The Curious Case of the Denys Fisher Dr Who Figures Part 2

Alright, this is slightly embarrassing... But the truth will out!

A few weeks ago, I opened the cobwebbed doors of the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Tat, and in our maiden voyage round its dusty halls, had a gander at the Doctor Who figures issued by Denys Fisher in the late '70s. And in this first missive - which you can find here - we covered the infamous tale of how the toy version of Fourth Doctor Tom Baker ended up actually having the head of Gambit from the New Avengers. All well and good...

...Or so I thought. But literally mere days after I'd pressed the big PUBLISH button, what would turn up but some new revelations concerning this famous toytown head transplant! Now the story of who the Fourth Doctor figure got a bonce resembling Gareth Hunt has long been doing the rounds. However in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine new information regarding the Denys Fisher toy range came to light (and special thanks to Mr Clayton Hickman for bringing these revelations to my attention).

In a rather splendid issue themed around 1970s Doctor Who (and coming with a very nifty reprint of some '70s Who comic strips which I highly recommend picking up), there is a feature on the Denys Fisher toy range. And said feature includes an interview with the man who oversaw their production, Mr Peter Viner. This gentleman had joined Denys Fisher as a development engineer in 1969, and went on to become the Head of Research and Development, so if anyone knew the truth, it would be this veteran toymaker!

Now as the Gambit/Gareth Hunt headswap tale has been in circulation since at least the early 1990s, Mr Peter was well aware of it. However when quizzed about it by DWM's Gary Gillatt, he was quick to debunk the story and put down any resemblance to Gareth Hunt down to the more primitive sculpting and manufacturing techniques of the late '70s. Of course, none of the above will sway a die-hard conspiracy theorist, who would undoubtedly take the "well, he would say that!" line, but tinfoil hats are well known to be impenetrable like that...

But looking at publicity shots of Gareth Hunt as Gambit, and comparing them with the Fourth Doctor doll, there is most obviously a big difference in the hairstyles. Now it is true that Mr Hunt had a more Bakerseque permed look in later years, most notably in the "Three types of the finest coffee beans" Nescafe ads he starred in the early '80s, but at the time when Denys Fisher would have been plotting a Gambit figure, publicity shots show him sporting a side parting and a distinct lack of bubbly curls! See for yourself below, here's '70s Gambit on the left and '80s Hunt to the right.

See, Gambit era Gareth clearly has a wavy barnet! So then, I rather suspect that this much passed about tale of head swapping may well have its origin in the distant days of the 1980s, when folks spotted a resemblance between the Doctor doll from the '70s and with the then current incarnation of Mr Hunt who was doing his coffee beans routine on every other ad break on the telly at the time. And until new evidence surfaces (probably in two days time the way things are doing round here currently), I'm going with it!

In Part 3, we explore the secrets of the Denys Fisher version of the TARDIS...

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