Yesterday in the mail I got some Dalek figures from Character Options’ recent DOCTOR WHO action figure waves based on Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor — the second release “Ironsides” Dalek and the yellow “New Dalek Paradigm” Eternal Dalek. That was just the nudge I needed to start another photo frenzy with the last month’s worth of DOCTOR WHO figure acquisitions.
Alongside two villains from his time in the TARDIS, the Fifth Doctor as portrayed by Peter Davison — the replacement for the damaged Fifth Doctor figure that came in my Eleven Doctors box set. He is seen here with the Master as played by Anthony Ainley (the second non-decaying portrayal of the character) and a Cyberman from the Fifth Doctor story “Earthshock.”
These three were actually seen together in the 20th anniversary story “The Five Doctors,” though by then the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver had been destroyed (that happened in his first season, in the story “The Visitation”), and the Master only appeared in this suit in the next-to-last Fifth Doctor story “Planet of Fire” (though technically it was the shape-shifting android Kamelion, under the Master’s control, that appeared as the Master in this suit).
The “Earthshock” Cybermen were the first I saw — probably in “The Five Doctors,” though I think I had “Earthshock” taped off of PBS — but I find I prefer the smoother look of the “The Invasion” and “Revenge of the Cybermen” Cyberman design. The baggier jumpsuit on the “Earthshock” design looks so much more like a costume, like it could very well just be a spacesuit. The smoother look of the previous Cyberman design, though, feels more inhuman, at least to my eyes.
Regardless of my thoughts on the design, Character Options did a hell of a job with the “Earthshock” Cyberman figure. The Anthony Ainley Master figure is less impressive as a figure, but is a welcome addition to the range, and the likeness is fantastic. I just wish they did him in a costume that wasn’t a one-off that was actually worn by a different character who was just wearing the Master’s form — my preference would be his outfit from “Survival,” though I’m sure traditionalists would prefer his black outfit with the silver collar. Definitely classier than his usual threads, but not “right.”
I’ve never actually seen “Attack of the Zygons”; rumor has it that it will be the last Fourth Doctor story to be released on DVD in 2013, the 50th anniversary year. However, they’re definitely a monster design I like, and I did enjoy both the slim Target Books novelization of that story and the original Tenth Doctor novel “Sting of the Zygons,” which pitted the Doctor and Martha Jones against the Zygons in 1909. The problem with them is that they’ve got the one schtick — or more like they’ve got several very specific schticks, like the shape-changing that requires a live body print back in their spaceship and the whole raising Loch Ness Monsters to feed on their milk. Any Zygon story is going to be roughly the same shape as the original, at least once you have the dramatic reveal that it’s the Zygons. Despite this, I’d still like to see them on TV again, mostly because that is one crazy cool alien design.
Even beyond the Doctor himself and Amy, this was the must-have figure from series 5, the “Ironside” Dalek — the World War II Dalek, dressed up to go fight for the British against the Nazis. Of course, it was a sham, a ploy to get the Doctor to travel to a Britain under siege (again; he last visited World War II in “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” back in series 1) and help the Daleks activate the Progenitor, a device designed to create a new generation of “pure” Daleks. The Ironside here, you see, was part of a generation of Daleks created from the living Kaled tissue of the Daleks’ creator, Davros. That’s not good enough for the genetic snobs; Davros’s tissue, I guess, isn’t mutated enough.
The Daleks trick the Doctor into activating the Progenitor, and it spits out the New Dalek Paradigm, five color-coded Daleks that represent the next stage of Dalek development — and inside each casing, genetically pure Daleks, just as the mutated wastelands of Skaro created them. Unfortunately for the DOCTOR WHO production team, most fans looked at the large, color-coded, all-the-wrong-shape new Daleks, and then back at the Ironside Daleks, and decided the Ironsides were much cooler. They are very cool; the color is good, and the utility belt, filled with supplies for the British forces they were playing at ultimately aiding in battle, is a nifty touch that looks really good in action figure form, especially as lovingly detailed as it is.
This is one of the New Paradigm Daleks. It’s a nice figure of an iffy design. The color is certainly bold; this yellow one is the “Eternal,” the function of which nobody is entirely sure. The writers got through Drone (red), Scientist (blue), Strategist (orange), and Supreme (white) and couldn’t think of another function so they just threw “Eternal” out there and decided they’d figure out what it did later. Everything moves easier and is tighter than the parts were on my classic Daleks; the joints that could move on those were always a wee bit loose, whereas some joints, specifically the ball joints that move the plunger arm and laser cannon, were stuck due to the paint on the balls. No such problems either here or on the Ironside.
I kind of wish that the toys did something with that awkward panel on the back; I understand that the panel’s supposed to open to reveal new weapon systems or upgrades or something, but we probably won’t see that functionality in toy form until after we see it on TV or in a video game or something. Shame, that; I’d like to see what sort of off-model madness a toy designer might come up with. A crazy flight pack? Over-the-top firing missile launchers? Maybe a giant scorpion tail? Spider-legs? Saw-blade arms? Oh, the possibilities are endless.
It’s fun getting Daleks, but when you have them you realize what you’ve got is a couple of barely posable hollow salt shakers with wheels on the bottom. Making them bigger doesn’t help. It’s probably that Transformers have spoiled me; action figures of humanoids are one thing, but Daleks don’t come off as action figures. In the States, usually things that have this kind of plastic and this few moving parts or accessories try to compensate with crazy action features, spring-loaded features or firing missiles or whatnot. Character Options just gives you a thing that looks like what you saw on TV. Certainly there’s merit to that approach, but when you’re paying twenty bucks a figure, there’s not a lot of perceived value to that. Hence my request for crazy spider legs and scorpion tails …
I just put in some preorders for more DOCTOR WHO stuff that’s coming up: there’s a set coming out for Christmas that includes a slightly different deco of the Eleventh Doctor, Amy in her policewoman kissogram outfit, and a non-electronic Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS. Obviously the Doctor’s not the draw here; Amy in her iconic first episode outfit (which apparently also appears in the upcoming Christmas special) and the proper TARDIS for the current Doctor are. The other thing I preordered was the “Vengeance on Varos” two-pack of the Sixth Doctor’s companion Peri Brown and the slug-like money-grubbing scumbag Sil. Peri is the first classic series companion figure Character Options has done, and Sil’s a twice-appearing villain who honestly should have recurred another time or two. He’s a nasty little piece of work. Hopefully this is the first of many episode-themed companion and villain sets. How about Ace and a cheetah-person from “Survival”? Perhaps a first appearance Sarah Jane Smith with the Sontaran Linx from “The Time Warrior”? Ooh, Turlough and the Black Guardian from the Black Guardian Trilogy (“Mawdryn Undead,” “Terminus,” and “Enlightenment”)! They can throw in that crystal he kept screaming into. Those are just the ones that occur to me at this late hour; there’s enough other good possibilities to keep Character Options busy through the fiftieth anniversary in 2013 and for a few more years after that.
The worst part about this growing collection isn’t that the figures are kind of expensive being imports from the UK, or that the really good stuff from the classic series is even more expensive seeing how they’re all exclusives for various shops and events. No, the worst part is that I find myself wanting to get other, non-WHO five and six-inch figures to hang out with them. After all, the Doctor can go anywhere in time and space — anywhere at all. Consequently, I need a good Batman figure to scale …