Author Archive: Eric Fritzius

Owner/operator of Mister Herman's Publishing Company and Mister Herman's Production Company, Ltd. Author of A Consternation of Monsters, available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Hornby Skaledale Blue Police Box TARDIS (The shotglass TARDIS series)

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

This “shotglass” TARDIS used to be the smallest TARDIS I owned, and was for a few years.  This particular police box was made by the Hornby company (R8696 Skaledale Blue Police Box 1/76 Scale) and is meant to be scenery for a model railroad setup.  As such, it’s more to the specs of an actual police call box than it is to the various props from Doctor Who.  You can find them online, often on ebay, though they’re starting to get more expensive than the one I bought.  (I seem to recall it being fairly cheap when I bought mine, under $10.  The ones on ebay now start at nearly $30 before shipping, which is a lot to pay for a chunk of painted resin in my book.

For most of the years I’ve owned the Hornby it’s been on display atop an upside down clear Listerine measuring cup–which is the same size as a shot glass, hence the name “shotglass” TARDIS.  And while it was the smallest TARDIS in my collection for some time, that honor has gone to another for the past four years or so.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Funko POP! Vinyl’s TARDIS Keychain (The “shotglass” TARDIS series)

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

This is Funko POP! Vinyl’s version of a TARDIS keychain.  It’s meant to be a miniature version of their TARDIS POP! Vinyl Toy, albeit one without working doors.  (Or, rather, door, but that’s a complaint for the future.)  For those unfamiliar with the plague that is Funko POP! Vinyl, the toys are primarily figurines of pop culture characters with disproportionately large heads and black circles for eyes.  The figures are usually about four inches in height, but Funko made a series of keychain models that shrunk them down to around an inch and the TARDIS is just a smidge over that (unlike the larger toy version, which is nearly half again as tall as the figures).

I call POP! Vinyl figures a plague because, while I own around ten of them myself (of the Doctor Who, MST3k, and Portal 2 varieties) I don’t give the ass of a flying monkey about 90 percent of their output and kind of resent the fact that there are now layers of them under foot in all nerd/videogame/movie/music stores, where they glut entire walls.  I weep for our landfills.

Like all the other TARDIS keychains, I ditched its chain as soon as I was able to. It’s super-blocky size would make it inconveniently large to use as a keychain, though I must note that Funko’s choice of a rubbery plastic for the production would lend itself to durability.  (At least for the TARDIS, as most people I know who have bought and used any of the figure-model keychains quickly find they have nothing left but decapitated character heads dangling from their keys after the bodies snap off.)

Much like its larger counterpart, there’s not a lot of detail on this thing.  But that’s the POP! Vinyl aesthetic to start with, so one cannot complain about the lack of woodgrain or the fact that it’s super chunky.  (It’s so chunky, in fact, that I’m not sure it would actually fit very far into a standard shot glass.)  I t’s fine.  I’ll give it a full four TARDi and save the tale of the larger model for another time.

Save Dirk Gently!

Over the weekend, I finally finished the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which has gathered in my DVR. While the season felt like it took a while to get going, I truly enjoyed where it went and, more importantly, the strange places each of the characters wound up.

Much like season 1, it was a fun journey with lots of twists and turns and some truly great characters both old and new. I’m a sucker for a story with a good family dynamic and this develops multiple ones. And, much like Douglas Adams novels, it does a great deal of world building along the way with some pretty cosmic concepts that look like they would have continued into season 3 had BBC America not cancelled the show.

Not since Firefly have I wanted a show to continue so much only to have it snatched away.  (The fact that Alan Tudyk is in both shows is also not lost on me, as his character of Mr. Priest is now one of my favorite over-skilled, overzealous government badguys ever.)  Maybe this is down to me being such a Douglas Adams fan that I would want one of his creations to continue its life.  However, I suspect the real attraction here is  mostly down to the quality of what the cast and creators of this show put together.  The books are great, mind you.  But Dirk, as depicted in the show, is not precisely in line with the Dirk of the books–who is far less personable than Samuel Barnett’s charming portrayal.  It’s quite possible that the Dirk of the books might be unsustainable as a character people would want to root for–which may also explain that while he’s the central character of the books, they’re both told from the perspective of another character looking on.  Barnett’s Dirk, however, is just a chipper champion of the universe, even if he doesn’t know why.  And while the show isn’t an adaptation of the source material anyway–which it seems to mostly treat as backstory–I firmly believe Douglas Adams would have been on board with what they’ve done 100 percent. It’s VERY Douglas Adamsy. And I can’t believe he would not have found the concept of a Holistic Assassin (Fionna Douriff’s character Bart, who is simply amazing) one he would have wished he’d thought of himself.

A quick search for “Bring Back Dirk Gently” took me to a petition. Dunno what good it can ultimately do, but it’s at least a way to voice an opinion. If you’re of a mind to voice yours, I invite you to do so and perhaps to tweet about it as well. #bbcamerica #SaveDirkGently

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Underground Toys Keychain TARDIS (The “shotglass” TARDIS series)

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

The newest TARDIS in my collection is also one of (though not the) smallest. It’s one of three keychain TARDI that I now own and is one of my favorite among the three. (You can actually see all three, plus another, in the accompanying image, but we’ll get to the others later.)

These “shotglass” TARDI are so called by me because each of them could fit into a standard shot glass (though not any of the standard shot glasses that I happen to own, which are all either opaque or super tall and narrow–hence their inclusion atop a stack of CDs for scale).

The new TARDIS keychain is one made by Underground Toys.  It’s of the Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi TARDIS model.  It’s a hollow shell made from a very light weight plastic, but the sculpting on it is really nice.  No woodgrain, but I’m not complaining because it just looks like a tiny replica of the TARDIS USB hub sculpt.  Alternately, you could use it as the miniature TARDIS that appeared in the great episode “Flatline” from two seasons back, cause it’s about the correct scale when compared with one of the Flight Control TARDIS models. (Though you’d probably have to use it on the Matt Smith FC TARDIS, cause the blacked out windows won’t look right otherwise.)  The keychain model is beautifully made, though.

As far as its ability to be used as an actual keychain, though, I don’t know that I could recommend it for use in that capacity.  I am pretty sure the light and airy nature of this model would never be able to stand up to the kind of beating it would take in my pocket.  (The wife uses a pewter Serenity keychain that has already started to lose its fine detail.  And she only has, like, one key.  This plastic TARDIS wouldn’t last a week with all my keys.)   Since I’ll never use it as a keychain, I pulled the chain off it as soon as I got it out of the package, leaving a small metal ring located just behind the roof lamp which I’ll eventually snip off.  I’d like to give it four full TARDi, or maybe even 4.5, cause it really does look nice.  However, because I think it would truly suck when in use as its labeled function, I’m going to go 3.5.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 12th Doctors’ Flight Control TARDIS (Burning Through The TARDi, Part 3)

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


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.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 11th Doctors’ Spin & Fly TARDIS (with a bit of the 10th too) (Burning Through The TARDi, Part 2)

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


Around the time of the introduction of Clara Oswald as the Doctor’s companion in 2012, Underground Toys, in my humble opinion, lost their way a bit.  They made the bold move to switch their main line of Doctor Who figures and toys from the former 5.5″ scale used since 2006 to a 3.75″ scale. One might speculate that this move was decided in an effort to continue to keep manufacturing costs low, and one would be correct in this, which Underground themselves said as much at the time.  And so their figure line for 2013 was at the smaller, less-detailed, 3.75 inch scale.  This, naturally, annoyed me greatly, but only to a point.  While I was irritated at the scale shift (as a fellow who’d invested a good bit of cash on an 11 Doctor figure set and a number of TARDi might be) I also knew that the new scale would mean a new TARDIS in that scale and I was pretty interested in owning one of those.

Soon enough, Underground produced a scaled down TARDIS to accompany their new Doctor and Clara figures.  Instead of calling it an Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, they switch the title to Spin & Fly TARDIS. This is because this TARDIS wasn’t simply a miniaturized version of the Flight Control model, but they’d changed up (i.e. further reduced) its features a bit.  Instead of a concave spinning spindle on the bottom, allowing the TARDIS to rotate when spun via the roof lamp, they included a clear plastic base that fit into the bottom of the TARDIS itself, which allowed the whole thing to be spun when set upon a table, or even in the hand.  (Alternately, you don’t need the base bit at all, so I don’t choose to use it and am uncertain what I’ve even done with it at this point.)

The Spin & Fly TARDIS still has the opening doors, the dematerialization sounds, and the lighted roof lamp.  It also has the interior background card of the redesigned TARDIS from the Clara era of Doctor Who.  But gone bye byes are all the other features of its larger predecessors.  Now, granted, the reduced size of the toy also reduces the space for all the electronics necessary to make all the previous functions work.  (Also, the doors of my particular TARDIS refuse to both stay open, which is one of the only remaining non-electronic functions left.)

Ultimately I felt the reduction in size of the line of figures, as well as the TARDIS, was a cheapening of the toy line as a whole.  And, apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, for Underground Toys soon issued statements about the matter saying that it was necessary in order to be able to continue making toys at all.  Still didn’t mean I had to like it.

Now, all that said, I still really dig the 3.75″ scale TARDIS.  There’s just something about the sturdiness of the basic four posted design that I find satisfying, reduced sounds and lights be damned.  Even in the smaller scale, it loses very little of that satisfying feeling for me.  I’m going to give it a 3 TARDI rating and will even admit to wanting to give it four.  But the cheapening of the line, to me, is not something I support so I’m sticking with 3.  I even wound up buying a 3.75″ scale Peter Capaldi to go with it, but only cause Gamestop was having a nice sale.

It seems that the 3.75″ line has kind of petered (no pun intended) out.  Underground did some play sets for Matt Smith and then a cursory few things for the first season of Capaldi, but not so much in terms of the most recent season.  They did release a third wave of figs, including a David Tennant figure, whose appearance is reflective of the flatter-haired version of his Doctor from Day of the Doctor.  And, for a hot hour or so, I became wildly excited because I found the image at right which appears to depict not only a 3.75″ scale Tennant figure, but an Amy Pond in that scale (not his companion, but what evs), and, most amazing of all, a Tennant era TARDIS done in the 3.75″ scale.  I was very excited indeed, because this would definitely be something I’d want for the collection.  However, upon further research, this appears to actually be a die-cast TARDIS toy from 2006 that so happens to almost match the scale for Tennant’s newer 3.75″ figure (though not perfectly, to my eye).  See the image below for the products that were apparently combined to make this “set.”

Now I have to start scouring ebay for the die-cast TARDIS.  It’s nice to have a quest.




TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 11th Doctors’ Flight Control TARDIS (Burning Through The TARDi, Part 1)

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

11th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS (left) and 7th Doctor TARDIS (right)

We were recently covered up in snow and arctic winds.  Seemed like a good time to get out and take some lovely snow shots with a couple different versions of the electronic toy TARDISES that I own in honor of the very snowy ending to Peter Capaldi’s run in the 2017 Christmas Special.  I intended to pick one of them to write about but discovered that it was difficult to tell either of their stories without telling not only the story of the other as well, but also a completely different previous electronic TARDIS toy that I’d not intended to write about yet.  I had really hoped to space out the electronic TARDISES a bit more, as they tend to be among the jewels in the crown of my collection, but it looks like I’m just going to have to recklessly burn through all three in a multi-part saga just to get it all right.

I’ve gushed rhapsodic here about my love of the original Underground Toys Flight Control TARDIS from the David Tennant era.  It’s maybe my favorite mass-market TARDIS (i.e. one not uniquely and painstakingly crafted using a combo of skill and love by my mother-in-law).  When Matt Smith took over the role, a Smith era TARDIS toy soon followed.  It looked fantastic, with the darker shade of blue and the St. John’s ambulance badge restored to the door.  It had the interior backdrop of Smith’s first, brighter, earlier sheet-metal TARDIS control room, and an updated roof lamp.  Plus the windows of this were completely blacked out, which looked really cool–except there was kind of a reason to black them out.  It seems that this version of the TARDIS lost some of the previous TARDIS toy’s functionality in terms of having no interior lighting and non-illuminating Police Public Call Box signs.  (No need for transparent windows if you’re not going to light up the interior, eh?)  It retained the dematerialization sound effects, the control room sounds when the doors were opened, the roof light, the whooshing sounds when spun via the spindle on the bottom and the spacey sounds when shaken.  Pretty great and still quite playable, despite the lack of all the lights, but it kind of just screamed “CHEAPER-TO-MANUFACTURE” in big bold type.  But, man, does it look cool, so I’m going to give the 11th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS a solid four TARDI.

(Side note: Underground Toys also produced an even cheaper version of the 11th’s TARDIS which didn’t have lights or sounds of any kind, but did come as a “Christmas Adventure” set with 11th Doctor and Amy Pond figures.  On the surface, the set is a misnomer because the figures it includes have nothing Christmasy about them, as Amy is wearing her police officer outfit.  However, if you stop to think about it, Amy Pond had returned to her police outfit for some honeymoon bedroom role-playing with her new husband Rory for the first Smith Christmas special.  They just fail to specify what kind of… um, “Christmas adventures” Amy happened to be having on the trip, nor do they include Rory in his Roman Soldier attire to seal the notion.  The packaging, as you can see in the accompanying image, boasts that it is non electronic and has opening doors.   Those doors even have transparent windows, which I guess means Underground Toys just said “Hey, if we tell them it’s not electronic, we don’t have to hide it by darkening the windows.  EFF it!”   I declined to purchase this model.  And I have half a mind to give it a two TARDI rating to spite Underground Toys for being cheap bastards on a Christmas cash-grab.  However, Amy’s Role-Playing Honeymoon Bedroom garb alone may technically qualify this set as the most “adult” toys in the whole Doctor Who line–at least until they come out with Madame Vastra and Jenny figures–which is worth at least and extra few points.  So I guess I’ll give this unpurchased-by-me set three.)

“The Talkin’ Screaming Fire Detector, Step-Ladder Haulin’, High-Pitched Beep, 9 Volt Blues”

Our smoke/carbon monoxide detector had been alerting us for three days that its battery is low. It started just with a high-pitched single beep, but we could never tell which of the two detectors in the room was doing it at first, the one by the front door or the one on the upstairs landing ceiling. We used an umbrella to press the downstairs detector’s test button. It’s the fancier unit and, in addition to blaring its alarm multiple times, also shouted “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!” and “CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED!” I then hauled our step-ladder upstairs to press the button on the less-fancy one. It beeped just fine. Our mystery remained.

The next night, the downstairs detector began blaring a single shrill beep and shouting “LOW BATTERY DETECTED!” It started this at 10 o’clock at night as we were settling into bed. I decided I was too tired to haul my butt upstairs to retrieve both a new 9 volt and the step-ladder I’d left up there. So we lived with it for the night. It only interrupted sleep on a semi-hourly basis.

The next night I marched upstairs for both the new 9v and the step-ladder only to find that the last 9v in the pack had no charge when touched to my tongue. (You gotta touch it to your tongue. It’s a 9 volt, after all!) So we lived through another night punctuated by *BEEEP* “LOW BATTERY DETECTED!”

Today I went to the store and purchased a new pack of 9 volts. I chose the two pack rather than the cheaper four pack because the only thing that uses them in the house are the smoke detectors and this will make twice we’ve had to change them in the past five years. No use letting another $10 worth of batteries die in the pack.

I returned home, climbed the step-ladder already positioned beneath the detector, removed said detector from the ceiling, and discovered that it actually took three AA batteries the whole time.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Kurt Adler Doctor Who TARDIS LED Lighted Tree Ornament

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

This is the second of the Kurt Adler TARDIS ornaments that I own.  This one’s made o’plastic instead o’glass.

It’s your basic TARDIS design, Matt Smith/Capaldi era TARDIS.  The Christmasy bit of it–beyond it being a Christmas ornament to begin with–is that when you flip a switch on the bottom its windows light up with LED lights that cycle through a number of colors, from yellow to green to blue to purple to red, etc.  Kind of neat.

My major complaint about this model, however, is that while the sculpt is basic but good, it’s kind of cheaply made.  Mine has molding flaw lines in the plastic itself.  And while the windows have a lovely silver paint job on their framework, the company didn’t see fit to add any paint detail to the roof lamp, let alone an actual light within it.  Still, it also wasn’t very expensive.

These days this model is not as easy to come by.  There are newer editions of this ornament with fake snow in the sculpting and others with a dumbass Santa hat glued to the top, which just violates… I don’t know… good sense, or something.  They’re also pretty cheap, but I’m still against them and will have no part of them.  This ornament, however, I’m okay with, flaws and all. 

Still only gonna give it three TARDI, but it’s not out of meanness.

The Last Archer

My latest effort as an audiobook narrator, The Last Archer, by S.D. Smith, is now on sale.  It is set during the events of Smith’s Green Ember series, but tells a side story to those events with some new characters and a few familiar faces.

You don’t have to have read the Green Ember series to enjoy this story of rabbits with swords (or, as is often the case, bows), but I recommend you read them anyway cause they’re great. (Or pick up the audiobooks for those, narrated by Joel Clarkson.)

Get every new post delivered to your inbox

Join other followers

Powered By