Cardboard playsets! Some weeks ago I waxed nostalgic and looked at Biff Bang Pow’s “retro-style” TARDIS, which harkened back to the days of Mego and their cardboard environments. Everybody knows that playset-grade toy plastic wasn’t invented until sometime around 1981. But even today some companies are using cardboard in their playsets. Playmates’ TMNT Sewer Lair is a fairly recent example. Character Options, however, appears to be trying to revive the cardboard playset with their new Time Zone sets. These are diorama display areas that rest on a plastic frame, but are otherwise made entirely of illustrated, glossy cardboard and held together by folded tabs and a handful of plastic pins. I wasn’t going to delve into any of these, but I finally broke down and bought this Dalek Invasion set, not so much for the environment but for something amazingly cool that comes with it… The Dalek Hoverbout!
The set comes in a rather smallish enclosed box. It’s pretty thin and it could have been a lot thinner if it weren’t for the included Hoverbout. When you open it up and spill out the contents you find a whole lot of flat cardboard, the framework for the plastic base, some instructions, a bag of plastic pins, and the Hoverbout. Originally, I was not even intending to put this thing together, as I have nowhere to display it. But after a little examination I realized it could be disassembled again and put back into the box. Putting it together was pretty quick and easy and the parts tabbed in pretty well.
Unlike the other Time Zone sets, this one doesn’t really relate to any specific episode. I suppose you could argue the case that it’s a “Journey’s End” set, but that was a 10th Doctor story and there are no figures from that era that are in scale with this set. Me? I kind of prefer a generic set over something very scene specific. Anyway, the diorama features two walls that form a backdrop of Dalek infested London, complete with Big Ben and part of a huge Dalek Saucer. There’s a landing pod coming off the Saucer with a ramp and a little enclosed hatch where you can stand a Dalek. Because of the pod there really isn’t a lot of extra room on the base for more figures, but you can squeeze some more in here and there. It’s quite sturdy for what it is, although the plastic tabs that hold the upper extensions on the walls don’t lock very well. I’ve already lost some of them. It’s also worth noting that these Time Zone sets are modular, so you can connect them together. Why you would want the submarine from “Cold War” stuck to “Dalek Invasion” and stuck to the mansion from “Hide” is beyond me. But, hey, whatever floats your boat.
The biggest failing of the set is the cardboard TARDIS panel in the backdrop. It’s way too big to be in scale with the 3.75” figures and so it just looks weirdly out of place. It seems like a pretty careless oversight. Fortunately, the TARDIS is a separate piece so you can just leave it out creating a window where you can place the properly scaled Spin-and-Fly TARDIS and it looks pretty good there.
Back in the old Doctor Who comics, the Daleks were sometimes pictured piloting hoverbouts into battle and this set actually includes one of those vehicles. It may seem like an odd piece considering that the NuWho Daleks can pretty much hover and flit about wherever they please, but I always loved the concept of Daleks using these little vehicles. The hoverbout included in this set is a wonderfully sculpted piece, complete with a control panel with an orb to interface with a Dalek’s sucker arm and detailed engines underneath the platform. There are indentations in it that match up with the wheels on the CO Daleks to keep him from rolling out as you’re wooshing this thing around your living room. The hoverbout is without a doubt the sole reason I bought this set and it certainly justifies the purchase. The 3.75” Daleks are awesome figures and they look great in this little vehicle.
I had no real positive expectations about this set as a whole, so when I say it wound up being nicer than I thought, you should take that with a grain of salt. It’s not a bad little way to display some figures on a shelf, but it’s too big for any of my bookshelf displays and with how much space the saucer pod takes up, you can’t really pack it full of figures either. Nope, mine is destined to be disassembled and put back into the box for storage. The hoverbout on the other hand? That little beauty will be displayed all the time. It’s a wonderful pick up of a toy that I’ve wanted ever since I was a lot younger and reading the comic adventures of Abslom Daak and his Dalek hunting exploits.