Growing up as a child in the 1980s, Doctor Who used to terrify me. If it wasn’t the robot Daleks screaming “Exterminate! Exterminate!” in their metallic drone, it was the spacey, voluminous theme song that seemed to explode out of the TV speakers at the end of every episode’s cliffhanger.
I used to dread the final minutes of the show, knowing the frightening music was coming. Truth be told, that childhood trauma has kept me away from Doctor Who and its renaissance over the past few years. I think I’ve always kind of been scared of it, and probably still am.
Kudos to Lego, then, for putting a friendlier face on the storied BBC franchise of late, first through the recently released Lego Dimensions video game in which the Doctor and his associated villains play a prominent role, and now through a new toy set. It’s hard to be afraid of anything once it comes in mini-figure form.
The 623-piece Tardis set originated in Lego’s Ideas program, which accepts fan creations for crowd-sourced judging. Projects that garner at least 10,000 votes from the public are reviewed by company designers, with a lucky few chosen to become final products. The original creators then get a small slice of the sales.
Lego Doctor Who, originally conceived a few years ago by video game artist and TV show fan Andrew Clark, joins a list of one-shot Ideas sets based on pop-culture phenomenons, including Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and The Big Bang Theory.
This set has a better pedigree than most of those, however. Samuel Johnson, one of the Lego product designers who worked on the final product, is the nephew of Paul McGann, who appeared briefly as the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who film.
The set itself smartly captures the feel of the Tardis, an unassuming British police phone booth on the outside that is actually much larger on the inside thanks to some intricate space-time bending technology.
The Lego police box itself, which comes last in the build, can function as its own fun, standalone paperweight—I’ve got it proudly displayed on my desk. But its rear also swings open to connect to its bigger interior: a circular, instrument- and monitor-laden console that surrounds a cylindrical power core platform.
You can almost imagine the blue core pulsating with the “whirr-whirr” sound that signifies the Tardis is moving through space and time.
The two most recent Doctors—Eleven and Twelve, portrayed by Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, respectively—are the stars of the set, and it’s evident they’re a study in contrasts even to anyone who hasn’t watched the show. The Eleventh Doctor is younger and more cheery, dressed in a tan suit and red bow tie. His successor is stern and older, decked out in more serious purple.
And yes, each comes with a sonic screwdriver, the device that the Doctor uses to unlock doors, scan bodies and track alien life, according to the handy factoids in the instruction booklet.
Clara Oswald, portrayed by Jenna Coleman in the show, is the Doctor’s requisite companion. Personally, I’d loved to have seen the Fourth Doctor included, as would Clark doubtlessly. The longest-serving Doctor, portrayed by Tom Baker in the 1970s and 1980s, was part of his original design.
I’d also liked to have seen K-9, the Doctor’s robot dog who eventually got his own spin-off series, but he’s evidently been held over for a separate Lego Dimensions toy pack.
Fortunately, there are a pair of Daleks, and they’re expertly built from about 40 pieces each. Their flamethrower weapons almost look like the tiny toilet plungers they wave fiercely in the show.
But, just to prove that Doctor Who hasn’t completely become non-threatening—even in Lego form—a Weeping Angel is also included. These monsters, who the Doctor once described as the “most malevolent life-form ever produced,” send their victims back in time and feed off their potential energy.
They can only move when not being observed which, when you think about it, is pretty disconcerting. Is there anything scarier than glancing back at something and thinking there’s something slightly different about it?
I know it’s just a mini-figure, but that’s kind of how I feel about the Lego Weeping Angel. I could swear it was in a different pose when I last looked at it.
Damn you Doctor Who for still finding ways to terrify me.
Photo by Peter Nowak