Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who The Sontarans Collector Figure Set

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set 01

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

Summer 2019 was a big season for Doctor Who toys. After years of multi-pack repaints (with the odd new figure) exclusive to B&M stores that largely slipped under the radar, Character Options came out with a huge new range that injected some energy back into the once great line. There were Big Finish-inspired Dalek sets, there were TARDISes and there were of course more three-packs. Among these was The Sontarans Collector Figure Set, which not only paid homage to one of the show’s most popular monsters but also gave collectors the one thing they’re always crying out for - another companion. Included in this set at Commander Linx from 1973’s The Time Warrior, Field Marshall Styre from 1975’s The Sontaran Experiment, and popular Fourth Doctor companion/Royal Navy Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan.

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set Box 01

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The box features the new art resources used on the 2019 range of figures, most notably including the current Doctor Who logo that was introduced alongside the 13th Doctor’s debut in 2018. It’s a simple but effective design that keeps the figures themselves at the forefront, with a stencil-like image of the TARDIS to the left side that repeats again on the spine. The second spine simply has stock images of the figures themselves, which are then enlarged on the back against a solid blue background. The front also has the names of the characters included in the set, though not in the order they’re placed in on the tray. Inside the figures are stored on a moulded plastic tray, with clear bands wrapped around them to hold them in place.

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set Linx 01

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The first figure in the set is Commander Linx, who was previously released as part of a deluxe set based on The Time Warrior in 2011. This also included a green jacket variant of the Third Doctor, as well a Sontaran Battle Pod with opening door. The size of the pod, combined with its exclusivity (released via Underground Toys in the US and exclusively at Forbidden Planet in the UK) meant the set wasn’t particularly cheap, so a second opportunity to own Linx at a much lower price point is long overdue. The sculpting on the figure is some of Character’s best work on the line, although the cross-eyed paint apps on the face sculpt are a little unfortunate. This new version of Linx also features a revised colour scheme to differentiate it from the original figure, which unfortunately results in it being a little less screen accurate. The lighter shade of silver used on the body are nothing drastic, but skin tone used is considerably lighter than Linx’s onscreen complexion. Granted the original figure went a little bit too far in the opposite direction as well, but the colour used here is more along the lines of Styre or Stike rather than the much darker Linx. Those quibbles aside though, it really is a great figure. The head sculpt manages to capture the Linx mask specifically, and most importantly he has the three finger hands that Sontarans should (but didn’t always) have.

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Articulation hasn’t really evolved that much over the years with the Doctor Who line, but as a mould dating all the way back to 2011 Linx still feels a little dated compared to some of the more recent figures. Altogether the figure features 360 degree rotation in the neck, waist and head, along with bicep, wrist and thigh swivels, single hinge elbow and knee joints and a basic T-joint hip that allows for both frontal and lateral movement. It’s certainly nothing fancy and the bicep swivels break up the shape of the sculpt rather noticeably, but it’s enough to present Linx the lumbering threat the Sontarans of classic Who were visualised as rather than the “superior” soldiers they were characterised as. But the much more exciting element to this set is that it also includes accessories! With most of the previous B&M exclusive sets have stripped figures of them completely this comes as bit of a surprise, but then again – how could you release Sontaran figures without their iconic helmets? Linx includes both his helmet and baton, which fits comfortably into his hand and also can be holstered on the right leg when not in use. The helmet looks great, but did require some force to properly lock into place. In fact it just wouldn’t clip on at all until I softened the plastic with some hot water to reshape it a little – following that there wasn’t any problems at all. These sets may be relatively cheap, but if you find yourself having any similar problems the hot water trick is definitely worth doing to avoid any unwanted breakage.

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set Styre 01

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The second figure included is Field Marshall Styre, who again was previously released in 2011 as part of a collectors set based on The Sontaran Experiment. This set also featured a rather hefty Battle Pod, along a Fourth Doctor figure sporting his iconic hat, coat and scarf ensemble. True to their in-show origin as a cloned warrior race (and the fact Linx’s costume was repurposed into Styre’s), Styre and Linx largely share the same mould – though in this case it was technically Styre that came first. The differences include a slightly altered head sculpt, thicker boots and kneepads and of course five-fingered hands instead of the usual three. Again this figure features alternate paint apps to the original, with Styre coming off much worse than Linx when it comes to show accuracy. While there aren’t any issues with the skin tone this time, the “armoured” parts of Styre’s uniform (along with his helmet) have been repainted silver instead of their usual metallic black. While the end result is certainly more in line with the typical classic Sontaran colour scheme, it is noticeably different to how he looked in the episode itself. It’s a shame that Character Options deemed it necessary to alter the original figures, but maybe then again it’s a small price to pay to get another chance at owning these figures eight years later.

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set Styre 10

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Since they share the same base body Styre’s articulation is exactly the same as Linx’s – so just like any good clone anything Linx can do Styre can match without any sort of deviance. His accessories include his helmet, which again might take a little pressure to clip onto the figure (removing it on mine often had the annoying habit of pulling the head and collar off with it as well), and his handgun. Unfortunately there isn’t anywhere to store to gun on Styre’s person when not in use but it does fit comfortably into his hands – though again you might want to use a bit of hot water to loosen the plastic up a bit. True to the Sontaran name Styre has a pretty firm grip, and the silver trigger section of the gun is made of a soft plastic that very easily bends into the shape of the fingers.

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set Harry Sullivan 01

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This set isn’t just for those looking for a second chance at grabbing the Sontarans though, with Harry Sullivan being a brand new addition to the Doctor Who action figure range. But as we all know Character doesn’t quite have the budget for all-new moulds on classic figures at the moment, so while Harry may be sporting a brand new head sculpt the body is another bit of retooling trickery that’s common among these B&M exclusives. The base body is the shirted Fourth Doctor figure included in the City of Death set, with the Fourth Doctor coat from the Genesis/Destiny of the Dalek sets added on top. The ensemble has then been painted to match Harry’s blue shirt/blue jacket/tan coat outfit from season 12, and the end result is rather impressive. The enormous coat does make the head seem a tad small on the body, but it’s a pretty minor complaint overall. The head is also a great likeness of actor Ian Marter too, and thankfully doesn’t suffer from any of the cross-eyed looks that plagued the two Sontarans.

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set Harry Sullivan 10

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The parts might be different to the ones used in the Sontarans, but Character Options generally like to keep things consistent among their figures (save the much appreciated addition of hinge swivel shoulders in later releases) so articulation is still the same across the board. Of course since Harry actually has a proper neck to speak of it feels like you’re getting a little more out of him, but when you break it down it’s still very much the same layout. You’ll be able to get a few decent poses out of him, but the Doctor Who toy line is  woefully behind most similar ranges so it’s best not to try and compare him to anything else in your collection.

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It’s easy to be critical of the Doctor Who range when it’s primarily been B&M exclusive multipacks for a few years now, but the 2019 selection has been exactly the shot in the arm the line needed. Yes it’s still effectively just repaints, retools and a brand new head, but The Sontarans Collector Figure Set is everything a set like that should be. An second opportunity to own two highly sought-after figures that were overpriced first time round, and a clever retool that for all intents and purposes feels like a brand new figure. It’s a shame some screen accuracy was lost in the process and the datedness of the toys is continually a minus, but nevertheless this is a great set. With Character’s Doctor Who line seemingly on the rise, this definitely feels like the start of a second coming.

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