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Dr. Crank

TFC Toys
by yo go re

I must say, these Not-Constructicons have got some of the weirdest names around. Exgraver? Structor? Sure, Heavy Labor makes sense (in that it's two real words, not some made-up conglomeration of letters), but so far he's an exception, not the rule. And today we've got a figure that's pretty shamelessly stolen the name Rustin uses when he's appearing in his day job as a star of "adult special hugging time" films: Dr. Crank.

Dr. Crank is based on the Constructicons' second-in-command, Hook. In terms of personality, he was exactly the opposite of their leader, Scrapper: an arrogant glory-hound and a snob, and considered most of the other Decepticons to be beneath him. His ego is at least somewhat warranted, though, because he's a master craftsman and something of a perfectionist - which often causes frustrating delays for the projects he's working on. He's also something of a surgeon, making repairs on damaged Decepticons.

On the original toy, Hook's head was a thin, blocky piece that flipped up out of the chest. This one doesn't move the same way, but the style is clearly the same. He has a full face - two eyes, a nose and a mouth (and no mouthplate) - and the black part of the head overhangs it a little. He's light-piped like all the rest, but his kibble blocks it off.

And really, "kibble" is the defining trait of this figure. Sure, the front of the robot has its share of parallels to the real Transformer (particularly the waist and the lower legs), but he's also inherited one of Hook's worst traits: the giant crane arm dangling off his back. And since the crane in this case is much bigger than before, that means the kibble is exponentially more annoying, as well. It's so big that TFC Toys designed him with heel supports to keep him standing! You can remove the crane bits if you want a more plain robot - sort of in keeping with the way the cartoon used to simplify the character models to make animating easier. But he's still left with a hunk of junk behind his head, and his bare back isn't really that interesting on its own.

His articulation also isn't as good as his fellow knockoffs. He has a swivel neck, swivel and hinged shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel/hinge hips, and hinged knees. That means no wrists, no ankles, and no waist. Granted, this is still much more than what Hook had in 1985, but it's less than his brothers. For more extreme poses, though, you'll want to remove the crane arm: it already comes as low as his feet when he's standing still, so any bend in the legs and suddenly it will be too long. He'll either have to lean way forward, tip it to the side, or go backless to keep himself steady.

Dr. Philogenese Crankmerzak, MD, comes with two versions of the same squarish gun: one purple, one translucent red. All the figures have been armed similarly, so there must be some logic behind it, but we're not privy to what it is. You can also point the crane boom over his shoulder like a bazooka or something, but the weight will pull him forward because the hips aren't ratcheted in that direction.

The instructions for Dr. Crank are very much like real Transformers instructions: they're drawn in simple line art with parts highlighted as they move, and some of it glosses over specific steps a bit too lightly. It's nothing you won't be able to figure out, but it's not all covered in the instructions.

Back in Generation 1, Hook was a fairly sizeable truck-mounted crane, but Dr. Crank follows his compatriots' lead by being a bigger, more industrialized piece of equipment. The passenger cabin is smaller in comparison to the rest of the vehicle than it used to be, which is how we can say the entire thing is larger overall.

The actual toy itself is larger, too. But then, that's a given. Dr. Crank is 6⅝" long, 2⅛" wide and at least 3" tall - with quite a bit of variation depending on how you pose the crane arm: it rotates, raises, and extends to three times its original length! The pegs that will eventually aid in assembling Hercules can be used in this mode: flip them out beneath the vehicle and it's like the sturdy outrigger struts that cranes use to make sure they're stable. Brilliant! The guns have a sculpt that makes them look like struts, too, and if you plug them into the sides of the truck they're the exact right length to hold it up.

The crane is cool, but it's not without its problems. For instance, there are two flip-out guns on the sides of it. But you have to flip them out in vehicle mode before you can raise the arm. Why would a regular crane have guns? Secondly, while there's a spool at one end and pulleys at the other, there's no actual string to make the crane work (though you can easily add your own. The worst flaw, however, is the way it rotates: there are two spots where it swivels; one is ratcheted, the other isn't; the problem is that the one you would want to rotate in vehicle mode is the one that's ratcheted, while the one you would want to remain in place is the one that turns freely. There are two tabs on the sides that look like they should connect to something (possibly to keep the wrong part from turning?), but there's not actually anything for them to connect to.

Like his Constructicon inspiration, Dr. Crank becomes the upper torso of the large, combined robot: Devastator in Hook's case, Hercules in Dr. Crank's. The process is the same - fold the truck in half sideways and pop a head on top - but in keeping with TFC Toys' drive to do things better than Takara did in the '80s, the big head is permanently attached to the toy rather than being a separate piece of kibble. That's why the robot didn't have a waist and his back was less than impressive. It's a tradeoff.

Dr. Crank's robot mode is heavily encumbered by his kibble, there are problems with the crane in his altmode, and the best thing about him is that he's carrying the head of Not-Devastator. But the fact remains that he is carrying the head of Not-Devastator, and you can't build the biggun' without him. This is still a good toy, just not as good as the other ones we've looked at already; that doesn't make him bad.

Exgraver | Heavy Labor | Structor | Dr. Crank | Neckbreaker | Madblender

-- 06/25/13

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