Doctor Who: “The Keeper of Traken” Collectors Set by Character Options

The rain of Classic Who figure sets from CO continues and this time we’re checking out a decent sized set of three figures, plus some cool accessories, all based on the 4th Doctor story, “The Keeper of Traken.” Overall, I’ve always found this one to be a fairly mediocre episode, albeit heightened by the fact that it introduces companion Nyssa to the series and also sees the return of The Master as a major player and in his new incarnation as played by the late, great Anthony Ainley.

The set comes in an oblong window box with the new Classics retro-style deco and logo. Once again, let me say that I’m loving this new deco and the fact that we don’t have to see the 2005 logo on the Classics packaging anymore. The back of the box has a little synopsis of the story and features various stills featuring the characters. The set includes another variant of The 4th Doctor, another variant of the decayed Master, The Melkur, which is actually The Master’s TARDIS, and a grandfather clock, which is also actually The Master’s TARDIS. As usual, we get the figures mounted beside each other against a backdrop photo from the episode, in this case a shot of The Grove where both The Doctor’s and The Master’s TARDIS landed on Traken. Off to the side you can even see The Source chamber where The Keeper manifests, although it’s hidden behind the grandfather clock.
Let’s kick things off with The Doctor. Yes, it’s yet another 4th Doctor variant. I’ve already got three 4th Doctors in my collection and I’ve been pretty nitpicky about buying them so chances are a lot of people have more like five or six. Granted, this one is one of the better variants out there, as it features The Doctor in his vest and shirtsleeves and not his coat and scarf. The figure also features the new ball jointed shoulders so that’s a big bonus. I’m a lot more pleased with this figure than I thought I would be. He looks really good, except the paintwork on his eyes gives him a bit of a zombie-like expression. Since he uses the same head sculpt as the figures designed to wear the scarf, he also suffers from a bit of giraffe neck, but all in all not a bad figure at all. The Doctor comes with a scaled version of The Source manipulator as seen in the episode and a Sonic Screwdriver.
Next up is The Master in his second emaciated incarnation. A long while back I looked at the figure of the decaying Master from the episode“The Deadly Assassin” but his appearance (not to mention the actor) changed a bit to this appearance in “The Keeper of Traken.” The figure reuses just about everything from the last release (minus the Sash of Rassilon), but does feature a new head sculpt that really nails the way The Master looked in this episode. The robes are also darker this time around, being more of a proper black whereas the last release was a charcoal color. I probably could have gotten by without this version of The Master in my collection, but he’s still an excellent figure, so I’m not complaining.
The last figure we have is the Melkur, which is actually The Master’s TARDIS. I really had no idea what to expect from this one and was preparing myself for the likelihood that it would just be another static rotocast piece. As it turns out I was only partly right. The torso is rotocast, but the rest of the figure is regular molded plastic and Melkur has a nice amount of articulation for what was essentially a statue in the episode. The head swivels and the arms swivel at the shoulders. The legs actually have lateral movement at the hips too. This may not be the most exciting figure out there, but once again, CO really turned out a great sculpt of this very distinctive looking design.
Finally, you have the grandfather clock, which is as expected just a rotocast piece with stickers used for the detail in the clockface and front glass. This was the form The Master’s TARDIS took when he used it to trap Tremas and take over his body at the end of the story. I always thought it was kind of silly to have such an ordinary Earth clock be a part of the decor on a totally alien planet, but I try not to read too much into this stuff. In any event, it’s a good little replica of the on screen counterpart and its kind of cool that we now have three different versions of The Master’s TARDIS. Can a rotocast “Planet of Fire” column be far behind? At this point anything is possible.
As with most of the recent Collector Sets, this one retails for right around fifty bucks, and I’ll admit this one really is for the more hardcore collectors with deep pockets. Yes, this Doctor figure is a lot different than previous ones and has the extra articulation, but even the more casual collectors may be getting weary of 4th Doctor variants by now. The Master is also a variant of a previous release, and the grandfather clock and the Melkur, while very cool, probably aren’t considered “must haves” by a lot of people who are budgeting for the influx of so many new Doctor Who figures and toys. If you are on a budget, you may want to save your pennies for the sets that released this week. But if you have no problem pouring money into the deludge of awesome Doctor Who figures, you should like this set just fine.

Doctor Who: “The Time Monster” Master and TARDIS by Character Options

In case you haven’t noticed, Character Options is striving to get a lot of mileage out of their classic figure sculpts. They’re doing this by making us buy the same figures or toys over and over again to get a new piece in our collections. Just look at the four Davros sets or the fact that they’re putting out another Sontaran set with the ship, and you’ll see what I mean. This Time Monster set is yet another example, where I’m buying a figure that I already own, in this case The Master, just to get his TARDIS and a few little accessories. Does this piss me off? Nope. Not in the slightest. If this is what CO needs to do to get a return on their investment and keep making figures, that’s fine by me. I’ve waited so long for these figures and toys and I’m so happy that CO is making them, I’ll gladly keep forking over the dough as long as CO keeps making them.

The package is a window box with the same deco that’s been used for sets like the Vengeance on Varos or The Sontaran Experiment. You get a blue deco with the 2005 series logo. The front of the package features a photo of Roger Delgado as The Master along with a shot of his TARDIS as it appeared in the episode. The back panel has a nice synopsis of the episode, The Time Monster, and more photos from the show. One of my favorite things about this set is the cardboard insert that is illustrated with roundels from inside the TARDIS and can be taken out and used as a backdrop to display the figures with. No doubt this backdrop will go a long way for folks looking to do custom TARDIS interiors.

I don’t have much to say about The Master, as he’s the exact same figure that was released with the Claws of Axos set. He’s a fantastic figure with a wonderful likeness of Roger Delgado, but I’ve got nothing new to say here. Feel free to take a look at my review of The Claws of Axosset for more on the figure itself.

The TARDIS is designed to look like a 1970’s era computer bank. Much to The Doctor’s chagrin, The Master’s TARDIS had a fully functional Chameleon Circuit. It’s sculpted in hollow plastic and feels kind of like a dog’s chewtoy. The sculpt and the paint apps are simple enough, but don’t expect anything else out of it other than a prop. It doesn’t open, nothing moves on it, it’s just a display piece for decoration. Some may find that disappointing, but then there’s this counter-argument. “Holy shit, they actually have a toy based on The Masters TARDIS from The Time Monster.” Who the hell thought we’d ever see something like this? Yeah, I’m willing to be pretty forgiving here.

There are also three accessories included in the set. First, you get The Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator, which is the same one issued with The Claws of Axos Master. Next up, you get the Crystal of Kronos, which is actually a really nice little scaled replica of the artifact from the episode. Lastly, you get the Time Sensor that The Doctor built, which is also a pretty nice piece.

If you missed out on picking up The Claws of Axos set, and you’re in the market for this Master figure, this set is a nice pick-up. It’s especially a nice set if you passed on the Axos set out of bitterness that the Axon figure was actually just a repainted Krynoid. On the other hand, if you already have The Master in your collection, this set is by no means a must have. The TARDIS is cool enough and the accessories are nice, but it hardly justifies buying the set. On the other hand, with a retail of about $25-30, picking this one up isn’t going to break your bank like collecting all the Davros sets will. Personally, I’m trying to support this line as much as possible, so buying this set was a no brainer for me.

Doctor Who: The Master and Axon by Character Options

Having barely recovered from holding in my hand an action figure based on The Master as played by Anthony Ainley, Character Options delivered the rapid one-two punch by leaking photos of another Classic Master figure, this time the original as played by Roger Delgado. In a bewilderingly fast turnaround, leaked photos turned into finished product and scarcely a month later I now hold in my hands The Claws of Axos set, which is comprised of the aforementioned Master and a Krynoid… no, wait… I mean an Axon.

No standard clamshell package this time. The Axos set comes in a cool, compact little window box, featuring the blue background from the newer Series 5 packages, but still retaining the Doctor Who logo used for Series 1 through 4. Yeah, part of me wishes they would release these Classic figures with one of the original series logos, but then again, I toss the packages so what do I care? The rear and side panels feature photos of Roger Delgado as The Master and the Axon creature and there is a synopsis of the episode on the back panel as well. The box is totally collector friendly and the insert can come out and double as a nifty little diorama depicting the Axon spaceship.

The Master and the previously released Ainley Master represent the first two non-Doctor figures from the Classic series based on actor’s likenesses (ie. not heavily costumed aliens). This is a big deal, because CO went on record a while back saying that this would probably never happen. Granted, they were speaking more about Classic companions than anything else, but I’m buoyed in my optimism that if we can get figures based on Ainley and Delgado, then Classic companions can’t be too far behind. I realize a lot factors into it, especially differences between securing the likeness rights between living and deceased actors, but I’ve never been more confident than right now that we will see Classic companion figures.

But besides being a milestone release, the Delgado Master is also an absolutely fantastic figure. The likeness in the headsculpt is excellent, even for CO, a company that has been known for producing very good likenesses. The paint apps on the face are extremely well done, with just a tiny bit of slop along the hairline. I especially like the darker pigments around his eyes and the streaks of grey in his goatee. Even the skintone is perfect for Delgado.

The body does not feature a lot of paint apps or sculpted details, but it is a great likeness of The Master’s iconic black suit. In fact, the only place below The Master’s neck that isn’t black is the little bit of white on his cuffs that peek out from under his sleeves. He’s even wearing black gloves. It may not be the most visually stunning outfit, but it is totally in character for The Master’s wardrobe. He comes with his Tissue Compression Eliminator, a ghoulish device that basically shrinks its targets, killing them in the process. The sculpt here seems a little too cylindrical, more like a black and silver Sonic Screwdriver, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Master’s articulation is on par with the current waves of Doctor Who figures. He has a rotating neck, rotating shoulders, hinged elbows and knees, universal leg movement in the hips, and swivel cuts in the biceps, thighs and wrists.

The Axon figure has a bit of a history to it, as it started life as a Krynoid and was even originally leaked as a possible Build-A-Figure for a forthcoming wave of Classic figures. It’s certainly big enough for a BAF, but in the end the idea was nixed and it was unknown whether we’d ever actually see this figure released in any form until now. And so, the Krynoid figure was retooled and repainted to be an Axon as a companion figure needed for a Classic Master release. It’s only fitting, though, since the Krynoid suit worn in the Seeds of Doom was a modified version of an old existing Axon costume. In other words, the fact that this Axon started out as a Krynoid does not bother me one bit. On the other hand, they could have bundled the Delgado Master with just about anything and I still would have bought it.

Regardless of his origins, the Axon is a very cool looking figure. There’s a ton of sculpted details on his copious body. In fact, there simply isn’t a spot on this figure that isn’t elaborately textured in some way. The tendrils are made of bendy rubbery plastic and protrude off of his body at various points. The main complaint here isn’t likely to be the amount of effort that went into him, but that the detail makes him look more like a plant than anything else. It’s also worth noting that the tendrils on the Axon costume were a lot thinner and more stringy. Still, we can blame that partly on the similarities of the costume, and partly on CO wanting to cut costs by reusing a mold. Hey, Hasbro and Mattel do it all the time, so I’m willing to let CO get away with it now and then. And either way, I’ll be happy to buy this figure again when CO inevitably repaints him green and releases him as a Krynoid.

The Axon’s articulation is a lot more limited than most other Doctor Who figures, but I blame this more on his body type than any lack of effort on CO’s part. He has a rotating head, universal joints in the shoulders and hips, and swivel cuts in the wrists and ankles. His waist looks like it contains a joint of some kind, but mine doesn’t move at all there. I’m guessing this seam may be a holdover from the figure’s BAF origins.

The Claws of Axos set retails at around $39.99, which I think is pretty good considering the size of the Axon figure and the fact that we are getting two completely new figures in the set. CO could have easily bundled The Master with another Dalek and put it out at the same price. Needless to say I am absolutely thrilled (and still just a little bit stunned) to finally own a figure based on this version of The Master, especially one that is so wonderfully executed. Now to let my wallet recoup a bit before the release of the newly revealed Revenge of the Cybermen set.

Doctor Who: Planet of Fire 5th Doctor and The Master (SDCC Exclusive) by Character Options

For a while now, Character Options has been dancing around giving us certain characters from the classic show. We’ve gotten all The Doctors, and our share of aliens, but the “human” characters have been off limits. With the release of this set, we’re one step closer to breaking that unfortunate lock out. The “Deadly Assassin” Master previously released was all well and good, but I, like many fans, were waiting to get a figure based on one of the proper incarnations of this evil Time Lord, and now we have it. The Planet of Fire set gives us another version of the 5th Doctor plus The Master as portrayed by the late, great actor Anthony Ainley.

The packaging here is the same type we’ve been seeing on all the classic style two-packs. The logo and artwork is based on the 2005-2010 series and the figure is sealed in a clamshell. An insert on the bottom shows off images of The Doctor and The Master and the back panel has a blurb about the episode and The Master. The 2010 SDCC logo is printed in the upper right hand of the card. Planet of Fire has never been one of my favorite episodes, but it does introduce the appealing companion, Peri, and it is a pretty good final showdown between The 5th Doctor and The Master. Ainley would also reprise his role to face off against both the 6th and the 7th Doctors in future episodes. Oh yeah, Planet of Fire also sees the departure of Turlough… good riddance!

Before getting started, here’s a quick and possibly unnecessary disclaimer on The Master as he is portrayed in this set. Technically, this is not The Master, but rather the shape-shifting android, Kamelion, assuming the form of The Master, who was in actuality stranded in his TARDIS in a… um… diminished state. Its only really relevant because The Master never actually wore a suit like this and this was an opportunity for CO to create an Ainley Master while reusing some parts from the John Simm Master. Do I care? Nope. If CO sees fit to release a proper Master figure later on down the road, I will pick it up, if not, I’m perfectly happy with this one. Its amazing how easy I am to please when dealing with a figure I thought I’d never get.

At first glance, many thought that this Master’s body was a complete reuse of the body used for the John Simm Master, but that’s not entirely the case. The arms and legs are the same, but the torso has significant differences. The details on this new figure’s jacket are much better sculpted, he’s wearing a vest under the jacket, and the wrinkles sculpted into the back are more pronounced. The sculpting on the Simm Master’s coat looks really soft when compared to the crisp detail on this one. The head sculpt is obviously new and quite excellent. CO did a fine job capturing Ainley’s slightly evil smirk and his mesmerizing, piercing eyes. There’s a tad of paint slop on the goatee, but nothing that is unacceptable. All in all, this is an excellent figure.

The Master’s articulation includes a rotating head. His arms rotate at the shoulders, are hinged at the elbows and have swivel cuts in the biceps and wrists. His legs have universal joints at the hips and hinged knees. He is, however, missing the swivel cuts in the thighs that many fo CO’s Doctor Who figures have.

The Doctor is also a fantastic figure, although he features far less original sculpting than The Master. The body sculpt is virtually identical to the one used for the previous single carded release, with the only difference being the celery on his lapel. I suspect it is identical to the Doctor released in the SDCC exclusive Time Crash set, released a few years back, and it may be the same body used on the one in the recent Eleven Doctors Set, both of which also feature the ornamental vegetable.

The head on this figure is a resculpt, changed just enough to accomodate the hat, which is not removable. The paint on this figure is very crisp, with the only flaw I can see being a small red dot of paint on the left shoulder of his coat. I’m not someone really interested in collecting a lot of variants of each Doctor, but I was glad to get this one because of the celery and I think the hat looks quite good on him. Right now, this one is replacing my other 5th Doctor as my main display piece. That’s how much I like him.

The Doctor features the exact same articulation as his previous releases. He has a rotating head. His arms rotate at the shoulders, are hinged at the elbows and have swivel cuts in the biceps and wrists. His legs have universal joints at the hips, hinged knees and swivel cuts in the thighs.

The set only comes with one accessory and that’s a sonic screwdriver for The Doctor. The obvious miss here is the lack of a Tissue Compression Eliminator for The Master. Oh well!

The Planet of Fire set retailed at $39.99, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect to pay for these limited issue two-packs. Sure, some might complain about the reuse of parts on The Master, or that he’s actually Kamelion and not The Master at all. Others might complain that they have to buy another Doctor just to get him. Me? I’m thrilled with this set. Its actually the one SDCC exclusive that I decided I couldn’t live without. As it turned out, it was a pretty easy set to get and many e-tailers still have it available at the original MSRP.

Doctor Who Figures, Classics Wave 2, Part 2

As promised, I’m back to check out the next two figures from Classics Wave 2 and these guys have a couple things in common. They are both villains from the Fourth Doctor’s (Tom Baker) era and they are both evil Time Lords with regeneration problems. Morbius from “The Brain of Morbius” was a Time Lord criminal who, unable to regenerate, kept his brain alive on a planet while harvesting alien body parts to build himself a new body. It was a complete rip off of loving tribute to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and when I first saw it as a kid it scared the shit out of me. To this day it’s still one of my favorite Doctor Who stories. The Master is from “The Deadly Aassassin,” aother favorite of mine, and it features The Doctor’s greatest enemy as he existed between his Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley incarnations. Both are interesting choices from landmark episodes and both figures, as we’ll see, are fantastic.

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The Master is a good news, bad news kind of figure. The good news is that the sculpting is superb. The bad news is that because he’s wearing a robe he has some seriously limited articulation. Fortunately, in this case the good outweighs the bad by a long shot. CO put a ridiculous amount of detail in The Master’s tattered black robes. There are patches where it looks charred and threadbare and you can see its all tattered at the edges. It really is an uncanny match for the costume used in the show. The head sculpt is equally impressive, showing off what is essentially a decaying zombie face, complete with The Masters two fried-egg eyes and the sickening glossy sheen. I don’t know why, but I find it unbelievably cool to get action figures based on retro sci-fi costumes and make up.

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I mentioned the limited articulation, and in fairness to CO, this figure is actually articulated quite well, its just that the robes prevent you from using much of it. The arms rotate at the shoulders, have hinged elbows and swivel cuts in the wrists. The neck is immobilized by the hood and you can move his legs around as much as the cloak will allow, but there’s no point. So, basically this figure suffers from teepee syndrome. Technically, CO could have left the legs off completely and unless you picked up the figure and looked at him from the bottom, you’d never know it. In this case the articulation doesn’t bother me. The Master in this incarnation was a withered wreck of a man, so he doesn’t need to be busting out any dynamic action poses.

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The Master comes with two accessories: A staser gun and the Sash of Rassilon. The Sash is a separate piece, although I’m not sure it can be easily removed so its probably more a part of his outfit than a bonafide accessory. It looks just like it did in the episodes “The Deadly Assassin” and “Invasion of Time” and its cool to own such an important artifact of Time Lord history in the 5″ scale. The staser is a pretty simple little black gun, which he can hold in either hand.

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Next up is Morbius. If you never saw “The Brain of Morbius,” this guy is going to be a pretty wacky looking figure. As mentioned above, he’s supposed to be pieced together from a bunch of different alien bodies with his goldfish-bowl brain support system tacked on for a head. Yeah, he’s ridiculous, but he’s amazingly accurate to the monster from the show, and once again he scared the shit out of me the first time I saw the episode as a kid. This figure was also rumored for a while to be a BAF in this wave, but we got him complete and carded instead.

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The head is really well done on this figure. Its a clear sphere displaying Morbius’ brain with all kinds of wires coming out of it and two eye stalks protruding from the front. The body is full of sculpted detail from fur to stapled and sutured scars and disgusting patches of exposed muscle. His left hand is the only thing humanoid about him, an appenge stolen from poor Condo. His right arm is a giant claw that features articulation, so you can use it to grab your Tom Baker figure by the throat. Early pictures of this figure really didn’t do it justice and I’m just beside myself with glee to actually own an action figure of the terrible Morbius!

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So, that’s four down and two more to go. Next time we look at what are probably two of the most popular figures in this wave and both of them are “army builders.” Its an Ice Warrior and 80’s era Cyberman and both are figures that have been on my wish list ever since I was a small child… and no Dapol’s versions don’t count!