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Reaper

Doctor Who
by Artemis

Blue Öyster Cult didn't know what the heck they were talking about.

Reapers are large, flying bat-like creatures that swoop down and consume human life. Reapers appear through a wound in time. If the wound is not fixed, they will eat away at it like bacteria until nothing is left.

The Reaper is, admittedly, a bit of an odd choice for immortalisation (well, however long these plastic things last) in such lavish form, since the critters only showed up in one episode, and despite being productively scary, their people-eating antics were totally outmatched by the human drama going on in the powerfully-written script. Still, they did, on their first attempt, manage to take out the entire planet Earth and kill the Doctor, both of which have repeatedly stymied pretty much every monster in the show's history, so you have to give them credit for being good at their jobs.

The Reapers were, in the script for "Father's Day," just your typical Grim Reaper type figures, but by the time the production team had gotten through with them they'd become giant bat/dragon/bird/dinosaur/duck creatures with mouths in their stomachs and scythes for tails. It sure beats a guy in a black cloak. Character Options went all out to duplicate the look of the creature, with its rough, weathered, almost elephant-like skin, its thin membrane wings, its bizarre assortment of limbs, and its odd, birdlike head, subtly menacing but also impassive, in an animal kind of way. They didn't cheat on the scale either - in keeping with the figure line's 5" scale, the Reaper is over a foot from nose to tail, and just as large in wingspan.

The skin texture roughens and smoothes out realistically (so far as anything about this critter is "real") over the body, so you get fine, even wrinkles on the back, rough knobbly sections on the "knuckles" of the wings, and almost geometric patterns of cross-hatched texture on the face and forelimbs. The paintwork on the hide is effective for the most part, but not always as even as it could be at the joints - the tail is especially noticeable as having a different level of drybrushing to the torso it connects to. The paint on the torso-mounted mouth is also not all that it could be, with an undetailed pink not doing a lot to bring realism to the soft flesh of the mouth. The majority of the work is very capable, though - the drybrushing picks out the prominent textures very effectively, there's a nice fade to a softer, warmer shade underneath the wing membranes, the ridged... whatever the heck those soft-looking segmented bits on the "palms" of the bludgeoning arms are... have a stronger highlight pass to bring out their detail and further differentiate them from the regular hide, and the bone studs on the limbs are all picked out cleanly. The eyes are a hollow, expressionless gloss red.

The underbelly, especially towards the front, has a lighter, more orange hue to it, as a consequence of the action feature: press a button in the small of the Reaper's back, and its stomach glows orange/yellow. It's of mixed benefit - the internal light is very strong, and shines very nicely through the skin of the stomach, and especially the fleshy mouth, giving it all the shading and depth that the paintwork omitted. It's so strong that it even casts light on the limbs, but the strength of the light is also a drawback - the hollow torso is lit brilliantly, right to the edges, but the neck/head and limbs are solid, with no internal space for the light to shine into, and as a consequence the lines between the torso and extremities are made very plain. There's also a couple of little plastic plugs in the left side of the torso, covering the screws holding it together - they're textured and painted to match the hide quite well, but they too remain dark while the skin around them glows. The light is a cute feature, but looking at it aesthetically rather than for play value, the Reaper is better off unlit. The control is a push-button, rather than a switch, so it can't be displayed permanently lit anyway.

Articulation is plentiful, but with a couple of odd deficiencies which keep the Reaper from really showing off in terms of physical versatility. The neck is a simple swivel, for instance, which is disappointing, and the foremost pair of limbs - the smallest ones - have only a single swivel/peg balljoint at their elbow, leaving them fairly restricted in the kinds of poses they can assume. The other limbs fare better, with both the wings and the hind bludgeon limbs sporting shoulder and elbow balljoints. The "bicep" segments can therefore be rotated around their central axis without turning the "forearms," which provides the ability to optimise how the limbs look in certain poses - by turning the biceps, you can make the limbs look their best (and hide the joints as much as possible) whether they're rearing back or reaching forwards. With a bit of work, it's even possible to make the Reaper "walk" on its hind limbs and wingtips, like the pterodactyls creepily did in Jurassic Park III (the only good bit of the whole movie). The tail is flexible from the dorsal fin backwards - firm and stiffish, but it can be manipulated fairly well, without fear of doing damage.

Since the Reapers are airborne for the majority of their appearances, the sole accessory is a clear plastic flying base. It's a heavy toy, but the combination of a thick, well-fitting peg, a shaped platform that the underbelly fits into, and the base's 7" footprint from front to back, manage to keep it nice and stable in the air, even when you go poking its light-up button. The base holds the bottom of the Reaper 3½" off the ground, giving it a rough height - with the wings spread in a fairly typical manner - of about 10", more than enough to intimidate the heck out of all the other Doctor Who figures.

As I said earlier, the Reapers are a bit of an odd choice for a toy - they were cool, and it's a good toy, but it's not like they're Daleks or the TARDIS, something the line couldn't possibly have done without. But that seems to be Character Options' strategy with Doctor Who - if it's even vaguely important, make a figure out of it. There may not have been that many people clamouring for a Reaper to begin with, but the quality of the toy is evident, and I doubt anyone who buys it will be disappointed.


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