Saturday 7 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Seventh Doctor & Axis Strike Squad Dalek Set

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

The 2019 assortment of B&M store exclusive Doctor Who action figures was teased to be the most exciting yet, and all Character Options needed to do to confirm that as being true was utter two simple words - Big Finish. For the last 20 years Big Finish have been the company behind Doctor Who audio adventures, expanding the mythos for all of the classic Doctors as well as producing a number of spin-off series and pressing forward with more unexplored concepts from the relaunched series such as the Time War. As part of their offerings for this year Character have announced three sets based on popular Big Finish adventures, pairing an incarnation of the Doctor up with his deadliest enemy - the Daleks. This also marks the first time that the Dalek figure mould has appeared among the B&M exclusive assortments. The first of these sets we'll be looking at is the Seventh Doctor & Axis Strike Squad Dalek set, based on Gallifrey VI - the sixth entry in the Gallifrey spin-off series.

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

As if Character hadn't already succeeded in hyping these sets up as pretty special releases they also come in some rather fetching packaging. The front of the box features a nice big window you can get a good look at figures inside (perfect for spotting any potential paint defects before you buy), with the new 2018 Doctor Who logo next it and an image of the Seventh Doctor from his era's opening titles. Along the bottom are the names of the figures included, as well as a small red box identifying that the pair come from the story Gallifrey VI. Stuck to the window is also a gold "limited edition" sticker, which on the exclusive variants is replaced with a standard red Big Finish logo. The left hand spine features a full-sized image of the Gallifrey VI artwork, while the right hand one simply has stock images of the figures themselves. On the back there's a full shot of the Gallifrey VI CD cover complete with some background on the Gallifrey series of audios. Inside both figures are houses on a moulded plastic tray, against a nicely printed backing card of Dalek saucers on the attack.

This Seventh Doctor figure is a rather special one for fans because it isn't just a costume that he wears in the Big Finish audio adventures, it's also the one he wears in the 1996 TV movie! As the Doctor approached the end of his seventh life his wardrobe somewhat more dignified, swapping his trademark question mark sweater for a plain red one. He did however retain his penchant for fancy trousers, as evidenced by the rather fetching brown and blue patterned pair he has on. Although previous B&M exclusive releases have been a little skimpy with the paint apps Character Options have done a commendable job here, especially on the more intricate areas of the costume like the tie and trousers. The face sculpt is a great likeness to Sylvester McCoy, and the addition of grey highlights to the hair are a great way to convey this as an ageing Seventh Doctor even if it isn't accurate to how he appeared in the film itself. Similarly there are a fair few inaccuracies on the suit when you compare it to the on-screen version - the coat shouldn't have a chain or handkerchief and the red garment should be a waistcoat rather than a jumper. However even with these in mind it's a thoroughly good looking figure that feels completely unique to previous versions.

(The limited edition variant version featured darker trousers than the mass release version seen in this review, which is slightly more accurate to the on-screen costume.)

Looks can be deceiving though, and on closer inspection it’s clear these inaccuracies are because the figure is in fact a repaint of the main series Seventh Doctor figure. Although the head sculpt is of course the hatless version, the body remained the same between both the cream and brown jacket variants. Putting the figures side by side makes it immediately obvious that this is just a repaint, but Character Options have really done wonders here to make it look like a completely different figure.

The downside is that this is a particularly old mould now, dating all the way back to 2010. Therefore the articulation isn’t great, and much like most of the other figures that have been redone in the B&M assortments doesn’t quite match up to the range most action figures have today. Altogether he has swivel joints in the head, shoulder, waist, biceps, hands and thighs, along with a T-joint hip section and pegged hinge joints for the elbows and knees. Thigh and bicep swivels are nice (even if the arms become horribly misshapen when using the latter), but the lack of sideward motion on the shoulders really kills just how poseable these figures can be.

The second half of this set is the Axis Strike Squad Dalek, which led the Dalek forces controlling the Axis in the audio. This Dalek can be recognised by its black dome and hemispheres, as well as the gold band around the mid-section which was only seen on the earlier models of the new series Daleks. For those who miss the lack of alternate colours on the new Daleks this variant is brilliant return to form, and the addition of black among the swathe of gold and bronze makes a huge difference to how striking the timeless design is. For these Big Finish sets Character Options have also given the Daleks a weathered paint job with a simple wash of black paint, giving them a more battle hardened look. Though it might not be entirely accurate to the cleanly polished model that graces the audio’s cover, the weathering brings out far more detail in the mould and gives it the air of a more premium product. But as great as the Dalek looks, its pairing with the Seventh Doctor is another sad reminder that Character Options are still keeping the costs down. The Doctor only appears in Gallifrey VI in an uncredited cameo, and with all the Big Finish Dalek stories featuring the Seventh Doctor there’s been over the years a variant using the classic mould would have been a far more suitable choice. A special weapons Dalek in standard grey livery as heard in The Genocide Machine is just one choice they could have gone for, and would have been especially fitting as that marked the Daleks’ first appearance in Big Finish. But the truth is this set uses the new series mould because the other two do as well, and with this variant actually appearing on a cover it would have been an obvious candidate right off the bat.

Like the rest of Character Options’ new series Daleks the Axis Strike Squad Dalek 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.

Previously the B&M exclusive sets have been a great way to get new Doctor Who figures, but the fact they’ve all been repaints or very slight remoulds doesn’t make one of the largest science fiction franchises in the world look very viable when it comes to merchandise. However this 2019 assortment has proven to be a huge step in the right direction, and the announcement of Big Finish inspired sets is a dream many fans felt may never come true. The Seventh Doctor and Axis Strike Squad Dalek set is a little bit of an odd one since the link between them is tenuous, but a strong pair of figures nonetheless. A classic Dalek would have been a far better pairing to the long overdue movie costume Seventh, but the sharp colours and weathering make this Dalek a fantastic addition to any collection. Sets like these are exactly the boost the Doctor Who figure range needed.

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