REVIEW: "MEGO" DOCTOR WHO FIGURE
The toy company that ruled the action figure world in the United States during the 1970's was Mego. Period. Up until Star Wars was introduced in 1977, Mego pretty well ruled the roost. G.I.Joe was fading somewhat, and while some other lines, like Mattel's Big Jim, had a decent presence on the shelves, Mego's claim to fame was having the licenses for just about everybody. DC Super-Heroes, Marvel Super-Heroes, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz -- even offbeat stuff like Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, CHiPs, and The Waltons, for crying out loud.
But Mego also worked with other toy companies around the world to bring to action figure life other concepts, that never saw the light of day in the United States. One of these was Space:1999. Mattel got that one in the States and basically fumbled the ball. The Mego-based ones from England -- I only wish they were part of my collection.
Then there's Doctor Who. For those of you who don't know, this long- running BBC sci-fi series is one of the greatest sci-fi concepts ever. It's had a longer run, admittedly with a few breaks here and there, than any other single sci-fi series in the United States. This is due in part to a nice little conceptual loophole that allows the main character, who is called "The Doctor" on the show, making the title of the program a nice little bit of ironic logic, to "regenerate" from time to time -- most often when the actor currently playing him wants to move on to other work.
The show started in the 1960's, and a new Doctor Who just recently started. The show has never quite caught on in the United States as well as one might hope. Episodes were re-run for quite a few years on PBS, generally at atrocious hours. Fox attempted a made-for-TV movie, but about the only thing that was notable for was a fairly cool, fully- orchestrated version of the well-known, if quirky, theme music. There's a decent American fan base, don't get me wrong. But it tends to still be somewhat on the fringe.
A recent poll by the BBC proclaimed, hardly to anyone's surprise, that the most popular Doctor of them all was as portrayed by Tom Baker. Baker had the role from the mid-70's to about 1981, if memory serves. He presented a slightly addled, but totally unflappable Doctor who was calm in the face of adversity almost to the point of absurdity. When faced with a cosmic threat of epic proportions, usually in the form of some megalomaniacal interplanetary warlord, he was as likely to offer him a jelly-baby as anything (something akin to a gummi-bear, I think...)
The adventures of The Doctor readily soared across time and space, thanks to a wondrous device called a TARDIS, a contraption stuck in the form of a phone booth. Technically, it was supposed to take on a new appearance and blend in with the local color, whatever that might happen to be, whenever it arrived in a new locale, but the thing was almost as addled as The Doctor himself sometimes seemed. It still allowed The Doctor to travel across the entire space-time continuum, even if he did seem to enjoy present-day Earth a fair bit.
So, how does all of this tie together? Although Doctor Who products have been few and far between in the United States, the same is not true of England. And on my trip to London in 1992, there was a comics/toy/sci-fi/ bunch of other stuff convention in an outlying community. That I went crazy in the Dealer's Room of this massive event is an understatement. And one of the treasures that I came home with is a very nice Doctor Who action figure, based on the Tom Baker incarnation.
The figure is clearly Mego in origin, even though it's a little taller than the usual 8 inches that most Mego's were known for. The figure is more like 9-1/2 inches. The body format is pretty much identical to the 8 inch figures, although there's a little extra bit in the shoulder that lets the arms move outward a little more easily. The only time I am aware of that this body size was used in the United States was when Mego made a series of Flash Gordon action figures, that were quite close in appearance to the Filmation animated series of the late 1970's.
The Doctor Who figure is nothing les than a work of art. The head sculpt is a remarkable likeness of Tom Baker, which can't have been easy with the actor's long and very curly hair, and almost cartoonish face. Rendering that without exaggerating it was remarkable in and of itself. The figure has a flexible plastic floppy hat, a corduroy-like coat with real pockets, nicely made trousers, a patterned vest-sweater under the coat that has the pattern sewn into the fabric, not printed on, an ascot, trousers, and The Doctor's traditional very, very lengthy scarf. This was one of Baker's trademarks. About the only thing I wish the figure came with that he doesn't is a pair of socks. He's got shoes but no socks, and the trousers aren't quite long enough to make this unnoticable.
Anyone who remembers Mego knows how good the articulation on these figures was. Head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. And of course, The Doctor here has all of that incorporated into him.
The figure that I purchased in London was loose, but in truly excellent condition, and complete! That meant that he had his small accessory with him, and I can well imagine a lot of these being lost over the years -- his famous "sonic screwdriver", tucked neatly into his pocket.
Technically, The Doctor wasn't released BY Mego. If you've been following The History of Mego articles in Tomart's Action Figure Digest, then you know that Mego worked with other companies around the world, to license and produce products under those company names in other countries. But the basis of the figure is still Mego.
But I've never seen anything to match the quality and coolness of this Mego-esque Tom Baker edition of The Doctor, and I'm truly delighted to have him. If you're a Doctor Who fan, and can find one of these figures in good condition, (which might be a little easier than it was in 1992, what with eBay around these days and all) then I definitely recommend him!