Doctor Who: TARDIS Playset (Series 5) by Character Options, Part 1

It’s a crying shame, but US toy companies don’t believe in making playsets anymore. There are still exceptions, and some companies, like Hasbro, have managed to blur the line between vehicles and playsets to throw us a bone now and then, but it sure ain’t like the good old days. Thankfully, our friends across The Pond at Character Options haven’t given up on the playset yet. A few years back they gave us an amazing playset based off the 9th and 10th Doctor’s TARDIS console room, and now they’ve done it again for the 11th Doctor. Granted, this time around, CO had to scale back on the bells and whistles (not to mention the lights), but the result is still a really cool piece.

It should also be noted that the TARDIS console room’s design for Series Five has been met with some mixed emotions by fans. It’s different, it’s multistoried, and it seems to defy logic and reason. But above all, it could not have been simple to design and build a playset based off of its M.C. Escher meets Doctor Seuss environment and I think CO did a remarkably good job translating it.
Pardon my carpet, but I couldn’t get a good shot of the box against my usual neutral backdrop. The playset comes in a fairly sizeable box that does nothing to hint at just how big this set is when completed. It’s nicely illustrated with plenty of photos of the playset complete and displayed with and without figures. I was expecting a window-box with at least the console set up, but once I looked at the mess of parts inside the box I saw that such a presentation would have been impossible. Still, CO makes no bones about showing you what you’re getting on almost every panel of the box.
I suppose I could have taken a few snaps of all the parts laid out and ready for assembly, but I think this shot does it just as much justice.

Holy shit. It looks like they just poured the parts in there. If you bought that second hand at a toy convention, you bet your ass you’d want to dump it out and check out all the pieces first. It’s a pretty scary site, considering how much there is to assemble and the fact that a good amount of this playset is made up of delicate cardboard backdrops and floor panels. In fact, it’s impossible to overstate how important it is to be careful taking this set out of the box. One misstep, one bad crease, and you could be looking at a disfigured console room. The transparent floor is particularly thin and comes in its own baggie, which could easily be discarded if you aren’t paying attention. This playset really is like a trip back in time to the old 1970’s Mego Planet of the Apes or Star Trek sets where plastic and cardboard collide. And even those sets usually used heavily lamenated cardboard. It’s delightfully nostalgic, but at the same time, it could be unbelievably disappointing for someone who isn’t expecting it.

And therein leads me to mention a bit about the assembly process. In retrospect, I should have taken a Xanax before doing it, because I was seriously nervous about screwing up. It’s a pretty unforgiving assembly and the instructions could have been a lot better. There are over a dozen pieces that make up the console room’s structure. The floor and the walls all require you to carefully lay in the cardboard and secure it under tabs. It’s very difficult to do without mangling the edges, but with patience and care, it comes together just fine. The design is actually ingenious at parts, the way the plastic framework supports the cardboard. The end result feels a lot sturdier than it has any right to be, and everything locks in really well. You can easily move the set once it’s completed, without worrying about it falling apart. Still, there are some edges of the cardboard that aren’t reinforced by plastic, so the potential for crunched edges or corners is there. It would have been cool to have some long plastic edging to cap off these panels.

Now that it’s all together and sitting proudly (and safely) up on a pedestal in my Library, I’m going to breath a sigh of relief and have a stiff drink to calm my nerves. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a detailed look at the playset and all its different goodies.

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