TARDIS collector’s corner

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Eaglemoss TARDIS Special Edition Figurine

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

 

There are a few white whales out there in terms of TARDISes that are not in my TARDIS collection.  Some of these, such as either of the hand-made polystone TARDIS “diorama” models by Big Chief Studios, are pretty damn pale in terms of white whales.  They seem like gigantic, 20″ high versions of my beloved Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, complete with lights and sound, but with a huge boost in quality.  And as much as I would love one, the reason I’ve not bought one is because they are just stupid expensive even at base retail price, going for between $250 and $400 depending on the retailer.  I buy one of those and my wife will probably see it as grounds for divorce.

However, there are other TARDIS models and toys that were well below the Big Studios threshold when they were first offered for sale, but which, once out-of-stock, became rare and saw their price triple.  One such specimen is the TARDIS Special Edition Figurine released by the Eaglemoss model company.

For those not in the know, Eaglemoss is a company that specializes in spaceship models and sculpted figurines of pop culture characters, usually cast in metal.  They have figurine lines for Star Trek, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, The Walking Dead, and others, but have spent most of the last decade producing a line of Doctor Who figurines as well.  And the fact that I don’t own any of the figurines from this line is pretty much down to marriage preservation, too, for each of the Doctors originally retail for $17.95, making a 12 Doctor set cost-prohibitive unless purchased in the $35 four-pack sets, and even then… really?

Eaglemoss made a TARDIS, though, which is a white whale that’s been singing a siren call to me for several years.  It originally retailed for $35, which seemed not unreasonable to me.  Trouble was, shipping was another $15 on top of that, which I could not justify.  Of course, they usually offer free shipping on orders of $60 or more, but that meant having to buy two of them, or finding some other stuff to order with it and before you know it I had well over $100 of stuff in my cart when all I really wanted was one stinkin’ TARDIS and I’d get fed up and walk away.  After, let’s say, two years of doing this, the Eaglemoss TARDIS went out-of-stock.  And even though they have a little box where you can leave your email in case they re-stock, they are not known for actually re-stocking what was the whole time intended to be an individually numbered limited print run, so that’s not happening.  I soon began seeing my former $45 TARDIS for sale on eBay for upwards of $100.  And when it was anywhere under $50, it was always a seller in England and they tacked on another $40 for shipping to the U.S.–which was never gonna happen on my watch.   I sadly resolved myself to the likelihood that the Eaglemoss TARDIS, much like the Electronic 4th Doctor TARDIS set from 2010, was a whale that had slipped my clutches, escaping into the vast sea of prohibitively priced merchandise.  I mean, it didn’t stop me from setting up a saved search for it, though, since you never could tell when one might find an auction for one at a reasonable price point.  This never seemed to happen, though.

Then, last month, something even more unlikely than a cheap auction happened.  I received an email ebay search report that someone had posted a new listing for an Eaglemoss TARDIS for $25 and with free shipping and it was BUY IT NOW!!!!  And I happened to be looking at gmail on my phone when the listing hit, so I couldn’t load my eBay app fast enough.  The whole time, though, I kept thinking that there must be something wrong with it for it to be listed for such a low price.  Surely it had been dropped, or gnawed by a dog at the least to go for only $25.  The listing indicated nothing of the sort, though, so I fired my whale spear and it struck home in white TARDIS flesh.  (This metaphor is really getting strange.)

A few days later, my new Eaglemoss TARDIS arrived and was something of a surprise, mainly because it was three times bigger than I expected it to be.  The Eaglemoss figurines I’ve seen and owned are around three inches in height, so I assumed somehow that the TARDIS would be as well.  Nope.  It’s to scale with the Doctor figurines, so it’s a full five inches from the base to the bottom of the roof lamp.  The other surprise was the material it was made of.  While I don’t own any other Doctor Who Eaglemoss figurines, I do own a Starman and an Ambush Bug from the DC line; they’re both cast from metal, so I expected the TARDIS would be metal as well (hence the huge shipping costs for most folks).  The TARDIS, however, is cast with some sort of resin.  I imagine a TARDIS of this size cast in pewter would probably weight at least five pounds, so it’s probably for the best.  I’d say this thing is still a solid 2 pounds.

As far as TARDISes go, it’s mostly decent.  The sculpting is nice, though there is no wood grain, but I’m okay with that.  Where it kind of misses the mark for me is in the detail work of the painting.  The windows are especially sloppy, with the gray paint of the frames occasionally splashing up onto the blue of the exterior TARDIS walls or onto the white of the “glass” panes. It looks like it was painted by a fairly skilled 10-year-old.  The sloppiness extends to the painting of the roof lamp.  Also, the decal for the door sign was applied skewed to the left side of the phone-cabinet instead of centered properly. Again, it looks like a skilled 10-year-old might have done it, so, again, I’m going to blame child labor.

Despite these complaints, though, it’s still a nice piece that I’m proud to have in my collection.  And a white whale hunted and killed and flensed and turned into 19th century lamp oil.  I give it 3.5 TARDI. 

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: TARDIS Rotating LED Cell Phone Charm (The Shotglass TARDIS series)

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

The very smallest of the shotglass TARDISes in my collection is the TARDIS Rotating LED Cell Phone Charm.  It’s a tiny tiny TARDIS encased in a plastic bell jar dome that screws onto a plastic base bearing the Doctor Who logo used during the David Tennant era of the show.  While mine hangs in my car from my rear view mirror, the device is meant to attach to a cell phone.  The base has sensors within it that can detect incoming cell signals which activate the device to cause the TARDIS within the dome to spin and LED lights in the base to flash, signaling you that you have texts or calls when your phone is on silent mode.  Sounds mildly handy, no?  Turns out, not so much–at least in the way that I used the device.

The first time my TARDIS charm ever activated was at night, as I was driving home.  There I was, driving down the straightish stretch of highway near my house, preparing to turn onto the lane that leads to my neighborhood, when unexpectedly I am blasted at eye level by flashing blue lights seemingly from somewhere on the road ahead.  In that instant my brain became convinced that, at worst, I was about to be t-boned by a police cruiser coming out of the neighborhood to my right; or, at best, said police cruiser was not in motion but had turned on the blues in order to pull me over for some unknown infraction.  It was startling and I screamed aloud, much like a little girl. Then I heard my cell buzzing and realized what was going on and felt the kind of shame one only feels when startled by tiny sparkly lights. And this happened on more than one occasion as the days went by.  I also learned that the effect wasn’t that much less startling during daylight hours.

Fortunately, the batteries in this device didn’t last very long, no doubt owing to it having sat in on a shelf and/or in a warehouse for years before I purchased it.  I have yet to replace them, nor are their any plans in place to do so.

As far as TARDISes go, I cut this one a lot of slack on the detail side because it’s so tiny.  It also gets extra points for looking cool under the dome.  It’s almost like the Master was able to somehow use his Tissue Compression Eliminator on it to finally trap it in some sort of time-travel-proof bell jar.  It’s a novelty item with a lot of novelty.  I’ll give it four Tardi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Die Cast TARDIS Keychain (The shotglass TARDIS series)

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

The die cast TARDIS keychain was the first TARDIS keychain I purchased and I like it a lot.

As a TARDIS it’s a lovely representation of the Pertwee/Baker era flat-roofed, dark door-signed TARDIS, though this one has a much better paint job than the TARDIS of that era ever did.  (Not a chip to be seen.)  It’s also pretty well in scale with the modern era TARDIS keychain, showing the size differential between the two models, even though they’re made of entirely different materials.

As a keychain I think this would function pretty well, too, as the metal die-cast nature gives it a satisfying weight and sturdiness to withstand the wear and tear keychains often go through.  As with all my other TARDIS keychains, I ditched the chain early on.  But I have kept the ring, which pokes from the top of the roof lamp itself, in case I ever want to use it for another purpose.  It could make a nifty ceiling fan or lamp chain pull, for instance, though is probably too heavy for, say, an earring.

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.

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.) 

CONTINUING THE TALE FROM PART 1 and PART 2

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.) 

CONTINUING THE TALE FROM PART 1…

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.)

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 TARDIS Collector’s Corner: My TARDIS Bluetooth Speaker Lamp

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

A few years back I saw a TARDIS lamp on ThinkGeek.com.  I fell in love instantly.  Then my wallet saw how much they wanted for it and I decided my desk didn’t really need a lamp all that much after all.  I was also a bit suspicious of it, because I couldn’t get a good look at it from the pictures.  The angle ThinkGeek took their pictures from made it seem as though the lamp’s center pole came right up through the roof lamp of the TARDIS itself.  I suspected, though, that the pole was actually not centered in the base of the lamp at all, but was off to one side and what I was really seeing was the pole behind the TARDIS, separate from it, yet aligned, intentionally I suspect, in a way that would suggest it came through the center of the TARDIS.  And this was pretty much the only angle photographers of that particular lamp used, and continue to do so to this day.  I also didn’t care for the lamp’s shade and would have preferred a simple Tardis-Blue shade.  Were I ever to acquire one, I would have to remedy that, I thought.  But the price tag on it, of around $45, was the major drawback to the purchase.  I decided to bide my time or come up with another solution.

By this point I had enough TARDI in my collection that I figured I could probably make my own lamp, especially if the retail TARDIS lamp itself was only a display base lamp in the first place.  If I could find one of those, I could just put one the TARDIS of my choice on it and call it a night.  The trouble is, while I can call that style of lamp a “display base” lamp in writing, that’s probably not what it’s really called–or, at least, if you search for that term you’ll see any other kind of lamp than the style I was actually looking for.  After haunting lamp sites and unsuccessfully searching on and off for a few days with various other terms, I gave up.

Three summers ago, while visiting my parents in Mississippi, I popped by a local remaindered store called Dirt Cheap, located in a repurposed former Kroger, across from my old high school.  And there I found a literal pile of display base lamps, pre-painted in a blue color for my convenience, for $11 each.  Granted, the shade of blue was not so much current TARDIS blue, but was more of a Sylvester McCoy TARDIS blue.  However, I was the owner of a Sylvester McCoy TARDIS toy, so it was kind of perfect.  And, I figured, if it was ever important for it to be any other hue of blue, they ain’t quit making Krylon.   I took it home with me and plunked the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS onto it at my earliest convenience.  It was a great fit.  In fact, I found that if I substituted the David Tennant era Flight Control TARDIS, it actually hung off the edge of the base a little, while the smaller McCoy TARDIS did not.

Jump ahead some months.  That sultry temptress ThinkGeek.com once again began whispering sweet nothings in my ear by adding a TARDIS bluetooth speaker to their stable of nerdy ‘ho’s.  (She was paired with a bluetooth Dalek speaker `ho as well.)  However, it was a bluetooth speaker TARDIS that cost well over $100.  No dice.  Not unless it was made by Bose would I spend that kind of cash on a single speaker.  I saw it offered on other sites for a bit less, but it was still just dumb.

A year later, though, Amazon ran a special.  You could get the TARDIS bluetooth speaker and a blue ray of all the Christmas specials to date for under $70.  That seemed about right, especially considering the good ratings the speaker seemed to be getting.  I snatched it up, punked it down on the display base, and instantly had my very own, possibly one-of-a-kind, bluetooth TARDIS speaker lamp.

The speaker itself is indeed a good one.  It’s not going to fill a room with sound for a party, but it’s fantastic for playing music or podcasts that don’t have to be floor to ceiling.  It’s portable,rechargeable, and it lights up and makes TARDIS sounds.  When you first turn it on, it does the TARDIS takeoff sound in time with the flashes from the roof lamp.  You can skip this by hitting the volume button, cause it goes on kind of a while.  It then makes strange whooshing sounds and flashes the Police Public Call Box lights as it searches for a bluetooth connection.  When it finally gets one, it sounds the cloister bells (proving that bluetooth connections are a danger to the space-time continuum), turns the Police Public Call Box signs on solid and you’re good to go.

As far as its design goes, the speaker TARDIS is pretty darn good in almost all respects.  It’s of a comparable size to the Tennant TARDIS, so it does hang off the edges a bit, but I can live with it.  While it has woodgrain sculpting on most of the usual surfaces (roof, door edges, base, etc., all going in the proper direction) it is oddly lacking in woodgrain sculpting on the inset door panels.  It’s a questionable design choice and feels like either a move to cheapen production or maybe was intentionally done by a designer who somehow didn’t think the TARDIS had woodgrain in those panels.  The windows are also not “glassed” but are used as the speaker sound ports. (Sound’s gotta come out somewhere.)  They’ve kept the T-shape to the window panes by using the blacked out sections with open slots as the speaker ports.

The lower section of the front has four buttons set two each into the lowest inset panels.  (Ooh, maybe they didn’t put woodgrain in the panels cause it would somehow interfere with the aesthetic of having buttons poking out of those lower ones?)  Two are volume buttons while the other two are a pause/play button and a phone button in case calls come in while it’s connected to your phone.  So the speaker then becomes a speaker phone (which, while I’ve never actually used it for this purpose, makes the 14-year-old me from 1986, who was fascinated by speaker phones after seeing the character Cameron use one in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, very very happy).

If I had a complaint beyond the woodgrain thing, it’s that when the TARDIS speaker eventually runs low on its charge it emits a crazy-loud and very non-Doctor-Whoish alarm sound to warn you that it will soon need a charge.  The first time this happened, though, I was at a complete loss for why it was happening.  It was VERY startling and then, as it continues every few minutes until you finally plug it in, remained irritating because it’s a full stop interruption to whatever you’re trying to listen to.  I understand the need for such an alert, but I don’t understand why it has to be so jarring.  There are dozens of quieter little sounds the TARDIS makes on the show that would be more appropriate.  Even the cloister bell sound would make more narrative sense, as the bells are intended to be a dire warning in the first place, and what would be the worst thing that could happen to a rechargeable speaker–beyond getting dropped in the toilet, or something.

These days, the TARDIS bluetooth speaker is far more affordable, being available for around $50 online.  If you’re in the market for one, I recommend it.  In fact, I give it four 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.

 

 

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: “Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis”

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

I wish I could say the “Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis” was given to me as a gift.  If it had been, I would feel an obligation not to insult the person who gave it to me by taking a dump on it over the course of 1000 words and just write something like “Boy howdy, it sure does wind up.  Look at it go.”  Then I’d slap a two or three TARDI rating on it and call `er a day.  I wouldn’t have to dwell on any of its super-obvious aspects of questionable quality.  I could just walk away and be the bigger man.  But, no.  I bought this thing with my own money and of my own free will and have no one to blame but myself.

As I mentioned before, I try very hard not to buy crappy TARDISes, but sometimes it happens anyway.  In this case, I’m pretty sure I bought it sight unseen from my comic book mail order service after having seen it in a thumbnail image on their online catalog three months previous.  When it arrived and I was able to cast actual eyes on it, I could immediately see the error I had made.

Much like its dumpy cousin, the Doctor Who: Light-Up Tardis “Kit”, the The Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis is solidly lame.  They could almost be mistaken for one another, except that “wind up” is slightly larger than “kit.”  They both, however, have the out-of-scale over-sized wood grain sculpting.  Where “wind up” improves on it, though, is that the wood grain sculpting on the roof panels is actually parallel to the roof edges.  Beyond that, they both have the same painted on windows and the non-recessed Police Public Call Box signs.  Curiously, the creators of the “wind up” TARDIS didn’t even try to get the roof lamp at all accurate.  It’s just a chunky cube of clear plastic with some blue paint daubed on the top of its semi-sculpted cap.  It’s like they got the base of the lamp and the cap of the lamp then just threw a cube of plastic in between.  And it doesn’t light up.

Where the “wind up” TARDIS distinguishes (extinguishes) itself, however, is in its ability to roll and spin when wound up.  (Y’know, like how TARDISes do on the show all the time?)  It has four wheels on the bottom which may be wound by rolling them backward (“backward” being difficult to determine without experimentation, since the wheels are, as designed, free-moving within a disc that rotates as the wheels spin, so they are therefore always facing a different direction than “forward”).  Once wound, you can then release the TARDIS and watch it roll a couple of feet while at the same time spinning kind of slowly, as you can see in the video below.

 I guess this spinning is meant to simulate the TARDIS spinning through space, cause it’s not like the vehicle is known for spinning along the ground.  In its defense, the TARDIS is also not known for, say, holding cookies, salt, coffee, liquid soap, a Yahtzee set, your head, or for wrapping you up in a snuggly embrace either, all of which are things some of the TARDISes in my collection are frequently called upon to do.  This being the case, I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about a TARDIS spinning along the floor–particularly a product called “the Doctor Who – Wind up TARDIS”, a fact that I was aware of in advance of its purchase.

I still give it two TARDI, cause its overriding lameness just annoys me.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Fascinations Metal Earth Doctor Who Tardis 3D Laser Cut Model – Blue

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

Having been kicked in my TARDIS junk (insert customary “bigger on the inside” joke here) by the non-kit, fully-assembled, have-but-to-flip-a-switch-and-yer-done nature of The Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit” I was pleased, a few months back, to discover on Amazon a new kind of TARDIS kit that actually required assembly.  The Fascinations Metal Earth Doctor Who Tardis 3D Laser Cut Model – Blue might be a mouthful to say, but it looked amazing in the pictures and claimed that its pieces were all die cut in two layers of sheet metal which you, at home, could assemble.  Sounded delightful.  And, eventually, I ordered it.

The kit arrived shortly.  I was somehow expecting a box, but it arrived in a thick cardboard envelope containing two sheets of thin metal, indeed die cut and pre-painted with TARDISy details, as well as an instruction sheet.  I laid those three items on my desk and was taken aback by the fact that the size of the pieces did not match up to my assumption of how big this thing was actually going to be–or, rather, how small.  It’s hard to get scale off a manufacturer’s picture, and I had assumed that the kit would produce a TARDIS that was probably in league with the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS, or maybe the TARDIS Yahtzee set at smallest.  Nay, nay.  The product dimensions might have listed it as being 6″x4″, but what they really meant was the package it came in was a flat 6″x4″ envelope.  Eyeballing the size of the tiny TARDIS doors within their sheet metal framework, it appeared this TARDIS would be closer to 3 inches in height than 6″.  Still, it was an amazing piece of engineering and the end-results, as per the photograph, were impressive.  I started reading over the instructions and prepared to begin my kit assembly.

After less than a minute, I lay my instruction sheet down atop the intact sheet metal sheets and became distracted by doing anything else.  For what I had swiftly realized was that this assembly wasn’t going to be a quick matter of popping the pieces out and quickly sticking them in place, like the old snap together model car kits.  Nay, nay, nay.  This was going to require tiny tools I wasn’t sure I possessed as well as a pair of 250 strength reading glasses.  Because it turns the kind of exacting detail I tend to demand from my TARDIS purchases also require a similarly exacting level of detail in terms of the number of, often, tiny tiny parts in order to achieve it.

Now keep in mind that I am a guy who is not afraid to go to such levels of detail.  In college, I was known in certain circles for my ability to paint micro-details onto tiny half-inch pewter figurines for our role-playing games.  But that was 25 years and a pair of bifocals ago.  I did want to assemble my TARDIS, and planned to eventually do so, it was just a matter of finding the time.

So the kit lay for the next two months or so.

Occasionally, I would pick up one of the sheets and stare at it, marveling at the kind of engineering it must have taken to be able to create a believable looking 3D TARDIS roof lamp and housing out of flat metal.  Brilliant.  Then I would move the whole thing to a flat surface where it was less-likely to have papers piled on top of it or bent up by a dog and there it sat for more weeks.

This past Monday, the wife’s day off, a mere week after having penned the entry about my shitty Light Up TARDIS “Kit”, I got a wild hair up my butt to finally put my tin TARDIS together.  I gathered the sheets of metal from my desk, found where I’d temporarily lost the instructions, and headed downstairs for what I was certain would be two hours of frustration and frequent cursing.

“I’m going to put my metal TARDIS kit together,” I announced for the dogs and wife to hear.

The wife put down the book she’d been reading and said, “Ooh, what if I put it together instead?” And I knew she was serious because she both loves putting things together and also had thirty medical charts she didn’t want to work on.

“Okay,” I said.

Now this might seem an odd thing for a fellow who spent the better part of 900 words complaining about a TARDIS kit that didn’t allow him to put anything together to say.  However, what I had long since come to realize is that my desire to have a cool-looking metal TARDIS, fully assembled and on display in my collection had outweighed my desire to actually put such a thing together myself.

“Are you sure?” the wife asked, fearing she .  “You don’t want to do it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I also wouldn’t mind if you did it,” I said.

The wife set her book down and set to work on the TARDIS.  Turns out we didn’t have exactly the ideal tools for doing the job, but between my small tool set and her jewelry making tools we had approximations.

Each of the pieces that make up the TARDIS come as part of one of the two flat sheets of metal and have to be removed.  This can take some doing as the metal is shockingly easy to bend in places you don’t want it bent.  (In fact, I accidentally dropped one of the sheets as I was trying to remove a piece and in my effort to catch it I wound up bending it across several pieces.  Oops.)  As such, the manufacturer, Fascinations, saw fit to include doubles of some of the smaller and more easily damaged pieces. The pieces often require folding and sometimes tab and slot fastening to other pieces (and by tab and slot I mean millimeter sized tabs and slots in some cases). For instance the roof section above the POLICE signs is composed of at least 9 separate pieces in order to get the details of the roof approximate to the real thing.  Fascinations could probably have gotten away with skimping on some of these details, but they do not.  In all aspects, this is a folded metal version of the TARDIS, down to the wood grain on the roof (which is to scale and is oriented in the correct direction).  The POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs are all properly recessed, the corner columns look right, the mirror finish windows have a T-shape formed by four of the panes, which are a slight shade of blue, the phone door sign looks correct, and both doors even open.

All in all, she said it was a very challenging and there were some pieces she asked me to help remove from the framework, mostly because there were four of them (the caps to the corners) and removing them was a pain in the ass.  I gladly assisted whenever asked.  She also apologized later, for in her assembly she’d managed to scratch a couple of the surfaces.  I told her it didn’t matter, cause to me the TARDIS is supposed to look a bit banged up.

This is a fantastic kit.  Even if I’d had to assemble it all myself, the challenge of it alone would have made the end result (which is a great TARDIS rendition) well worth it.  It was even better, though, that I didn’t have to do all that.  If you’re looking for a snap together kit, or a kit that a small child could manage, this is not your kit.

Fascinations makes a number of other Doctor Who related kits, including K-9, a Cyberman head, and a Dalek.  But they have a number of other licensed properties, including Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter.  They’re all pretty cheap, too.

I give it a full five TARDI.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner (Future Timey Wimey Edition): The 13th Doctor’s TARDIS

Thursday nerd media online has been blazing with a single photograph, one that revealed Jodie Whitaker’s costume as the 13th Doctor in next year’s new season of Doctor Who.

For the most part, I’m okay with it, and certainly like the trouser braces she’s sporting.  Love the coat.  Love the boots.  Like the basic color scheme.  Not real big on the stripey stripe on the shirt, but I’m sure she’ll change her shirt once in a while.  It’s not like Capaldi kept his first season coat he whole time either.

But what really caught my attention was her version of the TARDIS, as seen in the background.

I’d read that it was getting a redesign beyond the traditional new Doctor interior, and had been curious what would be done to it.  Would they paint it a girly color just to piss off the fanboys who don’t like that the Doctor shall be a Time Lady now?  Well quite the opposite, in fact.

The new TARDIS looks more like the old TARDIS, and by that I mean the old old TARDIS from the later days of Tom Baker’s era.  Gone is the St. John’s Ambulance badge.  Gone the pebbled glass T windows.  This is a proper back-to-basics, no dumb glowy door sign, grim-n-dingy-`70s blue old school TARDIS.  The door sign has even reverted to the dark background of ’70s and ’80s show prop.

I look forward to purchasing the toy version of it and have fingers crossed that they take all the great aspects of the 10th Doctor’s Flight Control TARDIS and marry them to the new design, leaving out the questionable bits of more recent TARDIS releases, as yet to be reviewed here.

So far, I give it Five TARDI.

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.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the Dapol TARDIS (my second first(ish) TARDIS)

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

As I’ve written before, owning a TARDIS toy was something I had wanted since I was a wee lad in the 4th grade, but for many years the only TARDIS toys I ever saw were in my dreams.  They existed, of course, but primarily in the UK, from where Doctor Who originated.  And, in those pre-interweb days, were not on my radar at all.  In the early 1990s, however, that changed.

In 1988, a Welsh model railroad company called Dapol began producing a line of Doctor Who action figures.  While there had been action dolls and a TARDIS playset produced by Denys Fisher Toys in the late `70s, this was the first attempt to produce a line of action figures in a 3.75 inch G.I. Joe/Star Wars scale.  This was during the sunset years of the show’s original run, just as the Sylvester McCoy era ended the show seemingly for good. So the initial run of Doctor Who toys from Dapol featured Sylvester McCoy and his companion Mel.  Dapol released a number of individual Doctor Who figures as well as a variety of Daleks, which did well enough for the company.  Unfortunately, the creators at Dapol in conjunction with the licensing people at the BBC, were not always so good at capturing the details of the show in the toys.  For instance Dapol created and the BBC approved a figure of Davros, the power-chair-bound creator of the Daleks.  The figure they made, though, possessed two whole arms instead of just the right arm with his presumably non-functional left arm tucked down into his chair housing, as per every single Davros appearance on the television show to that point.  Their solution to this problem, according to an interview I read with Dapol’s president, David Boyle, from the Toys & Games special issue of Doctor Who Magazine, was to simply rip the left forearms from all produced figures in the second run and simply not make that piece in runs after.  Dapol also made a green K-9 figure.  Boyle says in his interview that the only reference  photo the BBC sent him was of K-9 on grass, which reflected greenly in his silver finish.  (The photo in question was used in Dapol’s publicity material and does indeed show a similarly green-tinted K-9, so this checks out for me.  Still, the BBC licensing department saw the green sample figures and approved them readily).  And, in the most glaring example of Dapol’s inattention to detail, their figure for Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor (you know, the one Doctor Who figure I had most desired to own since the age of 9) was missing a key costume element which the character on the show was renowned for possessing: his excessively long scarf.  Even though the package art features it, it was missing from the figure.  One might also argue they’d left off his hat, and one would be correct in this as well.  But the scarf, even to this day, is the most remembered feature of the character among non-fans other than the TARDIS.

“Doctor, why is K-9 green?” “Must’ve gone off his kibble, Mel.”

Oh, but then there was the Dapol TARDIS, which was actually part of the very first set they offered for sale, which was originally part of a limited edition 25th anniversary set, featuring the 7th Doctor, Mel, the green K-9, and a TARDIS complete with control room playset.  Conceptually this was something of a dream as the TARDIS toy worked both as the TARDIS prop, with functioning doors and a blue LED that would light up and flash with the flip of a switch, but could also come apart to be reassembled into a TARDIS control room diorama complete with a central control console.  The interiors of the TARDIS side panels were painted gray with sculpted white TARDIS roundels, allowing the walls to be linked together to form the interior control room walls.  And the console, which both lit up and had a clear time rotor in the center that would rise and fall was a handy addition for play.  Unlike the control console on TV, though, Dapol’s had five sides instead of six.  Boyle says this was again down to the production stills from the show, which didn’t clearly show the number of sides.  He even called the show’s producer, John Nathan Turner, to ask and, Boyle says, JNT asked him which number was easier for Dapol to produce, to which Boyle said “Five” so JNT told him to roll with that. Later, JNT was apparently angry about the inaccurate console and that Boyle hadn’t “pestered more to get the correct information.”  It was then agreed that after the company had sold it’s first 10,000 units of the toy, they would have to revise it for six sides.  Boyle says Dapol only ever sold 1200.

Dalek fails

Dapol Dalek Sampler Pack

(It should be noted that Dapol was hardly the only company guilty of cheap design and construction when it came to Doctor Who toys.  For instance, it took decades before ANY company was able to produce a Dalek toy that came close to matching the detail, or even the basic shape of the Daleks on the show.  For every Character Options Dalek that gets the recipe right, there are dozens and dozens of processed cheese level Dalek toys that look like they were designed by someone who not only didn’t have actual photographs of the props but had been working entirely from a verbal description of a Dalek given by a person who had once seen one on TV, from across a smoky room, while on LSD.  To their credit, Dapol’s Daleks, while not my favorite, got the look right.)

While initially offered in the 25th anniversary set, the Dapol TARDIS went on to be released in a number of different play sets, often with accompanying figures.  However, in 1994, while the company was moving its production to a new facility, a fire at the original Dapol factory destroyed the original molds for the control console, along with much of their existing production line of Doctor Who toys.  Because they’d allowed the insurance on the old building to lapse as they moved to a new building, the company was suddenly massively in debt.  Rather than retool a new one, incurring more costs, Dapol just began producing TARDIS sets minus the console and downplayed the whole coming apart to form the control room feature.

My introduction to the Dapol line came from an issue of Previews in the early 1990s.  (Previews is the magazine for Diamond Comic Distributiors, Inc. which was then and remains one of the major direct sales distributors for comic book shops.  Comic nerds like myself would pick up Previews each month so we could see what sort of product would be on sale in our local shop in three months and be able to order accordingly.)  Some of the Dapol figures, including the TARDIS, were offered for sale there and their grainy little black and white pictures were enticing to my Doctor Who starved brain.  Unfortunately, they were not cheap.  The 25th anniversary set retailed for 49.99 pounds, which at 1990 exchange rates was around $95.  And it wasn’t like they were offered through Diamond every month.  Anything beyond initial orders of new product would come with markup for import costs from the UK.  So if you were able to find the toys in the US at all they were usually far pricier than your average college student can pay–especially considering the often slapdash nature of Dapol’s quality.

My local shop, the late and lamented Gun Dog Comics, did have a few of the individual figures, but I didn’t have a lot of scratch in the `90s.  I think I did manage to cobble together enough to buy a K-9 from them (of the non-green variety) at some point, but a TARDIS was a few years off, when I finally found a reasonably-priced one on the previously mentioned WHONA.com.  I ordered it at the same time as the resin model kit, making it my second first(ish) TARDIS.

My Dapol TARDIS is, of course, of the non-console-inclusive later day variety.  As far as functionality goes, it’s pretty bare bones, with the whole opening doors and blinking silent roof lamp.  However, as you can see from the pictures, Dapol didn’t go out of their way to actually sculpt a proper lamp housing from any of the various ones used on the show.  Instead, it’s a bare blue LED bulb inside a clear plastic cylinder.  And while the TARDIS does still come apart for assembly into the control room walls, the lack of console gave them the added incentive to stop painting the interior walls, save for the roundels.  So instead of the soothing gray/white walls, they’re just TARDIS blue.  As far as sculpts go, it’s one of the least impressive and minimalist of designs, probably owing to ease of production.  The doors are only slightly recessed from the corner columns, the roof isn’t beveled, the windows are painted into their barely inset panes, and there is no real base to speak of other than a 1/16 inch thick plastic floor.  And, much like the TARDIS props have occasionally appeared on the show, the whole thing is kind of rickety in construction.  It’s four walls are held together by friction-based notch and tab hinges on the edge of each wall. The bases of the walls have fins that slide beneath other extremely thin plastic fins molded into the nearly as thin base (which I can’t imagine would hold up to actual play), and then the whole assembly is pinned by the roof, which has its own wide tabs that fit into slots in the upper edges of the doors.  This means that in order to play with it as a representation of the TARDIS exterior you must hold it firmly around its walls so that the inward pressure keeps them in place, and you must never ever try to lift it by its roof light or turn it upside down, lest the roof fall off.

However, for all its many faults, it’s still a toy I would have loved to have owned in 1981 during the height of my infatuation with the PBS reruns of the show, and I would have played with it gladly as a prized possession.  Unfortunately, its many faults and inattention to detail, especially when compared with other TARDISes in my collection (not to mention its lack of even an inaccurate console) lead me to give this one a solid two TARDi.  It’s probably two and a half, really.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: My first(ish) TARDIS

(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.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the 7th Doctor’s Electronic TARDIS

“Oh, look…. rocks.”

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

With the success of Doctor Who line of toys, particularly its Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, Character Options decided to expand its figure line beyond the 9th and 10th Doctors and the other companions and characters from the 21st century incarnation of the show.  Naturally, since Tom Baker is still my favorite Doctor, I had to have that one and ordered it as fast as my ebay ordering fingers could move.  It’s a pretty brilliant figure, capturing the likeness and manic glee of Baker’s Doctor, along with a rubber recreation of Baker’s famous scarf (an accessory that had been infamously missing from the previous attempt at a Tom Baker action figure, the one issued by Dapol in the late 80s–though not the original Denys Fisher doll).  They went on to release figures for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th Doctors as well as a 11 Doctors set timed with Matt Smith’s start as the 11th Doctor, and which included the previously unproduced Paul McGann 8th Doctor.

With a 4th Doctor in hand, I began taking photographs in the mossier sections of our yard, along with my recently purchased David Tennant TARDIS.  While it did make my inner 4th grader leap for joy even he had to admit that it wasn’t as satisfying as if it was a genuine 4th Doctor TARDIS.  But such a thing did not exist.  A large part of me hoped that one day it would, but it seemed as distant a dream as the TARDIS toys I’d dreamed of as a kid.  Even better, I dreamed on, wouldn’t it be cool if Character Options produced TARDIS toys for each of the Doctors?  After all, there were several different TARDIS props over the course of the original series.

7th Doctor

7th Doctor

4th Doctor

4th Doctor

1st Doctor

1st Doctor

Then, in 2011, Character Options partnered with company Underground Toys to make my dream a reality–sorta.  They announced that they were producing a handful of the classic TARDIS models to be packaged with the action figures for their corresponding Doctor.  Except they were only going to do three of them.  Included in their run would be the 1st Doctor’s TARDIS with accompanying William Hartnell figure (a new sculpt based on his first appearance as the character); a 4th Doctor’s TARDIS, complete with a Tom Baker figure (same one I already had); and the 7th Doctor’s TARDIS complete with a Sylvester McCoy 7th Doctor figure.  Compared with the 21st

From left to right, the modern day TARDIS and the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS

century TARDIS, the original series props were smaller, narrower, and very often ricketier.  (Just watch Spearhead from Space to see the TARDIS practically shake apart as Jon Pertwee falls through its doors in his first appearance–watch from the 2:07 time code.)  The toys matched that scale, being a bit smaller than the modern toys.  The sculpts on these were basically the same barring a couple of details.  The 1st Doctor TARDIS was differentiated by the St. John’s Ambulance badge on the right door–a detail that had been painted over and abandoned until Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor TARDIS would restore it in 2011.  The 4th Doctor’s TARDIS was shorter due to having a flat roof instead of a tiered and pitched one.  It was painted a dingier shade of blue.  It’s door sign was also white letters on a black background instead of black on white.  And Sylvester McCoy’s was basically the 4th Doctor’s TARDIS with the 1st Doctor’s roof, painted a lighter shade of blue.  (In reality, a new and taller TARDIS prop was brought in during the later years of Baker’s run and was kept as the main prop for the next three–getting a repaint or two along the way.)

While I felt it was a lost opportunity to do a different TARDIS for each Doctor, these three were pretty representational of the classic run.  Unfortunately, they were also pretty expensive.  If they were available for sale in this country it was usually as imports or on ebay, where prices soared, rising up to the $80 range.  I didn’t feel like I could justify buying even Baker’s, let alone all three.  And the longer I sat on the decision the more expensive they became–especially Baker’s.

Finally, in 2012 or so, I stumbled on a GoHastings listing for the 7th Doctor’s TARDIS for an admirably reasonable price and grabbed it while I could.  Sure, it wasn’t Baker’s flat roofed version, but truth be told I really hate the flat roof.  I never noticed the roof was flat when I originally watched the series.  It was only after becoming accustomed to the pitched roof of later years that caused me to be bumped by the toy’s flat roof.  It’s jarring and un-TARDIS-like to me, yet ironically it is the TARDIS that I first fell in love with.  In truth, the McCoy TARDIS was more in line with later day Baker, except for the lighter paint job.  Out of the box and on my shelf, though, it doesn’t look nearly as bright as the image above.

The McCoy TARDIS is definitely a different creature compared to the Flight Control 10th Doctor TARDIS, mostly for the worse.  I expect it’s not cheap to produce such a fine item as the Flight Control TARDIS with all its bells and whistles.  The McCoy TARDIS basically just has a bell and no whistles.  Now some of this is due in large part to the fact that the original TARDIS props did not have much in the way of lights.  It basically had the lantern on the roof, if they were lucky.  So the toy’s sole light is the lanter.  Gone are the interior lights (not to mention the backdrop of the TARDIS interior).  Gone is the lighting behind the Police Public Call Box signs.  The toy still has TARDIS takeoff and landing sounds, but there is no spin function and no other flight sounds nor interior sounds.  It’s pretty bare bones.  The toy also loses some functionality in that while there is a telephone within the door cabinet beneath the left front window, the box in which it sits takes up so much space behind the door that you cannot open that door even half way.  (I took mine apart and removed the phone, but then it looks odd when you open the cabinet, so I put it all back.)  And I don’t know if this is universal to all copies of this toy or just mine, but while the Flight Control TARDIS features a right hand door that can be propped open and releases on a spring via a button on the interior floor, this one’s button doesn’t so much work and the right hand door is difficult to close flush with the housing.  (I basically have to smack the face of it into my hand to let gravity and force to do the work of closing it.)

The McCoy figure that came with it is actually my favorite version of the character’s costume, with the dark jacket, the panama hat and question mark umbrella.  I have traded it in place of the McCoy that came with the 11 Doctor’s set, who had a white jacket and no hat.

As a toy, the 7th Doctor’s TARDIS is not so functional for play, but that’s not what I have it for to begin with.  As a piece of shelf art, it’s great.  So despite its functional issues, I’m still giving it four TARDISes.

PS – A few weeks back, some amazingly huge mushrooms grew in my yard.  I thought it was a good opportunity for some photography, so I took a couple of sizes of modern day TARDISes out there to put next to it.  I posted the resulting image to Facebook.  A bit later, my buddy Joe commented “Not legit until you take one in a rock quarry.”  This comment was due, of course, to Baker-era Doctor Who’s frequent use of quarries as stand-ins for alien worlds.  I replied “Gimme three hours.”   Not only did I know where a ostensible rock quarry was, it was not far from my house and I had a period correct TARDIS model on hand for the photo shoot.  I found plenty of locales for the photos, including the one at the top of this page and the second one here.  (I had to edit out some power lines in the one above, but I left the giant dumptruck in the distance to the right side of the photo, figuring Daleks probably had them too.)