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?

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)

The Simpsons Finally Cancelled (On DVD)

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Well, they finally cancelled The Simpsons. The DVD releases, that is. As has been widely reported, show runner Al Jean announced last week that Fox would no longer produce season sets of The Simpsons on DVD or Blu Ray.

Behold the glory!

Fox released the extant season sets over a period of thirteen years, launching season one for the 2001 holiday season, then releasing roughly two a year until 2009, when they released the 20th season set out of order to coincide with the show’s two decade anniversary. The sets came one a year after that, through season seventeen in the fourth quarter of 2014. The extensive audio commentary on each episode in the season sets likely accounted for the gradual slowing of the releases, not to mention the slow decline of physical media sales in the last half decade.

Possibly, had the commentary not been recorded, Fox could have released the seasons in a more accelerated manner, though one wonders how much they needed to protect the lucrative syndication market for the show by pacing out the releases. Still, the remarkable commentary tracks were a labor of love, and while the commentary at times diverges wildly from the episode being discussed, it’s hard to begrudge the creators of the show the right to talk about the episodes and their creation.

It’s fashionable to note that the “best” years of The Simpsons are already on DVD, so the loss of the remaining seasons in this format shouldn’t be considered a tragedy, but the later seasons have their share of gems, and to watch the arc of the show is a pleasure in its own right. While Fox does run a streaming site for the series, providing access (with restrictions) to the whole series, there’s something to be said for having them all on the shelf, ready to watch regardless of bandwidth issues or what cable provider I have.

Perhaps DVD is a dying format, but I still want my box sets. Just seeing them all there, on the shelf, mostly uniform in terms of appearance, makes me happy. Like, Homer with beer happy.

Ja, Vi Elsker The Simpsons

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Coming to Homerica,” the season-ender for this, the twentieth season of The Simpsons, uses as its foils the Norwegian immigrants who inhabit Springfield’s neighboring town of Ogdenville. What follows is a traditional Simpsons send-up of Norwegian-Americans and Norway in general, from aquavit and the inward-breathed “ja” to a strange fondness for the Minnesota Vikings. While this season has been uneven at best, the season finale should be remembered as one of the stronger episodes this year.

Simpsons go Norsk!

Of note, though, is the original U.S. air date for this Norsk pastiche: May 17, 2009. May 17th is Norwegian Constitution Day, the Norwegian national holiday. Whether this confluence of the episode’s air date and its content was intentional is unclear—my money is on a happy coincidence—but it still stands as a nice touch and adds another layer of depth to the episode.