REVIEW: BBC Doctor Who Items For 2012 Holiday Season
Sci-fi Series Comes Home With Cool Collectibles...
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Over the past few years, we’ve seen the popularity of Doctor Who skyrocket around the world. What was once a cult British science-fiction series is now an international phenomenon, and especially for those of us who are long time viewers it couldn’t be a better time to be a Who fan! Along with the great episodes and Christmas specials appearing on BBC America concurrently with their airing in the UK, BBC is bringing tons of cool toys and fun collectibles to the fans around the world. We’ve covered lots of the Doctor Who action figures in the past, and today we’re going to check out some of the great non-figure items available to “Whovians” everywhere this holiday season.
The Doctor’s signature vehicle, the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) appears quite frequently in merchandising and collectibles. With its box shape it naturally fits into a variety of items and products, though sometimes it gets adapted into interesting styles like this one. It’s a time machine, it’s a spaceship... and it’s a teapot! The TARDIS Teapot from BBC captures the look and feel of the current series TARDIS (and yes, there are differences) in a blocky teapot. A classic police box with a handle and spout, the pot is decorated on each side with the appropriate rectangular paneling, windows, and “Public Call Police Box” lettering of the Doctor’s craft. The “front” of the teapot features the familiar TARDIS doors with tiny handles, lock, and signage. Naturally, the removable top of the teapot recreates the box’s angled roof complete with top-mounted light! The entire teapot is a deep TARDIS blue that looks great with the glaze, and the details on the lettering and signs are surprisingly crisp.
The TARDIS Teapot comes in a large rectangular box with large images of the serving item on the front and back along with traditional Doctor Who logos and star fields; the back panel also shows off the TARDIS Mug that you can purchase separately for even more Who fun in the kitchen. Holding approximately 25 ounces, the sturdy 7 inch tall glazed ceramic teapot can make more than four standard sized cups of tea at once. For the Doctor Who fan who has everything and who likes to show off his or her love of the series, the TARDIS Teapot makes for a great gift. It’s available everywhere now for around $40.
For something that’s a bit more festive and holiday specific, look no further than the miniature TARDIS ornament! Perfect for hanging on your Christmas tree or just about anywhere, this little guy shrinks the familiar police box to a mere 4 ½ inches tall. Made of glass and painted in shiny metallic blue with tiny sparkles, this TARDIS also has tiny details like the police box lettering, window panes, and door features. With blown glass style shape and hand painted details the TARDIS looks like a classic Christmas ornament. A cap on its roof attaches to a silver string that you can hang on your tree.
The TARDIS ornament comes packaged in a cool clear plastic box so you can get a really good look at it before removing it. Three sides and the top are clear (except for a small insert at the bottom), while the back panel displays a time vortex background behind the ornament. The back of the box explains the craftsmanship and style of the TARDIS. You can pick up one of these ornaments for your Christmas tree or other hanging display for about $20. There’s also a new Dalek ornament from BBC (sold separately) to battle the TARDIS on your tree!
Anyone who’s watched more than a couple episodes of Doctor Who knows that the protagonist’s “weapon” of choice isn’t some kind of ray gun, but a device called the Sonic Screwdriver. One of the most amazing machines in all of science-fiction, the Screwdriver can do just about anything; the Doctor points it at a problem and presses a button, it makes a noise and lights up, and the problem goes away! The Sonic Screwdriver has changed its appearance along with the Doctors over the years, though it’s generally a cylindrical tool with a high tech look and doodads. In real life, BBC and its partners have brought Sonic Screwdrivers to the fans in a wide array of both toys and useful items, from simple light up and sound versions to Sonics that write in disappearing ink or have actual screwdrivers inside. Available now is perhaps the most useful, multi-functional, and true to life Sonic yet: the Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control from The Wand Company!
The universal remote comes packaged in a pretty spiffy box, decorated with iconic Doctor Who logos and text. There’s a full-length image of the device and its name on the front panel, while the show’s title and logo appear on the sides and top. The back of the box shows the remote in its display case and breaks down its features, while the bottom panel explains even more and has diagrams of all of the different gestural commands. Just pop in two AAA batteries and your Sonic Screwdriver is ready to go!
The current Screwdriver wielded by the Eleventh Doctor is a cylindrical instrument comprised of several differently colored and shaped sections; at its base is a blunt copper butt, then a faceted white funnel, a contoured leather handle, a long shaft with alternating copper and gray segments, and finally a clawed clasp surrounding the round green “gem.” It’s a complicated design that exemplifies the high-tech yet sophisticated style of Doctor Who. The Universal Remote version of the Sonic Screwdriver recreates the overall look and feel of the prop at just over 8 ½ inches long with just a few minor differences (no opening clasps, very slight shape adjustments, no leather, etc.). The Wand Company’s website is very forthcoming about each and every one of these differences and why they were made; they all serve to make the device better and more affordable while staying as true as possible to the original. The final product is about 8 5/8 inches long with a nice heft; it certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap universal remote control.
More than just a great looking prop replica, this Sonic Screwdriver can actually be used to control your electronic devices! At its core it is a programmable infrared remote control that substitutes gestures and motions for clunky buttons. With flicks, rotations, taps, presses, pushes, and pulls you can customize your Screwdriver to interact in different ways with your TV, Blu-ray player, iPod dock, or just about anything else that uses an infrared remote. Three sets of thirteen gestures can be stored for a total of 39 remote control functions. As the official website explains, while that’s a lot and the device can do many things, it won’t fully replace your remote controls for certain functions so don’t go throwing anything out! Programming the device is a matter of selecting the appropriate setting, then communicating with your remote control to learn specific frequencies.
When you’re not controlling the TV or Blu-ray player the Sonic Screwdriver also has a very fun “FX Mode” that plays a variety of sound effects and clips from Doctor Who when you perform the different gestures. It even has an automatic flashing feature that goes off every two seconds, and at every 1963 (the year Doctor Who began) flashes the device will beep one of eleven “special Morse code messages!” There are also two more modes: Quiet Control Mode for silent operation and Practice Mode that speaks the gestures as you perform them so you can learn them right. Whether you use it for controlling your media or just for fun in FX Mode, the Sonic Screwdriver comes with a high quality enclosed display case that looks great on a shelf or mantel.
Finally, as cool as the Screwdriver is, it comes with what may be the most impressive instruction sheets I’ve ever seen. The two-sided fold out sheet has on one side a massive schematic of the device, complete with statistical information like its length in light years, wavelength of its green light, decibel level of its sound effects, etc. There’s even a diagram for Standard Regulation Cod-based Fish Fingers at the top-left! The other side is the instruction sheet proper, with notes, lists, and diagrams spread across a mad scientist’s desk full of sheets and scraps of paper. Naturally, both a fish finger and some custard decorate this side as well. Kudos to BBC and the Wand Company as this is more like cool Doctor Who art than an instructional insert.
One of the more high end Doctor Who collectibles, the Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control is a classy blend of sci-fi fun and real life functionality that you’ll enjoy over and over again. It’s also currently available in stores and online, with an MSRP of approximately $99.95.
What do you get when you cross the best British sci-fi series of all time and everyone’s favorite board game? Doctor Who Monopoly, of course! Billed as “the fast-dealing property trading game,” Monopoly’s origins can be traced back to 1903 and has been teaching the finer points of commerce and real estate to players for more than a hundred years. Of course, while the game is fun on its own, there have been endless special editions for TV shows, movies, books, cities, sports teams, music, toys, and more. To celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013 Hasbro and BBC have partnered to create this special Collector’s Edition of the game that catapults the buying and selling of real estate to the stars and beyond!
Just like with other licensed variants of Monopoly, the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who edition plays just like the standard game but with a fresh coat of paint and unique names, locations, tokens, artwork, money, and cards. The board features the usual outer ring of real estate locations and special squares; inside are spaces for the cards (U.N.I.T. and Gallifrey) along with a very cool composite image of all eleven Doctors, plus Rich Uncle Pennybags of course. Replacing the usual racecar, cannon, boot, and other tokens of the standard game are Doctor-specific items like the Fourth Doctor’s Scarf, Fifth Doctor’s Celery, and Seventh Doctor’s Umbrella. Probably the only real critique of this game is that while they’re neat for long time fans the tokens would have been much cooler if they included things like the TARDIS a Dalek and Cyberman, etc. As noted above the regular Chance and Community Chest cards have been replaced by U.N.I.T. and Gallifrey decks, while the money (standard denominations) is branded with the Doctor Who logo.
The rulebook includes the standard rules of Monopoly, using specific examples from this game, along with a “Set It Up!” section that calls out the specific new features. For example, the First, Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors’ TARDISes replace the railroad spaces, while game board spaces and Title Deed cards feature Places from Across the Universe! As you play you may land on episode titles (from classic and modern Who) or the dreaded Sonic Screwdriver (tax). Ownership, houses, hotels, jail, and the rest work just like usual.
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Monopoly game retails for about $40 and is an excellent gift for the gamer Who fan or even better the family that watches Doctor Who together. Monopoly is still rated for ages 8 and up and this game can be an excellent way to introduce younger fans to the older Doctors and their stories.
No matter what sort of Doctor Who fans you’re shopping for this holiday season, there’s bound to be a great collectible, game, or housewares item that will bring a smile to their faces.
Review and Photos by Scott Rubin
Review Samples Courtesy of BBC