Tuesday, July 29, 2014


When I was around 11 years old, I was all about collecting action figures. That's nothing unusual, most 11 year old boys are. And that time period was pretty good for it too, thanks to the Star Wars action figure boom. We also got action figures for Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Black Hole, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, not to mention the Micronauts, and all in 3 3/4" scale. To this day that remains my favorite scale for action figures, and I have no doubt that it's due to that childhood influence.

One day my local Toyco got in a box of Battlestar Galactica Series 2 action figures. This was around 1979 (possibly 1980) and back then of course there was no internet to let us know new toys were coming; it was just the thrill of discovering them at the toy store. So I had no idea that these action figures even existed. I only had enough money for one, so I agonized over whether to get Baltar or Lucifer, and decided on Baltar. Which turned out to be the wrong choice; when I went back the next week to buy Lucifer after getting my allowance he was gone, but there was still another Baltar left. I never did get that Lucifer figure. Oh well.

But I loved the packaging as much as the figure itself, because the back of the toy card had drawings of all the new action figures pictured on it. I could look at all those other new figures and still feel that rush of excitement I had when I discovered them, and plan out which ones I was going to get next.

The card with the new Battlestar Galactica figures that I gazed at lovingly for days.
Image swiped from John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV.
This exasperated my mother. "Why can't you just enjoy the ones you have instead of focusing on all the ones you don't?" It was a very valid question that I didn't have a good answer for. I did enjoy the ones I had; I still played with them at that age. I loved looking at all the details on them. And I loved simply lining them up and admiring them all.

But oh, the excitement of the ones I didn't have yet! The thrill of the hunt, trying to save up the money just to get the next figure, planning out which one my next conquest would be, only to change my plans when I got to the toy store and discover the one I wanted had sold out or new figures had been released. These were all things I just couldn't articulate at the time.

Over the years the things I've collected have changed, and so has the game of collecting them. Hasbro puts out the same number of Star Wars action figures in a month that Kenner used to put out in a year, but most of them have become new versions of old figures so it's rare that I'm interested in any of them these days. I was really into the Doctor Who figures for a while, but ironically now that I have 11 Doctors and a bunch of companions and monsters in the 5" scale, I'm not interested in starting all over from scratch with them since manufacturer Character Options has rebooted the line in the 3 3/4" scale. And while the ReAction Figure line has totally pushed my nostalgia button, I have yet to see any outside of the internet and be tempted by holding one in my hands.

http://www.2xlrobot.com/fer/images/doctor-who-big-finish-covers.jpgBut this doesn't mean the collecting bug has gone away by any means.  My new love of collecting has been Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama CDs.

These are great, and if you are a Doctor Who fan, I urge you to check them out. And right now is the perfect time to do it, because they're celebrating their 15th Anniversary of making Doctor Who audios, so if you try them out before August 20, 2014 you'll have the opportunity to download some of their stories for just $1 each. They change the audios they're putting on sale every 48 hours, so go early and go often!

These all feature the original actors performing new stories. Yes, even Tom Baker. Think Paul McGann is a one-off Doctor? Not here-- the Eighth Doctor has no less than 67 stories with five different companions (you may have heard them name-checked in The Night of the Doctor minisode) spread out over 190 episodes. Oh yeah, did I mention they recreate the episode format of the original series? McGann's changes from the 4-episode/ 2-hour serial style to the new series 1-episode/1-hour-with-a-story-arc style about halfway through his run, so it makes the perfect transition into the new series.

But I digress.

A good friend of mine got into the Big Finish audios when they first started making them 15 years ago. He played a few for me, and I started borrowing some from him that I wanted to listen to. Then the real world got in the way and he fell behind on getting them. I wanted to pick up the torch but was unable to do so until the Doctor Who DVD line ended, at which point I started channeling all my money that had been earmarked for DVDs into these CDs. In addition to keeping up with all the new releases Big Finish puts out each month we also had a sizable backlog to get caught up on. While I used my DVD money to keep up on the new releases, I now started selling my old stuff on eBay to make money to catch up.

That's when the lists started. Lists of which ones we needed, wishlists at places that sold them, chronology guides so I could determine the listening order I wanted to use for both listening them and storing them, budget plans figuring out which ones to get next...

Oh, yes. The hunt is alive and well.

And that's when it hit me today-- this isn't just wanting to be able to listen to them all, this has become a collection. It finally clicked when I was looking over those lists, watching my wishlist shrink and my iTunes grow, and I had a flashback to that day with my mother when I was looking at those Battlestar Galactica figures. Can't I just be happy with what I already have? Hmmm... yeah, I think so. I'm loving listening to these. I've been listening to an episode per day since January, in the "order" that they would take place if they were lost episodes of the TV series. But the excitement of closing in on those last couple dozen titles we need, that rush of collecting them, is almost as big a high as -- or is possibly even equal to -- the fun of enjoying them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to episode two of Helicon Prime, starring the Second Doctor as told by Jamie McCrimmon.