15 September, 2007

TSV 50

TSV 50 was a milestone issue marking both the fiftieth issue and TSV's impending tenth anniversary. The issue was originally published in February 1997 and appropriately enough has been reissued online in TSV's twentieth anniversary year.

Looking back over the history of TSV and the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club, Tom Baker’s visit to New Zealand in late January 1997 remains one of the outstanding highlights, a rare chance for local fans to get to meet a Doctor Who legend right on their doorstep. And in Nick Withers’ case it was quite literally on the doorstep since the 'An Afternoon with Tom Baker' event took place in the church hall right alongside his house!

The Doctor Who-themed superannuation television commercials and marketing campaign featuring Tom reprising the role that made him famous, put New Zealand (and more specifically Auckland) on the map for Doctor Who fans across the globe at a time when we were still coming to terms with the idea that in the aftermath of the McGann movie, there would be no new television episodes. So to see Tom back in costume at the controls of the TARDIS - even if he was hawking pension schemes - was the best we were going to get. It is indicative of the international interest in this at the time that the lead news item in Doctor Who Magazine 250 was a report about the making of the commercials.

Over a third of TSV 50’s eighty pages were given over to coverage of Tom Baker’s visit, coincidentally providing a special, unique theme befitting the tenth anniversary and fiftieth issue. The cover artwork by Alistair Hughes is a brilliant portrait of Tom’s Doctor created using a technique of scratching a black painted board, revealing the white beneath. I don't think the printed version did the piece full justice, but the online issue features a high quality scan of the bromide, showing off the art in all its glory. Tom Baker’s signature also appeared on the front cover - he didn’t actually sign the cover as it wasn’t ready until sometime after his visit, but I did get him to sign something else which enabled me to use his signature on the cover.

The Tom Baker interview, a transcript of his talk and Q&A session at the 'An Afternoon with Tom Baker' event, was the centerpiece of the issue. This interview has since been republished in Talkback Volume Two: The Seventies, edited by Stephen James Walker and published by Telos.

The Tom Baker interview was not the only material from this issue to be picked out for reprinting. Both my review of Paradise Towers (in which I rubbished Bonnie Langford’s performance but praised Richard Briers) and Nick’s review of Survival were extensively quoted in the Analysis sections for these stories in The Television Companion by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, originally published in 1998 by the BBC and subsequently reissued in an expanded edition in 2003 by Telos. Most of the text of this book is also available online as part of the official BBC Doctor Who website classic series episode guide (see Paradise Towers and Survival).

TSV 50 saw the final outing for Graham Muir’s TARDIS Tales, a long-running satirical cartoon serial that had made something of a local fan celebrity out of its central character, Saucer the trigger-happy talking rooster. Ever since its debut in 1989 the cartoon strip had been a popular regular feature of TSV, as evidenced by complaints in the letters pages whenever Graham rested the strip for an issue. Evetually Graham decided that he’d had enough and elected to make TSV 50 the last appearance of the strip. The poignant final couple of frames saw Saucer unzip his rooster suit to reveal a bearded human inside (who bore a strong resemblance to Muir himself...) and head off to the pub. In a fitting farewell, the issue’s centrefold was a group shot of all the various characters that had cropped up in TARDIS Tales over its long history.

Although it was never planned as such, TARDIS Tales had a replacement in the form of Herr Karkus, who made his debut in this issue battling the Steel Octopus. From the outset The Karkus strip was every bit as funny as TARDIS Tales had been and was a worthy successor. In honour of the anniversary nature of the issue, I also persuaded Teri Ronayne to draw a one-off return appearance for Oswald, a cartoon about a hapless cat that had appeared in three earlier issues of TSV.

The issue saw the final instalment of the short-lived Not-So-New Adventures column, but its writer David Lawrence would return to the subject for TSV some years later with a lengthy critique of the entire range.

One of the benefits of the TSV online archive is the opportunity to put right various errors that cropped up in the original issues. TSV 50 contained a particularly regrettable mistake in that David Ronayne’s New Adventures-inspired short story, Half Human and More Than Just a Time Lord, was printed incomplete. The email in which this story was sent to me dropped some text in transit - text from six sentences was accidentally omitted and I didn’t become aware of this until after the issue had been posted. The story has now finally been published complete for the first time in the online issue.

The Wilderness Years, charting what we knew of the behind-the-scenes wranglings period from 1989 to 1995 when Doctor Who was not being produced for television, was something I’d written for TSV 48 as part of the coverage of the TV Movie for that issue. The article had to be dropped from the issue along with various other items to make way for tributes to Jon Pertwee. The article was again bumped from TSV 49 when that issue ran drastically overlength. By 1997 the article was losing its currency but I was reluctant to see it go to waste, so it finally saw print tucked away at the end of the issue.

Ever since beginning the TSV online archive project, issue 50 has represented a personal target. When I started out I took stock of the files stored on my computer’s hard-drive and realised that with a few small omissions, just about every bit of text from TSV 51 onwards survived intact, but that most of the first fifty issues were missing most if not all of their content - which necessitated the reconstruction of electronic files from scratch. So as I’ve gone about the time-consuming work of preparing each issue for online publication, I’ve always had TSV 50 focused in my sights. Now this issue is done and dusted, the restoration work should get a lot easier. As my fellow TSV archivist Alden Bates reminded me just the other day, it is five years to the month since we started the online archive project with issue 1. Which means of course that we’re averaging ten issues a year - which is not bad going at all.

Doctor Who Magazine awards TSV 50 the accolade of 'Fanzine of the Month' in its Fanzine Trap column from issue 254.

Read TSV 50 here.

Fellow TSV 50 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright