When I reviewed the the Ideas set for the Big Bang Theory, I was in a weird spot where I really liked a set but didn’t care at all for the source material. When I decided to review 21304 Doctor Who, it almost felt like I was in an opposite place… source material I just love but a set I was initially excited about but cooled off to indifferent by the time it came out.
Part of the reason may be that, as much as I love Doctor Who as a series, I don’t care much for the current doctor. Peter Capaldi is a fine actor, as is Jenna Coleman, but I don’t care for the portrayal of the doctor that can best be described as a “raging jerk” in our PG-rated language, and Clara is far more interesting when she’s apart from the doctor than when she is with him. I understand why the Ideas set focused on the current Doctor and his most recent companion… that makes sense from marketing. But in a show that has such a rich history, it’s certainly a down-note for me personally, and that tempers what I like.
Of course, that being said, we also get Daleks and my 2nd or 3rd favorite doctor in the set, which improves my outlook (I <3 Tennant, and Baker is always the one I love to watch on the older serials). At $59.99 in the US and 623 pieces, there seems to be some good value. And on its face, the design of this set is just fantastic, with the “bigger on the inside” represented nicely and a great little shelf piece on the closed-up TARDIS. At this point, huge fans likely already have the set, people who don’t like it haven’t touched it… the people still waiting are likely just like me, on the fence and wondering if it’s worth the money.
Or, you know, they could have just given me a Donna Noble figure and I would have been camping outside the LEGO store waiting to get this set. Just sayin’
I haven’t watched the most recent series that just wrapped up, and *spoiler* I guess for those who like Doctor Who but live in a box somewhere, wasn’t broken up at the announced changes coming up (no new shows in 2016 other than the Christmas special, Coleman leaving, and the change in show runners). I liked the reintroduction of Missy/The Master, but I’m not as keen on the “basically just insane” version over the older, more maniacal and manipulative one. I like a lot of the callbacks, but often it feels like they are beating over the head something that’s not worth remembering and ignoring all the things that are.
The minifigure lineup is an interesting mix, with the Doctor and Clara, a Weeping Angel, and Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor and his Fez. Fez’s are cool now. The Angel is kind of a curious choice… she makes sense with Eleven, but not as much with Twelve or Clara.
I had to go look up the purple coat costume, as all of the episodes I’ve seen were firmly in the blue color (which we get in the Dimensions pack). Apparently this showed up in the series I haven’t watched. As a costume, it’s not bad… it fits the character (or at least the fact that Capaldi), though I really wish they would have stuck to the same that we got in Dimensions. Maybe that thing sells so badly they needed to entice us to go get it.
It’s not a bad figure, but the doctor is more about the character than the look itself. The look is that initial touch, an accent to his personality. And as that personality becomes more and more familiar, the look fades into the background. Unless he finds a Fez.
We have two different versions of the Doctor thanks to Dimensions, with the blue look that marked his first season in the level pack. I personally prefer the blue look, but that’s just me. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Doctor Who level, despite the premise of it being brilliant (like so many Doctor Who episodes in that respect, so maybe it’s perfect), but I’m glad to get a couple of versions. Now all we need is all of the LEGO versions of the doctor.
Speaking of that we do get a version of Matt Smith, who is one of my favorites. From a review of Doctors more than the set, I get my 2nd or 3rd favorite doctor. I was a huge Tennant fan, so I was skeptical of Smith’s Doctor initially, but he’d won me over by the end of the first episode (having a good companion helped).
Anyone else a bit disappointed in there being an alt face, so we couldn’t do that lovely bald look from his Christmas special? Or at the very least make a Tyrminator “Unnycysary Usy of Somytymes Y” figure. Smith also went through more clothing changes than other doctors, so his outfit feels a lot better than the purple, but that could just be me. We do see an unfortunate color match up on the long front of the jacket, which just feels totally unnecessary. The torso looks fine without the leg printing… the figure actually looks worse for it.
Even the Daleks know that the Doctor travels with companions, so we get the (now former) companion for Series 8 and 9, Clara Oswin Oswald, the girl who something something timey wimey. Clara was a companion of extremes… she showed some legitimate character growth across her first series, and not all of it was good. She imitated the doctor more than once
For the record, I do know her fate… I’ve kept up on what’s happened even if I haven’t watched the episodes specifically. On one sense, a shame, because she was a richly detailed companion. But didn’t deserve all that nonsense with Danny either, and I like the idea of her an Arya Stark cruising the galaxy in their own TARDIS. Of the three characters, she’s also the one that I think looks the part. The plaid skirt legs are fantastic, and it’s easy to imagine the smiling face say “run you clever little boy” (and that alt-face wanting to just stab the Doctor, especially 12, for being a jerk for no particular reason).
I’m not sure there’s been a more genuinely menacing creature in the 2005 reboot than the Weeping Angels. While the Daleks are supposedly menacing because we see character reactions and get told over and over that they are… the angels are legitimately scary. Blink is easily the best of the “non-Doctor” episodes, and The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone are probably two of my favorites of the newer series (helped by the mind-bending reveal later on that called back to Flesh and Stone). Of course, fans of the Ponds are more likely to punch their TV when they show up anymore (mine barely avoided death in the Christmas special where Clara ran into them for a few seconds).
Of course, that is what’s kind of strange about their inclusion here; while they were a huge part of Eleven’s dealings, Twelve hasn’t ever run into them and Clara only ran into them for a second while wandering around Trenzalore. While we get Smith’s doctor here, the set is about 12 and Clara. A great villain, but in here mostly because of the “no new parts” rule for Ideas sets, I guess. That alt-face is great though. True Who fans are probably at least a little bit worried to blink after looking at that picture. If you start counting backwards randomly… well, I’m so very sorry.
A Doctor Who set without Daleks is like a Pizza without crust… you’re doing it wrong if you think that’s pizza. If Doctor Who was a full line (and I totally think it should be), sure, you can start to put in your Zygons and Auton chair monsters, but in one set, you need a Dalek. Daleks are the most fearsome vacuum cleaners ever created, and I like to imagine that it’s because Davros was inspired when Dyson and Skynet merged to form a murderous cleaning service.
As builds, these aren’t bad, though a touch too square. That being said, I have no real solution on how you fix that, and I do like them being brick built more than molded. There are differences between the ones in this set and what we get in the Cyberman Ideas set, as well. These are a bit more developed, with a smaller front. I wish there was a compromise that would center the parts, like we get in the fun pack version, but the arms look better in this set.
Between this set and Dimensions, we’ve gotten a decent little blend of characters. I have to admit, I’ve thought about dropping a whole lot on those half-price fun packs for Cybermen and Daleks, but somehow have resisted thus far. I’ll probably regret it when they go back up to full price in a few weeks, but I suppose I have time to indulge still. I love that little K-9 though, almost enough where I want to get an extra level pack to just have one.
Easily my favorite part about this set is the use of the transformable police box connecting to the TARDIS console, reflecting the “bigger on the inside” nature of the ship. That is just a fantastic aspect to the whole set that makes for a really makes this build something unique.
Unfortunately, my issue with it is that while I like the TARDIS part, the control console leaves a bit to be desired. It’s somewhat fragile and tenuous, especially on the guardrails. They don’t fall off, per se, but they get pushed out of shape easily. The console also just feels great in spots, like the arm-panels, and so tenuous in others, like the blue tiles. Plus, where are my ketchup and mustard dispensers?
I think the biggest reason this feels a bit off is that the top of the console is simply far too small. The original design was more Tennant/Smith room (since it was submitted before 12 came around, I think), so the top fits it. However, the latest version of the TARDIS has some fancy engraved rings around the top, which span out over the pillar in the center. It worked quite well in the submitted model because it was based on a different console, but falls flat here because it seems mostly like a Doctor swap.
The best part of this set really is the TARDIS, and it also represents the biggest change from the submission (other than the switch to dark blue from regular blue). The original model had more of a spaceship look, and didn’t have the door setup. I really like the use of a printed panel here to give the inside of a door, though that panel does keep us from getting a proper phone outside the box (which figures in a lot for both Doctors when Clara is around).
The closed look is just fantastic, with the use of opaque panels to build the inset of the doors. It’s a technique I’d love to see used more in different builds, especially with stuff like the Modular Buildings lineup. There are a lot of potential applications here for building techniques, so hopefully we get more of them. Honestly, there are a lot of parts to love in the set, even outside the build, which is somewhat unusual for an Ideas set.
Really, this set was kind of hard for me to get the review done on. I liked it, genuinely liked it, and I love Doctor Who. But my interest in the current run of Doctor Who is pretty low, not helped by the fact it won’t be on again until Christmas. I like the build, and I think the submitter did a great job… interest in the set was obviously enough for LEGO to dip into the Doctor Who license, which is just awesome.
I would love to see the show get the same kind of treatment that Ghostbusters did, with a bigger playset showing up to give us something. I’d love to see a Creator type slant on the build, making different console control rooms (or the whole thing), and different doctors like we saw in Dimensions. It’s basically the ultimate combination of the Dwarf Problem from The Hobbit (spreading out characters across multiple sets) and Batman Fatigue (having to include the same character in every set). Every Doctor Who set could potentially include a Doctor, they can all be different, and people would be ecstatic for it.
On the other hand, this isn’t a perfect set. Some of the value is eroded by the existence of the Doctor Who level and fun packs. There’s some variety, but honestly I like the look for the blue suit Doctor more… I got this one more for Eleven and Clara. There are some problems that are more on LEGO for sitting on the set for awhile or not adapting as the show itself changed. Compared to sets like Wall-E, Big Bang Theory, and Ecto-1, this set didn’t excite me nearly as much as a display piece or just for value in what you get. I have the shut TARDIS and the characters on my shelf, but don’t feel the need to put up the console, and all those little things add up to it being a four out of five. There’s a lot to love in this set, like most Ideas sets, but it feels like it could have been even better with just a bit more on LEGO’s end.
What I Liked
- It’s Doctor Who, and includes two different doctors to go with a Weeping Angel, Dalek, and Clara Oswald
- Some great parts like dark blue windows and tiles, and some very fun elements tucked into the set
- Perfectly captured the “bigger on the inside” feature, even if the inside lacks a bit
What I didn’t like
- Different doctor costume compared to Level Pack, I’m sure to “encourage” people to buy both, but this one feels less familiar
- Printing on 11th Doctor feels unnecessary and is noticeably faded compared to the torso
- Console feels a bit dumbed down compared to the original design and what we see on the show
Verdict: 4 out of 5. You can, and if you are a Who fan, probably should, buy 21304 Doctor Who right now at LEGO Shop@Home.