In 2005, after years of waiting, Doctor Who returned to our televisions. It was something of a gift to sci-fi fans in general, and to fans of The Doctor (some of whom had wanted the series back from the moment it left the air) in particular. Every year, beginning with 2005, fans have been granted another annual gift with a new Christmas Special.
The 2005 Christmas Special introduced us to the 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant. Tennant’s second and third seasons on Doctor Who gave us more Christmas episodes as did his not-really-a-fourth-season-just-a-bunch-of-long-episodes year of “specials.” Matt Smith, too, has gotten an annual holiday episode as the 11th Doctor, and this year we’ll get to meet the newest companion in the holiday special.
All of this, at least for me, has caused a mental link between the holiday and the Doctor. Here in the States we didn’t necessarily get those early specials on Christmas Day, but this has been rectified in recent years and now every Christmas must end with me yelling at the assembled relations, friends, and hangers-on to either get out or hush up when it is time for the Doctor to appear (he’s kind of like Santa, but comes a day later).
It makes sense then for the Doctor to appear under my tree as well, all wrapped up and with a tag bearing my name after the word “For.” At least, I think it does, and the BBC thinks it does too. Consequently, they’ve put together a pretty good-sized list of potential Doctor Who holiday gifts for 2012. These range from the high-priced Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set (that would be 41 DVDs and a whole bunch of odds and ends) to the far more budget-conscious Dalek Christmas tree ornament (see below for the full list items in the guide).
For me, Christmas came early this year as we got our hands on a few of the items in guide, including said Dalek Christmas ornament, a Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote control, Doctor Who: Monopoly, and the Limited Edition Gift Set. A separate article will detail this last item, but keep reading for thoughts on the first three.
Overall, what is stunning about the items we have in hand is that they don’t feel like cheap pieces of junk made to swindle fans of their hard-earned cash. Instead, they tend to be well-considered, quite detailed, and truly pleasing.
First up, the Dalek Christmas Ornament ($24.98 at BBC America’s website). Five inches high and made by Kurt S. Adler, it’s a hand-crafted glass ornament (made in China). Lightweight, the hanger and string comes off the top of the Dalek’s head. Although clearly breakable, it doesn’t appear particularly fragile; even the eyepiece, plunger, and gun don’t feel as though they’re destined to come off (the appendages are noted as being resin). Although, it must be noted that little fingers won’t have much difficulty in permanently remove the Dalek’s appendages should smaller people choose to permanently incapacitate the terror (you can understand where the desire to destroy a Dalek comes from, we trust). The golden color on the Dalek isn’t flat (it is also available in red), with definite darker and lighter sections, lending the ornament a more of a handmade feel. The seams on the ornament, however, are less appealing as are the depictions of the lights on the Dalek’s head. These last bits are uneven, white, and lack detail of any sort.
Next, the Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control ($99.98). I am an avid fan of the Logitech Harmony series of remotes (save for the 1000, not sure why they went that way there), but still find myself generally happy with the Doctor’s screwdriver turned into a universal remote. The instant opinion one gets is both good and bad. The screwdriver itself looks quite nice, even if the green glowy bit up top (it’s the 11th Doctor’s screwdriver) looks a little disappointing when not lit. The display stand, however, is a distressing piece of plastic which doesn’t fit the screwdriver’s cleverness in any way. Lifting the screwdriver remote, one will instantly be impressed by its heft – this is no lightweight plastic toy, it is a smart device where even the screws to open the battery compartment are well hidden.
Once you have that sorted out, you’re going to have to actually learn how to use the remote – there are no buttons, rather the device operates based upon 13 different possible gestures and you have to program what each gesture does (there are three different libraries in which to store gesture commands meaning 39 commands in total can be kept on the remote). You can also just play around with it and have it make terribly fun (for a few minutes) Doctor Who noises.
It would, quite honestly, be far more simple if you could simply tell it which TV you were using and have it spit back out at you a pre-programmed set of default gestures (by default movements to the right raise the channel number, to the left lower it, while up and down movements affect the volume, etc.). Instead, you’re going to spend a lot of time programming the remote. I recommend you write down what you have chosen for each of the movements, because about halfway through I forgot and redid it all from the beginning.
On the plus side, having to program each gesture helps force you to learn those gestures, and, once you do learn them, it’s fantastically fun. Even when you’re good at controlling the remote it doesn’t make for the most efficient way of operating your television set, but it remains terribly enjoyable (and really, really impresses kids when you magically operate the said by swishing the remote this way and that). Sadly, it makes a noise (a slight click) even in silent mode which means that it’s probably not the best thing to use in bed when your wife is sleeping.
Last on our list is the Doctor Who: Monopoly set. This is the classic Monopoly game, just with a Doctor Who theme. Gone are Chance and Community Chest and in their place lie Gallifrey and U.N.IT and in the place of various real estate locations are great episodes in Who history.
Some effort has certainly been made to have the various colors all match (Daleks get the Green locations, Cybermen get yellow, Sontarans get pink, and various incarnations of the TARDIS are the railroads). However, The Master is given red tiles and this leads to a split between the two “The End of Time” episodes, the first of which ends up as a red square and the second of which gets the place of Boardwalk (Park Place is “Arc of Infinity”). Things are also heavily skewed towards the reborn series, but there is still a pretty good mix of great Who moments included.
As for the pieces? Well, naturally they’re the items associated with various Doctors. Included here are (and I’ll let you which out which Doctor goes with which item): an umbrella, a recorder, celery stalk, a bow tie, a sonic screwdriver, and a scarf. The umbrella token that arrived in our set was, sadly, broken, with the question mark having broken off, but presumably if that happened with a retail copy one could exchange it.
Disappointing as that pre-use breakage may have been, the game is still Monopoly and there is a reason why Monopoly has remained popular for decades. I won’t say that it being a Doctor Who version makes it more fun, but it does make it feel more cool (in an insanely nerdy way).
All in all, we’re happy with what we’ve seen of the Doctor Who holiday gifts and have our fingers crossed for a few more of them to show up under our tree Christmas morning.
The full list of potential gift items is as follows: Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set; Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part One; Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote; Doctor Who: Monopoly; TARDIS Teapot, TARDIS Lunch Box; “Keep Calm and Don’t Blink” T-shirt; Van Gogh exploding TARDIS T-Shirt; Golden (or Red) Dalek Christmas Ornament, TARDIS Robe, Doctor Who themed Salt and Pepper Shakers; Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 2013 Diary, Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Wall Calendar, and a TARDIS Christmas stocking,