12 December, 2007

TSV 53

TSV 53, originally published in March 1998, was the first half of a double issue, paired with TSV 54. This was a unique occurence in TSV's history; issue 20 in December 1990 had come with a slim supplement consisting of overflow material from the regular issue, but the double issue TSV 53 and 54 was the first and only time that two full-length issues were published simultaneously. The arrival of these two issues in the same envelope would have come as a nice surprise for most readers, as it was mostly unplanned - so there wasn't an opportunity to announce this double-header in advance of publication.

The reason for this ambitious double-issue was that in early 1998 I discovered that I had an over-abundance of material lined up for TSV 53. Under normal circumstances I would have simply held back some of the items for another issue later in the year, but a long-awaited trip to the UK had been booked for mid-1998 and I wanted to 'clear the decks' before my departure; I also didn't think it was fair to make so many contributors wait until after I got back to see their writing and artwork in print. I made the decision to go with a double issue just a few weeks before publication when, having estimated just how much excess material I had waiting in reserve, I realised that it would be possible to fill an entire second issue.

This surfeit of material - an unusual situation for TSV - was partly due to the efforts of one man, Andrew Pixley, whose two articles in TSV 53 and 54 occupy a fifth of the total page count. Andrew is a leading figure in the field of television research. He has documented the production history of every Doctor Who story in exhaustive and accurate detail for the Doctor Who Magazine Archive series and has also written extensively about other television series for magazines, books and DVD inserts. Yet despite his considerable authority in his field, he remains one of the most humble and self-effacing people I've ever met.

I first got to know the man behind the Archives when, completely out of the blue, Andrew phoned me at home one day. He'd borrowed around thirty issues of TSV from long-time subscriber David J. Howe and, having worked his way through this back catalogue, felt compelled to phone me up from the UK to rave about just how impressed he was with what he'd just read. Coming from an exacting researcher like Andrew, this was praise of the very highest order.

Andrew was keen to show his appreciation for TSV by getting involved in writing something, and wanted to know if I had any ideas about what he might contribute. My initial suggestion was that I interview him - but Andrew graciously declined this offer, protesting that talking about researching and writing the Archives would be very dull indeed. I disagreed but he was insistent.

I instead proposed a compromise; still an interview of sorts, but one in which Andrew would attempt to answer the most tricky and challenging questions about Doctor Who trivia. This idea met with Andrew's immediate approval. I provided a set of questions I'd devised which Andrew supplemented with many of his own. The resulting feature was entitled A Question of Answers.

The article touches on the thorny issue of the correct Hartnell story titles, but Andrew pointed out that there was a lot more that could be written on this subject - which rapidly gave rise to his second, even longer, article which appeared in TSV 54. These two pieces between them accounted for 37 pages - or 21% of the total 176 page count of the double issue.

Andrew and I went back and forth a couple of time about his choice of using Peter Cook's character of E.L. Wisty for the framing sequence of A Question of Answers. The first several hundred words went on about this character before Doctor Who even got a mention. I proposed cutting the Wisty stuff, but Andrew was adamant about keeping it, explaining that he wanted to be more creative and just a little irreverent in writing for TSV, as a deliberate contrast to his strictly fact-based DWM Archives. Once he'd explained this to me I was happy to run with the version Andrew wanted.

A Question of Answers was one of the longest pieces in TSV 53, but there was still room for a fair amount of other material in there as well. The Leisure Hive was new out on VHS, and Alistair Hughes provided both a review and a rather evocatively moody cover illustration based on this story.

Sydney Newman, one of the key people involved in the creation of Doctor Who, died in October 1997 shortly before the publication of TSV 52. This gave me several months in which to research and write a lengthy obituary. After my long Terry Nation piece, which appeared in TSV 51, I was beginning to get rather adept at these! I also wrote a shorter piece about Adrienne Hill who had died the same month as Newman. TSV 54 had a third obituary, for writer Ian Stuart Black - it really did seem at the time as if the people from the sixties era were dropping like flies!

Dominion was a much-anticipated comic strip, created by Alden Bates and Peter Adamson. Readers had seen teasers in each of the three 1997 issues for this strip: Mel dressed as a Dominator in TSV 50, the Doctor brandishing a smoking gun in TSV 51 and Anzor looking threatening in TSV 52. These teasers give some indication of just how long the strip took to develop. I think it's a great strip, neatly balancing graphic violence and torture with a broad streak of black humour. Alden offers a fascinating insight into the writing process in his blog.

Tune in next month for TSV 54!

Read TSV 53 here.

Fellow TSV 53 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

12 November, 2007

TSV 52

My previous TSV commentary ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, so to recap: TSV had passed its fiftieth issue hurdle, pulled off a coup with some exciting exclusive local Tom Baker coverage, and had gained a new influx of mostly overseas readers into the bargain. But my creative partnership with co-editor Nick Withers had come to an end.

The importance of Nick's two-year contribution to TSV should not be overlooked. Nick had firmly led me away from the messy horrors of using an electric typewriter, Pritt stick and light box, and transformed TSV into a clean and tidy, wondrously good-looking desktop publishing creation. Our editorial pairing worked very well while it lasted; I would edit the text and Nick would composite all the pages in Microsoft Publisher, and print them out.

Nick had indicated to me in early 1997, after we worked on issue 50, that he didn't have the time to keep writing for TSV but that he was still agreeable to doing the layout. The last issue we worked on together was issue 51, published in June 1997.

In the following months that followed, I worked at assembling material for issue 52, ready to take it all around to Nick's place for a day or two of layout work. Only each time I asked Nick about this he'd reply that he wasn't sure when he'd have spare time to get together to do the issue. Eventually it got to the point where I had just about all of the content lined up for the issue, but still no time agreed with Nick to put it all together.

What to do? I had MS Publisher on my PC, and I'd spent the last six issues peering over Nick's shoulder as he used this to lay out each page. I bought myself a copy of the book Publisher for Dummies and began teaching myself to use the application. I worked from a template copy of TSV 51 so some of the trickier details like margin settings, column widths, gutters and page numbering was already in place. I started out doing this with the full intention of taking my work to Nick and getting him to check and polish this and then print out the master copy.

One day I found myself sitting at my desk and staring at the HP inkjet printer my partner Rochelle had recently bought me as a surprise gift for my 29th birthday. Then it dawned on me that I could finish the issue and print it all out myself. This epiphany remains to this day one of my strongest memories of this issue. I completed the layout, printed the master copy myself, and TSV 52 became the first of many desktop-published TSV issues that I designed and completed as a solo effort.

The issue's lead feature was an interview Gary Gillatt. Although I was delighted to interview the then-current Doctor Who Magazine editor, Gary actually approached me with a request to do the interview, saying in an email that he wanted to set the record straight about some of the comments his predecessor Gary Russell had made in his interview with Jon Preddle for TSV 51. So with the condition that Gillatt would have his right-of-reply, I fired off some questions and Gary provided some detailed and thoughtful answers, all via email as it wasn't until the following year that I met him for the first time. Gary ended the interview by dropping some hints about "the downfall of the Ninth Doctor and Izzy at the hands of the Threshold..." At a time when the Eighth Doctor was still reasonably new to the DWM comic strip, this was bewildering news indeed and, as you'll see from my response, I was definitely intrigued. As it transpired, Gary wasn't telling porkies - the events he referred to played out several months later in a breathtaking comic strip story called Wormwood.

Bob Beechey's Patrick Troughton article came about as a result of an email conversation I had with Bob about how he was probably TSV's eldest reader, and it would be wonderful if he felt like sharing his memories of watching the early years of the series with readers like myself not old enough to have seen the sixties episodes on their initial broadcast. Bob agreed to write something, but preferred to write more specifically about his appreciation of the Second Doctor.

The five-month gap between issues meant that we'd accumulated a number of new video releases to review, and these reviews were shared out among several writers. Alistair Hughes drew the front cover art to accompany the review of The Hand of Fear, but Peter Adamson reviewed that particular story and it fell to Alistair to review The Monster of Peladon, delivering (what was for Al) a rare negative reappraisal of a Third Doctor story.

To accompany Graham Howard's comprehensive review of The Five Doctors special edition, Jon Preddle and I decided to compile a guide to the changes between the broadcast version and the special edition. We set up two televisions and VCRs side-by-side in my living room, and cued up the two versions of the story. With some nimble remote control operation we were able to keep the two playing pretty much in synch - so that anything chopped out, added in or changed around would be immediately detectable. The result was a lengthy list of notes that took an entire day to complete, and Jon had to depart before we'd finished, leaving me to cover the last five or so minutes of the story.

Jamas Enright delivered a rather good short story, Castle Attraction, which has ties to all four of the TV stories reviewed this issue. See if you can spot them all. Jamas is also the eagle-eyed proof-reader for the online TSV re-issues, and he spotted when he was proofing material for the online issue that I had an earlier version of this story that featured several segments that were changed or trimmed for the published version. The online version is the one that appeared in the issue, but Jamas has put a 'deleted scenes' section on his own blog.

The comic strip action for this issue saw Richard Scholes illustrating a story called Inheritance by Patrick O’Seanessay. The story idea germinated from a conversation Patrick and I had about the origins of the Seventh Doctor’s apparent personality change between Dragonfire and Remembrance of the Daleks; in one story he's a happy adventurer, in the next he's a darkly brooding manipulator of events. The story took a good few years to come to fruition. As with Castle Attraction, it has a strong tie-in to one of the video releases reviewed this issue.

TSV 52 was the last of the 1997 issues, in a year that had seen just three TSVs published, and three issues per annum would become the norm for several years.. Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that the online version of TSV 52 has been published almost ten years to the day that readers would have received the printed copies of this very issue!

Read TSV 52 here.

Fellow TSV 52 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

15 October, 2007

The Unquiet Dictionary

I love well-researched reference books about television series. My shelves are full of them. The latest and perhaps best book about New Doctor Who is The Encyclopedia by Gary Russell. It is as the title indicates, a lexicon of every person, alien race, location, device and more featured or mentioned in the new series. Some of the entries are a little questionable (I'm not sure, for example that Kylie Minogue deserves an entry of her own simply on the merit that the Doctor quoted a line from one of her songs; or why it is that the Master's alter egois always referred to as "Harry Saxon" and not "Harold Saxon").

The book does however render entirely redundant a project that was once in development for TSV. The plan was to publish a Ninth Doctor Dictionary encyclopedia covering the 2005 series as part of an issue or possibly as a special supplement. TSV editor Adam McGechan masterminded the project and assigned each of the ten stories to a different writer. I selected The Unquiet Dead, which remains one of my favourite episodes from the first series. I worked on this in October 2005, and the Dictionary was planned to appear in TSV 72, then in issue 73, and thereafter it was shelved indefinitely. I'm not sure why, but perhaps it was to do with the difficulties inherent in coordinating and consolidating the work of ten writers, each with their own style and views about what should and should not be included.

After receiving my copy of Gary Russell's Encyclopedia, I unearthed my old notes for The Unquiet Dead entries and compared them to Gary's book. Interestingly there were a number of items I had entries for that do not appear in the book, including: Bleak House; Cardiff and Methyr Guardian, The; Cardiff Children’s Hospital; Christmas; Gloucester Chambers; Hillman, J, Milliners; Llandaff; Llwyd, Mr Fred & Mrs Frederick; Martin Chuzzlewit; Shakespeare; Snow Storm; Temperance Court and Tilly of St Leonards.

Here, published anywhere for the first time, are my notes (with thanks to David Ronayne, who provided some detailed and very useful notes that informed this revised draft).

The Unquiet Dead

1860: The Doctor picked this year for Rose's first visit to the past and claimed to not to know what happened in 1860. The TARDIS however arrived in 1869.

1869: The Doctor and Rose visited Cardiff on 24 December of this year.

Bad Wolf: When Gwyneth looked into Rose's mind she saw ‘the big bad wolf’. This was the earliest reference to Bad Wolf that Rose was aware of.

Barbarella: The Doctor likened Rose to Barbarella, meaning that her modern day clothes were inappropriate for the 1860s. [Barbarella was a sometimes scantily clad science fiction heroine who appeared in 1960s comics and a movie of the same name].

Bishop: Sneed did the Bishop a favour once, making his nephew look like a cherub even though he'd been dead in the weir for a fortnight. Sneed considered getting the bishop to do an exorcism.

Bleak House: [1852-1853] A novel by Charles Dickens, mentioned by the Doctor.

Boston Tea Party: The Doctor was present at the Boston Tea Party [16 December 1773], where he ‘pushed boxes’.

Brecon: A town north of Cardiff. The Doctor likened the rift to a blocked road between Brecon and Cardiff.

Butetown: An area of Cardiff where Madame Mortlock held her séances.

Cardiff: The Doctor and Rose visited this Welsh city on 24 December 1869.

Cardiff and Methyr Guardian, The: [Incorporating Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette] A Cardiff newspaper. The Doctor purchased a copy of the 24 December 1869 edition.

Cardiff Children’s Hospital: Charles Dickens’ performance at the Taliesin Lodge was to honour this hospital.

Christmas: The Doctor and Rose spent Christmas Eve in Cardiff, 1869. Charles Dickens’s novel A Christmas Carol was set at Christmas. Dickens considered Christmas not the best time to be alone, and planned to make amends with his family on Christmas Day.

Christmas Carol, A:
[1843] A ghost story written by Charles Dickens, featuring the characters of Marley and Scrooge. Dickens performed a reading from this story at the Taliesin Lodge.

Dickens, Charles: [1812-1870] The famous author of works including A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Martin Chuzzlewit, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, The Signalman and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He travelled alone from London to perform readings from his works, including A Christmas Carol, for free at the Taliesin Lodge in Cardiff on 24 December 1869. Dickens claimed to be weary of life and missed his family, from whom he was estranged, having been ‘clumsy with family matters’. He considered himself too old to cause any more trouble, thought his imagination had grown stale, and wondered if he had thought everything he'd ever think. He refused to believe in supernatural events and fantastical illusions, striving to unmask them as tricks. He dedicated his life’s work to fighting injustices and social causes, and hoped that he was a force for good. He was flattered by the Doctor’s appreciation of his work. His experiences in the Doctor's company showed him that instead of thinking he knew everything had barely started, and this reinvigorated him. He was inspired to write about his experiences. Dickens learned from the Doctor that his books last forever. He planned to take the mail-coach back to London to spend Christmas with his family and to try to make amends to them. Dickens died in 1870 and never got to tell his story about blue ghosts.

Doctor, The: He claims not to know what happened in 1860. He witnessed the fall of Troy, World War Five and the Boston Tea Party. He was a big fan of Charles Dickens, having read all of his works, regarding him as a brilliant genius. He considered himself responsible for Rose, blamed himself for getting her into dangerous situations and was very glad to have met her. He liked two sugars in his tea. He considered his clothes suitable for the time period though he changed his jumper. He had different moral views to Rose and had no problem with alien beings reusing the bodies of the dead, likening it to recycling or organ donation. He carried enough local money to purchase a newspaper in 1869 Cardiff.

Gelth: Ghostly alien creatures that lived in gas and attained physical form by inhabiting recently deceased human bodies. The Gelth apparently once had physical bodies but these wasted away as a result of the Time War and they were trapped in a gaseous state. Because they were weak they only inhabited bodies for a short time and then returned to living in gas pipes. When human bodies decomposed they produced gas, providing perfect vehicles for the Gelth. The dead when possessed by the Gelth retained some of the motivations of their former selves. The Gelth used the rift in Cardiff to cross over from the other side of the universe. As the rift widened, the Gelth grow stronger, but only a few could pass through and they needed Gwyneth to form a bridge across the rift so that they could all cross over. The Doctor offered to help the Gelth inhabit human bodies temporarily until he could take them somewhere where they could build proper bodies. The Gelth claimed to be facing extinction as there was very few of them left, however this was a lie to gain the Doctor’s cooperation – there were actually a few billion Gelth and all in need of corpses. The Gelth intended to invade by killing the human race and making the bodies vessels for the Gelth. The Gelth were drawn out of their human hosts when the air around them was flooded with gas. They were destroyed when the gas exploded.

Gloucester Chambers: The name of a building across the square from the Taliesin Lodge in Cardiff.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: Traditional Christmas carol sung by carollers on Christmas Eve 1869 outside the Taliesin lodge in Cardiff.

Great Expectations: [1860-1861] A novel written by Charles Dickens that the Doctor admired.

Gwyneth: A young servant girl, orphaned at the age of twelve when both her parents died from the flu. She was taken in by Sneed who pays her eight pounds a year, which she considered very generous. She went to school once a week, every Sunday but hated it. One week she didn't go and instead ran down the Heath on her own. She admitted to liking the butcher's boy, who came by every Tuesday. She quickly befriended Rose. Gwyneth had the ability to read minds since she was a little girl, but she didn’t like to use it as her mother told her to hide it. Every night she heard voices in her head. She believed she would be with her parents again one day in heaven. Her powers had developed because she grew up on top of the rift and they were getting stronger all the time. She consulted with spiritualists and mediums to try to understand her ability. She attended séances held by Madame Mortlock. Gwyneth’s powers were a key to the rift, enabling her to form a psychic bridge between dimensions. She believed that the alien Gelth were actually angels sent by her mother on a holy mission. She was killed when she formed the bridge that enables the Gelth to cross over, but in death - and possessed by the Gelth - she still retained enough of her own will for at least five minutes to realise that she had been deceived and destroyed the Gelth by striking a match that ignited the gas and in doing so saved the world.

J. Hillman, Milliners: A Cardiff company that sold locally-produced hard-wearing extra quality silk hats, advertised in 1869.

Little Nell: A Charles Dickens character [from The Old Curiosity Shop, 1840-1841] whose death scene the Doctor found amusing.

Llandaff: Sneed and Company Undertakers were located in this area of Cardiff.

Llwyd, Mr Fred & Mrs Frederick: Names that were listed on a poster advertising events in the Taliesin Lodge.

London: Rose and Charles Dickens were both from London. Gwyneth had never been to London but had seen it in drawings. Gwyneth saw visions of Rose’s modern day London. Dickens planned to return to London by mail coach.

Marley: A ghost in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, mentioned in his reading at the Taliesin Lodge

Martin Chuzzlewit: [1843-1844] A novel written by Charles Dickens. The Doctor disliked the section of the novel set in America.

Mortlock, Madame: A spiritual medium in Butetown, Cardiff, from whom Gwyneth learned how to hold a séance.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood: [1870] An unfinished novel by Charles Dickens in which, lacking an ending, the mystery of Edwin Drood’s disappearance remained unresolved.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the Blue Elementals: Charles Dickens' proposed revised title for his unfinished novel. He had planned to make Edwin Drood's uncle the boy’s killer, but after his experiences with the Gelth, he intended changing the book to feature supernatural events. Dickens never got to write this version, as he died in 1870.

Naples: The Doctor attempted to land the TARDIS in this city, but instead arrived in Cardiff.

Oliver Twist: [1837-1839] A novel written by Charles Dickens that the Doctor admired.

Mrs Peace: Redpath's grandmother, who died aged 86 shortly before Christmas 1869. Before she died she planned to see Charles Dickens at the Taliesin Lodge. Her body was interred at Sneed and Company undertakers where it was inhabited by the Gelth. She then killed her grandson Redpath and attended Dickens’ performance.

Redpath: The grandson of Mrs Peace, he was killed by her reanimated corpse and was interred at Sneed and Company undertakers. His body was then inhabited by the Gelth.

Rift: A weak point in time and space, a connection between dimensions. Rifts were the cause of ghost stories most of the time. A rift was located in Cardiff and Sneed’s house in Temperance Court, Llandaff, centred right over the rift, causing supernatural events going back generations. The rift gave Gwyneth her psychic powers, and she was the key to opening the rift. The Gelth used the rift to pass between dimensions. The rift was closed when Gwyneth destroyed the Gelth.

Samson: Sneed and Company’s horse, used to pull the hearse.

Scrooge: A character in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, mentioned in his reading at the Taliesin Lodge.

Shakespeare: Famous playwright mentioned by Charles Dickens, who also quoted from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

Shareen: Rose’s friend from school. They used to play truant together to go to the shops and look at boys.

Signalman, The: [1866] A short story written by Charles Dickens, featuring trains and a ghost. The Doctor thought it as terrifying and one of the best short stories ever written.

Sneed and Company: A nineteenth century firm of undertakers based in Temperance Court, Llandaff, and run by Gabriel Sneed. The company has been troubled by the dead coming back to life. This has been going on for about three months and these incidents include a sexton who almost walked into his own memorial service, and Mrs Peace, who killed her grandson and then attended to a performance by Charles Dickens.

Sneed, Gabriel: An elderly man who ran a undertakers called Sneed and Company, based at his house at 7 Temperance Court, Llandaff, Cardiff in 1869. He had to deal with many incidents with the dead coming back to life over the three months prior to meeting the Doctor, but was more concerned about what damage this might do to his reputation and his business than he was to learn why this might be happening. He was not above abducting strangers to keep these incidents hushed up, and appears to keep chloroform handy for this purpose. His only servant was Gwyneth, whom he took in when her parents died. He was aware of Gwyneth’s psychic ability and generally took supernatural events in his stride. He was killed by the Gelth and his body was then inhabited by them. [Note: Sneed's first name Gabriel was only revealed in the closing credits]

Snow Storm: Listed on a poster advertising events in the Taliesin Lodge.

Sonic Screwdriver: The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver when working under the TARDIS console.

Taliesin Lodge: A theatre in Cardiff where Charles Dickens gave a free performance to honour the Childrens Hospital, on Friday 24 December 1869, starting at 7.30pm.

TARDIS: The Doctor’s ship was unsteady when in flight, and somewhat unreliable, missing Naples 1860 and instead landing in Cardiff 1869. The TARDIS had many passages and rooms accessed via the control room. The TARDIS had a wardrobe, and from the control room it was first left, second right, third on the left, straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on the left.

Temperance Court: Sneed and Company Undertakers were located at 7 Temperance Court, Llandaff, Cardiff. Sneed got the house cheap because it was said to be haunted by ghosts, going back for generations. Sneed however considered the ghost stories to be appropriate for his business as an undertaker. The house was located on a weak spot on the rift. The weakest part of the house, where the most ghosts were seen was the morgue. The house was destroyed by a gas explosion that kills the Gelth.

Tilly of St Leonards: Listed on a poster advertising events in the Taliesin Lodge.

Time War: The Gelth claimed to have lost their physical form in the Time War. During the war, the whole universe convulsed. The war was invisible to smaller species but devastating to higher forms such as the Gelth.

Troy: The Doctor was present at the fall of Troy.

Tyler, Rose: Rose was 19 years old. Her first journey into the past was to Cardiff in 1869. She dressed up in clothes from the TARDIS wardrobe. She hated her time at school, and would often play truant to go to the shops with her friend Shareen to look at boys. She liked boys to have ‘a good smile, nice bum’. Her father died years ago, but he was in her thoughts a lot lately. She had heard of the Time War. She didn't believe it was right to let aliens inhabit dead human bodies. She possibly carried a donor card. She initially believed that she couldn't die in the past, until the Doctor corrected her. She didn't blame the Doctor for exposing her to danger; she was glad to have met the Doctor, and was brave in the face of death.

World War Five: The Doctor witnessed World War Five taking place.

12 October, 2007

TSV 51

As TSV entered its second half-century with the publication of issue 51 in June 1997, co-editor and desktop publishing whizz Nick Withers took his final bow. Neither of us realised at the time that this issue would be Nick's swansong, but the writing was on the wall; there are no reviews by Nick in this issue, and even though it was his turn in the cycle of alternating editorials, there's me burbling away instead. By the time the next issue came around, Nick was no longer around. There was no animosity, no falling out. Nick just decided he wanted to do other things. So for Nick's tenure as co-editor, TSV 51 was the end.

But as one door closed, another opened. This issue represents for me the point at which TSV lifted its game. Having strived for and conquered the milestone fiftieth issue with that exclusive Tom Baker material, I became concerned that maybe I couldn't possibly top that. In addition Doctor Who Magazine had given us the ultimate accolade, making TSV 50 'Fanzine of the Month'. The phrases "always essential" and "puts too many of its UK brethren to shame" from that DWM review haunted me. This was high praise indeed, and it felt a little like the small fanzine from down under had suddenly been handed a lofty reputation to live up to.

TSV faced an influx of eager new subscribers from foreign shores, lured perhaps by the Tom Baker coverage in TSV 50, but no doubt also attracted by that glowing DWM review. It wasn't enough anymore for TSV just to be a club fanzine with a random assortment of readers' contributions. We were out in the world, and attracting the attention of some high-profile fans. With this in mind I determined to make TSV’s content tighter and more focussed.

The Gary Russell interview by Jon Preddle was TSV 51’s lead item. Gary was a long-time supporter of TSV and Jon had previously interviewed him for issue 37 several years earlier. This new interview covered what had happened to Gary in the intervening period, including his controversial dismissal from Panini, his various novels for Virgin and the BBC, and the Radio Times comic strips. Gary refers to a few projects in the interview which later came to fruition - the CD-Rom he was writing for became the BBC computer game Destiny of the Doctor and the 'making of' book for the TV Movie was eventually published as Regenerations by HarperCollins. Within a year of this interview taking place Gary began working for Big Finish.

My biographical article about Terry Nation in this issue is one of the most meticulously researched things I've written for TSV. I spent a long time accumulating a stack of photocopied interviews and articles and then writing and rewriting the article. I think it still holds up quite well.

The issue had long been planned as a fiction special. Since the demise of Timestreams (TSV's fiction counterpart) in 1995, Nick and I had planned to devote one issue of TSV predominantly to a collection of short stories. We never accumulated nearly enough material to support an entire issue, but TSV 51 saw the best of what we had lined up, amounting to four text stories and a comic strip.

Keith Topping and Martin Day’s short story tie-in to The Devil Goblins from Neptune was intended to function like the Prelude stories that used to appear in DWM.

The New Adventures novels heavily influenced Morgan Davie’s dark and moody comic strip In Bloom which features features a character called the Judge that had appeared in Morgan's unpublished Sixth Doctor and Peri Dalek novel.

Sadly, this was the end for the New and Missing Adventures. The last titles in these two series (not counting the Bernice Summerfield New Adventures of course) had come out a couple of months before TSV 51, and the issue featured reviews of all but one of the last batch of books, as well as the first of BBC Books' output. For some reason the last of the Missing Adventures wasn't reviewed until TSV 52; I can't recall why, but I suspect that the book was delayed in the post.

The Green Death was new on video, and our resident Pertwee era fan, Alistair Hughes naturally wrote the review, as well as coming up with the stylish front cover artwork. Can you really image this printed on anything other than green…?

So TSV had survived beyond Tom Baker and the fiftieth issue, but Nick Withers departed. Just how I managed to keep TSV going on my own is a story for next time!

Read TSV 51 here.

Fellow TSV 51 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

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

20 August, 2007

The Real McCoy

I was a little apprehensive in the lead-up to A Day with the Doctor, the one-day Doctor Who convention on Sunday 19 August at the Aotea Centre.

To this day I still have eye-twitch inducing memories of DoctorCon 2003, the last convention I helped organise. That event was marred by shockingly low attendance numbers and an intemperate guest actor. Fortunately this time around everything went without a hitch and it was a pleasure to help out the experienced and very capable husband and wife team of Bill and Adele Geradts, who are the team behind the hugely successful Armageddon conventions.

The convention was made possible by the fact that the Royal Shakespeare Company were on the New Zealand leg of their tour of King Lear and The Seagull, with a few Doctor Who actors in the cast.

Before the celebrity guests arrived, I was the first speaker of the day. I gave a half-hour talk about Doctor Who, the club and TSV. I'd spent the previous week thinking about the talk and put together a powerpoint presentation that worked very well as a visual aid, with the audience impressed by the colourful club logo (which I'd colourised in Photoshop especially for the presentation), and a first glimpse at Alistair Hughes' stunning new colour cover art for the forthcoming TSV 75.

I was delighted to see some old familiar faces in the audience, like former editor Nick Withers whom I hadn't seen in years. There were also many new, young fans of the series in evidence. When I explained that TSv was celebrating its 20th birthday this year and asked how many of those present were not yet born in 1987 quite a few hands went up (I feel very old...) My two nephews - both of whom love Doctor Who (not entirely my doing!) were in the audience, seeing Uncle Paul in a different light. It was especially gratifying to have a number of people - young and old - come up to me afterwards and said how much they'd enjoyed my presentation.

Although Sylvester McCoy was the star attraction, the other two actors, William 'call me Bill' Gaunt and David Weston, also proved popular. A couple of Doctor Who episodes were played before their talk to remind the audience of these actors' appearances in the series. David Weston was hampered a little by the fact that his first role, as Nicholas Muss in the 1966 story The Massacre, no longer exists, and his second as Tharil Biroc in Warriors' Gate sees him heavily made-up so that he's not very recognisable in person. William Gaunt on the otherhand looks exactly, as you might expect, like an older and more distinguished version of the assassin Orcini from Revelation of the Daleks.

Of the two thespians, Gaunt seemed to have a better recollection of his time on the show and delivered some amusing ancedotes, with his exploding bionic leg being a particular highlight. I wanted to ask a question that both men could answer equally, so I prompted them for their memories of working with Graeme Harper, who had served as a production assistant on Warriors' Gate and then as director on Revelation. Gaunt spoke well of Harper, singling him out as a very good television director who kept the cast energised and had a can-do attitude. Weston then responded that he had no recollection at all of Harper - though he did mention that the director - Paul Joyce - was removed from the production (some accounts suggest that Harper filled in for Joyce).

Sylvester McCoy's own talk was later in the day and in contrast to Gaunt and Weston who remained seated, Sylvester moved about the room, clambering past people so that he was holding the microphone for each person as they asked their question. His usual response was a short answer followed by a longer one that sequed into a sometimes familiar well-rehearsed anecdote. Which is to be expected given the huge number of similar events McCoy must have spoken at in the past. For many of those present though this was entirely fresh material and Sylvester's infectious wit and wicked one-liners made it hugely enjoyable.

I asked Sylvester about the rumours that he'd been up for the role of Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. He revealed that it came down to the last two, between himself and Ian Holm, and even though he was very disappointed not to get the part, he has kept in contact with Peter Jackson, and had visited the director at his home with Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) when they arrived in Wellington for King Lear. Jackson, revealed McCoy, is a big fan of Doctor Who, and owns a complete Seventh Doctor costume (that Jackson's kids pester him to dress up in!), including one of the only three surviving original question mark umbrellas made for use in the series. Intriguingly, Sylvester also said that Peter Jackson told him that there is a 'two Doctors' story being made for Series 4, which apparently will feature the Tenth and Fifth Doctors, with Peter Davison reprising his role. Hmm, we'll have to wait and see if that comes to pass...

Chatting to McCoy one-on-one later in the day I learned that in recent years he'd had to start changing his routine to remove language and stories not suitable for younger listeners. Until the new series came back in 2005, McCoy explained, he'd been playing to rooms entirely made up of adult fans. We agreed that it was great to see a new generation coming into fandom and that they were evidently enjoying the stories made long before they were born. I also got to chat to McCoy about the play and his part as the Fool.

The last event of the day was a screening of Battlefield with Sylvester delivering alive commentary, but it was apparent by this time that his energy levels were flagging, despite the organisers plying him with strong coffee. For most of the story he seemed content to just sit and watch along with the audience. No one seemed to mind; the surreal experience of watching a Seventh Doctor story alongside the man himself was a thrill in itself.

All in all, a great day.

14 August, 2007

TSV 49

Thanks in part to the delayed New Zealand screening at the end of October 1996, the TV Movie was still very topical when TSV 49 was published the following month.

The purging of some of the planned content for TSV 48 to make way for the Jon Pertwee tribute meant that we had a head start on the following issue with an assortment of TV Movie and New Adventures themed items that might otherwise would have gone into TSV 48.

This combined with the new material created specifically for TSV 49 resulted in a monster of an issue running to 108 pages. This is still the single longest issue TSV has ever produced. Although 100 page issues are the norm these days - and TSV 74 came close to matching the record with 104 pages - other issues published in the mid-1990s were at most 96 pages.

The following issue, TSV 50 had to come in at a slim 80 pages to rebalance the finances. In retrospect it might have been more sensible to spread the material more evenly across the two issues but a lot of what appeared in TSV 49 was either topical or had been bumped one issue already.

It was my co-editor Nick Withers' turn to write the editorial for this issue, and he caused a minor controversy with this comment: "contrary to the rumours, TSV is continuing". The background to this remark was that there were some New Zealand fans who, for reasons best known to themselves, made a habit of creating rumours about TSV and the club. We'd heard - or perhaps read in another fanzine - the ridiculous claim that we were planning to end TSV with issue 50, so naturally Nick wanted to set the record straight. It rather back-fired on us though as it seems very few of our readers had heard this rumour, but as a result of Nick's comment now had cause to wonder about TSV's life expectancy!

Roadshow had recently taken over BBC Video distribution from Polygram (Roadshow still distribute for the BBC today). When Polygram lost the rights, they disposed of their back stock of Doctor Who titles through the Warehouse chain. Roadshow had to build up their Doctor Who range from scratch, and re-released 15 older titles in one burst. Roadshow kindly provided us with review copies and we decided to present short capsule reviews of each of these re-released videos, as many of them had not been reviewed in TSV the first time around. The reviews were divided up among a group of writers I knew I could rely on to deliver on time, and future TSV editor Adam McGechan was one of the reviewers, offering his critique of Inferno.

The back cover Warriors of the Deep artwork by the ever-wonderful Alistair Hughes is particularly good. I like the 'shared eye' effect. This was to have been the front cover, but Alistair's TV Movie illustration featuring the Eighth Doctor and Grace dwarfed by the massive console room, just seemed too good not to occupy pride of place on the front of the issue, so the Warriors of the Deep picture, which had been commissioned to support Robert Boswell's featured video review, was relegated to the back cover. Here's how the cover would have looked as originally intended:

The Discontinuity Guide addition for the TV Movie was Jon Preddle's idea. Jon had been a fact-checker on an early draft of the Discontinuity Guide and understood the book's format very well, so he was best placed to cover the TV Movie in the same style. I even went to the effort of matching the font and size to match the Virgin book when this item appeared in the print issue, so that if readers so desired they could copy the pages and stuck them into the back of the book. The feature gave rise to an ongoing series of Discontinuity Guide additions and eventually outgrew TSV altogether, finding a new existence in a web version that covered the Big Finish audios. Alas, the online guide hasn't been updated since the beginning of 2005 and is really crying out for someone to take this on and bring it back up to date.

Nigel Windsor interviewed Chris Loates, a colleague of his at Television New Zealand. Loates worked on a number of Doctor Who stories but this must have been in a junior and/or peripheral role as his name has never appeared on any of the production crew documentation for Doctor Who. He's therefore perhaps the most obscurely connected individual ever interviewed by TSV. The interview submitted by Nigel ran longer but I cut it down to remove some of the tangental stuff where Loates talked about camera lenses and focal lengths, which I felt was getting too far away from the point.

Time's Chump, by Peter Adamson, is a fascinating and indepth examination of the way the Sixth Doctor gets a raw deal in some of the New and Missing Adventures. Peter has made a point of sticking up for the often-unloved Sixth Doctor. Quite right too. This article would have fitted in nicely with the New Adventures theme of the previous issue.

Likewise with my own Wedding Notes article, which is an annotated guide to Happy Endings, pointing out many of the continuity references and obscure bits of detail littered throughout Paul Cornell's book. Paul offered to look over a draft version of the article and offered all sorts of additional bits that immeasurably enhanced the end result. I'd never realised Muldwych's real identity, for example. Peter Adamson also helped out with this one, enlightening me to some of the BritPop references I'd missed or misunderstood. I'm quite proud of this article and I selected it as one of the earliest things to get published online before the TSV online archive project began. The article is linked to from various other internet sites about the New Adventures.

The online version of this issue features a couple of 'bonus items' in the form of alternate covers, for Christmas on a Rational Planet and The Completely Useless Encyclopedia, linked within their respective reviews. Virgin Publishing originally intended these covers as the final versions and they were changed very close to publication. But was the replacement an improvement in either case...?

TSV 49 was the last issue of 1996. TSV's ten-year anniversary and our fiftieth issue were both just around the corner.

Read TSV 49 here.

Fellow TSV 49 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

17 July, 2007

Reversed Polarities

While can TSV justifiably claim to be New Zealand's most successful Doctor Who fanzine, its 'South Island cousin' Reverse the Polarity (RTP) could be the next best thing. Produced in Christchurch by the affable Alex Ballingall (himself a longtime TSV reader), RTP has a small but very loyal readership who are the lifeblood of the zine. RTP celebrates its tenth birthday this year. Alex has a blog about RTP here.

I was doing a tidy up of my files yesterday and came across the following article I wrote a year ago for RTP. It appeared in issue 22, dated June 2006, as part of a much longer piece, entitled 'Polarities Reversed!', a 21 issue retrospective featuring contributions from RTP readers.

RTP Comes of Age

Some might say that I’m not the best person to be writing this article. But Alex asked nicely, and he’s up against a very tight deadline. He wants me to write about RTP, looking back at the last 21 issues from the perspective of both a reader and a fellow fanzine editor. I’ve had some fanzine editing experience and I’ve also been reading RTP since the very first issue, so I guess I fit the bill.

I responded to Alex’s eleventh-hour request because I know all too well what it’s like when you’re about to go to print and there’s still pages that remain resolutely blank. There’s only so much you can cajole, wheedle and coax your contributors when they’re only doing it for the fun. If you push them too hard then as a certain brash Aussie once pointed out, once it stops being fun it’s time to give it up. The editor then wakes up one day to find those contributors have gone somewhere else to reclaim that sense of fun. And in TSV’s case, I rather suspect that it’s RTP where some of these fun-seeking contributors ended up.

I fetched the complete run of RTP issues (1997-2006) from my bookshelves tonight and thumbed through them to jog the memory. You know a fanzine has a substantial back catalogue when it’s difficult to hold the set in one hand. RTP’s either reached that point or I need to work on my grip.

Having clocked up 21 issues, RTP can be said to have come of age, and it’s a figure that I believe makes it officially the third longest New Zealand Doctor Who fanzine in terms of issue count; and even though Gallifrey takes second place, its issues were rather slim, it regurgitated content from DWM and it ended a long time ago. RTP can certainly claim the highest issue count of any post-TSV New Zealand Who fanzine.

RTP was the brainchild of Matt Kamstra and Wade Campbell, (though it wasn’t very long before Alex started taking over – in fact there he is writing in the very first issue!). It was seemingly born out of the collective enthusiasm generated by the rebirth of the local fan community, and indeed for many issues RTP was subtitled “The Fanzine of the Christchurch Chapter of the NZDWFC”.

The inaugural RTP reviewed the 50th issue of TSV, and the reviewer described it as ‘dull’ and lacking in variety. Ouch. Fortunately this did not set the tone for the ongoing relationship between the two zines and although from time to time, particularly in the early issues, RTP would take shots at TSV things have remained perfectly amicable, with the occasional bit of fun being poked by RTP at its bigger and older cousin. I can never forget that astonishing cartoon likeness of me (that jaw line!!) from issue 11.

TSV 50 coincidentally saw the conclusion of TARDIS Tales, but Saucer Smith found a new home in the pages of RTP, ending up on the front cover of the first issue. Graham Muir was just the first of several TSV notable TSV contributors to either ‘defect’ to RTP or to divide their writings and drawings between the two publications.

There were a number of items printed in early issues of RTP that had previously passed across the TSV editor’s desk. RTP in its early days sometimes seemed a little like a safe haven for TSV cast-offs. The zine thankfully soon began to find its own identity however with such gems as the epic Pulp Who comic strip originated by Alex, with a little help from Mr Tarantino. The interviews with local fan personalities began in issue 5; this is something I don’t think TSV could get away with doing, but it works perfectly for RTP’s smaller scale and local readership. I find these interviews fascinating as even though they’re mostly with people I feel I’ve known for years, I learn things from the interviews I never knew.

There have been a few times when I’ve gone the same colour as issue 20 with envy at something that’s appeared in RTP and not TSV. If I had to pick just one example it would be that interview with Warwick ‘Scott’ Gray in issues 7-8. Oh how I would have loved to publish that in TSV. Oddly enough a couple of years ago I was having a drink with Warwick in London and sounded him out over doing an interview for TSV. He replied that he’d already been interviewed in TSV. He didn’t realize until I told him that his interview had ended up in RTP!

Other highlights that have jumped out at me during my trawl back through the RTP catalogue include Alex’s quite remarkable Japanese comic in issue 16, David Ronayne’s simply delightful Tintin-inspired covers, and Peter Adamson’s extraordinarily emotive Cydonia strip.

Finally I’d just like to share with you the secret to long-term success for a New Zealand Doctor Who fanzine. It’s quite simple, really. Devise a name that only fans will understand and then reduce it to just three initials. So now you know what all those other fanzines that are no longer around today were doing wrong!

09 July, 2007

TSV 48

Throughout that long dry spell when there was no new Doctor Who coming out of the BBC it was an ever-present challenge to find fresh and relevant material to fill TSV. So naturally when something significant happened it was seized on to form a focus for an issue. So it was with TSV 48. But, rather like buses, you wait for ages for one event to come along and then three turn up at once...

Nick Withers and I planned the 1996 issues well in advance. Noticing that the New Adventures would hit the 50th release around mid-year, we decided that issue 48 would be a themed special issue, looking back over the entire range. Nick and I were both New Adventures fans, and we also wanted to acknowledge this milestone out of respect to Virgin Publishing, who had been very supportive and helpful to TSV, supplying us with proof covers and review copies for several years by this point.

I'd been hooked up the Internet since the beginning of the year and was still cautiously exploring what this new medium had to offer. I saw the potential in interviewing Doctor Who people on the other side of the world via email, so I found addresses for a handful of New Adventures authors and sent off emails requesting interviews. Paul Cornell and Lance Parkin replied, so I interviewed both writers for the New Adventures special.

Although the original intention had to been to celebrate the past, present and future of the New Adventures, it soon became alarmingly apparent that the books didn't actually have too much life left in them. Virgin were losing the licence and while the range seemed to be still going strong in mid-1996, plans were already taking shape to wind things up. Lance talks in his interview about writing the very last Doctor Who New Adventure (The Dying Days), and Paul talks about how he's about to go to a crisis meeting at Virgin to discuss continuing the range without the Doctor. So as much as TSV 48 was celebrating the New Adventures, the issue would also be delivering potentially grim news for fans of these books.

Of course the catalyst for Virgin losing the Doctor Who book publishing licence was the arrival of the much-anticipated TV Movie starring Paul McGann. At the beginning of 1996 when Nick and I were planning out the issues for the year, the movie was just entering production. Initially we didn't know whereabouts in the year the movie would screen, so linking this event into a specific issue was largely a matter of guesswork. Once the screening date was known it was apparent that we would have reviews and associated coverage in time for TSV 48. So our New Adventures special now had to defer to what would the single most significant Doctor Who event of the 1990s.

The solution we came up with was to split this issue down the middle; one half would cover the TV Movie, and the other the New Adventures, with two front covers and the pages oriented so that the issue could be read from either end.

One day in late May, while all this issue was just starting to take shape, I arrived at work and met up with Rochelle in the staffroom (we were both working at the Queen Street Whitcoulls at this time). She said, "Did you hear the Doctor Who news?" "No," I replied, assuming at first that there had been some publicity about the TV Movie that was due to screen in the UK in just a few days time. Then Rochelle told me the news she'd heard on the radio that morning. "Jon Pertwee's dead."

I remember feeling quite numb for a while while the news sank in. Jon Pertwee had been a childhood hero of mine. He was my Doctor when I'd watched my first episodes of Doctor Who. I'd continued to enjoy him as Worzel Gummidge and I met him in person when he'd been the guest speaker at the WhoCon convention in 1990. The memory of receiving news of his death is intertwined in my memory with hearing about the passing of my grandmother, Pat Scoones, who died suddenly the very same month - and to whom TSV 48 was dedicated. In an odd sort of symmetry, my grandmother was fond of telling how she'd once bumped into "Mr Who" - as she referred to Jon Pertwee - in London many years earlier.

Once I got over the initial shock, I realised that there would need to be a change of plans for TSV. Some of the planned content for TSV 48 would need to go, to make way for a tribute to Jon Pertwee. The double-ended issue idea was abandoned now that we had three different themes - each of which could have occupied an issue in its own right – to cram into one single issue.

To ensure that Jon Pertwee got the TSV send-off he deserved, we delayed publication by a month and invited recollections about Pertwee from various TSV regulars. I took on the task of compiling a biographical profile of Pertwee's full and eventful life. Working at Whitcoulls I had easy access to all the local and international newspapers so when the papers with the Pertwee obituaries turned up, I photocopied all of the items I could find and these all ended up in the issue. In a stroke of good timing a classic Third Doctor story, The Sea Devils, was a new video release and so a review of this by our resident Third Doctor aficionado Alistair Hughes was ideal; Graham Howard delivered an item about Pertwee's unseen advertisements for Telecom filmed in New Zealand, and Peter Adamson drew an eye-catching full-page illustration of the Third Doctor for the back cover. The front cover was already earmarked for a TV Movie illustration (Alistair Hughes’ wonderful portrait of Paul McGann), and after much soul-searching I felt that we should still lead with the TV Movie coverage.

So the New Adventures theme, which as originally planned would have occupied the majority of TSV 48, was relegated to third position with much reduced coverage. So much for planning ahead!

Read TSV 48 here.

Fellow TSV 48 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

18 June, 2007

It was twenty years ago today...

Sergeant Pepper didn't have anything to do with it, but today is a rather special anniversary.

On Thursday 18 June 1987 - exactly twenty years ago today - myself and a fellow student, Paul Sinkovich, visited Shadows, the University of Auckland campus bar. We had a couple of occasions to celebrate, and decided to do this with a few beers.

Earlier that same day we had produced the very first copies of our own Doctor Who fanzine. Paul and I had decided over lunch that New Zealand fandom needed a Doctor Who fanzine, so in a space of a few weeks we'd created the first issue.

We called the fanzine The Time/Space Visualiser. We didn't know if it would last more than a couple of issues, but here we are, twenty years later. That fanzine - now known as TSV - is still going strong after 74 issues.

The reason I can be so sure about the exact date is that our second cause for celebration was that 18 June 1987 was my nineteenth birthday.

12 June, 2007

TSV 47

I've been asked how it is that I manage to remember so much for these blog articles about the behind-the-scenes details of these old issues of TSV. The answer is simply that re-reading an issue (and preparing it for online publication) usually works remarkably well as a mnenomic trigger. Not so much with this issue, though. I was going through a very uneven patch in my life when this issue was underway. So the memories that come to light when I flick through the pages of TSV 47 are not so much about the making of the issue as they are about other more important personal things that were going on in the first half of 1996. My co-editor Nick Withers probably didn't realise just how much I appreciated his support during those trying times, but if he's reading this blog hopefully he does now.

The issue features a rather eyecatching Frontier in Space wraparound cover artwork by the ever-reliable Alistair Hughes, to accompany Alistair's review of the video. For those who've only ever seen the cover image on the website, the new online issue is a first opportunity to see the other half of the cover artwork.

The Cornflakes Connection was an account of the making of a Doctor Who segment for a breakfast cereal TV commercial, made in Auckland but screened in the UK. Myself and Jon Preddle were invited along to watch the recording take place in a cold, cavernous warehouse somewhere in the rural back blocks of South Auckland. In my career I've witnessed first hand some of the utterly inane things that advertising people will do in the belief that they're being clever and effective, but this was an early exposure to the industry. Applying fake stubble to the face of one of the performers dressed up as the Fourth Doctor because a second Tom Baker look-alike in the same shot was unshaven was a particularly ridiculous move, as was removing the distinctive - and authentic - Fifth Doctor's coat from another performer due to the primadonna director taking a dislike to it.

The highlight of the whole experience was getting to meet UK fan Andrew Beech, whom Jon and I took on a sightseeing tour of Auckland, during which Andrew treated us to some quite unprintable anecdotes, including which Doctor Who actors had apparently been sleeping with each other. Andrew had also apparently read a version of Matthew Jacobs' script for the TV Movie (which at the time was in production), and cheerfully told me the plot whilst Jon stuck his fingers in his ears and went "la-la-la" to avoid spoilers. He needn't have bothered as very little of what Andrew told me about the story - which allegedly included a nude shower scene for the Doctor and/or companion, and the appearance of a 'Millennium Star' - bore any resemblance at all to the finished production!

Felicity interviewed David Bishop about his first Doctor Who novel, Who Killed Kennedy, which was published around the time that the issue came out. The interview is now also linked from the Who Killed Kennedy ebook.

David Ronayne and Peter Adamson's Hyperborea comic strip, set in the hypothetical realm of 'Season 6b' is a rather wonderful adventure with lots of running around and getting locked up in the grand tradition of the Patrick Troughton era. I can take credit - or perhaps that should be blame - for providing David with the "happy medium" pun that appears on page 8. The strip required a fair bit of restoration work for its online publication as the original pages were stuck into the issue's mastercopy and in the intervening years pigment from the ink used to black in areas of the strip had bled on to the facing pages, creating some disfiguring areas of yellow. Thank goodness for Photoshop! The online publication has enabled me to correct a minor spelling error in one of the speech balloons, which had been pointed out by David in the following issue's letters pages.

Also corrected for online publication was the short story by Nicholas Withers, which due to a printing error noticed shortly before publication but too late to correct it, was missing a line of text from the bottom of one of the pages. Needless to say, the online version is complete.

David Lawrence's short story, A Visit, was as I recall an excerpt from his unfinished New Adventures novel called The Blue Shift. For a while I was in discussions with David about getting him to finish the book so that it could be published in full as a TSV Books novelisation, but this never eventuated.

I was and indeed still am a big fan of the New Adventures novels. I had been re-reading some of the earlier books in the series and discovered that my opinion of some of them changed on a re-reading. I was particularly struck by how much I was impressed by Transit, a much-maligned book that I'd disliked the first time I read it. This experience inspired me to create the Not-So-New Adventures column, which was to be a re-evaluation of some of the older books. Thanks to the online archive it's possible to compare if you like my radically different views of Transit in TSV 47 and in TSV 32.

Two items from this issue - Lance Parkin's The Making of Just War and Keith Topping's And Cut it... Now! were reprints from other fanzines. It was unusual for TSV to borrow quite so liberally from other sources - albeit with full permission - and I cannot recall now exactly why we did it for this issue. Perhaps we were running short of material? I have a feeling that Keith might have offered his article to us himself, and I know I was in touch with Lance Parkin via email around this time (leading to the interview in the following issue), so perhaps the same was true of his item.

TSV 47 was of course the last issue published before the TV Movie aired. Nick and I were planning a double-themed TSV 48, half covering the McGann movie and the other half marking 50 New Adventures novels. We had to alter our plans after some very sad news, but that's a story for next issue...

Read TSV 47 here.

Fellow TSV 47 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

29 May, 2007

New New Adventure

I adore the Doctor Who New Adventures novels, published by Virgin between 1991 and 1997. These books picked up where Survival left off, as Sylvester McCoy's Doctor wandered off screen arm-in-arm with Ace, and took off in new and interesting directions. Like the TV series itself the quality varied wildly from book to book, but at their best the New Adventures easily surpassed the TV series.

Paul Cornell was one of the leading lights of the New Adventures; the first of many fan writers to break into series with the ground-breaking Timewyrm: Revelation. Cornell's fourth New Adventure, Human Nature, is widely considered to be the absolute pinnacle of the New Adventures. The novel sees the Doctor transform himself into the human John Smith, who unaware of his Time Lord origins, become a teacher at a English boy's school just prior to the First World War and fall in love with Joan Redfern until a hostile family of aliens disrupts his peaceful existence. Such is the power of this book that when I first read it I was actually desperate for the Doctor to stay with Joan at the end even though I knew that this couldn't happen.

I regarded the news that Cornell was adapting his novel for television with some trepidation. I wasn't too bothered about the implications for the series continuity as I'd long regarded the New Adventures as a separate branch from the TV episodes, rather I was worried that the TV story wouldn't do the novel justice and that the changes required to make this fit the new Doctor and companion would be to its detriment.

Last night I saw the first episode of this two-part story, and I was astonished at just how amazingly good it was. I've been rather disappointed by a few of the episodes this year but Human Nature rises head and shoulders above the rest. I was concerned that the Tenth Doctor was already too light and accessible to convincingly make the transition to a truly human character (one of the strengths of the novel had been that the Seventh Doctor had become increasing dark, manipulative and alien in the New Adventures so his 'humanisation' was a stark and wholly effective contrast), but David Tennant pulls off a nuanced performance as John Smith with consumate ease. The TV version also looks exactly right - it is as if the story I'd imagined back in 1995 when I read the novel has been lifted from my mind and plonked on the TV screen. It's a very uncanny experience but hugely satisfying all the same!

If this is what the new series can do with a classic New Adventures novel as its source, then perhaps more of these books should be brought to screen? What could the new series do with an adaptation of The Also People, The Dying Days, or even Russell T Davies' own Damaged Goods...?

Meanwhile I am really, really looking forward to next week's episode!

09 May, 2007

TSV 46

TSV 46 was - in magazine marketing parlance- a 'new look issue'. The logo was redrawn from scratch by Alistair Hughes (at first glance it might appear unchanged, but look closer to see the improvements). Nicholas Withers created the entire issue on computer, with only the artwork needing to be pasted up after the pages came off his printer. This revolutionised the whole process of designing and assembling TSV - no longer did it take at least a week to put it all together column by column using a glue stick and lightbox; now it was computer composited and could be transformed from a bunch of Word documents into a finished publication in the space of a day spent at Nick's place. I wasn't very computer-savvy at the time, but I gradually learned how to use the then very new Microsoft Publisher 95 by watching over Nick's shoulder as he worked his magic.

The issue was meant to have been out in mid-December 1995, and the Christmas-themed A Seasonal Tale story would have therefore fitted the festive feel rather well.

There were as I recall a number of reasons for that month-long delay between when the issue should have been out and when it finally appeared. Nick had his his end of year exams to focus on, and I was experiencing my first Christmas in frontline shop floor retail in the Queen Street branch of Whitcoulls, one of the busiest stores in Queen Street.

In addition, a major review of the new Time and the Rani video failed to arrive. By the time the writer (who should perhaps remain nameless), passed the last of many deadline extensions, Nick and I had the whole of the rest of the issue all ready to go and there was no time left to review the story ourselves or ask anyone else to do it, and three blank pages to fill. I did however have a fair bit of Time and the Rani artwork that had been submitted to accompany the review - including three different artists' Tetrap head-and-shoulders portraits - so the pages were hastily filled with reprints of the reviews published in TSV issue 5. I didn't like resorting to reprinting old material like this, but I made an exception on this ocasion out of necessity.

The main feature was a long-promised follow-up interview with Andrew Cartmel about his books and comics. My ex-wife, Felicity, had by this time moved to the UK and collaborated with David Bishop on this feature. Prior to this interview Felicity had had submitted a proposal for a Missing Adventures novel to Virgin, and her interest in the process of writing a Doctor Who novel is evident from her line of questioning.

The comic strip, Monkeyhouse, was an impressive 14-page effort by Peter Adamson and Paul Potiki, primarily featuring the Third Doctor and Jo, but with a guest appearance by another Doctor and companion. The comic strip stories became a fairly regular fixture in TSV around this time, thanks mainly to the drive and enthusiasm of Peter Adamson, who gathered a small team of reliable contributors around him to work on these strips.

1996 had arrived and half a world away in Vancouver, Doctor Who was about to make a comeback...

Read TSV 46 here.

Fellow TSV 46 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

28 April, 2007

Losing my Religion

That's me in the corner

That's me in the spotlight, I'm
Losing my religion

My name is Paul and I'm a former science fiction fan. It's been four years since my last science fiction convention.

I'm not a science fiction fan. I don't do science fiction fandom.

That's a rather contrary statement for someone who has run the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club for more years than I care to think about. How can I possibly not consider myself a fan, not think of myself as involved in fandom...?

I helped to start Doctor Who fandom in this country, back in the 1980s. I created a fanzine, built up a healthy readership and then passed it on to a fledgling fan club to develop even further. Then a few years later they handed it back and I ran with it.

In those few years at the tail end of the 1980s while the fanzine was out of my hands, I took the opportunity to broaden my horizons beyond the safe, comfortable confines of Doctor Who and sampled what the community had to offer.

I went along to my first science fiction convention, in Auckland at Easter 1989. I found myself in the company of like-minded individuals. I made new friends. I met a published science fiction author for the first time. I had a flirtation with a girl. I drank a lot at the bar. I danced the night away. I went to all-night room parties and slept in a hotel corridor.

What lingers strongest in my memory of that weird and wonderful weekend at Abby's Hotel half my lifetime ago is the long bus ride home afterwards. I was so exhausted, exhilarated, and despondent that I actually wept. After so long growing up feeling as if I was on the outside of everything I finally found somewhere that I felt like I truly belonged. Coming away from that convention was like coming down off an enormous high, and I couldn't wait to get my next fix.

Science fiction fandom was intoxicating. I sought it out, I had to have more. I joined a science fiction club and went to every one of its regular monthly meetings. I went to every convention I could, anywhere in the country, and took every opportunity I could to get involved.

By the following year's Easter convention I was editing the convention booklet, performing in the opening ceremony, and dating one of the convention organisers. (We ended up getting married and I think the science fiction fans at our wedding outnumbered the other guests.)

I attended more conventions than I can count. I volunteered to be on panels, gave talks, organised quizzes, ran auctions. Call it a drug, call it a religion. For me, science fiction fandom was all of that and more.

Perhaps I did too much, too soon, too often. Maybe I burned out. Seven years after getting involved I was on the retreat, finding myself starting to avoid fans and fandom. I didn't feel like I belonged any longer. My marriage crumbled and slowly dissolved. My ex-wife stayed in science fiction fandom; I didn't.

Science fiction fandom is full of good, decent, well-meaning people, but I moved on, no longer felt any connection to them. Many perhaps inevitably paired up, got married, had children. They started taking those children to conventions, dressing them in science fiction costumes, parading them around as the next generation of fandom.

I went to a funeral of a fan and the science fiction fans were all dressed in Star Trek uniforms. Not just Star Trek costumes but the formal dress uniforms that the crew of the Enterprise would wear at such a sombre occasion. They sang Amazing Grace - because that's what was played at Spock's funeral. If you're a science fiction fan, that might make perfect sense. For me it was a wake-up call that I no longer belonged.

For several years after that 'wake-up call', I kept going to the Auckland science fiction conventions. The last time was in 2003. I found myself in the company of people I used to hang out with, used to count as my friends. It felt like a school reunion in that it was socially awkward and felt like dredging up the ghosts of the past.

I felt compelled to be there because I'd agreed to give a couple of presentations. I prepared material and waited to run these, only to find out afterwards that they'd been cancelled, shunted off the schedule to make way for something else. No one bothered to tell me. I felt disconnected and unwelcome. I resolved then and there that it would be my last science fiction convention. I wouldn't be back.

Every year since, in the months leading up to the annual science fiction convention, various people ask if I will be going this year. Every year I search my soul and see if I still feel the same way as I did in 2003. One year I happened to be visiting Rotorua the same weekend that the convention took place there. I considered going simply because it was close by. But even with the convenience of close proximity I still didn't feel the spark of enthusiasm, couldn't bring myself to take that step.

This year's convention takes place in Wellington five weeks from now. But I don't think I'll be there. I just don't do science fiction fandom any more.

Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough