14 February, 2008
TSV 55 (originally published in October 1998) took six months to put together. That was at that time the longest gap between issues that TSV readers had experienced for many years. That long delay is partly attributable to my six week trip to the UK that year with all the reacclimatising to everyday life that comes in the wake of being away for this length of time. In addition, and more crucially for TSV, I came back to a fairly blank slate for the issue. I'd almost completely cleared the decks of material lined up for publication with all the content that filled up the TSV 53-54 double published back in March. So TSV issue 55 had to be constructed from scratch upon my return.
The issue might be said to feature an over-abundance of reviews. This is symptomatic of the long gap between issues. My policy for TSV was to feature a review of every new book, video and Doctor Who Magazine issue. When you're covering half a year's output this can occupy an awful lot of page space. These reviews would take up even more pages in later issues as some even longer gaps opened up between issues. To his credit when Adam took over as editor he addressed this problem head-on and decided that it simply wasn't necessary for TSV to review quite so much stuff. Quite right, too.
But the big video reviews were, in my view, themselves feature articles. Granted the novel reviews would be of little interest to some of TSV's readership, but surely all readers shared a common interest in the television stories. For this reason I never had any qualms about devoting a lot of page space to the video reviews and placing them as lead articles near the front of the issues.
I usually assigned these video reviews to other writers and hadn't written one myself since Paradise Towers in TSV 50. When Frontios came up on the video schedule (paired with The Awakening), I couldn't resist tackling this one myself. I've always liked this story ever since I first experienced it as a Target novelisation. The television story - which for me came several years later - didn't quite live up to expectation (the final episode in particular is rather weak), but it's still very enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to the DVD, if only to discover if the picture's meant to be that soft and indistinct or if it was just a poor VHS transfer.
As I recall it wasn't just my affection for Frontios that prompted me to write the review; I'd also been checking an advance manuscript of Doctor Who - The Television Companion for its authors David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, and seeing a couple of quoted sections from other reviews I'd written for TSV used in the book inspired me to want to write more.
I also asked regular cover artist Alistair Hughes to do me a Frontios-themed piece of cover artwork. I told him how much I loved the Target book cover artwork by Andrew Skilleter depicting the Gravis and the planet and asked for something similar. Al's a very talented artist who likes to challenge himself to find new and interesting ways of depicting familiar visuals, and the resulting illustration is incorporates the elements I'd requested but still looks very different.
Paul McGann's Doctor finally made his debut in the TSV comic strip with Chrysalis, a sequel to The Web Planet written and drawn by Peter Adamson. This just left Hartnell's Doctor conspicuous by his absence in the run of TSV comic strips (something that would be rectified a few issues later).
I wrote about my trip to the UK in the editorial and also in a long travelogue-style article inspired by Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island book about his own experiences visiting Britain. There are a couple of memorable incidents from that trip that were omitted from my article in TSV 55 I'd like to share.
I had a meal with Gary Russell and Paul Cornell during which Gary gave Paul an update on his and Jason Haigh-Ellery's plans to record audio adaptations of Virgin's Bernice Summerfield New Adventures novels. At one point during the meal, Gary leaned towards Paul and said that he had someone in mind to play Benny: "What do you think of Lisa Bowerman?" he asked. Paul responded enthusiastically. "Who's Lisa Bowerman?" I wondered for a brief moment before recalling the actress from Survival.
My first Fitzroy Tavern meeting remains a cherished memory. Doctor Who Magazine editor Gary Gillatt gave me a copy of the brand new issue of DWM. It contained that jaw-dropping last episode of the comic strip The Final Chapter in which the Doctor apparently regenerates into Nick Briggs on the last page. I remember staring at that page in disbelief, much I think to Gary's delight, and then being urgently instructed to hide the issue away before anyone else in the Tavern spotted it. Maybe Gary was worried that they might be lynched by fans...?
Other highlights of TSV 55 include Jon Preddle's guide to continuity references in the New Adventures which I believe he'd been working on for quite some time, making notes as he read each book for the first time.
Alden Bates and Peter Adamson's Tenure Without Trial is a great 'What if" style article about the Colin Baker era going in a rather different, yet strangely familiar direction. Both this article and my Notes from a Who Island piece are far from new to the online archive; these were among the first items added when Alden and I first started putting up selected pieces from TSV's back-catalogue around 2002. Six years later, the rest of the issue is finally online!
Read TSV 55 here.
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