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