Daleks aim at Darth in store wars

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DARTH VADER is taking on the Daleks in an epic battle for parents’ hard-earned cash.

As Doctor Who returns to our screens, science fiction fans are eagerly anticipating the latest and last Star Wars film, Episode 3: The Revenge of the Sith.

And it looks like Christmas has come early for toy makers as they battle to part children from their pocket money in time-honoured fashion.

No blockbuster TV programme or film would be complete without spin-off merchandise.

The phenomenon began with the first Star Wars movie in 1977 and, since then, more than 5 billion-worth of licensed products have been sold. The new film will not be shown until May 19, but Edinburgh stores are already expecting record sales of action figures, light sabres and model space ships.

The film’s release will quickly be followed by a flood of Doctor Who toys on shelves across the country, setting the scene for an intergalactic toy war.

Toys R Us in Kinnaird Park will open at midnight on April 1 to sell the new Star Wars toys, and staff say they are preparing for their busiest weekend since December.

Publicity director Justine Pryce said thousands of electric light sabres, action figures and other toys would be on sale at the store and they were expecting a huge demand.

The range will include more than 100 new toys. Bestsellers are likely to be a new look light sabre, a limited edition Holographic Yoda figure and models of characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2 and Chewbacca.

As well as Darth Vader masks, there will be a Darth Tater, a version of the Mr Potato Head toy.

The first 50 customers will be given an exclusive Star Wars print, and all fans will be able to buy a special "Midnight Madness" t-shirt.

Colin Ross, sales assistant at Toys R Us, said: "It’s going to be pretty big. The light sabres are always a big seller but we are expecting the Darth Vader masks to be very popular."

Gary Logan, manager of the Kinnaird Park store, added that the last time the shop opened at midnight was for the launch of the last Harry Potter book in July 2003.

More than 100 children stayed up late for that, but he reckons the Star Wars early opening will draw an even bigger crowd.

"The film isn’t due out for a month, but we’re getting very excited about it," he said. "There’ll be another jump in sales when it hits cinemas." However, the nation’s favourite Timelord is not about to let Star Wars hog the limelight.

Forbidden Planet, on South Bridge, specialises in science fiction and cult comic books and toys, and manager Steve Luke has seen a huge burst of interest in Dr Who memorabilia since the new series, starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, got its first airing on Saturday evening.

He said: "It’s just got bigger and bigger. The new Doctor Who magazine came out a month ago and we couldn’t get enough of them in."

Four-foot tall inflatable Daleks, talking Tom Baker figures and Cyberman cookie jars have all been selling fast.

Prices range from 7.99 for a model Tardis to 70 for a 18in tall talking Dalek.

"These things appeal to all age ranges," Mr Luke said. "Of course they’re very collectable provided you keep them in good condition." Gael McCallum, of Toys Galore in Morningside, said: "Star Wars is always a good seller, but we’ve had lots of people asking about Doctor Who recently.

"Some toys are just popular for a few weeks, but these two are a bit different as they tend to appeal to all ages."

Mary Collins, head of communications at BBC Worldwide said: "We’ve seen an enormous amount of interest and the new products should be out in the next few months.

"These will include radio control Daleks and Doctor's Electronic Sonic Screwdriver."

But fans who can’t wait are turning to eBay where they can pick up everything ranging from Tardis keyrings to a life-size limited edition Dalek, on offer at 999.

Another eagerly awaited film due out in the coming months is Batman Begins, and stores are already stocking Batman figures and Batmobiles. With the film version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire also due soon, it could be an expensive year for parents.