30 December, 2008

TSV 61

TSV 61 was added to the online archive earlier this month, eight years after its original publication in December 2000. This allowed the issue’s limited selection of festive content to once again appear seasonally relevant. Witness in particular the Karkus doing battle with a Cyber Santa; many years before the Cybermen got to appear in a televised Doctor Who Christmas story!

Alistair Hughes’ cover artwork is a superb pastiche of the film poster for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and promotes the extensive coverage of the Prime television screenings of every complete Hartnell and Troughton story during 2000. I’m resisting calling them repeats since eight stories (The Keys of Marinus, The Aztecs, The Sensorites, The Web Planet, The Chase, The Gunfighters, The Dominators and The War Games), had never previously screened in New Zealand - and to date none of these have rescreened either. (How about it Prime - isn't it time for some fresh screenings of episodes made before 2005...?)

In the previous issue I put out a call to readers to write up their views having watched each of the stories on Prime. Vernon McCarthy and Gerald Joblin both sent in brief pieces, and Robert Boswell contributed the bulk of the issue’s coverage. Robert had written several pieces for TSV in the past, but as he was outside the regular pool of writers appearing in each and every issue, he brought a relatively fresh perspective to the subject. Robert did such a sterling job of critiquing the Sixties Prime stories that I invited him back to cover the 1970s stories for later issues.

The highlight of the issue though, and an item that continues to this day to attract much interest from readers, was the coverage of the Seven Keys to Doomsday play. The 1984 staging of this Doctor Who production in Porirua had been overlooked by fans for many years. It later transpired that several readers knew about the play and members of the Wellington Doctor Who club chapter had inherited props from the production, but I for one remained completely ignorant of its existence for sixteen years.

TSV’s intrepid investigative reporter Graham Howard discovered the facts about the play, tracking down and interviewing theatre director Brian Hudson. The interview arrived along with a stack of black and white photographs, photocopies of the programme booklet, newspaper clippings and adverts all related to the production. I was only able to use a limited selection of this material in the article (more of which appeared in a later issue when Graham interviewed actor Michael Sagar who played the Doctor in the play), but the addition of this issue to the online archive has meant that all of this material can at last be displayed for all to see.

In September 2000 a discussion thread about the play started on rec.arts.drwho. Alden Bates (who posted to the thread) recently linked to it in his blog and I was astonished to find a posting from myself on the thread. I have absolutely no recollection of writing that post (the memory’s obviously not what it once was), though I’ve no doubt it was me who wrote it. It’s obvious I think that when I posted that message I had no knowledge about the play’s existence, and my reply reads as if I’m sceptical about the veracity of the rumour. In hindsight this seems rather unintentionally rude towards Alden, who posted a couple of newspaper clippings as evidence that the play actually existed. I’m sorry, Alden - you were of course absolutely correct.

The timing of the rec.arts.drwho thread is intriguing, as Graham’s article about the play appeared in TSV just two months later. I don’t recall a late change to the content, but work on the issue must have been well under way at this point, implying that the play article was a relatively late addition to the line-up.

Elsewhere in the issue, the Disc-Continuity Guide column made its last appearance in print. At this point it was already in the process of transforming into a comprehensive online guide to the Big Finish audios. (The last update to the guide was in 2005.) It was also the end for regular book reviewer Brad Schmidt, who decided to call it quits following a two-year stint during which he wrote 46 book reviews, some of which were originally credited to ‘James Schmidt’. I initially shouldered the task of reviewing the books myself but struggled to find the time to read all of the new titles in time to review them on top of everything else I needed to do for the issue, so I was very grateful when Jamas Enright volunteered to take over as TSV’s regular book reviewer.

Read the issue here.

Fellow TSV 61 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

24 December, 2008

120,000 words

As of tonight I've hit two targets in the writing of my book, The Comic Strip Companion.

I've just completed another chapter - that's eleven in total I've written now (another six to go before the book's finished). I've also just passed the 120,000 word mark. This is a significant personal milestone.

When I started writing the manuscript last year I estimated that the entire book would be 120,000 words long. The contract I signed with the publisher stipulated a 100,000 word minimum; I thought at the time that 20,000 words over this would be a comfortable margin.

It has long since become apparent to me that this was an hugely overly conservative estimate, and I now expect that the book will end up being somewhere around 185,000 words.

The process of writing the book has been governed by setting targets and planning ahead. I have mapped the book out on an Excel spreadsheet and I update this each day. My aim has been to write about at least one complete comic strip story each day, though of late my writing time has been reduced to three days a week due to other commitments.

I wanted to complete the latest chapter before taking a few days off over Christmas, and I've managed this with a few hours to spare; next week it'll be time to open another Word document and start work on another chapter, every day a step closer to completion!

14 December, 2008

Who is... The Next Doctor?

This is the burning question for many Doctor Who fans right now, mere days away from the broadcast of the new episode due to screen in the UK on Christmas day.

The Christmas special, entitled The Next Doctor, features David Tennant's Doctor encountering another individual also calling himself the Doctor, played by David Morrissey (and thus reuniting the two Davids, who were previously seen together on screen in the wonderful Blackpool mini-series).

A brief preview clip from the story (which I'm assuming is the entire pre-credits sequence) screened as a fundraiser for the Children in Need charity appeal a couple of months ago, showing the Doctor's initial encounter with this other Doctor.

But is Morrissey really the Doctor...? The BBC isn't saying - and speculation is especially rampant in light of the recent news that David Tennant is stepping down from the role in 2010. Despite intense media speculation, his successor has yet to be announced, and it's likely that any casting revelation is deliberately being held back until sometime after the screening of The Next Doctor, in order to maintain the air of mystery and anticipation surrounding this episode. There doesn't seem to be likely though that David Morrissey will take over from David Tennant as the new star of the series as the episode was recorded many months ago, long before Tennant announced that he was leaving.

So assuming that this is a one-off role for Morrissey as the Doctor, it seems to me, based on the preview clip - and absolutely no insider knowledge - that there are four possible scenarios regarding the question of the Next Doctor's identity:

1) The Imposter Doctor: He’s someone else, a con-man knowingly masquerading as the Doctor for some reason. This would appear to be the most obvious answer, were it not for the fact that in that preview clip the Next Doctor doesn't seem to recognise the Doctor as anyone special, at least initially treating him as an ordinary bystander. He mentions the TARDIS to his companion, Rosita, has his own sonic screwdriver, and appears to be aware of the Cybermen. If he's a ordinary guy pretending to be the Doctor, he's rather too convincing. So I don't think this is the most likely scenario.

2) The Arch Doctor: He’s someone else, but genuinely believes himself to be the Doctor, having been exposed to the Doctor’s memories. There’s a precedent for this in Series Three when the Doctor used the chameleon arch to place his memories and personality inside a fob watch (in the episodes Human Nature / Family of Blood), and when this watch found its way into the possession of a human school boy, Tim Latimer, his limited exposure to the watch provides him with some of the Doctor’s memories. What if the Next Doctor has one of these watches and has had his mind altered so that he thinks and behaves as if he really is the Doctor? It’s a theory given weight by a couple of advance publicity photos, which shows the Next Doctor with a fob watch. If this is the case though, where does he get his TARDIS (the one he mentions to Rosita), from…?

3) The Rift Doctor: He really is the Doctor, but from an alternate universe. The presence of the new series version of the Cybermen in this story makes this scenario all the more plausible. The Cybermen originated in a parallel reality and crossed over into ‘our’ world through the rift. In the previous story, The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End, the walls between dimensions broke down, enabling Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler to return to our world from where they had been sealed off in an alternate reality. What if the Next Doctor is from that reality (or another one), and has come through the rift with the Cybermen? I’m favouring this scenario being the mostly likely one, but there’s another to consider…

4) The Real Doctor: He is actually the Doctor. Not someone pretending, not transformed by a watch, and not from another reality. Well and truly the Next Doctor; the Eleventh Doctor, the one that the Tenth Doctor will one day regenerate into. This scenario is possible if, in the course of events in this story, the Doctor does something to change his future so that this Next Doctor is wiped from history and never comes into existence. It’s an appealing idea, but perhaps not the most likely outcome.

If I were a betting man my money would be resting on scenario #3, but anything’s possible. The answer may even turn out to be something I haven't even considered above. For some time in the lead-up to last year's Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned (AKA The One With Kylie Minogue), fans thought that the story was set in the past aboard the actual Titanic, rather than - as it transpired - a replica spacecraft version of the ship in the present day. So this wouldn't be the first time that we've been led to believe one outcome when the truth is something quite different...

Less than two weeks from now we'll know for certain. Can't wait!

05 November, 2008

"Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared"

Today is a day of change, a day that will surely go down in history. Today is the day that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.

Although as a British citizen residing in New Zealand I am of course ineligible to vote (in the US - I am a registered NZ voter of course), I have nevertheless followed the American presidential campaign as it has unfolded over the months. I was appalled at the possibility that Sarah Palin might become Vice President. I was rooting for Obama when it looked like he was going to be defeated by Hillary Clinton at the Democratic candidate in the primaries. I was delighted when he won then, and I am simply thrilled that he has won the presidency today.

It is a moment of huge historic significance. America, a notoriously deeply conservative nation with a troubled history of deep-seated racism, has elected an African-American as their next leader. What is much more significant to me on a personal level is that for the first time someone of my generation - a person who is a mere seven years my senior - will be the President of the USA.

Watching Barack Obama's victory speech tonight, I was moved to tears. He is a truly great orator. The highlight, for me, of Obama's speech was when he dwelt on key moments of American history, prompting a stirring, rising chant of "Yes we can" from the crowd.

It remains to be seen whether Obama will succeed in achieving all that he has set out to do. The challenges before him - including rebuilding the shattered economy and ending the war in Iraq - are immense, but from what I've seen of Obama, he seems to have the requisite will and the determination to realise these goals.

My hope is that some years from now, historians will look back on the election of Obama as the time everything changed - for the better.

22 October, 2008

TSV 60

I was surprised to find my name mentioned in a recent issue of the really rather superb Canadian fanzine Enlightenment, where I’m described as holding the record for the longest-serving Doctor Who fanzine editor for my 15 consecutive years on TSV. I’ve never thought of my stint on TSV as record-breaking. 15 years is however a long time, and as I’ve progressively revisited each of the issues for the online archive, I can recall the various ebbs and flows of my enthusiasm for TSV. Issue 60, published in June 2000 - two-thirds of the way through that 15-year editorship - marked one such turning point in my commitment to the fanzine.

As the previous issue’s editorial indicated I had by this point become just a little weary of finding new things to say about the television series after ten years of waiting for it to come back. I was re-energised with enthusiasm however with the news in April 2000 that Prime television would be screening every complete story, from the beginning. I knew from the moment I first learned about this that it had the potential to deliver enormous benefit to TSV, both in the form of a fresh and relevant re-evaluation of the series, and additionally inspire an influx of new readers.

I first read the news in the Herald newspaper, when TSV 60 was in the early stages of assembly. I faxed off a letter to Prime the same day, introducing myself and telling them about the club, asking for information about screening dates to publish in TSV. A reply came back from Prime’s publicity department, asking me for advice and assistance. Over the next few months I fact-checked their press pack (correcting a number of inaccuracies before it went out to the media), composed the programme listing synopses for some of the Hartnell episodes and made two guest appearances on Alice Worsley’s Prime Living television show. Best of all, I was interviewed by the Listener, complete with the club's website address:

The Listener (13 May 2000).

Effectively I became Prime’s go-to guy for anything to do with Doctor Who. Prime's receptionists were briefed to pass on the club's contact details to anyone who called up wanting to know more about Doctor Who - which in turn boosted to TSV’s readership numbers (strangely enough the readership hasn’t increased in the years since Prime commenced screening the new series in 2005).

The Prime screenings were only just getting under way when this issue appeared, so the coverage only extended to my editorial, a news report and a mention on the front cover “Back on NZ TV – from the beginning!”). The issue was however packed with content. Recent video releases Planet of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks were examined by Peter Adamson and Alistair Hughes in Battle Beyond the Sofa. These two guys are big fans of the Sixth and Third Doctors respectively, but although this article provided an ideal opportunity to fight their respective corners, Peter reviewed Planet and Al reviewed Revelation. The talented duo also illustrated the front and back cover illustrations to support this article.

As I write this, the 2008 Auckland Armageddon pulp culture expo is just a few days away. This event has become a regular fixture for sci-fi, fantasy and gaming fans over the last decade, and to think that it ultimately evolved from organiser Bill Geradts’ monthly Auckland Chapter Doctor Who club meetings that he used to hold in his front living room! Armageddon has hosted several Doctor Who guests over the years, but the earliest was Jeremy Bulloch, who attended the March 2000 event, where Jon Preddle interviewed him for TSV. Bulloch was promoted at Armageddon as bounty hunter Boba Fett from Star Wars, but Doctor Who fans know him for his roles in The Time Warrior and The Space Museum.

Many of TSV’s most interesting articles, in my view, zero in on a particular aspect of the series’ fiction and attempt to reconcile this across all of the various media (TV, books, audios, comics, etc). A School for Scoundrels did just this with the subject of the Doctor’s school days, taking its lead from the extensive flashback sequence in Gary Russell’s then-recently published novel Divided Loyalties. The class ‘photos’ are fun too, and I’ve often wondered who Peter Adamson based each of the likenesses on.

Russell T Davies’ highly acclaimed drama series Queer as Folk screened on NZ TV in early 2000 and Neil Lambess and Nigel Windsor both contributed pieces for TSV 60 inspired by the series. It aggravates me a little that New Zealand television censors saw fit to take their scissors to certain scenes, but if that’s what it took to get it screened here at all then so be it. This was probably the first time TSV had ever mentioned Russell T Davies; the announcement that he was to revive Doctor Who was still three years away at this point, but there he is quoted in Nigel’s article, proclaiming “Oh I love Doctor Who!” I’m delighted to say that, despite the controversial nature of Queer as Folk, I never received a single word of complaint about the coverage of this series in TSV.

TSV 60 also sees the concluding half of my interview with Andrew Pixley, in which he talks about what he’s written other than DWM’s Archives (for which he is best known). In my frequent conversations with Andrew I recall that he was keen to dispel any notion that all he wrote was the Archives, so this was his opportunity as I saw it to put the record straight and talk about his wider interests, even those beyond Doctor Who. I love episode guide books, so I was particularly interested to get his views on what were the best examples of these.

The Foundation of Science by Jamas Enright marked the return of text fiction to TSV after a two issue absence. I’d had Jamas’s story in reserve for a year; it had been lined up to appear in TSV 58 and then 59 but each time I’d had to bump it due to space considerations. Aided by the lack of a comic strip story for this issue - and of course a keen desire not to have to apologise to Jamas for a third time - the story finally saw print.

These days Kelly Buchanan publishes Faction Paradox novels – a Doctor Who spin-off of sorts - through her company Random Static, but in TSV 60 she collaborated with Wade Campbell in on an informative and in-depth look at another series of spin-off books, the Bernice Summerfield novels. The article charts the entire 'Doctor-less' New Adventures range produced under the Virgin Publishing imprint. The article was timely as the series ended months earlier with Twilight of the Gods, Virgin’s very last New Adventure and in some ways the end of a decade-long publishing success story. Of course Bernice Summerfield went on to enjoy many more adventures in print (and on audio) under new producers Big Finish; perhaps it’s time for a follow-up article examining this range…?

In recent months I’ve been looking at a number of other online magazines and note that many of these (Shooty Dog Thing, Whotopia and Pantechnicon to name but three), offer issues as downloadable PDFs. I'm keen to do the same for TSV in addition to continuing to present the content as HTML pages. While I was preparing this issue for its online revival, I have also been reworking the original Publisher files to produce a PDF version of the issue. It’s not finished yet, but I’m intending to make this available soon.

Read the issue here.

Fellow TSV 60 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

16 October, 2008

What's the point of Postcodes?

From today's NZ Herald Sideswipe column:
NZ Post has just launched its "what's your postcode?" campaign to remind people about using postcodes, writes Paul. "My wife went to post a parcel at the Victoria St post office in Auckland's CBD and although the parcel was correctly addressed including the postcode, for Kaiwaka in Northland, the staff at the counter were unable to locate the code on their system and consequently informed her that they couldn't accept the parcel!"
The 'Paul' in this item is me. When Rochelle related the story to me, I got on the NZ Post website and used their postcode finder to look up the code she'd used in the address. It came up instantly with the correct details. I've no idea why the staff at the post office were incapable of doing this. Coincidentally, the glossy brochure from NZ Post promoting the Postcode education campaign arrived in our mail box on the very same day that this incident occurred!

22 September, 2008

Getting back into the Groove

Today has been a day of shifting gears and getting back on track.

For many months now, I've been writing The Comic Strip Companion, a book about every Doctor Who comic strip created in the 1960s and 1970s (and yes, there are a lot of them).

I had to lay the book to one side to tackle another, quite different writing job. I can't say much about that other piece of writing yet (I'll blog about it when it's been announced), but I will say that this was a hugely different discipline to writing the book, and I found it enormously challenging to get into the right headspace for the duration. That's now done and delivered.

So, after about a month of doing very little on the book, I've just resumed work on it.

Time to take stock. Where am I at with this? A few facts and figures might help. When I left off in mid-August, I'd completed the first drafts of nine chapters, which between them cover 87 comic strip stories. My total word count when I left off was 98,116 words (Believe me, I was sorely tempted to push on to the next chapter to break that psychological 100,000 barrier!).

I've another five chapters to write, plus three appendicies which are each probably going to be long enough to be considered chapters in their own right - so there's still a lot left to do.

Today, rather than launching straight into a new chapter, I decided to get back into the mindset by revising Chapter Six (which covers the comic strips published in 1970). The revisions included adding in a whole new subsection, and trimming down some overly wordy bits.

Having completed this revision, I took the plunge and sent this newly polished chapter out to a test audience for feedback and comments. I held off doing this until now because I didn't want the distraction of replies while I was working on the Other Project. Now it's time to start soliciting and receiving that constructive criticism. I've emailed a group of seven readers, and just hours later, I've already received my first feedback which has already got me thinking about making a few tweaks to the format. I'll hold off doing that though until I see what the others have to say.

24 August, 2008

Missing Targets

My obsession with Doctor Who grew out of a love for the highly collectable Target novelisations of the Doctor's television adventures. When I was a boy I used to seize any opportunity to nip into a bookshop and peruse the shelves for the highly distinctive slim paperback books. I arranged these carefully in series order and accorded them pride of place on my bookshelves. Once I'd caught up with all of the books already available it became a matter of tracking down each new monthly release. Because each novelisation was based on a television story I always knew exactly how many gaps there were in the book series and how many titles there should be in total when the range was complete (this latter figure was of course adjusted annually to keep up with each new season of television stories).

The Target range finally ended in the early 1990s, following on the heels of the cancellation of the television series itself. The 154 novelisations covered almost but not quite all of the television stories as there were at that time. There were, frustratingly, just five gaps remaining on the bookshelf. The missing Targets were three Fourth Doctor stories, all scripted by the late Douglas Adams, and two Dalek stories scripted by Eric Saward. Due to unsuccessful negotiations with these writers, the publishers were prevented from completing the set. So close, and yet so far.

It was a desire to fill these niggling gaps that inspired me to produce my own versions of the missing novelisations. I novelised two of the five stories myself, and three other writers adapted one story each. When the books were offered as a set of five they proved extremely popular with fans worldwide (whom no doubt like me had those niggling gaps on their bookshelves). I found myself struggling to keep up with demand and had to keep reprinting in ever greater numbers. Although these books were always strictly amateur non-profit publications, this unfortunately didn't prevent buyers from onselling these with a markup. I decided to let the books go out of print and instead issue them completely free of charge as online ebooks. It has taken a couple of years to get all five books online, but I'm delighted to announce that the last of these, Doctor Who and the City of Death, went up yesterday.

The set of five novelisations can be read online (and downloaded) here.

22 August, 2008


The Crusade
is not the only 'lost' Doctor Who story featuring the First Doctor that I’ve helped rescue from oblivion. I also had a hand in the restoration of author Jim Mortimore’s self-published novel, Campaign.

Jim’s novel has a fairly turbulent background. Campaign was originally commissioned by BBC Books as a purely historical adventure set in various time periods during the life of Alexander the Great, but the book Jim delivered was late, underlength, and differed radically from the original synopsis, becoming a mind-bending adventure about multiple realities set largely within the confines of the TARDIS and, for the most part, only tangentially dealt with Alexander’s life. The book was cancelled so Jim took it upon himself to self-publish the book for charity in 2000.

The limited-run paperback proved popular with fans, garnering many online rave reviews, and consequently completely sold out of its limited print run.

In late August 2006 I was browsing the Outpost Gallifrey Doctor Who discussion forum, and read a thread about how copies of Campaign, which was by now long out of print, was changing hands for large sums of money on Ebay. My only prior contact with Jim Mortimore was when I had bought copies of Campaign off him years earlier, but I dropped in an email suggesting that he take a look at the TSV website where David Bishop’s Who Killed Kennedy novel had been reissued as an ebook free for all to read and accompanied by new supplementary material including a chapter-by-chapter commentary. I proposed that if he was interested, we could perhaps do something similar for Campaign.

Jim responded positively, writing “THAT is a brilliant idea. What do you need from me?” and started bombarding me via email with some highly creative suggestions including randomised alternative endings, a complete rewrite of the manuscript, an interactive slideshow, and especially composed music (Jim’s also a musician) to accompany the book. None of this eventuated, but it demonstrates just how enthusiastic Jim was initially about the project.

We soon struck a major setback; when I’d worked on the Who Killed Kennedy ebook David Bishop had been able to supply me with an electronic copy of his complete manuscript which made things fairly straightforward. After some time spent searching his files Jim confessed that he couldn’t find a copy of his manuscript; it had apparently been lost forever in a PC crash a couple of years earlier.

I could sympathise with Jim’s predicament; I lost many years worth of TSV files in my own disastrous computer hard drive failure in 1998, and subsequently spent ages painstakingly restoring these by scanning pages of the print master copies. Scanning a copy of the book was the only practical solution that would enable the continuation of the Campaign ebook project. I scanned the first few chapters from my own copy, but as anyone who has ever tried to do this with a paperback book will attest to, this is very tricky and results in both poor quality scans and a book with a wrecked spine.

Jim sent me a defaced copy of the book that I could use instead. The only way in which it was 'defaced' was that Jim had written a dedication on the title page and then scribbled it out. I didn’t allow myself to think about how much the book could still have fetched on ebay, as I took a sharp knife and sliced away the spine. The result was a set of perfectly flat pages that made scanning considerably easier, if still very time-consuming, but on 26 January 2007 I scanned the entire thing from end to end, and tidied up as many of the text recognition errors as I could find to create a Word document of the complete novel.

Jim was delighted to once again have an electronic copy of his novel, and told me he was going to set about restoring it to its original layout and also begin work on the supplementary features. I told him to take as much time as he needed, and in June 2007 he emailed me three documents. The first was an article tracing the history of the book from his initial idea through to its final cancellation; the second a chapter-by-chapter commentary, and the third a collection of reviews of the book harvested from various internet sites. These items were, in total, almost as long as the novel itself.

I had three main concerns about the content of these three articles. Firstly, Jim had included a great deal of the private email correspondence between himself and various individuals at BBC Books, some of which pertained to a dispute over the book’s commissioning and contract. I was naturally worried that if this material was published on the TSV website we could potentially invite legal action from the individuals concerned. Secondly, Jim hadn’t held back in his use of swear words in his commentary and while this was clearly genuine and heartfelt, I was mindful of the broad age range of fans reading at the TSV website, and felt the swearing needed to be toned down. Lastly, I wasn’t comfortable with a wholesale reproduction of all of the reviews from other sources, especially if these could still be found elsewhere online.

I put this feedback to Jim and he agreed to try to seek the necessary permissions. I didn’t hear much from Jim for several months. He finally got back to me in November, saying that the permissions would not be forthcoming and conceding that a rewrite was therefore required. Jim asked me to edit out what I thought needed to be removed, but by early February 2008 I still hadn’t found time to do this as I was by now working on a book project of my own and had little time to spare. I suggested to Jim that I pass the project on to Jamas Enright. Jamas is a long time TSV contributor who has done some excellent work proof reading the online reissues of TSV. Jamas admired Campaign, and his online review of the book was among Jim’s collection of critiques from the internet.

Coincidentally, in February 2008, the Doctor Who Forum’s Campaign discussion thread has a comment from a member with the user name ‘fridaydalek’, saying “Anyone know if Mr Mortimore plans / can be persuaded to release an ebook? Who Killed Kennedy is available in this format.” This was uncannily close to the truth of what had been in the planning stages for over a year, but no hint of this had been disclosed to more than a select group of people directly involved with the project. Another user responded saying that this couldn’t happen because Jim had been threatened by the BBC’s legal department. Jim was quick to post a reply himself saying that this wasn’t true, he’d never had any such contact from the BBC over Campaign.

Jamas began working with Jim on editing the Campaign supplementary material in early March, but another setback came in later that month when Jim emailed both Jamas and myself out of the blue to say that he was pulling the ebook project and was instead going to publish the book with all of the controversial emails intact. I was understandably most disappointed at this sudden about face. I challenged Jim on his reasons, and his explanation was that although he was fine with the work Jamas had put in, he was sick of the way he had been treated by BBC Books and wanted the whole unexpurgated truth to come out. The trigger for this was an experience he’d just had with Big Finish over a Doctor Who audio play that he’d been commissioned to write and was then cancelled. Jim said, “The fact is I’m sick of being kicked in the arse for doing what people ask, and having no recourse but to allow them to make it out to be my fault when their lack of professionalism sends the whole sorry mess spiralling down the pan.”

A month later, Jim emailed again to say that he’d reconsidered, and was now happy for the ebook to appear online, with Jamas’s edits intact. Jim wrote: “Why? I hear you mumbling, in weary abandonment. You were right. You guys put a f**kload of work into this and this book would not now exist without you. That means a *lot* to me. Far more than any stupid gripe with a f**kwitted editor.”

Campaign - the ebook version – was published online by TSV website editor Alden Bates on Monday 28 April, the day before I flew out to the UK for a five week holiday. I made a tentative arrangement with Jim to meet up for a beer in London to celebrate the relaunching of Campaign, but circumstances alas prevented me from finding a suitable time to do this.

Jim went ahead and got new editions of his book published in hardback, with all of the supplementary material in the back. Jim promised copies of this new edition for myself, Jamas and Alden as a thank you for the work we’d each put into the project. In August the books were finally posted to us and turned up in the mailbox just a couple of days ago.

The new edition is a heavy substantial hardback printed on good quality paper with a glossy, full colour dustjacket. I’m name-checked in the book’s introduction, and it’s a pleasure to not only be associated with such a good-looking tome, but also to finally have a copy of the book I helped in some small way to make possible, almost two years to the day after I first suggested to the author that it ought to be reissued.

The online version of Campaign can be found here.

18 August, 2008

TSV 59

In my editorial for TSV 59, published January 2000 I took the occasion of the turning of the decade to bemoan the fact that, notwithstanding the McGann TV movie, fans had gone ten years without newly-produced television Doctor Who. I wrote of the unexpected thrill that myself and a couple of friends had experienced when we first watched the cliffhanger ending of The Curse of Fenric episode three, a thrill that had been missing in the intervening years; and concluded by making a simple yet heartfelt request: "Can we have our series back, please?"

I had to wait a few more years after that editorial appeared but I’m happy to say that my request was granted and I'm now experiencing that cliffhanger thrill again, most recently at the conclusion of The Stolen Earth, which was so astonishingly unexpected it actually had me wondering whether I just seen the Tenth Doctor's swansong. Honestly, I cannot understate this: I adore the new series of Doctor Who and it's brilliant beyond words that it has been such a phenomenally huge success.

TSV 59 however belongs to a time when fans were still clutching at whatever passed for something new about Doctor Who. It seems highly unlikely that a spoof Comic Relief sketch would receive such prominence now, but there’s The Curse of Fatal Death (scripted by current producer-in-waiting himself, Steven Moffat), on the front cover. Actually that’s a rather good piece of artwork by Alistair Hughes which cleverly pastiches Target’s The Five Doctors novelisation cover.

There’s more goodness from Al Hughes inside the issue, in the form of a Lara Croft-inspired picture of Leela. The artwork appeared in black and white in the issue, but in an early example of the TSV website supporting the issue’s content, a link was provided for readers to check out the full colour version online. (Now, of course, the whole issue's on the website.)

Al’s finest work this issue is in the form of an eight page comic strip called Our Final Battlefield which is just stunning. When I first laid eyes on this I emailed Al and told him he should send a copy to Doctor Who Magazine to see if they might be interested in printing it. I’ve no idea if Al did, or if he received a reply, but to my mind it was certainly worthy of consideration.

TSV 59 also has some rather good articles, including an insightful examination of the subtext of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy by Peter Adamson. This caused a bit of a problem when an emailed comment was included that wasn’t intended for publication. Thankfully this genuine misunderstanding was soon smoothed over without the need to do anything as drastic as withdrawing the entire print run (though this was initially requested), but I have of course removed the offending comment for the online edition.

Peter was a prolific contributor to TSV for many years, delivering both quantity and quality with inspiring regularity. His input, if not always his name, infuses at least half of this issue’s content. The Machinery of Survival is one of his articles, a thorough examination (I’m tempted to write dissection) of the rather gory subject of converting humans into Cybermen. Now that’s why I think Cybermen are far scarier than Daleks.

I mentioned in a previous commentary that legendary TV historian Andrew Pixley has something of an aversion to being interviewed, claiming that the process of writing the Doctor Who Magazine Archives was simply too boring to talk about. I disagreed, and after some gentle persuasion on my part he agreed to an email interview. The first half appeared in this issue, and I think makes fascinating reading for anyone like me who regards Andrew’s Archives as the most thorough and reliable reference work ever produced on the behind-the-scenes history of Doctor Who. I just wish that these will someday get reissued as bound book editions, as it would be a lot easier to look things up if I didn't have to shuffle through more than a decade’s worth of magazines.

Even if you're already familiar with Andrew's interview from the print edition, I recommend looking up the online version as it includes a new postscript by Andrew in which he brings his comments up to date. I should add too that Andrew offered to write this for the online edition when he observed that the issue was due for republication, without any prompting from me. That's the kind of generous and thoughtful man he is.

Read the issue here.

Fellow TSV 59 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

17 July, 2008

TSV 58

At the moment almost all of my writing is taken up with chronicling Doctor Who comic strips from years gone by. What started out as an interest in the comics as part of a wider focus on all things to do with a certain Time Lord has just within the last couple of years narrowed to a singular obsession as I've developed the manuscript of what will eventually be my first professionally published book.

So it is that looking back at TSV 58, first published back in September 1999, I’m interested above all else in the article it contauins about the making of one of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips. This item will in time no doubt end up being listed in my book’s bibliography (but not until the second volume).

It’s My Party and I’ll Die if I Want To was an insight into the writing and drawing of DWM’s 1998 anniversary strip, called Happy Deathday. The article was written by Warwick Gray, better known to DWM readers by his professional name Scott Gray. Warwick – or rather Scott as I should call him from here on in – is possibly TSV’s greatest success story. Scott was illustrating and writing for TSV when he was still living in his mother’s basement in suburban Dunedin. The early years of TSV owe a great deal to Warwick's creative input, as I'm sure both long time subscribers and those who've had a thorough look through the online archive will be aware.

I remain very proud of the fact that we published Scott Gray’s earliest Doctor Who comic strips, the very same work that he submitted on spec to Doctor Who Magazine and resulted in work as a comic strip writer and assistant editor on DWM when he moved to the UK in the early 1990s. Scott is now widely regarded as one of the very best things ever to happen to the DWM Doctor Who comic strip, and it's a shame in my opinion that he stepped down as the regular writer when Paul McGann's Doctor was replaced by Christopher Eccleston.

I’ve kept in contact with Scott, and have caught up with him on a few of my UK trips (though circumstances conspired against us meeting up for a drink on my most recent foray to Britain in May this year). Despite his considerable success with his comic strip writing – which is really rather extraordinary good, it has to be said – Scott’s never forgotten TSV, and back in 1999 enthusiastically volunteered this article on the writing of one of his strips for DWM. As this particular story was a team-up with artist Roger Langridge, another ex-pat Kiwi now living in London, it was the ideal strip to write about for TSV.

I think if I recall correctly, the roughs came first. Scott adored Roger’s rough versions of the strip and thought they deserved to be printed. So that’s no doubt what got him thinking of TSV as the ideal place to showcase these. I think Scott wrote his article to give the roughs some context. As it was I didn’t have the page space to print the entire strip, but I did feature many excerpts with comparison panels from the finished version seen in DWM.

With the online publication of this issue I recently took the opportunity to pull out some dusty old box files and locate the original roughs Scott sent me all those years ago, still stored carefully away in a folder, with post-it notes still attached to the pages. There are no page constraints for an electronic issue, so for the first time ever, Roger Langridge’s roughs, plus his preliminary sketches for each of the Doctors, are finally available for all to enjoy.

Still on the subject of comic strips, but elsewhere in the issue, A Locked Room Mystery was significant for finally completing the set of all eight Doctors (as there were back then). TSV had published at least one ‘serious’ comic strip story for each of the Doctors except the first, so finally it was William Hartnell’s turn, in a suitably claustrophobic tale set entirely within the TARDIS.

Around this time of TSV 58 I know I was becoming concerned with the ever-growing number of VHS releases. I was determined to publish a review of each and every story as it was released, but with the frequency of VHS releases increasing as BBC Worldwide set its sights on completing the range within a few years, and the gap widening between TSV issues, inevitably each issue would have quite a few video reviews. So I started to look for ways to diversify these, and hit on the idea of doing a commentary in print. I put the proposal to Peter Adamson and Alistair Hughes, who responded enthusiastically, coming up with the regular Beyond the Sofa feature. These days this feature would be referred to as a ‘fan commentary’; only in print, rather than on DVD.

I can’t really make any claim to originality for the idea. I’d seen it done with SFX magazine’s regular 'Couch Potato' feature, and I think Pete and Al may also have been inspired by this source. Some readers thought TSV might have copied DWM, as their long-running Time Team commentary feature had only just begun at this time. I do know that I’d already put the idea for what became Beyond the Sofa to Pete and Al by the time I first laid eyes on the 'Time Team' feature in DWM 279, as I recall being astonished that we’d come up with a fairly similar approach at pretty much the same time.

Peter also drew the front cover artwork (providing regular cover artist Alistair with what was probably a much-needed break), and Peter’s piece ties in nicely with the focus on Nightmare of Eden for the Beyond the Sofa feature.

I’m fond of the New Adventures novels, so it was a pleasure to publish Jamas Enright’s comprehensively researched piece on All-Consuming Fire. I’d done something similar myself for Happy Endings, another New Adventures novel, back in TSV 49, and if time had permitted, I would like to have had more annotated guides in this vein in TSV.

As it was, by this time I was doing less and less of the writing for TSV myself. This was an incredibly busy and sometimes stressful time for me; a change of job was just around the corner and over the following two years I'd experience a meteoric rise from call centre supervisor to the general manager of the company. But enough about me - go off and read TSV 58!

Read the issue here.

Fellow TSV 58 bloggers
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

29 June, 2008

Eulogy for Chester

Chester died today. He had been our faithful companion for thirteen years. He was a very old cat; we believe he was five when we got him, which made him 18 when he died.

Rochelle found Chester in the North Shore Times newspaper back in 1995. He was free to a good home, unwanted by the neighbours of a family who’d gone to Australia for a holiday and had evidently liked it so much they’d decided not to return. Deserted by his owners, Chester apparently decided to move in next door, imposing himself on the neighbours who’d been feeding him in his owners’ absence. They had cats of their own who became very distressed at this newcomer’s unwelcome presence. In desperation the neighbour took Chester to the vet to be put down. The vet - seeing a healthy well-fed cat in the prime of his life – persuaded the neighbour instead to place an advertisement in the paper. Which is where we came in.

We had recently had a bad experience with a rescue cat, a stray we named Max. Max had previously lived in a supermarket car park, and was clearly unwilling to settle into the pampered life of a household cat. We made a valiant effort to domesticate Max, but he escaped through an accidentally open window one day.

Chester was Max’s replacement, and Rochelle knew it was meant to be as soon as they met. She went round to view him and Chester immediately began rubbing all around her ankles. His immediate and unconditional affection was a stunning contrast to Max’s complete absence of people skills. We didn’t name Chester – that was the name given to him by his previous owners who’d scarpered across the Tasman.

So Chester came to live with us in our small Glenfield flat. We lived at the time in a converted motel unit complex, and our gregarious tuxedo cat was soon the talk of all the residents in the units, schmoozing his way into the affections of the generally middle-aged single women who were our neighbours. He sometimes could be found befriending patrons at the Georgie Pie restaurant that backed on to the flats. He also accompanied us on walks several block distant, and could even be persuaded (when placed at the top) to try the slides at the local park playground.

When we moved to our house in Takapuna Chester adapted rather quickly to this new unfamiliar territory and once again ingratiated himself with the local residents. He became rather overweight for a while due, we suspect, to snacks he received from doting neighbours. He became firm friends with our neighbours’ cat, Sammy. The two of them were often seen exploring together, until Sammy died of old age a few years later. Chester then befriended another neighbour’s small tabby kitten, called Trigger, and almost seemed as if he was mentoring a young apprentice.

Rochelle and I got into the habit of going for short walks in the evenings and weekends, with Chester and Trigger accompanying us as far as they felt comfortable doing so. Chester once walked with us all the way to the roast meal shop located two blocks away. It was probably the wafting smells of gravy that lured him on – gravy was a favourite food. We’d give him cat food with chunks of meat in gravy and he’d methodically lap up every drop of gravy and leave behind the meat.

Chester was affectionate and energetic for a long time, but as old age crept up on him he became gradually more distant and took to sleeping almost all day. His favourite spots were clumps of long grass beside our driveway and also the sun loungers on our deck where, on warm sunny days, he liked nothing better than to soak up the rays until his black fur was almost too hot to touch.

Chester was a costly cat, too. He was fussy about his food and had the uncanny ability to discriminate between cat food brands based on price. He also lined the vet’s pockets on many occasions.

He suffered a scrape to his right eye which necessitated an operation which involved peeling off the outer layer of the eye and then stitching the eye closed whilst the layer regrew. Despite suffering a week of indignity going around with one eye stitched shut, Chester’s eye never entirely healed up and he always had a slightly milky glaze over his right eye after that. He also had to have several teeth removed at various time, including two of his four incisors which caused him to thereafter always eat with his head cocked on one side.

In the last couple of years, he developed a problem with one of his back legs becoming stiff and unresponsive. The vet diagnosed this as a pinched nerve in Chester’s spine, but due to his age, they were unable to safely operate to fix the problem. Chester would sometimes have rather alarming spasms in his defective leg, which he’d find upsetting as he’d growl and bite down on his leg until the spasms subsided. It was unwise to be in his vicinity when this occurred, as Rochelle found out to her cost not once but twice, when Chester confused her arm with his leg. The bites became seriously infected and required medical treatment. To this day she bears small bite scars as permanent reminder of Chester.

Three and a half years ago, facing Chester’s declining health we decided to get a second cat, another tuxedo male we called Monty who had just been weaned from his mother and seemed to latch on to Chester as a bit of a role model. Chester was having none of it though and growled and spit at this tiny impressionable kitten whenever he ventured too close. Perhaps Chester cannily realised that Monty was being groomed as his eventual replacement. Fortunately for us, Monty quickly befriended the aforementioned Trigger, who was much closer to his own age, and the two were firm buddies, with Chester accepted as part of the group. The trio would usually accompany us on our regular walks, which stopped after Trigger sadly died after being hit by a car, and due to his bad leg Chester became too immobile for him to walk very far.

We had hoped of course that Chester would go quietly in his sleep. We’d last taken him for his annual vet check-up in February this year, fearing the worst, but the verdict was that for his age he was in remarkably good health and still had life left in him. We took a trip to the UK in May this year, leaving instructions with our neighbour for what to do if Chester passed away. He looked so frail that we really didn’t think he had many days left. To our amazement and relief, Chester was still around when we returned after five weeks away, regarding us as usual with a disapproving glare that said, “And where do you think you’ve been…?”

In the few weeks since our return, Chester’s health took a turn for the worse, perhaps exacerbated by a bad patch of cold, damp weather. In the end though, like many old cats, it was his kidneys that got him. He went off his food and had even stopped drinking water. We were concerned for his health and tried to keep him inside and as warm and comfortable as possible. Midday yesterday Chester went outside. I went searching for him but couldn’t locate him before we were due to go out that afternoon. As I drove away, I thought I saw him sitting over in the neighbour’s garden, oddly enough in the same spot where Trigger had been buried.

In the evening we returned home and learned that our neighbour had found Chester collapsed on his doorstep, howling and soaking wet from the heavy rain and in our absence had very kindly rushed him to the vet. Chester was fed and rehydrated, but in the end there was nothing the vet could do for him; his kidneys were found to be inflamed and riddled with cancer and we made the heartbreaking yet inevitable decision to have him put to sleep. He died in Rochelle’s arms mid-morning on Sunday 29 June 2008.

Chester was very old in cat years. He’d had a good life and had been well loved by both of us. I like to write on my computer late into the night, and Chester would often curl up at my feet. As I’m writing now, I’m missing his familiar presence. The memory of Chester - the cat with a huge personality - will forever remain.

Farewell old friend. Rest in peace, Mr C.

09 June, 2008

TSV 57

Every issue of TSV that I've edited has had one or two leading features that define that issue's unique identity. Whether it be an interview, an analysis of some aspect of the series, a comic strip story or a particularly in-depth review, this item (or items) is the very heart of the issue. In the case of TSV 57 that core item is The Lion’s Tale, an extensive expose of the rediscovery of the rediscovery of The Crusade episode 1.

While I usually chose to leave the writing of such lead items to others so that I’d have enough time up my sleeve to actually put the issue together, in the case of this article there was no one better positioned to write the piece than myself. The fact that I was effectively doing double duty as both lead writer and editor goes a long way towards explaining why there’s a fairly long delay – half a year in fact - between issues 56 and 57.

The discovery of a lost Doctor Who episode in New Zealand generated a huge amount of interest at the time, and to this day many people I meet (fans and non-fans alike) recall the news of the find and appear genuinely interested in having me talk about my part in the episode’s discovery and return. At the time of writing (in early June 2008) I’ve just returned from a month-long trip to the UK during which I met a few fairly well-known people in Doctor Who circles, and sure enough The Lion continues to come up as a topic of conversation more than nine years later (I even got to visit BBC Television Centre on this trip and met people who were responsible for the episode’s restoration and saw the machine on which the film print was copied). A number of the people I’ve worked and socialised with recall reading or hearing about the episode discovery. It’s not something I usually volunteer myself but when I mention that I am a Doctor Who fan (something that’s rather more socially acceptable to admit to these days, to my delight), a typical response from a non-fan in New Zealand is to observe that an episode was once discovered here. At which point I confess my own involvement in that, and usually end up telling a potted version of what happened.

The full version of The Lion’s Tale appeared in TSV 57, and was subsequently republished online in a slightly altered version. This was one of the earliest items to make the transition from print to the online medium, and perhaps even pre-dates the creation of the TSV Archive. As such it means that the heart of TSV 57 has been available to read on the website for a lot longer than the rest of the issue. The article was revised early last year (2007) with the assistance of Jon Preddle, mainly to incorporate information that has since come to light about why the episode was found in New Zealand despite never actually having been screened on television in this country. The online version still resembles the original printed piece, and the one notable omission is a plot synopsis of the episode, which was borrowed from Andrew Pixley’s archive feature in Doctor Who Magazine. Despite fully intending to do so, I neglected to ask permission from either Andrew or DWM to reprint this section in TSV. Which was rather embarrassing; especially when Andrew told me that he’d prefer that I hadn’t reprinted the excerpt. Fortunately Andrew was very good about the whole thing, and the archive synopsis was left out when the article went online.

If The Lion’s Tale was the heart of TSV 57 then its soul was The Life and Times of Neil Lambess. Neil frequently mentioned to me how much he loved the Jackie Jenkins column in DWM. The Life and Times of Jackie Jenkins was a regular column about events in the life of a female Doctor Who fan. Jackie was a fiction, penned by DWM columnist Vanessa Bishop, but many of the things she wrote about had a truth that resonated with fans. Neil was particularly awed by the fact that in one instalment ‘Jackie’ talked about the return of The Lion, meaning that his key role in discovering the episode had influenced Jackie’s semi-fictional existence. I suggested to Neil that he ought to write up his own experiences surrounding The Lion in the form of a pastiche of Jackie’s column. Neil writes with a great deal of feeling and with his honest emotions very much on show, and I think that is what makes his work so compelling and so suited to this type of confessional piece. Although it was never intended to be anything more than a one-off, I was so taken with Neil’s article that I asked him to continue with a regular column, which in later issues Neil re-named Errant Nonsense.

The other key significant item in the issue was the Pilots of the Deep comic strip. This was a good fit with The Lion content in the sense that this was also about restoring a piece of lost Doctor Who narrative. Pilots of the Deep had for many years been an unfinished work, a loose dangling thread in the history of TSV. The initial two parts of the strip, which featured the Seventh Doctor and Ace encountering the Sea Devils, had appeared in 1989 but it was never completed. A decade later, the strip was reprinted with a newly-created conclusion as a collaboration between Peter Adamson and David Ronayne. It was particularly satisfying for me to see the story finally completed as I’d collaborated with Mark Roach (now a successful Auckland independent music producer) on the second instalment back in 1989. I met up with Mark late last year at a reunion of a group of old friends I hadn’t seen for years and he told me that he’d discovered the TSV website and appreciated getting to see his old Doctor Who writing and artwork again.

Finally, the stunning front cover artwork by the awesomely talented Alistair Hughes cannot pass without mention. The Doctor's face emerging from an old map of Palestine is quite astonishing to behold, and appears almost three-dimensional. Quite brilliant.

Read TSV 57 here

Fellow TSV 57 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

25 April, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Today is my first day as a freelance writer.

After a full six and a quarter years working at the head office of Noel Leeming Group, yesterday was my final day as an employee of that company. It was both rather sad and also rather liberating at the same time. I was acutely aware over the course of the day that I was performing for the very last time each of the daily routines I’d done many hundreds of times over. I felt the weight of so much personal history and experience invested in that location, and in those tasks, gradually lifting from my shoulders.

I was very touched by the genuinely unexpected and welcome send-off by many of my friends and colleagues at NLG. I’d been there so long that I don’t think there was a single person at my morning tea send-off who had been working for the company when I joined way back in January 2002. As I said in my farewell speech, it is the people whom I’ll miss most of all. I’m hoping to keep in contact with some of them.

I left under entirely amicable circumstances; my position was dissolved due to some minor restructuring by the company, but this wasn’t unexpected as two and a half years ago I was advised that my job would eventually be reviewed and altered in some fashion. I was offered - and readily accepted - redundancy.

This was rather good timing as for a while now I’ve been considering devoting more time to what up until now has been my 'secondary career' as a writer. Regular, paid employment was too appealing to give up voluntarily and I needed a push to propel me outside of this comfortable stability.

I haven’t mentioned anything on this blog until now about my paid writing commissions because they've yet to be publicly announced by the respective publishers, and it’s bad form to disclose too much beforehand, but I will say that one is a guidebook about Doctor Who comic strips of the 1960s and 1970s that I’ve been working on in my evenings and weekends for most of the last year, and the other (a far more recent commission), I cannot say anything about yet as I’ve been asked to keep this confidential.

Both jobs will undoubtedly keep me busy as a full-time writer for a least the next several months, and there is the prospect of more work to follow, with a second, follow-up volume about the comic strips under commission and possibly also another writing job to follow on from the first one I cannot talk about yet, contingent on how my first piece turns out.

I’m under no illusion that these jobs will earn me enough to keep writing fulltime long-term; I will no doubt need to seek out a new job so that I don’t end up draining all of my savings, but for most of the rest of 2008 it is my intention to live the life of a fulltime, freelance writer. It’s something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I was a teenager and I’m excited and just a little daunted at the realisation that this day has finally arrived.

10 April, 2008

Resurrecting Resurrection

After spending so much of my early years as a Doctor Who fan obsessively seeking to complete my collection of the Target novelisations, I could perhaps be forgiven for feeling just a bit disappointed in the end that Target came ever so close but never quite managed to cover the entire run television stories (well, the first seven Doctors as there were back then), in book form.

There were just five stories that never made it into print (four, if you happen to think that the incomplete Tom Baker story Shada doesn't count as part of the series). Twenty years ago this year, myself and my good friend (and fellow obsessive Target collector!) Jon Preddle started out on a fan publishing project aimed at completing this quintet of missing stories. Armed with a handwritten transcript and an incomplete copy of the BBC scripts, I novelised Resurrection of the Daleks in fits and after many long delays it finally saw print in 2000.

Many more years later, with the print edition now long out of print, we've added the book to the online TSV Archive. As with the previous 'missing Target' ebooks, the online version is presented as both a set of HTML pages and a downloadable PDF, accompanied by a background article about writing the book and a cover artwork gallery.

The collection's not yet quite complete; City of Death still needs to be added to finish the set. I intend to make that available in a few months' time.

Read Resurrection of the Daleks here.

15 March, 2008

TSV 56

In 1998 Doctor Who Magazine published the results of their largest-ever poll, which tabulated 2,600 readers' votes for every Doctor Who story. The top-rating ten stories were showcased in issue 265 (the same issue I mentioned first sighting at the Fitzroy Tavern in my last blog article), in a series of ten essays by different writers each explaining why the story was deserving of its placing in the top ten.

This feature impressed me so much that I was inspired to do something similar for TSV. I hit on the idea of marking Doctor Who’s thirty-fifth anniverary in November 1998 with a mirror image of DWM’s Top Ten article; TSV's Bottom Ten would instead be a series of essays counting down the opposite end of DWM’s poll results. This evolved from an idea I’d had at the back of my mind for some time to run a series of articles defending and rehabilitating stories that were popularily perceived to be the worst examples of television Doctor Who. Timelash, for example has much to commend it but the prevailing view for the vast majority of fans is that it richly deserves its anagramatical epithet.

I assembled a diverse group of ten writers to contribute to this feature, drawing on several overseas writers, some of whom such as Gary Russell, Andrew Pixley and David J Howe I’d recently caught up with on my UK trip, as well as local TSV regulars. Such multi-contributor features are nerve-wracking for an editor. Usually if I was to commission ten separate articles from ten writers and only eight or nine arrived in time, I could simply publish the later arrivals (assuming they did arrive of course) in the following issue. But with a feature like The Bottom Ten this would only work with the whole set in the same issue.

The articles came in more or less on time - with one exception that crucially was the essay for the number one story, The Twin Dilemma which I'd assigned to Phillip J Gray. Phillip had won well-deserved acclaim for his article defending The Horns of Nimon in TSV 41. As the deadline slipped by without any sign of a delivery I discovered to my dismay that for reasons best known to himself, Phillip hadn’t even started work on his piece yet. I tried to cajole him into action on a regular basis and then resorted to a tactic that had worked for Douglas Adams' publishers.

The best-selling author of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy was notorious for not delivering manuscripts. Douglas Adams' oft-quoted line “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by” neatly summed up his legendary procrastination when it came to writing. Douglas's exasperated publishers would resort to shutting him in a hotel room with only coffee, a typewriter and his editor for company to get him to complete a long-overdue novel. Apparently it worked.

I collected Philip from his flat one weekend, drove him back to my place, sat him in front of my television set with a notepad and pen and played all four episodes of The Twin Dilemma. I watched it with him, discussing aspects of the story with him as we watched. Armed with hids handwritten notes Philip then sat at my computer and composed the article. I don’t recall if strong coffee was also involved, but nonetheless this approach did the trick.

In light of this it is remarkable that the issue wasn’t overly delayed, coming out in January 1999, just a few months after its predecessor. That said, this issue was intended to be a mid-December issue, as evidenced by Erato’s Christmas-themed double-length Karkus strip. Rather unfortunately, history would repeat itself exactly a year later when another delayed issue saw further Karkus Xmas escapades again postponed until January. Perhaps though New Zealand fans are all too used to encountering Christmas specials out-of-season.

The issue also saw the debut of what would be another long-running Erato strip, this time featuring Pex. The reference to Cybermen in the basement of Paradise Towers is a long-standing notorious in-joke that for TSV readers reaches back as far as 1987 when TSV issue 3's news pages confidently reported that the denizens of Telos would make a surprise return in that television serial.

The issue featured a number of VHS reviews, including the TV Movie, which was available in New Zealand as a limited exclusive through Whitcoulls. I was working at this retail chain’s head office at that time and helped arrange this knowing that this video was sought after by local fans. With the E-Space trilogy boxset, I allocated each story to a different reviewer but claimed Warriors’ Gate for myself. Although I’d alreadly written about this adventure in TSV 37, I jumped at the opportunity to re-examine my all-time favourite Doctor Who story. I asked Alistair Hughes to do me a Warriors' Gate themed cover , and I was absolutely delighted with the dynamic, visually inventive result. Al also sent me a full page State of Decay illustration for the back cover that he'd originally composed for the front cover of In-Vision issue 49 (dated March 1994). The cover of that issue can be seen here, and the original colour artwork can be found in the TSV 56 artwork gallery.

TSV 56 might have appeared even later than January if it wasn't for events that unfolded earlier that month compelling me to push to complete the issue as soon as I possibly could. TSV 56 was finally completed in a rush on the afternoon of Wednesday 13 January; the same day that my name appeared in a front page article in Auckland's New Zealand Herald newspaper.

A couple of weeks earlier, myself and Neil Lambess had made a wonderful discovery. We'd followed up a lead that led us to a missing Doctor Who episode, The Crusade part one, in the possession of Auckland film collector Bruce Grenville. I negotiated with Bruce and arranged for the film to be sent to the BBC. I’d hoped to break this exciting news in the pages of TSV, and I’d also written an ‘exclusive’ report for Doctor Who Magazine, but the news broke earlier than I expected, attracting the attention of newspapers, television and radio. I was phoned by journalists from both TV1 and TV3 news at work on the Wednesday morning who wanted to interview me later that day. I took the rest of the day off work and in the downtime between television interviews and also a couple of phone interviews with local and overseas radio stations, I applied myself to finishing TSV 56.

The last item to go in was a news item about the discovery, and my up-to-the-minute editorial. That Wednesday was a rather mad day, in which, for a very brief time I gained a fleeting insight into the media madness that must go with being a famous celebrity or politician. A day or two later it was all over; no phone calls from television, radio or newspaper reporters - Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame came and went. Whenever I look at TSV 56 now it always reminds me of that one day of insanity.

Read TSV 56 here

Fellow TSV 56 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

14 February, 2008

TSV 55

TSV 55 (originally published in October 1998) took six months to put together. That was at that time the longest gap between issues that TSV readers had experienced for many years. That long delay is partly attributable to my six week trip to the UK that year with all the reacclimatising to everyday life that comes in the wake of being away for this length of time. In addition, and more crucially for TSV, I came back to a fairly blank slate for the issue. I'd almost completely cleared the decks of material lined up for publication with all the content that filled up the TSV 53-54 double published back in March. So TSV issue 55 had to be constructed from scratch upon my return.

The issue might be said to feature an over-abundance of reviews. This is symptomatic of the long gap between issues. My policy for TSV was to feature a review of every new book, video and Doctor Who Magazine issue. When you're covering half a year's output this can occupy an awful lot of page space. These reviews would take up even more pages in later issues as some even longer gaps opened up between issues. To his credit when Adam took over as editor he addressed this problem head-on and decided that it simply wasn't necessary for TSV to review quite so much stuff. Quite right, too.

But the big video reviews were, in my view, themselves feature articles. Granted the novel reviews would be of little interest to some of TSV's readership, but surely all readers shared a common interest in the television stories. For this reason I never had any qualms about devoting a lot of page space to the video reviews and placing them as lead articles near the front of the issues.

I usually assigned these video reviews to other writers and hadn't written one myself since Paradise Towers in TSV 50. When Frontios came up on the video schedule (paired with The Awakening), I couldn't resist tackling this one myself. I've always liked this story ever since I first experienced it as a Target novelisation. The television story - which for me came several years later - didn't quite live up to expectation (the final episode in particular is rather weak), but it's still very enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to the DVD, if only to discover if the picture's meant to be that soft and indistinct or if it was just a poor VHS transfer.

As I recall it wasn't just my affection for Frontios that prompted me to write the review; I'd also been checking an advance manuscript of Doctor Who - The Television Companion for its authors David J Howe and Stephen James Walker, and seeing a couple of quoted sections from other reviews I'd written for TSV used in the book inspired me to want to write more.

I also asked regular cover artist Alistair Hughes to do me a Frontios-themed piece of cover artwork. I told him how much I loved the Target book cover artwork by Andrew Skilleter depicting the Gravis and the planet and asked for something similar. Al's a very talented artist who likes to challenge himself to find new and interesting ways of depicting familiar visuals, and the resulting illustration is incorporates the elements I'd requested but still looks very different.

Paul McGann's Doctor finally made his debut in the TSV comic strip with Chrysalis, a sequel to The Web Planet written and drawn by Peter Adamson. This just left Hartnell's Doctor conspicuous by his absence in the run of TSV comic strips (something that would be rectified a few issues later).

I wrote about my trip to the UK in the editorial and also in a long travelogue-style article inspired by Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island book about his own experiences visiting Britain. There are a couple of memorable incidents from that trip that were omitted from my article in TSV 55 I'd like to share.

I had a meal with Gary Russell and Paul Cornell during which Gary gave Paul an update on his and Jason Haigh-Ellery's plans to record audio adaptations of Virgin's Bernice Summerfield New Adventures novels. At one point during the meal, Gary leaned towards Paul and said that he had someone in mind to play Benny: "What do you think of Lisa Bowerman?" he asked. Paul responded enthusiastically. "Who's Lisa Bowerman?" I wondered for a brief moment before recalling the actress from Survival.

My first Fitzroy Tavern meeting remains a cherished memory. Doctor Who Magazine editor Gary Gillatt gave me a copy of the brand new issue of DWM. It contained that jaw-dropping last episode of the comic strip The Final Chapter in which the Doctor apparently regenerates into Nick Briggs on the last page. I remember staring at that page in disbelief, much I think to Gary's delight, and then being urgently instructed to hide the issue away before anyone else in the Tavern spotted it. Maybe Gary was worried that they might be lynched by fans...?

Other highlights of TSV 55 include Jon Preddle's guide to continuity references in the New Adventures which I believe he'd been working on for quite some time, making notes as he read each book for the first time.

Alden Bates and Peter Adamson's Tenure Without Trial is a great 'What if" style article about the Colin Baker era going in a rather different, yet strangely familiar direction. Both this article and my Notes from a Who Island piece are far from new to the online archive; these were among the first items added when Alden and I first started putting up selected pieces from TSV's back-catalogue around 2002. Six years later, the rest of the issue is finally online!

Read TSV 55 here.

Fellow TSV 55 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

29 January, 2008

TSV 54

TSV 54, originally published in March 1998, was the second half of a double issue paired with TSV 53. These two issues were delivered together in the same envelope, but for the online reissue I elected to space them one month apart (TSV 53 was reissued in December last year).

The online issues of TSV are stripped clean of various ephemeral content including news, adverts and letters columns, but the online version of TSV 54 belies the fact that this content was also absent from the print edition. With TSV 53 including all of these regular features - as well as book and magazine reviews - this freed up TSV 54 to deliver solid, cover-to-cover content that has, in my view, largely stood the test of time. Select the Print Version view for any other online issue in the TSV Archive and you'll see that there are always several items in the contents listing that do not have links. That's not the case with TSV 54: absolutely everything listed there is available online.

In place of the usual editorial was a piece of writing by long-time TSV reader Gillian Hart. Gillian delightfully tells of her thwarted attempts to get her friends to appreciate Doctor Who (I suspect she'd find this much easier to achieve these days!). Gillian didn't intend for this as a 'guest editorial' piece; it was an unsolicited contribution that I thought was particularly suited to open the issue.

A glance at the contents - which has just 12 items listed (artwork excepted) - might indicate that TSV 54 was a slim supplement, but in fact this issue ran to a full 88 pages (which was the standard length for TSV at that time), and it is simply that three rather substantial pieces between them occupy the majority of the pages.

The star attraction of the issue is undoubtedly Andrew Pixley's By Any Other Name. This article tackles the thorny and contentious subject of the Hartnell era story titles with the thoroughness and attention to detail that has deservedly brought Andrew widespread respect and recognition. Andrew readily concedes that there can never be complete consensus on the titles of the Hartnell stories as even the BBC's own documentation is sometimes inconsistent and contradictory, but his article looks at all of the possible appellations and considers the relative merits of their claim to veracity.

The article came about as a result of various international phone conversations between Andrew and myself. As I mentioned in my TSV 53 commentary, Andrew was a recent TSV convert, and his enthusiasm for the fanzine motivated him to want to write for it. The first article (which appears in TSV 53) was A Question of Answers. This took a look at some of the trickiest questions about Doctor Who and inevitably touched on the Hartnell story titles. It was clear to me that Andrew had a lot more to say on this topic so I encouraged him to expand on this for a separate piece in the following issue. Andrew is an amazingly fast writer and delivered this piece very soon after our discussion. It was this speedy delivery, coupled with my desire to print this brilliant but very long article as soon as practical, that led to the creation of the double issue.

I'm especially grateful to Andrew for taking the time to deliver a comprehensive follow-up to his original article. The newly-added afterword written especially for the online reissue appears at the end of the original piece and covers anything to do with the Hartnell story titles that has occurred over the last decade. It's a testament to Andrew's thoroughness that this footnote alone is longer than many regular TSV articles.

Andrew's article presented a challenge for me when I was designing the issue back in early 1998. At this time I was still getting to grips with desktop publishing using Microsoft’s Publisher application. (I'd only designed one issue on Publisher prior to tackling the TSV 53/54 double). Andrew had incorporated numerous diversions and sidetracks into his piece, and I had to work out how to design separate text boxes for these that could sit alongside the main body of the article. Andrew was delighted with what I managed to achieve, and consequently text box-outs became a regular design feature in TSV.

TSV 54 features another well-known leading Doctor Who researcher, David J. Howe. I'd first started corresponding with David about five years earlier when he, Stephen James Walker and Mark Stammers were still publishing The Frame (a rather wonderful glossy colour fanzine). David subscribed to TSV and I'd subsequently written some pieces for the seven volume Handbook series co-authored by David, Mark and Steve. With the Handbooks about to come to a natural closure with the publication of the Seventh Doctor volume, I felt this was the best time to ask David about his Doctor Who book projects past, present and future. Telos, the book publishing company for which David and Steve are now perhaps best known, wasn't even on the horizon at this point.

The interview with David was conducted via email - it wasn't until a few months later that I met David for the first time when I visited him at his South London home and got to see his attic office with its enviable treasure trove of Doctor Who collectables and research materials.

The third major piece in this issue was a Fifth Doctor and Turlough comic strip called Whispers, created by Stephen and Robert Boswell. The strip had sat in my in-tray for about a year before its publication, and Nick Withers (who knew the Boswell brothers) was still co-editing TSV when it arrived. The reason for the long delay in publishing the strip was a combination of creative and scheduling problems...

Peter Adamson was at the time responsible for overseeing the creation and development of the TSV comic strips. This wasn't an area in which I had much expertise, so I was happy to hand complete responsibility for this area of TSV over to Peter who is a very talented comic strip writer and artist. Peter coordinated the comic strip writers and artists and scheduled the strips for each issue. Typically he would edit or at least sign off the strips at script stage and also make modifications where required to the finished artwork and lettering before delivering the finished comic strip pages to me.

Whispers was however developed entirely independently of this process. The first I was aware of this comic strip’s existence was when all 14 pages were delivered to me by the Boswells sometime around late 1996 or early 1997. Naturally, I sent a copy of the strip to Peter for his input. Peter felt that the strip needed some work and outlined some changes for tightening the narrative, including resequencing the opening pages to create a pre-credits teaser.

The Boswell brothers were unhappy with these proposed modifications, and made it clear that their strip should be published in its original form. After much thought I ultimately decided to honour the Boswells' wishes and publish the strip sans modifications.

This wasn't the only reason for the long delay in publication, however. Almost all TSV issues at this time featured a comic strip story, and these were usually planned many months in advance, so Whispers had to wait for an available 'slot'. A comic strip story was scheduled for TSV 54, but with the decision to publish the issue much earlier than originally planned, the strip could not be finished in time, and Whispers which was still in my in-tray, ready and awaiting publication, filled the gap.

Elsewhere in the issue, TSV presented the second in a series of additions to the Discontinuity Guide (the first had been the TV Movie in issue 49). This instalment, which covered the 1985 BBC radio play Slipback, was the first guide entry to be co-authored by Peter Adamson, Alden Bates, Jon Preddle and was the beginning of big things for this triumvirate, who created guide entries for many more stories, initially covering the BBC’s radio play output and then tackling the Big Finish Doctor Who range from 1999 onwards. The guide additions all too soon outgrew the pages of TSV and found a new home online, as The DiscContinuity Guide. The website guide attracted much attention and praise from international Doctor Who fandom and there were for a while also plans for the guide to appear in a professionally published book. The book failed to eventuate however, and the guide rather sadly was subsequently neglected, receiving its most recent update three years ago.

The Slipback guide entry and another article, Confessions of a Melaphile (in which Alden Bates comes out as a proud Melanie Bush fan), have both been available online for some years, pre-dating the creation of the TSV online archive. Now, at long last, online readers of TSV can discover the rest of the issue in which these two items originally appeared!

TSV 54 was reviewed in Doctor Who Magazine issue 267:

This particular issue of the ever-reliable
Time-Space Visualiser is more suited to the factophiles among us. With its 18-page interview with author / researcher / biographer David J Howe and a light-hearted 25-page essay on 'correct' Doctor Who story titles by DWM's arch fact-snuffler Andrew Pixley, this may at first glance seem a little too dry for the more frivolous of fans, but these articles hold their length surprisingly well. They are, I'm pleased to say, balanced by lighter items, including Discontinuity Guide-style notes for radio play Slipback, a celebration of Melanie Bush and the surreal comic strip The Karkus is Lost in Boradland!

Read TSV 54 here.

Fellow TSV 54 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright