Saturday, August 16, 2008


Robots, War Machines and Why BoxClever Isn’t So Clever

If you’ve ever considered renting some appliance, a word of advice: unless you intend to keep it for ever, don’t hire it from Boxclever. I mentioned the other day that we’d bought a big new telly (working fine, and very happy with it) to replace the TV we’d been hiring, so the next step was to return the old one. Well, I rang Boxclever and said that, though it’s still working fine, we’d like them to take the telly back as we’d got ourselves a new one. They asked a few questions, they tried to persuade me… Then the stunner. The contract will be taken as a month’s notice. Fine, I said, thinking ‘Well, they’ve had enough money out of us over the last decade, a redundant £45 isn’t too bad a sting.’ A month’s notice from next charging date, so the end of September. Uh huh, I said. And that that’s when they’d pick up the TV. What?! So, I queried, they couldn’t take it any earlier than September 29th? No. Keep the money, I suggested, just take it off our hands? Not possible. Now, this isn’t a small TV set – it’s less wide than our new one, but very much deeper and heavier – and we do have a small flat, which is getting smaller all the time as it fills with stuff. And we could use an extra 490,000 cubic centimetres that aren’t being taken up by a large, heavy object that you can’t stack anything on top of.

I’m really not impressed by this customer service. But don’t worry, this entry gets onto more fun things as it goes on.

Doctor Who and the Miniature Robots

If you’re familiar with Character Options, who make all the rather impressive Doctor Who toys in every supermarket, you may know that they’ve just issued a tentative first set of “Classic” series figures (preceded by the Dalek Collector’s Set #1), and they look terrific. They’re also apparently taking the company by surprise and outselling the new set based on this year’s Doctor Who series by four to one. So, I suspect a second set of Classic figures may be confirmed – personally, I’m very much hoping that their ‘collect and build’ figure is the Morbius Monster, which would be both appropriate and funny. Oh, yes, that collect and build idea… The first set of eight individual Classic figures – or nine, as one pack boasts two figures – has a strong incentive to buy the lot, as each contains one part of the giant K1 Robot, so you need to buy every figure in order to assemble it. I’ve seen a fully assembled one, and it’s superb (even taking into account that it appeared in my first story and I have an instinctive bias).

However, my set had a problem. I was going to post a picture of the lot on here, but that’ll have to wait – because, when I came to assemble my K1 Robot, the first four sections locked together fine… But the right arm had nothing to lock into. The small plastic socket that should have been fixed inside the shoulder was missing, and unfortunately once you’ve snapped one of the components into place, they don’t separate. So if you collect the set and want to build your Robot, be careful. Look inside each of the holes around the torso to make sure they all have that little grey gripping socket before you start, and don’t fool around with putting things in the wrong sockets for a crazy weird robot before you settle down to build the proper look: the wind’ll change, and it’ll stick like that. As a result, I’ve had to ring Character Options’ Returns line and send the whole head and torso packaged up back to them for a replacement of all four components. Let’s hope they have better customer service than Boxclever. Belated update: they do!

In the meantime, I have eight rather cool figures; I’m particularly happy with the Zygon, as they’ve long been one of my favourite monster designs (even my Dad thought Broton looked impressive), and with a couple of others I’ll come to in another post [update: click on the link at the end of the last paragraph]. If you treat yourself, incidentally, don’t think you’re missing a bit with your SV7 Supervoc figure, another classy robot – though he’s pictured with a separate hand in the publicity, they abandoned that idea at a late stage, so they haven’t left it out by accident and you probably shouldn’t try pulling his hand off to see if it’ll fit back on again. The matching Dum robot figure should, however, come with a smashed robot’s head on a stick (a makeshift robot deactivator, if you’re familiar with the story The Robots of Death), the ‘dead’ robot’s brain parts painted inappropriately red to make it especially unsuitable for children (yay!), and a tiny little sliver of stickers should be somewhere in the pack in order for you to choose to label it “D84” or one of three other id tags.

Finally, if you can’t find these in the shops yet, after the sad demise of Tenth Planet I have three mail-order suggestions. There are those nice Voga people in Edinburgh, who are a little more expensive than recommended price but fast, reliable and with reasonable postage; there are Forbidden Planet, who are a bit cheaper than recommended price but post slowly and in dribs and drabs, as well as having a deeply eccentric website that tends to go down in the middle of orders; and there are Character Options themselves, who are dead in the middle of both elements of the other two, charging RRP as you might expect and delivering within about a week. If you order from them directly, you’ll find that they apply a £4.99 postage charge unless you spend over £50 (so if you order the whole set, postage is free)… So you may like to take note of two discount codes. If you’re spending under £50, entering “shipping2008AW” at the checkout will get you free p&p anyway, while if you’re spending over £50 in one go, you’ll have free postage anyway but you can enter “5discount2008OT” to give you a 5% discount. Happy shopping!

For Your Viewing Pleasure…

Should you fancy watching a few things on your computer rather than a big telly, here are a few recommendations from blogs I’ve been reading this week:
Richard and I have also been listening to the second series of Bleak Expectations on Radio 4 (back-to-back with watching the slightly less hilarious Bleak House), which is well worth catching if you like very silly Victoriana. The new series is on Radio 4 on Thursday evenings, by the way, while the first series is to be repeated on BBC7 from Sunday night. It stars the evil Anthony Head as Mr Gently Benevolent, the ferocious Geoffrey Whitehead as various members of the Sternbeater (formerly Hardthrasher) family, and of course the fabulous Richard Johnson recalling the story as Sir Pip Bin (inventor of the bin) in later life. One day, it is my fervent hope that BBC7 will repeat his mid-’80s leading role in Brogue Male: The Further Adventures of Sir Digby Spode, but as yet even the Internet has forgotten it.

And finally… A couple of weeks ago we watched the latest in ITV’s Marple series, Towards Zero. Richard points out that we’d not normally have done so, as Towards Zero isn’t a Miss Marple story and ITV doesn’t make stories with Miss Marple (Marple is a place a couple of miles from where I was born; Miss Marple would under no circumstances abandon her spinsterdom to sound like a public schoolboy). However, we winced and bore it, mainly for the guest cast. You may have spotted the magnificent Tom Baker sprawling around telling rolling anecdotes, a bit like a much-cleaned-up version of himself. What you may not have noticed is that the character he was playing was called Frederick Treves. I was in my local library yesterday, and noted that in Agatha Christie’s play Towards Zero, the character is named Mathew Treves. By an uncanny coincidence, however, there’s a grand old actor by the name of Frederick Treves, who readers of this blog might remember from political thrillers The Politician’s Wife and To Play the King or, of course, from the Doctor Who story Meglos, in which he hammed it up opposite one Thomas Stewart Baker as a character called “Brotadac”. Which, as I’m sure none of the production team on Marple are aware, is an anagram of “bad actor”.

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Ha! I am definitely not lovely, but still grateful for that 5% code. The Visa can suffer.
Hah! Well, Mat's lovely, anyway - though obviously I'd be too shy to vote for him in your awards - and I'm sure he has excellent taste.

Enjoy the 5% - one thing I forgot to say, though, is that I wouldn't order your Daleks from Character Options. They charge standard price for everything else, but while the Daleks' RRP is £16.99, they sell them for £19.99 (Forbidden Planet's £14.99, at least when I ordered mine). As they make the things, I find that a bit rude. On the bright side, apparently even Toys'R'Us stock the Dalek box, so with luck it'll be the easiest of the Classics to find.
Well, when it comes to the actual vote, it will be completely nonymous, so you can vote for him if you want... assuming he makes the shortlist. And he HAS nominated you...
Probably not in the category I was alluding to ;-)

And thank him for me!
I assumed you meant the one he nominated you for here:

I wouldn't have thought "too shy" would apply to any other category...
I did. Blimus :o

Gosh. Well, I wouldn't have thought I was slim or pretty enough...
LMAO! OK, I know I'm not in your target group, so to speak, but you are definitely pretty IMHO. Anyway, if he went for Barbie (or Ken)-perfect I wouldn't have had a cat in hell's chance.

* hug *

Silly Boy.
(GRIN) Thank you! Your angelic gazing-upwards pic is very pretty, too ([Mr Wint] for a lady [/Mr Wint]).

I'm definitely not a Ken... Though I shouldn't repeat the conversation that led me to my embarrassing earlier statement on here ;-)


Anyway, Daleks and Zygons...
Yes, I am especially pleased at there being a Zygon. Oh bugger it, I am going to order them.
And Frederick Treves was also in the proper Miss Marple, as the doctor in the nightmare-inducing Sleeping Murder.
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