Tuesday 13 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Regenerated Fourth Doctor and TARDIS

Release Date: March 2019
RRP: £20

Despite being the longest-running science fiction franchise in the world, the Doctor Who toy line isn't in the best of states. What was once huge toy shop displays at the height of the 2005 relaunch is now a string of remoulds, repaints and the odd new head sculpt, with Character Options doing everything they can to keep the brand alive in the increasingly difficult market. These efforts led them to partnering with B&M Bargains to provide exclusive releases to their stores across the UK, including multi-figure packs and Doctor/TARDIS sets. Among the releases in early 2019 was the Fourth Doctor Regenerated and TARDIS set, chronicling Tom Baker's debut as the Doctor in the 1974 four part story Robot. This is the third version of a regenerated Fourth Doctor from Character, having previously been released as a single card figure and in the limited edition Fourth Doctor Time Capsule.

The Regenerated Fourth Doctor and TARDIS set introduces a brand new style of packaging for Character Options' Doctor Who range, most significantly using the brand new logo introduced for the 13th Doctor and now used for all series branding. While I'm more of the sort who likes to see the logo be representative of the era the figure inside comes from, this isn't exactly practical for generic figure packaging so updating it to feature the new logo makes sense. It's a relatively simple but well-designed box, featuring a nice big window on the front to show off its contents as well as a stencil-style image of the TARDIS on a white background alongside it. The borders of Gallifreyan script breaking up the solid colours is a nice touch.  One of the spines continues that transparent window, while the other features stock images of both the figure and TARDIS. These images are also repeated again on the back of the box, along with a rather sizeable bio about the mysteries of the TARDIS.

Open it up and you'll discover that you actually have to put a bit of work in to get these two out of the packaging! While the Doctor is simply housed on a moulded tray with some elastic bands to keep him in place, the TARDIS is screwed to the bottom of the box interior.

Given that it's the third version of this figure to be released now, it isn't surprising that Character Options have made some revisions along the way. The B&M exclusive variant uses the revised headsculpt added to the Fourth Doctor Time Capsule release, as well as adding a grey trim to the jacket lapels. The shirt is a bit too bright to match the light blue one the Doctor wore in Planet of the Spiders/Robot, but overall its a well sculpted body and a pretty good match to the onscreen costume. The head sculpt on the other hand is a bit of a mixed bag. The likeness to Tom Baker is definitely there, but the poor paint applications really bring the whole presentation down. The unnecessarily thick eyebrows are more of a nitpick, but the completely different colour sideburns compared to the rest of the hair definitely aren't. It's true that if you watch the episode Tom's sideburns are a bit brighter than the rest of his hair, but without the colour gradient natural hair would have it just looks cheap and nasty. Plus the dour facial expression just doesn't work for a Doctor that should be displaying his usual bout of post-regeneration madness. Using the headsculpt from the previous release makes sense from a cost-cutting perspective, but how about using one of the older sculpts that almost perfectly captured Tom's manic grin? Doing so surely wouldn't have added that much extra cost to production, and would have made all three versions that little bit more unique.

Character's Doctor Who figures aren't the most poseable at the best of times, but that combined with this being a now four year old figure really doesn't do poor Tom any favours. Altogether the figure sports basic swivel joints in its neck, shoulders, biceps, wrists, waist (completely hidden under the jacket and thus not all that useable) and thighs, along with a T-joint hip and hinged elbows and knees. Never have I had so much appreciation for hinge swivel shoulders until I handled a "new" action figure that doesn't have them. That should be the very minimum a figure strives for, and given a fair few Doctor Who figures do have them it makes you wonder why they just weren't standard across the board. It doesn't help matters that because the arms aren't rounded, the bicep swivel is ghastly and completely breaks the sculpt. The most articulation you can get out of this figure is in the hips, and as the T-joint is completely hidden by the jacket it doesn't look unpleasant either. However the lack of ankle joints really limits the legs even with all that freedom in the hips, leaving it to struggle balancing in any pose that isn't flat-footed.

For most the main draw of this set however is going to be the TARDIS, which is a repainted version of the electronic Fourth Doctor TARDIS released all the way back in 2010 (the mould was also used for last year's Third Doctor TARDIS, albeit in a very different colour scheme). Though the electronics have been completely gutted for this budget release their former presence is still strong, as the back of the box still has rather visible speaker holes. The packaging doesn't make it very clear that this TARDIS isn't electronic (in fact it's only printed on the underside of the box), so if you weren't any the wiser opening it up it would be very easy to get confused. Reminders of former glory aside, this is an extremely good looking TARDIS. Alterations from the original include a slight change in the shade of blue, new signage at the top of the box and additional weathering to the signs, windows and lamp. The wood-like finish and weathering of the box is absolutely top notch, and overall it captures the look and feel of the 70s TARDIS perfectly.

It's just as well that it looks good on the outside really, because there's nothing behind those Police Box doors except disappointment. While the new series TARDIS toys Character released featured printed panels of the TARDIS interior on the inside, the classic versions are just a completely bare box of blue and black plastic. Adding further insult to injury is the rather egregious battery box jutting out of the back, which of course is utterly useless since the electronics have been gutted for this release. While I understand that the aim of these B&M exclusives is to keep new tooling to a minimal in order to keep the line afloat, it doesn't feel like much to ask to have something to make these TARDIS' a little more exciting on the inside. Even the inaccurate Dapol TARDIS from the 80s had roundels moulded on the inside to give it a little more flare. But to end on a positive, the spring loaded mechanism the closes the doors properly is extremely satisfying. After closing the left hand door manually, simply press the button on the bottom to make the right door swing shut.

Much like the other B&M releases this set comes with no physical accessories as such, which is a little frustrating when the Doctor figure still has a hand moulded to hold a Sonic Screwdriver. However carefully remove the plastic bubbles (they're just taped on so a craft knife will make quick work of them) and the box's backing tray makes a rather nifty diorama! It's designed to just like the Doctor's office at UNIT, and the shelves and noticeboard feature a number of different references to the Doctor's adventures during the 70s. With the TARDIS slotted into its corner there isn't a whole lot of room for multiple figures and the whole diorama is just made of cheap cardboard, but in a set with no other accessories you have to take what you can get.

With the amount of costumes the Doctor has worn over the years as well as the (sometimes extremely minor) variations the TARDIS has had over the years, Character Options have plenty of scope for future releases that will please all the variant collectors in the Doctor Who fandom. But for those looking for a general, all-purpose classic TARDIS that would look fine alongside any Doctor, the Fourth Doctor Regenerated and TARDIS set is a solid choice. That said, outside of an excellent looking TARDIS exterior this set doesn't have much else to offer. The regenerated Fourth Doctor isn't unique to the set nor is it especially well done, and absence of any sort of a TARDIS interior (not to mention no attempt to remove the gutted electronic areas) feels kinda lazy. Overall the set struggles to justify its £20 asking price, but if you're able to pick one up at discount then is certainly worth exploring.

No comments: