Thursday, November 21, 2013

Timey Wimey Toy Review – Doctor Who Ace from “Remembrance of the Daleks” By Underground Toys

Ace is one of my favorite companions from Doctor Who and I’ve been looking forward to the day Character Options/Underground Toys would get around to making her. I’m actually a little surprised that it took as long as it did given that Sophie Aldred has always been a big supporter of the franchise.
Ace’s relationship with the Doctor is one of the best and most interesting in the show’s entire 50 year history. Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor treated her very much like an apprentice rather than simply a traveling companion or even a student like Adric. He seemed to have a very specific agenda in place; one that we sadly never saw come to fruition.
As for Ace herself – she was independent, smart, and a bit reckless. She combined the best elements of many prior companions – Leela’s fierceness, Sarah Jane’s enthusiasm, and Jamie’s wit. Ace also represented a new level of story arc for a companion. While Romana, Nyssa, Adric, and others had experienced varying degrees of personal growth and character development during their time with the Doctor; Ace’s story was the first to truly become central to the show’s ongoing narrative and set the standard for what we see in modern Who today.
First Glance: Ace’s face didn’t look great in the online production pictures I first saw. Sadly, the situation isn’t much better with the final product. I can’t wait to hear my fellow Earth Station Whovian Jennifer’s reaction to this. Lots of accessories, though!
Articulation: Underground has gotten much better with the articulation on these figures. Ace has about as much as you could want at this scale, though certain joints could use improvement.
Head – swivel
Shoulders – swivel/pivot
Biceps - swivel
Elbows –pivot
Wrists – swivel (jacket arms only)
Waist - swivel
Hips – swivel/hinge
Thighs - swivel
Knees – pivot
Thankfully Ace has the new style shoulders, so they have a better range of motion than older releases. Her arms can do pretty much whatever you want, and both sets of arms – jacket and short sleeves – are articulated well. I can appreciate the aesthetically-motivated decision to forgo swivels on the bare arms.
Her leg movement is slightly restricted by her skirt.
Otherwise all of Ace’s joints function well. There was some paint that I had to loosen up to get the shoulders on her short sleeve arms to move. There was an unfortunate side effect there that I’ll cover in the “Coloring” section.
Sculpt: As is the case with any new character from this line, Ace is 100% newly tooled.
For the purposes of the review I am going to consider the jacketless Ace the base figure and the jacket and related arms accessories.
Her head is pretty terrible. This thing might have passed muster in the 80s, but for a modern toy the likeness is just bad. It makes the normally cute Sophie Aldred look like she has some sort of affliction that causes massive head swelling. Maybe she’s allergic to penicillin. It’s simply no good. The sculpt does vaguely resemble Ms. Aldred, but… blech.
The hair looks great, though. There is sculpt rather than just painted lines to suggest actual hair. The braid looks great and has a ton of detail.
The short sleeve arms are proportionally nice and even feature a watch on the left wrist. I love the shape of the rolled-up sleeves. The sculptors did a bang-up job of making them look right.
The torso looks good and isn’t too big. The shape of the t-shirt was done well and I really like the haphazard way it is tucked in. It gives the figure an interesting profile while still allowing for a waist swivel.
The legs have full articulation that is somewhat restricted by the skirt, as I mentioned above. My issue here is that Ace’s tights have a very specific design that was ignored. I suppose that should really be addressed in the “Coloring” section, but in a perfect world it would be a sculpt issue. Either way, these are simple, unadorned black tights.
Ace’s shoes look pretty much right to me.
I don’t often address stature and scale because for the most part lines these days are doing a decent job with them (Star Wars) or ignore these factors entirely as part of the functionality of the line (Masters of the Universe Classics). So I just wanted to take a paragraph to acknowledge how fantastic Character Options are with scale. I may not understand their motivations for starting the Doctor Who lines in a 5” scale, but they have done an outstanding job of maintaining proportions and relative scale within the lines. There may be the occasional issue with Dalek size, but for the most part the
Doctor Who lines have the best scale continuity in the business.
Coloring: This is an area where CO puts so much work in, but sometimes their process leaves the figures a bit lacking. For the most part Ace looks great, but there are a couple of bad spots.
The detail paint on the head does not help the sculpt situation any. The hair is somewhat blobby and a bit too dark. It seems that the paint goes a bit beyond the sculpted hairline and looks a bit weird. I do like the highlights and the fact that the scrunchie is painted. Ace’s lips are the right hue and in the right place, but her eyes a kind of wonky. They seem a bit too big and while I do like the fact that it kind of looks like she’s rolling them at something the “Professor” just said, they don’t look right.
The rest of Ace looks great, though. Her skin tone is right and the graphics on her Facts of Life-looking t-shirt are perfect. All of the paint apps stay within their areas and there’s no blotching or messy parts. The only areas I have issues with are the armpits. 
Those hinges were stuck on my figure and when I worked them around the white paint on them came off, leaving bare white plastic that – while still white – does not match the paint. It isn’t terrible, but it is a result of the way CO has its figures painted.
Flair: Ace’s skirt has a great shape and a good sculpt, but it’s a bit too deep and wide, so to speak. I understand that CO probably wanted to leave a bit of room so the leg articulation wasn’t totally useless, but it’s still mostly useless and that isn’t much better. Mostly useless combined with too big is pretty much worse.
The skirt doesn’t look awful on its own, but when combined with Ace’s fat head it makes her look positively stout.
Accessories: This figure comes packed with an unbelievable number of accessories. Mattel would decapitate a designer who suggested even half this many. Ace has:
  • A bomber jacket
  • An extra pair of jacketed arms
  • Two inactive Nitro-9 canisters
  • One active Nitro-9 canister
  • One RPG launcher
  • One RPG
  • One baseball bat
  • One rucksack
It’s insane. It would take at least five DC figures from Mattel to get that many accessories. And Ace from Mattel would not have had the costume options and would have only included the baseball bat. A later variant would have had the bomber jacket and one Nitro-9 canister.
The bomber jacket looks perfect. All of the patches are represented and the paint apps are perfect. The jacket and arms switch out easily.
The rucksack has a removable panel that allows you to store stuff inside:
And it has a nice paint job.
The baseball bat – which has been enhanced by means I still do not understand, despite having seen “Remembrance of the Daleks” several times and even having reviewed it on Earth Station Who – looks great. The sculpt incorporates all of the ridges and stuff. The paint is solid.
The RPG launcher looks great and the RPG can be plugged into the front.
Al of the rest of the pieces look like they should and can interact with the figure. The most impressive thing is that aside from the extra arms, everything can fit on Ace at once.
Packaging: The Doctor Who line comes in clamshells. I don’t like them, but that’s just how it is. I do have to admit that I like the old-school design of the packaging.
The bio on the back is a concise and fairly thorough encapsulation of Ace’s story.
Value: I was lucky enough to have a friend attending San Diego Comic Con pick this up for me (thanks, Rebecca!). I believe it was $20, which isn’t bad considering the number of accessories.
Overall: I can overlook the skirt because it really isn’t that bad, but the head is. The rest of the figure is so great that I would totally buy it again if CO could just get a better likeness.
3 out of 5
As of this writing this is our only option for an Ace figure. In my opinion she is a must-have, and just sitting on the shelf next to your Doctor Seven her big ol’ head doesn’t bother me that much. I couldn’t not have her, even if I had seen the big head in person first. If you can overlook the head, you can buy this one from BigBad or Entertainment Earth.
This week here on Needless Things will be dedicated to Doctor Who. I have Guest Posts, Toy Reviews, and more on the way. The site will be jam-packed – relatively – with content. Please share these links wherever you can and spread the word. And if you’re so inclined, throw a few dollars at the Needless Things family. I have to send you to the podcast homepage because Blogger doesn't want this sort of thing. Just check out the widget on the bottom right here.This is all out of pocket for me, so anything I receive during this time will got to site costs, hosting, and possibly new merchandise if I get really ambitious.
Also, you can buy the Limited Edition Luchador vs. Owlbear t-shirts here. I can’t say they’re selling fast, but once this style is gone, they’re gone forever. And I do intend on being famous one day, so wouldn’t it be cool to have the first shirt I ever designed?

Remember to check in every weekday between now and the 23rd for new, original content.

Finally, be sure and come out to the HUGE 50th Anniversary Party that TimeGate, Earth Station Who, the folks behind The Forgotten Doctor, and (others) are throwing at the Holiday Inn Select; the same location where TimeGate is held each and every year. There will be panels, games, Whovian carousing, and a LIVE recording of Earth Station Who immediately after “The Day of the Doctor” airs. You will literally never have another opportunity to attend a party like this!

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