back my sister gave me a mug very much like the one pictured beside the TARDIS hub. It is a mug of the sort that when you pour hot liquids into it the TARDIS on one side vanishes and reappears in outer space on the other side. Trez cool. Only trouble is, it comes with a number of notices and stickers warning you to never ever EVER put it in the dishwasher. And I never ever EVER did. However, while emptying our dishwasher one day, what should I find but my mug within it, sans any illustrations. I was sad to have lost all the TARDISy bits of my TARDIS mug, but figured it had been a mistake made by our cleaning lady, who had not been given the memo on the washing of the mug. Later I mentioned it to the wife, whose eyes shot wide. I could see within them the guilt reservoir beginning to rise. Yep, she’d been the culprit the whole time.
We made the original, now blank mug, a new receptacle for pens. But since my sister was coming for a visit a couple of months later, I decided to get a replacement mug so she wouldn’t feel bad and so I would have a TARDIS mug again. Then I went and told her the story anyway, cause it was funny. These days the mug lives on my desk, far away from any dishwasher, and is used as another receptacle for pens, its dematerialization circuits temporarily at rest.
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(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:
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);
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!);
It should be properly TARDIS blue (though there are shades to even that, and exceptions to the rule in certain cases);
Exceptions can be made for artistic license provided the end result is fun;
Bonus points for functionality, such as the ability to make the TARDIS wheezing “vworp!!” sound, or lights that flash, doors that open inward, etc.;
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.