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Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

One of the coolest things about the first Transformers movie toyline was the selection of Real Gear Robots, tiny "life-sized" TFs. The idea wasn't continued for Transformers 2, but they made up for it by including a few similar characters in the movie.

Scalpel has a massive database of anatomical data for millions of creatures across the universe. He can disassemble anything that doesn't struggle too much in a matter of minutes, and usually puts it back together with only a few parts in the wrong place. He serves as medic to the Decepticon army, but most Decepticons prefer to suffer in silence rather than allow Scalpel to work on them.

In a movie rife with racist caricatures like Skids, Mudflap and Wheelie, it's easy to overlook Scalpel - or "The Doctor," as he's known in the script, since the characters' names are less important than a simple identifier. The tiny German sadist? Yeah, haven't seen that one a thousand times. But because it's okay to be prejudiced against Germans (they're all Nazis!), no one's making a big stink about the way Scalpel is portrayed.

The figure perches precariously on six balljointed legs, and has a pair of T-rex arms held before him. His head is dominated by two huge red eyes, which are protected behind clear lenses - yes, this is a robot wearing glasses. A first for the TF line? I know there have been plenty with robotic facial hair, but glasses? The lenses can be removed, but since they have the angled lines that give him "eyebrows," best to leave them on. There are two variations of Scalpel, as well: on the early releases, his antennae were long; they've since been remolded to be shorter.

Getting Scalpel to balance is a real headache. He carries most of his bulk in his chestal area, but it hangs in open air, unsupported by the six legs. In order to make him stable (physically stable - there's no chance of making him mentally stable), try spreading the back legs wide, to lower his butt, and keep the front held high. Alternately, you can reposition him so he's carrying his chest higher - he'll still have balance issues, but they won't be nearly as severe.

Scalpel is pretty severely mis-transformed when you open the package - there's just no way to fit his weird, insectoid from into the standard blister card, so they fudged things. That means you'll spend the first 20 minutes or so just trying to figure out how he's supposed to look, before you can even start trying to convert him. Your best bet? Muddle through to the altmode, then work backwards. It'll save you a lot of time.

The Doctor's altmode is a microscope - however, it's an entirely different microscope than the one seen in the film. Like, drastically different. Not even close to being the same. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, it just bears mentioning: the movie showed a black compound microscope, while this is a white stereo microscope.

The microscope is still a little slice of awesome. He's designed with a large, flat base, sculpted clips to hold slides, several dials to adjust the focus, and the eyepiece can even raise and lower on a ratcheted track. It's surprisingly fun, for something that isn't a car or jet. A lot of fans dislike the "mundane object" Transformers, but when they're this fun, what is there to complain about?

Well, maybe you could complain about the size. Scalpel is way to small for real-world human use, but way too big for human character use. He's pretty much in the same undecided scale as Ejector. And he probably wouldn't be too much fun for kids, who'd get overly frustrated with his conversion scheme. But as a desk piece for an adult collector? Scalpel is a cool find, and will have you fidgeting with him regularly.

-- 08/25/09

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