Thursday 6 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who History of the Daleks #2 Set

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Release Date: July 2020
RRP: £19.99

After the release of The Daleks in 1963, the UK quickly entered the phase Doctor Who fans affectionately know as Dalekmania. Given their popularity it's no surprise that the BBC quickly made plans for a follow up in the show's second series. That of course is 1964's The Dalek Invasion of Earth, a six-part story that truly cemented the Daleks' place in the series. The story is also notable for being the first Doctor Who serial to make extensive use of location filming, as well as being the last appearance of companion Susan Foreman. Now The Dalek Invasion of Earth is being celebrated by Character Options in their second History of The Daleks set, released as part of the 2020 B&M store exclusive assortment. This set features both a standard silver Dalek and the black Supreme Dalek as they appeared in the story, complete with enlarged fenders and energy collection discs on their backs.

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History of the Daleks #2 comes in standard rectangular packaging, using the same graphic resources Character have been using on Doctor Who figures since updating the packaging design in 2019. It's nothing particularly unique to this set, and simply just a basic TARDIS design with the new Doctor Who logo in the top corner and the set name (along with the story these variants hail from and the year it was produced) printed just under the window. That TARDIS design is then repeated on both sides of the box. The back of the box features stock images of the figures inside, along with some interesting extras that debut here on these new History of the Daleks sets. There's a brief synopsis on The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and then a second piece on the props used in the episode itself. This doesn't just describe how a Dalek command structure came to fruition (including how the Supreme also appears earlier in the story as the Saucer Pilot), but also how the props from the original story were refurbished and reused. Like before, it's a great bit of trivia for those who aren't as knowledgeable about Doctor Who behind the scenes. Inside the figures are neatly stored on a plastic tray, with a cardboard diorama of the Dalek saucer (reimagined in a new CGI rendering) behind them. Along with the Dalek city corridors of the first set this is a brilliant little bonus, and can't wait to see what future sets come up with to go along with them.

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The standard Dalek Invasion of Earth silver Dalek has only been released once before in the Character Options Doctor Who toy line - all the way back in 2012 has part of the first Sound FX Dalek range. The mould itself though dates even further back to 2009, where the Saucer Pilot variant was included in the second Dalek Collectors Set. As was the case with the figures in the first History set, the Sound FX toy was used as the template here as there is an etched circle around the hemisphere that would have acted as the activation button. However there are some deco changes to this new variant, including a more vibrant silver paint job, painted appendage ball joints and a wider pupil on the eyestalk. Additionally, the length of the eyestalk is now entirely black whereas the Sound FX version had a silver strip at the end. The biggest change of them all though is the weathering added to the base, which is meant to emulate the damage the actual props sustained during filming and show just how battered they'd get. While I can't fault Character's intentions, the execution on these figures really missed the mark. This isn't a case of subtle weather marks like on the first History sets - it's a series of scuffs and chips that just look like the toy was thrown around the assembly room before being packed up. Since the weathering is going to vary figure to figure too, you don't really know what you're going to get until you open it up. While the adherence to prop accuracy may be admirable, it doesn't quite work as well when it begins to look like genuine damage to the toy.

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Meanwhile the Supreme (or 'Saucer Commander' if you'd prefer) Dalek is undoubtedly the more desirable piece from this set, having only been previously available back in 2009 as part of a convention exclusive two-pack with the First Doctor. This two-pack was produced both as a standard colour version, and a special black and white version limited to only 1250 pieces worldwide. Like the silver Dalek though there are a few deco changes to this new variant, and it's not just limited to that awful weathering on the base. This particular Supreme Dalek sports slightly darker blue hemispheres (notably so when compared to both the standard and Saucer Pilot Daleks), a black eyestalk and a moulded grey energy collection disc. Compared to the onscreen version the grey disc is more screen accurate than the original's silver, however the prop had an eyestalk that was both black and silver so both just missed the mark in that respect. This version also sports a constricted pupil similar to that of Dalek 2 in the previous History of the Daleks set. Coming from a time when the Daleks were primarily seen in black and white, the addition of the Supreme Dalek immediately made an impact and gave the Daleks an obvious command structure. Even now in colour, the Supreme Dalek still has that same striking presence. 

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Both Daleks have the same standard range of articulation as all classic Dalek figures, which isn't a whole lot to talk about but everything a classic Dalek needs. The dome can spin a full 360 degrees, with the eyestalk also able to raise and lower separately. Both appendages are attached to ball joints to give them a full circle of rotation, and then finally the bases sport three wheels (two fixed and one pivoted) to let the toy glide across smooth surfaces. Since the ball joints the appendages attached to are now painted, there may be a little resistance there at first, but if you just work them gently they should eventually unstick and free up to allow the full range of movement.

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Much like the first, the History of The Daleks #2 set brings back some of the most iconic Dalek variants back into general circulation. In fact this may even be the more significant release of the two, given how the Dalek Supreme was only previously made available as an exclusive release. Character have made some excellent deco changes to these figures to make them both more screen accurate and different from the original releases, but at the same time they maybe went a bit overboard when it came to the "weathering" on those fenders. Nevertheless, the return of classic Dalek figures has been LONG overdue in the Doctor Who line and Character have really come out the gate swinging with these History of The Daleks sets. Assuming they continue the pattern of two sets released at a time it'll be The Chase and The Daleks' Master Plan, so I can't wait to see what's been cooked up for those and anything else we may be seeing in the coming years.

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