Sunday 8 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime Set

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

Although after the 1996 TV movie the Eighth Doctor wouldn't be seen again until 2013's The Night of the Doctor mini-episode, that doesn't mean that he was completely forgotten during Doctor Who's wilderness years. While he was initially expanded upon through novels and comics, arguably it wouldn't be until Big Finish came along that that he was truly defined. From his main range adventures to boxsets like Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition and Ravenous, Big Finish have made a huge contribution to developing a Doctor that has only ever had two onscreen appearances. So much so, that the direct namedropping of his companions in The Night of the Doctor has even made them canon for the most part. So when Character Options announced that they would be producing three Doctor/Dalek two-pack figure sets as part of their 2019 B&M Stores exclusive range, of course the Eighth Doctor would be included. Say hello to the Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime set, based on the story In the Garden of Death from the second Eighth Doctor Time War set.

An extremely limited edition variant version of this set was also made available from, with only 150 in existence.

Like the other two Big Finish themed two-packs the Eighth Doctor and Dalek Interrogator Prime come in some rather fancy packaging, adding some individual flare to the template B&M exclusive box design with some images lifted straight from the audio materials. Interestingly while the back of the box features the actual cover of the audio story this set is based on, the spine uses images from the   Time War 2 set it's lifted from. The back also features a nice big description of In the Garden of Death, which hopefully will entice buyers to seek the story out if they haven't heard it already. Along with large transparent window to view the figures inside, the front of the box also features an image of McGann's Eighth Doctor as "seen" in the audios, as well as the set name and what it's based upon. Inside both figures are houses on a moulded plastic tray, against a nicely printed backing card of Dalek saucers on the attack.

At least among the three Big Finish packs and even perhaps the whole of Character's 2019 assortment, this version of the Eighth Doctor is one of most significant figures. If you want to get technical this isn't actually the costume the Eighth Doctor wears in In the Garden of Death, nor is it the costume he wears in any of The Time War series. It is however something far, far better - the  updated costume that debuted in 2010 and was then subsequently used for the Dark Eyes range of audio adventures. Gone is the Victorian outfit he once stole from a San Francisco costume, replaced with a white shirt, blue trousers and a blue naval jacket. A significant part of the ensemble is also a pouch courier bag, however due to these sets not including any accessories this has been sadly omitted. But other than that it's an amazingly good likeness to the Dark Eyes costume, which makes the revelation that it's actually just a repainted Ninth Doctor body with the Night of the Doctor McGann head sculpt all the more astounding. If you don't have a Ninth Doctor figure to hand the big giveaway is the low V-neck on the white shirt, which is inaccurate to the actual costume. It's certainly a close enough likeness to get away with it though, and by far the cleverest repaint Character Options have ever come up with.

The Big Finish-exclusive variant of this figure has black shoes instead of brown ones, which is a fairly insignificant difference when you consider that this costume is very rarely seen from the waist down.

Even when you take the inaccuracies into account what makes this figure work so well is just how different it looks to the other Eighth Doctors that have been released. While all Doctors have had their fair share of wardrobe changes, for the most part they all tend to stay within a similar theme. The Eighth Doctor's three main looks (1996 TV movie, Big Finish audios and The Night of the Doctor special) all look completely distinct to each other and illustrate his change from carefree time traveller into an unwilling solider in the Time War. While the Night of the Doctor version is arguably the definitive Eighth Doctor figure due to the sheer level of quality it has, for many Big Finish IS the Eighth Doctor so for there to finally be an official figure is a huge deal.

But as suitable the Ninth Doctor figure may be, articulation is one thing it suffers from more than any other Doctor incarnation in the line and that's down to one thing - it's age. Character Options' first began their range of Doctor Who toys not long after the series returned to television screens, and while the Ninth Doctor mould has gone some through much needed revisions over the years it's still among the oldest moulds in the line and thus lacks the thigh and foot swivels introduced with later figures. However it does still have a head, bicep, waist and wrist swivel along with T-joint hip configuration and peg hinge elbows and knees. The soft plastic jacket is surprisingly flexible so the obscured waist and hip joints aren't as restricted as you might think. The lack of thigh swivels does make a big difference though, and makes you wonder why such an obvious change still hasn't been implemented to the mould.

With this Eighth Doctor being the one that appeared in Dark Eyes, in an ideal world the Dalek he would be paired with in this set would be the Dalek Time Controller. No single Dalek has ever impacted on the Doctor the way the Time Controller did in both Lucie Miller/To the Death and the whole Dark Eyes series, and in many way it's an enemy that manages to somewhat break away from the Daleks at large as an enemy much like Davros does. However the B&M sets are still being pushed as low cost sets with extremely minimal new tooling, so a Dalek that would need such extensive casing changes just wasn't going to happen. What we do get instead though is the Dalek Interrogator Prime - a special class blue and silver Dalek that appears in In the Garden of Death. This colour scheme also matches that of the Eternity Circle Daleks that are referenced in the George Mann novel Engines of War. The dark blue colouring looks absolutely incredible on the new series Dalek mould, and the proper use of silver as a secondary colour throughout the body feels more reminiscent of the classic Daleks of old. It's definitely among Character Options' very best, and that's even before you take that superb weathering into account. Though it's been applied to the whole body, it's only really visible on the silver sections - taking them from simply looking like painted plastic and making them look almost like actual metal.

The Big Finish-exclusive variant edition of this set also has a second difference on the Dalek. Rather than the usual blue lens in the eyestalk, that version has a white one. 

Like the rest of Character Options’ new series Daleks the Dalek Interrogator Prime has a fully rotating dome, complete with eyestalk that can raise a full 90 degrees. The manipulator arm and gun are both connected to a ball joint so can move the full range of motion the exposed ball has, and both appendages can also be unplugged from the joints should you choose to do so. Under the base are three free-rolling wheels – two at the back and then a pivoted one at the front allowing the toy to turn when rolled across flat surfaces. With new series Daleks there’s always the want for the midsection to fully rotate as they do in the show, but unfortunately the way these toys are constructed just doesn’t allow for it. Other than that, it’s everything you’d want and expect a Dalek toy to do.

You could write essays upon essays about how Doctor Who toys being primarily limited to a single store and featuring as little tooling as possible is not a good look for such a big brand, but the Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime set is enough to forget about that even if it's just for a little while. Yes the Eighth Doctor figure is a retool, and yes it's a particularly old one at that. But this is unmistakably the Dark Eyes version of the Eighth Doctor, a version that has become synonymous with Big Finish who in turn have defined this incarnation of the Doctor for so many fans. The Dalek Interrogator Prime might not be the most obvious candidate for a figure, but has turned out as one of the most striking and well-produced Dalek figures Character Options have ever done. As a huge Eighth Doctor and Big Finish fan in general I haven't felt this overjoyed about a Doctor Who release in years, and I don't feel I'm alone in saying that. Who knew repaints could be this good?

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