Thursday 15 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set

Release Date: August 2018
RRP: £16.99 

Even though the demand for Doctor Who toys seems to be at its lowest since the series relaunch and physical toy stores/aisles are on the decline, credit has to go to Character Options for doing their best to keep the brand alive. For the past few years they've teamed up with UK chain B&M Bargains to produce sets exclusive to their stores, mostly made up of repaints and retools from pre-existing moulds. One such set is the Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set, which looks back on the eras of the Third and Fourth Doctors. Included are the Fourth Doctor in his costume from The Talons of Weng Chiang, the Brigadier and a standard Auton as they appeared in Terror of the Autons.

Given the circumstances behind Doctor Who releases at the moment one wouldn't expect lavish packaging to be a priority for Character Options, but to their credit they've nicely managed to strike a balance between being both eye-catching and cost-effective. The overall design of the box evokes a red and blue cosmic backdrop akin to that used in the modern iteration of the show, while the use of 90s Doctor Who logo gives it a nice classic touch. The front features a nice big window to show off the included figures, as well as text boxes to highlight both the set name and that these are part of the 5.5" line. Each spine has stock images of two of the three figures inside (the Doctor is on both sides), while the back has larger versions of all three. It's a pity all that blank space wasn't used for something like character bios (or even one for the era as a whole), but overall the box serves its purpose and looks good while doing it. Inside the three figures are stored on a moulded plastic tray and held into place with elastic ties.

The centrepiece of this set is yet another Fourth Doctor figure, this time decked out in his detective-like outfit from the 1977 classic The Talons of Weng Chiang. Given that in this story the Doctor wore something quite different to his usual attire and the fact no figure has previously been released in this outfit, one could easily be led to believe that this is all new mould. But in reality the body is actually an extensive repaint of the cloaked Third Doctor figure released as part of the Eleven Doctors figure set and Sea Devil two-pack. Now credit where it's due, from a distance this figure really does look the part and Character have done a pretty impressive job taking a costume that instantly recognisable as the Third Doctor's and turning it into someone else's. But of course upon closer inspection any notion of screen accuracy doesn't hold up. The frilled cuffs and moulded fastenings on the cloak are a bit of a give away that this body was once used for something else, and the paintwork lacks some of the finer details on both the jacket and waistcoat. The most glaring omission of all though is the lack of a head sculpt with deerstalker hat, which should be essential for any figure claiming to be based on the costume from The Talons of Weng Chiang. That said, the head sculpt we do get is one of the better looking ones we've been getting from these B&M packs - the paint apps are nice and sharp instead of the usual blotchiness, while allows that great Tom Baker likeness to shine through.

The Fourth Doctor has the most articulation of this set, boasting a head, shoulder, waist, bicep and thigh swivels together with a T-joint crotch/hips section and pegged hinge joints for the elbows and knees. Although the bicep swivels have the usual problem of looking rather unsightly when not positioned correctly because of their shape, both they and the thigh swivels do add a fair bit to what (despite their best efforts) is still pretty limited posing options. The thighs also allow you to manipulate the legs a little more in the place of a proper ankle tilt, which these figures could really do for both balance and just more natural looking poses. All in all it isn’t great, but it’s what’s come to be expected of these figures by now.

Next up is Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, who was released three times previously in sets based on The Three Doctors, The Claws of Axos and The Daemons. However while all of those figures depicted the Brig in the green uniform he wore in those respective episodes, this is a new version replicating the beige outfit he wore in the Third Doctor's debut season. This being a budget set however the body isn't brand new tooling, and instead a repaint of the 2007 Captain Jack Harkness figure. This is course means that like the Fourth Doctor figure it isn't completely accurate to the source material (and on close inspection it's hard to miss details like the RAF logos being painted over), but it still does a great job in the sense that you look at it and immediately know what it's supposed to represent. However the paint apps do leave a bit to be desired – especially the criminal omission of the Unit logo on the cap (present on all other releases) in favour of a rather sloppy silver circle. The head sculpt, despite being a great likeness of Nicholas Courtney, suffers from similar problems too with thick eyebrows and simplified eyes. But despite its flaws, this is hands down the winner of the set. It's the Brigadier after all, how could it not be? Even with different body and lower quality paint apps that the sculpt just screams the Brig, and this is cheapest and most accessible version of the character yet.

The Brigadier has a mere 12 points of articulation which include a swivel joints for the head, shoulders, waist and wrists along with pegged hinge joints for the elbows and knees and a standard T-joint for the hips which a wider range of motion to the legs. There's no sort of ankle joint whatsoever, and the mould doesn't even have the (admittedly ugly) bicep swivel introduced on later releases. It isn't much of a step down for Doctor Who figures, but compared to similarly scaled toy lines the range is woefully behind the times. The lack of accessories spoils this figure most of all too, since the moulded trigger hand means the Brigadier looks lost without a gun in his hands. Not to mention how on Earth he's supposed to show those alien invaders what for without it?

The final figure in the set is the Auton, which is a straight repaint of the one previously included in the "Enemies of the Third Doctor" set along with Omega and a Drashig. The version has been redone to match their second, appearance in Terror of the Autons, and though the limits of a reused sculpt stop it from being completely accurate it still pulls off the likeness well enough. The belt buckle and buttons have all been left unpainted here, so the colours on the boiler suit don't pop quite as much as they did before. However the flesh-coloured sections have been moulded in the correct colour rather than painted, which gives the figure an eerie wax-like gloss finish that's a perfect fit for an Auton. But perhaps the strangest thing of all about this figure is that it also uses the old Captain Jack body, which means two figures in this set are using identical parts. Despite how shamelessly cost-cutting it is the results are still surprisingly effective, and it just goes to show how much totally different paint jobs can deceive you into thinking two figures aren't sharing the same body.

As it shares the same body the Auton has exactly the same level of articulation of the Brigadier, though you could argue that the rather rigid range of motion works a lot better for a mindless plastic dummy. That waist swivel works especially well in getting a nice range of firing poses out of the figure even with the limited movement these figures tend to have. It's a shame no accessories means the Auton is limited to his exposed gun hand only, but that being said it's the far more preferably hand to get with this release and the paintwork on it is top notch.

Although the limitations of sets like this mean you're never going to get completely new figures, the Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set is an example of exactly they should be handled. The Talons Doctor may completely miss the mark on accuracy but it still looks good for what it is, and along with that you're getting one of the most beloved companion characters in the entire franchise as well as a classic monster. The fact the latter two were only previously made available years ago as part of expensive sets makes it all the sweeter. Sets like these might be the norm for classic Who toys at the moment, but if future releases can be as strong as this then there might be hope for the line yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Favorite Doctor ? Mine is David Tennant. Alonz-y Alonzo !!!