Saturday 7 December 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Dalek Invasion Time Zone Playset

Dalek Invasion Time Zone Playset

If there's one good thing the switch over to the 3.75" scale has brought to Doctor Who toys, it's that it allows for much greater variety . Before play sets were pretty much limited to TARDIS consoles but now Character Options have opened things up a bit with the introduction of "Time Zone" sets. These consist of cardboard dioramas on a connectable plastic base, with an exclusive figure usually thrown into the mix as an added incentive. So far there have been four sets released - a Cold War one with an unarmoured Ice Warrior, a Hide set featuring a Crooked Man, an Angels Take Manhattan set with Cherub Angels (funny how this scale doesn't have Rory, Amy or River though) and another that doesn't really fit with the others. Why? Because it's not really based on an existing story nor does it actually come with a figure. This is of course the Dalek Invasion set, which creates a new modern Dalek invasion setting and comes packaged with a vehicle which long time Dalek fans might be particularly interested in...

A look at the playset's box

A look at the playset's boxWhat you'll find inside the box

While it doesn't really give an indication of how big the diorama is when assembled, the Dalek Invasion set comes in a reasonably big box with the standard blue Doctor Who decor. Both sides feature images of the assembled set, while the back also features pictures of the other Time Zone sets and the following bio.

"2075AD and the Daleks have invaded Earth once more. Using their might Saucer ships they bombard London driving the surviving population underground. Once they land, the Daleks patrol the ground looking for survivors in the rubble to either exterminate or transform into their puppets using Dalek nanocloud technology. In the skies the Daleks use long range 'Hoverbout' Anti-gravity disks to pursue the resistance.

The TARDIS materialises near a Trans-Sys matter transmission station in Hyde Park and the Doctor realises that he will need all his resources to once again defeat his oldest enemies and save the Earth from destruction. The future of the human race hangs in the balance..."

Inside you'll find the contents neatly packaged in a number of plastic bags.

The Dalek Invasion Time Zone playset

A Dalek patrols the saucer rampA Cyberman terrorises London

The good news for any disgruntled model builders is that the set not only includes an easy to follow instruction pamphlet, but also doesn't require any glue to get pieces to hold into place. Everything has foldable tabs which even manage to maintain the shape of the 3D items. The only bits of plastic involved are the base, the two towers which hold the backdrop in place and four pins that hold the two parts of the backdrop together. Everything else is 100% cardboard.

And personally I'd have been happy to pay for a little bit more plastic here. It isn't that the kit is difficult to put together by any means (although the "Saucer Over London" board gave me way more trouble than I'd like to admit), but I have my doubts that this set would last very long in child's hands - especially if for any reason it needed to be disassembled and reassembled at a later date.The tabs are sturdy enough to hold everything in place but this still involves folding the cardboard, and struggling with the aforementioned board showed me just how rippable it is. Cost was obviously the biggest issue here (and I guess lower cost = more sets), but I definitely think this could be a bit sturdier.

Dalek attack!

"Saucer over London"Daleks vs Cybermen

Anyway, enough wishful thinking and let's focus on what we do have here.  The backdrop is a great image of Dalek saucers over Westminster, with one landed and jutting out a 3D ramp which figures can be placed on (or in a Dalek's case, also rolled down). Beside it is a TARDIS cut out which I imagine could be switched for the plastic version should you own it, and next to that is the made-up "Trans-sys" system. This is actually a rather cheeky little in-joke when you think about it - that Trans-sys logo also happens to be the Character Options company logo. The one 3D prop is a cardboard newspaper bulletin board proclaiming the invasion. Although I'm sure by the time that paper came out everyone was more than aware there was a saucer over London... 

The Dalek takes to the skies

But enough about those boring pieces of cardboard, let's talk about the REAL draw for this set - the Dalek hoverbout vehicle. While this might seem like a redundant piece of technology to fans introduced to the show through the new series, this nifty little vehicle actually has a long history with the Daleks outside of the show. Back in the days when they COULDN'T fly, the Daleks dominated the skies with these hoverbout vehicles - which were also (and perhaps more popularly) known as "Transolar Discs". The vehicles have gone on to appear in several other pieces on non-canon Who, including an onscreen appearance in the "...More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS" documentary. So yeah, seeing this reimagined for the new series style Daleks is kind of a big deal.

The hoverbout comes with the rail section unassembled and in three pieces which lock neatly into the holes - the central control section and the rails on either side. The base features a Dalek shaped groove for a 3.75" figure to fit in - it's a reasonably snug fit, but the Dalek doesn't lock in so it is possible for it to suddenly roll backward if you aren't careful. It doesn't have any articulation on it but the colouring and detail is absolutely superb - lots of varying bronzes, blue anti-gravity "lights" at the bottom and to top it all off the Dalek's plunger fits perfectly over the control panel. My only real gripe is that I wish it came with some sort of stand, because that detailed bottom needs to be shown off and precariously balancing it on a Bandai Tamashii stage isn't really working for me.

The hoverbout control panelA look at the hoverbout's underside

Recommending the Dalek Invasion Time Zone playset is one of those things that  relies on a number of factors. If you're a collector with a huge fondness for the TV21 comics like myself, then this is an absolute must have for the hoverbout, no doubt about it. If this static vehicle is of no interest to you, then the set is a bit of a harder sell. The diorama is nice, but only really for collectors with space on their side (which I'm sure is a rarity). I'd also assume most collectors would be prepared to fork out for something stronger, but kids will love it even if they wear it to be pieces.

Honestly, the best way to have made this a definite win would have been to just include a Dalek figure. I have no idea why that wasn't done in the first place.

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