09 July, 2007
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.
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