Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Reconnaissance Dalek

Doctor Who Reconnaissance Dalek 01

Release Date: March 2020
RRP: £12.99

When the 13th Doctor was introduced back in 2018 it brought about a whole rebranding of Doctor Who. There was a new head writer, a new Doctor, new companions, even a new logo. What there wasn't however was a new toy line. Series 11 only brought about a handful of general retail toys, and with the 5.5" figure line mostly living on life support as B&M exclusives the Doctor herself was the only new figure to see the light of day. However 2019 saw Character Toys taking steps to reclaim some of the line's former glory, and with the conclusion of series 12 we're now seeing Doctor Who figures finally return in proper fashion. The current 2020 assortment includes a new 13 variant, companion Graham O'Brien, the Judoon Commander and the 13th Doctor's TARDIS. The star of the wave though is undoubtedly the Reconnaissance Dalek, complete in its makeshift casing from last year's special Resolution.

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With the line back at general retail the packaging has been scaled down a bit, so we’re back at the basic cardback/bubble design rather than the rectangular boxes seen on the exclusive releases of the past few years. Definitely not a disappointment though, because if there was any area to downgrade packaging is always the way to go. The card is a new design using the same assets as the B&M exclusives, so featuring a similar blue and grey layout with TARDIS design (the same of which is also featured on the inner bubble card).  The card is however a similar size to the one used on the 2018 13th Doctor figure, which is much smaller than the ones the line used back in its heyday. The back of the card advertises the various Doctor Who toys currently on the market, including 13’s Sonic Screwdriver as well as the 2020 range and TARDIS. It’s a pretty basic design that skews more toward a general audience rather than specifically collectors, but the figure itself is the real prize and that more than makes up for it.

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Despite there being a huge number of different Dalek types and variants that have been used over the years the actual number of toy moulds is much smaller, with most variants being retools or repaints rather than brand new figures. But even though it has that recognisable shape the Reconnaissance Dalek’s cobbled together casing is a whole new design, so this is a brand new toy with no previously existing tooling at all - and boy have Character done an amazing job with it. The colours and moulding perfectly match that home brew feel of the design, along with all the imperfections that made it so interesting. The skirt hemispheres are a mismatch of shapes, the middle section is narrower than it should be and the slats aren’t perfectly aligned. The appendages are similarly basic, with the eye lacking the trademark discs and the arm appendage a weird claw rather than the traditional plunger. The mould looks amazing, but what really sells it is the paintwork. Despite its low price point the rusted cast iron look has been executed brilliantly with just base bronze colouring and silver brushwork, with the toy even looking like it’s made out of the correct materials in certain lights. On top of that then are a few small but essential paint apps, like the blue iris and red behind the neck cage. Though not actual light piping, the red even glows a bit when a concentrated light is shined behind it.

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Though the design might be a little less refined than the average Dalek, the fundamentals are exactly the same so as far as articulation goes nothing has changed from the standard mould. The figure sports a 360° rotating dome, fully moveable eyestalk/arm/gun appendages and a wheeled base to roll along flat surfaces. Unlike other Doctor Who figures where the articulation can feel a little outdated, that's pretty much everything a Dalek needs for the most part it's never been an issue. However this Dalek also has another surprise up its sleeve, and it finally addresses something that modern Dalek toys at this scale (or smaller) have always lacked – a fully rotating mid-section. New series Daleks may have had this function on-screen since 2005 but the toys (save for the 12" remote controlled versions) have never replicated it, but this more segmented design made it much easier to pull off. It's such a simple addition, but adds so much more character, playability and accuracy to the toy.

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And just as it seems this figure couldn't get any better, it even comes with an accessory! Not only do you get this great Reconnaissance Dalek toy, but you also get a Dalek mutant to go with it. This isn't like the fixed version that came with the Mutant Reveal Dalek from 2006 either – this is one wholly separate from the casing, nicely detailed and made of soft rubbery plastic. The mutant may not be the purple mono-eyed version we're most used to but it’s a good resemblance of the version seen in Resolution, sporting much longer tentacles and lumps and bumps all over its putrid body with dashes of green and purple colouring. Sadly it doesn't have any way to directly fix onto the back of a humanoid figure, but there are plenty of ways around that. The Reconnaissance Dalek casing also features an opening hatch at the front just above the gun box, with the mutant can then sit on as if it were writhing in or out. As the area behind the hatch is hollow and the mutant is completely malleable it can also feasible fit inside the cavity, but it might be a little difficult to fish out afterwards. With the mutant itself being such a central component of Resolution including it as an accessory was a no-brainer, but the execution is so good that it almost feels worth buying extras just for a surplus of mutants alone.

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If all that hasn't been enough to convince you, the Reconnaissance Dalek is undoubtedly the best Doctor Who figure Character Toys have put out in YEARS. While it may be one of the most unorthodox looking Daleks around, the sculpt and paintwork on this toy are absolutely incredible. Throw in a moveable chest section and Dalek mutant accessory and you have to wonder how Character managed to do such a good job with this and keep it at a £12.99 price point. While the slate of series 12 figures might seem small for the time being, imagining the likes of the Sacha Master, Ruth Doctor, Ashad, Cyber Warrior or Cyber Master at this level of quality is extremely exciting. Doctor Who toys have been away from the limelight for far too long, and I really hope this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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