This was produced in 1976 by Denys Fisher. Actually, Denys Fisher didn’t have much to do with Denys Fisher because he’d flogged off his company to Palitoy by then. So, I suppose we could call it the Palitoy TARDIS. It’s also sometimes known as the Mego TARDIS but that’s wrong wrong wrong because Mego didn’t produce it and if you call it ‘the Mego TARDIS’ then you cannot possibly be a true Doctor Who fan because true fans have such facts at their fingertips.
So! The Denys Fisher TARDIS was marketed in the UK and in Italy. The Italian version was called Cabina della Polizia. You will be pleased to hear that I have run this through Google translate and will be astounded to discover that it means ‘Police Booth’ or ‘Police Cabin’, ‘Police Cubicle’, ‘Police Cage’ (huh?), or ‘Police Beach Hut’.
I favour the last translation. The idea of the chameleon circuit disguising the TARDIS as a beach hut is splendid and it easily allows our imaginations to wander and to imagine scenes and vignettes featuring this concept. It is a veritable certainty that it will plant in the mind of our esteemed and beloved editor the image of Amy Pond emerging from the Police Beach Hut in a bathing costume. Possibly carrying a beach ball, a la Lis Sladen in The Seeds of Doom. Or, for other readers, of Harry Sullivan in a mankini. Or Ian Chesterton in Sixties bathing shorts which come down to below his knees, his mighty biceps and pecs rippling in the breeze.
Perhaps I should not pursue this chain of thought further.
(I don’t think the Italians had seen Doctor Who by 1976, so precisely how many kids actually bought the Cabina della Polizia is anyone’s guess. There was also an Italian version of the Doctor figure; on the box, it said he was an ‘intrepido esploratore della galassie’. For some reason, they also called Leela ‘Lella’. Ours not to reason why.)
Thus it came to pass in 1976 that the Denys Fisher Police Beach Hut joined the Denys Fisher figures of the Intrepido Esploratore and of Lella.
And it was BITTERLY DISAPPOINTING.
It was about a foot in height and it was basically a cardboard box. That’s it. A cardboard box. To add to the excitement, it came in a cardboard box. So you got two cardboard boxes for your fiver.
As an eleven-year-old, I was enraged that it was not even to scale (it was too small: the Tom figure was just a little shorter than the doors). The panels were just printed on. Denys Fisher/Palitoy did splash out a bit on the lid, base and doors, which were plastic. Wow. As kids discovered to their chagrin, the hinges on the doors were fragile and broke easily.
All this exemplifies the deprivation to which children growing up in the Seventies were subject. Not for us the wizard Character Options TARDISes: lovingly created scale models with a flashing light (gosh!) and sound effects (the ecstasy!) and crafted in sturdy plastic. No. We had to make do with a cardboard box which looked a bit like the police box on the telly but didn’t really.
But it did have one very special feature.
Dimensional transcendentalism would have been fab but it was clearly beyond the designers of the Beach Hut. Instead, they decided to put a black cardboard cylinder inside it, with a recess with a bit of Velcro on. To this, you attached the Tom figure. (It didn’t work with Lella because Lella had a plastic leotard and this didn’t stick to the Velcro.) You then twirled the light on the top of the Beach Hut, which rotated the black cylinder, and held down the green button on the top of the TARDIS. Clunk, crash! Open the doors and the Intrepido Esploratore had disappeared! Where could he possibly have gone?
Spoiler: he was at the back. But when you opened the doors, the back of the black cardboard cylinder presented itself to you. It, too, had a shallow recess in it. So it looked as though Tom had vanished into the depths of the TARDIS. Clever, eh? To rematerialise Tom, all you had to do was to spin the light again, hold down the red button, and – clunk, crash! – there he was!
To this day, the Denys Fisher TARDIS makes me wild with rage. The real TARDIS doesn’t have a big black cylinder you step into. Nor does it have a big red button and a big green button on the top. It has a flashing light. And anyway, the light on the Beach Hut was flimsy and rubbish and it had rubbish silver stickers on either side and it broke off after a few goes. And the panels and windows on the plastic doors were big stickers, so the temptation to peel them off – all kids like peeling off stickers – was almost irresistible. And the Intrepido Esploratore tended to fly off if you rotated him too vigorously and then he’d get stuck at the back. These traumatic childhood experiences stay with you into adulthood and I still have anxiety dreams about trying to prise Tom out of the back of the Beach Hut.
The Denys Fisher TARDIS is pretty rare. You can pick one up for about £80 on eBay; if it has the box, it’ll set you back the best part of £200.
Shouldn’t bother, if I were you. Stick to Character Options.