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Voc Robot

Doctor Who
by Artemis

I've already gone on about "The Robots of Death" (in fact, I'm writing this review directly after that one), so nothing more needs to be said except that if you like classic Doctor Who and haven't seen it, go get the DVD now. I'll wait. But while the figures already reviewed are essential parts of the story, they're not really the "robots of death" - there was only one Super Voc, and the Dums were mostly down in engineering, not up among the crew. No, the ones going to and fro among their human masters, obeying orders and being largely ignored right up to the point where they started killing, were the Vocs.

"There was a Voc therapist in Kaldor City once. Specially programmed, equipped with vibro-digits, subcutaneous stimulators, the lot. You know what happened, Borg? Its first client wanted treatment for a stiff elbow. The Voc therapist felt carefully all round the joint, and then suddenly just twisted his arm off at the shoulder. All over in two seconds."
- Chub

He's talking to a human named Borg, I should point out, not a member of the Borg who just happens to be hanging around a Doctor Who serial swapping horror stories. Chub's story is more or less dismissed as fiction within the episode, yet it's an example of how the writer Chris Boucher put real effort into the characters and setting - it's not necessary for the plot, but it's exactly the kind of urban legend you'd imagine doing the rounds in a society with ubiquitous robots, even those supposedly bound by Asimov-like laws, as these are. It also fills up a bit more time, and with classic Doctor Who stories being spread over multiple episodes, unlike the new series' fast-paced done-in-one stories, it's always nice when a writer manages to put something genuinely interesting into the padding.

The Super Voc (SV7) and Dum (D84 and friends) robots have already been covered, and on the surface, this Voc, in the second Doctor Who Classic series of figures, is just another repaint - like SV7 he has only minor alterations to the basic robot figure, in this case a new left forearm, with a communicator band (lower down than SV7's, so it's not a re-use of his forearm either). Indeed, this is going to be a somewhat briefer-than-usual review - you can learn everything you need to know about the Voc robot's body and articulation in that earlier review, no harm done. Colour is where the main difference is - the Voc sports a glossy green costume, close to (but easily distinguishable from) the Super Voc's silver, although to show its lower rank it has the same single black stripes on the costume edges as a Dum, rather than SV7's multiple thin stripes. The face and head are the same lime green, with the silver lines on the facial features sported by the Dum (naturally less distinct here than on the Dum's darker face).

The big difference - and the reason why this is a review of its own, rather than just an "Oh, there's also this guy now" addendum to the earlier review - is the head, specifically the eyes. In the episode (I feel confident that this isn't spoiling anything) the robots become violent, a state which is marked by their eyes turning bright red, a special effect laid onto the film after shooting. The Voc robot duplicates this with light-piping built into its head, using a small circular patch on top of the head as a source. This is nothing new, of course, but the quality of the light-piping is - the eyes on this figure god damn glow. I've previously not been much of a fan of light-piping, which is present in several figures from other ranges I own (mostly Transformers), and which has worked indifferently well at best, and not at all at worst, even when holding the figure up with bright light streaming right into its source point. The Voc robot, however, gets a convincing inner gleam in its eyes in practically any conditions short of physically covering the top of the head - as I write this I've just held it pointing away from the ceiling light, and the eyes managed a passable glow just with the ambient light bouncing off the bookshelves behind it (which, crowded with figures, are far from a brightly reflective surface). I wish I could handle my camera better and capture the effect, but trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Series two of the Classics figures had no BAF to go with it, sadly, but the Voc still gets a bit of extra value to help sell it. Like the Dum figure, the Voc is packaged with its serial number plate blank, and has a sheet of stickers to allow it to be "named" however you wish. Where the Dum had a choice of four numbers though, the Voc has nineteen - I can't find an online reference for it, and I'm not quite crazy-obsessed enough to rewatch the episode with a notepad to check, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone at Character Options did just that, and noted down all the various numbers applied in different scenes to the robot costumes to make it seem like there were more of them. The numbers aren't just a regular series, at any rate - for the record (if you don't fancy damaging your eyesight squinting at the photo) they are V3, V4, V5, V6, V9, V14, V15, V16, V17, V19, V21, V22, V25, V32, V35, V45, V53, V74 and V77. (I went with V16, the sandminer's navigator, for no real reason apart from it being the only Voc with its own TARDIS Index File Wiki page.)

I had no hesitation in buying this figure - and not just because the store I was at was selling the whole series as a set only (didn't bother me, wouldn't have skipped any of the figures anyway). With the special place "The Robots of Death" has in the hearts of Doctor Who fandom, I imagine many collectors will be keen to get the full set of Dum, Voc, and Super Voc robots (if they haven't already gone critical and bought four Dums to get one of each number, and are now going "Oh jeez, 19??"). The light-piped eyes are just one element of the figure, but because they work so well, they make this more than just a complete-the-set buy - indeed, if you're only going to buy one robot of death, make it this one.

-- 07/28/10

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