(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.)
From the moment the BBC first released the initial promo images for Jodie Whitaker’s 13th Doctor, I took the bit of the idea of owning a 13th Doctor TARDIS toy and started chompin’. In fact, I gave it a Five TARDi rating here in advance just based on the picture of the prop. It just looked so cool, hearkening back to the classic series, with its darker color scheme, dark background door sign, yellowish windows and new lamp atop. I couldn’t wait to see it in toy form.
In 2020, the TARDIS toy was finally released. I’d already had a Jodie Whitaker Doctor figure standing among the other regenerations for weeks by then. One eBay purchase later, I had the new TARDIS on its way to me.
I knew in advance that the new toy was not going to be up to the same standards as the original Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, but none since has been, so that wasn’t a total shock. This new one would have no interior lights, but was still supposed to have takeoff and landing sounds, as well as a flashing roof lamp–standard features for most main series TARDIS releases these days. What I suspected from early pictures of the toy, though, was that Character Options had simply used the same sculpt that it had been using for their classic series TARDIS releases in the late oughts as well as the more recent B&M stores TARDIS releases (which have no sound or light functions). It would have a few few cosmetic additions to match the new prop, but this would be a classic style TARDIS. And while this further hearkened back to the classic series look her TARDIS shared, it also kind of annoyed me.
The classic series TARDIS is considerably smaller than those of the modern series in both prop and toy forms. And while I think there’s some visual evidence that Jodie’s 13th TARDIS prop is in fact slightly smaller than that of Eccleston through Capaldi, it doesn’t look that much smaller on screen as the size difference between the classic toy to modern toy would suggest.
And here was the thought that bothered me: What does it say that your toy company is not willing to invest the resources to make the TARDIS replica of the first onscreen female Doctor just as large and functional as those of her predecessors? Not much good, I think. Sure, Character Options had been getting skimpier with their functionality, eliminating lights and sound in their B&M releases of the last few years, but this new TARDIS was allegedly part of the main line of toys. I would have preferred to see a modified version of the David Tennant TARDIS mold of the old Flight Control series than this modified smaller classic show TARDIS. (Check the size range in the above image, featuring 13th, 9th/10th, 7th, and 3rd variations.)
That said, nearly every TARDIS toy made by CO in the last 12 years has just been a lesser variant of the Electronic Flight Control TARDIS and the classic series TARDIS molds, so it’s not as if Jodie was being treated any shabbier than Peter Capaldi, other than her TARDIS toy was not in the same scale as Capaldi’s. Actually, there is another element of potential shabbiness I could complain about, but let’s save it for a moment.
Beyond the optics of it, though, there’s a lot to like about the 13th Doctor TARDIS toy. Character Options, while still re-using a previous mold, altered it enough to match the onscreen prop for the most part. The color scheme is great, recalling the kind of greenish blue of the Tom Baker era, as well as returning the dark background of the door sign over the phone compartment. That door sign, much like the TV counterpart, has had its hinges reversed, opening to the right instead of the left. (Or, at least, it would if the toy’s phone compartment door opened at all. No biggie. None of the classic TARDIS releases of the past five years have working phone doors anyway, nor did the last couple of models for Smith and Capaldi.) While the takeoff and landing sound effects are not as varied as those of my beloved 9th/10th Doctor TARDIS (which had two audio variations for both takeoff and landing), the sounds they chose are screen accurate and satisfying.
Where the 13th TARDIS toy falters for me is in its lack of an interior background card, which all of the previous modern series TARDISes have come with. Granted, none of the classic series style TARDISes (the mold of which this model uses) have interior background cards. For the most part, I’m okay with that, because it allows me to customize them to my liking (such as the wood-panel auxiliary control room interior I made to modify the flat-roofed 3rd Doctor TARDIS into a 4th Doctor TARDIS, as will be featured in a future entry). It just seemed wrong, though, that I had to go find and print a Jodie Whitaker TARDIS interior when CO could have just provided a higher quality one from the factory.
Again, is this the look you wanna go with for the first female Doctor, Character Options? Lookin’ at you. While I hate to do it, I have to revise my previous Five TARDi rating to a four…