Saturday, 17 October 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: £19.99

The cost of new tooling for the Doctor Who line is clearly still something of an issue for Character Options, even if it is building up new strengths as a B&M Stores exclusive range. Right now the money is going into brand new head sculpts, with bodies being recycled from other figures to increase variety but keep costs down at the same time. It's a practice that can go either way, but clearly Character have thought about it well if it results in releases like the Companions of the Fourth Doctor set. This three-pack brings together three classic characters from Tom Baker's time in the role - Sarah Jane Smith, Romana I and Romana II.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set Box 01

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set Box 02Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set Box 03Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set Box 04

The Companions of the Fourth Doctor set comes in a long rectangular box identical to that Character Options introduced with their previous wave of Doctor Who exclusives, featuring a blue and white colour scheme with a TARDIS stencil and the current series logo. Given all the effort that’s gone into the History of the Daleks sets it’s surprising to see the back of these boxes so bare, completely lacking any sort of bio and only featuring images of the figures and explaining which characters are in the set. Open it up and the three figures are laid out on a moulded plastic tray and held down with elastic ties around the waist and legs. Like the Claws of Axos U.N.I.T. set, the plastic tray is surprisingly deep and it does take a bit more effort to pull the figures out. The best way to do it is to lift the legs up and pull, as that way they come free of the packaging easily and shouldn’t suffer any damage and/or paint scuffing.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 01

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 02Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 03Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 04Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 05

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 06Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 07Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 08Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 09

Undoubtedly the most iconic of all the Doctor's companions, Sarah Jane Smith made her debut alongside the Third Doctor in 1973's The Time Warrior, continuing into the Fourth Doctor's tenure until she left the TARDIS in 1976's The Hand of Fear. She starred in the pilot for the aborted series K-9 and Company, was reunited with the tenth Doctor in 2006's School Reunion, and then of course went on to have her own spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures from 2007 to 2011. There have been a number of Sarah Jane Smith figures previously, but they've all been based off the modern version of her from either Doctor Who or The Sarah Jane Adventures. This is the first classic Sarah Jane figure Character have produced, and it's long overdue. 

The figure reuses the body of the 2008 Martha Jones figure (the combat suit version from The Last of the Time Lord), repainting the body as the green jacket and camo trousers she wore in Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen. Naturally since the body was never intended for this repurposing it's not a 100% match (the jacket was open in the episodes themselves nor was it double-breasted, but here it's closed), but it certainly is close and Doctor Who fans will instantly recognise what costume it's meant to represent. The tan of the trousers could perhaps be a shade darker, but since the tan colour is unpainted plastic that might have been a cost decision. The most important aspect of the figure is the new head sculpt, which is a fantastic likeness of 1970s Elizabeth Sladen. The paint apps are crisp and well-applied, continuing the upswing in quality control Character have been showing with these later waves of B&M exclusives.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 10

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 11Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 12Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 13Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 14

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 15Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 16Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 17Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 18

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 19Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 20Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Sarah Jane Smith 21

Each figure in the set feature similar levels of articulation, however it's not completely identical across the three figures. That isn't too surprising given that the Doctor Who range did somewhat alter its articulation over time, so it's not too uncommon to see differing bodies on these re-use multipacks. Altogether Sarah Jane features the following;
- Neck, shoulder, bicep, waist, wrist and boot swivels
- Single hinge elbows and knees
- T-joint hip with forward and outward movement
While far from being more advanced that the other two figures, overall Sarah Jane does feel like the most expressive of the three - likely due to the combination of there not being too much obstruction from the sculpt or stiff joints. Using a body from a 2008 figure though means this figure is still extremely outdated, most evident of all from the inclusion of basic swivel shoulders without any sort of outward motion. Though Character would eventually implement swivel hinge shoulders into the line, it certainly came far too late. The hips feel like they have a fairly wide range of motion (especially for a T-joint) until you realise that the legs can barely move backward at all, and the lack of an ankle joint severely limits any sort of expressive posing you can do. The boot swivel helps, but it's no replacement for a solid rocker joint.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 01

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 02Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 03Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 04Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 05

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 06Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 07Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 08Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 09

The second figure in the set is the first incarnation of the Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, or Romana for short. The character first appeared in 1978 in The Ribos Operation, with her last appearance (in this form) in The Armageddon Factor the following year. Romana I has also starred in a number of Big Finish audio adventures, recorded prior to actress Mary Tamm's death in 2012.

The Romana I figure is notable since the base figure is not from the Doctor Who range, and instead reuses the body of Claudia Brown from Character's Primeval range. It's a little surprising to see bodies from different lines getting used for these new figures, but if it adds more variety to the releases then it certainly isn't anything to complain about. The body has been coloured to match the outfit Romana wore in The Pirate Planet, but while the colours may match this is easily the furthest one from the mark in the set. Onscreen the pink shirt/jacket was longer, buttoned and had the white belt tied around it. Additionally Romana wore a headband in this episode, which is absent here (presumably so that the head sculpt could be used on different variants without the need to change). It's instantly recognisable what Character were going for here, but for those more particular about accuracy this might seem like a bit of a let down. That said, the metallic pink used looks fantastic and really stands out on that sea of white. The head sculpt is a fair likeness to Mary Tamm, but the details aren't quite as defined as they are on the Sarah Jane figure. Certainly not a bad figure by any means, but easily the weakest the set has to offer.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 10

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 11Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 12Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 13Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 14

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 15Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 16Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 17Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 18

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 19Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 20Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana I 21

Romana I features nearly identical articulation to Sarah Jane, however in the place of boot swivels there are thigh swivels instead. Overall they both serve the same purpose so it's hard to call one better than the other, but a boot cut would have been much harder to insert seamlessly here so the thighs were the right call. The main thing to note here though is that because the hips and legs are fully painted, the joints feel much stiffer than they do on Sarah. This is especially noticeable on the hips, with Sarah Jane being able to pull off full splits without any issue whilst you have to force it a bit with Romana. Overall it's the same basic posing that's really killed by the lack of swivel hinge shoulders though - having that outward movement would add so much to the personality of the figure even if the lower half still wasn't much to write home about.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 01

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 02Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 03Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 04Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 05

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 06Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 07Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 08Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 09

Rounding the set off is the second incarnation of Romana, who made her debut in 1979's Destiny of the Daleks and continued to travel with the Fourth Doctor until 1981's Warriors' Gate. This version of Romana is also known for later becoming the President of Gallifrey, a title which she held at some point during the Last Great Time War against the Daleks. Her time as President has been covered in several pieces of expanded media, most notably Big Finish's own Gallifrey spin-off audio series.

The Romana II figure reuses 2009 modern-era Sarah Jane figure from their Sarah Jane Adventures range, acting as a proxy for her appearance in Destiny of the Daleks. This has always been my preferred look for Romana, not just because it comes from the story I was first introduced to the character but also how the style of it matches that of the Fourth Doctor. As far as accuracy goes it's another really solid likeness, matching the onscreen costume in nearly every area. Technically onscreen the scarf sits underneath the coat lapels, but since the scarf is a completely separate piece here that's forgivable. Even all the maroon detailing on the coat is spot on, and it's impressive that Character went the extra mile to do all the detailing on the body when the majority of it is completely covered up by the coat. The new head sculpt is an excellent likeness of Lalla Ward, and even captures her in something a little more than just a default expression. Sarah Jane might be the character most Doctor Who fans want from this set, but Romana II is definitely the surprise winner overall. 

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 10

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 11Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 12Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 13Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 14

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 15Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 16Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 17Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 18

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 19Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 20Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Romana II 21

Romana II has exactly the same articulation as her previous incarnation, with those thigh swivels rather neatly hidden behind the longer coat. Said coat naturally gets in the way of the hip articulation somewhat, but since these figures are already limited by design arguably it doesn't impact on the posing very much. Additionally whilst you might expect Romana's hair to get in the way of the neck swivel, the hair itself is made of really soft plastic so lifts completely out of the way on movement. Romana II functions exactly how Doctor Who collectors would expect these figures too, so I don't have any real complaints other than the continued grumble about a lack of swivel hinge shoulder on the line from the get-go. Romana II is also the only figure in the set you could debatably say has an accessory, in the form of her long white Fourth Doctor-esque scarf. The scarf is wrapped around under the hair and made of a similarly soft plastic, so can be pulled off without removing the head should you so desire.

Given that the U.N.I.T. had accessories it's a little disappointing to see this one completely bare, but with new tooling costs still clearly an issue it's not unexpected. A Time Ring for Sarah and a Key to Time for Romana I would have been nice, but hardly necessary.

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 02

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 03Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 04Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 05

Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 06Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 07Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 08Doctor Who 'Companions of the Fourth Doctor' Set 09

Classic companion figures are something Doctor Who fans have long demanded from the range and while we did get a few back in it's heyday, there was certainly scope for it to do more. A Companions of the Fourth Doctor set is a great idea for a B&M exclusive, reeling in classic series fans with a must-have character and then two versions of another fan favourite (Getting Romana I ahead of so many others is a big surprise). Romana I has her issues but the other two figures are really good for what they are, and for the price this set goes for it isn't surprising that the line doesn't match up to other collector-orientated toy lines. Getting three brand new head sculpts in one set bodes well for the future of the line, even if we will probably see these characters repeated multiple times in different costumes now. Who knows what those madmen at Character Options are going to cook up next.

1 comment:

John said...

The Companions of the Fourth Doctor set comes in a long rectangular box identical to that Character Options introduced with their previous wave of Doctor Who exclusives, featuring a blue and white colour scheme with a TARDIS stencil and the current series logo. Given all the effort that’s gone into the History of the Daleks sets it’s surprising to see the back of these boxes so bare, completely lacking any sort of bio and only featuring images of the figures and explaining which characters are in the set. Open it up and the three figures are laid out on a moulded plastic tray and held down with elastic ties around the waist and legs. Like the Claws of Axos U.N.I.T. set, the plastic tray is surprisingly deep and it does take a bit more effort to pull the figures out. The best way to do it is to lift the legs up and pull, as that way they come free of the packaging easily and shouldn’t suffer any damage and/or paint scuffing. محسن چاوشی