Bet you didn’t know that Denys Fisher was the inventor of Spirograph. True! (For younger readers, Spirograph was a collection of transparent cogged plastic wheels with holes in for you to stick coloured pens into. By rotating said wheels, you could draw funky patterns on pieces of paper. It was an amazing toy and was the equivalent of the Xbox for those of us who grew up in the ’70s. Anyway.)
In the mid-Seventies, Denys Fisher (who’d now flogged off his company to Palitoy) produced seven Doctor Who figures: six originally, with a K9 added later. By far the most remarkable was their Intrepid Explorer of the Galaxies – well, that’s what it said on the box – Leela.
As you can see, it is a remarkable likeness. It is, in fact, INDISTINGUISHABLE from Louise Jameson in every respect. You will no doubt have difficulty in working out which is Louise and which is her plastic simulacrum. (Hint: Louise is on the right.)
The first two of the range to be released were the Doctor and the Cyberman figures. No, I’m not going to show you the pictures. If I do, I will run out of fodder for future Collector’s Corners. I was 11 at the time, so it was in 1976 that they came out. We were living in Littlehampton and there was a toy shop. I regularly mooched about in there until I was chased away by the enraged proprietor, who probably thought I had nefarious designs on his Hornby railway trucks. One fine day, I descried, to my delight, the Doctor and Cyberman; promptly did 50 hours of cleaning and other domestic drudgery around the house; saved up enough earnings to buy the Doctor and Cyberman; and was bitterly disappointed because, as so often in life, once the object of your desire is obtained, you don’t know what to do with it. They fraudulently depicted the other figures – Leela, a Dalek, the TARDIS, and the Giant Robot – on the back of the packets for the Doctor and Cyberman but didn’t tell you they weren’t available yet. So, many more hours were wasted in mooching about said toy shop every Saturday for months on end, and many more hasty departures from the enraged proprietor who didn’t like me at all.
The plastic Leela was rubbish. It was about nine inches tall. It had mad and crazy hair. You could, though, pull its head off and push it back on again; the head was squashy and could easily be reinserted onto the plastic ball at the top of its neck.
It had a bendy knife. A real metal one would be too similar to Za’s, of which Hartnell said, “This knife can cut and stab. I have never seen a finer knife.” But it might have hurt the kiddies who were obsessed enough with Doctor Who to buy this delightful dolly. So bendy plastic it was. Unlike the Doctor toy, Leela’s legs didn’t have a hinge at the knees; they bent. Just like the legs on Barbies. But if you bent them too far, they snapped half way across, producing a hideous injury that the tribeswoman of the Sevateem might have suffered were she not a sufficiently mighty enough warrior to escape invisible monsters who had a fetish for stamping on alarm clocks. Being a good and clean child, I never wondered what was under the top of the shirt bit, so NEVER undid the press-stud on the collar to see underneath. If anyone says I did, they are filthy liars and I will sue.
Some saddo worked out that, if Barbie were real, she would never be able to stand up because her proportions were all wrong. The Leela doll was a bit like that. The only way you could make her stand up was to stick her feet into a big blob of Blu-tac (a marvel which had, like the Leela doll, just come onto the market).
The Denys Fisher dolls do come up from time to time on eBay and they are horribly expensive. The rarer ones like the Dalek, Giant Robot, and Leela command ridiculous prices. Leela is probably the rarest. An unboxed one with plastic bendy knife intact will set you back at least £200 and a boxed one will cost you the best part of 500 quid.
But don’t bother. It’s pants.