The Unlikeliest Love Letter: LEGO Dimensions Doctor Who

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I tempered my expectations going into the recently released Doctor Who Level Pack for LEGO Dimensions, the “toys to life” console video game. Playing through the base game (plus The Simpsons Level Pack) provided a bit of fun in seeing Homer and Gandalf running around on the same screen, bashing baddies into bricks and solving simple puzzles, and the tactile component of the game—building and manipulating the LEGO figures and objects as a part of the gameplay—filled me with some nostalgic glee. But, as a game, the experience proved somewhat underwhelming, and once I completed the campaign missions and noodled around in the various themed “adventure worlds” dedicated to the franchises I owned figures for, I shelved the game, almost forgetting that I had the Doctor Who pack on order.

I knew, going in, that each of the Doctor’s regenerations (including, sigh, the “War Doctor”) would be playable, but based on my experience with The Simpsons Level Pack, I figured there would be some minor homages to big moments in Doctor Who‘s recent history and that the playable regenerations would just be minor variants on the default Twelfth Doctor figure.

I was, as they say, wrong.

The First Doctor in the TARDIS in LEGO Dimensions

The level of attention, of detail, to the individual Doctors stunned me. LEGO Dimensions Doctor Who is a love letter to the show.

The First Doctor figure captures, broadly, William Hartnell’s mannerisms, from the lapel-pulling and slightly haughty leaning to his penchant for pulling out a magnifying glass. Even his combat move involves the signature cane (given to him, of course, by Kublai Khan). When the player enters the TARDIS in the game, the interior matches the TARDIS that the specific Doctor used—circular wall panels for the First, Victorian sitting room for the Eighth—with even the appropriate set dressings, like the sitting chair in the First Doctor’s TARDIS. The background music changes as well based on the Doctor, utilizing the dominant theme music for each.

My shock compounded when I explored the “adventure world” for Doctor Who and found one of the locations to be Telos. Yes, that Telos, home of the Tomb of the Cybermen. I can expect most casual fans of the show to recognize the I.M. Foreman scrap yard (it’s in the game), but to reach back to 1967 and the criminally under-appreciated Second Doctor for a setting demonstrates that the team responsible both knows Doctor Who and, more to the point, respects it.

The Second Doctor on Telos in LEGO Dimensions

Even the associated game objective in the area of the Tomb harkens back to “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” which ended with a lone Cybermat escaping the destruction of the Tomb. In the game, Lady Vastra (from the new series) tasks the player with destroying thirty Cybermats before they can awaken the Cybermen in the Tomb. Even though the gameplay associated with it provides no real challenge for an adult gamer, much joy comes from bashing the little cybercreatures with the Second Doctor, who wields a flute (!) as a weapon. I really don’t know that I could ask for more.

While, of course, the majority of the Doctor Who Level Pack focuses on the new series, and the middle Doctors don’t have quite as much focus as the early or late ones, I’m still smiling broadly from my experience thus far with the game. The cost for the base game and the level pack verges on the steep, but I found the experience more than worthwhile for a fan of the series.

Besides, where else can you have the Doctor offer Homer Simpson a jelly baby?

Materializing Soon: LEGO Doctor Who Set Scheduled

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Not that there was much doubt it would eventually happen, but LEGO has finally scheduled the release for what, one hopes, is the first of many Doctor Who building sets. Landing right after Thanksgiving, on December 1st, the inaugural Doctor Who LEGO set features the TARDIS (with detachable police box and console play area), buildable Daleks, and minifigs for the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, plus current companion Clara and a Weeping Angel for good measure.

Image via https://ideas.lego.com/blogs/1-blog/post/44

I had put my money on a November 23rd release, to coincide with the series’ anniversary, but December 1st isn’t too far off. I certainly hope that LEGO has sufficiently estimated demand for this product, as the early rumblings seem to suggest the Venn diagram of LEGO enthusiasts and Whovians overlaps to a fair (OK, absurd) extent, and the LEGO Ideas line tends to be limited run. Even at the US$60 price point, Doctor Who fans will not find it a difficult purchasing decision, though the choice of Doctors and companion leaves, perhaps, something to be desired. I realize my dream set of the First Doctor, Vicki, and Steven facing off the the Dhravins from “Galaxy Four” would make for a hard sell, but still, no Doctor from the original run? Not even a K-9?

Given that this set will sell as well as Yeti take to the Underground, ideally LEGO will produce variant consoles and the proper Doctors to go with them, either as separate sets or as expansions to this set. They’ve already done something similar with their planned LEGO Dimensions Doctor Who set, albeit in a mostly digital fashion, so I imagine that the licensing would not be impossibly prohibitive.

The popularity of the current iteration of the series makes the inclusion of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors essentially mandatory, but a Whovian can dream of LEGO Sensorites…

(Image via LEGO Ideas Blog)

Another Brick Blue Box: Doctor Who Revealed for Lego Dimensions

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Following news earlier this year that a Doctor Who Lego set has been approved via the fan-suggested Lego Ideas brand, we now have seeming confirmation from Lego fansite Brickset that a Doctor Who “level pack” will be available for the forthcoming console game Lego Dimensions. Image via http://brickset.com/article/15231/more-dimensions-packs-revealed-in-instructions

Lego Dimensions follows on the heels of console games such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity that feature physical figures placed on a special sensor mat or base, allowing the figure to appear in virtual form on screen. Travellers’ Tales, the studio behind the highly successful Lego video games of the past decade, is also developing Lego Dimensions, so one more or less knows what to expect from the gameplay—puzzles, jumping, and bashing baddies into bloodless blocks. I’ve enjoyed their games for what they offer, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes was quite a bit more fun than it had any right to be, but they’re not excessively deep games. Lego Dimensions was only slightly on my radar. Until this announcement, of course.

The Doctor Who set would appear to include a TARDIS model, plus the Twelfth Doctor and K-9. If it’s at par with the announced level packs, retail will be around thirty dollars, with the mandatory starter pack at a hundred. To buy the set just for the pieces makes little sense, as there’s maybe five bucks in plastic involved, total. You’re paying $30 to play with the figures in the Lego Dimensions game, with animations and effects and such, plus an adventure level focused on the pieces. So this is not an automatic purchase for people who like little figures sitting in front of their computers.

The more significant take-away here is that Lego is moving forward with Doctor Who licensed products on at least two fronts, and with luck, we’ll see a wider range of Doctor Who figures, at the very least encompassing all the Doctors and many of the companions. If Travellers’ Tales can bring a level of gameplay to Lego Dimensions on par with Lego Marvel Super Heroes, the console game and its sets might be worth keeping an eye on.

Besides, there’s also apparently a Simpsons level pack in the works…

(Image via Brickset)

Blue Box in Bricks: Official Doctor Who Lego Set Announced

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Not even the Celestial Toymaker could have captured the Doctor like this! Lego has announced the production of an official Doctor Who set, via their fan-created Lego Ideas brand.

Image of set concept art via https://ideas.lego.com/blogs/1-blog/post/26

The existing Character Building Doctor Who range is rather nice—several of their Doctor figures and their TARDIS stand guard at the base of my monitor—and I hope they will continue to be produced as well, but there’s something about Lego that speaks quite directly to the nostalgic part of the brain. These will sell quite well, I imagine (and indeed, a glance at the prior Lego Ideas productions shows almost all of them to be sold out).

From the look of the fan-created concept art above, the focus seems (as ever these days) to be on new-Who with a cursory nod to Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. I will, of course, gleefully snap up whatever set Doctor Who sets Lego produces, but I hope that demand for earlier Doctors and companions is sufficiently strong that we eventually get the entire cast.

Lego William Hartnell and Lego Maureen O’Brien, anyone?

(Image via Lego Ideas)

Lost Toys: Marx Toys’ Navarone Play Set

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At some point, I suppose it’s inevitable that one looks back upon childhood and thinks about toys. No matter your generation, your toys were much cooler than the new-fangled gizmos the current generation plays with, and darn it, I’m right about that. Because not much can compare to Marx Toys’ Navarone Play Set!

Installing the Guns of Navarone

Note that this large, grey play set, displayed here in a happy moment on Christmas Day, 1976, does not seem to be officially linked to Alistair MacLean’s The Guns of Navarone action-thriller novel from 1957 nor the 1961 movie based upon the same. There’s no tie-in language on the packaging, which can be seen in a story on the Official Marx Toy Museum from the July 13, 2008, Reading Eagle, and the name of the play set from the box is “Famous World War II Battle of Navarone Giant Play Set,” not “The Guns of Navarone Play Set.”

But, um, Navarone doesn’t actually exist outside of MacLean’s fervid imagination, and there was no “Famous World War II Battle” there outside of book covers or movie theaters. I suppose IP lawyers were less active in those days. To live in simpler times . . .

The play set itself was, for a young lad, a work of beauty and genius all at once. Lots of cannons, rope ladders for scaling the face of the mountain, a working elevator in the back, and even bunk beds! And tons and tons of plastic army men—not that I didn’t have tons anyway, but more was always better. It was, in truth, sort of a Barbie house for plastic army men, though one bristled at the comparison at the time.

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To Boldly Go Beneath the Tree: The Star Trek Bridge Play Set

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Über-Blog Boing Boing points out that one of the two most brilliant toys ever to be deposited beneath a Christmas tree has been re-issued:

The Star Trek Bridge playset was, hands down, the best toy I owned as a child. I played with it for approximately 10,000 hours. Especially the whirly-twirly transporter cubicle. I loved the psychedelic cardboard viewscreens, the tippy chairs and furniture, the stick-on UI for same that was as inscrutable and ridiculous as the authentic show computers.

Apparently these figures and the play set have been available for a year or so, but this is the first I’ve seen of the toy since, well, longer than I care to admit.

The Starship Enterprise bridge play set beamed down to my Christmas in, I think, 1976, and I have photographic evidence to prove that I actually received this amazing gift.

Set Phasers on Fun!

That’s right. Not just one, but two goateed Klingons! No waiting to beat up on a bad guy for Kirk and Spock—they each had one to deal with.

It’s interesting to note that the play set came out several years after the end of the Original Series in 1969. These action figures and accompanying props were tied rather to the Animated Series of the early 1970’s, or at least drew on the audience that the Animated Series was sustaining.

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Delightful Dainty Daleks

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Image from http://www.action-figure.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=24238
While Whovian fandom tries to come to terms with the revelation of the next Doctor, there’s one thing we can all agree on: that’s one adorable Dalek.

Toy site Action-Figure reports that British licensed toy company Character Options is bringing out a range of 2″ characters from the rebooted series, featuring the Tenth Doctor and a ton of adversaries. No companions or TARDIS in this initial offering of figures, strangely, but when you have a cute Cyberman like that, you can get away with many things.

I’m trying to de-clutter my life, but surely these small figures don’t count as clutter . . .

(via io9.com; image from Action-Figure)