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From the late 1980s to the early 2000s toy manufacturer Dapol was one of the most prolific Doctor Who licensees. Company founder David Boyle explains how he overcame numerous challenges to produce a successful, if sometimes controversial, range of action figures.
David Boyle, pictured at Blackpool’s Exhibition of the Universe.

David Boyle won’t give out his home phone number.“People are after me,” he explains, speaking from Blackpool’s Exhibition of the Universe. Described as ‘the most advanced exhibition of hidden and secret knowledge in the world (as seen on TV),’ it’s been David’s passion for the past decade. When he first opened it he was also running the town’s Doctor Who Museum, so the secret knowledge had to be housed further along the Golden Mile, above a Burger King. If you visit (it’s now in a former market just off the Promenade), pick up a booklet and you’ll be told that, ‘The world is abound [sic] with conspiracy theories, and when you are prepared to investigate them, most have an element of fact.’

It’s a turn of phrase characteristic of the man himself, who laces his conversation with huge yet lightly delivered revelations. Between 1988 and 2009, David wafted in and out of the world of Doctor Who, creating action figures and playsets through his company Dapol, setting up two extensive exhibitions dedicated to the series (in Llangollen and then Blackpool), and running experiential weekends in which cast and crew mingled with paying fans.

But this is not where we begin. (“Okay, let me just switch my fire on to keep my legs warm,” he says.) We begin in the 1970s.

David was married to Pauline. “We used to import birds in vast numbers to supply to pet shops, and then later we started to bring in selected items to pair up with birds in zoos so they had a chance to breed.” The job came, as he saw it, with a morally questionable dimension – the Ministry of Agriculture would instruct him and Pauline to enact culls during fowl pest outbreaks.

“I wanted to move into what I considered a more acceptable occupation,” he explains. “And my hobby at the time was model railways.”

David’s MO was to look for modelling shops that were going bankrupt, buy up the stock and then sell or exchange it at “what we called swap meets” around the UK. He became known as a collector who’d sweep up large numbers. “In one week I bought six shops lock, stock and barrel. So I started to branch out.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

In 1964 Dalekmania led to the birth of Doctor Who licensing, and it’s been with us ever since. The return of the series in 2005 prompted an even bigger range of merchandise, which this time invaded supermarkets as well as toy shops. In 2017 the popularity, and ingenuity, of these products continues unabated. This is the surprising story of Doctor Who toys and games – told by the people who make, sell and collect them.