Doctor Who Action Figures By Dapol
The new Doctor Who series has been an unparalleled success and brings with it a torrent of merchandise. In the old days, the BBC never seemed to know how to market the show. To further complicate things, the BBC is a government agency and back then had to be cautious of any indications that they were turning a huge profit from merchandising the program.
There were some toys over the years, including a set of action figures in the late 80's by Dapol. Dapol is a British toy company with a history of manufacturing good quality model trains, making their poor Doctor Who figures a big mystery. They were pricey, as are many collectibles, but didn't have a quality presentation. Since they were proportioned in the familiar Star Wars/GI Joe size, the seem to be intended as toys but the figures were of such shoddy material and workmanship, I'd think twice about ever giving one to a child.
Every few years Dapol would add a few new figures to the collection, but the quality never improved over the fifteen years of the toy line. For their last few Who related products, Dapol created more accurate sculpts for non-articulated figures. It seems that after 15 years they finally embraced the notion that they were creating collectibles and not toys. Only two of these "inaction figures" ever made it to market; Patrick Troughton's second Doctor and an early Cyberman. Both are very good, very rare, and probably little fun to a child. What kid in the 90's was going to relive the adventures of a 1960's Doctor?
There were a few other fun stabs at reviving the line, like a Millennium edition sparkly Dalek (or “disco Dalek” as he's known around the RT office), but the BBC pulled Dapol's license in 2002. No one knew that the show was coming back and would be accompanied by a deluge of merchandise from other companies that would do a much better job. Some good did come out of Dapol's association with Who – they sponsored the “Doctor Who Experience”, a long time exhibition of original props from the show.
I wonder how the future will look back upon Dapol's Doctor Who figures? There's little excuse for them to be of such poor quality - the 90's brought us incredibly detailed action figures lines like McFarlane's Spawn, and practically every movie had a high quality figure series. There must have been Who starved children in the 90's who have fond memories of playing with these figures (I have to admit that I'd have fun with the Tardis control room playset even today), but I am happy to shove these to the back of the shelf to make room for some of the new figures that finally depict the classic series in a classy way.