For Christmas my wife got me the brand-new LEGO Tardis set. Rumors of a deal between LEGO and Doctor Who have been rampant for years, and it finally came to fruition in late 2015.
However, for several years you could get a very similar experience through the Character Building sets, which are essentially knock-off LEGOs. I’ve got three of them: the Silence time machine, a Cyberman conversion factory and the Eleventh Doctor’s Tardis. Now that there is a true, proper LEGO Tardis to compare it to, how do the sets stack up against each other?
Character Building ironically seems to have captured more of the actual personality of the show. The figures especially feel much more like an attempt to make specifically Doctor Who toys. The LEGO Doctors, on the other hand, come across as just parts to be put together. Whether that is a plus or minus is largely going to be up to whether you’re more LEGO fan than Doctor Who fan or vice versa.
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The LEGO set is also smaller. In fact, it’s pretty much dwarfed by the Character Building set. On the other hand, it’s also almost comically simpler. There’s simply no comparing the quality. The LEGO Tardis, which is really just the central console, has an absolutely ridiculous amount of detail in it. Completing the 600-piece set took me two hours, and it was unbelievable how much intricate detail was worked just into how the control panels fit together. In the Character Building console, it’s one, undecorated piece, and comparing the two side by side, it looks very much like an unimaginative knock-off. I should probably mention here that the Character Building Tardis sells at more than double the list price of the LEGO set.
Both sets have the police box as the exit door, but LEGO allows it to detach as a separate piece that you can open up. It’s a good idea and very well done, but there’s a clear flaw in the design in which the police box roof has to come completely off when connected to the console set. By contrast, the Character Building set is more of a toy. You can play out scenes in the interior and then turn it around to have The Doctor step off onto an alien world.
Whether or not LEGO will produce more Doctor Who products, I don’t know. I’m hoping that the recent inclusion of Doctor Who material in the LEGO Dimensions game might hint that The Doctor will get his own proper entry in the LEGO video game franchise. Currently all that’s on the horizon is an Avengers game and LEGO’s attempt to take on Minecraft, LEGO Worlds, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. As far as other sets go, I’m sure there is a market for older Tardises or perhaps smaller location sets such as the barn where the War Doctor assembled the moment or the Celestial Toymaker’s realm. LEGO's Tardis certainly outshines the competition in terms of quality, price and complexity, even if it’s at the slight expense of some non-LEGO personality.