Author Archive: Eric Fritzius

Owner/operator of Mister Herman's Publishing Company and Mister Herman's Production Company, Ltd. Author of A Consternation of Monsters, available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Hornby Skaledale Blue Police Box TARDIS (The shotglass TARDIS series)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

This “shotglass” TARDIS used to be the smallest TARDIS I owned, and was for a few years.  This particular police box was made by the Hornby company (R8696 Skaledale Blue Police Box 1/76 Scale) and is meant to be scenery for a model railroad setup.  As such, it’s more to the specs of an actual police call box than it is to the various props from Doctor Who.  You can find them online, often on ebay, though they’re starting to get more expensive than the one I bought.  (I seem to recall it being fairly cheap when I bought mine, under $10.  The ones on ebay now start at nearly $30 before shipping, which is a lot to pay for a chunk of painted resin in my book.

For most of the years I’ve owned the Hornby it’s been on display atop an upside down clear Listerine measuring cup–which is the same size as a shot glass, hence the name “shotglass” TARDIS.  And while it was the smallest TARDIS in my collection for some time, that honor has gone to another for the past four years or so.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Funko POP! Vinyl’s TARDIS Keychain (The “shotglass” TARDIS series)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

This is Funko POP! Vinyl’s version of a TARDIS keychain.  It’s meant to be a miniature version of their TARDIS POP! Vinyl Toy, albeit one without working doors.  (Or, rather, door, but that’s a complaint for the future.)  For those unfamiliar with the plague that is Funko POP! Vinyl, the toys are primarily figurines of pop culture characters with disproportionately large heads and black circles for eyes.  The figures are usually about four inches in height, but Funko made a series of keychain models that shrunk them down to around an inch and the TARDIS is just a smidge over that (unlike the larger toy version, which is nearly half again as tall as the figures).

I call POP! Vinyl figures a plague because, while I own around ten of them myself (of the Doctor Who, MST3k, and Portal 2 varieties) I don’t give the ass of a flying monkey about 90 percent of their output and kind of resent the fact that there are now layers of them under foot in all nerd/videogame/movie/music stores, where they glut entire walls.  I weep for our landfills.

Like all the other TARDIS keychains, I ditched its chain as soon as I was able to. It’s super-blocky size would make it inconveniently large to use as a keychain, though I must note that Funko’s choice of a rubbery plastic for the production would lend itself to durability.  (At least for the TARDIS, as most people I know who have bought and used any of the figure-model keychains quickly find they have nothing left but decapitated character heads dangling from their keys after the bodies snap off.)

Much like its larger counterpart, there’s not a lot of detail on this thing.  But that’s the POP! Vinyl aesthetic to start with, so one cannot complain about the lack of woodgrain or the fact that it’s super chunky.  (It’s so chunky, in fact, that I’m not sure it would actually fit very far into a standard shot glass.)  I t’s fine.  I’ll give it a full four TARDi and save the tale of the larger model for another time.

Save Dirk Gently!

Over the weekend, I finally finished the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which has gathered in my DVR. While the season felt like it took a while to get going, I truly enjoyed where it went and, more importantly, the strange places each of the characters wound up.

Much like season 1, it was a fun journey with lots of twists and turns and some truly great characters both old and new. I’m a sucker for a story with a good family dynamic and this develops multiple ones. And, much like Douglas Adams novels, it does a great deal of world building along the way with some pretty cosmic concepts that look like they would have continued into season 3 had BBC America not cancelled the show.

Not since Firefly have I wanted a show to continue so much only to have it snatched away.  (The fact that Alan Tudyk is in both shows is also not lost on me, as his character of Mr. Priest is now one of my favorite over-skilled, overzealous government badguys ever.)  Maybe this is down to me being such a Douglas Adams fan that I would want one of his creations to continue its life.  However, I suspect the real attraction here is  mostly down to the quality of what the cast and creators of this show put together.  The books are great, mind you.  But Dirk, as depicted in the show, is not precisely in line with the Dirk of the books–who is far less personable than Samuel Barnett’s charming portrayal.  It’s quite possible that the Dirk of the books might be unsustainable as a character people would want to root for–which may also explain that while he’s the central character of the books, they’re both told from the perspective of another character looking on.  Barnett’s Dirk, however, is just a chipper champion of the universe, even if he doesn’t know why.  And while the show isn’t an adaptation of the source material anyway–which it seems to mostly treat as backstory–I firmly believe Douglas Adams would have been on board with what they’ve done 100 percent. It’s VERY Douglas Adamsy. And I can’t believe he would not have found the concept of a Holistic Assassin (Fionna Douriff’s character Bart, who is simply amazing) one he would have wished he’d thought of himself.

A quick search for “Bring Back Dirk Gently” took me to a Change.org petition. Dunno what good it can ultimately do, but it’s at least a way to voice an opinion. If you’re of a mind to voice yours, I invite you to do so and perhaps to tweet about it as well. #bbcamerica #SaveDirkGently

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Underground Toys Keychain TARDIS (The “shotglass” TARDIS series)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

The newest TARDIS in my collection is also one of (though not the) smallest. It’s one of three keychain TARDI that I now own and is one of my favorite among the three. (You can actually see all three, plus another, in the accompanying image, but we’ll get to the others later.)

These “shotglass” TARDI are so called by me because each of them could fit into a standard shot glass (though not any of the standard shot glasses that I happen to own, which are all either opaque or super tall and narrow–hence their inclusion atop a stack of CDs for scale).

The new TARDIS keychain is one made by Underground Toys.  It’s of the Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi TARDIS model.  It’s a hollow shell made from a very light weight plastic, but the sculpting on it is really nice.  No woodgrain, but I’m not complaining because it just looks like a tiny replica of the TARDIS USB hub sculpt.  Alternately, you could use it as the miniature TARDIS that appeared in the great episode “Flatline” from two seasons back, cause it’s about the correct scale when compared with one of the Flight Control TARDIS models. (Though you’d probably have to use it on the Matt Smith FC TARDIS, cause the blacked out windows won’t look right otherwise.)  The keychain model is beautifully made, though.

As far as its ability to be used as an actual keychain, though, I don’t know that I could recommend it for use in that capacity.  I am pretty sure the light and airy nature of this model would never be able to stand up to the kind of beating it would take in my pocket.  (The wife uses a pewter Serenity keychain that has already started to lose its fine detail.  And she only has, like, one key.  This plastic TARDIS wouldn’t last a week with all my keys.)   Since I’ll never use it as a keychain, I pulled the chain off it as soon as I got it out of the package, leaving a small metal ring located just behind the roof lamp which I’ll eventually snip off.  I’d like to give it four full TARDi, or maybe even 4.5, cause it really does look nice.  However, because I think it would truly suck when in use as its labeled function, I’m going to go 3.5.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 12th Doctors’ Flight Control TARDIS (Burning Through The TARDi, Part 3)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

CONTINUING THE TALE FROM PART 1 and PART 2

Underground Toys, thankfully, wasn’t done with their 5.5″ line, but they also weren’t done making frustrating choices with it.

Oh, sure, they still put out some classic ’80s figures in that scale, such as new versions of the 8th Doctor and the War Doctor, to reflect their appearance in Night of the Doctor and Day of the Doctor.  And after Peter Capaldi was cast as the 12th Doctor, they quickly released a 5.5″ figure for him.  Except, it wasn’t Peter Capaldi in his actual Doctor Who costume (the black coat with red-lining and all), but was instead the post-regeneration Capaldi wearing Matt Smith’s final, pre-regeneration, purple-coated costume from the Name of the Doctor Christmas Special.  It still looked great, cause the purple coat was a look that worked well, but it was still very annoying since it wasn’t Capaldi’s official costume.  This meant that folks like me who had previously bought the 11 Doctors figure set, and who have them on display on a shelf by their desk, could not really add the 12th in there cause he just didn’t look right.  Or, we could add the 3.75″ Capaldi figure in the proper costume and have him out-of-scale from all the others.  However, for quite some time, these were the only Peter Capaldi figures to choose from.

Around that time, 2015 or so, I began paying attention to a Facebook page called Save Doctor Who 5 Inch Figures in the hope for word on an eventual properly costumed Capaldi who could join the ranks on my shelf.  The site had, in fact, floated a rumor that such a fig was in the works.  And this page was also where I first heard Underground Toys/Character Options were working on a 12th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS for the 5.5″ scale line.  Supposedly, the rumor went, the new TARDIS would not only be in a truer blue to the new TARDIS prop, but would also be returning all of the functionality of my beloved 10th Doctor TARDIS with one major change–it would come with a lighted door sign.  Turns out these rumors were all true.

On the thorny topic of the lighted door sign…

See somewhere during Matt Smith’s run (I think it was during The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe that I first noticed it) the TARDIS developed a light up door sign.  And by door sign, I mean the instructional sign on the left hand door, which actually serves as a smaller cabinet door behind which is the direct-to-police telephone unit which puts the “call” in “call box.”  The text of the sign begins “Police Telephone Free For Use of Public…” and ends with “PULL TO OPEN.”  For some half-assed reason–I expect just cause it looks sort of cool–the TARDIS on the show began backlighting that sign, as if it were made from semi-transparent plastic.  It wasn’t lit all the time, but in most night shots they turned it on.  And, y’know, the TARDIS can do what it wants, I guess, but I just never saw the logic of it.  Certainly the original police call boxes which inspired the look of the TARDIS never had this feature.  While I was and remain critical of the addition, at the exact same time, I have to sort of admit that it did look pretty cool in those night shots.  It just helped make the TARDIS read as being more TARDISy on a graphic-design level.  You could instantly recognize it from its silhouette, lighted windows, above door signage and now stupid door sign, and didn’t require the entire front be lit from any separate light source.  A toy that did the same thing, I supposed, would be interesting, even if I still thought it was essentially of questionable worth.  It would also mean that such a TARDIS toy would be the most functional TARDIS yet.

Low and behold the rumored figures and TARDIS were released and–shockingly I know–I bought `em.

And this is where Underground Toys’ continued making of frustrating choices comes back into play.  Cause the thing is… while I am delighted that they were kind enough to produce another TARDIS and restore the features of the 10th Doctor’s Flight Control TARDIS, the end results did not quite match up to the wondrous thing that existed in my head.  (Again, I’m ruled by my inner 4th grader who had vivid dreams.)

Yes, all the light and sound functions of the 10th’s TARDIS were restored, as well as the addition of the dumb/cool door sign.  But–and this is pure speculation on my part–Underground Toys was probably able to afford to do all this by skimping in other areas to make up the cost.  My theory, based solely of the evidence of the thing itself, is that they wound up skimping on the quality of the plastic used in its construction.

Like the Tennant TARDIS, the Capaldi TARDIS has lights inside that illuminate the windows, the interior area, and the Police signs above each wall.  But the plastic for the roof and doors is so thin that you can completely see the light bleeding through it from within (as illustrated in the image at right).  Even in daylight conditions, this bleed can be seen all along the edge where the doors meet.  This might have been better concealed with a layer of paint, but this model (unlike the 10th’s) is unpainted.  Now this unpaintedness is nothing new, as the blue sections of all subsequent models were also unpainted.  It’s just that this time it hurts the overall design.  I’m of half a mind to add a coat of blue myself to see if it helps.

The other irritating thing, which was not true of the Tennant model, is that the windows themselves, when illuminated from within, allow something of a view of the inner workings of the toy behind the curve of the screened interior card.  The Tennant model’s windows were more opaque while the new Capaldi TARDIS has relatively clear windows.  Through them, you can clearly see the back of the interior card itself and even the backs of adjacent windows.  The other difference that affects this is that the light on the interior underside of the roof is a good deal brighter than that of the Tennant TARDIS, possibly so that it will be able to illuminate not only the windows and CALL BOX signs, but the door sign as well.  The roof lamp is also brighter and the light bleeds through the paint of its cap.  Further adding to the frustrating nature of this toy, the plastic POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs do not quite fit snugly within their frames, allowing light from within to bleed over the tops and bottoms of them.

As for the dumb door sign… it lights up.  yay.  But in doing so it has now lost its function as a cover for the phone.  Not that I mind this so much, because the phones can make the left door difficult to open, depending on their design.  But having a phone there was a key plot point during Capaldi’s first episode.  Granted, it isn’t as if I was planning to recreate that moment, but it’s nice to have the option.

It’s a poor thing to complain about the flaws in something that is so basically cool.  The 4th Grader in me would have LOOOOOOVED to have owned this.  (He would also wonder why it is blue when the poor color of his 10 inch Zenith television had led him to believe it green for most of his school years, but that’s another story for another time, if I’ve not told it already.)  It’s just that Underground Toys came SO close to getting it right.  It pains me to do so, but I’m going to give this a 3.5 TARDI rating.

I look forward greatly to Jodie Whitaker’s run as the Doctor.  The media shot that has been released of her costume and TARDIS gives me hope, because it returns the TARDIS to the dingy greeny blue of the ’70s and restores the dark, non-glowy door sign, yet keeps the illuminated call box signs and windows.  Seems ripe for a toy that hearkens back to Tennant’s toy in many respects.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 11th Doctors’ Spin & Fly TARDIS (with a bit of the 10th too) (Burning Through The TARDi, Part 2)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

CONTINUING THE TALE FROM PART 1…

Around the time of the introduction of Clara Oswald as the Doctor’s companion in 2012, Underground Toys, in my humble opinion, lost their way a bit.  They made the bold move to switch their main line of Doctor Who figures and toys from the former 5.5″ scale used since 2006 to a 3.75″ scale. One might speculate that this move was decided in an effort to continue to keep manufacturing costs low, and one would be correct in this, which Underground themselves said as much at the time.  And so their figure line for 2013 was at the smaller, less-detailed, 3.75 inch scale.  This, naturally, annoyed me greatly, but only to a point.  While I was irritated at the scale shift (as a fellow who’d invested a good bit of cash on an 11 Doctor figure set and a number of TARDi might be) I also knew that the new scale would mean a new TARDIS in that scale and I was pretty interested in owning one of those.

Soon enough, Underground produced a scaled down TARDIS to accompany their new Doctor and Clara figures.  Instead of calling it an Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, they switch the title to Spin & Fly TARDIS. This is because this TARDIS wasn’t simply a miniaturized version of the Flight Control model, but they’d changed up (i.e. further reduced) its features a bit.  Instead of a concave spinning spindle on the bottom, allowing the TARDIS to rotate when spun via the roof lamp, they included a clear plastic base that fit into the bottom of the TARDIS itself, which allowed the whole thing to be spun when set upon a table, or even in the hand.  (Alternately, you don’t need the base bit at all, so I don’t choose to use it and am uncertain what I’ve even done with it at this point.)

The Spin & Fly TARDIS still has the opening doors, the dematerialization sounds, and the lighted roof lamp.  It also has the interior background card of the redesigned TARDIS from the Clara era of Doctor Who.  But gone bye byes are all the other features of its larger predecessors.  Now, granted, the reduced size of the toy also reduces the space for all the electronics necessary to make all the previous functions work.  (Also, the doors of my particular TARDIS refuse to both stay open, which is one of the only remaining non-electronic functions left.)

Ultimately I felt the reduction in size of the line of figures, as well as the TARDIS, was a cheapening of the toy line as a whole.  And, apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, for Underground Toys soon issued statements about the matter saying that it was necessary in order to be able to continue making toys at all.  Still didn’t mean I had to like it.

Now, all that said, I still really dig the 3.75″ scale TARDIS.  There’s just something about the sturdiness of the basic four posted design that I find satisfying, reduced sounds and lights be damned.  Even in the smaller scale, it loses very little of that satisfying feeling for me.  I’m going to give it a 3 TARDI rating and will even admit to wanting to give it four.  But the cheapening of the line, to me, is not something I support so I’m sticking with 3.  I even wound up buying a 3.75″ scale Peter Capaldi to go with it, but only cause Gamestop was having a nice sale.

It seems that the 3.75″ line has kind of petered (no pun intended) out.  Underground did some play sets for Matt Smith and then a cursory few things for the first season of Capaldi, but not so much in terms of the most recent season.  They did release a third wave of figs, including a David Tennant figure, whose appearance is reflective of the flatter-haired version of his Doctor from Day of the Doctor.  And, for a hot hour or so, I became wildly excited because I found the image at right which appears to depict not only a 3.75″ scale Tennant figure, but an Amy Pond in that scale (not his companion, but what evs), and, most amazing of all, a Tennant era TARDIS done in the 3.75″ scale.  I was very excited indeed, because this would definitely be something I’d want for the collection.  However, upon further research, this appears to actually be a die-cast TARDIS toy from 2006 that so happens to almost match the scale for Tennant’s newer 3.75″ figure (though not perfectly, to my eye).  See the image below for the products that were apparently combined to make this “set.”

Now I have to start scouring ebay for the die-cast TARDIS.  It’s nice to have a quest.

 

 

 

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 11th Doctors’ Flight Control TARDIS (Burning Through The TARDi, Part 1)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

11th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS (left) and 7th Doctor TARDIS (right)

We were recently covered up in snow and arctic winds.  Seemed like a good time to get out and take some lovely snow shots with a couple different versions of the electronic toy TARDISES that I own in honor of the very snowy ending to Peter Capaldi’s run in the 2017 Christmas Special.  I intended to pick one of them to write about but discovered that it was difficult to tell either of their stories without telling not only the story of the other as well, but also a completely different previous electronic TARDIS toy that I’d not intended to write about yet.  I had really hoped to space out the electronic TARDISES a bit more, as they tend to be among the jewels in the crown of my collection, but it looks like I’m just going to have to recklessly burn through all three in a multi-part saga just to get it all right.

I’ve gushed rhapsodic here about my love of the original Underground Toys Flight Control TARDIS from the David Tennant era.  It’s maybe my favorite mass-market TARDIS (i.e. one not uniquely and painstakingly crafted using a combo of skill and love by my mother-in-law).  When Matt Smith took over the role, a Smith era TARDIS toy soon followed.  It looked fantastic, with the darker shade of blue and the St. John’s ambulance badge restored to the door.  It had the interior backdrop of Smith’s first, brighter, earlier sheet-metal TARDIS control room, and an updated roof lamp.  Plus the windows of this were completely blacked out, which looked really cool–except there was kind of a reason to black them out.  It seems that this version of the TARDIS lost some of the previous TARDIS toy’s functionality in terms of having no interior lighting and non-illuminating Police Public Call Box signs.  (No need for transparent windows if you’re not going to light up the interior, eh?)  It retained the dematerialization sound effects, the control room sounds when the doors were opened, the roof light, the whooshing sounds when spun via the spindle on the bottom and the spacey sounds when shaken.  Pretty great and still quite playable, despite the lack of all the lights, but it kind of just screamed “CHEAPER-TO-MANUFACTURE” in big bold type.  But, man, does it look cool, so I’m going to give the 11th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS a solid four TARDI.

(Side note: Underground Toys also produced an even cheaper version of the 11th’s TARDIS which didn’t have lights or sounds of any kind, but did come as a “Christmas Adventure” set with 11th Doctor and Amy Pond figures.  On the surface, the set is a misnomer because the figures it includes have nothing Christmasy about them, as Amy is wearing her police officer outfit.  However, if you stop to think about it, Amy Pond had returned to her police outfit for some honeymoon bedroom role-playing with her new husband Rory for the first Smith Christmas special.  They just fail to specify what kind of… um, “Christmas adventures” Amy happened to be having on the trip, nor do they include Rory in his Roman Soldier attire to seal the notion.  The packaging, as you can see in the accompanying image, boasts that it is non electronic and has opening doors.   Those doors even have transparent windows, which I guess means Underground Toys just said “Hey, if we tell them it’s not electronic, we don’t have to hide it by darkening the windows.  EFF it!”   I declined to purchase this model.  And I have half a mind to give it a two TARDI rating to spite Underground Toys for being cheap bastards on a Christmas cash-grab.  However, Amy’s Role-Playing Honeymoon Bedroom garb alone may technically qualify this set as the most “adult” toys in the whole Doctor Who line–at least until they come out with Madame Vastra and Jenny figures–which is worth at least and extra few points.  So I guess I’ll give this unpurchased-by-me set three.)

“The Talkin’ Screaming Fire Detector, Step-Ladder Haulin’, High-Pitched Beep, 9 Volt Blues”

Our smoke/carbon monoxide detector had been alerting us for three days that its battery is low. It started just with a high-pitched single beep, but we could never tell which of the two detectors in the room was doing it at first, the one by the front door or the one on the upstairs landing ceiling. We used an umbrella to press the downstairs detector’s test button. It’s the fancier unit and, in addition to blaring its alarm multiple times, also shouted “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!” and “CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED!” I then hauled our step-ladder upstairs to press the button on the less-fancy one. It beeped just fine. Our mystery remained.

The next night, the downstairs detector began blaring a single shrill beep and shouting “LOW BATTERY DETECTED!” It started this at 10 o’clock at night as we were settling into bed. I decided I was too tired to haul my butt upstairs to retrieve both a new 9 volt and the step-ladder I’d left up there. So we lived with it for the night. It only interrupted sleep on a semi-hourly basis.

The next night I marched upstairs for both the new 9v and the step-ladder only to find that the last 9v in the pack had no charge when touched to my tongue. (You gotta touch it to your tongue. It’s a 9 volt, after all!) So we lived through another night punctuated by *BEEEP* “LOW BATTERY DETECTED!”

Today I went to the store and purchased a new pack of 9 volts. I chose the two pack rather than the cheaper four pack because the only thing that uses them in the house are the smoke detectors and this will make twice we’ve had to change them in the past five years. No use letting another $10 worth of batteries die in the pack.

I returned home, climbed the step-ladder already positioned beneath the detector, removed said detector from the ceiling, and discovered that it actually took three AA batteries the whole time.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Kurt Adler Doctor Who TARDIS LED Lighted Tree Ornament

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

This is the second of the Kurt Adler TARDIS ornaments that I own.  This one’s made o’plastic instead o’glass.

It’s your basic TARDIS design, Matt Smith/Capaldi era TARDIS.  The Christmasy bit of it–beyond it being a Christmas ornament to begin with–is that when you flip a switch on the bottom its windows light up with LED lights that cycle through a number of colors, from yellow to green to blue to purple to red, etc.  Kind of neat.

My major complaint about this model, however, is that while the sculpt is basic but good, it’s kind of cheaply made.  Mine has molding flaw lines in the plastic itself.  And while the windows have a lovely silver paint job on their framework, the company didn’t see fit to add any paint detail to the roof lamp, let alone an actual light within it.  Still, it also wasn’t very expensive.

These days this model is not as easy to come by.  There are newer editions of this ornament with fake snow in the sculpting and others with a dumbass Santa hat glued to the top, which just violates… I don’t know… good sense, or something.  They’re also pretty cheap, but I’m still against them and will have no part of them.  This ornament, however, I’m okay with, flaws and all. 

Still only gonna give it three TARDI, but it’s not out of meanness.

The Last Archer

My latest effort as an audiobook narrator, The Last Archer, by S.D. Smith, is now on sale.  It is set during the events of Smith’s Green Ember series, but tells a side story to those events with some new characters and a few familiar faces.

You don’t have to have read the Green Ember series to enjoy this story of rabbits with swords (or, as is often the case, bows), but I recommend you read them anyway cause they’re great. (Or pick up the audiobooks for those, narrated by Joel Clarkson.)

New production

I am pleased to announce that my short play “Fargo 3D” will be produced as part of the 10×10 Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA.  The festival will run February 15-March 4, 2018.

This will be Fargo 3D’s first production north of the Mason-Dixon.  I hope to attend.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS Kurt Adler Figural Holiday Ornament

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

Back in 2013, I got a wild hair up my butt to order a bunch of Doctor Who stuff from ThinkGeek.com.  Really, what probably happened is that they had a massive sale, the savings for which really kicked in once you ordered multiple items so I went down my wish list and picked out a few.  Naturally all of mine were TARDIS-related and will likely be chronicled here one day.  But of the two holiday-related TARDIS items among my purchases, the TARDIS Figural Holiday Ornament was one of them.

As far as Christmas ornaments go, this one is fairly standard.  It’s a hollow glass TARDIS, lovingly reproduced in the kind of rounded style as many such glass ornaments of other shapes.  This means you can’t go deep on the details, like woodgrain or hard corners, but you can do highlights such as a dusting of blue glitter that gives it that ornament feel without resorting to adding bows and snow, which I’ve seen on some other ornaments.  And that stuff’s fine, but it’s not what I wanted.  I just wanted your basic TARDIS in super fragile ornament glass form and this one’s pretty sweet in those terms.

The same company that made this one, Kurt Adler, made some others, including different Dalek glass ornament designs that Think Geek still has in stock.  They no longer have the TARDIS, but Amazon has it for a very reasonable price.  They give it a nearly five star rating, too, so how can I give it anything less than five full TARDI.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: My TARDIS Bluetooth Speaker Lamp

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

A few years back I saw a TARDIS lamp on ThinkGeek.com.  I fell in love instantly.  Then my wallet saw how much they wanted for it and I decided my desk didn’t really need a lamp all that much after all.  I was also a bit suspicious of it, because I couldn’t get a good look at it from the pictures.  The angle ThinkGeek took their pictures from made it seem as though the lamp’s center pole came right up through the roof lamp of the TARDIS itself.  I suspected, though, that the pole was actually not centered in the base of the lamp at all, but was off to one side and what I was really seeing was the pole behind the TARDIS, separate from it, yet aligned, intentionally I suspect, in a way that would suggest it came through the center of the TARDIS.  And this was pretty much the only angle photographers of that particular lamp used, and continue to do so to this day.  I also didn’t care for the lamp’s shade and would have preferred a simple Tardis-Blue shade.  Were I ever to acquire one, I would have to remedy that, I thought.  But the price tag on it, of around $45, was the major drawback to the purchase.  I decided to bide my time or come up with another solution.

By this point I had enough TARDI in my collection that I figured I could probably make my own lamp, especially if the retail TARDIS lamp itself was only a display base lamp in the first place.  If I could find one of those, I could just put one the TARDIS of my choice on it and call it a night.  The trouble is, while I can call that style of lamp a “display base” lamp in writing, that’s probably not what it’s really called–or, at least, if you search for that term you’ll see any other kind of lamp than the style I was actually looking for.  After haunting lamp sites and unsuccessfully searching on and off for a few days with various other terms, I gave up.

Three summers ago, while visiting my parents in Mississippi, I popped by a local remaindered store called Dirt Cheap, located in a repurposed former Kroger, across from my old high school.  And there I found a literal pile of display base lamps, pre-painted in a blue color for my convenience, for $11 each.  Granted, the shade of blue was not so much current TARDIS blue, but was more of a Sylvester McCoy TARDIS blue.  However, I was the owner of a Sylvester McCoy TARDIS toy, so it was kind of perfect.  And, I figured, if it was ever important for it to be any other hue of blue, they ain’t quit making Krylon.   I took it home with me and plunked the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS onto it at my earliest convenience.  It was a great fit.  In fact, I found that if I substituted the David Tennant era Flight Control TARDIS, it actually hung off the edge of the base a little, while the smaller McCoy TARDIS did not.

Jump ahead some months.  That sultry temptress ThinkGeek.com once again began whispering sweet nothings in my ear by adding a TARDIS bluetooth speaker to their stable of nerdy ‘ho’s.  (She was paired with a bluetooth Dalek speaker `ho as well.)  However, it was a bluetooth speaker TARDIS that cost well over $100.  No dice.  Not unless it was made by Bose would I spend that kind of cash on a single speaker.  I saw it offered on other sites for a bit less, but it was still just dumb.

A year later, though, Amazon ran a special.  You could get the TARDIS bluetooth speaker and a blue ray of all the Christmas specials to date for under $70.  That seemed about right, especially considering the good ratings the speaker seemed to be getting.  I snatched it up, punked it down on the display base, and instantly had my very own, possibly one-of-a-kind, bluetooth TARDIS speaker lamp.

The speaker itself is indeed a good one.  It’s not going to fill a room with sound for a party, but it’s fantastic for playing music or podcasts that don’t have to be floor to ceiling.  It’s portable,rechargeable, and it lights up and makes TARDIS sounds.  When you first turn it on, it does the TARDIS takeoff sound in time with the flashes from the roof lamp.  You can skip this by hitting the volume button, cause it goes on kind of a while.  It then makes strange whooshing sounds and flashes the Police Public Call Box lights as it searches for a bluetooth connection.  When it finally gets one, it sounds the cloister bells (proving that bluetooth connections are a danger to the space-time continuum), turns the Police Public Call Box signs on solid and you’re good to go.

As far as its design goes, the speaker TARDIS is pretty darn good in almost all respects.  It’s of a comparable size to the Tennant TARDIS, so it does hang off the edges a bit, but I can live with it.  While it has woodgrain sculpting on most of the usual surfaces (roof, door edges, base, etc., all going in the proper direction) it is oddly lacking in woodgrain sculpting on the inset door panels.  It’s a questionable design choice and feels like either a move to cheapen production or maybe was intentionally done by a designer who somehow didn’t think the TARDIS had woodgrain in those panels.  The windows are also not “glassed” but are used as the speaker sound ports. (Sound’s gotta come out somewhere.)  They’ve kept the T-shape to the window panes by using the blacked out sections with open slots as the speaker ports.

The lower section of the front has four buttons set two each into the lowest inset panels.  (Ooh, maybe they didn’t put woodgrain in the panels cause it would somehow interfere with the aesthetic of having buttons poking out of those lower ones?)  Two are volume buttons while the other two are a pause/play button and a phone button in case calls come in while it’s connected to your phone.  So the speaker then becomes a speaker phone (which, while I’ve never actually used it for this purpose, makes the 14-year-old me from 1986, who was fascinated by speaker phones after seeing the character Cameron use one in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, very very happy).

If I had a complaint beyond the woodgrain thing, it’s that when the TARDIS speaker eventually runs low on its charge it emits a crazy-loud and very non-Doctor-Whoish alarm sound to warn you that it will soon need a charge.  The first time this happened, though, I was at a complete loss for why it was happening.  It was VERY startling and then, as it continues every few minutes until you finally plug it in, remained irritating because it’s a full stop interruption to whatever you’re trying to listen to.  I understand the need for such an alert, but I don’t understand why it has to be so jarring.  There are dozens of quieter little sounds the TARDIS makes on the show that would be more appropriate.  Even the cloister bell sound would make more narrative sense, as the bells are intended to be a dire warning in the first place, and what would be the worst thing that could happen to a rechargeable speaker–beyond getting dropped in the toilet, or something.

These days, the TARDIS bluetooth speaker is far more affordable, being available for around $50 online.  If you’re in the market for one, I recommend it.  In fact, I give it four TARDI.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS USB hub

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

The TARDIS USB hub is one of the more useful TARDi in my collection.  And one of the handiest, as it’s always there on my desk, faithfully being all TARDISy and stuff.

As far as USB hubs go, it does the trick, having four ports, two on each side allowing me to plug up to four USB cabled devices into my computer via the single cable running from the hub to one USB port on the actual desktop unit.  As ya do.  But adding to the rollicking fun of all that, the optional cool bit is that when you plug a USB cable into one of the ports on the TARDIS hub, it not only flashes the roof lamp, but also plays the TARDIS wheezy takeoff noise.  Huzzah.  Or, if you’re somehow sick of hearing the TARDIS wheezy takeoff noise (you deluded monster!) you can flip a switch on the back of it and it shuts up (though it still flashes the light).  For those who are not sick of hearing the TARDIS wheezy takeoff noise, though, another feature allows you to press the door sign on the left, which serves as a button to play the noise and flash the lights.

As far as styling goes, the hub is middle-grade in the detail department.  It checks all the boxes on shape and proportion and signage of your standard Matt Smith-era TARDIS, with a very respectable roof lamp, and painted door hardware, including the keyhole.  However, there is no wood-grain to be found.  This is actually fine by me.  I’d rather there be no wood grain than shitty wood grain.  (Still lookin’ at you, Light Up TARDIS “kit.”)  I give it a solid four TARDI.

A side story to the above picture: a few years back my sister gave me a mug very much like the one pictured beside the TARDIS hub.  It is a mug of the sort that when you pour hot liquids into it the TARDIS on one side vanishes and reappears in outer space on the other side.  Trez cool.  Only trouble is, it comes with a number of notices and stickers warning you to never ever EVER put it in the dishwasher.  And I never ever EVER did.  However, while emptying our dishwasher one day, what should I find but my mug within it, sans any illustrations.  I was sad to have lost all the TARDISy bits of my TARDIS mug, but figured it had been a mistake made by our cleaning lady, who had not been given the memo on the washing of the mug.  Later I mentioned it to the wife, whose eyes shot wide.  I could see within them the guilt reservoir beginning to rise.  Yep, she’d been the culprit the whole time.

We made the original, now blank mug, a new receptacle for pens.  But since my sister was coming for a visit a couple of months later, I decided to get a replacement mug so she wouldn’t feel bad and so I would have a TARDIS mug again.  Then I went and told her the story anyway, cause it was funny.  These days the mug lives on my desk, far away from any dishwasher, and is used as another receptacle for pens, its dematerialization circuits temporarily at rest.

 

 

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: “Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis”

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

I wish I could say the “Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis” was given to me as a gift.  If it had been, I would feel an obligation not to insult the person who gave it to me by taking a dump on it over the course of 1000 words and just write something like “Boy howdy, it sure does wind up.  Look at it go.”  Then I’d slap a two or three TARDI rating on it and call `er a day.  I wouldn’t have to dwell on any of its super-obvious aspects of questionable quality.  I could just walk away and be the bigger man.  But, no.  I bought this thing with my own money and of my own free will and have no one to blame but myself.

As I mentioned before, I try very hard not to buy crappy TARDISes, but sometimes it happens anyway.  In this case, I’m pretty sure I bought it sight unseen from my comic book mail order service after having seen it in a thumbnail image on their online catalog three months previous.  When it arrived and I was able to cast actual eyes on it, I could immediately see the error I had made.

Much like its dumpy cousin, the Doctor Who: Light-Up Tardis “Kit”, the The Doctor Who – Wind up Tardis is solidly lame.  They could almost be mistaken for one another, except that “wind up” is slightly larger than “kit.”  They both, however, have the out-of-scale over-sized wood grain sculpting.  Where “wind up” improves on it, though, is that the wood grain sculpting on the roof panels is actually parallel to the roof edges.  Beyond that, they both have the same painted on windows and the non-recessed Police Public Call Box signs.  Curiously, the creators of the “wind up” TARDIS didn’t even try to get the roof lamp at all accurate.  It’s just a chunky cube of clear plastic with some blue paint daubed on the top of its semi-sculpted cap.  It’s like they got the base of the lamp and the cap of the lamp then just threw a cube of plastic in between.  And it doesn’t light up.

Where the “wind up” TARDIS distinguishes (extinguishes) itself, however, is in its ability to roll and spin when wound up.  (Y’know, like how TARDISes do on the show all the time?)  It has four wheels on the bottom which may be wound by rolling them backward (“backward” being difficult to determine without experimentation, since the wheels are, as designed, free-moving within a disc that rotates as the wheels spin, so they are therefore always facing a different direction than “forward”).  Once wound, you can then release the TARDIS and watch it roll a couple of feet while at the same time spinning kind of slowly, as you can see in the video below.

 I guess this spinning is meant to simulate the TARDIS spinning through space, cause it’s not like the vehicle is known for spinning along the ground.  In its defense, the TARDIS is also not known for, say, holding cookies, salt, coffee, liquid soap, a Yahtzee set, your head, or for wrapping you up in a snuggly embrace either, all of which are things some of the TARDISes in my collection are frequently called upon to do.  This being the case, I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about a TARDIS spinning along the floor–particularly a product called “the Doctor Who – Wind up TARDIS”, a fact that I was aware of in advance of its purchase.

I still give it two TARDI, cause its overriding lameness just annoys me.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Fascinations Metal Earth Doctor Who Tardis 3D Laser Cut Model – Blue

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

Having been kicked in my TARDIS junk (insert customary “bigger on the inside” joke here) by the non-kit, fully-assembled, have-but-to-flip-a-switch-and-yer-done nature of The Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit” I was pleased, a few months back, to discover on Amazon a new kind of TARDIS kit that actually required assembly.  The Fascinations Metal Earth Doctor Who Tardis 3D Laser Cut Model – Blue might be a mouthful to say, but it looked amazing in the pictures and claimed that its pieces were all die cut in two layers of sheet metal which you, at home, could assemble.  Sounded delightful.  And, eventually, I ordered it.

The kit arrived shortly.  I was somehow expecting a box, but it arrived in a thick cardboard envelope containing two sheets of thin metal, indeed die cut and pre-painted with TARDISy details, as well as an instruction sheet.  I laid those three items on my desk and was taken aback by the fact that the size of the pieces did not match up to my assumption of how big this thing was actually going to be–or, rather, how small.  It’s hard to get scale off a manufacturer’s picture, and I had assumed that the kit would produce a TARDIS that was probably in league with the Sylvester McCoy TARDIS, or maybe the TARDIS Yahtzee set at smallest.  Nay, nay.  The product dimensions might have listed it as being 6″x4″, but what they really meant was the package it came in was a flat 6″x4″ envelope.  Eyeballing the size of the tiny TARDIS doors within their sheet metal framework, it appeared this TARDIS would be closer to 3 inches in height than 6″.  Still, it was an amazing piece of engineering and the end-results, as per the photograph, were impressive.  I started reading over the instructions and prepared to begin my kit assembly.

After less than a minute, I lay my instruction sheet down atop the intact sheet metal sheets and became distracted by doing anything else.  For what I had swiftly realized was that this assembly wasn’t going to be a quick matter of popping the pieces out and quickly sticking them in place, like the old snap together model car kits.  Nay, nay, nay.  This was going to require tiny tools I wasn’t sure I possessed as well as a pair of 250 strength reading glasses.  Because it turns the kind of exacting detail I tend to demand from my TARDIS purchases also require a similarly exacting level of detail in terms of the number of, often, tiny tiny parts in order to achieve it.

Now keep in mind that I am a guy who is not afraid to go to such levels of detail.  In college, I was known in certain circles for my ability to paint micro-details onto tiny half-inch pewter figurines for our role-playing games.  But that was 25 years and a pair of bifocals ago.  I did want to assemble my TARDIS, and planned to eventually do so, it was just a matter of finding the time.

So the kit lay for the next two months or so.

Occasionally, I would pick up one of the sheets and stare at it, marveling at the kind of engineering it must have taken to be able to create a believable looking 3D TARDIS roof lamp and housing out of flat metal.  Brilliant.  Then I would move the whole thing to a flat surface where it was less-likely to have papers piled on top of it or bent up by a dog and there it sat for more weeks.

This past Monday, the wife’s day off, a mere week after having penned the entry about my shitty Light Up TARDIS “Kit”, I got a wild hair up my butt to finally put my tin TARDIS together.  I gathered the sheets of metal from my desk, found where I’d temporarily lost the instructions, and headed downstairs for what I was certain would be two hours of frustration and frequent cursing.

“I’m going to put my metal TARDIS kit together,” I announced for the dogs and wife to hear.

The wife put down the book she’d been reading and said, “Ooh, what if I put it together instead?” And I knew she was serious because she both loves putting things together and also had thirty medical charts she didn’t want to work on.

“Okay,” I said.

Now this might seem an odd thing for a fellow who spent the better part of 900 words complaining about a TARDIS kit that didn’t allow him to put anything together to say.  However, what I had long since come to realize is that my desire to have a cool-looking metal TARDIS, fully assembled and on display in my collection had outweighed my desire to actually put such a thing together myself.

“Are you sure?” the wife asked, fearing she .  “You don’t want to do it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I also wouldn’t mind if you did it,” I said.

The wife set her book down and set to work on the TARDIS.  Turns out we didn’t have exactly the ideal tools for doing the job, but between my small tool set and her jewelry making tools we had approximations.

Each of the pieces that make up the TARDIS come as part of one of the two flat sheets of metal and have to be removed.  This can take some doing as the metal is shockingly easy to bend in places you don’t want it bent.  (In fact, I accidentally dropped one of the sheets as I was trying to remove a piece and in my effort to catch it I wound up bending it across several pieces.  Oops.)  As such, the manufacturer, Fascinations, saw fit to include doubles of some of the smaller and more easily damaged pieces. The pieces often require folding and sometimes tab and slot fastening to other pieces (and by tab and slot I mean millimeter sized tabs and slots in some cases). For instance the roof section above the POLICE signs is composed of at least 9 separate pieces in order to get the details of the roof approximate to the real thing.  Fascinations could probably have gotten away with skimping on some of these details, but they do not.  In all aspects, this is a folded metal version of the TARDIS, down to the wood grain on the roof (which is to scale and is oriented in the correct direction).  The POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs are all properly recessed, the corner columns look right, the mirror finish windows have a T-shape formed by four of the panes, which are a slight shade of blue, the phone door sign looks correct, and both doors even open.

All in all, she said it was a very challenging and there were some pieces she asked me to help remove from the framework, mostly because there were four of them (the caps to the corners) and removing them was a pain in the ass.  I gladly assisted whenever asked.  She also apologized later, for in her assembly she’d managed to scratch a couple of the surfaces.  I told her it didn’t matter, cause to me the TARDIS is supposed to look a bit banged up.

This is a fantastic kit.  Even if I’d had to assemble it all myself, the challenge of it alone would have made the end result (which is a great TARDIS rendition) well worth it.  It was even better, though, that I didn’t have to do all that.  If you’re looking for a snap together kit, or a kit that a small child could manage, this is not your kit.

Fascinations makes a number of other Doctor Who related kits, including K-9, a Cyberman head, and a Dalek.  But they have a number of other licensed properties, including Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter.  They’re all pretty cheap, too.

I give it a full five TARDI.

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TARDIS Collector’s Corner (Future Timey Wimey Edition): The 13th Doctor’s TARDIS

Thursday nerd media online has been blazing with a single photograph, one that revealed Jodie Whitaker’s costume as the 13th Doctor in next year’s new season of Doctor Who.

For the most part, I’m okay with it, and certainly like the trouser braces she’s sporting.  Love the coat.  Love the boots.  Like the basic color scheme.  Not real big on the stripey stripe on the shirt, but I’m sure she’ll change her shirt once in a while.  It’s not like Capaldi kept his first season coat he whole time either.

But what really caught my attention was her version of the TARDIS, as seen in the background.

I’d read that it was getting a redesign beyond the traditional new Doctor interior, and had been curious what would be done to it.  Would they paint it a girly color just to piss off the fanboys who don’t like that the Doctor shall be a Time Lady now?  Well quite the opposite, in fact.

The new TARDIS looks more like the old TARDIS, and by that I mean the old old TARDIS from the later days of Tom Baker’s era.  Gone is the St. John’s Ambulance badge.  Gone the pebbled glass T windows.  This is a proper back-to-basics, no dumb glowy door sign, grim-n-dingy-`70s blue old school TARDIS.  The door sign has even reverted to the dark background of ’70s and ’80s show prop.

I look forward to purchasing the toy version of it and have fingers crossed that they take all the great aspects of the 10th Doctor’s Flight Control TARDIS and marry them to the new design, leaving out the questionable bits of more recent TARDIS releases, as yet to be reviewed here.

So far, I give it Five TARDI.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit”

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

There’s a well-worn joke in my household concerning my TARDIS collection.

Typically, upon discovering I’ve made a new TARDIS purchase, the wife will say something like “How many TARDISes do you need?”  I reply, “All of them.  And she groans and adds another tick to the column of “reasons I was correct to suspect my husband is a giant geek.”

The joke, however, is inaccurate.  While I do have around 49 TARDi in my collection, by no means am I interested in owning every version of every TARDIS toy/model/product that is or has been on the market.  Sure, there are a few more out there I am interested in acquiring, but I’m no completionist.  I would even say that I’m pretty picky when it comes to my choice in TARDIS purchases, hence the rating system I’ve adopted for this series of entries.

My criteria for wanting to own a given TARDIS are as follows:

  1. It should look like the TARDIS in one of its versions from across the 50 + year history of the show (old school, new school, what have ya);

  2. It should have most of the standard TARDIS detailing (proper number of levels to the roof, correct proportions, wood grain sculpting on most “wood” surfaces, no skimping on detail or cutting corners for sake of cheap manufacture (I’m lookin’ at you DAPOL!);

  3. It should be properly TARDIS blue (though there are shades to even that, and exceptions to the rule in certain cases);

  4. Exceptions can be made for artistic license provided the end result is fun;

  5. Bonus points for functionality, such as the ability to make the TARDIS wheezing “vworp!!” sound, or lights that flash, doors that open inward, etc.;

  6. Bonus points if it appears actual thought and care went into the recreation.

Usually I like to be able to get a good look at the TARDIS in question before buying, to make sure it falls into the above criteria.  I try not to buy them blindly for fear of winding up with a “shitfer” TARDIS that I’ll be embarrassed to have around.

But sometimes it happens anyway.

Case in point, the Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS Kit, which is one of the most inaccurately described products I’ve ever encountered in the wild.

When one orders a “kit” one expects, and possibly even desires, to have some degree of assembly required.  A “kit” is supposed to come in pieces which may be–fingers crossed–cut from a plastic frame, glued and/or snapped together, decals applied, and painting possibly required before the “kit” has been created.  Not so much for the Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS Kit.  This “kit” came fully assembled with its battery already in place.  The only requirement was to pull the plastic battery protector from the little slot in the screw-fastened battery compartment and then flip a switch to turn on the roof lamp.

yay.

whee.

that’s… awesome.

Left the “kit” TARDIS. Right an actual kit TARDIS with actual assembly required.

It did come with a booklet showcasing the various actors to have played the Doctor over the years.  In all other respects, though, it was aggressively disappointing.  And it violates or bends at least three of the above six criteria.

  • The details are not quite what they should be.  While the “wood” surfaces of this TARDIS do have wood-grain sculpting, the grain-molding they used for it is not to scale with the actual object were the TARDIS two inches high.  It’s huge by comparison and would only be accurate for a much larger TARDIS, possibly even larger than the Flight Control model.

  • And while they did go so far as to apply wood grain to the roof surfaces as well, they applied it in the wrong direction, the grain perpendicular to the edges of the roof instead of parallel to the edges, as if each triangular roof facet were its own separate board.

  • And the roof lamp, while able to illuminate via LED, is oversized in proportion to the roof.  However the “glass” of the lamp itself is beveled, which is a nice detail to have included.

  • A minor point, the POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs above the doors aren’t recessed.  This I’ll forgive, as detail is often lost in producing a miniature TARDIS (though the miniature TARDIS pictured on the right in the above photo didn’t seem to have much problem recreating the effect).

 

All in all, I’m not a big fan of the Doctor Who Light Up TARDIS “Kit.”  The company that manufactured it, Running Press, has offered a number of other “kits.”  In fact, they refer to them in their advertising as “Mega Kits,” including a Dalek, a Cyberman torso and head, a Matt Smith era Sonic Screwdriver, and K-9.  They further note that said kits are “Mega Fun!”  (They look fine.  I might eventually even purchase the K-9, since I seem to own him in many of his other forms already.)  However, I give their TARDIS “kit,” two TARDI.

In future, I’ll write about another TARDIS kit that will truly live up to the definition of the word.  I only have to assemble it first.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Cookie Jar (My 3rd TARDIS)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

In the early 2000s, pre-2005, around the time I was searching the internet for TARDIS models and toys, leading to my purchases of my first two TARDi, I began coming across TARDIS cookie jars for sale.  These were ceramic TARDIS cookie jars, with removable roofs/tops for the insertion and removal of cookies.  And I could never find one for under $40.  Now I’d probably spent $40 total for my two previous TARDi and a bag of Jelly Babies, but I just couldn’t find a way to justify spending that kind of cash on an object I was, in all likelihood, going to drop on the floor and smash into TARDIS bits at some point (recreating the ending of Season 7, a full ten years in advance–you can do that with Doctor Who stuff).  So I didn’t.  But I really really wanted to.  I just kept looking at them up on eBay and AmazonUK, and lamenting the criminally high postage costs that would accompany a $40 (60 pound) price tag.  I even looked into becoming a cookie jar dealer, figuring I could get a bunch of them in bulk for wholesale prices and resell them all, minus one, to recoup my investment.  That didn’t happen either.  And still hasn’t happened to this day.  Instead, I came about the acquisition of a cookie jar without much effort on my part.  I was given one by a generous soul who was well-versed in my love of Doctor Who and who, loving soul that she is, gave me had already given me two even better gifts in the past, one of which was Doctor Who related and the other was my wife.  I’m talking about my mother-in-law Susie, a.k.a.: Ma.

I may have dreamed of owning a TARDIS toy from a very early age, but what I truly wanted most in the world as a 4th grader was a Doctor Who scarf just like the one worn by Tom Baker on the show. (Yeah, I know, there were like 5 of them during his eight year run, and I would have settled for any of them.)  The scarf was such a monstrous thing in both length and color scheme, but I adored the show and therefore adored the fashion sense of its characters–Bohemian as it was. At the time, I didn’t even consider that I might one day own such a scarf. That sort of accessory was only found on TV, as far as my 9-year-old brain was concerned. Instead, I wound up borrowing a muffler from my dad’s then girlfriend, Nell.  It is an item of clothing which I still possess to this day.  Nell’s muffler (which, BTW, is also the name of my bluegrass Nelly cover band) looked nothing like the Doctor’s scarf, being white and with tied off tassles on the end.  It was, however, the only scarf I had and I wore it habitually.  (Somewhere there exists a photo of me wearing it, along with a paper plate Tom Baker mask I’d made in art class at school.)

Time travel ahead a decade or so. My friend Joe and I took a weekend trip to Atlanta and happened to find a Nerd Shop, somewhere on the outskirts of the city. We were nearly finished with our shopping and were on the way to the counter to check out when there, lying coiled in a basket like a multi-colored snake, we spied a single, full-sized, Doctor Who scarf.  It was a thing of beauty and we both coveted it immediately. However, because there was only one scarf and two of us, neither of us could purchase it for fear of drawing the eternal jealous ire of the other.  Or we could have gone in on it together, but then we would then have had to work out some kind of complicated time share deal for it and that seemed unwieldy.  Some time later, I was able to search out a knitting pattern for such a scarf on a Doctor Who Usenet newsgroup, but at the time I knew no one who knitted who could make one for me.

Time travel ahead another decade. I’m married to a wonderful woman who had the good fortune to have been given birth by another wonderful woman, a.k.a.: Ma.  Soon after I learned that Ma is a crafty soul who can knit all sorts of yarny goodness, if of a mind. It took me a couple of years, but slowly it dawned on me that here was a lady who COULD knit and who loved me enough that she might do me up a scarf if I asked real sweet.  On Thanksgiving, in 2002, I even brought the subject up to my wife, asked if she thought Ma might be willing. The wife said, “No way.  A Doctor Who scarf would take forever to knit and Ma doesn’t have that kind of time.”  I felt foolish for even asking.  Of course Ma would never knit me something like that.  Maybe after a decade or so of being in the family, once she was pretty sure the marriage had taken root, she might consider it, but it was too much to ask only two years in.

One short month later, a day or so from Christmas, we were back in North Carolina visiting the in-laws and out-laws for a day before heading toward Mississippi. I was sitting in a chair, watching TV when the wife and Ma approached carrying a double lined grocery bag, tied off by its straps. They passed it to me and stood smiling down. I took it, not even suspecting what might be inside. As I was trying to untie the straps, I caught a glimpse of knitting through the top and instantly knew what it was. Deep inside me, the 4th grade version of me snapped to attention and I began clapping my Puppy Chow dusted hands together in pure 9 year old glee.  At long long last, I had my scarf. And a beautiful scarf it was, 17 feet of green and tan and brown and orange–just fantastic! Ma said it was the ugliest thing she’d ever created, but she was glad I liked it. I wrapped myself up in its length and soaked in the coolness of the very concept.

“You’re gonna sleep with that thing, tonight, aren’t you?” the wife asked.

“Hell, yes, I’m going to sleep with it!” I said.

Time Travel ahead four more years to 2006, well into David Tennant’s first year as the 10th Doctor.  Ma let it be known that she’d sent a package to us and gave the wife special instructions that she was to take my picture as I opened. it.  And so it came to pass that in two days time a large box arrived.  Unfortunately, the wife was on call that night, so I had to wait to open it for fear of retribution for lost snapshot opportunities. When she returned the following day, however, I alerted her to its arrival and of my good behavior in not peeking at its contents. The wife told me that I was going to freak out with happiness when I saw what it was. And I knew she spoke the truth, for surprises from Ma designed to freak me out in a happy way always do.  The wife turned on the camera.

Carefully I cut the tape holding the box flaps down, taking my time with it to prolong the moment. (I get so few positive freak-out moments in life, so it’s best to savor them when they do come my way.) I then sliced the tape down the center of the box, slowly opened the cardboard flaps and peered into its depths.

My first glimpse of the contents was of an emergency roadside tool kit, the very kind I’ve been meaning to purchase for several years now. It was not, however, a freak-out worthy present. A bit to the left, I next spied a pair of lounge pants printed with the characters of South Park. Again, a fine present, but I was not freaking out.

The me from 2006 with his new time traveling cookie jar.

Then I saw it.

Partially submerged in the sea of pink packing peanuts within was a Doctor Who TARDIS cookie jar.  What was even cooler, though, was that this was not the porcelain TARDIS cookie jar that I was so certain I would break but a much larger (and less fragile) plastic one which played TARDIS sounds every time you opened or closed the lid.  (Or just pressed down on the lamp on its roof.)  Granted, this meant I had an automatic alarm that would sound every time I went for a cookie, but it made up for it in coolness points alone.

I completely and happily freaked out!   I cannot show you the images the wife took of my freak-out, for they are even more embarrassing than my admission of sleeping in my scarf.  Instead we have one from just after I’d calmed down a bit.

I finally had my cookie jar.  And it was a much more screen-accurate model of the TARDIS than the porcelain cookie jar would have been–which was a bit rounded off for easier casting.   I’m not certain of the manufacturer, though the packaging certainly suggests Underground Toys, or another such early toy company that had the license.  If they still have the license, they’ve more recently upgraded to the Matt Smith model TARDIS.  And they also have a porcelain model to boot, but, again, it’s nearly $40.

My TARDIS cookie jar lived in the kitchen for years afterward and was rarely passed without its lamp being pressed to make the TARDIS sound.  It has since relocated from our current kitchen and now lives atop the bookshelves of my office, along with its other sister TARDi.  (BTW, Sister Tardi is the name of my bluegrass French-language Night Ranger cover band.)   It does not currently contain cookies, but is used to store my pipe tobacco sampler pack, purchased during our 10th anniversary weekend getaway to Gatlinburg.  (Glad I didn’t have to wait that long to ask for a scarf.)

As far as TARDIS functionality goes, it’s mainly decorative.  And, for some reason, the cookie jar doesn’t have the wood grain sculpting of future TARDIS releases.  It does have the shape and details down otherwise.

I’ll give this one four TARDi.  And will further note that while it was the largest TARDIS I own for many years, that honor has fallen to another TARDIS.  I mentioned the scarf and the cookie jar as major Doctor Who related gifts from my mother-in-law, but I assure you she was not done.  There have been, to date, three more hand-made TARDIS-related gifts from Ma which come very close to rivaling even the scarf in coolness and at least one of which are larger than the cookie jar.  Those will be revealed in future posts.

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