Monday 9 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist Set

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

The War Doctor is perhaps one of the boldest concepts to have come out of Doctor Who since its 2005 relaunch, second only behind that of the Time War itself. An incarnation of the Doctor kept completely secret to viewers, willing to do the things that his previous incarnations weren’t and an instrumental part in the Time Lords’ war against the Daleks. Though he only properly appeared on screen in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, prior to actor John Hurt’s death in 2017 Big Finish brought the character back for four special audio adventure sets that expanded on his exploits in the Time War. As another of their extremely significant contributions to Doctor Who lore, it’s only fitting that the War Doctor joins the Seventh and Eighth Doctors in Character Options B&M exclusive figure sets. The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist set is based upon the story A Thing of Guile, the second story of the War Doctor’s second Time War set.

Like the other Big Finish-themed sets the War Doctor and Dalek Scientist come in some truly collectors' grade packaging that combines the basic 2019 Doctor Who toy box design with art materials straight from the actual audio story. The front of the box features a nice big window to check out the figures inside, alongside the new Doctor Who logo and text proclaiming what exactly is in the set and the Big Finish story they hail from. Also on the left is an image of John Hurt's War Doctor, done in the style of the opening credits for the other classic Doctors. The left spine features full-sized artwork from the A Thing of Guile CD cover, which is then repeated on the back of the box alongside a blurb of the audio story and the Time War sets as a whole. The second spine simply features stock images of the two figures. Inside both figures are houses on a moulded plastic tray, against a nicely printed backing card of Dalek saucers on the attack.

The standard version of this set sports a gold "limited edition" sticker on the front, which is replaced with a red Big Finish sticker on the variant one.

With the War Doctor only making one main television appearance and only a handful of audio sets, there aren’t many variants to choose from like there with the other incarnations of the Doctor. As such the figure is extremely similar to the individual release from 2014 (curiously named “the Other Doctor”), minus all of the accessories and lacking the scarf piece around the neck. Naturally this makes it considerably less interesting for veteran collectors of Character’s Doctor Who range, but as one of the best figures in the line it’s great to see it back on the market for those who missed out the first time around. The overall paint job is slightly more simplistic compared to the original release, but the difference between them is minimal at best.

A side by side comparison with the original figure reveals that the main differences other than the lack of scarf are the "rougher" detailing on the leather jacket and the boot covers, which have been repainted olive as opposed to the original's grey. The headsculpt also uses a far brighter white, which despite not looking quite as neat is actually slightly more screen accurate. More impressively there doesn't seem to have been any real decline in paint apps in the rest of the face either, which is surprising since that seems to be a common trend with the B&M re-releases. All in all a pretty close likeness to the original figure, so as I say not especially exciting for people who already own that but a great opportunity for newcomers.

The great joy of having the War Doctor figure in one of these sets though is that finally a figure gets to have some of that updated articulation the later figures got to enjoy. Like the rest of the line the War Doctor has swivel joints for his neck, biceps, waist, wrists and boots, a T-joint crotch and peg-hinge elbows and knees, but the significant upgrade here is the addition of ball swivel shoulder joints. Finally a figure whose arms can move outwards as well as forwards/backwards! This one extra dimension significantly adds to the overall poseability of the toy, making it far more worthy of being described as an “action figure”. Though it still may not be quite up to what you’d expect from other toy lines at a similar scale, at the very least it feels comparable now.

As was the case with the Eighth Doctor and the Dalek Time Controller, in an ideal world the Dalek paired with the War Doctor in this set would be the Dalek Time Strategist. The Time Strategist serves a similar function to original Time Controller - sporting an altered version of the Stolen Earth Supreme Dalek casing in blue and gold livery, complete with extended neck section encircled by two crossing time rings. However producing this Dalek would involve fairly extensive tooling to the Supreme Dalek mould, and that’s just something not in the cards for the line at this current time. Wishful thinking aside though, the Dalek Scientist from A Thing of Guile is an excellent candidate for this set. It’s a variant that not only has a prominent place in the story (so much so that the Doctor actually comments on its casing being unique), but also appears on CD cover/artwork created for it. This Dalek has the standard bronze body but complimented with a silver dome and lower hemispheres, which makes for a rather pale-looking but oddly effective colour scheme. Unlike the Doctor figures it seems Character Options have spared no expense on these Daleks, with the Scientist sporting an extremely sharp paint job bolstered by a weathered finish to give the toy a more realistic look. Though it might be a simple wash of black paint, it really brings out all that extra detailing that the new series Dalek casings have. 

The Big Finish exclusive version of this set has a variant Dalek which sports silver slats instead of the standard bronze. This strikes me as rather odd, because while it might gel better with the overall colour scheme it also makes inaccurate to the source image. Definitely one purely for the variant hunters out there!

However the colour scheme of the Dalek Scientist has been the subject of debate for some time now, and even more so now that Character Options have revealed their official offering. When A Thing of Guile was first released many fans (myself included) assumed that the Dalek Scientist was actually bronze and blue, as that was very clearly the colours of the Dalek variant that graced the cover. In fact I was so enamoured with this colour scheme that I made my own custom version not long after the set’s release. Of course it has now been revealed that its appearance is actually because of the strong blue lighting that the cover has, and the Dalek Scientist was always intended to be bronze and silver. While the combination of bronze and silver may feel more natural, the harsh contrast of blue and bronze made for quite the striking Dalek (not to mention harkening back to the blue highlights of the original 1960s Daleks). Thus I’m not entirely convinced the official colour scheme is better. You can see my custom figure compared with both the official one and the audio cover above, so let me know your thoughts on the matter!

Like the rest of Character Options’ new series Daleks the Dalek Scientist 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.

The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist figure set is another great release celebrating the work of Big Finish. Although the differences in the War Doctor figure are minimal to the previous release and the Dalek doesn't necessarily match up to what you see on the audio cover, both are still of far higher quality than what many have come to expect from these B&M exclusive sets. More Dalek variants are never a bad thing, and I'm all for new opportunities for the rarer/more expensive figures of the past to get more accessible re-releases. These Big Finish sets have been a huge step forward for the Doctor Who figure range, and hopefully their success and popularity will encourage Character Options to press forward with more in the future. If more extensive retooling ever becomes financially viable again, just think of all the possibilities there could be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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