#8 Pointless Merchandise
Surely all Doctor Who merchandise is pointless, you’re doubtless asking? Well, as undeniably devoid of point as they may have been, ’pointless’ does not here refer to lunatic Doctor Who-branded merchandise of the ’classic’ era such as Build The Tardis, Peter Davison’s Book Of Alien Monsters From Outer Space or the official Target badge (“in three bright colours it will draw comments from all of your friends”, though probably not exactly the sort of comments the publishers envisaged). No matter what heights of uselessness they may have scaled, they were all at least unashamedly cheap and cheerful, and intended for a limited market that was only too happy to snap them up, albeit in some cases with tongue very firmly in cheek.
Far more pointless in any context are the more ‘mass appeal’ items – or, in ‘old money’ (which you usually need a disproportionate amount of to buy them), run-of-the-mill consumer goods that have nothing to do with Doctor Who, science fiction, television or even the Shrivenzale, but which still get the programme’s title and logo slapped on them in the hope of fleecing obsessives with more disposable income than sense. These started to appear in earnest while the show was off the air, and if anything have actually increased in number and indeed price tag since it came back. They’re always ‘collectable’ and ‘exclusive’. And, though the adverts never mention this, ‘codswallop’.
Take The Danbury Mint Tardis; one hundred pounds (actually twice that now, as it’s been discontinued and is only available from second hand sites that emphasise, you’ve guessed it, the ‘collectability’ angle) gets you four inches of heavy unpainted metal that may be an accurate representation of a Police Public Call Box but is arguably a less appealing one, and certainly a less functional one, than the old Dinky/Denys Fisher toys, or the new Character Options ones, or indeed the various pencil case, ceramic moneybox and bafflingly purpose-free ’all-purpose’ storage tin variations on the design that have appeared over the years. And at least most of them had the decency to get the prop’s dimensions slightly yet appealingly wrong and not charge you eight hundred and forty three million dollars for the privelege.
And that’s just the pewter-sculpted tip of a limited-edition numbered iceberg – recent years have seen a flood of phonecards, chess sets, replica award certificates, terracotta Derek Martinus vases, photographs of Peter Davison’s shed, lifesize model frogs that croak the words ‘Doctor Who – The Hartnell Years’ and lord knows what else, all of which seem to have no reason for existing other than to persuade someone to part with a lot of money. Even the unending stream of attempts to launch a series of ’Collectable Trading Cards’ are almost as bad. With only one or two exceptions you can’t really ‘play’ them like you could with the old Top Trumps or Weetabix game, you can’t really collect them as they are both too numerous and too bland, and without wanting to divulge any more detail it isn’t really a great idea to have to produce three Chumblies when asked to turn out your pockets by a policeman.
You’d expect that, much like people baulked at the prices of the early BBC Video releases and refused to fork out for them until the cost was nearly halved, common sense would persuade the majority to stay away from such expensive and useless items. The fact that this kind of garbage continues to be released, though, would suggest otherwise. Oh yes, you may well scoff at someone who thought nothing of blowing twenty notes on a mint condition copy of the 1965 Century 21 Daleks EP, but at least they’d never dream of buying the Doctor Who Car. You know, that car he’s always driving around in. With his name and face on the side. Presumably that’s what makes it ‘collectable’.
Next Episode: Why people with three initials always have to ‘go’.