The problem with long-running franchises is that they’re the product of many hands, many minds, and many takes on the same set of ideas. Some of these hands and minds will “get” the core concept of the series better than others, and some will mistakenly believe that the whole thing is about surface elements, beloved details that found their way into the series over many, many years but aren’t really what the series is ABOUT. Such was the problem with the 1996 DOCTOR WHO TV movie, produced for Fox by Universal in cooperation with the BBC. DOCTOR WHO is not about Gallifrey, the Master, the Daleks, sonic screwdrivers, jellybabies, regeneration, and the Eye of Harmony. It’s about walking into an amazing blue box that’s bigger on the inside and letting it take you anywhere in time and space, where you might run into a historical figure, might wind up on a space ship, and will probably have to avoid being eaten or zapped by a monster.
The one thing it did get right? This fellow right here, Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor …
The Eighth Doctor has gone on to appear in numerous comic strips (serialized in DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE), novels, and audio dramas on CD and on BBC radio — still played by Paul McGann, who never quite matches the exuberance he displayed in the TV movie, but regardless it is great fun hearing the TV series that never was continuing to play out, all these years later. And now he even has his own action figure, which captures Paul McGann’s likeness brilliantly except around the eyes, which look a little too wide-eyed.
Regardless, it’s a lovely figure which suffers from none of the QC problems I’ve noticed on the others, which is good because this is the only way you can get the Eighth Doctor — in the box set. Not even Forbidden Planet would take him for some kind of funny exclusive set. Makes sense, I guess: who else would they package him with? A terribly camp Eric Roberts?
Paul McGann was the Doctor for one evening in 1996. Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor for thirteen weeks in 2005. Both fantastic actors, both very different Doctors. While the former was forced to wear a longish wig to “look” the part and was dressed up as a Victorian adventurer courtesy of some clothes “borrowed” from a costume party, the latter was all in leather with close-cropped hair and a working class accent. Eccleston seemed particularly far afield from the alien scientist/tinkerer/explorer figure that we’d come to know, but enough was kept the same — the TARDIS had the same exterior appearance and made the same familiar sounds, it still took the Doctor and his companion anywhere in time and space, and he still clashed with the same villains (the first series opened with Autons, not seen since the Pertwee years, and quickly established Daleks as the big baddies again) — that it was certainly a continuation of the old show.
It was late 2005 when Character Options first started making DOCTOR WHO toys, starting with some badly posed and barely posable figures of the Ninth Doctor and Rose along with some fairly good Daleks (it is hard to screw up Daleks). After a few go-rounds they produced this extremely posable version of the Ninth Doctor; this isn’t a new sculpt, but it doesn’t matter, because it captures Christopher Eccleston’s likeness perfectly.
Of course, once you have a Ninth Doctor you find yourself going, “Well crap, I guess now I need a Rose Tyler figure.” Which is annoying, because I don’t much care for Rose Tyler as a companion. She’s just not interesting to me. I do — well, DID — have a Captain Jack Harkness figure, because that guy is, to use the Ninth Doctor’s catchphrase, fantastic. A pansexual time traveling con man who is accidentally made immortal? Yes! I’ll take that! So they get to hang out here.
The most popular Doctor since Tom Baker and THIS is the figure he gets? Articulation not so hot, likeness just sorta okay, and he’s got the glasses on which I guess sort of obscures how subpar the likeness really is. At least the paint applications aren’t as bad as some of the examples of this figure I’ve seen reviewed on YouTube. Thing is, it’s about on par with the Martha Jones figure you see next to it; she poses a little better, but the likeness isn’t so hot either. Character Options only really hit their stride about halfway through the series three figures, a little after Martha here, around the time this version of Jack came out. The sad thing is, this Tenth Doctor head sculpt dates to a point after that; it’s a non-battered version of the “The End of Time” Tenth Doctor head sculpt.
FACT: Immediately after I snapped this picture I snapped something else. Jack’s head came right off. The joint had been sticking for a while, and I thought I’d dislodged it, but what I’d done is just twist the plastic on the post. Then, POP. So I guess I’m getting a new Jack Harkness with a smidge of my next paycheck. (I’ve already bought quite enough DOCTOR WHO figures with THIS one — which you’ll see next time I’m in a mood to snap some more pics.)
The Eleventh Doctor’s legs are weird. I think the plastic is a little warped, but at the same time I think it works for him. He’s a weird guy. He stands funny. He moves funny. And the figure poses like crazy. It’s great, and it captures Matt Smith perfectly in all his gangliness and awkward tallness. And doesn’t it look great standing next to the vibrant Miss Pond? All that’s missing is, as I suggested at the start of the last post, THEIR version of the TARDIS, which I really would like to get in all of its resplendent bright blueness.
So there’s ten of your eleven Doctors and some of their friends and foes. All in all, as action figure purchases go, I think this was money well spent. Except that it’s causing me to spend MORE money. But really, when you’ve been buying action figures as long as I have, that really goes without saying. It’s the whole “give a mouse a cookie” thing. I’ve got the box of cookies, now I go, “Yep, need some milk to go with.” And by “milk” I mean Cybermen, Zygons, Sontarans, and the Master. You’ll probably be seeing those guys (along with poor old Peter Davison) either later this week or sometime next week.
And on that note, I’m grabbing a beer and catching some Z’s.