Sunday 20 December 2015

Toybox REVIEW: LEGO Ideas Doctor Who Set

Ever since the LEGO brand started snapping up licensed properties left right and centre getting an official Doctor Who LEGO set has felt like a bit of a pipe dream. Things seemed less and less likely when Character Options started producing their own LEGO-esque sets and figures in the form of Character Building, but that didn't stop fans from hoping and various suggestions on the LEGO Ideas website from getting considerable buzz. Those prayers were finally answered in 2015, when a Doctor Who set was officially unveiled alongside the franchise joining DC Comics, Jurassic World, Portal, The Simpsons and more in the LEGO Dimensions video game. The Doctor has finally arrived in LEGO form, and while it may not be as a fully fledged range just yet this could easily be the start of something great.

The set comes in a nice sturdy cardboard-flapped box that can be opened and closed easily without destroying it in the process. As well as the obvious LEGO, BBC and Doctor Who logos (along wth a nice little TARDIS illustration), the packaging also features the set's overall serial number and a little indicator to say it's the 11th set in the LEGO Ideas range.

Inside you'll find the parts spread across six different clear plastic bags of various sizes. The parts aren't arranged in any specific way I can determine, so when you get to building you'll just have to open them all at once. Nothing especially wrong with this, but it was a little frustrating when I first opened the set - I was only looking to get all the mini-figures out to begin with, however their parts were spread across most of the bags so I ended up opening them all anyway!

The instruction booklet provided is a 127-page monstrosity - printed on high grade paper and providing instructions on how to construct the three different 'sections' of the set (the TARDIS interior, the Daleks and finally the TARDIS exterior). In addition to that, it also features a short bio of the Doctor Who series, character profiles, interviews with the designers and of course adverts for the Doctor Who element of the LEGO Dimensions video game. Some pages even have little Doctor Who facts printed in the bottom right corner, along with a small image of one aspect of the set.

First up out of the mini-figures is of course the Twelfth Doctor himself, as portrayed in the series by Peter Capaldi. Of course because this version of the Doctor is also available in the LEGO Dimensions Doctor Who level pack, LEGO craftily made this mini-figure a "regeneration" version of the character - wearing the purple suit the Eleventh Doctor wore in The Time of the Doctor which then ran into 12's first episode Deep Breath. So of course this means if you want a 12 mini-figure in his proper attire, then you'll have to shell out the £30 for the Dimensions set whether you have the game or not. LEGO marketing at both its cruelest and finest.

Regardless of this, the figure itself is fantastic and really captures Peter Capaldi's likeness in LEGO form. Unlike the other mini-figures included in this set 12 does not have an alternate facial expression painted on the opposite side of the head, which is a bit of a shame since a smiling expression would have looked great (an even angrier one would have gone down just as well). Also included is his Sonic Screwdriver, based on 11's version he continued to use after regenerating rather than the brand new one that appeared at the end of Hell Bent. LEGO really deserve praise for the Screwdriver, because its pretty much perfect. Just look at the version that comes with the Character Building mini-figure in comparison - LEGO's isn't only the right shape, it's the right colours and even has the white band around the bottom and green bulb at the top. When the Character Building figures were initially coming out I was happy enough with them, but having a LEGO version next to them just shows how cheap the figures look by comparison.

Of course this set wasn't going to get away with just including one Doctor, and as such Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor also makes an appearance here! 11's inclusion is likely to disappoint all those fans out there who were hoping for the Tenth Doctor, but 11 makes the most sense given that the set is based on his second TARDIS interior (which has since been modified for 12). However although that would suggest a post-The Snowmen Eleventh Doctor, this mini-figure is dressed in his original (most iconic) twee jacket/bowtie combo from seasons five and six of the show. Of course if you'd rather a season seven Eleventh Doctor, you can just slap the head on the regeneration 12 mini-figure as well. Everybody wins!

The Eleventh Doctor mini-figure has two faces printed on the head - one side features a wide mouthed smile while the other a more determined grin. He also comes with two accessories in the form of his Sonic Screwdriver (meaning there are two in total included in the set) and his fez - which he sadly can't wear but is able to comfortably hold in his hands.

With Doctors 11 and 12 being the ones chosen for this set, that means there was only one realistically choice for the companion to go with them - Clara Oswald. Dressed in a white blouse, black cardigan, tartan skirt, tights and black boots, this is the outfit Clara wore in The Time of the Doctor and pretty much confirms that the overall set is heavily inspired by that story. I'm not entirely sure that the hairpiece is the perfect one that captures Clara, but at the very least the mini-figure looks like her and that's the important thing. No accessories to speak of here, but the figure does at the very least have two faces printed on the face - a basic smiling one and a more puzzled/inquisitive expression.

And now onto the monsters! I'm sure there were many fans out there hoping for a Cyberman or two included with this set, but sadly the Cyberman mini-figure is instead coming with the LEGO Dimensions figure pack due out in January - and LEGO sure as hell weren't going to include it here when they can rinse an extra £15 out of fans at a later date. So in it's place is the other most logical monster choice for the modern era Doctor Who set - a Weeping Angel. Featuring both serene and screaming faces printed on the head, the Weeping Angel is coloured completely grey with black dress markings printed on the torso and dress sections (the latter of which is a wedge shape block). Sitting just under the head is a clear adapter piece for the back, allowing you to building a connection piece for the wings to clip in. The wings are spread more grandly than the in-show version of the Weeping Angels, but it certainly helps to look them more imposing even in a cute LEGO form.

Finally to round things off we have two modern series bronze Daleks - because a Doctor Who LEGO set without Daleks isn't just a ridiculous notion, it would be sacrilege. The difference here of course is that these aren't technically mini-figures - they are actual LEGO constructions made up of various shaped pieces. Unlike the Character Building Daleks which were essentially accurate models scaled down and broken into three separate pieces (plus appendages), these Daleks are a bit more imaginative - not 100% accurate but quite clearly Daleks by design. Initially this made me a bit apprehensive towards them but I have to admit that in-hand they look a lot better than I expected. The building process behind them is cleverly done - particularly using clipped-on pieces to achieve a vertical row of spheres at the back and an angled skirt section at the front. The head section can rotate a full 360° and it, along with the midsection, are easily removable - which means battle damaged Daleks are quite easily achievable without having to completely dissect the figure. It's a shame that LEGO couldn't have thrown in a few more of the head discs in different colours - while the body might be doable with all black pieces it wouldn't be the same without all the markings on the dome.

It's also important to note that this Dalek build is considerably different (and far better) than the one that appears in the LEGO Dimensions game or the figure that will be included in the pack with the Cyberman. This is likely because the Dimensions version has to have various other formations built into it to unlock power-ups within the game itself.

Though technically the instruction manual is arranged in a way where the TARDIS interior is built before the exterior, we begin this review by looking at the police box itself as it makes more thematic sense. Though definitely not built to scale with the mini-figures in mind, the TARDIS looks utterly fantastic in its dark blue livery with various printed police signs - that's right, thankfully there's no stickers in sight here! The flat panel construction is achieved through towers of 'window' pieces, which then have the various flat tiles clip into them. There isn't much else to say other than how utterly fantastic it looks - it's exactly how a LEGO TARDIS should look and there's very little done that could be done to improve it without significantly upping the part count.

However the TARDIS exterior also has a bonus feature, which can be accessed by removing the roof and flipping the two hinged "Police Box" banners upwards. This makes the hinges built into the model accessible, with the TARDIS opening outwards to reveal the entrance interior (complete with reverse-text printed door). Should you be so inclined to do so, this interior section is also big enough to fit one of the mini-figures inside and then close up again. Admittedly it isn't that impressive to look at on it's own, but its a great feature to give a design that could have easily been a solid rectangle. However it's true potential comes into play when combined with the TARDIS interior/console room element of the set, which will be looked at next.

The bulk of the pieces of course make up the TARDIS interior/console room, which is again loosely based on the version that has been seen on the show since The Snowman (although its worth noting that original designer Andrew Clark's version was more generic, and still had many of the elements seen here). Big enough to house multiple mini-figures and with a variety of translucent parts and moving features, the only thing this is really missing is some walls with good old fashioned roundels - though truthfully that's just nostalgia talking rather than necessity. On one side of the model is an exposed axel, which allows the interior to connect with the opened Police Box to create a full walkway with entrance. Sadly there's no proper place to put the removed TARDIS roof, but it's a wonderful little piece of connectivity which really completes the look.

While unfortunately the central console tower doesn't light up or move (it's fair to assume such a feature would have bumped up the already rather high price significantly) that isn't to say it still isn't pretty impressive. Lit up naturally with its construction of mostly translucent blue parts, it really stands out among the various shades of grey that make up the rest of the TARDIS interior. The console itself is also really well done - obviously simplified from the the actual set but still retaining plenty of its more obvious quirks in LEGO styling.  While unfortunately the notches around the bar above the console prevent the viewing screen from being slid around like on the show, it can be adjusted upwards and downwards as well as clipped on wherever you'd like.

Although it lacks any walls the console platform still has a safety bar running all the way around its exterior, with gaps only for the entrance walkway and the steps pointing downward. However in the series we see stairs going upwards to a second level these days more than we do ones that go down, so the ladder piece the steps are attached to can swing upwards to give that effect as well - although the steps would need a little bit of alteration to look right.

Fans have been waiting for a licensed Doctor Who LEGO set for years and now that the wait is over, I am happy to say that this one delivers. Admittedly £50 is a pretty large price tag to swallow for its size and piece count, but unfortunately that is just the way of the brand and things could have been much worse - if Doctor Who were a fully fledged range rather than a potentially one-off Ideas set I'd expect a huge TARDIS console room with a far heftier price than this.  For £50 you're getting four standard mini-figures,  two buildable figures and two connecting sets - that's a pretty good deal all things considered if you ask me. Others will likely be disappointed that their favourite Doctor wasn't the one to make the cut, but it was always going to be a case of the most recent version so getting two also seems like a bonus. The sets are look great, are fun to build and the whole presentation of the product is fantastic - from the packaging to the beautifully printed instruction booklet. This really feels like a collectors item, and if LEGO were to only ever release one Doctor Who set this should certainly be it.

Hitting just in time for Christmas, this is quite simply a must have.

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