TARDIS collector’s corner

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Classic 1980 Tom Baker TARDIS Tin Bank (The White Whale TARDISes)

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

As I’ve previously written, I came to my fandom of Doctor Who in the summer of 1980, in small town Mississippi, where I felt like I existed in something of a Doctor Who fandom vacuum. In the years before the internet, the ability to research a television show, let alone one from a foreign land, was kind of limited. At the time, having seen only a handful of Tom Baker stories, I had no idea how long the show had even been on the air. I had no idea that there had been other Doctors before Baker, or, indeed, a 5th Doctor impending. I had no idea that there were novelizations of episodes in the world, or that books about the show itself had also been published. I’d never even heard of a Dalek, cause I had missed “Genesis of the Daleks” during its initial PBS run. My first ever episode to see was mid-way through “Revenge of the Cybermen,” the story falling immediately after “Genesis of the Daleks”. I was a babe in the Whoniverse woods, trapped in the deep south, where we only got the show at all by the grace of the God of Public Television and a long-handled spoon. But I was definitely hungry for more.

Being in the 4th grade during my initial viewing, I longed for Doctor Who toys, yet, again, had no clue that such things already existed elsewhere in the world. It would be years yet before I learned of the Denys Fisher TARDIS of the 1970s and years yet before the Dapol TARDIS toy was produced. Yet I would have given anything at that age to have my own TARDIS toy. Which was why, a few years on, I was shocked the first time I caught sight of a Doctor Who Tom Baker Tardis Tin Bank. These were first produced by the Avon company in 1980 as fairly simple metal lidded boxes of a rectangular TARDIS-like shape, with a printed TARDIS exterior featuring an illustrated open door with Tom Baker himself standing in it. There was no three dimensional lamp on top, but just an embossed metal lid with a circular raised section painted as if light were pouring from beneath the rounded blue disc. (I expect it’s meant to be thought of as the TARDIS roof as seen from directly above.) By no means was this a toy TARDIS, but for a kid who was easily able to use his imagination to transform his Dad’s girlfriend’s cream-colored muffler into a full-length Doctor Who scarf in his head, it wasn’t a far stretch at all that I might yet be able to use such a tin as a toy, I thought.

Now, you’d think for such a powerful memory of wanting one of these, I’d be able to remember exactly where I first saw one. Not… as… such.

Part of me wonders if I first saw one at the house of some acquaintances of my dad’s, whose older son introduced me to the concept of the Doctor Who Target novelizations. That would have had to have been around 1982, or so, that I first saw the tin, and I think we visited those folks around then. However, if he’d owned such a tin, he certainly didn’t let me lay hands on it. Instead, I suspect that the tin might have been something I first spotted in a comic book store–possibly among the first two such stores I’d ever visited, both of which were within a block of one another, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and both of which are no more. The more likely shop I might have seen it in was called Injun John’s, which was a newsstand/comic shop/tobacconist/porno mag emporium. I can still remember the smell of the place, which was always a heady blend of tobacco and newsprint. Asgard Comics was more of a traditional comic book store. I bought my first two issues of Marvel’s run on Doctor Who there.

Or, perhaps I saw the TARDIS tin at Memphis Comics and Records, which was another shop I would frequently convince Dad to take me to, on the way to see my grandparents in Missouri. Or maybe at any of the handful of comic stores I visited while on summer time road trips. (Though not, I should add, at the very first comic shop I attempted to visit in New York City–a story for a future entry.)

Wherever it was that I spotted one, it was in person and was distant enough that I couldn’t get my mitts on it. (I can recall seeing the first issues of Watchmen there in 1986, so why can’t I pin down the tin? It’s maddening!)

Years later, while visiting my friend Matthew Jameson, who lived in Huntsville, AL, I spied another similar tin. This time it was owned by Matthew’s father, and was not a Tom Baker tin, but a Peter Davison 5th Doctor tin bank. This tin Mr. Jameson let me examine up close. It looked the same as the Baker tin, but with Peter painted in the doorway instead. (Fun fact: Peter Davison is the only Doctor Who actor I’ve met in person, so far, and whose hand I have shook. And the entire time I was doing so, all my brain would spit out was “That’s #&%!ing Doctor Who!”) I was not nearly as enchanted with the fact that Peter Davison was on the tin, but it was still a TARDIS. By that time I was in high school, so seeking a toy TARDIS was not yet back on my radar of things a boy my age should be doing. I’d have to wait until I was well into my 30s for that desire to kick back into gear. And soon after it did, I made the mental note that one day I wanted to own such a classic TARDIS tin like I’d wanted as a child, preferably with my boy Tom on it. However, I found in my ebay searching that such tins had become rare as the old ones rusted away and got recycled. As such, it became one of my White Whale TARDISes. I occasionally would still look for them on ebay, but they tended to go for dozens of dollars more than I really wanted to pay for a metal box. I bided my time.

Back in May of last year, I finally located one in an ebay auction. For some reason, it was only listed for $19.98, or, at least, that was the price I paid as the winning bidder. I worried that perhaps this was some sort of knock-off TARDIS tin, due to its cheapness. Perhaps there was something wrong with it. But I paid my money and took my chances.

When it arrived, it was somehow smaller than my memory of the ones I had seen previously. Of course, I was relatively smaller at the time I saw them, too. However, I’ve looked up several listings for similar tins and the measurements match those of the one I have. And if it is still somehow counterfeit, the counterfeiters did a fine job of aging it, for there was rust to be found around the edges of the inside. A little elbow grease cleaned it right up. It looks like a true 1980s-era item. I also don’t really care if it is of more recent manufacture. It’s awesome and now has a proud place on my office bookshelf. I give it four TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Siege Mode TARDIS

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

Today’s TARDIS Collector’s Corner features one of the more unique TARDISes in my collection, which is also, as of this writing, the most recent. It’s also one I had a pretty heavy hand in the final appearance of, though none in its basic construction. As you may have guessed from the title, I’m talkin’ bout the Siege Mode TARDIS, which first appeared in the Peter Capaldi Story “Flatline,” as written by Jamie Mathieson, and as mentioned in last week’s Big Chief Mini TARDIS accessory.

In addition to being one of my favorite Capaldi stories in general, “Flatline” introduced a number of cool concepts into the show’s mythos. Not only did we have a group of new (and as-yet-to-reappear) villains which the Doctor names “the Boneless,” which are two-dimensional creatures capable of killing human beings by turning them into graffiti, we also get to see the effect such creatures have on a multi-dimensional device such as the TARDIS. As the story progresses, we see the notoriously bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS become progressively smaller on the outside due to the presence of the Boneless. At first it shrinks to maybe a quarter of its normal size, forcing the Doctor and Clara to crawl through cabinet-sized doors to exit. Then, with Clara on the outside and the Doctor returned inside, the TARDIS exterior continues to shrink until it’s no bigger than an Electronic Flight Control TARDIS version of itself. In this form, Clara is able to carry it around in her purse, talking to the Doctor’s face through its door. As the TARDIS continues to react to the presence of the Boneless, it eventually enters an altogether different form called Siege Mode, becoming a 6″x6″ cube with Gallifreyan designs etched into its surface. In Siege Mode, nothing can penetrate the TARDIS’s exterior, but the Doctor is also trapped within it, life-support dropping to non-existent levels. (I will say, as gargantuan as the TARDIS is on the inside, the idea that the Doctor would ever run out of oxygen seems pretty silly unless it was all somehow vented–which we weren’t shone. This comes up in multiple other stories as well, so apparently it’s a real design flaw. I blame Omega.)

I loved “Flatline” as well as Jamie Matthieson’s other stories during the series. When word came down that Stephen Moffatt was leaving as showrunning, Matthieson had my vote to become the new guy. Even if he never does, though, he set up a storyline or two which have yet to be paid off, so perhaps one day he’ll return to at least write those episodes.

While I enjoyed the Siege Mode in the show, I kind of forgot it existed. It’s way less exciting than just the mini-TARDIS form on the show, and I was way more fascinated by the Boneless themselves, whose physical appearance became one of the more unique and terrifying villain forms we’ve seen in the history of Doctor Who.

Big Chief Studios included a tiny Siege Mode TARDIS with their Peter Capaldi figure-release, alongside the mini-TARDIS from last week. I only realized this fairly recently. No, it wasn’t until RubberToe Replicas released a Siege Mode TARDIS replica that I even remembered that the TARDIS had another form in recent years. As with all of RubberToe’s other replicas, this looked to be a very nice, high-quality item and was to scale with the original prop. Unfortunately, it was also more hundreds of dollars than I cared to pay for one, so I didn’t buy it.

A little more affordable was Titans Collectibles Siege Mode TARDIS, released as part of their line of randomly packaged stumpy little vinyl Who-related figurines. I believe, however, it was intentionally made a rare item in that line, probably having no more than one or two per display box, if that. It looked nice, but was not exactly to scale with the original prop, so even when I found them for sale on ebay, they just weren’t as attractive. No, I’d already had the to scale RubberToe version and no other felt like it would do.

My happy-medium solution, which I’m rather pleased with, was to buy a 3D printed Siege Mode TARDIS blank, from a seller in England. It arrived and was pretty sweet just in unpainted form to begin with. That it could be customized, though, meant it was a cube of potential.

As with many 3D prints, you could clearly see the print lines in the surface of the model, but I knew that going in. Some minor sanding and layers of paint help to lessen this quite a bit, though does not remove them entirely. I knew I could sand them down flat, but then I would lose all the detail of the sculpt itself.

After priming, I began experimenting with spray paint effects. I gave it a layer of a dark metallic grayish black as a base, then used a round candle lid to mask off the circular sections, one at a time, in order to give the corners a dusting of a brighter metallic blue spray. After that I switched to hand painting with brushes and metallic paint pens, coloring in various areas of each side to give it more visual appeal. Each face of the cube is unique, though similar in elements to the others, usually with smaller circles of varying size orbiting a central circle, with lines both straight and curved cutting through these areas as well.

I decided right away that I would not even bother trying to match the appearance of the original Siege Mode TARDIS from “Flatline”–which was, frankly, pretty plain Jane. Instead, I would freely add color and non-screen-accurate details as I saw fit. And while most of the colors can be found within the TARDIS’s usual color scheme, not all of them do. There are shades of green and yellow and mauve incorporated simply because those colors were available in the paint pen set I bought. In many ways, it kind of thematically reflects the opening credits of Capaldi’s era, with the swirling clockwork and spherical shapes orbiting on circular trajectories.

My wife even got into the act. Seeing that some of the silver on one of the rings was a little faded (likely from having been set down while still wet) she took one of my silver metallic pens and went over it. Then she started in on the other colors as well. So this wound up being a whole family affair. I even had to borrow some paint from my mother-in-law, so she’s got some stake too.

I like my Siege Mode TARDIS far better than the show version. I give it four TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Big Chief Mini 12th Doctor TARDIS accessory (The Shotglass TARDIS series)

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

I’ve written here before about some of the White Whales of my TARDIS collection, chief among them being any of the Big Chief Studios TARDISes. Big Chief Studios is a toy company known for manufacturing larger to-scale figures of a number of different properties, Doctor Who being a major licensee. Their 1:6 scale figures are designed to be the ultimate fan version of any given character, with fully articulated limbs, painstakingly perfect likenesses, tailored clothing, multiple hands for multiple poses, and accessories that clearly have had a lot of thought put into them. They also run around $250 retail, sell out very quickly, and then become extravagantly priced on the secondary market. I own none of them, nor do I have plans to unless I just spotted a really cheap one somewhere.

Their figures are impressive. Their TARDISes are also no exception to the high-quality standards, and are far more expensive, running around $460 ‘merican. They are massive, cast in resin stone, and basically have all of the same light and sound features of the 10th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS (which, as I’ve mentioned, is my favorite TARDIS toy ever) and then even more features piled on top of those. Things like a removable roof allowing for interior TARDIS backgrounds to be swapped out, so that different TARDIS control rooms may be displayed, (important for the 11th and 12th Doctor eras, which had multiple control rooms and variations on the décor within those).

Unfortunately, the $450 average retail price tag, which jumps far higher in secondary markets, is just more than I can really justify spending on a toy. (Actually, I could rationalize such a purchase just fine. It’s my wife who would definitely have something else to say about it.) I mean, I recently saw a really nice-looking full-size old school TARDIS replica on sale for $550, which also had working lights. It looked amazing and far better than most home-made TARDIS props turn out. If i was going to spend that kind of money, it had better be for a TARDIS I can step inside, right? (And if I didn’t live on the other side of the continent from its location, and have no practical place to put it, I would have had a hard time not buying it–though don’t think I didn’t start looking up shipping companies all the same.)

While $100 cheaper, the Big Chief TARDIS even at 1:6 scale would still take up a massive chunk of real-estate in my office that might otherwise be devoted to, say, a pickle bucket. (BTW, I already have a pickle bucket in my office. I use it as my recycle bin, but it is, in fact, a prop from a play I wrote.)

Just watch this video of the Big Chief Studios 1/6 scale 11th Doctor TARDIS and you’ll see what I mean.

While this entry might be the closest I ever come to writing a personal review of any of the 1:6 scale Big Chief Studios TARDISes, it is fortunately not the only review I can write of a Big Chief Studios TARDIS that I own. As I mentioned, the Big Chief Doctor Who figures always come equipped with very thoughtfully chosen accessories. The Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor figure, for instance, comes with quite a few extras many of which are in-jokes and props from the show. He has: two sonic screwdrivers (the green one he inherited from Smith, not the blue light one he later adopted, with one version closed and one open) a few extra hands, a rubber glove, a spoon, the psychic paper, a pocket watch, a jelly baby case with little mini-jelly babies inside. He also comes with two mini TARDi both of which came from one of my favorite Capaldi stories, “Flatline.” One is the cube-like Siege Mode TARDIS, which the TARDIS went into after an assault from beings from another dimension which were wrecking havoc on its dimensional stabilizers, causing its exterior to shrink in size; and the other is one of the miniaturized versions of said shrunken TARDIS that Clara had to carry around in her purse and which the Doctor later had to drag around from the inside by reaching his hand through the tiny doors, Thing from Addams Family-style. If you’ve not seen the story, it’s wonderful and inventive and I wish someone would give Jamie Mathieson more to do on that show.

I happened to spot one of these mini-purse TARDi accessories for sale, loose, on ebay and snatched it up. I can’t recall what I paid for it and my ebay history doesn’t go back that far, which is disappointing, but I seem to recall getting a good deal on it. (No surprise, though, of the last ten purchases ebay displays, three of them were TARDISes and five others Doctor Who-related. I may have a problem.)

The Big Chief mini-TARDIS is every bit as cool as you would hope a tiny TARDIS would be in terms of its look. If you get a magnifying glass, you can probably even read the letters on the door sign. Where this one goes above and beyond, in order to match the details of its appearance in “Flatline,” is to have opening doors which can reveal a variety of backgrounds. These are printed on thin cardboard strips that can be switched in and out via a slot in the base of the TARDIS. One is the standard TARDIS control room; one is a closeup of the face of the Peter Capaldi toy, so it can peer through the doors from within, and one is a medium shot of the Capaldi toy reaching its arm toward the POV, with a hole in the center of the picture into which one of the extra hands can be inserted to show the Doctor reaching through the doors, as he does in the story. Like I said, Big Chief puts a lot of thought into these things. This toy could have been far less cool than it is and no one would ever have complained. Thankfully, Big Chief wouldn’t settle for a lesser TARDIS.

If I had one complaint about it, the doors are a little difficult to get closed again once they are open. Not so much when there are no backgrounds within, but that thin cardboard background is enough to make the doors stick open. The door space is so small that getting a finger in there to close them manually is also difficult. And while you could use a tool to get one door closed, the other would still be open. The best method I’ve found for getting them shut is to lightly whack the face of the TARDIS on a table, knocking the doors into closed position. Also, the strips themselves are kind of tricky to get in and out. They are a tight fit within the slot provided, are difficult to remove without tweezers, and, once in place, sit just outside of the slot itself, destabilizing the base and causing the TARDIS to sit at an angle. Still not enough to get me to drop it in the ratings, though, especially since it’s probably the only Big Chief TARDIS that I’ll ever own. Five TARDi all the way.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS Bookends by Underground Toys

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

This particular set of TARDIS bookends is not necessarily a Christmas-themed one. However, I received mine as a gift for Christmas, a few years ago, so I tend to associate it there. No better time to talk about it. I have my niece Catherine (a.k.a. “K.T.”) to thank for this set. I loved it immediately, as I’d been eyeballing the set whenever I’d see it in a store, but I had never pulled the trigger on the purchase because the sets tended to be in the $50 + range. K.T. had been a fan of the show during the David Tennant era and she wound up re-watching many of those episodes and on into the Matt Smith era while she lived with us for a couple of years. So she knows of my love of TARDISes of old. (In fact, I think she still has one of my TARDISes–a fish tank ornament I offered for use in her fish tank but which she instead just put on her shelf, much as I’d been doing. If these bookends were a replacement for that one, though, I’ll take it!)

These bookends were released by Underground Toys, the manufacturer of any number of other fantastic Doctor Who products, so you know out of the gate you’re in safe hands with folks who know the topic. Unlike some bookends where you have two identical sculpts on each end, this set splits the TARDIS in twain, perhaps as it passes through the other-dimensional barrier posed by your books. In my case, it’s even better because I use the bookends to hold up my classic Doctor Who novelizations, and a few more modern ones as well.

The bookends are presented with the TARDIS door side up at an angle, against a starfield backdrop. The right half has the top of the TA`RDIS popping out with plenty of room below to add some other toy for display, such as K-9, as I’ve shown, or even another TARDIS. But the windows look great, framed in white with the distinctive dark panels of the Smith era.

The left half is mostly taken up with the lower half of the TARDIS, so there’s not much room to display anything there. (It’s also a dickens to dust.) It looks just like the plain side of the TARDIS until you look at it from above, where you can see the details of the door, including door sign and ambulance badge.

Now, it would certainly be a terrible thing if I’d been given a TARDIS for Christmas by a loved one and then spent a bunch of time talking shit about it here. But as this is a review, of a sort, so I feel like I have to talk a tiny bit of shit, but just a smidge (smudge?).

If I had a complaint about the craftsmanship of this piece, it’s that the lower half of the face of the TARDIS on my particular set (as seen in the above photo) seems to be a little warped in its molding. One might chalk this up to the warping of time and space which the TARDIS experiences in the show, but I’m pretty sure its just that someone at Underground removed it from the mold before it was fully set. Whatever the case, I don’t care. In fact, the first time I even noticed this flaw was in looking at the above photo while writing this. You certainly can’t see it looking straight on at the bookends, so what does it matter? I dig these a lot. I give them a solid 4 TARDi.

Merry ChristmaHanaKwanzika to all!

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the String Light TARDISes

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

Continuing the holiday season for TARDIS collecting, I can finally detail 10 of the TARDISes in my collection in the form of a set of TARDIS string lights.

Manufactured by the Carlisle Company of Carson City NV, and licensed by the BBC, but purchased from the late and lamented ThinkGeek.com, these string lights are from the Matt Smith era of the program, complete with bright blue paint job and the return of the St. John’s Ambulance Company badge on the door. They are well-sculpted with a decent wood grain, though not one that’s especially to scale with how grain would look on a full-sized TARDIS. Better than most, though, I’d say.

When illuminated, the light from within does tend to bleed through the surface of the blue-plastic instead of just from the windows and roof lamp. In point of fact, the roof lamps don’t glow at all, as that’s where the wires connect.

Now some folks would say that, with this item being a single unit, it should only count as one TARDIS in my collection. I am not one of those people, though, and count it as 10, since there are 10 individual TARDISes present and accounted for. Yep. That’s how I roll. One purchase increased my already sizeable TARDIS collection by 10. That’s some festive holiday efficiency for your ass.

As far as string lights go, these are fine. There are only 10 of them, so you’re either going to have to string them on a very small tree (as I did using my grandmother’s antique artificial tree in the image above) or you’re going to need more lights. Like many string lights, these will connect to other sets, be they TARDISes or other types of lights. Maybe you could mix and match with Dalek string lights. However, if you just want some atmospheric TARDIS lights to hang from the end of a bookshelf (which is where mine usually live) then they’re great. I give ’em 3.5 TARDi.

More recently, another company, Rabbit Tanaka, has picked up the license to make TARDIS string lights. (Rabbit Tanaka also manufactured the TARDIS night light from a few years ago, which I also own but have not yet reviewed here, though I suspect it will be startlingly similar to the string lights review.) I do not yet own a set of the RT lights, but they look half-way decent, if a little bit plain. They look to be modeled after the Eccleston/Tennant TARDIS, though with a uniform blue color rather than their dingier paint-job. Gone is the ambulance badge, but the white door sign is retained. From the pictures I can see online, they also do not appear to have any wood grain elements. I might get a string of them eventually, just to help fill out my other 10. (And to add another 10 TARDISes to my collection number, natch.)

In the meantime, I present my Nerd Tree for 2021…

My Nerd Tree

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Hallmark Keepsakes TARDIS and Tom Baker Ornaments

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

There have been loads and loads of Doctor Who Christmas ornaments on the market across the show’s nigh on 60 year existence. A number of them have even been TARDISes, of which I’ve detailed a couple that I already own here and here. However, I’m always up for another version of the TARDIS and this year has brought a fantastic one.

Let me talk first about a couple that I don’t own by a company that doesn’t always get their ornaments right. The Kurt Adler Company has made a number of Doctor Who ornaments few varieties, including the glass TARDIS ornament that I own and like quite a bit and the other plastic TARDIS ornament, which is okay. However, their more recent attempts just don’t appeal much to me. The Kurt Adler Doctor Who Tardis With Wreath Light-up Christmas Ornament, for instance, I don’t care about at all. It looks quite a bit like the plastic TARDIS ornament they released a few years ago, but with added snow sculpting to the exterior and roof. There’s also a wreath on the door and it lights up. However, the wreath’s positioning made it difficult for them to get the St. John’s Ambulance badge decal set into the center of its usual door panel, so they had to skew it toward the top. Design flaw. The phone door decal, at least in the pictures I’ve seen, is also a bit off square, which leads me to believe most of them must be. (I’ve seen other photos on different Amazon listings that seem closer to center, but quality control is not likely great. When the company releasing the product can’t be bothered to photograph a good one, why would I want it?)

However, the real crime in the Kurt Adler Doctor Who ornament department is their Tom Baker figural ornament. I really REALLY wanted to like this ornament, because Baker is my favorite Doctor of all time. And I can see what they were going for with it, but it just… misses… all of the targets. I mean, look at him. He looks like a hippie. Sure, Tom’s Doctor was always very bohemian, which is a cousin of the hippie, but you never saw the man wearing blue jean bell bottoms. Maybe it’s just that they chose to paint his pants blue, a color he never wore in a trouser, but those cuffs are just unforgiveable. And the waistcoat he wears, while not dissimilar to ones he might have worn on the show, is in a pattern I don’t think is at all screen accurate, not to mention his kerchief is the wrong color. He’s also a lot skinnier than the man he’s modeled from, and the likeness is far from exact. His coat, while a similar color to his first season coat, is not the right cut to match it, but is also not long enough to match his latter day burgundy coat. And the scarf… The colors are a bit off, which I can forgive, but its length is about half of what it should be for a Baker style scarf. It’s like the sculptor was working from a verbal description of what Tom Baker looked like with no photo references at all. It’s like the Bizarro 4th Doctor. I’ve been tempted to buy it when I’ve seen it online, sometimes even very cheap, but I just cannot pull the trigger on such a janky Baker. (And, by the way, The Janky Bakers is the name of my Bread tribute band.)

UPDATE 12-11-21: Okaaaaay. I have to issue a slight correction to the above paragraph here based on some new information I’ve found. While I still maintain the Janky Baker Kurt Adler Ornament above is still the Bizzaro Tom Baker, there’s a method to its madness I was unaware of. I would lay dollars to doughnuts that this ornament did use photo reference because I happened upon said photo reference. While looking for pictures of Tom Baker’s actual screen-worn scarf, I stumbled upon the image at right. It shows a veeeeery similar outfit and pose for Mr. Baker, clearly taken from an early season of the show. He’s not clad in bluejeans, but his cuffs are Super 70s ™ enough to appear to be bell bottoms. If anything, the ornament’s cuffs are more modest than the real pants. Coat color’s still wrong but is the right cut. The waistcoat isn’t too bad and has the same stripe pattern, albeit in a plaid instead of just the stripes. He has the same red tie and is holding his hat (also wrong color) in the same fashion. Scarf remains too short, but I suspect that the real baker probably had a loop of it hanging down his back. Or maybe they just had a stunt scarf for photo shoot days. The facial likeness is still off compared to the photo, but now that I see the photo they used, it’s not as far off as I’d thought. They capture elements of his expression, but the whole doesn’t reflect the likeness of the real guy. The hair sculpt doesn’t help. You can see what they were working from. I take back some of my ire at Kurt Adler’s work on this.

Let’s turn our attention away from Kurt Adler and to a company known world wide for their ornament quality. This year, Hallmark has added some Doctor Who items to their 2021 Keepsake Ornaments collection. One of these is a classic series TARDIS, which looks very much like it could have been from the Pertwee/Baker era. It’s a beauty, with the flat roof, the muted bluish green paintjob, the dark door sign, and everything. The sculpt is fantastic as well. And then, with the press of a button, the ornament lights up, both at the roof lamp and within, and alternately plays either the TARDIS materialization sound effect (nice) or the theme music from David Tennant’s run on the show (huhruhh?). Yeah, it’s kind of mystifying that Hallmark chose a more modern, though now 15 year-old theme, after clearly expending so much effort to get the details of the piece so correct otherwise. I feel like I sort of have to knock a TARDi point off for this, which would otherwise be a five TARDi piece.

However, where Hallmark in no way dropped the ball for me is with their version of a Tom Baker ornament. If the Kurt Adler was the Bizzaro Universe Baker, this one’s the full on Superman. There he is, all curls and teeth like he looked in his first season, clad in his signature coat, vest, pants, and hat. It’s just like they sculpted it from a publicity still. In fact, I think they may have, though I have to say that the likeness in the face sculpt looks more like a Dave Gibbons drawing of a Tom Baker publicity photo than an exact match for Baker’s actual face. Which is probably an easier thing to sculpt. A small quibble I might have, which I’ve seen others complain of online, is the scarf. While longer than Kurt Adler’s, it’s still not to scale with the actual scarf from the show. At least not without another couple of loops around his neck. And the tassels for it are not accurate, as the original scarf had multi-colored tassels using the same yarn colors as in the scarf itself, whereas these are solid. (Even the Janky Baker got that part right.) I’m also told that the color order in the weave of the scarf is not screen-accurate, but I’m not going to quibble about that. It looks very similar to the scarf my mother-in-law knitted for me, nigh on 20 years ago, and I think they did a pretty good job on the ornament version.

They also look great on my tree.

Merry Christmas!

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Return

It’s been a good little while since I penned a new entry in my TARDIS Collector’s Corner series of posts. Which is odd, because I’d been having fun writing them. As of the most recent entry, from 2018, I’d not even covered half of the TARDISes I own. Since then, I’ve managed to add several new ones to the collection, including some fairly rare ones, some of which have become new favorites.

It’s therefore time to resume the series, which I hope to continue on a semi-weekly basis until I run out of material.

Tune in tomorrow for the first in the returning series in which I not only detail two of my favorite new Christmas-themed Doctor Who products, but also talk shit about a couple of others.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Eaglemoss TARDIS Special Edition Figurine

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

There are a few white whales out there in terms of TARDISes that are not in my TARDIS collection.  Some of these, such as either of the hand-made polystone TARDIS “diorama” models by Big Chief Studios, are pretty damn pale in terms of white whales.  They seem like gigantic, 20″ high versions of my beloved Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, complete with lights and sound, but with a huge boost in quality.  And as much as I would love one, the reason I’ve not bought one is because they are just stupid expensive even at base retail price, going for between $250 and $400 depending on the retailer.  I buy one of those and my wife will probably see it as grounds for divorce.

However, there are other TARDIS models and toys that were well below the Big Studios threshold when they were first offered for sale, but which, once out-of-stock, became rare and saw their price triple.  One such specimen is the TARDIS Special Edition Figurine released by the Eaglemoss model company.

For those not in the know, Eaglemoss is a company that specializes in spaceship models and sculpted figurines of pop culture characters, usually cast in metal.  They have figurine lines for Star Trek, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, The Walking Dead, and others, but have spent most of the last decade producing a line of Doctor Who figurines as well.  And the fact that I don’t own any of the figurines from this line is pretty much down to marriage preservation, too, for each of the Doctors originally retail for $17.95, making a 12 Doctor set cost-prohibitive unless purchased in the $35 four-pack sets, and even then… really?

Eaglemoss made a TARDIS, though, which is a white whale that’s been singing a siren call to me for several years.  It originally retailed for $35, which seemed not unreasonable to me.  Trouble was, shipping was another $15 on top of that, which I could not justify.  Of course, they usually offer free shipping on orders of $60 or more, but that meant having to buy two of them, or finding some other stuff to order with it and before you know it I had well over $100 of stuff in my cart when all I really wanted was one stinkin’ TARDIS and I’d get fed up and walk away.  After, let’s say, two years of doing this, the Eaglemoss TARDIS went out-of-stock.  And even though they have a little box where you can leave your email in case they re-stock, they are not known for actually re-stocking what was the whole time intended to be an individually numbered limited print run, so that’s not happening.  I soon began seeing my former $45 TARDIS for sale on eBay for upwards of $100.  And when it was anywhere under $50, it was always a seller in England and they tacked on another $40 for shipping to the U.S.–which was never gonna happen on my watch.   I sadly resolved myself to the likelihood that the Eaglemoss TARDIS, much like the Electronic 4th Doctor TARDIS set from 2010, was a whale that had slipped my clutches, escaping into the vast sea of prohibitively priced merchandise.  I mean, it didn’t stop me from setting up a saved search for it, though, since you never could tell when one might find an auction for one at a reasonable price point.  This never seemed to happen, though.

Then, last month, something even more unlikely than a cheap auction happened.  I received an email ebay search report that someone had posted a new listing for an Eaglemoss TARDIS for $25 and with free shipping and it was BUY IT NOW!!!!  And I happened to be looking at gmail on my phone when the listing hit, so I couldn’t load my eBay app fast enough.  The whole time, though, I kept thinking that there must be something wrong with it for it to be listed for such a low price.  Surely it had been dropped, or gnawed by a dog at the least to go for only $25.  The listing indicated nothing of the sort, though, so I fired my whale spear and it struck home in white TARDIS flesh.  (This metaphor is really getting strange.)

A few days later, my new Eaglemoss TARDIS arrived and was something of a surprise, mainly because it was three times bigger than I expected it to be.  The Eaglemoss figurines I’ve seen and owned are around three inches in height, so I assumed somehow that the TARDIS would be as well.  Nope.  It’s to scale with the Doctor figurines, so it’s a full five inches from the base to the bottom of the roof lamp.  The other surprise was the material it was made of.  While I don’t own any other Doctor Who Eaglemoss figurines, I do own a Starman and an Ambush Bug from the DC line; they’re both cast from metal, so I expected the TARDIS would be metal as well (hence the huge shipping costs for most folks).  The TARDIS, however, is cast with some sort of resin.  I imagine a TARDIS of this size cast in pewter would probably weight at least five pounds, so it’s probably for the best.  I’d say this thing is still a solid 2 pounds.

As far as TARDISes go, it’s mostly decent.  The sculpting is nice, though there is no wood grain, but I’m okay with that.  Where it kind of misses the mark for me is in the detail work of the painting.  The windows are especially sloppy, with the gray paint of the frames occasionally splashing up onto the blue of the exterior TARDIS walls or onto the white of the “glass” panes. It looks like it was painted by a fairly skilled 10-year-old.  The sloppiness extends to the painting of the roof lamp.  Also, the decal for the door sign was applied skewed to the left side of the phone-cabinet instead of centered properly. Again, it looks like a skilled 10-year-old might have done it, so, again, I’m going to blame child labor.

Despite these complaints, though, it’s still a nice piece that I’m proud to have in my collection.  And a white whale hunted and killed and flensed and turned into 19th century lamp oil.  I give it 3.5 TARDI. 

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: TARDIS Rotating LED Cell Phone Charm (The Shotglass TARDIS series)

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

The very smallest of the shotglass TARDISes in my collection is the TARDIS Rotating LED Cell Phone Charm.  It’s a tiny tiny TARDIS encased in a plastic bell jar dome that screws onto a plastic base bearing the Doctor Who logo used during the David Tennant era of the show.  While mine hangs in my car from my rear view mirror, the device is meant to attach to a cell phone.  The base has sensors within it that can detect incoming cell signals which activate the device to cause the TARDIS within the dome to spin and LED lights in the base to flash, signaling you that you have texts or calls when your phone is on silent mode.  Sounds mildly handy, no?  Turns out, not so much–at least in the way that I used the device.

The first time my TARDIS charm ever activated was at night, as I was driving home.  There I was, driving down the straightish stretch of highway near my house, preparing to turn onto the lane that leads to my neighborhood, when unexpectedly I am blasted at eye level by flashing blue lights seemingly from somewhere on the road ahead.  In that instant my brain became convinced that, at worst, I was about to be t-boned by a police cruiser coming out of the neighborhood to my right; or, at best, said police cruiser was not in motion but had turned on the blues in order to pull me over for some unknown infraction.  It was startling and I screamed aloud, much like a little girl. Then I heard my cell buzzing and realized what was going on and felt the kind of shame one only feels when startled by tiny sparkly lights. And this happened on more than one occasion as the days went by.  I also learned that the effect wasn’t that much less startling during daylight hours.

Fortunately, the batteries in this device didn’t last very long, no doubt owing to it having sat in on a shelf and/or in a warehouse for years before I purchased it.  I have yet to replace them, nor are their any plans in place to do so.

As far as TARDISes go, I cut this one a lot of slack on the detail side because it’s so tiny.  It also gets extra points for looking cool under the dome.  It’s almost like the Master was able to somehow use his Tissue Compression Eliminator on it to finally trap it in some sort of time-travel-proof bell jar.  It’s a novelty item with a lot of novelty.  I’ll give it four Tardi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Die Cast TARDIS Keychain (The shotglass TARDIS series)

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

The die cast TARDIS keychain was the first TARDIS keychain I purchased and I like it a lot.

As a TARDIS it’s a lovely representation of the Pertwee/Baker era flat-roofed, dark door-signed TARDIS, though this one has a much better paint job than the TARDIS of that era ever did.  (Not a chip to be seen.)  It’s also pretty well in scale with the modern era TARDIS keychain, showing the size differential between the two models, even though they’re made of entirely different materials.

As a keychain I think this would function pretty well, too, as the metal die-cast nature gives it a satisfying weight and sturdiness to withstand the wear and tear keychains often go through.  As with all my other TARDIS keychains, I ditched the chain early on.  But I have kept the ring, which pokes from the top of the roof lamp itself, in case I ever want to use it for another purpose.  It could make a nifty ceiling fan or lamp chain pull, for instance, though is probably too heavy for, say, an earring.

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.

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.)

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. Find previous entries HERE.) 

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.

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, plunked 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.

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