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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.

New production

I am pleased to announce that my short play “Fargo 3D” will be produced as part of the 10×10 Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA.  The festival will run February 15-March 4, 2018.

This will be Fargo 3D’s first production north of the Mason-Dixon.  I hope to attend.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS Kurt Adler Figural Holiday Ornament

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

Back in 2013, I got a wild hair up my butt to order a bunch of Doctor Who stuff from ThinkGeek.com.  Really, what probably happened is that they had a massive sale, the savings for which really kicked in once you ordered multiple items so I went down my wish list and picked out a few.  Naturally all of mine were TARDIS-related and will likely be chronicled here one day.  But of the two holiday-related TARDIS items among my purchases, the TARDIS Figural Holiday Ornament was one of them.

As far as Christmas ornaments go, this one is fairly standard.  It’s a hollow glass TARDIS, lovingly reproduced in the kind of rounded style as many such glass ornaments of other shapes.  This means you can’t go deep on the details, like woodgrain or hard corners, but you can do highlights such as a dusting of blue glitter that gives it that ornament feel without resorting to adding bows and snow, which I’ve seen on some other ornaments.  And that stuff’s fine, but it’s not what I wanted.  I just wanted your basic TARDIS in super fragile ornament glass form and this one’s pretty sweet in those terms.

The same company that made this one, Kurt Adler, made some others, including different Dalek glass ornament designs that Think Geek still has in stock.  They no longer have the TARDIS, but Amazon has it for a very reasonable price.  They give it a nearly five star rating, too, so how can I give it anything less than five full TARDI.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS USB hub

(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.

 

 

Win a FREE audiobook for A Consternation of Monsters

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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”

 

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