When Doctor Who returned in the 21st century, the Doctor Who action figures licence went to Character Options. And in the Tenth Doctor’s era, it seemed like just about any character could be made into a plastic collectible! These are some of our favourites.
Is it just with hindsight that people say the Tennant years were a golden age for Doctor Who action figures? The truth is that, certainly for slightly older fans, it was at the time. It seemed extraordinary, almost silly, to be able to walk into almost any high street toy shop and see half an aisle dedicated to the “silly old show” that had rarely troubled the toy sales charts since the Dalekmania of the 1960s. Every new Argos catalogue even had whole pages devoted entirely to Doctor Who action figures and toys.
Of course, these days the weighty slab of laminated paper that was the Argos catalogue is no more. And whilst the tide of action figures based on family TV shows like Doctor Who and Primeval has returned to the domain of specialist retailers like Forbidden Planet, we still have our memories (and our little plastic friends.)
And the Tenth Doctor’s era certainly included some memorable releases. So, here’s our countdown of some of the best action figures your grotsits could buy…
Empress of the Racnoss
One thing that stood out about the range of Doctor Who action figures from Character Options was their willingness to take chances on characters who only appeared in singular episodes. Perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising when the likes of Star Wars had already been successfully mining every single background character for decades, regardless of whether they even had a line of dialogue. Naturally, it was a risk that didn’t always pay off (such as with infamous peg warmer Lazlo the Pig-Man from ‘Daleks in Manhattan’) but making a figure of the Empress of the Racnoss was still an impressive gamble.
The Racnoss, you’ll remember, was the giant half-woman half-spider monster from 2007’s ‘The Runaway Bride.’ Played by Sarah Parish, it featured the actor’s entire torso sitting centaur-like with a gigantic bulbous body, and giant legs spreading out behind her. The toy was in scale with the rest of the 5″ figure line, making it a serious piece of plastic. Even the packaging spared no expense with a special web pattern embossed into the plastic of the box.
If you want an Empress today, it will cost you a dizzying £60 on eBay.
The Face of Boe
Another addition to the deluxe Doctor Who action figures range, the Face of Boe was the oversized head who made annual appearances during the revival’s first three series. Evolving from a background gag in ‘The End of the World,’ Boe became a vital link in the Time War story arc, and possibly even pointed to the future fate of Captain Jack Harkness. By any standard, Boe was a worthwhile character to base a figure on, and yet for the uninitiated it must have been a bizarre sight to see a prune-faced head in a jar in the toy aisle!
Not that the Face of Boe was a completely static display piece. Moving a slider back and forth would make his mouth open and close, breathing life into an otherwise inanimate object.
Today, an unsealed Face of Boe on eBay will set you back a very reasonable £20.
Possibly the most notorious of all the action figures from the era is the Destroyed Cassandra – the third version of the villain who appeared in ‘The End of the World’ and ‘New Earth.’ The original action figure showed the self-appointed ‘last human’ as a stretched piece of skin across a metal frame. The second was a reissue, featuring the now rusty and more battered frame that reflected her appearance at the start of ‘New Earth.’
But it’s the third figure which people remember most. In what was either huge inventiveness or sheer cheek, Cassandra’s frame was re-released to depict the moment in ‘New Earth’ where her original body was burned up as she possessed Rose Tyler. As a Doctor Who action figure which is (literally) just an empty metal frame, Destroyed Cassandra is still wistfully remembered to this day – even Russell T Davies has one on his shelf, causing him to laugh at the glorious madness of it all when he catches sight of it.
You can buy your very own Destroyed Cassandra for £15 – £20 on eBay, or for £25 if you get the version including Cassandra’s servant Chip. (Yes, they released it twice!)
The Aged and Ancient Doctors
In Series Three’s ‘The Sound of Drums,’ the Master forces the Tenth Doctor to age 900 years in a matter of seconds, leaving David Tennant under heavy prosthetics as the suddenly-aged Time Lord. In the following episode he pushes the aging process still further, with the Doctor ultimately emerging from a pile of clothes as a tiny, gnarled, Yoda-like figure. Naturally, Character Options immortalised this moment in 5″ of plastic. (Well, about 1.5″ in the Ancient Doctor’s case…)
Probably in acknowledgement of the Ancient Doctor’s diminished size, the two were presented in a single pack, with the Aged Doctor as the main figure and the Ancient version as a bonus. It even comes with its own piece of Gelth, part of a collect-and-build strategy that (for a time) encouraged fans to buy entire waves of Doctor Who action figures by including parts that could be assembled into a whole new model.
In short, the Aged and Ancient Doctors successfully recreated the TV versions’ mix of cute and grotesque. Alas, they are noticeably absent from all auction sites, hinting at their rarity.
Another of the Collect-and-Build figures released during the Tenth Doctor years was the Vespiform. Fundamentally, the Vespiform from Series Four’s ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’ was a giant wasp. And the toy version reflected this, so you’d be hard pressed to identify it as anything to do with Doctor Who if you didn’t already know.
Still, while perhaps not big enough to destroy doors or push gargoyles off roofs, it was made in scale with the other 5″ figures, so it was fairly large. Indeed, at about 8″ from sting to antennae, it would give a nasty jolt to anyone discovering it on their windowsill.
Assembling the Vespiform was a major challenge however, with claws and wings being spread across the entire wave of Series Four figures. In fact, to make your own you had to collect (deep breath): Donna Noble, Adipose (in a pack of 25!), Pyroville Priestess, Ood Sigma, Natural Ood, General Staal, Commander Skorr, Hath Peck, Professor River Song, Vashta Nerada (in a spacesuit), Supreme Dalek, and Davros. That was a total recommended retail price of £95.88.
These days, completed Vepiforms rarely come up for auction and you can expect to spend £20 per segment. Finding the Key to Time was easier!
Grandma Connolly is one of the stranger Doctor Who action figures. Presumably, the powers that be wanted to make a figure of the main villain in ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ – the Wire. But the Wire never appears as anything other than a face on a succession of old 1950s television screens, which wouldn’t make for the most thrilling toy. So whilst this set reproduces both the normal television version of the Wire and the portable version, it also includes one of her victims: Grandma Connolly.
Grandma Connolly is an old lady with a cardigan, a pink dress and a pair of slippers, but no face. To compensate, the manufacturers included a swappable head so that she could also appear as an ordinary old lady. Perhaps not the most coveted toy in the school playground.
And whilst this is one of the more reasonably-priced collectibles on eBay, an unopened Grandma Connolly will still set you back about £18.
A cousin perhaps to the Destroyed Cassandra figure, the Damaged Cybermen is a variant of the Cyberman design introduced in 2006 – except this one has had its legs blown off! (And an arm.) With only one poseable limb to drag itself along with, it’s another action figure which pushes the definition of ‘action’ to breaking point.
You’d think that the absence of legs would make the Damaged Cyberman one of the cheaper Doctor Who action figures, but this was originally released as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive, meaning that unopened versions bearing the SDCC logo will actually fetch upwards of £30 today.
And that’s just some of the Doctor Who action figures we’ve seen over the years
We’ve barely scratched the surface of some of the weirdest and wildest Doctor Who action figures that have made it onto store shelves. Let us know if you’ve owned any of these plastic collectibles. Did you succeed in assembling your Vespiform? And what other outlandish figures were you hoping to see from Character Options? Let us know in the comments below.
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